We’ve just returned from Spain where we ran a group painting holiday in the lovely old Andalucian town of Ronda, based in a hotel right on the edge of those sheer cliffs. It was brilliantly organised by Richard Cartwright of West Norfolk Arts. I did several sketches of the mountain panorama from my balcony, taking care not to drop a pencil as it wouldn’t have stopped for over 200 feet straight down!
Ronda is full of fascinating subjects, apart from its magnificent Puente Neuvo, the bridge that links the two parts of the town and spans the dramatic gorge. The watercolour sketch shown on the right is of the old bridge, which I carried out with a sanguine pen and a limited range of harmonious colours to retain unity. I chose to do it fairly early in the morning when it was backlit, for added drama, but also to avoid the crowds of tourists. I could see the green fields beyond the bridge and the blue-grey mountains beyond them, but chose to introduce a misty atmosphere in which I could lose detail. This was especially helpful with the gorge itself as it enhanced the sense of space and depth, which is also true of the vertical dimension as it goes down a long way.
We were mainly blessed with good weather most of the time, although we did have a number of splendid storms, one of which was accompanied by a cloudburst that filled the streets with roaring torrents, trapping many for nearly an hour.
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 Watercolouris 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
Waterfalls are popular subjects in a painting, and I’ve had a great many exciting moments sketching them, climbing them and abseiling down them, including ones underground where they really give you that “Hey-ho, here we go, but what’s at the bottom?” sort of feeling. Having the Brecon Beacons close by is an added bonus as there are more waterfalls per square inch there than anywhere else in the country.
It is fairly easy to find waterfalls as they are usually marked on walkers’ maps, and if they have a name then you can Google them to get access information and a pretty good idea of what you can expect as descriptions are often accompanied by photographs. In this watercolour I used the excellent Saunders Waterford 300lb rough paper and increased the roughness even further in places where more rock textures were to appear by glueing thin Oriental papers in place.
My aim was to create a sense of mystery in the background using the wet-into-wet technique to blend the furthest rock and tree shapes into the misty background, then when this was dry painting harder shapes to suggest distance. The upper falls emerges from out of this atmospheric backdrop and for the falling water I leave the paper untouched so that it stands out in strong contrast to the darker sides, and especially the hard-edged rocks jutting out.
I shall be demonstrating waterfalls in watercolour at the Sandpiper Studio at Ledsham on the Wirral at the end of the month. As the first demonstration was so popular and filled up quickly, we have added another on Friday 28th October from 2pm to 4.30pm, and there are still a few places left on this one. Further details and bookings can be obtained from Julie McLean on 07788 412480 or Email her on email@example.com The two demonstrations will be of different waterfalls, and if you have lots of questions then bring them along! I will also be using the Daniel Smith watercolour range with their exciting colours. No abseiling is involved.
Writing blogs on a steam-driven laptop is an extremely slow process, and with extremely poor internet connections it can take me hours, which is the reason I’ve slowed down the number of blogs I do. Technology in Wales seems to be in some sort of reverse decline, and once the black-outs start hitting us it will be even worse. Progress is a funny thing!
Jenny and I enjoyed Patchings Art Festival, where I did two demonstrations in the St Cuthberts marquee to large, enthusiastic audiences. It’s always a joy to work with St Cuthberts Mill, and the Saunders Waterford High-White paper is superb for getting the best out of your watercolours.
I’ve just taken some new watercolours toArt Matters in White Lion Street in Tenby (Tel. 01834 843375) and this is one, showing a quiet corner of Tenby harbour. The lovely old stone walls provide an interesting backdrop, and these were done by laying an initial wash of Naples yellow over the entire area, and once this was dry painting in the stonework with cobalt blue plus cadmium red, to which I added a few drops of yellow ochre while the stones were still wet. I left some of the Naples yellow showing as light-coloured mortar between the stones. Once again I waited until the whole area had dried and then glazed it all with a weaker wash of cobalt blue and cadmium red. This both imparted a greater sense of unity and slightly softened off the edges of the stonework.
The background has been considerably simplified so that the emphasis is thrown onto the figures in conversation, and the surface was Waterford 140lb NOT, which is excellent for taking repeated washes if necessary.
Our recent trip to Scotland and subsequent workload have alas, inhibited new blog posts, as so much seems to be happening at once. Jenny and I experienced a glorious period of sunny weather in the Highlands, making for some really marvellous sketching experiences on the Fife coast and in the Cairngorm mountains. Fife has some lovely harbours that make for great painting compositions, and is a place I’ve missed out in the past because of my headlong rush always to get into the Highlands. It also gave us great pleasure to meet so many of our Scottish friends, a great many of whom turned up for my demonstration at the Pitlochry Festival Theatre.
This post’s illustration continues the Scottish theme, showing a part of a watercolour of a loch where a promontory is coming in from the left side. So often we see these features as a dark mass set against lighter water. Before you begin work on this consider how you might tackle it in terms of values. In this example I have painted in the promontory so that the top edge stands dark and hard against the light water of the loch, while the bottom edge is light and soft, and in fact lost altogether in places.
This approach avoids the promontory appearing to be cut out and stuck in place, setting it into the composition in a more natural way. Note also how I’ve dropped in a variety of colours in the lower edge, including permanent alizarin crimson and yellow ochre. Of course, these techniques can be applied to many situations and features in a painting, so give it a try. The illustration is part of a painting that is featured in my exhibition at the John Muir Trust Wild Space Gallery in Station Road, Pitlochry, until 18th June – telephone 01796 470080 or check my website
The one fly-in-the-ointment of our Scottish trip was the vast swathes of wind turbines now springing up all over the place, even encroaching on the stunning scenery of the Highlands themselves. If this continues it will totally destroy the reputation of Scotland for it’s outstanding and world-renowned scenery, and what to me is a truly tragic and criminal act simply aimed at vast profits for the energy corporations, and absolutely nothing to do with preserving the environment. I was so badly affected that for the first two nights there I could not sleep.