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 -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.

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

David Bellamy – Painting a mountain bothy

 Amazingly, even during these periods of lockdown there is just not enough time to get everything done, and it’s not just because I am putting exercise as a priority. The weather has not been helpful lately, with an inordinate amount of wind and rain. Trying to film a demonstration watercolour on the moors recently out of the wind, was a real struggle. It affects the microphone badly, so I needed some shelter. Having found a reasonable spot I began the watercolour and then found the washes icing up on the paper – it was far colder than I’d realised, and well below zero. I hope to get it organised before long.

    In the meantime I did an online workshop about ten days ago on Shopkeepeasy, featuring a mountain bothy. With only 45 minutes it is quite a challenge to complete the painting, which is shown above after I’ve included a few little embellishments such as a little detail on the prominent rock pinnacle, some detail on the buildings, touches in the foreground and the addition of some smoke from the chimney. There are several ways of creating smoke even as an afterthought, and in this case I scraped it out gently with a scalpel. You need to be careful with this method of course, but it is useful if other methods fail. Sometimes if you have used staining colours around the chimney it is almost impossible to pull out any colour to form even a wisp of smoke, so this technique does have its uses. You can see the demo on  https://youtu.be/tSwuMvH9WQY

    On Thursday 25th February I have a further online workshop with Shopkeepeasy where I will be demonstrating a mountain farm. You will be shown how to create a sense of place, bringing in local character to enhance your landscapes, how to blend in the sky with misty mountain peaks in the background, introducing rogue colours that are not actually in the scene but will give it a lift, creating a semi-abstract foreground, and much more. You can obtain details from the above link.

    Hopefully, with the onset of the vaccination programme we’ll be able to travel safely once again, before long, and once more be able to take part in courses on location. In the meantime, keep painting!