David Bellamy – Hand-bagged in Dubrovnik while painting

The sun beat down as I sat in a pleasant, shady spot beside Cavtat harbour demonstrating a watercolour, when Tarzan and Jane hove into view, both bronzed as they stood before us brazcavtat-harbourenly flexing their pectorals. Both were clad solely in thongs, otherwise naked and obligingly creating a combined landscape and life class all rolled into one. They moved round us, causing titters among the group, and at times my brush went distinctly wayward as I heaved with laughter at this incredible display of narcissistic clownery. Jane sat down in front of us, smiling like a Cheshire cat at the group, and presumably hoping someone would paint her.

This sort of distraction can un-nerve the alfresco artist, but the group chuckled valiantly and took it in their stride, producing some excellent work. Later in the week I demonstrated again in Dubrovnik, which unfortunately was so choked with cruise-ship tourists that there was hardly room to swing a sable, and as I painted I did get hand-bagged several times.

    So, it was with relief we sailed to the island of Sipan where I found a shady spot to demonstrate watercolour pencils. An old bicycle formed an excellent centre of interest – it was leaning against a wheelbarrow, which was leaning against the tree, so in the interests of simplicity I left out the barrow and about a million other equally exciting things lying around, to illustrate the need for keeping things simple. I faded out the buildings adjoining the old barn. The pencils were applied first in the various colours and then this was washed over with water, blending in the colours and then drawing into the wetness with a dark watercolour pencil where I wanted to emphasise details. If you feel your watercolours get a little out of control then try the watercolour pencils. This work was done on Bockingford 140-lb hot-pressed paper, an excellent surface for these pencils.

Our annual Watercolour Seminar is just about upon us, and this year we are back in The Settlement in Pontypool, a superb venue. It takes place on Saturday 1st October and there are still places left if you feel like coming along. The theme will be injecting mood and drama into a landscape and I will be using the exciting range of watercolours from Daniel Smith, demonstrating how to take advantage of these amazing colours and give your paintings some extra zip. As well as a demonstration I will be giving an illustrated talk on the same theme, covering a wide range of landscape subjects. Details of the seminar are on my website. We look forward to seeing you there.

David Bellamy – Painting Alpine scenery in Switzerland

Some of the best painting holidays where we have taken groups have been those which combine spectacular scenery with the more rustic, and this is usually very true of mountain landscapes. Next summer Jenny and I are taking a group to Zermatt in Switzerland, not just to paint mountain icons like the Matterhorn and the Obergabelhorn, but many other peaks, as well as lakes, mountain streams and the local vernacular architecture. The region is full of exciting prospects for the artist.

The watercolour shows a pair of stadel barns above Zermatt – these make excellent subjects, especially when set against a backdrop of Alpine peaks. The roofs in this instance particularly interested me with their strong textural variations and colour. It is always good to look for colour in a scene and I often exaggerate warm colours on a focal point such as this, both to reduce the amount of greenery (which can overwhelm a landscape in summer), and to draw the eye towards the centre of interest.

Note that the greens in the painting are not really intense greens – the summer grassy pasture is a light, but subdued green, while much of the conifers greenery is more a blue-grey, achieved with French Ultramarine and burnt umber. You don’t have to make the green trees in front of you green!

Our painting holiday to Zermatt is in conjunction with Leisure Painter and The Artist magazines, and is being organised by Spencer Scott Travel  Tel. 01825 714311   The holiday runs from 4th to 11th July 2015

With all that amazing Alpine scenery it’s a truly exciting prospect.

Painting foliage in summer

I recently ran a course in the Welsh lake district – the Elan Valley reservoirs, where there are many marvellous subjects to paint, including glorious river scenery. With this rather cold spring weather it was important to find locations where students could work out of doors in reasonable comfort, and as there are many sheltered spots in the Elan Valley area we were able to work quite happily.

River Elan sm

River Elan

The picture shows a part of a watercolour of the River Elan which I did a few years ago on site. It’s a fairly rough watercolour, as I painted it while standing the middle of the river, using an easel. This was the optimum spot, and as it was painted to support the John Muir Trust, the Scottish-based charity that fights for the wild land of Britain, a photographer came along to record the event. Alas, after taking a few shots he fell into the river, but his camera was OK and all he got was a bit of a wetting.

Although it was mid-summer, I haven’t used many greens in the painting, much of the foliage achieved with a deliberately dull blue-grey, created by mixing French ultramarine and yellow ochre, a rather opaque colour. This dullness helps to accentuate the bright yellow tree. With foliage, edges get lost easily, as they run into one another, and you can see how I’ve introduced light edges of foliage by painting the darker washes around the edge. It pays to look at the scene through half-closed eyes as this will eliminate much detail and allow you to pick out the more important aspects of the scene, both in terms of tone and detail. Please don’t try jumping into rivers to get your paintings done – not only can it be costly in lost equipment, but it can also be rather dangerous in the wrong place!