Monday, 22 February 2021

Painting a mountain bothy

     Amazingly, even during these periods of lockdown there is just not enough time to get everything done, and it's not just because I am putting exercise as a priority. The weather has not been helpful lately, with an inordinate amount of wind and rain. Trying to film a demonstration watercolour on the moors recently out of the wind, was a real struggle. It affects the microphone badly, so I needed some shelter. Having found a reasonable spot I began the watercolour and then found the washes icing up on the paper - it was far colder than I'd realised, and well below zero. I hope to get it organised before long.


    In the meantime I did an online workshop about ten days ago on Shopkeepeasy, featuring a mountain bothy. With only 45 minutes it is quite a challenge to complete the painting, which is shown above after I've included a few little embellishments such as a little detail on the prominent rock pinnacle, some detail on the buildings, touches in the foreground and the addition of some smoke from the chimney. There are several ways of creating smoke even as an afterthought, and in this case I scraped it out gently with a scalpel. You need to be careful with this method of course, but it is useful if other methods fail. Sometimes if you have used staining colours around the chimney it is almost impossible to pull out any colour to form even a wisp of smoke, so this technique does have its uses. You can see the demo on  https://youtu.be/tSwuMvH9WQY

    On Thursday 25th February I have a further online workshop with Shopkeepeasy where I will be demonstrating a mountain farm. You will be shown how to create a sense of place, bringing in local character to enhance your landscapes, how to blend in the sky with misty mountain peaks in the background, introducing rogue colours that are not actually in the scene but will give it a lift, creating a semi-abstract foreground, and much more. You can obtain details from the above link.

    Hopefully, with the onset of the vaccination programme we'll be able to travel safely once again, before long, and once more be able to take part in courses on location. In the meantime, keep painting! 

Monday, 8 February 2021

Painting a Downland scene in winter

     I hope during this lengthy lockdown you are able to get out for exercise, fresh air and perhaps a little sketching, as these things are so vital to our well-being. Although it's quite cold today, these winters are pretty mild compared to what it was like when I was a youngster, so there are many occasions when it is fairly comfortable to work outside. I live at the foot of vast moorlands, so I get up there as often as I can. In mid-January I sat on a rock painting distant snow-covered mountains in warm sunshine, in more comfort than many a summer day.


    Today I have a winter scene on the Sussex Downs, which I did many years ago. A light coating of snow gives you the opportunity to bring in some colour while retaining the white of the paper where you wish to indicate pure snow. Keeping the landscape light in this way gives you the opportunity to make the most of cast shadows which will stand out strongly. I have cut a little off the left-hand side so that the details are not too small, although this does make it look as though I've plonked the farmhouse in the centre. Note the intermittent lines of ploughed furrows, which keeps it from being an overwhelming foreground. The massed trees in the distance have been enhanced by touches of highlights in places and the closest edge stands out where I have described one or two individual trees. The painting was done on Saunders Waterford NOT 140lb paper. 

    I shall be doing a couple of online watercolour workshops with Shopkeepeasy in February, the first being on Thursday 11th at 2pm. This lasts for 45 minutes, is free, and you can join me in painting a simple landscape. All the details, including art materials are shown on the Shopkeepeasy site and the free link is    https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/7916124614355/WN_kKSNDBCgQ9CyycEOLCCRgQ

The second workshop is on Thursday 25th February at 3..30pm and lasts 2 to 3 hours, for which there is a fee. Again, all the details are on the Shopkeepeasy site. I hope to see you there. In the meantime, enjoy your painting.

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Fun with Foregrounds

     A Happy New Year to you all: I hope you had a great festive season and are looking forward to a better year ahead. Keeping our spirits up during these grim lockdown days is vital, and after so long it's not easy to come up with new ideas to stop our art becoming stale. Like many, I've been going through mountains of old stuff with a view to throwing a lot out, and that process itself has thrown up some interesting ideas. Firstly checking through old transparencies I've recently found some real gems from which to work up paintings. Secondly, sketches I previously hadn't given any thought about creating a painting from have inspired me, highlighting how our tastes and perceptiveness change over the years, and why it's important to revisit some of these old resources. Thirdly, some of the old art books can trigger ideas for new types of subject, a new medium, or perhaps a different approach to observing subjects.


