Most of the time I find there is too much action happening and not enough talking – it’s great fun, but leaves little time for communicating, and there is not enough room in this blog to cover everything. I’ll have to leave my sketching adventures in Snowdonia of last week for the next blog.
On Sunday in Aberedw we had an event to raise money for the Ukrainian refugees. We are only a tiny village but we raised over £1,000 and will be trying to get another event organised soon in which I hope to be able to sell paintings in support of these unfortunate people. It’s hardly believable that this is happening in Europe in the 21st century, and sadly we have a pretty poor political representative locally, so I’ve been active in ruffling some political feathers as well.
As with Covid, it is amazing how art, like nature, can help us in wartime, whether to take our mind off the dangers of war, or perhaps cooling our anger at the appalling and brutal actions of dictators like Putin. With spring about to burst upon us it’s a good time to get out into the landscape. One of the things that causes many students problems is when trees are massed together. Trying to make sense of it all can seem unsurmountable at times.
In this section of a painting you will see the varying tones on the four blocks of conifers, the strength of tones suggesting a sense of depth in the scene, aided by a feeling of a misty day. It’s usually a good idea to include a bright colour amongst duller ones as you can see in the bottom centre. The light is coming from the left so the edges on the right-hand side of the trees have been kept soft, while those to the left are harder-edged where they are caught in the sunshine. The bright yellow foliage does not appear in the centre of the full painting as that would not be compositionally helpful.
My watercolour course in Builth Wells from 3rd to 8th April still has a few vacancies, and anyone who would like to join us on a non-residential basis will be welcome. The Caer Beris Manor Hotel will charge a modest fee for refreshments and hotel facilities, plus a tuition fee of £215. You can check the course information on my website and book the course with the hotel on 01982 552601 We shall be using the hotel ballroom as a studio this time, so there is plenty of room for us all to work and keep apart.
The onset of spring nearly always gives us all a sense of hopeful anticipation of more pleasing times to come, perhaps more so this year than ever before as we attempt to recover from this dreadful virus. I hope you are able to get outside and take advantage of the better days, and perhaps manage a sketch or two. For me, daffodils always make a powerful foreground feature, and it’s worth capturing some images of these while you are out.
This image is part of a painting depicting lambs in early spring. Sheep are relatively easy to draw, but can pose problems for the unwary at the painting stage, especially where you have a light-coloured field caught in sunshine: you need a slightly darker area behind the sheep so that it stands out, and as you can see in this painting I have included several darker patches of grass in order to highlight the sheep. Generally I use Naples yellow for the main body, often leave a white top on head and body to accentuate the sense of light. This is normally left as white paper, but touching in a little white gouache can help rescue one that has not quite worked.
When including lambs it is important to put across a sense of the relationship between mother and lamb, or between a number of lambs enjoying each other’s company. This makes it look so much more natural. Compare the lamb by its mother in the foreground with the one on the distant right which is lying on it’s own. The closer couple invoke a much more pleasing composition.
One of the stronger background features is the gate. Although this has nothing to do with springtime I mention it because it is a good example of negative painting. Here, I have worked the darker colour around the gate and posts to define the light woodwork. I never include all five or so bars as it’s good to keep some hidden in the long grass! The painting was done on Saunders Waterford NOT 140lb paper.
We are blessed with so many stunning river and stream subjects of great variety in the UK, and whatever the weather may throw at us there is something truly pleasurable to sit beside a bubbling brook or fast-flowing mountain cascade. These features can also make excellent lead-ins to an interesting focal point, and there is something almost lifelike in a moving stream.
In this watercolour I’ve played down the actual river, to concentrate more on the surrounding forested hills and the large crag on the right. By introducing a lot of mist I’ve simplified the background, although there is still much detail visible. With a river or canal it will add a sense of mystery and interest if you have the further part of the river turning round a bend – we are all eager to see what’s round the bend!
For the misty effect use plenty of water and build the scene up gradually, dropping the blue-greys or green-greys of the distant trees into a damp area to create lovely soft edges where tree masses appear and disappear into the mist. By placing hard-edged forms with strong tones such as those just above and to the left of the crag, in front of misty passages you will create a powerful sense of depth in the painting.
On Monday 29th April Jenny Keal and myself will be demonstrating for Holderness Arts at Burton Pidsea Memorial Hall, Back Lane, Burton Pidsea HU12 9AN, from 10am to 3pm. I shall be doing a watercolour demonstration in the morning and Jenny will be carrying out a pastel demonstration in the afternoon. Information and tickets are available on 01964 670269 or from the Burton Pidsea shop. Tickets won’t be available at the door on the day. Do come along if you can. We will have books, DVDs, art materials and a number of paintings for sale, and are happy to answer your painting questions. Click here for more information
The other day, despite poor weather I went out for a walk, optimistically taking my sketching gear along……..but then, I’m never without it anyway. The morning became even drabber, the weather forecasters had really screwed this one up! However, we shouldn’t be too despondent as we can learn so much outdoors, even in the direst of weather.
I suddenly came upon this view of a conifer wood, and marvelled at the simple moody beauty. Apart from the closer trees, all detail is lost in the atmosphere – here was a superb lesson on how to cope with massed trees in a painting, courtesy of Mother Nature herself. You can easily make out the various tones, getting stronger as the massed trees get closer, and it makes the rendering of them so much easier when approached this way. In a painting you would do best to lose some of those edges – perhaps have an intermittent edge on the rows of trees, as in fact you see in the middle line.
This technique can be used in good weather as well, of course. I’ve been out again today in glorious sunshine and the same effect on massed trees was clearly visible when viewing them against the sun. Practice the method with your watercolours. If you have a large area of massed trees try to avoid putting in too many of the lines of trees, and often a half-line can be equally effective. These lessons are all around us, so keep your eyes open – you don’t even need a sketchbook!