Monday, 21 September 2020

Making the most of summer landscapes

     I've at last managed to see my grand-daughter after nine months.....far too long a time, but the re-union was a wonderful moment! Bit exhausting as well, keeping up with a lively 3-year-old. That, and other urgent work has kept me from doing any blogs for 6 weeks, I'm afraid.

Summer still clings on with some beautiful days, the trees in fine form. When painting summer trees in full leaf I find it easiest to do the foliage in two stages, firstly the lighter colour - usually green - and then the darker, shadow green. It pays to run your branches into the darker shadows, losing them naturally rather than in stark contrast. Make sure you stab little spots of the green outside the main boundary of the foliage as you see in the watercolour below, otherwise your foliage will appear lumpy.

         Just above the stile and slightly to the right you will see some light spots of yellowy-green. These were achieved with gouache, which being opaque will show up over dark areas, unlike pure watercolour, and here they suggest detail within a dark, featureless part of the tree. The stile and some branches in the bottom right-hand bush have been done with the negative method whereby the darkest passages have been painted with a fine no. 6 sable brush to avoid those features.

This painting is featured in my new book Landscapes Through the Seasons, to be published shortly by Search Press. Amongst other things, it includes introducing flowers into the landscape, managing summer greens, brushwork for foliage, the power of introducing spot colour, coping with riotous summer foregrounds, emphasising a sense of spring and fiery autumn colours. The book is actually an extension of my Winter Landscapes book, as so many have enquired about one on summer landscapes. You will find details on my website, www.davidbellamy.co.uk

Make the most of what is left of summer and make sure you gather as many subjects to paint in sketch or photographic form before winter arrives and we get any further lockdowns. Painting is such a wonderful antidote to Covid-19!!!



Tuesday, 4 August 2020

On-line watercolour workshop of a Mountain Painting

    I write this as a follow-up to my online workshop this afternoon on Shopkeeparty, which was a simple 45-minute demonstration in watercolour of the Middim Khola River in the Nepal Himalaya where I took a painting group in 2000. The aim was to demonstrate how to achieve a sense of space and distance, create a tranquil mood in dramatic backlighting, dropping in spot colour and illustrating several brush techniques.
    This shows the finished painting: I added a little extra sparkle by scratching with a scalpel below the trees and finally painted in a few dark blobs in the foreground to suggest larger stones in the river, but otherwise it is basically as completed during the workshop. If you took part I hope you enjoyed the experience and if you missed it you can still find it on Youtube at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Ye45Symhg8 

    Next Tuesday, 11th August I will be running a watercolour Masterclass again with Shopkeeparty, and this will last around 2.5 to 3 hours. The subject will be Blencathra mountain in the Lake District with Thirlmere in the foreground, and of course with much more time I will be covering so much more, showing mountain structure, atmosphere, reflections in still water, massed and individual trees, crags, how to introduce more colour naturally, brushwork, negative painting and much more. Details are available at     https://shopkeepeasy.com/davidbellamy   You will be able to ask questions throughout and we will move at a pace that will ensure you can keep up with the painting being demonstrated. The Masterclass painting will bring in more colour than the above scene which was aimed at creating a strong moody backlit subject.

    In the meantime, enjoy your painting!

Monday, 27 July 2020

Creating a sense of movement in vehicle paintings

    Sketching moving objects can be quite dramatic, especially if it's an enormous tank churning around in mud with bits of earth flying in all directions. Vehicles make for complicated subjects, and tanks are no exception, but when they are moving across rough ground they often throw up a lot of dirt, dust, smoke and all kinds of things that are very handy for losing parts of the vehicle and giving a strong impression of movement.
    This sketch of a Soviet T-72 tank of the Cold War era was done with a 4B pencil. The cloud of dust behind it and the loss of detail in the lower wheel and track suggest movement. I'd already sketched one come directly towards me as I tried to capture the sense of atmosphere and a fast-turning tank, but in this view I wanted to bring in more detail as it moved broadside on from my viewpoint. The advantage here was that it paused enough for me to render a lot of the detail before it resumed a steady progress to the right.

