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 – The importance of your little blobs

 I see my last blog was on 1st July, the long gap being the result of an all-action summer with little time for writing. In August I visited Germany, partly to do some research and partly as a holiday. Getting round the Covid tests proved quite a challenge, creating stress and uncertainty on occasion. In Wales I ordered a self-test from Boots, only to find I could not send it in time because there were no Priority Post-Boxes in the area, although the Royal Mail showed plenty of these around, including one apparently in Llanelwedd Quarry of all places! This is totally unacceptable behaviour.

In Pembrokeshire I’ve recently dropped off a number of paintings at the Waterfront Gallery in Milford Haven. The gallery shows a wide variety of paintings styles and is a very pleasant place to visit. 

This is part of one of the paintings at the gallery, and shows a quiet corner of the composition. The centre of interest is away to the left, off-picture here, and the boat acts as a means to balance the composition. I did not wish to make it too prominent, so I lost the bottom of the blue hull in the muddy foreshore and dotted in white gouache blobs here and there to add interest in suggesting seagulls. On such a small scale it’s not easy to give the impression of birds, but I used a number one rigger and tested the white gouache on dark rough paper before applying it to the actual painting. This method also has the advantage of getting rid of excess white paint on the brush before doing it for real. If you over-blob and get a ghastly mess, simply wash it off with a damp brush, dry the area with a tissue and wait till the paper is dry and then try again. With practice you’ll find this will improve enormously.

I shall try to make my blogs more regular in future, but the call of the wild is hard to resist……..

David Bellamy – Creating a tranquil mood in a landscape painting

As many of you will be aware, I love painting wild seas crashing on a rugged coast, but there is much to be said for the calmer moments. To emphasise this you need to concentrate on the horizontal elements as you will see in the painting below.

As you can see, the sky comprises a series of horizontal cloud effects of evening light, and this is further emphasised by the long, horizontal horizon, with the vertical features such as the mature trees pushed well into the distance. To further enhance the calm mood of the scene the washes laid over the estuary are flat, undetailed ones, and even the line of waders in the foreground conforms to a horizontal pattern. And what if you’re looking for a suitable animal to include in a calm scene – well for me none can compare with the dear old Friesian cow for suggesting a scene of utter calm and tranquility.

This painting can be found in my Seas & Shorelines in Watercolour book which is available from my website  The original painting is on display in the Attic Gallery in Swansea, Tel. 01792 653387  The gallery is open from Wednesday to Saturday 10am to 4pm and can be found at 37 Pockett’s Wharf, Swansea, SA1 3XL where a number of my paintings are on display at the gallery with a lot of other exciting artwork.

    Enjoy your painting!

David Bellamy -Painting stormy seas

 This summer marks 40 years of my writing articles for Leisure Painter magazine, and the current issue (July 2021) contains an article celebrating this close relationship. Ingrid Lyon and her team are indeed lovely people to work with. The excellent Painters-online run by Leisure Painter and The Artist is also showing a film I recently made on how to paint a penguin, which you can see at  https://www.painters-online.co.uk/tips-techniques/watercolour/articles/how-to-paint-a-penguin-in-watercolour/    This was done from an expedition to Chile many years ago, when I visited a penguin colony near Puntas Arenas on the way to the Andes.

    I recently dropped some paintings in to the Waterfront Gallery in Milford Haven. It’s a lovely gallery on the quayside with plenty of parking and sketching space if you like painting boats and other things that bob about, so if you’re in or around Pembrokeshire do pop in if you have a moment.

    This is part of one of the paintings I left at the gallery, showing huge Atlantic breakers hitting the cliffs at Linney Head in extremely wild seas. I achieved the white splashes by leaving that part as untouched paper, but wetting the area to float in the blue-grey colour of the cliffs to define the splashes wet-in-wet in a negative way. When the paper had dried I then sharpened up some of the edges with the blue-grey wash, thus creating a varied edge around the splash. Do be extremely careful if you go out on a day like this, as the sea can be really unforgiving!

David Bellamy – Painting a Mountain Stream

Where I live we are blessed with countless streams and waterfalls tumbling down the hills and mountains, and I like nothing better than to wander beside a mountain stream with sketchbook, well away from the hurly-burly of life. One mountain stream is worth far more than a thousand mental health quacks for our well-being. In my short demonstration painting last week on the Shopkeeparty site I painted a mountain stream on a misty day, as seen below, and on Thursday 13th will be doing a much longer, more considered workshop on the site.

    In the painting I aimed to lose much of the mountain and its detail in background mist, using the wet-in-wet technique, pulling out some of the colour on the left-hand buttresses with a damp brush to suggest light catching the boiler-plate slabs of rock. This was accentuated when the paper had dried by painting in the left-hand buttress which contrasts the softer-edged wet-in-wet approach used on the right-hand one. The central group of conifers was also painted wet-in-wet so that a real sense of distance was created when the dark-tones trees on the left were added. Notice on the cascade how the rocks are placed with hard edges at the tops and soft ones where the rocks rise out of the tumbling water. 

    Next Thursday at 3.30pm I will be running a 2 to 3- hour workshop on painting a waterfall with sunlight and autumn colours, and you are welcome to join me. I shall be showing you how to tackle many fascinating features:

  • how to introduce striking light effects
  • creating effective rock structures
  • making the most of exciting autumn colours
  • the magic of wet-in-wet passages
  • how to capture the energy of falling water
  • the importance of lost and found edges   …..and so much more!

    You will find further information at  Workshop: Autumn Waterfall with David Bellamy (shopkeeparty.com)
    I shall look forward to seeing you then.

David Bellamy – Introducing counterchange into a painting

 One of the little subtleties I enjoy putting into my paintings is that of counter-change, sometimes simply to create a variation and sometimes out of necessity. In my recent workshop demonstration at Shopkeeparty I employed the technique for both these reasons in the painting of a farm in Nant Ffrancon.

This is the central part of the watercolour, and you can see the slate fence in the right foreground with two of its uprights light against a darker bush, while the rest of the uprights are dark against a light area of the farmyard. I could just as easily painted the two left-hand uprights dark and it would still have worked, so in this case it was painted like that just to include a little variation.

If we now move across to the barn on the right of the composition you will see that the roof has been painted dark of the left-hand side where it stands in front of a light background, and then the roof is depicted light on the right-hand side against a dark background. In this instance it was necessary to introduce counter-change to make the roof stand out at both ends. This is an extremely useful device to have in your artistic armoury, so try to incorporate it into your work whenever you can.

I have further Shopkeepeasy workshops coming up in early May and you are welcome to join in. The first is on Thursday 6th May at 2pm, is free to Shopkeeparty patrons and lasts 45 minutes, which you can check out at Mountain Stream with David Bellamy (shopkeeparty.com)          while the second one which lasts between 2 to 3 hours is on Thursday 13th May at 3.30 pm, which you will find at  Workshop: Autumn Waterfall with David Bellamy (shopkeeparty.com) for which there is a charge. Both events will feature a mountain stream with a cascade or waterfall.

I hope you are all able to get out into the countryside to paint and sketch now that things are easing up.