David Bellamy – What on earth is that?

Do you ever look through your sketches and sometimes think ‘What on earth is that?’ You simply can’t remember what it was and thought at the time you had enough detail to work from. I sometimes deliberately make a sketch a little obscure, although more often I make certain parts of the sketch less definite, with perhaps hardly any detail, or maybe make it more abstract.

In this rough pencil sketch, which I did on my recent visit to the Scottish Highlands, my aim was to create a simple record of an interesting composition for some future painting. I could easily see many features on the distant hill and shore, and I could see so much more around the houses, but I was only interested in the basic composition, a few shapes and a couple of colours. This method makes it easier for me to impose my own atmosphere and colouring on the scene, and not painstakingly follow every scrap of detail and colour in the actual scene.

I’ve sketched hundreds of Highland scenes, so I’m familiar with many of the standard colours. When I come across prominent or new colours that have impact, such as the strips of dull pink pebbles and orangey yellow weed as in this scene, I make a note, as that’s the sort of thing that’s so easy to forget. There were a few small boats on the other side of the dark concrete pier, so I will probably add one or two of those in just below the buildings when I do the painting, and maybe add some figures and gulls for life, otherwise the composition is fine as it stands – the far hill will dissolve into a light mist or squall. This approach to sketching will help you simplify your paintings and impart more impact.

The Highlands were at their most beautiful, but sadly the onset of vast wind turbines, hundreds of them, is now encroaching into the classic Highland scenery itself, such industrialisation being completely alien to the natural environment, but making enormous profits for energy companies and landowners. As more turbines come on-stream the grid becomes less stable, and there is strong evidence that blackouts have already started because of this. For this to happen in one of the most beautiful countries in the world it is unforgiveable. The Scottish tourist organisation recognise this beauty and implore visitors to help keep it this way, yet this is at odds with their lack of protest against this industrialisation, and I take every opportunity to tell them so. If you want know more, visit Scotland Against Spin

David Bellamy – Lost and found tonal effects

Our recent trip to Scotland and subsequent workload have alas, inhibited new blog posts, as so much seems to be happening at once. Jenny and I experienced a glorious period of sunny weather in the Highlands, making for some really marvellous sketching experiences on the Fife coast and in the Cairngorm mountains. Fife has some lovely harbours that make for great painting compositions, and is a place I’ve missed out in the past because of my headlong rush always to get into the Highlands. It also gave us great pleasure to meet so many of our Scottish friends, a great many of whom turned up for my demonstration at the Pitlochry Festival Theatre.

This post’s illustration continues the Scottish theme, showing a part of a watercolour of a loch where a promontory is coming in from the left side. So often we see these features as a dark mass set against lighter water. Before you begin work on this consider how you might tackle it in terms of values. In this example I have painted in the promontory so that the top edge stands dark and hard against the light water of the loch, while the bottom edge is light and soft, and in fact lost altogether in places.

This approach avoids the promontory appearing to be cut out and stuck in place, setting it into the composition in a more natural way. Note also how I’ve dropped in a variety of colours in the lower edge, including permanent alizarin crimson and yellow ochre. Of course, these techniques can be applied to many situations and features in a painting, so give it a try. The illustration is part of a painting that is featured in my exhibition at the John Muir Trust Wild Space Gallery in Station Road, Pitlochry, until 18th June – telephone 01796 470080 or check my website

The one fly-in-the-ointment of our Scottish trip was the vast swathes of wind turbines now springing up all over the place, even encroaching on the stunning scenery of the Highlands themselves. If this continues it will totally destroy the reputation of Scotland for it’s outstanding and world-renowned scenery, and what to me is a truly tragic and criminal act simply aimed at vast profits for the energy corporations, and absolutely nothing to do with preserving the environment. I was so badly affected that for the first two nights there I could not sleep.

Twilight of the Welsh countryside

The natural environment has always been close to my heart, and I was lucky enough to be born and brought up in a rural idyll in Wales. Walking and painting in this stunningly beautiful countryside has heightened my awareness of what we are about to lose if the British government’s plans for the industrialisation of most of Mid-Wales with gigantic wind turbines goes ahead. This is not confined to Mid-Wales, and the devastating effects on a hitherto unprecedented scale will most certainly not be limited to just the destruction of this glorious landscape, but has cataclysmic consequences for the local population.

Tourism is the lifeblood of our region, but how many tourists will come to see hills and moors flooded with wind turbines, completely dwarfing every other feature in the landscape? The local economy will be destroyed and a great many small businesses, including artists and crafts-people, will fold up. The authorities tell us that there will be around seven years of over-size, slow-moving convoys carrying turbines, clagging up our roads, needing new bridges, re-aligned bends and demolished street furniture, while at the same time under-mining old buildings beside the roads: visitors, locals and emergency services will be badly affected. Turbines, despite government ‘reassurances’, create an insidious low-frequency noise that many people simply cannot live with, and some have to abandon their homes. Many homes become unsellable. Most have their value reduced considerably. Turbines explode and catch fire at times, when they become highly dangerous as they emit toxic fumes over a wide area. A report in Scotland states that for every wind energy job created 3.7 jobs are lost.

Would all this sacrifice be acceptable if wind energy was an effective energy system? This is rather academic, as wind, given its intermittency, produces such little power and needs so much back-up from conventional power stations that large-scale wind farms can only be seen as a great liability. It is, however, an extremely effective source of income for the developers, for energy corporations (most of whom are foreign and therefore making a joke of government policy), for large land-owners and for many politicians. At the expense of local people, many on the poverty line.

We now know in Wales what the West means when it insists on democracy created at the point of a rifle: it does not exist here, in its acceptable form, and unless this vindictive assault on our communities and countryside is not stopped, before long there won’t be a landscape here for us to paint. See also National Opposition to Windfarms     Artists Against Windfarms