David Bellamy – Painting figures in a mountain landscape

Including figures in a landscape painting is one of the most basic ways of suggesting a sense of scale, but in a vast landscape where do you position them, and how large should they be? These can be critical decisions for the artist, especially as figures tend to immediately attract the eye of the viewer. They therefore become the focal point.

In this large watercolour of Gyrn Las in Snowdonia the two figures are barely discernible in such a small reproduction. They are actually standing at the top of the small stream descending to the right of centre in the lower part of the composition. Even in the original they are not obvious, but once you know they are there they impart a feeling of being completely dwarfed in an immense landscape. They could not have been painted much smaller without completely losing them, but had they been made much larger the scene would appear a great deal smaller.

The optimum position for placing figures is about one-third into the painting from either side and one-third from the top or bottom of the composition, but this can be varied to a degree, to suit the scene. Here they are a little less than one-third in from the bottom, but about one-third from the right-hand side.

This watercolour, and many other works can be seen in the Autumn/Winter exhibition “Harmony” at Boundary Art, Cardiff’s newest art space, where you can enjoy a Chinese tea while contemplating the exhibits which range from traditional to contemporary paintings in oil and watercolour by many artists. The exhibition runs from Saturday 14th November to 31st December. Boundary Art is at 3 Sovereign Quay, Havannah Street in Cardiff Bay, CF10 5SF  Tel. 02920 489869  Check out the website at http://www.boundaryart.com

David Bellamy – Painting figures in action

Drawing and painting figures is always fascinating, whether to include in a landscape painting, as subjects in themselves, or in a fantasy context as you will see below. Life drawing is easily the best way of learning to draw the figure, though this may hardly be necessary if you are simply wishing to add a few tiny figures into a wide open landscape. I love drawing figures, especially action ones, really doing something interesting, and much of the time these tend to be humorous.

This is a small part of one of the illustrations from my children’s book Terror of the Trolls, where several trolls are gorging themselves – one is eating a leg of some sort, the one on the left is warming his feet in the soup, and the third is flat out after a heavy drinking session. Getting people to pose for these activities was not a real problem, though some of the more gymnastic poses in other parts of the book did rather leave me scratching my head! Note here how you cannot see the whole body of any one troll, and this makes it look more natural, especially in non-fantasy situations. Try to have your figures relating to each other, and not there just to ‘fill the gap’. Back-ground figures can remain as silhouettes, thus throwing the emphasis more onto the main figures.

One especially effective technique that occurs repeatedly in this scene is that of creating soft edges. This not only lends atmosphere, but suggests depth and distance as one sharp-edged feature will come forward, in front of the softer-edged one. Terror of the Trolls is the second book of the Llandoddie tales and is available from our website

Last night Jenny and I enjoyed the Erwood Station Craft Centre Christmas Party, where the lovely Lorraine King entertained us with her wonderful repertoire of songs. It was a wild night (outside!), and in addition to the bridge being closed, three other roads were cut off by fallen trees, so it was a wonder that so many folk attended, having hiked over hill and vale or probably coracled across the Wye. Nothing stops the Erwood Station Stompers! It closes for Christmas and re-opens on 14th February.

Jenny and I thank all of you who have sent in so many kind messages over the last year, and wish you and your families a very Happy Christmas wherever you live, and may your painting give you many moments of great pleasure and success in 2014