Sunday, 18 November 2018

Bella Italia! Wales descends into a pit of hell

Finishing off my Seas & Shorelines book, a hiking trip to northern Italy, and a host of demonstrations, workshops and other items has left me little time to write blogs of late. I know some folk are quite happy to create their blog while riding across snow-encumbered steppes, I tend to leave most of my electronic appurtenances at home.

The Italian trip in northern Lombardia was really special, and accompanied by wonderful autumnal sunshine. The mountain scenery was outstanding, the granite peaks positively gleaming a brilliant white in the strong sunlight, and especially striking when set against the warm autumn colours on the trees. This brief sketch was carried out with a very soft Lyra sepia pencil in a few minutes, smudging the tones in places with my fingers as I tried to capture the beautiful evening light illuminating the peaks. Lyra make lovely pencils, and this simple approach is an excellent way to improve your drawing.

Back in Wales it came as quite a shock to learn that a wind turbine development is being allowed to go ahead by the Welsh Assembly in a truly beautiful area, despite being thrown out by the local planning committee and the inspector at the public inquiry, and with very strong opposition from local people. The environment minister, who appears to have no experience in the natural environment, decided to give the scheme the go-ahead 'because of the national interest!' Which national interest she had in mind is not clear as it is certainly in the interests of the foreign company constructing the turbines.
  The photograph shows the glorious Llandegley Rocks ridge which makes for a really interesting walk. There are starling murmurations with up to around 80,000 birds, which the developer intends to get rid of by cutting down their trees and bushes. The World Health Organisation has recently produced a report that shows that wind turbines cause hearing loss, tinnitus, high blood pressure and heart problems, yet the Welsh Ass has not bothered to carry out an investigation into the health of people living near these contrivances. Mid-Wales relies heavily for tourism for its economy, but unlike other countries the Welsh Ass cares little. If they can do this to Llandegley Rocks then nowhere is safe in Wales from this industrialisation. There is no control, this outcome has indicated that public inquiries are a waste of time, effort, money and emotional resources, and that local democracy is absolutely dead in Wales. Planning control appears to be a thing of the past, and this decision throws all efforts to strike a fair balance into utter confusion. It is a very black prospect for the principality. God help the children of Wales.

Friday, 21 September 2018

The Rain in Spain is.......Awesome!

    We've just returned from Spain where we ran a group painting holiday in the lovely old Andalucian town of Ronda, based in a hotel right on the edge of those sheer cliffs. It was brilliantly organised by Richard Cartwright of West Norfolk Arts. I did several sketches of the mountain panorama from my balcony, taking care not to drop a pencil as it wouldn't have stopped for over 200 feet straight down!

    Ronda is full of fascinating subjects, apart from its magnificent Puente Neuvo, the bridge that links the two parts of the town and spans the dramatic gorge. The watercolour sketch shown on the right is of the old bridge, which I carried out with a sanguine pen and a limited range of harmonious colours to retain unity. I chose to do it fairly early in the morning when it was backlit, for added drama, but also to avoid the crowds of tourists. I could see the green fields beyond the bridge and the blue-grey mountains beyond them, but chose to introduce a misty atmosphere in which I could lose detail. This was especially helpful with the gorge itself as it enhanced the sense of space and depth, which is also true of the vertical dimension as it goes down a long way.

    We were mainly blessed with good weather most of the time, although we did have a number of splendid storms, one of which was accompanied by a cloudburst that filled the streets with roaring torrents, trapping many for nearly an hour.

    I last painted in Ronda many years ago when we filmed Travelling Adventures in Watercolour, a film produced by APV Films of Chipping Norton. Copies are available on our website either on its own or as a double DVD with Coastal Adventures in Watercolour. 

The mountains are not high when compared to the Pyrenees, but they are shapely and make fine compositions. One day I'll return and enjoy rambling on them, come storm or sunshine.......

