Wednesday, 2 October 2019

With watercolours to Austria

    September was another of those all-action months where there was no time to write blogs: sadly there are many things happening which I simply don't have time to relate. On 14th September I had one of the proudest moments of my life when Catherine, my daughter, married Nicko. They met at clown school in Paris many years ago and had an amazing wedding with the reception in a delightful woodland setting. Overwhelmingly, the guests were actors, actresses, directors, producers, musicians, magicians, clowns (of course), singers, and folks from the entertainment industry. The Bollywood-style dance was truly jaw-dropping, and the church service rocked.

    A few days later Austria beckoned: a painting group holiday arranged by Richard Cartwright of West Norfolk Arts with the assistance and local expertise of our friend Christof Hoelzl who found us some exciting locations to paint.

    Based in the beautiful Stubaital valley we painted and sketched the surrounding peaks, and on a very wet day tackled a waterfall. Although I don't do many city and town scenes we spent a day in Hall which has many splendid old buildings, and I found myself really enjoying the change. The watercolour of Rosengasse was done quickly in a cartridge sketchbook while it was spitting with rain. I could see much more than I've included, particularly beneath the church tower, but I did not want to over-work it, and eliminating distant detail further suggests distance.

    I've run the colours of the walls into one another, assisted by the falling rain, while Christof gallantly held his umbrella over the sketchbook as I demonstrated. One feature I love about these Austrian towns is the ubiquitous hanging signs with their ornate metal hangers. I took the opportunity of photographing many of these to use elsewhere, possibly as collages. Note how I have vignetted the interesting stonework of the street so that only few stones are shown in the foreground.

    With autumn upon us do get ready for those glorious colours. Don't wait just for those lovely sunny days, as the bright yellow and orange leaves reflecting in puddles can work wonders for your painting.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Liberate your painting with scraps of paper

    I often find that when I'm testing a wash or new colour on a scrap of watercolour paper that I produce some marvellous results, yet when I try to repeat the exercise in a proper painting it often falls far short of what I hope will happen. So why not try to capitalise on this perversity by now and then painting on a piece of scrap paper that you might otherwise throw away?

    This little watercolour was painted on a discarded piece of 300lb Saunders Waterford rough paper 9 inches by 4.5 inches, and I loved every moment painting it. With such a small, insignificant size you tend to lose any inhibitions, and it's certainly a liberating feeling, as you feel you have nothing to lose even if you make the most astounding mess!


    One of the main features I love is the soft wet-in-wet reflections in the water below the cottage. These were achieved by wetting the area of the water below the building and out as far as the central boats, leaving it for a few minutes to start drying, and then applying the dark green-grey reflections of the massed trees into the wet area, leaving the part directly below the cottage as white paper. At this stage it's vital to watch how the dark reflections creep outwards as though they deliberately want to annoy you. With a damp - a really 'thirsty' brush (a number 6 round brush is usually fine for this) - pull out any of the dark colour that edges its way beyond where the reflections should appear. You may need to do this more than once.

    This painting appears in my Seas & Shorelines in Watercolour book, recently published by Search Press, which not only covers a really wide variety of coastal scenery and features, but is also crammed with sky treatments of all kinds that you should find useful for adopting in your own work. Signed copies are available via my website  ....and don't forget to make full use of those bits of scrap paper lying around!

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Thrashing around for a sketch

    The recent Patchings Art Festival in Nottinghamshire was something of a whirlwind for us, with almost non-stop activity on our stand, and interest in my new book, Seas & Shorelines was astonishing. The book sold out and that was not including the other books. Having meetings with a number of people, I really didn't manage to see even half the show this year, and had to miss out meeting many artists, but as usual it was a fabulous show, easily the best in the UK. It was a delight to meet so many students even though I was torn away so often by sheer numbers. I did three demonstrations in the St Cuthberts Mill marquee on their superb Waterford and Bockingford papers, and had the privilege of being accompanied on stage by some local wildlife: at the rear of the marquee a nest of bees became interested in the demonstrations. Having these massive bees circling round your head as you paint away does tend to inject a real buzz to your work!

    Getting back home was no picnic. The next day my two-year-old grand-daughter arrived and more or less took over the place, causing delightful mayhem and scattering my toys all over the place. About a week after returning from Patchings things returned almost to normal and I decided to go for a hike in a local gorge. Unfortunately it was massively overgrown with vegetation and I'd forgotten my boots and stick. It took some time to break through to the lip of the gorge, but once there I managed a couple of pencil sketches, one of which appears above. I had to leave out most of the background tree detail.

