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.
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 bookLandscapes 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.
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.