Painting snowy landscapes

At last, real winter has arrived, and for the landscape artist having the countryside cloaked in deep snow is a great inducement to get out and capture some new scenes, even if you can’t stand the cold for long and have to rely on the camera. I’ve just returned from an extremely rewarding trip to North Staffordshire where we did some filming for a DVD on winter landscapes. Snow simplifies the landscape considerably, making it easier for the artist.

In this view on the North Staffordshire Moorlands I selected a back-lit angle by choosing mid-afternoon to visit the spot – back-lighting tends to add drama to a scene, and lose detail in more distant features. The road acts as a good lead-in and the right-hand electricity pole breaks up the far ridge, so it might be worth leaving in. One of the cows in the middle distance (left) is looking out of the picture, so I would turn her round to look at the house. After I’d finished the sketch the chimney on the left-hand building started to emit smoke, so I then adjusted the sketch to include smoke, but had it emerging from the right-hand house, which was my centre of interest.

My first painting course this year is at the Caer Beris Manor Hotel in Builth Wells, Mid Wales from the 7th to 12th April, and there are still a few places left. The gentle, rolling landscapes provide a wealth of subjects, with the more dramatic Brecon Beacons to the south, so there is something for most tastes, and plenty of interest for non-painting partners. Although it is primarily for watercolourists, Jenny will be on hand to demonstrate pastel landscapes as well as offering tuition in the medium. You can check it out on our website, or telephone the hotel on 01982 552601, or email them at 

Painting courses

This is the time of year when many artists think about taking up a course to improve their painting skills, and naturally to do this in beautiful scenery, in the comfort of a truly welcoming hotel and with a tutor whose work you wish to emulate, can provide the most rewarding experience. Many find that at home there are too many distractions, and getting away with like-minded folk for an intensive week of painting can be the optimum way of pushing your work forward.

Jenny and I work hard on our courses to ensure that everyone gets plenty of attention and demonstrations. One of our favourite locations is Snowdonia in North Wales where there is an infinite choice of a wide variety of painting subjects, with so many of them visible from the road or nearby, which means, of course that you don’t have to walk very far to find a superb subject…..but you can, if you wish, hike into the more remote locations.

This autumn our course in the Sygun Fawr Country House in Snowdonia runs from 27th October to 1st November, timed to coincide with the autumn colours. You will find details  here, or you can telephone the Sygun Fawr Country House on 01766 890258

I am sorry there is no illustration with this blog, but Blogger keep changing the set-up almost every time I wish to set up a post and this time I’ve failed to get the painting up, so I’ll have to move elsewhere I guess. I’ll try to make it as smooth a transition as possible. Keep watching this space.

A HAPPY NEW YEAR to you all, and enjoy your painting in 2013

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 of a special book and dvd offer see my our shop. 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.

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

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 shop – it makes a suitably terrifying Christmas present.