   I continued upstream, high above the rocky course of the stream along a slippery, eroded pathway, but by now armed with a sturdy pole I'd found lying on the ground. Under some cliffs and round the corner I descended into the undergrowth from hell. Nobody had been this way for years probably. I was confronted by a dense area of briars, nettles, branches and other vegetation, all covering many fallen tree-trunks. I didn't want to return the way I'd come so I literally thrashed my way through the undergrowth, mounting each tree-trunk and attacking the undergrowth beyond before leaping down the far side. This took ages and in the heat the perspiration was running off me. At the far end - some 70 yards or so - I looked back and realised it would have been better to have jumped into the river and waded up, thus avoiding the undergrowth.

   There was much more to the day, but I shall pause there. I returned home happy with a brace of sketches and having had plenty of exercise. Just being in such a marvellous spot and enjoying the natural environment is something really special. Even for a few scratches!

   Signed copies of Seas & Shorelines are available from my website

   

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Greys in watercolour landscapes

    For the landscape painter grey is an extremely useful colour, often to set the mood, or equally importantly to provide a passage of quiet dullness that can be vital to make those exciting vibrant and perhaps bright colours stand out. In this scene of a stream in the New Forest, painted on Waterford NOT 140lb paper, I have used the superb Daniel Smith Lunar Blue to create the background, an exciting blue-grey colour that has interesting characteristics that may not at first sight be apparent. At it's full strength as you can see on either side of the main tree-trunk where it defines the tops of the grasses, it reveals a powerful granulation, yet on the right-hand side where I have simply laid a weak wash of the same colour, there is no granulation. The stronger tone used, the more prominent become the granulations.

    Daniel Smith have introduced a number of useful new greys into their collection recently and I've been trying out some of them. Alvaro's Caliente grey is a lovely, warm grey which is quite dark at full strength, and is excellent for creating moody landscape backgrounds. The cooler Alvaro's Fresco grey can inject a feeling of drama into a composition, for example if you may like to portray a cold sea or stormy sky, or simply cool shadows. The third grey I tried was Joseph Z's neutral grey, a versatile colour that will be a welcome addition to the landscapist's palette, again for creating moody scenes. All these greys can of course be modified by mixing, but one great advantage of these Daniel Smith greys is that the artist will already have a selection of interesting and varied greys without having to do any prior mixing, and in each case above the colours can produce a wide variety of  tonal values.

    I shall be demonstrating next Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the marvellous Patchings Art Festival, in the St Cuthberts Mill marquee, using the superb Saunders Waterford and Bockingford papers. Our stand will be beside the marquee so do come and chat and learn more about these excellent products and see other examples after the demonstrations. I will also be signing copies of my new book, David Bellamy's Seas & Shorelines in Watercolour, just published by Search Press and is the No.1 Landscape painting best-seller on Amazon. You can obtain signed copies from my website  I hope to see you at Patchings

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Painting the haunting calm of an estuary

    I love exploring quiet estuaries, well away from the hubub of modern life, where all you may hear is the haunting cry of the occasional curlew, and to sit sketching the scene as twilight begins can be a memorable experience. Often at such times the colours are reduced and it is easier to get a moody effect, though having to work quickly before darkness descends can induce mistakes. I generally begin with a few quick photographs of the scene at a variety of exposure settings, and then launch into the sketch. Photographs are helpful to back up your sketches and having several at different exposures where there is a strong lighting contrast will give you a better chance of producing a result that is closer to what you actually see with the eye.

    In this watercolour I have added birds, with the closer one acting as the centre of interest. A hint of sparkle on the water was achieved by drybrushing a light grey wash across the central areas. The large white parts are simply white paper, but where I went too far with the paint I have scratched out highlights with a scalpel, mainly to the right of the white water.

    This painting, with several others is now on show at Beaulieu Fine Arts, in Beaulieu High Street on the edge of the New Forest, postcode SO42 7YA.  See www.beauliefinearts.co.uk  or telephone 01590 612089

    The painting is also featured in my new book, Seas & Shorelines in Watercolour, which is doing extremely well, and even those who have no intention of painting the sea will benefit, as it includes a wide variety of skies, buildings, rocks, cliffs, figures and birds, as well as some exquisite daubs of mud! For more information see my website. Now that summer is here I hope you are all getting out with your paints - make the most of it.

Monday, 27 May 2019

Painting Seas & Shorelines in Watercolour

    Making life easy for ourselves isn't really the done thing in painting - we do love striving to find the most complicated and difficult way of producing a painting. In my new book, David Bellamy's Seas & Shorelines in Watercolour I have outlined a number of ways to simplify and ease our ways of working, from basic use of French curves and rulers to mono-printing and highlighting alternative ways to cope with painting those nasty rocks and cliffs, and much more.

    In this painting of waders in an estuary I have used low-tack masking tape to create the horizon and also streaks of colour depicting different tones in the water on the mid-left of the composition. These latter might not be so obvious in this small image, but this method is so simple and can be used to create many features involving straight lines. The horizon line, by the way is not exactly halfway down the composition - I have cut out some of the sky to try to show up the lines better!

    The book is crammed with paintings, sketches, diagrams showing a great many techniques, and has four step-by-step works. I have introduced many alternative methods of working with watercolours, bringing in additives to create various textural effects, introducing collage to create rock and cliff structures, pulling out colour with greater force, and producing effects with sponges, knives and other tools. A number of different methods have been demonstrated to illustrate how to achieve the white highlights, sparkles and splashes on boisterous and calm waters, and there's a number of ways of coping with boats.

     Signed copies of the book are available via my website  It's a great companion to take away on a summer holiday or break by the sea, and though subjects are mainly around the British coastline there are many from abroad. It includes a chapter on painting on holiday and a variety of ways of working on the spot, including pen and wash, watercolour pencils, critical observation methods, making the most of figures and seabirds in your work, and beefing up your compositions with a completely different sky to that in your photograph or sketch, plus a host of other ways of achieving a more exciting result, whether you want a tranquil estuary scene, raging seas, a gentle beach or harbour composition or dramatic cliff scenery.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Creating misty landscapes

    We are blessed with so many stunning river and stream subjects of great variety in the UK, and whatever the weather may throw at us there is something truly pleasurable to sit beside a bubbling brook or fast-flowing mountain cascade. These features can also make excellent lead-ins to an interesting focal point, and there is something almost lifelike in a moving stream.

    In this watercolour I've played down the actual river, to concentrate more on the surrounding forested hills and the large crag on the right. By introducing a lot of mist I've simplified the background, although there is still much detail visible. With a river or canal it will add a sense of mystery and interest if you have the further part of the river turning round a bend - we are all eager to see what's round the bend!

    For the misty effect use plenty of water and build the scene up gradually, dropping the blue-greys or green-greys of the distant trees into a damp area to create lovely soft edges where tree masses appear and disappear into the mist. By placing hard-edged forms with strong tones such as those just above and to the left of the crag, in front of misty passages you will create a powerful sense of depth in the painting.

    On Monday 29th April Jenny Keal and myself will be demonstrating for Holderness Arts at Burton Pidsea Memorial Hall, Back Lane, Burton Pidsea HU12 9AN, from 10am to 3pm. I shall be doing a watercolour demonstration in the morning and Jenny will be carrying out a pastel demonstration in the afternoon. Information and tickets are available on  01964 670269 or from the Burton Pidsea shop. Tickets won't be available at the door on the day. Do come along if you can. We will have books, DVDs, art materials and a number of paintings for sale, and are happy to answer your painting questions.

Monday, 15 April 2019

Painting Wild Serengeti

    I will be giving a talk and demonstration at The Galtres Centre, in the Market Place at Easingwold on Friday 26th April, and you are welcome to come and have a chat. The theme will be "Wild Serengeti" and I will be covering encounters and sketching with African wildlife. The event starts at 7.30 pm and for those using satnav the postcode is YO61 3AD. For tickets and information please ring the Galtres Centre on 01347 822472


    The above scene shows wildebeeste startled by a lion during the annual pilgrimage across the Serengeti, when the line of wildebeeste runs from one end of the horizon to the other. The lion watched them with indifference, probably having eaten so many he couldn't face any more for a while! I enjoy working on a narrative like this, where there is more than just the visual image. To make the main animals stand out I deliberately simplified the ground directly behind them. Fast movement is depicted not just by blurring the legs slightly and placing them in running positions, but also by the angle and attitude of the body. This is at its clearest in the two beasts 3rd and 4th from the left, where they are moving away from the viewer and their bodies are slightly leaning over to the left as they turn away. The painting was done on Saunders Waterford 140lb rough paper.

