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.
I don’t know about you, but I do love weathered stonework, whether it’s a humble dry-stone wall snaking across a windy hillside, or part of a monumental masterpiece of some ancient temple. When I visited the vast Roman site of Baalbec in Lebanon’s Hezbollah heartland the amount of outstanding weathered and sculptured stonework really took my breath away.
The illustration shows a small part of an enormous watercolour of the main courtyard at Baalbec. By keeping the edges fairly soft, this has imparted a weather-worn appearance. In the large side of the left-hand block of stone I began with a wash of alizarin crimson, dropped in some yellow ochre higher up and weak French ultramarine on the right. When the paper had dried I drew in the Roman lettering using a number one round sable, easing off the pressure in places to almost lose the outline of the letter, and in fact deliberately missed some parts. Again I allowed the work to dry before vigorously rubbing parts of some letters with a small flat brush to lose even more minor parts, before applying a wash of lunar black mainly over the right-hand side. This DanielSmith colour granulates with a vengeance, speckling the piece as in the original stonework. I applied it slightly unevenly and added the odd little blob here and there. I have created this in a traditional manner, building it up slowly overall, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t include these techniques in combination with a more abstract design.
The original painting can be seen in my book Arabian Light which is not a practical guide, but nevertheless contains a wealth of inspirational watercolour techniques, with particular emphasis on capturing light and atmosphere. Why not put it on your Christmas list? You can find more details on my website
I have delivered new paintings to the Ardent Gallery in Brecon www.ardentgallery.co.uk so do pop in if you are in the area. I have also done a Christmas card which is sold in support of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, and details can be obtained at CPRW
Once again, autumn is with us, and the opportunity to indulge in bright, warm colours in our landscape paintings. This time last year I found the striking colours in the Bavarian Alps absolutely mind-blowing, with every day in brilliant sunshine.
This scene shows a track leading to Little Langdale in the English Lake District. I was lucky at the time to encounter snow on the distant fells, and this accentuated the bright colours of the right-hand small tree. For this I used two of my favourite Daniel Smith colours – Aussie red gold, which was applied first and when this was dry I added transparent red oxide. These two work extremely well for autumn scenes. The dark ridge in the middle distance was rendered with Moonglow, another useful colour, and in places I have pulled out the colour with a small sable to indicate lighter patches.
The painting is reproduced in my Landscapes Through the Seasons in Watercolour book, signed copies of which are available from my website
Watch out for those autumn colours and make sure you are armed with the right colours……..and if you get some snow as well, then that’s a great bonus!
A few weeks ago I received an interesting query about how one determines what colours to use in response to a landscape. I could write a book on this fascinating subject, but I’ll try to answer that as best I can in this limited space and perhaps follow it up with an article on the subject later.
In some of the practical art books I read during my early days we were warned against relying too much on the colours in photographs taken of landscapes as the colour reproduction was often unrealistic, and it was best to work from the landscape first-hand to achieve the precise colours in the scene. This approach, however, adopts the premise that we simply want to copy exactly what is in front of us, and to blazes with any of our own artictic creativity. In our paintings we are not trying to emulate photography.
In this painting the topographical features and buildings are fairly faithful to the scene, but the colours could not be much more different to what was actually present on this occasion. I have grossly romanticised the colours with mauves, orange, alizarin and other colours for both sky and land, and created a glimmer on the water. JMW Turner likewise used colour on many occasions for its emotional power, rather than sticking to what was before him, much to his contemporaries’ astonishment. Colour is closely bound to mood and emotion, so much thought should be given to your proposed palette before you begin painting.
You may wish to take a less romanticised approach, but even so it is perfectly legitimate to alter the colours from the original scene. Colours are affected by the weather, light, seasons and a host of other factors. For example, one day a field can be a pale green perhaps, and the next when the farmer has cut the hay it can be a distinct Naples yellow. Fields get ploughed up and lighten in tone and colour when the dry out, and I have seen a cottage roof change in brilliant sunshine from black to the most brilliant gleaming whiteness after a shower of rain followed by more sunshine. I often change a field by the centre of interest from a dull green to a shimmering yellow to draw the eye in, and perhaps do the opposite to the landscape at the edges of the composition so that it doesn’t draw the eye away from the centre of interest.
Landscapes are commonly overwhelmed with greens, but if you try to copy every green you can see you will be ovewhelmed, and the result can look chaotic. What may look right in reality or a photograph simply may not work in a painting. We need to interpret colour as much as we need to do so with other aspects of a scene. Choose a maximum of three or four greens. Variegate them by dropping in other colours while they are still wet, but also consider changing them for a totally different colour. I’ve even seen red grasses out there, so you have quite a range to choose from!
OK, but what if you see a colour out there that you really like, and want to replicate? Study it carefully and experiment with as many colour mixes as you can in an effort to achieve a decent result, but you need to do this on separate paper, not on the composition you are working with. If it’s still not working touch in a third colour into the mix. Another way is to take out colour swatches of various greens (or whatever colour you wish to relicate) and try to match one as close as possible to what excites you, noting whether it is darker, lighter, warmer, cooler, more or less intense, and so on. Back at home you can then experiment further and study other artists’ work to see if they have created a similar colour, and by which mixtures have they achieved the result.
I hope this helps. I’ve recently returned from Cornwall where I ran a course organised by Alpha Painting Holidays. Matthew not only organised a great location, but also organised some truly wild weather which brought us some amazingly dramatic seascapes with huge breaking waves. It was great fun.
I have a zoom demonstration on Saturday 24th September at 12.30 pm in conjunction with Patchings Art Centre, so do please join us if you can. It’s free and will last one hour. I shall be demonstrating coastal scenery, and the link is as follows: