David Bellamy – Gearing up for sketching outdoors

As we pass from autumn into winter it’s a time of year when many artists seem to go into hibernation, especially if there are no local art classes to encourage them. When I wrote my latest book Winter Landscapes in Watercolour my aim was to encourage people to take a serious look at the countryside in winter, and if possible to get out and record the scenes in sketches or with a camera. The winter landscape can be breath-takingly beautiful, a time of year when you can find some of the most dramatic and often simple compositions that almost beg to be painted. So how do you make the most of this exciting time of year?

 If you keep an eye on the weather forecast you might get some idea of what’s to come, but they seem to get it so wrong so often that it pays to be prepared for those glorious days when conditions are just right, whether snow is on the ground or not. If it takes you an hour or more to get your art gear together then you may well have lost the best part of the day, so having all your kit ready for action is vital. As far as keeping warm and dry is concerned, you can see in the photo that I am wrapped up in a warm fleece jacket, a warm sheepskin hat, scarf and thin gloves in which I can sketch quite happily. My trousers are lined, I have woollen socks and boots, thermal vest and inside the rucsack is my waterproof outer gear, a long neck tube which can cover not just my neck but up over my head as well, if need be, a steel thermos flask, mug, etc, so that I can make soup, coffee, tea, cappuccinos, the lot. I’m there to enjoy myself, so why not?

My sketching gear varies from time to time, but in less-than perfect conditions it’s best to keep it really simple so that you can work speedily. I mainly sketch on hardback cartridge books, even in watercolour, as it dries quickly on the smooth paper unless conditions are truly damp. I take several soft-grade pencils along, including water-soluble ones which can suggest a lovely mood. They are especially effective for suggesting snow conditions. A range of four or five brushes is adequate, and often I use just one on a sketch. I also carry around a plastic aquash brush which holds its own water reservoir in the handle. You only need a few colours. I prefer half-pans when working out of doors, rather than tubes, as they are all ready for action once I open the box, which has its own integral palette.

Finally, it’s also a great idea to have some plan of where you intend to go. I like to plan for different locations for different conditions. If the heavy rain has stopped, seeking out waterfalls in spate might be worthwhile. Hoar frost on trees may not settle for long, so in that case it would be vital to be out quickly into the trees. Snow can totally transform all kinds of landscape, which can give you a wide choice, but a thin covering can quickly disappear, and it may be all you get all winter!

One last tip: try to get a 20-minute walk in before you sketch and you’ll find you can cope much easier than if you just stumble out of the warm car to start sketching or painting. So, with winter upon us, now is the time to sort out all that gear and be ready for those good days. Don’t forget, afterwards you can treat yourself to tea and cakes and really feel you’ve achieved something. Oh, and don’t forget that camera…..

David Bellamy – Making the most of the winter landscape

Like boy scouts, we should always be well prepared as artists, for those moments when the weather and atmosphere create stunning effects that we simply cannot ignore. This means not just carrying sketchbook and camera around with us when we’re in the great outdoors, but being ready to venture out at short notice when a little seasonal magic appears. At this time of year I’m always aware that snow may well fall at any time on the hills and mountains, and if this coincides with those flaming autumn colours we have stunning possibilities for superb landscape paintings, so keep an eye on them there hills!

In this watercolour of the Applecross Mountains the contrast in colour temperature between the foreground and the background is striking. You can, of course beef up the warm colours well into winter if you don’t want your compositions to appear to cold overall. In this painting, which you will find on a larger scale in my book Winter Landscapes in Watercolour, the mountain details have been rendered in cool blues, apart from where the low sunlight is catching the higher parts. In the sunlit features I dropped in a touch of light red while the dark crags were still wet, and this also helps to place more emphasis on certain parts of the scene.

During the change of seasons be ready for this effect and look out for it in your local landscapes. Be prepared to move around to set those lively warm colours against the cool mountains and snow. It will really bring your work to life.

 

There are still places left on my seminar in Pontypool on Saturday 1st November, on painting winter landscapes in watercolour, and it includes a full demonstration and an illustrated talk on creating exciting winter scenes, with a great many examples of different types of landscape. It is aimed at preparing you for painting the winter landscape both indoors and outdoors, and making the most of this fascinating season. Check it out on my website. In the meantime, enjoy your painting!