    So this time my tips involve the foreground in a landscape where we may wish to include flowers, plants or wild entanglements. Above is a section of detail from a painting reproduced in my book Landscapes Through the Seasons. I painted the dark areas first and allowed them to start drying. When the sheen was off them, but they were still damp I used a painting knife to score out light stalks/grasses in the right-hand red patch. When all was completely dry I then painted on the cow parsley using white gouache applied with a rigger. Finally I spatttered white gouache in places with a toothbrush. There are more foreground methods in the book to give you ideas for this tricky part of a composition. See my website for details.

    Enjoy your painting, and do have some fun going through those old treasures - you never know what you may find!


Friday, 18 December 2020

Five Tips for Painting Snow Scenes in Watercolour

     We're coming to the end of a rather strange year, and like many of you I am so thankful for being able to immerse myself in art, to take away the pain of lockdowns, social distancing and lack of travel opportunities. In my painting mind I've travelled to many fascinating places while in my studio: the Bavarian Alps (well, I did actually go there in February), Yemen, East Africa, Jordan, Egypt, Oman, Lebanon, Italy, and many other places. I hope you have had similar reflections on past trips while you paint.

    

    With winter upon us it's a good idea to prepare for any snow scenes, and as the snow doesn't often last long in the UK we need to be prepared to move fast. This watercolour of Exton village shows only two thirds of the composition, as otherwise some of the features I discuss would appear too small. When working on snow scenes I have 5 tips to share with you:

    1   With much of the paper left untouched to show the snow areas, throwing cast shadows across this will add interest, break up the flat whiteness, and can show up any contours in the ground;

    2   Pull out highlights in cast shadows with a damp brush while the shadow wash is still damp, as seen in the foreground of the painting;

    3   Introduce warm colours to alleviate the coldness of the snow, as I have done here with light red in the left-hand roof and the bushes, even if little colour shows in the scene;

    4   Flecks of white in bushes and trees will enliven the painting, but avoid over-doing this;

    5   While you can use masking fluid to enable you to create white on branches, fence-posts and the like, you may find white gouache or acrylic easier to render.

    Enjoy your painting, and if you can't get out then do as some of the Impressionists did and work from the comfort of an accommodating window, or of course a car. Monsieur Monet, however, quite undeterred by intense cold would put on three overcoats and take a stove with him to work in the snow!

    Anyway, Jenny and I wish you all a Happy Christmas wherever you are, and may all your Christmas stockings overflow with paints, brushes and all manner of art materials.

    See you in 2021!

Monday, 7 December 2020

Where do I stick the boat?

     Many people find painting boats a challenge, and although they love working on harbour or coastal scenes where boats are featured, it is often the rendering of the boats that lets them down. Some boats, of course, are notoriously complicated and awkward even for the professionals, but here I'd like to offer some help and a few tips for those who find these fascinating subjects rather a struggle.

 

    This watercolour is part of a small painting on Waterford 300lb rough paper, where I have included a few small dinghies that together with the figures form the focal point of the composition. Pushing boats into the middle distance like this makes them considerably simpler, and yet they can still be the centre of interest. By having them broadside on to the viewer you will eliminate those often excruciatingly difficult curves which may be present when you look at them from a side angle, but you can still give them a gentle rake where the top of the gunnel curves slightly upwards to the prow. If you are working on a reasonably large boat that is broadside on, closer to the foreground then use the shallower curve of French Curves to help you. With more experience work on more challenging boats.

    Keeping the figures close to the boats emphasises the two elements as a focal point, but you can also use figures to hide those parts of the boat you may find awkward. Tarpaulins, netting, buoys, oars, lobster pots and all manner of seafaring detritus can also be used to break up parts of boats, as well as adding colour. Of course, you may be painting a truly picturesque harbour and find the main boat in the scene is a complicated mess and not at all attractive. Leave it out and substitute another, more handsome craft to your liking. It pays to sketch and photograph really good individual boats from all angles and at a variety of distances so that you can use these as substitutes in a composition. 

