David Bellamy – Painting sheep and lambs in springtime

 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.

    Enjoy springtime, and you can find more help on seasonal work in my book Landscapes Through the Seasons in Watercolour, which you can obtain as a signed copy from my website www.davidbellamy.co.uk

10 thoughts on “David Bellamy – Painting sheep and lambs in springtime

  1. Lovely capture of spring, and very timely as I was struggling with sheep in a landscape. Thanks, I continue to learn from you and Jenny.

  2. A lovely inspiring blog and example painting, always a joy, lifting our spirits, thank you David. May I say how much I love your new book, so beautifully produced, another one to treasure, keep safe both of you, Gill

  3. What a delightful painting..As always.
    I love your work David so fresh and honest. I have all your books which have inspired me over the decades. and now as my 76th birthday approaches (still paint daily) I have asked hubby for the recent one. So looking forward to it.

  4. What a lovely inspiring blog, David and a most beautiful painting, full of springtime sunshine and perfect newborn lambs. I found your tips on composition and foregrounds so helpful – I am off to photograph my daffodils right now! I can’t wait to get out in the countryside and paint after a year of shielding. Our rare breed sheep are not so pretty and lambing is much later in the season.

  5. In Wales, you just have to become one with the dream landscapes and the omnipresent sheep and lamb. I have very fond memories of tiredlessly hiking in the hills around Rhayader looking out for “sheep in landscape” visual opportunities. It was easy and delightful, as they were lurking around every corner. This included looking for black lambs, which would be ideal to paint in a light-coloured field, as they provide ready-made contrast. And sheep in fields of bluebells just look so romantic!

    • You are absolutely right, Marie-France, putting in black lambs solves the problem of making them stand out. Placing white sheep against black sheep is also another way round the problem. Enjoy your painting!

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