    Some folk may wonder why I don't use Facebook, even though there is an account in my name (which I don't use). I find it almost impossible as I live quite an action-packed life with little time to spare - in fact I don't paint so often these days because 21st-century life just is too demanding of one's time. Technology is supposed to make life easier for us, but I find it just adds an extra burden, being so incredibly slow and error-prone. It's much greater fun to be out in the wilds or at least brandishing the old-fashioned paintbrush somewhere nice and remote.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Painting around the New Forest

  I now have a number of paintings on display at Beaulieu Fine Arts, an excellent gallery with several rooms full of exciting and varied art. It's a delightful spot to visit as you can also spend time exploring the New Forest, which is especially glorious in spring-time. The watercolour shown here is of a tranquil view of the river near Bucklers' Hard, one of several local scenes I've painted. I have not neglected my wilder compositions, though, so you will find a mixture. In summer the massed greens can appear a little overwhelming, so I have introduced more grey into the further tree-clad ridges.

    The gallery is at Manor House in High Street, Beaulieu, Hampshire, SO42 7YA and the telephone number is 01590 612089   Check out the website at   www.beaulieufinearts.co.uk

    I've just returned from an exciting trip to the Lebanon, returning with bagfuls of sketches. I encountered much dramatic mountain scenery, incredibly deep snow, amazing Roman ruins and not least so many kind and friendly people. And of course, the food was outstanding, and sometimes overwhelming, as when I went into an Iraqi restaurant for a lunchtime sandwich and ended up with seven courses - all at once! 

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Taking a painting break

    There are so many times these days when I just want to get off this mad conveyor-belt of constant action, and be back in the wilds, away from phones, the internet and all the trappings of 21st-century life as it becomes more and more dehumanised. Being amongst wildlife and the mountain peoples is a great pleasure, and one of the marvellous aspects of being an artist is that your paintings and sketches recall so many wonderful moments in these places.

    This scene shows a group of buffalo, wary of the intruders to their patch in the Gol Mountains of Tanzania. I'd just been sketching the frenetic activities of a gaggle of Nubian vultures gorging themselves on a carcass. These were days of constant excitement amidst outstanding scenery. In this watercolour I broke up the skyline with wreaths of mist as it tended to intrude right across the composition. The cliffs have been rendered with Daniel Smith Watercolour Ground, which is similar to Gesso, but easily painted over with watercolours. This was applied with a painting knife and injects strong texture into this large work.

    The painting is on view at Brecon Library in a small exhibition entitled Wild Moments, and I will be giving an illustrated talk there at 11 am on Saturday 9th March. Many Powys libraries are now under great threat of closure and I feel it is so important to support them. Do come along if you can. I will also be taking new paintings to the Ardent Gallery in Brecon next week - telephone 01874 623333

    There are still a few vacancies on my course at St Davids in Pembrokeshire from 2nd to 7th June. It takes place at the superb Warpool Court Hotel overlooking St Brides Bay, and we have such an outstanding wealth and variety of painting subjects both on the coast and inland, not to mention the amazing display of flowers along the coast path and hedgerows.

    Enjoy your painting and don't forget to get off that mad conveyor-belt every now and then to recharge your batteries!

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Manning the barricades.....with a 3B pencil

    Here in Mid-Wales it's been a really gloomy start to the new year, and that's not just the weather - confrontations at Llandegley between many protesters and the wind-turbine developers escalated when they began delivering concrete. It really shows the amazing commitment to saving the planet by these truck-drivers in having to rise about 1am to drive down from Yorkshire, about 150 miles, to shatter the sleep of the locals before 5am. Somewhat unfairly, the developers do not seem to have told them that these turbines will not be connected to anything, as there is no connection to the grid! Apparently so long as they look OK this doesn't matter, and they will still get their millions so long as one of the seven turbines is standing up by 31st January. They have brought a large generator along, probably just to make sure the little thingie at the top goes round and round anyway.

    Many security staff had been drafted in, but the protesters held their ground. The trucks stood still. At first the police present were unsure about the legal situation, as this was on common land where we had every right to wander around, sketch, watch birds, have a picnic, etc, but in the end the issue was resolved by protesters walking slowly in front of the trucks at less that funereal pace. The security staff tried to bully some out of the way. One elderly lady slipped on the muddy surface, just as the truck behind saw a gap and raced forward. Fortunately she managed to roll out of the way, but inches from the wheels that would have crushed her. The truck did not stop. Many dear little ladies that day and subsequently found themselves intimidated as in the sketch, by these aliens.

    It would take a book to write up all this. If this were happening in Surrey or Sussex where they don't appear to have a single turbine, there would be a national outcry. We already have hundreds and the scandalous manner in which these speculators accrue vast wealth for trashing the livelihoods, well-being and local tourist economy is shocking. But we carry on the fight, though there's not much time for painting.

I wish you all a rather belated happy new year, and every success with your painting!