David Bellamy – Capturing colour and texture on tree-trunks

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Trees are some of the loveliest subjects to paint, whether they are part of your composition or the subject itself. Often, the villagers where I live, seeing me setting forth with knapsack will enquire where I am going.

“I’m off to find a tree,” I reply. They tended at first to look in puzzlement as several hundred trees would be visible from where we stood. Now they know I am scouting for good specimens of trees to sketch, for it’s always reassuring to know that your sketchbooks contain many examples that can be placed into a composition that needs just a little extra. Trees that are close by and reveal fascinating trunk detail make exciting subjects.

I loved the way the branches twisted snake-like in all directions on this oak, but it was the colours and textures of the lower trunk that excited me most. Seek out colour in the bark of trees and exaggerate this if need be to accentuate the character of the tree. Find good examples – not all oaks display a handsome profile – and take the outstanding textures of one tree to enhance another, perhaps more shapely specimen to combine them in one within your composition.

This illustration is taken from my new book Landscapes Through the Seasons, just published by Search Press. It includes a great many examples of trees in their various states. Many artists find summer is the most difficult time for painting trees and there are many tips and techniques for tackling all that greenery and making your trees look so much more authentic. Signed copies of the book are available on the website at www.davidbellamy.co.uk

 In the current issue of Leisure Painter magazine there is a competition to win one of my original watercolours, so do check it out.

With England once more in lockdown these are not easy times, but through our painting we can escape into other worlds. With thousands of sketches from many parts of the world I find it a great solace to be able to paint scenes from far-flung places while working in my studio, bringing back memories of exciting times amidst some remarkable people and places. So many of the sketches are linked to stories. I hope you are also able to conjure up these times through sketches, photos, diaries or even books about places where you’ve been. Sometimes all we need is a little spark to set us off on an inspirational painting, and these are some way in which to light that spark.

David Bellamy – Painting autumn scenes in watercolour

Autumn is upon us, and with the trees turning colour it’s a great time to be out capturing those magical views, whether in sunshine, rain or whatever: rain can create more atmospheric scenes, but if you can catch that moment after a shower when the sun comes out and makes everything sparkle it can be truly magical – watch out for those stunning reflections of colour and light in the puddles. 

This year autumn is also bringing out my new book, Landscapes Through the Seasons, which has just been published by Search Press. It is in fact an expansion and update of my Winter Landscapes book – many people were asking about a summer book, but with other books in the pipeline I could not have written a whole book on summer landscapes for several years. The spring and autumn sections have also been expanded.

The illustration shows a watercolour sketch done on a cartridge sketchbook on a sunny November afternoon and reproduced in the book. If you are out sketching at this time of the year it really does pay to use colour, whether in watercolour, watercolour pencils, acrylics, inks or whatever you fancy. Note that the most powerful  effects occur when abutting the complementary colours of purple and orange against each other – if that tree of glowing orange doesn’t quite come in front of that distant purple hill, then give it an artistic shove and see the effect. Likewise warm yellows against the blues and purples will make your autumn scenes sing. Flying leaves and trees with just a few single leaves remaining can add to the season’s visual treasures, and these can be achieved in watercolour by little dabs of masking fluid. By applying a dark colour over these dabs you can then create sparkling light leaves when you rub off the masking fluid. Let your yellows, reds and oranges run into one another in the foliage to vary the overall effect.

The later paintings in the book are carried out with Daniel Smith Extra-fine watercolours, and many of these are exceptionally effective for autumn colours, such as Aussie red gold, transparent red oxide, moonglow and quinacridone Sienna. Quinacridone gold and gamboge are also great colours for this time of year. We all need something new to brighten up these difficult days of lockdowns, so treat yourself to some of these amazing colours.