Are you making the most of the stunning colours in the countryside at the moment? It’s a great time for getting out to capture one of nature’s most flamboyant periods with your camera, sketchbook or maybe even a full alfresco painting. Watch especially for those vivid colours backlit with strong sunlight that will simply leap off your watercolour paper. Birch trees can be especially rewarding when lit up by strong light, as white trunks and warm colours work together extremely well.
My watercolour of the River Wye in autumn on the left includes a great many trees (although this is not the entire painting), but the distant conifers have been left without detail to throw the emphasis onto the trees with autumn colouring. For these I have used new gamboge, cadmium yellow pale, cadmium red and some touches of cadmium orange, with French ultramarine with a touch of cadmium red for the far conifers. The painting was done several years ago, and since then my autumn palette has changed a little: I now use quinacridone gold, transparent red oxide, Aussie red gold and cadmium red in the Daniel Smith watercolour range, as these colours fairly sing out. In the painting note that the trees on the extreme edges of the painting have been kept fairly dull. This is to throw the emphasis onto the brighter trees and to avoid drawing the eye towards those edges.
While the sun doesn’t always oblige us when we need it, don’t forget that autumn scenes can benefit from a little rain, wind and mist – elements most artists prefer to keep at a distance. Rain produces puddles which can be used to reflect these vibrant colours, and if followed by a sunny spell the result can be magical as the scene glistens and sparkles. Mist can throw the emphasis onto a small group of interesting trees and obscure the rest, and wind, that bane of all landscape artists, can send clouds of leaves hurtling through the air. To include a few of these suggests a lovely sense of a windy day. Make the most of these moments as they can add so much authenticity to your work.
You will find further tips and examples on painting autumn scenes in my book David Bellamy’s Winter Landscapes, published by Search Press. It contains a chapter on the subject which is a preliminary to working on winter paintings. Signed copies are available at www.davidbellamy.co.uk
It’s been an exhausting few weeks since the last blog, and unlike some I find it difficult to write blogs in the odd cafe, while waiting for the lights to turn green, or when sitting on the back of a Bactrian camel. Anyway, my exhibition of the paintings from the Arctic Light book went well in the superb Osborne Studio Gallery in Belgravia last month. In fact you can still see the catalogue on their website, www.osg.uk.com Although they are of course, paintings of the Arctic, there is a lot you can learn from studying the images for composition, colours, skies, moods, etc.
I thought you might like to see how the cartoonists see me – here’s a great caricature of me drawn by the excellent caricaturist Gary whose work is regularly featured in the Sunday Times and Daily Mail. This one appeared in The Lady recently when they did a profile on me. Is that a mischievous twinkle in the eyes?
After the exhibition I ran a course in St Davids and we were blessed with good weather. Although the wind was a bit strong, this really gave us some interesting boisterous seas, with great splashes when the really big waves came crashing in from across the Atlantic. One balmy afternoon on the cliffs in warm and stunning sunlight was truly unforgettable, and perfect for sketching.
I’m delighted to report that my Arctic Light book has just been awarded best outdoor book by the Outdoor Writers’ & Photographers’ Guild, on top of a marvellous batch of reviews. Although it’s not a how-to book it sells well at my demonstrations and workshops, as it’s packed with interesting and at times dramatic compositions and skies, as well as the many tales and sometimes absurd situations that seem to follow me around. I’m told many have put it on their Christmas list. Enjoy your painting!
In order to achieve that marvellous sense of strong light in a painting we need to give our shadow areas a lot of thought, for it is these that will imbue the scene with atmosphere. Today we are going to look at a large, complicated watercolour with many shadows and nuances of light, though I am not suggesting that you try to copy this wholesale, but rather to take parts of the scene and examine the ways in which they work together.
The large shadow area in the top left quadrant throws the emphasis on the rest of the painting, and it is a useful technique where the composition is rather complicated. It also guides the light down from the top right to make the rocks and glacial features stand out. Note the varied colours dropped into the shadows on the glacier to add interest – are these of rock or ice? Sometimes even when you are standing on them it’s not easy to tell!
