The vast range of styles, approaches and emotions generated in our paintings makes the art world such a wonderful place for us to explore. It never ceases to amaze me what an exciting world we have in the arts. I mention emotions in particular, for to respond with passion and feeling is vital in whatever genre we paint. Sure, we all do ‘bread and butter’ work, as it’s not easy maintaining that level of high emotion for our most important works.
Emotion in art is often triggered by a sense of nostalgia, and one small, yet effective way of introducing this into landscape paintings is to include symbols of yesteryear, whether you are painting old sailing boats, steam locomotives, or whatever your theme may be.
In this watercolour the old county road stretches away towards the Brecon Beacons, and on the right-hand side I have included the old sign-post that still stands there. This style of sign-post is slowly disappearing from the British countryside, and it’s amazing how including just a minor element like this can evoke a marvellous sense of the past. Watch out for these little gems if you like to put across this feeling of past times in your paintings. The signpost was created with masking fluid which will give you a strong, stark edge to the feature.
This is one of several of my paintings now on display at the Ardent Gallery in the centre of Brecon, tel. 01874 610710 Pop in and treat yourself to a coffee there while you look at the Christmas show.
I recently ran a course in the Welsh lake district – the Elan Valley reservoirs, where there are many marvellous subjects to paint, including glorious river scenery. With this rather cold spring weather it was important to find locations where students could work out of doors in reasonable comfort, and as there are many sheltered spots in the Elan Valley area we were able to work quite happily.
The picture shows a part of a watercolour of the River Elan which I did a few years ago on site. It’s a fairly rough watercolour, as I painted it while standing the middle of the river, using an easel. This was the optimum spot, and as it was painted to support the John Muir Trust, the Scottish-based charity that fights for the wild land of Britain, a photographer came along to record the event. Alas, after taking a few shots he fell into the river, but his camera was OK and all he got was a bit of a wetting.
Although it was mid-summer, I haven’t used many greens in the painting, much of the foliage achieved with a deliberately dull blue-grey, created by mixing French ultramarine and yellow ochre, a rather opaque colour. This dullness helps to accentuate the bright yellow tree. With foliage, edges get lost easily, as they run into one another, and you can see how I’ve introduced light edges of foliage by painting the darker washes around the edge. It pays to look at the scene through half-closed eyes as this will eliminate much detail and allow you to pick out the more important aspects of the scene, both in terms of tone and detail. Please don’t try jumping into rivers to get your paintings done – not only can it be costly in lost equipment, but it can also be rather dangerous in the wrong place!
Summer is a lovely time of the year to be out sketching and painting in the countryside and it is hard to beat sitting beside a babbling brook with your picnic and at the same time painting the water sparkling and dancing in the sunlight. However, when confronted with so much greenery in a profusion of varied greens many artists find it quite overwhelming.
This small watercolour of a Derbyshire hay meadow is featured in my article on painting summer landscapes in the current issue (August) of Leisure Painter magazine which covers the three different approaches to tackling greens as well as mixing your greens. Often, though, not everything we see as being green is actually that colour. Grass-heads are often a different colour to their stems and you see the effect of a mass of warm-coloured grass-tops in the painting above in the horizontal band just below the cottage. In the tree shadow areas and much of the foreground detail the darks have been created with a mixture of French ultramarine plus either burnt umber or raw umber, not green.
Try not to have too many different greens in your composition: if you attempt to emulate every green you see before you the painting will become too disparate and messy. Bring more blues and greys into the more distant green areas, as this will not only relieve the overwhelming sight of so much green, but will also suggest a greater sense of distance and space.
There is much more on the subject in the article, and you will also find further advice on the subject in my DVD Painting Summer Landscapes, produced by APV Films, and available from my website
For something completely different see the Forthcoming Events page on this blog for my landscape paintings at the Welsh National Eisteddfod, and mining paintings at Corner House Gallery. Painting coal mines is the perfect antidote to those summer greens, of course!