    Simply suggesting some of the wheels helped to give a sense of a moving vehicle and of course it made my task easier. To indicate greater speed I would normally lose more detail at the rear, but here I wanted to include detail I might need later. Spattering more muck around at the rear would also emphasise this effect.

    Whilst you may not wish to sketch in the middle of tank manoeuvres these points can help when you are painting a scene with moving tractors in a field, or excavators digging up your local green space, and it makes quite a change from a still life after weeks of lockdown!

    I will be doing a free 45-minute demo at 2pm on Tuesday 4th August which you are welcome to join in with your own painting at the same time - details are at  https://www.shopkeeparty.com/artyclasses  and on Tuesday 11th March I will be doing a watercolour masterclass at 3.30pm - again, details can be found at   https://www.shopkeeparty.com/artyclasses 
Both will be live online so you'll be able to ask questions.

Enjoy your painting.......

Monday, 13 July 2020

Enjoying the detail in a painting

    How do you cope when you are presented with a complicated scene such as a harbour full of boats of all colours and sizes? Beat a hasty retreat and look for a simpler subject? I love painting and sketching boats, and there's always a way round the problem: you can leave out craft that don't appeal, reduce their number, enlarge one so that it hides two or three others, or perhaps cast a dark shadow over the ones further away.

    This is a watercolour I did of Oare Creek in Kent, a place crammed with lots of lovely craft, and although there seem to be a lot in the composition I did leave many more out. This is one of those works that doesn't have just one centre of interest - there is a whole line of them! I do this sometimes as it makes quite a change, and some buyers do enjoy a mass of detail, and to get a sense of the place you do need to suggest that many boats line the creek, especially if working to commission.

    On occasion in scenes like this I lay shadow across many of the boats, simply suggesting them, and highlight the main ones - the focal point - with strong lighting. If you wish to subdue one or two off-centre then just paint then in silhouette as I have done with the boat on the extreme right background. The masts and gulls were rendered with white gouache when everything else had been completed. If need be I create dark areas deliberately so that white gulls can be placed there and stand out. This is at fairly low tide so much of the mud-banks are revealed. To avoid too much monotony I have made some lighter and on the right bank splashed in some cadmium red to add interest. The painting was done on Saunders Waterford hot pressed, 140lb weight.

    Now most of us are able to get outside do make the most of the summer days to find some new subjects. This is important not just from the point of view of finding new material to paint, but getting outdoors rejuvenates us and gets us away from the lethargic indoors syndrome that can deplete our enthusiasm for creating anything. There is nothing better than perching on a rock warmed by the sunshine, overlooking a stunning view while sipping a cappuccino as you sketch. I've been out there with my new Daniel Smith watercolour box of gorgeous half-pans lately, so it's been a double pleasure!

Friday, 3 July 2020

Changing the mood in a landscape painting

    I missed doing an intended blog last week as I had three short videos to produce in connection with the forthcoming Patchings Virtual Art Festival next week. It starts on July 9th which was the intended date for the original festival, and you can find information on www.patchingsartcentre.co.uk Of the other two videos I made, one was for Painters Online at  www.painters-online.co.uk  run by Leisure Painter and The Artist magazines, and this shows ten tips I've put together for landscapists, while the third one was for Search Press which you can find on  www.searchpress.com  and this features a number of my crazy anecdotes on sketching expeditions. All three videos are quite different and I hope you enjoy them.

    You've had to wait a little longer than intended for my version of Llyn Mymbyr, so here is my effort together with the two photographs shown in the earlier blog:


This is the original scene that shows afternoon light catching the Plas y Brenin Mountain Centre buildings on the far side of the lake. As some interesting crags dropped into the water to the right of this composition I wanted to include them in the painting and illustrate how I go about bringing two visual sources of reference together for one painting.



   This is the shot of the crags to the right of the above view, though it's in shadow, a common problem when we are working outdoors, but it's easy enough to bring two prints together and even better when you have a sketch as well. Getting these to fuse together on a laptop for the purpose of showing you, however, is not so easy for a non-tech neanderthal........
                              