David Bellamy – Painting snow scenes

This seems like the wettest January I’ve ever experienced, but even so there have been 3 or 4 absolutely fabulous days of glorious sunshine, blue skies and hardly a breath of wind, which shows that if we wait for them, and have all our art gear ready to go, we can take advantage of some beautiful spring-like days even in the wettest of Januarys. I’ve had some marvellous moments sketching in the hills lately, but all too brief.

Anyway, in anticipation of some snow (much to the neighbours’ concern we’ve been invoking the little-known snow-making ritual in the garden, but so far only attracted further deluge), I shall just cover a few basic points to help you with your snow scenes. This painting of a Herefordshire scene in late winter I did many years ago. I began by making the sky dark enough to highlight the snow-covered roofs, which were left as white paper. Even so, the cloudless sky suggests a fine day. To avoid the scene appearing too cold all over, I emphasised the red-brick walls of the buildings, and this also draws the eye to them as the centre of interest.

Clods of earth from the ploughed ruts peek up through the snow, and I have re-arranged them slightly to aim towards the buildings. The field under the strong sunshine reflected dazzling white all over, but I wanted to subdue some of this so that the emphasis would be thrown more towards the centre of the composition, so I washed clean water right across the field and then a wash of cobalt blue with a touch of cadmium red over the immediate foreground and to either side. This is a technique you can use quite easily to highlight any part of a painting you wish.

Enjoy the snow when it comes! I must get out into the garden again………….

Creating small flecks of white in your watercolours

I’ve been away in south-east England last week, and for two of the days working on the stage-by-stage paintings for my next book, Winter Landscapes in Watercolour at the Search Press studio. One of those awkward little problems facing the watercolourist is when you need to include small spots or lines of white in a scene, a particular necessity with snow subjects.

Snow scene

You can try masking fluid, but this often induces larger blobs than you want and can sometimes look wrong when it is rubbed off. Scratching with a scalpel is another method, and this can be very effective, though not everyone is confident with using one. In this scene showing part of a painting I have painted on white gouache where I wanted patches of snow on the upper side of branches close to the trunk, where they tend to remain longer as there is less motion in that part of the branch. I’ve also dabbed some on the window sill of the barn. The roofs were left white, and you can see that because the sun is so low the tops of the roofs are slightly darker in shadow than the strips at the end where the snow is quite thick. I often use white gouache for tiny areas like the branches and sills.

The book will be published by Search Press in September, and will be accompanied by a DVD from APV Films. As well as winter landscapes it will cover late autumn to early spring, covering a wide variety of scenery and techniques. It is the third in the series, following Mountains & Moorlands in Watercolour and Skies, Light & Atmosphere in Watercolour, both of which are available on my website

Painting snowy landscapes

At last, real winter has arrived, and for the landscape artist having the countryside cloaked in deep snow is a great inducement to get out and capture some new scenes, even if you can’t stand the cold for long and have to rely on the camera. I’ve just returned from an extremely rewarding trip to North Staffordshire where we did some filming for a DVD on winter landscapes. Snow simplifies the landscape considerably, making it easier for the artist.

In this view on the North Staffordshire Moorlands I selected a back-lit angle by choosing mid-afternoon to visit the spot – back-lighting tends to add drama to a scene, and lose detail in more distant features. The road acts as a good lead-in and the right-hand electricity pole breaks up the far ridge, so it might be worth leaving in. One of the cows in the middle distance (left) is looking out of the picture, so I would turn her round to look at the house. After I’d finished the sketch the chimney on the left-hand building started to emit smoke, so I then adjusted the sketch to include smoke, but had it emerging from the right-hand house, which was my centre of interest.

My first painting course this year is at the Caer Beris Manor Hotel in Builth Wells, Mid Wales from the 7th to 12th April, and there are still a few places left. The gentle, rolling landscapes provide a wealth of subjects, with the more dramatic Brecon Beacons to the south, so there is something for most tastes, and plenty of interest for non-painting partners. Although it is primarily for watercolourists, Jenny will be on hand to demonstrate pastel landscapes as well as offering tuition in the medium. You can check it out on our website, or telephone the hotel on 01982 552601, or email them at info@caerberis.com