Thursday, 23 October 2014

Making the most of the winter landscape

    Like boy scouts, we should always be well prepared as artists, for those moments when the weather and atmosphere create stunning effects that we simply cannot ignore. This means not just carrying sketchbook and camera around with us when we're in the great outdoors, but being ready to venture out at short notice when a little seasonal magic appears. At this time of year I'm always aware that snow may well fall at any time on the hills and mountains, and if this coincides with those flaming autumn colours we have stunning possibilities for superb landscape paintings, so keep an eye on them there hills!

    In this watercolour of the Applecross Mountains the contrast in colour temperature between the foreground and the background is striking. You can, of course beef up the warm colours well into winter if you don't want your compositions to appear to cold overall. In this painting, which you will find on a larger scale in my book Winter Landscapes in Watercolour, the mountain details have been rendered in cool blues, apart from where the low sunlight is catching the higher parts. In the sunlit features I dropped in a touch of light red while the dark crags were still wet, and this also helps to place more emphasis on certain parts of the scene.

    During the change of seasons be ready for this effect and look out for it in your local landscapes. Be prepared to move around to set those lively warm colours against the cool mountains and snow. It will really bring your work to life.

    There are still places left on my seminar in Pontypool on Saturday 1st November, on painting winter landscapes in watercolour, and it includes a full demonstration and an illustrated talk on creating exciting winter scenes, with a great many examples of different types of landscape. It is aimed at preparing you for painting the winter landscape both indoors and outdoors, and making the most of this fascinating season. Check it out on my website. In the meantime, enjoy your painting!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Bringing animals to life with that special light

    Animals can make superb centres of interest in a composition whether they are wild or domestic. Like the landscape itself, if you include animals they do benefit enormously from good lighting conditions. I take every opportunity to sketch and photograph animals not only in good positions, but when they are bathed in good lighting or atmosphere. In that way I build up a reservoir of various features - not just animals - that can be added into a composition where I feel it is needed.

   The illustration shows part of a watercolour in which the cows were added from another scene. The whites on the animals are important in suggesting light, and these have been achieved by leaving the paper white, as with the house. After all the markings on the animals had been rendered and allowed to dry I applied the shadows with a mixture of French ultramarine with a touch of cadmium red. Painting this in after the markings tends to soften the effect. Note the underbelly of the right-hand cow has a slight touch of Naples yellow placed while it was still wet, to suggest reflected light bouncing back up off the ground.

    As well as appearing in my latest book, Winter Landscapes in Watercolour, this painting is one of several that I've just delivered to the Erwood Station Craft Centre in the beautiful upper Wye Valley about six miles south of Builth Wells. It's a delightful spot to stop for refreshments and check out the crafts. At the moment there are some lovely wool products and pottery to tempt you, and with Christmas coming it's a great place to get those special gifts that can be so difficult to find. They also stock all my books. For further information give them a ring on 01982 560674  It's quite likely that you'll also spot the odd cow around, so don't forget to bring along your sketchbook.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Painting on the Pembrokeshire Coast

    Jenny and I have just returned from running a painting course in St Davids in Pembrokeshire, where we were blessed with some wonderful autumn sunshine for most of the week. Solva looked especially appealing in the clear light. The picture at the bottom shows me demonstrating with a 'lay-flat sketchbook'.
  The lay-flat sketchbook is made up of the superb Saunders Waterford NOT paper backed with strong card, and designed so that each double page lays flat, so that it is easy to create a painting across both sides as shown in the illustration opposite. As the paper is flat and taut it is the watercolourists' dream surface to work on, and I enjoyed producing the alfresco watercolour. Although this is not quite the finished painting it does show how I altered the strident background ridge above the buildings to become a misty, indefinite background which throws the emphasis onto the cottages. Changing elements of a composition to suit your creative ideas is fine. We did however, find one or two of our old favourite subjects very much changed by nature, though. The storms of last winter did much damage - by comparison a few artistic changes hardly seem significant! The line down the centre is the centre-fold. The lay-flat sketchbook is available from the Society for All Artists (SAA). Check out their site on  www.saa.co.uk

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Livening up your autumn and winter landscape paintings

    How often do you find yourself in a superb location for painting, but with poor, flat light and dull, lifeless colours? This happens to me rather too often, and while it pays to go out to seek painting subjects in fine weather, this is not always possible. As a result we find ourselves with a scene that needs livening up quite a bit, and this is best done by introducing some exciting light and atmosphere, and changing the colours to a degree. In this watercolour of a farm in snow I warmed up the sky with a touch of alizarin crimson, and while the mass of trees to the left of the farm were still wet I washed in some light red to warm that area up. Cast shadows, created with French ultramarine with a touch of cadmium red liven up what would otherwise be quite a dull foreground.

   Every autumn I do a watercolour seminar, which is extremely popular, as it involves not just a landscape demonstration, but an illustrated talk and an opportunity to fire any questions at me. This year it takes place at the Pontypool Community Education Centre (The Settlement), in Pontypool, Monmouthshire on Saturday 1st November. The centre has tiered seating and excellent access roads, and the seminar begins at 10.30am and finishes around 2.30pm. The demonstration is projected onto a screen, with techniques highlighted and shown in enlargement, enabling the audience to follow each procedure more clearly, and ask questions as it unfolds.

