After a week of absolutely atrocious weather in the Italian Dolomites it’s nice to be back in sunny Wales for a day or two. Although I managed a number of useful sketches, without any views because of dense mist and lashing rain for much of the time it was a little annoying, especially when you know the scenery is spectacular. The previous week at Lake Garda we suffered from intense heat during a group painting holiday, but everyone remained cheerful, kept painting and put up with all that sunshine.
On Monday evening (10th July) I will be giving a talk at the launch of my Arctic Light book at Stanfords Map Shop in Covent Garden, London. It’s a fabulous place for maps and guidebooks for all over the world. There are still a number of places left, and if you wish to come along, then please get in touch with Mary Ellingham at Search Press on 01892 510 850, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Although Arctic Light it is not a how-to-paint book, it is crammed with watercolours and sketches with a great many examples of the way atmosphere and light can be depicted in landscapes. This time I have also included many works showing wildlife, both animals and birds, which can make a real difference to a painting even if portrayed in a small scale within the composition. You can see more details at my website.
Next week I shall be demonstrating for St Cuthberts Mill at the annual Patchings Art Festival on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday, using the marvellous Saunders Waterford papers in the St Cuthberts Mill Marquee. The festival is on from 13th to 16th July inclusive and is highly recommended for its wealth of demonstrating artists, crafts and art materials, so do come along and have a chat. For further information on the event see Patchings Art Festival. We will also have a stand near the marquee with a number of my paintings, books, DVDs, etc, so hopefully I’ll see you there.
One of the most effective ways of sketching is by using pen and wash. I carry around hardback bound sketchbooks of cartridge paper amongst the many odd items in my rucsack, and these accept pen drawings well. While the dip-pen and bottle of ink are the ideal way, it is less practicable to carry around bottle of ink, so I normally resort to a technical pen, although this has a uniform line.
This sketch was done in evening light in the Maritime Alps, on cartridge paper. I began with the ink drawing using a .02 nib. Where you have considerable depth in a scene, and especially with distant mountains, or wish to draw clouds, it is imperative not to be too heavy-handed with the pen on these distant elements. I prefer more intermittent line work rather than continuous lines as seen on the building, as this will suggest distance. In places I have totally omitted the line work and relied solely on the watercolour wash outline to describe the shape of far ridges and trees. The ink line is also an excellent way of rescuing a painting or watercolour sketch that is too weak in tones.
My recent trip to the Alps was aimed at capturing snow scenes, but there was no snow until the final day when I had to leave. Somehow the snow appears to have been deliberately eluding me this winter!
There are still one or two spaces left on my Croatian painting holiday in September. This is an easy, relaxed painting holiday in congenial surrounding amidst lovely scenery, and will not involve any wild mountain work! For details check out my website at http://www.davidbellamy.co.uk/painting-holiday-to-croatia-2016/
I’ve just returned from a week of glorious sunshine in Tenerife – a stunning place for the artist who likes dramatic rock scenery in all sorts of amazing colours. At one stage my feet seemed to be on fire from energetic hiking across sharp volcanic surfaces. Mostly I was alone, hiking and sketching in the mountains, but on one day I wanted to do some work in the amazing Masca Gorge. Unfortunately this would involve no less than 3 buses just to reach the top of the gorge, so to have any hope of actually doing it I needed to join a trekking company group trip. For the artist, however fast she or he works, sketching with a group is quite a challenge.
I chose the Scandinavian Canary Trek as they are a small company well tuned to the natural environment, and don’t take massive groups as some do. It was only when we were halfway to Masca that I mentioned to Victor, the Chilean guide, that I wished to do some sketching. Happily this did not phase him, and he only had three of us to look after. The other two were Finnish friends, Kaj and Krister and we moved quickly down the incredible gorge, seeming to cross the stream about 40 times. I mainly did pencil sketches, working in a linear manner when happily most of Victor’s stops to explain features coincided with a good sketching point. When this didn’t happen I simply filled in details and tones from memory. Over the years my visual memory has become well developed, though occasionally more than just a little imagination does tend to creep in! In the above photo of the Elephant Victor is on the left and Kaj crossing the stream.
