Thursday, 20 December 2012

Painting the magic of snow scenes

    We're still waiting for our first fall of snow in mid-Powys - it seems to be taking a long time to get here this winter. For the artist, the landscape is transformed by a coating of snow, making it an exciting time to be out sketching. The manner in which the scenery is simplified, with much detail hidden, will help those less experienced artists who find it difficult to filter out unwanted clutter.

This watercolour shows a lonely farm on Tideswell Moor in Derbyshire, where you can find many similar compositions, at times without even needing to get out of your car! While it's tempting to think of snow as being white, the snow as we see it varies considerably in tone, sometimes appearing almost black when in deep shadow and backlit by strong sunshine. If you wish to push a snowy hill or mountain back into the distance lay a weak wash of blue or blue-grey over it, as you can see on the right-hand distant hill where I used cobalt blue. By comparison the left-hand hill, which is simply the white of the paper, really does come forward. To accentuate the white roof I've set it against a mid-tone background: planning your tones like this is easy with some forethought before starting to paint.

Don't just use blue over the snow areas. Watch out for reflected colours in the snow - pinks, yellows, mauves - these can really give your painting a lift, and also note where the snow cover is quite thin some of the vegetation might well show through. A good example of this is where large bands of grass are visible, where I might wash a warm colour such as yellow ochre or light red over the paper. For this, the dry brush technique where you have a large brush with little water on it, is extremely effective, especially on a rough paper surface.

This painting is featured in my book Painting Wild Landscapes in Watercolour, and for details see my website. Our website will shortly be upgraded, as it is starting to creak a bit of old age. In the meantime, Jenny and I wish you all a very Happy Christmas wherever you live in the world, and may you have a very rewarding year of painting ahead of you. We're now about to set off to the local cinema and I've been warned to take waders and carry a life raft as the waters of the Wye are rising rapidly.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Watercolour painting blocks

    Jenny and I have been in Paris on a short break to see my daughter, and we were blessed with glorious sunny weather. This enabled us not only to have a very enjoyable time, but for me to do the occasional sketch during our pauses. There's usually some time during the day, even in a place as busy as Paris, to spend a few moments recording a scene, and it makes a lovely souvenir of the trip.
As I've mentioned before, we often produce an illustrated journal from our travels, but sometimes it's nice to carry out a watercolour on proper watercolour paper, even if it is more in sketch form than a completed painting. I nearly always take a folder with a variety of watercolour papers, NOT, rough, hot pressed, tinted, and so on, on my serious trips, but often it's great to keep things simple and just take along your favourite watercolour paper. We should all have favourites, so if you haven't you really should try to find out which papers suit you best.

For me the real star is Saunders Waterford, as it has an interesting surface texture combined with a truly robust nature, because it has been internally and externally sized. This can be an absolutely vital attribute if like me you make mistakes and need to sponge or scratch the paper to remove mistakes, or indeed, as a technique for creating certain effects.

St Cuthberts Mill produce the Saunders Waterford blocks containing their classic watercolour paper in convenient sizes for all three surface types, and they are ideal for painting while you travel, or if you don't like stretching paper. It's a great pleasure to work on really superb paper, so if you haven't tried Waterford you are in for a treat. Check out their website

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Terror of the Trolls

    This week sees the launch of my latest book, Terror of the Trolls, the second book in the Llandoddie series based in the spa town of Llandrindod Wells in Mid Wales. As in the first volume, this one is peppered with chaos, mad-cap humour and dire peril in the form of a band of disgusting trolls who think nothing of eating the smaller Doddies for breakfast. Or afternoon tea.

    Little Rhiannon is kidnapped by the trolls, and is whisked away into the sinister dark depths of the Pwll-du mine. A crack Doddie rescue team is sent in, equipped with the latest weaponry produced by Professor Megawattie, such as his exploding hedgehog. "It's perfectly safe," he boasts, but is it? All the main characters from the first book, The Grog Invasion, are back, with Big Dewi in splendid form as the anti-hero, making a pig's ear of just about everything.

    Written for children from 9 to 99, the book has 27 illustrations, mainly in colour, 128 pages, is written under my pseudonym, and copies signed by old Griswallt are available from my website - it makes a suitably terrifying Christmas present.