David Bellamy – Concentrating the light in your paintings

Whatever medium you paint with, light is the all-important key. You can bathe your composition entirely in strong sunlight if you wish, but by restricting the brightest parts to one or two localised areas you will achieve more impact.
In this picture I have cut out a large part of the painting just to illustrate the advantages of the sort of effect you can achieve by concentrating the light into a small part of the composition. The turbulent sea gave sketching on the boat a refreshing spontaneity, although it was not long before it was not just the sea that was starting to turn a bit green……

Although I finished my book on the Scandinavian Arctic a while ago, I’ve been trying to catch up on so many things, so there’s been little time for blogging, especially with such a tremendous autumn that has tempted me out time after time. David Bellamy’s Arctic Light will be published in May 2017 by Search Press.

With winter with us once more try to get out to sketch those lovely winter trees whenever you can. Choose your days, wrap up well and if you have all your sketching gear ready to hand you can work quickly before you get too cold. I usually take a thermal travel mug with me as the drink will stay warm for ages, and is a great boost to morale when the sun disappears behind a cloud. My book Winter Landscapes in Watercolour is packed with tips on painting winter scenes, working outdoors in cool weather, and making the most of those warm colours, low lighting and evocative winter trees. You can find a copy on my website together with the film of the same name, which has some stunning winter scenery and was produced by APV Films.

On Wednesday 30th the Christmas exhibition begins at Lincoln Joyce Fine Art and the above painting (in full!) will be on display with several others. You will find the gallery at 40 Church Road, Great Bookham, Surrey KT23 3PW  Tel. 01372 458481

The importance of light in paintings

    Light is precious to all painters, whatever medium they use. Without it we would have no picture, but how much thought do we give it when we are about to embark on another painting? To avoid dull, lifeless paintings it is worth taking a few minutes to consider how you will organise the lighting effects in your painting. Strong lighting does give the composition a boost – think about highlighting part or parts of the work to emphasise features, or create overall cast shadows that suggest strong sunshine coming from one side, or even backlit with haloes of light around prominent features.
Of course, you need an image to reference if you are going to make a decent job of depicting the light, so sketches and photographs of what you have in mind are vital to success. This sketch of an old house-boat in Amsterdam was achieved with a water-soluble graphite pencil, brushed over with water once the image and tones had been put in. It was a glorious evening and I returned with many sketches and photographs of features lit by stunning lighting effects which can be used on other subjects. Take advantage of such days: not only do they supply you with excellent reference material, but they teach you how to treat a variety of lighting situations.

This approach to light and atmosphere is a strong element in the watercolours I shall have on display at the Barnabas Arts House in Newport, Monmouthshire from 15th September to 3rd October, in their exhibition on Welsh landscapes in support of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales  tel. 01633 673739

You can see more on achieving lighting and atmospheric effects in my book and DVD, both entitled David Bellamy’s Skies, Light & Atmosphere in Watercolour and currently there is a special offer if you buy the pair. The DVD is only available from our website  www.davidbellamy.co.uk

Making the most of stunning light effects

Jenny and I have just returned from a tour of demonstrating in Yorkshire, to a number of really enthusiastic art societies who gave us a marvellous welcome, as indeed they usually do in Yorkshire. In between we managed some walking, sketching and visiting people. Lovely weather, of course, that is, until we went out sketching and walking!

This scene of stunning evening light we came across in Wharfedale as we were driving along, the stormy sky emphasising the brightness of the incredibly strong light. Rather like a snow scene with a dark sky, watercolourists would normally paint the sky after rendering the light hillside, but how would you cope with such a sharp edge all the way across the composition?

The answer is actually in the photograph if you examine it closely. On the extreme left-hand side the light does not actually reach the topmost part of the hill – a thin slither of the upper section lies in shadow, and you can accentuate this by making the shadow area larger and having a shadow tone about halfway between the dark sky and the light part of the hill. Then again, on the right-hand side the hill-top is in darker shadow, creating counter-change with the lighter sky above it. The larger right-hand tree also breaks up the background line very effectively. It’s an extremey useful exercise to consider these things when you are presented with interesting features, and take photographs and sketches even if they don’t give you a completely satisfactory composition. You can always use the effects in another scene.