This past week I’ve been teaching some classes in watercolour technique to some Grade 7 students at Annandale school in Tillsonburg, through a program run by the Tillsonburg Station Arts Centre. The end product is something we call a “watercolour quilt”, simply because it consists of a sort of patchwork of rectangular sections. They are only given three pigments to work with, a red, a blue, and a yellow. I teach each section separately, with a demonstration of a particular technique, and then the kids try it. The last section is where I give them more artistic freedom to express themselves with the techniques they’ve learned. We do a flat wash on dry paper, a gradated wash on dry paper, we learn about saving whites for lights and pure colours, we try out masking fluid, we learn about wetting a shape first and dropping colours into it, and about creating fine lines in wet paint by using the edge of something to make a groove, we learn about creating textures with salt and various pigments, and we learn about using the water to our advantage as we are painting. We do all of this in anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes. The green masking tape helps keep everything separated for us while they are drying, and gives us some clean edges to help make the work look nice at the end. Most of the kids are pretty receptive to the instructions, and we sure get a nice variety of paintings in a class of around 28! I’ve taught four of these classes so far, and have one more to teach next week. I forgot my camera for the first few, but I took some photos from the last class. The kids gave me permission to post them so here they are, as they were working:
Today I begin teaching a course in achieving the illusion of light and depth in watercolour, at the Station Arts Centre in Tillsonburg. I’ve taught a workshop in this before, but am looking forward to teaching six 2-hour-long classes because I think the lessons I’m teaching will have so much more time to be absorbed, and the students will be able to put into practice each part of what they are learning, as they learn it.
Why is this an especially important part of watercolour painting technique? Because the nature of this medium requires us to plan. Transparent watercolours allow us to see all layers of paint that were laid down, through the layers laid over top. If we need light in a painting, that light needs to be captured and saved from the very beginning. Do we want a foggy distance and a sharp, bright foreground? That also has to be planned from the beginning. Do we want it to look like a sunny, colourful day, or a rainy, grey one? Colour saturation requires colour integrity or purity – which cannot be achieved if painting over that colour’s complement. Do we want one thing that is light, in front of another which is slightly darker? Again, it requires planning from the beginning.
The only case in which we as watercolour artists have the leisure to not plan our light and dark areas from the beginning, is when we use surfaces such as gesso-coated paper, Yupo, or any other surface that allows scrubbing the paint back to the white surface. Even then, we must be fully aware of which paints contain staining pigments, or we may find the inability to remove a hard edge, or to lay down a saturated yellow when we need to.
Apart from the specific requirements of watercolour, I will be also using a little of my science education to help explain some of the behaviour of light and our perception of it and our surroundings in general. I hope the students will all come away from this with fresh eyes on the world and an inspiration to tackle subjects they found too challenging before!
On July 19, I will be teaching a workshop at the Station Arts Centre in Tillsonburg, Ontario, on painting with watercolours on gesso-coated paper. There is always a lot of interest in my paintings on this surface and it’s a tricky one to master. We have enough students for the workshop to run already, but the more the merrier! Register early so you can obtain the materials you need and do the preparations.
Here is one example of a painting on gesso-coated paper you may not have seen yet. It is currently hanging in the Woodstock Art Gallery in the Community Gallery on the second floor, as part of the Artists of Oxford exhibit, ‘Phases’, which will run until the end of July.
The Beauty of Fleetingness
Beginning next week, on Wednesday afternoons I will be teaching a class in beginner/intermediate watercolour painting for six weeks at the Station Arts Centre in Tillsonburg. There is still time to register if you would like to join in.
We will be exploring design concepts, colour theory, the behaviour of watercolours (and working with it, not against it!), observation of nature, and more.
A materials list is available, and also, this time, there is a materials kit available for purchase from the Centre.
It’s officially fall. Time to learn something new – like how to paint with watercolours!
I have two sets of classes coming up: One set is in Tillsonburg, at the Station Arts Centre. It is on Thursday afternoons, from 1 – 3 pm, starting October 11 and running for six weeks. The fee is $60 for members and $70 for non-members. The other is at the Ingersoll Creative Arts Centre. It is on Tuesday mornings, 10 am – 12:30 pm, beginning October 9 and running for six weeks. This class is for ICAC members only, and costs $75.
New painters in watercolour as well as those who have some experience with the medium will be given instruction to help them master it. Emphasis will be on basic and useful techniques as well as principles and elements of design. Special properties of watercolours will be explored, we will progress to more advanced techniques, and you will learn to use them to your advantage to express your own art ideas.
Most of the frustrations people have expressed about watercolour are attributable to problems with the paper. 140 lb cold press is a good starting point but the weight and press of the paper are not as important as the overall quality, so I recommend brands like Arches, Lanaquarelle, Winsor & Newton, and Fabriano to start with. Get the 22×30″ sheets, and cut or fold and tear to size. Brushes should be silky soft, not coarse, and should have a fair amount of spring to them. Transparent plastic handles are nice, because they don’t swell up and shed their outer coating of paint when you accidentally leave them in the water (you shouldn’t do that, but you will!). My favourite brands of paint are: Winsor & Newton, Daniel Smith, and Schminke. I also like Holbein. You don’t need a whole bunch of colours. A nice lemony looking yellow, a pinkish or purplish red (rather than an orangish red) and an ultramarine blue are a great way to start. You won’t be needing white. Or black, for that matter. If you want something dark, get a sepia and a pthalo (Hooker’s) green.
I hope you will consider taking my classes!
I had the good fortune (yes, in spite of the tendency for people to dread them) to attend my high school reunion this past weekend. Although it was the 50th reunion for all who had gone to the school, there were many from my graduating class, and most of us hadn’t seen each other since graduation, which was a long time ago!
We all greeted each other as old friends, some more enthusiastically than others of course, but all in all I think it was a pretty amazing group of classmates I had. Even though the school was large, and we all had our social groups that we mostly associated with, all of the groups were friendly to each other and many people intermingled between them. Maybe it’s the passage of time and me looking through rose-coloured glasses but I’ve always thought fondly of most of the people I remembered, and wondered how they were doing. Social media has allowed me to connect with some of them since then, but not all. And I will admit, there were some I was sure would have forgotten me. Perhaps they did, (I know I did) – but our meeting again brought back lots of good memories for me at least. There may be a few exceptions to that (I’m only human!).
Anyway, one of the reasons I’m mentioning this on this site, is the art class I was so lucky to be in. What a great group of people. In grade 13, our wonderful teacher took us to New York City for a class trip just before Christmas. It bonded us. We would forever remember that trip and him, and all the good times filled with laughter we had in class. A great curriculum, great guidance, technical expertise, a sense of humour and a critical but kind eye combined to make our art experience the best it could be. In celebration of him and that class, we left him with a scrapbook of photos – us in poses to imitate the famous paintings he had educated us about. He still has it. I know this because he invited us to a small party and we all got to look at it again!
Never think that art education is not important.
Some of us are missing and were missed, but that’s our best teacher in the middle.
Starting next Monday, the 16th of April, I will be teaching another session of watercolour classes at the Tillsonburg Station Arts Centre. I’m looking forward to seeing the progress of some former students as well as welcoming some new ones. All skill levels are welcome. I will go over techniques, demonstrate how I progress through a painting, and help with students’ individual painting projects. Design and composition will be very important as we explore ways to best depict our subject matter.
There is still time to register! Hopefully by the time you get to the link they will have corrected the spelling of my name. Don’t you hate that?