    The illustrated talk covers many aspects of painting winter and autumn scenes, from initial sketching and how to work comfortably out of doors in the cooler months, what to wear outdoors, to painting back indoors with methods to make the most of low winter light to bring your painting to life; bringing warm and rich colours into a drab scene; making the most of snow in its various forms; describing those graceful bare trees; capturing the magic of autumn; tackling foregrounds, with examples of various types of foreground; and much more. Many watercolour techniques are shown in detail and discussed.

    To find out more about the seminar visit http://www.davidbellamy.co.uk/watercolour-seminar-2014/   Make the most of winter and autumn painting by planning your approach now.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Painting Winter Landscapes

    Winter is a time when most artists feel they should stay indoors, yet in many ways the winter landscape is more colourful, more varied and not covered in overwhelming greenery that also has the habit of hiding many fascinating subjects. Yet there are many days when getting out to sketch, or even just to photograph the landscape is not only rewarding, but pleasurable as well. You just have to choose your days, but to really make the most of it I have produced a package that should really help those who want to make the most of this fascinating season.

    Winter Landscapes in Watercolour is my brand-new 80-page book published this month by Search Press, and I have produced a companion DVD with the same title, filmed by APV Films to accompany it. The combination of book and film really does give you an all-round idea of how to produce a watercolour landscape and the thought processes behind it. The image on the right, for example, appears in both book and film, with the film showing me working on location, then in the studio. It's a farm on the Staffordshire moorlands, a simple subject which I have made even simpler by bringing in mist at the two extreme ends of the ridge and reducing the mass of white snow patches that were present. Sweeps with a large mop brush have created a drybrush sparkle over a lighter, earlier wash that had dried, and this is especially noticeable to the right of the buildings. It's an effective technique for suggesting rough ground without actually having to paint in a lot of detail. In the dark areas on and in front of the buildings I have left flecks of white gouache. This is clearer in the book and DVD, and really livens up the focal point.

    It's important to be well-prepared for working outdoors in winter, and this is covered in the book, together with ways of working quickly. But it's not all about working outside. The book and DVD are crammed with advice on painting the seasons from late autumn to early spring, and even if you don't intend going outside you will find much to help your landscape painting here. At the moment we have a special offer if you buy both book and DVD from my website at http://www.davidbellamy.co.uk/davids-page/  I really enjoyed working on these two projects as for me winter is a marvellous time to be out sketching, so I hope you will make the most of this fascinating season with these useful companions during long winter evenings.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Painting misty mountains in watercolour

    Jenny and I have just returned from Austria where we took a group to paint Alpine scenery. It was a great trip, with many memorable scenes, despite rather a lot of cloud and mist. So we had rather a lot of practice in rendering misty mountains in watercolour!
    Here I'm doing a watercolour demonstration way above the clouds, with marvellous views all round as the mountains rise out of the inversion. Alas, there were even more clouds above us, so we did get a little rain near the end of the demo, but not enough to spoil things. A cappuccino and an apple-strudel quickly restored morale.

    Mist on mountains can, for the artist, sometimes be both magical and a misery. I love the way it can blot out unwanted features, but as we all know, it often blots out the very features we want to see!

    There are a number of ways of creating mist in watercolour. In this scene above the Inn Valley I ran colour into wet areas to create soft edges to the clouds. I had to work quickly as I was painting on a cartridge book. With such a lot of cloud edges, inevitably some dry hard-edged before they can be corrected, but this is not usually a problem as they can later be softened with a damp brush when the paper is completely dry, though the odd hard edge here and there might well enhance the clouds. Alternatively a soft sponge is an excellent tool for softening off, but take care if you use cartridge paper as it won't stand too much surface friction. Enjoy your clouds!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Foreground techniques in watercolour

    Foregrounds can often be a pain in the neck, and are often not considered properly until the rest of the painting has been completed. This is not good practice, of course, as it's by far a lot better to give the foreground some thought before you start painting. Anything but the simplest of landscapes will benefit from one or two studio thumbnail sketches to help you decide on the main features and relationships of the composition.

    Foregrounds vary considerably, and sometimes completely different types of foreground may well suit a scene. Having a lead-in to the focal point can be very effective, and in this watercolour of cottages on Skye the track undulates and wriggles, losing itself in places until it disappears completely round the right-hand side of the buildings. A lead-in doesn't have to be continuous, and there are times when it helps to be less conspicuous. The warm colours in the foreground here counter the cool ones in the distance, accentuating the sense of space, although I have mashed some strong blues into the foreground vegetation with a spatula in places to create interest. I used the edge of a piece of card to apply the paint here and there - this introduces a change of style from the brushwork, tending towards the abstract. Drystone walls, posts and boulders can be useful for breaking up masses of vegetation. Experiment with all sorts of objects with which to apply the paint if you'd like to try something new.

    On a hike recently I wanted to find a spot where the river created a really good lead-in to a mountain, but there was no path. The dense vegetation simply got worse as I battled upstream (without a machete - they don't like you carrying them around these days, and my Swiss Army knife wasn't quite up to the job). If, rather than fight it, you wish to paint such dense vegetation, then the semi-abstract system as in the bottom left of this painting, can be the best option. Enjoy your painting/hacking!