The one watercolour sketch of that day was finished later, and shows the sunlight striking the top of the massive crag at the end of the ridge on which part of Masca village is clustered. This is the start of the walk, and truly spectacular. For this I used a cartridge pad. In a painting I would move the central palm tree a little to the left, as it bothers me being so central. This is another reason why sketches are so important: they can highlight problems before you make them on the main painting. If you go out with non-artists and wish to do quick sketches then preparation is the key. Sharpen all your pencils beforehand, carry a small box of 5 or 6 colours of Inktense blocks or watercolour sticks, a sketchpad, water and 2 or 3 brushes. Watercolour pencils are also useful, but do keep your kit simple and easily and quickly accessible. Don’t forget a camera, of course.
Tenerife is a great place for the landscape artist – yes, it has mood as well as strong sunshine, and the colours are amazing. My only regret was to forget to include Perylene Red in my paintbox, as it was very prominent in the volcanic areas. If you’d like a little adventure I recommend Canary Trek
Jenny and I have just returned from Austria where we took a group to paint Alpine scenery. It was a great trip, with many memorable scenes, despite rather a lot of cloud and mist. So we had rather a lot of practice in rendering misty mountains in watercolour!
Here I’m doing a watercolour demonstration way above the clouds, with marvellous views all round as the mountains rise out of the inversion. Alas, there were even more clouds above us, so we did get a little rain near the end of the demo, but not enough to spoil things. A cappuccino and an apple-strudel quickly restored morale.
Mist on mountains can, for the artist, sometimes be both magical and a misery. I love the way it can blot out unwanted features, but as we all know, it often blots out the very features we want to see!
There are a number of ways of creating mist in watercolour. In this scene above the Inn Valley in Austria I ran colour into wet areas to create soft edges to the clouds. I had to work quickly as I was painting on a cartridge book. With such a lot of cloud edges, inevitably some dry hard-edged before they can be corrected.
This is not usually a problem as they can later be softened with a damp brush when the paper is completely dry, though the odd hard edge here and there might well enhance the clouds.
Alternatively a soft sponge is an excellent tool for softening off, but take care if you use cartridge paper as it won’t stand too much surface friction. Enjoy your clouds!
Here is just a fraction of David’s many sketchbooks
I recently had an email inquiring about which sketchbooks I recommend. I thought other artists would find this useful too, so I am sharing this information here.
David and I both have a large collections of sketchbooks, The UK ones are dedicated to certain counties, or regions such as Mid Wales, Lake District, Yorkshire etc. and the overseas ones are illustrated daily journals of the trip, with text and drawings and paintings.
A page from my Egypt sketchbook
We have used a number of different brands over the years, some of which are no longer available but the ones we currently use are Daler Rowney Ebony Hardback Sketchbooks in either A5 or A4 sizes. Many of the UK ones and all of the overseas ones are in casebound hardback sketchbooks with cartridge paper, either A4 or A5. Casebound books are more durable than ring bound ones and have the advantage that you can write on the spine and then organise them on a bookshelf.
A page from my Crete sketchbook
The other advantage of a casebound book is that you can extend the sketch over a double page spread and with an A4 sketchbook that means you have an area A3 in size. The paper weight is also important if you intend to use watercolour in your sketches. I would say that 150 gsm cartridge paper is the minimum weight to look for. There are a number of casebound sketchbooks coming onto the market and not always in art shops, some stationery shops now seem to stock plain cartridge paper casebound books. but check the paper weight carefully before you buy.
David and I strongly believe that sketching out of doors is the best way to improve your artwork, and if you paint in watercolour then sketching in watercolour out of doors is a truly liberating and exciting experience and will almost certainly improve your studio watercolours.
I hope you can discover the pleasure of working out of doors in front of nature.