    In my version below I have reduced the buildings so that interest is focussed on the craggy peak, Clogwyn Mawr, which I've featured in strong evening light, while bringing in some mist behind the line of trees. I often change the atmosphere of a scene completely, and that really is my main lesson here: you don't need to paint the scene as you see it, but as you would like to see it. Try small versions as studio sketches before you make a start on the painting. There are so many different ways of tackling a scene with a variety of moods and seasonal changes. Enjoy your painting!                                                  

Monday, 15 June 2020

Painting Exciting Skies

    I had hoped that Covid-19 would have slowed things down and given me much more time to catch up on those jobs that have been abandoned over the years, but I seem to be as busy as ever. I still ensure that I get out more into the hills and have plenty of exercise, as I strongly feel this helps the creative juices as well as one's well-being.

    We've enjoyed some amazing skies lately - beautiful, billowing cumulus clouds have been a stunning feature of the last few days, and it's an excellent opportunity to sketch and photograph cloudscapes to use in your landscape paintings. I rarely paint a scene depicting the sky that happened on that particular day, as they don't often make an exciting composition. I prefer to think about the mood that would fit that particular scene and then the kind of sky that might work best with that mood. Usually there are several options with completely different effects, allowing you to paint the same subject several times, each with a widely varying result.

     This watercolour is of Volquart Boonsland seen in evening light from across the polynya at Scoresbysund. It was a beautiful, tranquil Arctic evening, though intensely cold. In the painting my aim was to recreate the moment, that lovely period of tranquility, where there is utter peace completely shut off from a mad world. To achieve this mood I treated the sky with the emphasis on horizontal layers of cloud, with the light coming in from the right.

    The painting is currently featured in my article on painting exciting skies in the Summer 2020 issue of Leisure Painter magazine where it explains how I rendered the sky, and can also be seen in my book Arctic Light. Try doing quick, simple studies of skies, and if you are house-bound then this is something you should be able to do from your windows, as the Impressionists did when they didn't relish going out in the depths of winter. Set up a comfortable chair by the window in readiness for the next batch of exciting clouds to sally forth.

Friday, 5 June 2020

Getting in the mood for painting

    It's really heart-breaking to see some of the problems besetting the world at the moment, which put into perspective my frustrations at not being able to travel. In many ways we are seeing the best and the worst of humanity, and we wonder how it will all end. While art is giving so many people a great relief from all this misery, I know some artists are finding it difficult to concentrate on painting at the moment.

    If you are finding it hard to get going then consider doing a few minutes of quiet meditation before you begin to think about what you would like to paint. I am not an expert on meditation but I do sometimes retire to a quiet spot - usually the studio - where I visualise myself back in some of the lovely locations I've explored and sketched, doing this for 5 or 10 minutes, helping to get myself in the mood. You may like to try it with some gentle music, or even some more lively stuff if you wish. When I do this I often start dancing and swinging the brush around more vigorously and the audience starts to get nervous at this spectacle - when I go out to the studio in the morning I am greeted raucously by them, the adulating noise often being terrific as I open the door. This is especially loud if I am carrying a bag, as the sheep think I've got food for them!


        I've put together another scene for you to paint from if you wish, and I will show you my version in about ten to 14 days' time. This scene is llyn Mymbyr in Snowdonia, with the Plas y Brenin Mountain Centre just left of centre. You can leave the centre out if you wish, just show the trees at that point. My painting will be from slightly to the right, and will include a crag descending into the right-hand side of the lake as shown in the second photograph.

    Unfortunately my photographs are not filed with any precision, so I often struggle to find suitable matches, unless I've only recently done the painting. It takes quite some time to organise one of these mini projects. Working from more than one photograph or sketch is common and helps us introduce additional features like these crags, so this is a good exercise. Try to introduce more light and colour into the work, as the scene as it stands is rather dull, and feel free to change the tonal values where you feel this would enhance your composition.


    If you don't feel up to producing a full painting at the moment then try little sketches or small vignettes, perhaps simple experimenting with one or two techniques. Stay safe!