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 – Making the most of summer landscapes

I’ve at last managed to see my grand-daughter after nine months…..far too long a time, but the re-union was a wonderful moment! Bit exhausting as well, keeping up with a lively 3-year-old. That, and other urgent work has kept me from doing any blogs for 6 weeks, I’m afraid.

Summer still clings on with some beautiful days, the trees in fine form. When painting summer trees in full leaf I find it easiest to do the foliage in two stages, firstly the lighter colour – usually green – and then the darker, shadow green. It pays to run your branches into the darker shadows, losing them naturally rather than in stark contrast. Make sure you stab little spots of the green outside the main boundary of the foliage as you see in the watercolour below, otherwise your foliage will appear lumpy.

Just above the stile and slightly to the right you will see some light spots of yellowy-green. These were achieved with gouache, which being opaque will show up over dark areas, unlike pure watercolour, and here they suggest detail within a dark, featureless part of the tree. The stile and some branches in the bottom right-hand bush have been done with the negative method whereby the darkest passages have been painted with a fine no. 6 sable brush to avoid those features.

This painting is featured in my new book Landscapes Through the Seasons, to be published shortly by Search Press. Amongst other things, it includes introducing flowers into the landscape, managing summer greens, brushwork for foliage, the power of introducing spot colour, coping with riotous summer foregrounds, emphasising a sense of spring and fiery autumn colours. The book is actually an extension of my Winter Landscapes book, as so many have enquired about one on summer landscapes. You will find details on my website, www.davidbellamy.co.uk in a few weeks time.

Make the most of what is left of summer and make sure you gather as many subjects to paint in sketch or photographic form before winter arrives and we get any further lockdowns. Painting is such a wonderful antidote to Covid-19!!!

David Bellamy – On-line watercolour workshop of a Mountain Painting

I write this as a follow-up to my online workshop this afternoon on Shopkeeparty, which was a simple 45-minute demonstration in watercolour of the Middim Khola River in the Nepal Himalaya where I led a trek and paint group in 2000. The aim was to demonstrate how to achieve a sense of space and distance, create a tranquil mood in dramatic backlighting, dropping in spot colour and illustrating several brush techniques.

This shows the finished painting: I added a little extra sparkle by scratching with a scalpel below the trees and finally painted in a few dark blobs in the foreground to suggest larger stones in the river, but otherwise it is basically as completed during the workshop. If you took part I hope you enjoyed the experience and if you missed it you can still find it on Youtube

Next Tuesday, 11th August I will be running a watercolour Masterclass again with Shopkeeparty, and this will last around 2.5 to 3 hours. The subject will be Blencathra mountain in the Lake District with Thirlmere in the foreground, and of course with much more time I will be covering so much more, showing mountain structure, atmosphere, reflections in still water, massed and individual trees, crags, how to introduce more colour naturally, brushwork, negative painting and much more. I will be using my favourite, Saunders Waterford paper. Details are available at    https://shopkeepeasy.com/davidbellamy   You will be able to ask questions throughout and we will move at a pace that will ensure you can keep up with the painting being demonstrated. The Masterclass painting will bring in more colour than the above scene which was aimed at creating a strong moody backlit subject.

In the meantime, enjoy your painting!

David Bellamy – Creating a sense of movement in vehicle paintings

Sketching moving objects can be quite dramatic, especially if it’s an enormous tank churning around in mud with bits of earth flying in all directions. Vehicles make for complicated subjects, and tanks are no exception, but when they are moving across rough ground they often throw up a lot of dirt, dust, smoke and all kinds of things that are very handy for losing parts of the vehicle and giving a strong impression of movement.

This sketch of a Soviet T-72 tank of the Cold War era was done with a 4B pencil. The cloud of dust behind it and the loss of detail in the lower wheel and track suggest movement. I’d already sketched one coming directly towards me as I tried to capture the sense of atmosphere and a fast-turning tank, but in this view I wanted to bring in more detail as it moved broadside on from my viewpoint. The advantage here was that it paused enough for me to render a lot of the detail before it resumed a steady progress to the right.

Simply suggesting some of the wheels helped to give a sense of a moving vehicle and of course it made my task easier. To indicate greater speed I would normally lose more detail at the rear, but here I wanted to include detail I might need later. Spattering more muck around at the rear would also emphasise this effect.