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Seeking out a rural lane to paint

    I have a great affection for rural lanes, especially old rutted cart-tracks. While they are superb for leading you into a composition they are also excellent subjects in their own right. When I plan a sketching trip I often seek out winding lanes on the walking map, and where they lead to an interesting-looking subject such as a mountain or hill, then there is a strong chance of a good subject.
    This particular lane heads towards the Brecon Beacons and I tramped it on a sunny winter day. I particularly liked the way the low sunlight cast shadows across the lane, and was keen to include this aspect, as well as giving the feature a few extra ruts for good measure. Ruts, puddles, clumps of grass and weeds and stones can be exaggerated or even added if they are not present, to give the composition more character. Keep a file of drawings, sketches and photographs of these countryside features so that you can add them in when needed. Undulating hedgerows with gaps here and there enhance the rustic nature of the place as do mature trees and bushes, and if you're feeling really bold why not include a rustic shepherd wending his weary way home?

    The painting was done on a sheet of quarter-imperial Saunders Waterford rough paper, a beautiful surface to work on, and the rough surface enhanced the track, especially where I used drybrush strokes.

    It's been all-action since my last blog, from the marvellous annual festival at Patchings in Nottingham's Robin Hood country where I demonstrated the Saunders Waterford papers for St Cuthberts Mill, and had the pleasure of meeting a lot of you. I've also just returned from an immensely rewarding trip to Germany, so that has a lot of potential for some great artwork.

    I do hope, like me, you've enjoyed this amazing summer and made full use of it with your paintbrush!

   

Monday, 9 July 2018

Painting in hot weather

    We've had intense heat here in Wales now for weeks, and the landscape is starting to resemble a desert in places. For the landscape artist it's an interesting time, and strangely our skies have not been entirely blue and cloudless - in fact the cloudscapes have been fascinating and worth sketching in their own right. Here are a few tips for working outside on hot days:

  • Get up at 6am and be out there sketching and painting by 7am while it's still cool;
  • Try to keep the paper out of direct sunlight as it hurts the eyes and affects tonal values;
  • Use plenty of water, both in your washes and to drink!
  • Watch that suncream as it can act as a resist to watercolours;
  • In case you don't find any shade take along a sun-shade or umbrella;
  • Make the most of those lovely cast shadows, and they will be at their best at 7 am!   
    The Patchings Art festival takes place from Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th, and we will be there on the first three days. I shall be demonstrating in the St Cuthberts Mill marquee on their marvellous Saunders Waterford paper. We also have a stand in the art materials marquee, so do come along and have a chat. The festival is incredibly popular and is just about the best day out in the country for the aspiring artist.

   I have just dropped a number of paintings in to the Ardent Gallery in the High Street, Brecon. If you are in the area do pop in and have a look around as they have some lovely work on display. Their telephone number is 01874 623333. The watercolour of Cottage on Mynydd Dinas (see below) is one on display.

    The brooding sky and background moorland ridge throws the emphasis firmly onto the sunlight cottage forming the centre of interest. Note how I have slightly darkened the lower part of the cottage roof in order to make it stand out against the stark white of the front wall. Sadly, there are not many of these traditional old Pembrokeshire cottages remaining now.

    We are taking a group of painters to Ronda in Spain during September, and the painting holiday booked up very quickly. Unfortunately two people have had to drop out because of illness, so if you fancy coming along you will be very welcome. Details of the painting holiday are at http://www.davidbellamy.co.uk/painting-holiday-to-andalucia-september-2018/  It is organised by West Norfolk Arts who do a really superb job of organising these holidays for us, and they appear to know every shady spot around the Mediterranean!

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Enhance your watercolour landscapes with simple cloud effects

    I've just returned from running a sketch & walk course in the Lake District with a lovely group of students, where the biggest problem was a lack of water! This is something which is rarely encountered in Lakeland, and it did confound attempts to sketch certain waterfalls rather devoid of water. Still we had a great time and at least we eventually found some in Coniston Coppermines Valley.

