David Bellamy – Painting massed trees in a landscape

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 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.

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 – Making Still Life more interesting

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The weather continues to be glorious sunshine every day, as though mocking us in our state of lockdown, though even a brief sojourn into the garden can lift our spirits immensely. One genre of painting that is so pertinent in our current situation is, of course, still life. Did I hear a groan? Yes, I’m afraid the thought of painting apples and oranges in a bowl doesn’t exactly set me alight, so when I had to include still life in my Complete Guide to Watercolour Painting many years ago, I really had to rack my brains. My answer was to look for still life subjects based on my hobbies and interests. Ice climbing was one of my interests and when I came across an ancient ice axe and snow shoes in a French refuge I made a sketch of them hanging on a wall.

    As you can see, I’ve lost parts of the snow-shoe rims in order to emphasise other parts. For the book I’d painted a snowy mountain background, but here I wanted to show up the ice-axe much larger. When doing the original sketch I didn’t have much control over the lighting, but if you have the object before you then you can adjust the lighting to create highlights in the right places. If you are a gardener you may like to depict a spade or trowel, or maybe a wheelbarrow. Balls of wool make colourful subjects, perhaps accompanied by knitting apparatus, while fishing reels, old worn-out boots, favourite hats, model ships and the like, and so much more can make challenging objects to paint or draw.

    Many thanks for all your best wishes and comments. Try to keep painting and being creative. Check out the online community of The Artist and Leisure Painter magazines at www.painters-online.co.uk where you’ll get a host of help and ideas. Please note that if you order anything from our shop at the moment there might be a slight delay owing to the current situation. The next blog will feature my painting of the subject I set on the previous blog. Stay safe!

David Bellamy – On-line painting demonstration

 With so much happening at the moment it’s not easy to remember everything I need to say, so chaos is reigning here. My exhibition Arabian Light, which launched my new book of the same name, has ended at the excellent Osborne Studio Gallery in London, and it was a great success – quite a relief during these straightened times!

    I shall be continuing with the same theme during my Webinar for Painters-online where you can book a place. It takes place at 11am on Tuesday 21st June, and I shall be painting a view of the River Nile in evening light with an interesting sky and lots of atmosphere. You are welcome to ask questions during the event.

  Arabian Light is not a practical guide, but is packed with sketches and watercolours from the Middle East, with lots of colour, and shows how I approach working on location. Signed copies are available from my website 

    I recently dropped some new paintings in to the Waterfront Gallery in Milford Haven (tel. 01646 695699), which is right on the quayside opposite the marina. They include one of St Govan’s Chapel viewed from across the bay from St Govan’s Head.

   

This shows the main part of the composition, the chapel caught in strong sunshine while mist is rising over the backgroiund cliff. Most of the rocks in sunlight have been left as white paper and lacking in detail, while those in shadow stand out in contrasting tones. It is the cast shadow that emphasises the effect of sunlight, further accentuated by the dark foreground rock structures.
   

Enjoy your painting!

David Bellamy – Lost and Found effects in a painting

   In any painting, if you include everything you see the result will just be an overworked photographic version. While some people appreciate this approach, most see the benefit of ‘editing’ the image to produce a cleaner, more atmospheric and painterly work. One of the most important aspects of my creative process is that of using atmosphere and the ‘lost and found’ technique to heighten the effect of a moody scene.

Cairo at Dusk

  This watercolour of the tombs of the caliphs in Cairo shows the scene bathed in warm evening light after the sun has set, using the atmosphere to completely eliminate any detail in the distance, while also subduing much of the architectural information on the main buildings. Not only does the rising smoke hide much detail, but the lost and found effect can be observed further to the left where some of the elements have been faded out. You can achieve this by deliberately reducing the detail until that passage becomes almost blank, or another extremely effective method is to simply paint in the main architectural features as normal, and when this is dry fade part of it out with a damp sponge or by lightly scrubbing out with an old soft-haired brush.
    I shall be painting a similar scene to this as a demonstration at The Bookshop  in East Grinstead at 7pm on Thursday 19th May. It is pretty much fully booked, but because of Covid there are likely to be a number of cancellations, so it might be worth telephoning the bookshop on 01342 322669  They will, of course, have copies of my new Arabian Light book. The exhibition of the same name will be continuing from 18th to 27th May at the Osborne Studio Gallery in London  Tel. 020 7235 9667, where you can see the paintings from the book.
    Watch out also in Leisure Painter Magazine for my on-line webinar on 21st June where I will be painting a sunset scene on the River Nile – more about that in due course.

David Bellamy – Bringing atmosphere, drama and the sublime to a village painting

Many landscape painters love working on tranquil village scenes where time seems to stand still and locals engage in conversation. Here I am deviating from the traditional village composition to add a strong ingredient of atmosphere, drama and the sublime, for this village stands high on the very edge of a vast canyon in the mountains of Oman.

In this watercolour the morning mist cloaks the background mountains and subdues detail in the further parts of the village, in places aided by strong light bleaching out features so that they are only half-seen. Two figures stand near the centre, drawing the eye – you don’t need to make your figures large in order to emphasise the human aspect, but note how there is no detail behind them. This really makes them stand out. They stand at the edge of a sheer drop, thus dramatically creating a sensation of the sublime, a feeling of possible danger. While this latter sensation is rarely found in a British village you can still enhance such paintings with carefully considered atmosphere and even a little drama with the right lighting.

This painting is featured in my new book, Arabian Light, published this month by Search Press, and packed with paintings and sketches of my travels in the Middle East.  Details of the book are on my website. The book will be launched at my exhibition in the Osborne Studio Gallery, at 2 Motcomb Street, London SW1X  8JU  Telephone  +44(0)20 7235 9667   The exhibition runs from 18th to 27th May and I will be in the gallery for much of 18th if you would like to pop in for a chat

David Bellamy – Warming up your Landscapes

   When you begin a painting do you stop to consider your colour management or simply copy the colours in the original scene or photograph? Whether you are a serious artist intent on improving your work, or perhaps painting simply for enjoyment, it is so much more rewarding to create a composition where you can inject some of your own ideas to add interest.

     In this watercolour of the Brecon Beacons I decided to create a much warmer feeling than was present in the scene on that particular day, and enhance the summery mood. Apart from the cobalt blue in the sky most of the scene embodies warmer colours, and after establishing the clouds with the blue I laid on permanent alizarin crimson over the lower sky. The blues on the mountains are French ultramarine with a touch of cadmium red added, resulting in a lovely warm purpley-blue. The greens on the fields have also been warmed up with touches of gamboge, and there are also some gamboge and cadmium orange fields to liven things up. In the foreground I dropped in some Indian red wet-in-wet to produce soft edges and when this was dry spattered Indian red and white gouache before finally scratching out reeds with a scalpel.

    At the end of this week I am starting once more to do live workshops, this one at the excellent Sandpipers studio on the Wirral, while on 3rd April I start my first post-Covid course at the superb Caer Beris Manor hotel in Builth Wells. There are still places available on this course, so if you feel like getting out into beautiful landscapes again you will be very welcome. We will be sketching outside (hopefully painting as well if the weather is fine), and also working indoors in the ballroom which has plenty of room for us to keep apart from each other. Details are on my website  Emphasis will be on injecting atmosphere into your landscapes and putting something of yourself into the subject.

    Sadly we haven’t had much snow this winter, but with spring about to burst upon us let’s hope that this will herald better times for getting out and about with our paintboxes.