DAVID BELLAMY: PAINTING WIND-TORN CLOUDS
Recently I was up in the Brecon Beacons on a windy day which was unpleasant for sketching out of doors high up, but marvellous for the ever-changing cloud formations rapidly scudding across the mountains. The light and shadow effects were constantly providing new sketching opportunities. On days like these it’s invaluable to take advantage of such stunning skies, but so often if I rely simply on photographs I find the results less than satisfying. So I try to get in one or two sketches at least.
The image shows wild clouds over Corn Du, and for this I used two Daniel Smith Watercolour Sticks: French ultramarine and Lunar black, to produce an almost monochrome blue-grey. There sticks are fabulous as sketching tools, and are especially effective on a windy day like this when you can hold them in one hand which also grips the sketchbook, while painting with a synthetic Aquash brush which has water in its handle. I completely wet the paper first, then picked up colour directly off the sticks, applying one colour to the sky area and then picking up the other colour. Mixing them on the paper like this can be very effective, but you can mix them on the side of the sketch, on scrap paper, or carry a small palette – even a jam-jar lid would work well if you were limiting your colours to just a few.
Because I wet the paper first all the cloud edges are soft and my brush darted to and fro, inserting blobs of paint to create darker patches of cloud, while leaving some parts as clean, white paper. Soon the paper had dried and I then outlined the mountain peak in, softening the edges of it in places before entering the rock strata lower down. I now use these sticks constantly – the lovely rich colour lifts off so easily, and the sticks mix so well, and they have a definite advantage over a box of half-pans when you need to stand up to paint. Unless, of course you have a suitably positioned table nearby, or a friendly Egyptian policeman who is happy to hold your half-pan box as has happened to me in the past! Do give them a try.