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.
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 bookLandscapes 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.
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!
My exhibition at Erwood Station was a great success with sales, interest and raising money for the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales,although the initial part proved a little difficult as I was under the weather for a while. It’s great to have exhibitions in the major galleries, but this time I was really happy to do something locally.
Erwood Station will continue displaying some of my work, and it’s a lovely place to visit.The scene I am showing today is a watercolour of the Brecon Beacons where I have used lighting effects to create interest. Before carrying out a painting it really helps if you consider your ligting arrangement beforehand. This particular composition shows quite complicated lighting areas, and for this I did a preliminary studio sketch with emphasis on the tonal values of the various passages. Normally I prefer to let the main light flood over the focal point – in this case the farmhouse and outbuildings, but I strayed from the norm here by keeping an area of light in the middle distance, beyond the farm, with the farm itself not especially well-lit. Trying new variations from your usual approach can be exciting and lead to interesting effects. The light on the background peaks provides variation, though I did not want this to compete too strongly with the focal point. I love interesting skies and sometimes indulge in cloud-watching for some time, and although this composition could well have been served effectively with a simple sky, I often can’t resist working up a cloud mass that contains a striking patch of light as in this case. Do take time to consider your lighting treatment in your painting as it can make a terrific difference to a work.
It was something of a relief to learn that my blog post of last week had worked, and many thanks to those of you who confirmed you had received the post and image OK. Anyway, I’m doing my best now to make sure that things get back to normal.
The image this time is another view of the River Wye, which like many of our rivers desperately needs help to stop the ongoing pollution caused by intensive poultry farming, and sewage release. For this painting I chose Waterford rough paper to emphasise the ragged edges of the fast-flowing water and in particular to achieve the interesting texture on the large rock at the bottom left-hand corner. I brought the sky wash of cobalt blue down over the rock, weakly at this point, and when this was dry I smothered much of the rock, apart from where the light was catching the top, with strong yellow ochre, using the side of a no. 10 round sable to create a broken wash. Again, I let this dry and then introduced the green parts to suggest moss. For this I used a mixture of green apatite genuine and yellow ochre, again spreading it with the side of the brush. Finally, once that had dried I took a fine-pointed no. 6 sable and drew in the crevices with a mixture of burnt umber and French ultramarine. The painting is part of my exhibition of paintings of the Wye at Erwood Station Gallery & Craft Centre from 23rd September to Sunday 15th October and is open daily. On 23rd and 24th September there will be many eco-based activities at the Centre, and on the Sunday, which is World Rivers Day, the Goddess of the Wye will be entertaining. Erwood Station is a lovely location a few miles south of Builth Wells, just off the A470, a much-loved venue in the heart of beautiful scenery. On Monday 25th September I shall be giving a watercolour demonstration on painting the Wye at the Centre, and will be covering techniques for capturing running water, sparkling water, placid water with reflections, and of course rocks, trees and the atmosphere. This is a ticket-only event with proceeds going to the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales who will also be putting on a display of their work to protect our rivers. The demo starts at 7pm and tickets and information can be obtained from 01982 560555 or email email@example.com
It’s been some time since I last created a blog post – the problem has been that the Blogspot blogging software appears to have been crapulated by the blogging company without warning or providing any idea of how to fix it. The pictures simply appear as a string of incomprehensible characters, which of course, is not what you would want to see. Additionally I have been away from home a lot this summer, but now we’re trying to fix it.
The image I have before me is an 8-line string of characters, but I am hoping that the resulting image on your screens will be a watercolour of the River Wye in Summer. The mountain and water have been kept simple, the more distant water a horizontal sweep of cobalt blue with very little water on the brush, softening down into a light area, with some dark reflections introduced at the sides. The dark tones on the closer trees suggest the impression of distance in the composition. I have over-done the foreground flower collection a bit, but sometimes it is interesting to include strong detail in the foreground when most of the composition is quite simple. The painting will be part of a small exhibition at Erwood Station Gallery & Craft Centre, which lies a few miles south of Builth Wells in Powys. It starts on Saturday 23rd September and runs until 15th October, every day. I shall be giving a demonstration of painting the Wye in watercolour on Monday 25th September at 7pm, admission by ticket only because of limited space. Telephone 01982 560555 for the Centre. More details with the next blog which hopefully will have all the problems resolved, although at the moment I’m more inclined to believe in magic than these software geeks!
One event in the year that I especially look forward to is the Patchings Art Festival, and I shall be demonstrating there once more on the fabulous Saunders Waterford and Bockingford papers, in the St Cuthberts Mill marquee on the mornings of 13th, 14th and 15th July. If you’ve never been, do treat yourself this year as it is a terrific show in lovely surroundings, and overflowing with artists demonstrating their various styles. There’s no place quite like it for being supercharged with artistic inspiration!
This is just part of a small watercolour as I want to highlight more of the detail, and some of the techniques used I will be showing at Patchings. The moody background was created with the wet-into-wet method, with the whole of the background carried out with just burnt umber. Whilst the wash was still wet I suggested the trees with a rigger, the larger ones with a number 4 brush, and with hardly any water on the brush – almost pure paint so that it did not run. Naturally I test it on the side first to check if the timing is right.
On this side of the bridge I introduced other colours: yellow ochre, cadmium red and French ultramarine. My aim was to keep the colours in harmony, all in the brown-ochre segment of the colour wheel. The ultramarine, of course is not in that category, but I’ve mixed it in such a way that it is simply darkening the effect with burnt umber, and not displaying any sign of its blueness. Adopting this approach will give your work a great feeling of unity.
I hope to see you at Patchings in July and for further information on the Patchings festival check out these links:
There is something about the old stone bridges scattered about the mountain regions worldwide that feels such an idyllic subject for the landscape artist. The one I am featuring today stands on the River Artro in Snowdonia, a quiet, heavenly spot that has a calming influence on the mind. I have painted it a few times, and this view is looking upstream with light filtering through the trees.
The overwhelming greens in the top half of the composition have been tempered by the mixtures of French ultramarine and cadmium red in the lower segment, often with yellow ochre dropped in while the passage was wet. The contrasting effect of tall dark tree-trunks on the left, with the negative painting of the trunks of those saplings on the right helps to provide balance. The river naturally leads the eye up to the bridge, and I have kept the foreground water calm and lacking in detail in order to throw the emphasis on that which is closer to the bridge. The soft, blurred effect of the background trees also helps to accentuate the stronger lines of the bridge, and I have considerably reduced the number of trees in the scene.
I am delighted to say that the painting now hangs on display in Erwood Station art and craft gallery, which has just opened again, and very much in the manner of my dear friend Alan Cunningham who built it up into a highly popular venue, but who sadly passed away many years ago. It was quite an emotional moment to be invited back by Jenny, the new proprietor of the place that brings back so many happy memories. There are works by several artists and some of the most delightful crafts by talented local makers, as well as a terrific tea shop once again, and a beautiful river walk beside the Wye, so do drop in – it’s about 8 miles south of Builth Wells, just off the A470, telephone 07584 258947.
Finally, I’m so sorry I’ve been off the air for so long, but I went down with the ‘flu in December when I was about to send out a Christmas message, and so missed seeing the family over Christmas, including Catherine’s amazing performance as the Genie in Aladdin at East Grinstead. It took a while to get over it, and in mid-January I set off for northern Italy to explore the Alpine scenery around the Aosta Valley, though still not in perfect trim. However, it proved to be a spectacular trip and I will be covering it in my next blog. In the meantime I hope you are all making the most of this absolutely beautiful weather for sketching landscapes.