David Bellamy – The Importance of shadows in a 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

David Bellamy – Creating a wildlife montage

It was great to see so many familiar faces at Patchings Art Festival earlier this month, and exchange experiences with many of the artists and exhibitors. It’s a wonderful show that seems to get better every year, so if you’ve not been then put it in your diary for next July. As well as demonstrating the fabulous Waterford papers in the St Cuthberts marquee I had a stand next door. With just Jenny and myself on the stand we were run ragged and completely sold out of how-to-paint books by the third morning. We also ran out of some of the exciting Daniel Smith watercolour paints, despite an emergency deliver from DSHQ!

We almost sold out of my new Arctic Light book as well. It’s had some tremendous reviews, with its wide range of subjects, including several painting techniques that I haven’t featured in books before. I particularly enjoyed creating the wildlife paintings, especially those where I spent quite some time with the animals, studying both their form and ways. My favourite poseur was the walrus, generally an amiable fellow on land, especially when basking in the sunshine, though he can be rather vicious in the water if he takes a dislike to you!

At a bull walrus colony on Svalbard I found these beasts in a great many fascinating poses – many more than shown here – and in order to feature as many of these as I could in the book I decided to render them as a montage on one large sheet of Saunders Waterford hot-pressed paper. This paper really enhances the detail in the walrus’s extremely textured hide. It’s really worth thinking about creating a montage where you wish to display a variety of actions or features in a scene, and perhaps add a little bit of humour at the same time. I also did a similar montage depicting the amazing actions of a single polar bear. Great fun!

David Bellamy – Watercolours in The Arctic

The sun has just risen and Torben is already up, proclaiming loudly on the beauty of the intense colours in the sky. I fight my way out of the sleeping bag, automatically grasping my painting gear while gasping at the temperature – even with the stove firing away the hut is cold. The window is in the perfect position to view the sun casting warm fingers across the icy wastes, and turning ice hummocks to gold.
A few pencil strokes shiver their way across the sketchbook and then I apply the watercolour washes, starting with the blaze of light that is burning away at the edge of the vertical crag. This is chiefly quinacridone gold, blending into some less violent Naples yellow, then pushing outwards, away from the point of maximum brightness with a mixture of cobalt blue and cadmium red. In the hunters’ hut this is luxury sketching for a change, especially when Jens puts a mug of steaming tea into my hand.

Later on I sketch Isak tending to his sledge-dogs in his usual kindly manner, and so in the finished painting here you can see how I have brought the two separate sketches together to form a narrative. The secret of making sunlight ‘burn’ into a feature is to keep the critical edges soft and push the light area into the feature as though it has burnt a hole in the side. In the foreground I have covered the wet blue washes with cling-film and moved it about until I am satisfied, then left it to dry. It is a remarkably effective way of suggesting ice and sastrugi ridges. Beneath the sunburst I included some of the warm gold to suggest the reflections of the colour in the ice. The painting was carried out on Saunders Waterford 300lb not paper.

This is one of a great many paintings in my new book, David Bellamy’s Arctic Light, which has just been published by Search Press. It is crammed with paintings, sketches and anecdotes, and contains one chapter describing some of the methods used to sketch and paint, often in almost impossible conditions.  Subjects vary from glaciers, sea ice, mountains, wild seas, waterfalls, people and many wildlife works are included, from polar bears, walrus, musk ox, Arctic foxes to birds. More details can be seen on my website.