    The watercolour on the right is the view we painted, though I actually did this three years ago during autumn when there was more water in the beck, and the hillsides were alive with warm colours. This also happens to be on the cover of the summer issue of Leisure Painter magazine, featured in an article on creating wisps of cloud and streamers, which can so enhance your work. It was painted on Saunders Waterford rough 140 lb paper, and to achieve the soft misty edges I scrubbed with a damp half-inch flat brush. Losing ridges and parts of a hill or mountain can add so much mood and mystery to a landscape, and the article covers various ways in which you can achieve these effects.

    These softening-off techniques are a common feature in my books, especially the Winter Landscapes in Watercolour and Skies, Light & Atmosphere in Watercolour. Some artists feel that a standard broad-washed blue or grey sky can fit any landscapes, but I put great effort into my skies to introduce exciting and interesting cloud and atmospheric effects that suit a particular landscape, so there are a great many examples of these in both books.

    In Lakeland my biggest problem with the students was keeping up with the three octogenarian ladies, one of whom was leaping up and down precipitous slopes like an over-active monkey. What a great pleasure it is to see people respond so well to the beauties of nature.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Visualising your painting

    Recently I received an interesting email asking how to develop an artist's 'mindsight,' or visualisation in constructing a painting. This is more than just assembling the various parts of a composition, and brings in more about your own feelings and imagination into the equation.

    This watercolour of the Pembrokeshire coast at Amroth is an example of how visualization created a really different painting from what I saw in reality. I sketched the scene in mid-afternoon with light coming from the left. I could see the village and background hills and cliffs in strong detail and an overwhelming green. There was little atmosphere. In the studio I played around with studio sketches, tried various lighting and mood effects and considered how to increase the dramatic effect. I needed to lose most of the detail and the greenery.

    I decided to change the lighting to an evening sky, bringing in atmospheric cloud to lose much of the hills, and enhance the unity by using few colours in the background, mainly French ultramarine and cadmium red. Backlighting like this adds dramatic appeal and the cascade of light above the houses highlights them as a focal point. The dark closer rocks and cliff create a sense of space, again painted in with the same colours as the background only with much stronger tones and the addition of yellow ochre in places.

    How do you develop this visualisation of a scene? Firstly seek out dramatic lighting situations, sketching, recording and photographing strong atmosphere, moving around to find the most dramatic viewpoint and observing the effects created in these situations. Secondly study these phenomena at exhibitions, in books, etc, in the work of good landscape artists. Experiment with ideas, exaggerating height, tonal values and atmospheric effects, and using your imagination to create mystery, drama, intense light or moody shadows. Eliminate features that don't work for you. This all takes time and experience, but if you make a deliberate effort to work on this aspect of painting it will improve your work enormously.

    My Skies, Light & Atmosphere in Watercolour book contains a great many paintings that have been enhanced dramatically by visualising the overall atmosphere before touching the watercolour paper. Most of the skies depicted - and there is an enormous variety - have been changed to something more exciting for that particular composition. Concentrating on skies is an excellent way of beginning visualisation methods.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Lurking in the undergrowth

    Patchings Art Centre is currently showing a marvellous exhibition of paintings entitled 30 Artists for 30 Years in the Barn Gallery at the centre. This celebrates their 30 years in existence which grows from strength to strength every year, and is the highlight of the year in many artist's calendar. Their Art Festival in July is the most spectacular art and craft event in the country, and I urge you to pop along and see these works by artists who have exhibited and demonstrated there over the years. You will find the centre in Oxton Road, Calverton, just north of Nottingham - the postcode is NG14 6NU.

   While I was in Kenya I did manage to find a little time to do a short safari to capture a few more animals and birds in my sketchbooks. In this, one of the calmer moments of my entire trip I drew an eland wandering through the grass, adding in the colour later. Much of the time though it wasn't at all calm, what with monkeys eyeing up my cereal bar - the speed at which they hit you is awesome, and you do rather feel glad it's a monkey and not something bigger with huge teeth; also rather nasty things lurking in the undergrowth when you go for a wander to stretch your legs......yes, wildlife is absolutely fascinating!

    Many thanks to all of you who sent good wishes for my recovery - it was really nice of you, and you can be assured that I'm now fully back to standard mischief-making status. Enjoy your painting, and do come and see me at Patchings in July - it's a great occasion!