My snow theme continues from the last blog as we’ve had a considerable amount of snow in Mid-Wales in the last few days – about 12 to 15 inches and it is incredibly beautiful. Before the great snowfall, though we had a dusting of snow and it is this I will concentrate on now as it will hopefully give you new ideas and help hone observation skills.
This is part of the view from my bedroom window, and may appear unremarkable. It does have a number of lessons for us, though. Starting from the top, you will see that on the left the white moorland top is caught white against a medium grey sky, but as the eye travels to the right this changes gradually as cloud shadow falls across the moor. At the far right the moor is now darker than the sky. This counterchange effect is extremely useful to add interest to our work, especially in the less exciting parts of the composition.
Below that top band lies rough ground with dead vegetation. The dusting of snow has all but disappeared here but you can detect a slight warming of the colour. One way of achieving this in a watercolour is to rub a candle horizontally across the paper, then lay a wash which perhaps includes some light red to suggest the warm colour. Rough paper will accentuate this technique, and you can create the white pathways visible in places by combining this with masking fluid.
Beneath the band of warmer, broken colour the snow lies on a smoother field and so is more continuous. Grey cast tree shadows fall across it in places and there is an occasional patch of rough ground here and there.
As you are no doubt aware, snow does not always look a pristine white. Observe and analyse the scene before choosing your paper, methods and approach; alter your cloud shadows and move these various parts around to suit yourself. It’s great, creative fun, so enjoy it!
My Winter Landscapes in Watercolour has a lot more on the subject of tackling snow scenes
Injecting a little sunshine into your landscapes will give them a strong appeal, and the best way of achieving this is to lay cast shadows across a light surface. Nothing will give a more striking or fresh approach than doing this across a pristine snow scene. With winter upon us you will hopefully have opportunities for practising this effect before long.
In this watercolour the sense of strong sunshine has been achieved by laying cast shadows across the foreground and over the left-hand part of the roof. For the shadows I used a mixture of cobalt blue and cadmium red, although very little of the latter was included as it is a powerful colour. This produces a lovely, fresh shadow and is not as dull or overpowering as say burnt umber mixed with the cobalt blue. French ultramarine is also a superb colour if you wish to substitute it for the cobalt blue.
Note also the warm colours employed on the house and trees – this takes away the utter coldness of a snowy landscape. Aim to have white highlights on the snow, but not an overall whiteness. On the left-hand trees I deliberately applied white gouache with a painting knife. I don’t normally do this, but I wanted to show a variety of techniques in my Winter Landscapes in Watercolour book, where this scene appears.
This painting is now on show with several others in the Ardent Gallery, in the High Street, Brecon tel. 01874 623333, and is also available as a Christmas Card, available here
Don’t forget to watch out for that snow – it rarely seems to stay long these days so make the most of it whilst it’s still around, and preferably before all those tobogganers have churned it all up!
Are you making the most of the stunning colours in the countryside at the moment? It’s a great time for getting out to capture one of nature’s most flamboyant periods with your camera, sketchbook or maybe even a full alfresco painting. Watch especially for those vivid colours backlit with strong sunlight that will simply leap off your watercolour paper. Birch trees can be especially rewarding when lit up by strong light, as white trunks and warm colours work together extremely well.
My watercolour of the River Wye in autumn on the left includes a great many trees (although this is not the entire painting), but the distant conifers have been left without detail to throw the emphasis onto the trees with autumn colouring. For these I have used new gamboge, cadmium yellow pale, cadmium red and some touches of cadmium orange, with French ultramarine with a touch of cadmium red for the far conifers. The painting was done several years ago, and since then my autumn palette has changed a little: I now use quinacridone gold, transparent red oxide, Aussie red gold and cadmium red in the Daniel Smith watercolour range, as these colours fairly sing out. In the painting note that the trees on the extreme edges of the painting have been kept fairly dull. This is to throw the emphasis onto the brighter trees and to avoid drawing the eye towards those edges.