    A few years ago I filmed a number of scenes painting on the coast aimed at a DVD to release with my Seas & Shorelines book, but lost the footage and the book came out on its own. However, I found the coastal footage a while back and this has now been produced as a DVD, which can be bought on its own or as an offer with the book, and this is solely available from myhttps://www.davidbellamy.co.uk/shop/special-bookdvd-offers/206-seas-shorelines-book-dvd-offer.html    It contains many tips on painting boats as well as other maritime subjects.

    This is not the best time of year for getting out to sketch in the landscape, but given the problem with Coronavirus you may well feel the effort is worthwhile. I spend a lot of time outdoors and on Saturday went up the Black Mountains to paint some snow scenes. Being out in nature is one of the best antidotes to our current situation, but make sure you wrap up warm. I visited Cotswold Outdoor a few days ago to get some new sketching gloves and they have two or three excellent versions which are thin, warm and ideal for sketching in cold conditions. There are naturally many tips for working outdoors in winter in my Landscapes Through the Seasons in Watercolour book. 

    Enjoy your painting!

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Creating a sense of sunlight

     Today we have glorious sunshine lighting up our landscapes, so I am eager to get out into the fresh air once this is written. On Sunday I was up on the local moors in brilliant sunshine, but how different - icy blasts swept across the hills, so I kept moving. However poorly I may be I always find that getting outside lifts the spirits and I return in a much better mood. If I haven't managed any sketches I am still eager to get stuck into painting. Such is the power of nature!

     Sunshine, whether scorching or accompanied by icy blasts, is so vital to the landscape artist and it is great practice on sunny days to consider the effects of sunlight on landscape features rather than concentrate too hard on the landscape itself. 

    This is a watercolour sketch of Abinger Hammer nestling below the North Downs. My prime aim here was to capture the strong sense of a hot summer day, so I ensured there were strong tonal contrasts in the buildings where sunlit walls abutted shadow areas, and where the sunlight fell strongly I reduced the effect of architectural details as you can see between the clock tower and the main tree on the left. Most importantly, the shadow cast from the tree conveys the greatest feeling of sunlight, and this was the last part of the scene that I rendered. The illustration is featured in my book Landscapes Through the Seasons published by Search Press, and available from my website. 

    You can still take part in the competition featured in Leisure Painter magazine, to win one of my original watercolours. You need a copy of the December issue of the magazine, and if you cannot find it in the shops you can obtain it post-free via this link https://www.painters-online.co.uk/store/back-issues/leisure-painter/leisure-painter-december-2020-issue-262-1  



    Keep painting!

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Capturing colour and texture on tree-trunks

     Trees are some of the lovliest subjects to paint, whether they are part of your composition or the subject itself. Often, the villagers, seeing me setting forth with knapsack will enquire where I am going.

    "I'm off to find a tree," I reply. They tended at first to look in puzzlement as several hundred trees would be visible from where we stood. Now they know I am scouting for good specimens of trees to sketch, for it's always reassuring to know that your sketchbooks contain many examples that can be placed into a composition that needs just a little extra. Trees that are close by and reveal fascinating trunk detail make exciting subjects.

    I loved the way the branches twisted snake-like in all directions on this oak, but it was the colours and textures of the lower trunk that excited me most. Seek out colour in the bark of trees and exaggerate this if need be to accentuate the character of the tree. Find good examples - not all oaks display a handsome profile - and take the outstanding textures of one tree to enhance another, perhaps more shapely specimen to combine them in one within your composition.

    This illustration is taken from my new book Landscapes Through the Seasons, just published by Search Press. It includes a great many examples of trees in their various states. Many find summer is  the most difficult time for painting trees and there are many tips and techniques for tackling all that greenery and making your trees look so much more authentic. Signed copies of the book are available on the website at www.davidbellamy.co.uk

    In the current issue of Leisure Painter magazine there is a competition to win one of my original watercolours, so do check it out.

    With England once more in lockdown these are not easy times, but through our painting we can escape into other worlds. With thousands of sketches from many parts of the world I find it a great solace to be able to paint scenes from far-flung places while working in my studio, bringing back memories of exciting times amidst some remarkable people and places. So many of the sketches are linked to stories. I hope you are also able to conjure up these times through sketches, photos, diaries or even books about places where you've been. Sometimes all we need is a little spark to set us off on an inspirational painting, and these are some way in which to light that spark.