Whilst you may not wish to sketch in the middle of tank manoeuvres these points can help when you are painting a scene with moving tractors in a field, or excavators digging up your local green space, and it makes quite a change from a still life after weeks of lockdown!

I will be doing a free 45-minute online demo at 2pm on Tuesday 4th August which you are welcome to join in with your own painting at the same time – details are at  https://www.shopkeeparty.com/artyclasses 

and on Tuesday 11th March at 3.30 pm I will be doing an online watercolour masterclass details can be found at   https://www.shopkeeparty.com/artyclasses
Both will be live online so you’ll be able to ask questions.

Enjoy your painting…….

David Bellamy – Enjoying the detail in a painting

How do you cope when you are presented with a complicated scene such as a harbour full of boats of all colours and sizes? Beat a hasty retreat and look for a simpler subject? I love painting and sketching boats, and there’s always a way round the problem: you can leave out craft that don’t appeal, reduce their number, enlarge one so that it hides two or three others, or perhaps cast a dark shadow over the ones further away.

    This is a watercolour I did of Oare Creek in Kent, a place crammed with lots of lovely craft, and although there seem to be a lot in the composition I did leave many more out. This is one of those works that doesn’t have just one centre of interest – there is a whole line of them! I do this sometimes as it makes quite a change, and some buyers do enjoy a mass of detail, and to get a sense of the place you do need to suggest that many boats line the creek, especially if working to commission.

    On occasion in scenes like this I lay shadow across many of the boats, simply suggesting them, and highlight the main ones – the focal point – with strong lighting. If you wish to subdue one or two off-centre then just paint them in silhouette as I have done with the boat on the extreme right background. The masts and gulls were rendered with white gouache when everything else had been completed. If need be I create dark areas deliberately so that white gulls can be placed there and stand out. This is at fairly low tide so much of the mud-banks are revealed. To avoid too much monotony I have made some lighter and on the right bank splashed in some cadmium red to add interest. The painting was done on Saunders Waterford hot pressed, 140lb weight.

    Now most of us are able to get outside do make the most of the summer days to find some new subjects. This is important not just from the point of view of finding new material to paint, but getting outdoors rejuvenates us and gets us away from the lethargic indoors syndrome that can deplete our enthusiasm for creating anything. There is nothing better than perching on a rock warmed by the sunshine, overlooking a stunning view while sipping a cappuccino as you sketch. I’ve been out there with my new Daniel Smith watercolour box of gorgeous half-pans lately, so it’s been a double pleasure!

David Bellamy – Changing the mood in a landscape painting

I missed doing an intended blog last week as I had three short videos to produce in connection with the forthcoming Patchings Virtual Art Festival next week. It starts on July 9th which was the intended date for the original festival, and you can find information on www.patchingsartcentre.co.uk Of the other two videos I made, one was for Painters Online at  www.painters-online.co.uk  run by Leisure Painter and The Artist magazines, and this shows ten tips I’ve put together for landscapists, while the third one was for Search Press which you can find on  www.searchpress.com  and this features a number of my crazy anecdotes on sketching expeditions. All three videos are quite different and I hope you enjoy them.

 You’ve had to wait a little longer than intended for my version of Llyn Mymbyr, so here is my effort together with the two photographs shown in the earlier blog:

This is the original scene that shows afternoon light catching the Plas y Brenin Mountain Centre buildings on the far side of the lake. As some interesting crags dropped into the water to the right of this composition I wanted to include them in the painting and illustrate how I go about bringing two visual sources of reference together for one painting.

This is the shot of the crags to the right of the above view, though it’s in shadow, a common problem when we are working outdoors, but it’s easy enough to bring two prints together and even better when you have a sketch as well. Getting these to fuse together on a laptop for the purpose of showing you, however, is not so easy for a non-tech neanderthal……..

In my version I have reduced the buildings so that interest is focused on the craggy peak, Clogwyn Mawr, which I’ve featured in strong evening light, while bringing in some mist behind the line of trees. I often change the atmosphere of a scene completely, and that really is my main lesson here: you don’t need to paint the scene as you see it, but as you would like to see it. Try small versions as studio sketches before you make a start on the painting. There are so many different ways of tackling a scene with a variety of moods and seasonal changes. Enjoy your painting!