David Bellamy – Highlighting a landscape feature with a glaze

Some of you asked if I would show the full image of the promontory watercolour published on the post on 5th May, so here it is – the scene is in the central Highlands of Scotland, easily seen from the roadside as you approach Rannoch Moor to the north.

As you can see, I’ve positioned the lightest part of the composition behind the row of Caledonian pines on the further promontory, to give them more emphasis. The more shadowy parts of the background mountains were achieved by washing a mixture of French ultramarine and cadmium red over those parts which had already been painted. This was done with a large wash brush and quite a weak mixture, creating a thin transparent glaze across those areas I wanted to subdue, and thus emphasising the light section.

The painting is part of the exhibition at the John Muir Trust centre in Pitlochry (Tel.01796 470080) which I should point out ends on the 11th June, not 18th as previously announced. This is due to a mix-up, and I hope no-one will be inconvenienced.

Next week Jenny and I will be at the annual Patchings Art Festival in Calverton, just north of Nottingham, where I’ll be demonstrating for St Cuthberts Mill on the mornings of Thursday 5th and Friday 6th June. St Cuthberts Mill make the marvellous Saunders Waterford and Bockingford papers that are such favourites with amateur and professional painters alike. Do come along and say hello.

On the 20th and 21st June Jenny and I will be demonstrating at the Sandpiper Studio on the Wirral in Cheshire. Jenny will be demonstrating pastel painting on the afternoon of Friday 20th and I shall be demonstrating in watercolour on the Saturday morning and giving an illustrated talk on how to rescue watercolours that have gone astray, after lunch. You can find out more about these events from Julie McLean on 07788 412480 or email her at:  info@thesandpiperstudio.co.uk

Injecting Dramatic Lighting into your Paintings

In a painting in any medium, treatment of light is a vital consideration. While the landscape photographer has to work with available light, artists can manipulate it to their advantage, changing it, intensifying it, rendering a much softer, atmospheric light or create a dramatic sense of light and dark, and so much more. It pays to study how the top artists have treated the light in their compositions when you visit an important exhibition or collection.

Brancaster Staithe

Brancaster Staithe

This scene on the Norfolk coast shows part of the composition bathed in late afternoon sunlight, as it throws the emphasis on the central building, the two figures and the boats. I achieved hard edges on the buildings set against a dark sky by using masking fluid, rubbing it off once the background washes had dried, and then painting in the details on the buildings and the rest of the scene, completing everything apart from the shadows in the foreground. At that point I often trundle off for a coffee, or if it’s late I’ll finish for the day. This allows the washes to dry completely – in fact I’ll often get on with another painting at that point.

With the whole painting completely dry I wash clean water right across the foreground, taking it up into the lower sky area. Make sure that you take the water some distance beyond where you intend to create the soft edge, as water has a habit of creeping further than you might think. I then apply a mixture of French ultramarine and cadmium red over the shadow area, including the darkened left-hand buildings and the far right-hand hedgerow. This wash blends nicely into the wet paper, creating soft-edged shadows, with the area I wished to highlight being left untouched. If you are a little wary of this technique try it out firstly on old paintings that have not worked well, so that if things really do go wrong it won’t matter.

Having fun with your old paintings

What do you do with those old paintings that end up in a mess and clearly have not worked? Turn them into paper darts? Use the backs for another painting? Frame them and give them to your least favourite aunt for Christmas? Whatever you do, don’t tear them up or throw them away as they are more valuable than you may imagine.

If you keep your old ‘failures’ in a folder the time will come when you will find them extremely useful to practice techniques. In this scene of Tideswell Moor in the English Peak District you will see a dark cloud on the left with a rain squall beneath it. This was achieved with a glaze – a transparent wash laid over an already-painted part of the composition, once it had completely dried. In this case it was done by wetting the paper first so that a soft edge would be achieved on the falling ‘rain’.

Most inexperienced artists find this glaze technique rather daunting, and of course it is easy to mess up an otherwise competent painting. In order to gain practice with this technique there is nothing better than to do it on your old ‘failed’ paintings. You have nothing to lose and you might end up with a really good painting after all. The glaze method can be useful for warming up or cooling down a painting or an area within that painting, or for creating shadow or falling rain as in this case where you wish to suggest a film of atmosphere in between the viewer and part of the composition. Have fun with your old paintings!