As you will see, both the bear and the gulls have darker backgrounds to make them stand out, and this needs to be deliberately planned before you start painting – a white bear set against a brilliant white sunlit glacier somehow will not work. In the foreground the rocks have been kept very light on top where they are caught in the sun, but the strong shadows give them their form as well as suggesting strong sunshine. Did the bear catch the gulls? Not this time, as they are usually too quick. Often you will see a wide ring of birds sitting on rocks round a bear, watching its every move. But he did get their eggs on this occasion.
This painting, a full imperial size watercolour, will be on show at my Arctic Light exhibition on 19th and 20th September at the Osborne Studio Gallery at 2 Motcomb Street, London SW1X 8JU Tel. 0207 235 9667 from 12 noon to 6pm Copies of my new book David Bellamy’s Arctic Light will be available.
If you do fancy an expedition or voyage to the Arctic you will be in good hands with Arcturus, a company based in Devon that specialises in tours to the polar regions Tel. 01837 840640 I have come across their expedition parties in Greenland and they were all having a great time and there is a piece about my exhibition on their website
One of the joys of going away on holiday is the anticipation of exciting things to come, and one of the joys of being a professional artist is that this sort of thing is classified as ‘work.’ Whether you are professional or amateur you can still get a real kick in preparing for these exciting moments, and I do recommend that you give some consideration as to how you are going to tackle all this excitement with your methods, materials and choice of approach to the various subjects you have in mind.
This alfresco watercolour of Malcesine on Lake Garda was a demonstration for a painting group. Before flying to Italy I had decided that I would be using pen and wash for some of the lake scenes and limiting my use of colours. For this scene I decided on a palette of cool blues – mainly cobalt blue, with warm colours concentrated on the main features and the centre of interest, ie, the town itself. The warm colours were mainly light red, cadmium red, yellow ochre and quinacridone gold. This approach really does make the buildings stand out.
Because of the intense heat and the fact that I had to use Waterford hot pressed paper to accommodate the pen I had to work fast as the washes dried incredibly quickly. The smooth hot pressed paper tends to dry quicker than a not or rough surface. The pen I used was a fine-tipped sanguine colour to complement the warm-coloured buildings. I did not use it on the mountain features. This lends itself to creating a more unified result.
I’m afraid the reproduction is not first-class as it was photographed by a camera and not scanned at home, but it does give you an idea of the sort of methods you can try out, and not just while you are on holiday, of course. It always pays to think out how you wish to tackle the type of subject matter you will encounter on holiday, and ensure that you have all the right materials to work with.
It was great to see so many familiar faces at Patchings Art Festival earlier this month, and exchange experiences with many of the artists and exhibitors. It’s a wonderful show that seems to get better every year, so if you’ve not been then put it in your diary for next July. As well as demonstrating the fabulous Waterford papers in the St Cuthberts marquee I had a stand next door. With just Jenny and myself on the stand we were run ragged and completely sold out of how-to-paint books by the third morning. We also ran out of some of the exciting Daniel Smith watercolour paints, despite an emergency deliver from DSHQ!
We almost sold out of my new Arctic Light book as well. It’s had some tremendous reviews, with its wide range of subjects, including several painting techniques that I haven’t featured in books before. I particularly enjoyed creating the wildlife paintings, especially those where I spent quite some time with the animals, studying both their form and ways. My favourite poseur was the walrus, generally an amiable fellow on land, especially when basking in the sunshine, though he can be rather vicious in the water if he takes a dislike to you!
At a bull walrus colony on Svalbard I found these beasts in a great many fascinating poses – many more than shown here – and in order to feature as many of these as I could in the book I decided to render them as a montage on one large sheet of Saunders Waterford hot-pressed paper. This paper really enhances the detail in the walrus’s extremely textured hide. It’s really worth thinking about creating a montage where you wish to display a variety of actions or features in a scene, and perhaps add a little bit of humour at the same time. I also did a similar montage depicting the amazing actions of a single polar bear. Great fun!