David Bellamy – Creating a Splash

One aspect of life I am really missing in lockdown is being by the sea, and especially my native Pembrokeshire with it’s incomparable combination of sandy beaches and stunning cliff scenery. I’m desperately in need of being splashed in the face by some wild breaker crashing on the rocks, so I thought you might like to see how I tackle these fascinating actions of the sea.

This is the sort of sea that all self-respecting sailors should be indoors, but the kind I love to catch in a sketch. Just being there and observing what happens when the sea crashes onto the rocky anvils helps you understand what is going on, and happily it is repeating itself all the time. I often stand mesmerised by these moving images, then snap out of my reverie and consider how I would render the effect in watercolour. By watching every part of that moving scene in succession you will learn a lot about moving water and a sketchbook plus a watersoluble pencil will help you record the moment without any need to be completely accurate.

To capture the white splashes in this painting I brought down the cliff colour – light red with spots of cadmium red here and there at the top, then halfway down introducing purple – a mixture of cadmium red and French ultramarine – for the lower cliff. I laid it down as a very wet wash, but as I came closer to the rocky anvils I wiped the brush on a towel to lose the excess liquid and then rolled the number ten round sable on its belly around the top of the rocks. This created an intermittent and ragged edge of purple around the white of the paper above the rocks. Where it went wrong and left an ugly mark as sometime happens I quickly pulled out the offending splodge with a damp brush, although if I can’t manage that at the time I simply let it dry and then scrub it out with a damp old brush (not your brand new number ten sable!). This was painted on the beautiful Saunders Waterford rough surface which helps enormously to create the ragged edges round the splashes as well as rock textures. A NOT surface will work well but the rough version will help you even more in this instance. There are many examples of these various techniques for rendering waves and sea action in my book Seas & Shorelines in Watercolour which can be obtained from my website http://www.davidbellamy.co.uk

There are other ways of capturing these splashes – sometimes I wet the area above the rocks and then lower the purple wash (or whatever colour I am using) into the wet area, working it round the splash. This has a lovely clean effect but you often will need to adjust the shape of the splash by pulling out colour with a damp brush. Try these lovely effects out on scrap watercolour paper first and have fun! Right, without the sea and on a very hot day here I think it’s time to go and jump in the river…………..    take care!

Painting on the Pembrokeshire coast

    I’ve been away enjoying the mountains for a while, which makes blogging a trifle difficult, and my crazy lifestyle hardly lends itself to regular postings. Today though, I’d like to talk about the coast, which like mountains, deserts and the Arctic, is very close to my heart.

This is part of a watercolour painting of Porthliskey Bay in Pembrokeshire, named after an Irish pirate – the Irish, like the Welsh have some amazing pirates of great fame, and I’m fairly sure that the notorious Black Sam Bellamy might well have been one of my ancestors. Evening light is striking the rocks, and I’ve used mainly cadmium red. To give the impression of the wet lower parts I have darkened them with a mixture of cadmium red and French ultramarine, leaving the paper white in places for the foam splashes. Most of this was done by negative painting, but masking fluid used carefully will also work well.

Notice how the main rocks have been isolated by splashes, with no detail directly behind them. This gives them prominence, further emphasised by placing the boat nearby, with its prow pointing towards the most important rock. I’m not sure that I’d be terribly keen to be out in such boisterous seas. One useful tip is to stab or scratch out blobs of white with a scalpel or craft knife to suggest flecks of foam flying about, as it creates a feeling of liveliness in the work.

If you enjoy this type of scene, or the more gentle coastal, harbour or beach scenes, why not join us in Pembrokeshire this autumn for the course at the Warpool Court Hotel in St Davids? The good news is that due to the economic climate we have negotiated a considerable reduction in the price of the course. See my website  for details. We are blessed with an amazing variety of subjects to paint and sketch around St Davids in a lovely hotel overlooking the sea.