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
One of the joys of going away on holiday is the anticipation of exciting things to come, and one of the joys of being a professional artist is that this sort of thing is classified as ‘work.’ Whether you are professional or amateur you can still get a real kick in preparing for these exciting moments, and I do recommend that you give some consideration as to how you are going to tackle all this excitement with your methods, materials and choice of approach to the various subjects you have in mind.
This alfresco watercolour of Malcesine on Lake Garda was a demonstration for a painting group. Before flying to Italy I had decided that I would be using pen and wash for some of the lake scenes and limiting my use of colours. For this scene I decided on a palette of cool blues – mainly cobalt blue, with warm colours concentrated on the main features and the centre of interest, ie, the town itself. The warm colours were mainly light red, cadmium red, yellow ochre and quinacridone gold. This approach really does make the buildings stand out.
Because of the intense heat and the fact that I had to use Waterford hot pressed paper to accommodate the pen I had to work fast as the washes dried incredibly quickly. The smooth hot pressed paper tends to dry quicker than a not or rough surface. The pen I used was a fine-tipped sanguine colour to complement the warm-coloured buildings. I did not use it on the mountain features. This lends itself to creating a more unified result.
I’m afraid the reproduction is not first-class as it was photographed by a camera and not scanned at home, but it does give you an idea of the sort of methods you can try out, and not just while you are on holiday, of course. It always pays to think out how you wish to tackle the type of subject matter you will encounter on holiday, and ensure that you have all the right materials to work with.
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!
After a week of absolutely atrocious weather in the Italian Dolomites it’s nice to be back in sunny Wales for a day or two. Although I managed a number of useful sketches, without any views because of dense mist and lashing rain for much of the time it was a little annoying, especially when you know the scenery is spectacular. The previous week at Lake Garda we suffered from intense heat during a group painting holiday, but everyone remained cheerful, kept painting and put up with all that sunshine.
On Monday evening (10th July) I will be giving a talk at the launch of my Arctic Light book at Stanfords Map Shop in Covent Garden, London. It’s a fabulous place for maps and guidebooks for all over the world. There are still a number of places left, and if you wish to come along, then please get in touch with Mary Ellingham at Search Press on 01892 510 850, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Although Arctic Light it is not a how-to-paint book, it is crammed with watercolours and sketches with a great many examples of the way atmosphere and light can be depicted in landscapes. This time I have also included many works showing wildlife, both animals and birds, which can make a real difference to a painting even if portrayed in a small scale within the composition. You can see more details at my website.
Next week I shall be demonstrating for St Cuthberts Mill at the annual Patchings Art Festival on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday, using the marvellous Saunders Waterford papers in the St Cuthberts Mill Marquee. The festival is on from 13th to 16th July inclusive and is highly recommended for its wealth of demonstrating artists, crafts and art materials, so do come along and have a chat. For further information on the event see Patchings Art Festival. We will also have a stand near the marquee with a number of my paintings, books, DVDs, etc, so hopefully I’ll see you there.
It is a sad fact that in many paintings skies are painted without much forethought, when in fact they should be considered as an intrinsic part of the composition. They not only set the mood and lighting effects, but clouds, sun, squalls, lightning and stormy effects can all be positioned and treated sympathetically in relation to the ground features, especially mountains, hills and trees with which the sky comes into contact.
In this watercolour from my new book David Bellamy’s Arctic Light I have placed the most interesting part of the sky close to the summit of the Geologryggen peak and directly above the polar bear, thus bringing all the main elements together. For this painting, done on Saunders Waterford rough high white paper I began by wetting the whole sky area then working in quinacridone gold around the brightest point, and immediately blending in permanent orange to warm it up even more. I had already mixed up a wash of Moonglow with French ultramarine and applied this to the rest of the sky. While this was all still wet I brought in some much stronger Moonglow to apply the darker clouds wet-into-wet. Note the counterchange where mountain meets sky – the right-hand side shows the mountain slope dark against light, as is the rocky summit, but the rest reveals a sky darker than the snowy ridges. The paints I used here are the Daniel Smith watercolour range which have some amazingly gorgeous colours.
So, when you are doing those thumbnail sketches to work out your composition, don’t forget to include the sky, unless it covers a small part of the work. For those who enjoy painting skies and really want some good examples the Arctic book is a real treasury as it is crammed with a whole variety of skies suitable whether you are painting in Bognor, Bornholm or wherever. For further details see my website.
I will be signing my book at Stanfords map shop in Covent Garden on July 10th, so if you would like to come along and have a chat or ask any questions, then please get in touch with Mary Ellingham at Search Press on email@example.com or telephone 01892 510 850