While the sun doesn’t always oblige us when we need it, don’t forget that autumn scenes can benefit from a little rain, wind and mist – elements most artists prefer to keep at a distance. Rain produces puddles which can be used to reflect these vibrant colours, and if followed by a sunny spell the result can be magical as the scene glistens and sparkles. Mist can throw the emphasis onto a small group of interesting trees and obscure the rest, and wind, that bane of all landscape artists, can send clouds of leaves hurtling through the air. To include a few of these suggests a lovely sense of a windy day. Make the most of these moments as they can add so much authenticity to your work.
You will find further tips and examples on painting autumn scenes in my book David Bellamy’s Winter Landscapes, published by Search Press. It contains a chapter on the subject which is a preliminary to working on winter paintings. Signed copies are available at www.davidbellamy.co.uk
It’s been an exhausting few weeks since the last blog, and unlike some I find it difficult to write blogs in the odd cafe, while waiting for the lights to turn green, or when sitting on the back of a Bactrian camel. Anyway, my exhibition of the paintings from the Arctic Light book went well in the superb Osborne Studio Gallery in Belgravia last month. In fact you can still see the catalogue on their website, www.osg.uk.com Although they are of course, paintings of the Arctic, there is a lot you can learn from studying the images for composition, colours, skies, moods, etc.
I thought you might like to see how the cartoonists see me – here’s a great caricature of me drawn by the excellent caricaturist Gary whose work is regularly featured in the Sunday Times and Daily Mail. This one appeared in The Lady recently when they did a profile on me. Is that a mischievous twinkle in the eyes?
After the exhibition I ran a course in St Davids and we were blessed with good weather. Although the wind was a bit strong, this really gave us some interesting boisterous seas, with great splashes when the really big waves came crashing in from across the Atlantic. One balmy afternoon on the cliffs in warm and stunning sunlight was truly unforgettable, and perfect for sketching.
I’m delighted to report that my Arctic Light book has just been awarded best outdoor book by the Outdoor Writers’ & Photographers’ Guild, on top of a marvellous batch of reviews. Although it’s not a how-to book it sells well at my demonstrations and workshops, as it’s packed with interesting and at times dramatic compositions and skies, as well as the many tales and sometimes absurd situations that seem to follow me around. I’m told many have put it on their Christmas list. Enjoy your painting!
In order to achieve that marvellous sense of strong light in a painting we need to give our shadow areas a lot of thought, for it is these that will imbue the scene with atmosphere. Today we are going to look at a large, complicated watercolour with many shadows and nuances of light, though I am not suggesting that you try to copy this wholesale, but rather to take parts of the scene and examine the ways in which they work together.
The large shadow area in the top left quadrant throws the emphasis on the rest of the painting, and it is a useful technique where the composition is rather complicated. It also guides the light down from the top right to make the rocks and glacial features stand out. Note the varied colours dropped into the shadows on the glacier to add interest – are these of rock or ice? Sometimes even when you are standing on them it’s not easy to tell!
As you will see, both the bear and the gulls have darker backgrounds to make them stand out, and this needs to be deliberately planned before you start painting – a white bear set against a brilliant white sunlit glacier somehow will not work. In the foreground the rocks have been kept very light on top where they are caught in the sun, but the strong shadows give them their form as well as suggesting strong sunshine. Did the bear catch the gulls? Not this time, as they are usually too quick. Often you will see a wide ring of birds sitting on rocks round a bear, watching its every move. But he did get their eggs on this occasion.
This painting, a full imperial size watercolour, will be on show at my Arctic Light exhibition on 19th and 20th September at the Osborne Studio Gallery at 2 Motcomb Street, London SW1X 8JU Tel. 0207 235 9667 from 12 noon to 6pm Copies of my new book David Bellamy’s Arctic Light will be available.
If you do fancy an expedition or voyage to the Arctic you will be in good hands with Arcturus, a company based in Devon that specialises in tours to the polar regions Tel. 01837 840640 I have come across their expedition parties in Greenland and they were all having a great time and there is a piece about my exhibition on their website