In order to achieve that marvellous sense of strong light in a painting we need to give our shadow areas a lot of thought, for it is these that will imbue the scene with atmosphere. Today we are going to look at a large, complicated watercolour with many shadows and nuances of light, though I am not suggesting that you try to copy this wholesale, but rather to take parts of the scene and examine the ways in which they work together.
The large shadow area in the top left quadrant throws the emphasis on the rest of the painting, and it is a useful technique where the composition is rather complicated. It also guides the light down from the top right to make the rocks and glacial features stand out. Note the varied colours dropped into the shadows on the glacier to add interest – are these of rock or ice? Sometimes even when you are standing on them it’s not easy to tell!
As you will see, both the bear and the gulls have darker backgrounds to make them stand out, and this needs to be deliberately planned before you start painting – a white bear set against a brilliant white sunlit glacier somehow will not work. In the foreground the rocks have been kept very light on top where they are caught in the sun, but the strong shadows give them their form as well as suggesting strong sunshine. Did the bear catch the gulls? Not this time, as they are usually too quick. Often you will see a wide ring of birds sitting on rocks round a bear, watching its every move. But he did get their eggs on this occasion.
This painting, a full imperial size watercolour, will be on show at my Arctic Light exhibition on 19th and 20th September at the Osborne Studio Gallery at 2 Motcomb Street, London SW1X 8JU Tel. 0207 235 9667 from 12 noon to 6pm Copies of my new book David Bellamy’s Arctic Light will be available.
If you do fancy an expedition or voyage to the Arctic you will be in good hands with Arcturus, a company based in Devon that specialises in tours to the polar regions Tel. 01837 840640 I have come across their expedition parties in Greenland and they were all having a great time and there is a piece about my exhibition on their website
Whatever medium you paint with, light is the all-important key. You can bathe your composition entirely in strong sunlight if you wish, but by restricting the brightest parts to one or two localised areas you will achieve more impact.
In this picture I have cut out a large part of the painting just to illustrate the advantages of the sort of effect you can achieve by concentrating the light into a small part of the composition. The turbulent sea gave sketching on the boat a refreshing spontaneity, although it was not long before it was not just the sea that was starting to turn a bit green……
Although I finished my book on the Scandinavian Arctic a while ago, I’ve been trying to catch up on so many things, so there’s been little time for blogging, especially with such a tremendous autumn that has tempted me out time after time. David Bellamy’s Arctic Light will be published in May 2017 by Search Press.
With winter with us once more try to get out to sketch those lovely winter trees whenever you can. Choose your days, wrap up well and if you have all your sketching gear ready to hand you can work quickly before you get too cold. I usually take a thermal travel mug with me as the drink will stay warm for ages, and is a great boost to morale when the sun disappears behind a cloud. My book Winter Landscapes in Watercolour is packed with tips on painting winter scenes, working outdoors in cool weather, and making the most of those warm colours, low lighting and evocative winter trees. You can find a copy on my website together with the film of the same name, which has some stunning winter scenery and was produced by APV Films.
On Wednesday 30th the Christmas exhibition begins at Lincoln Joyce Fine Art and the above painting (in full!) will be on display with several others. You will find the gallery at 40 Church Road, Great Bookham, Surrey KT23 3PW Tel. 01372 458481
As usual, life is so full of exciting activities that it’s hard to find time to blog, especially when I’d rather be communing with nature than with a computer. What a tremendous autumn it’s been – the combination of lots of sunshine and amazing autumnal colours has really provided some stunning images for the landscape artist.
My autumn course in Mid-Wales benefited from the colours and sunshine so much that we were able to paint out of doors in October, even quite high up in the Brecon Beacons. Here the group is painting the main peaks with a stream leading nicely into the focal point. There is still a lot of colour around, so you may well find it rewarding to get out and capture those scenes. A few dabs of masking fluid can be very effective for rendering those bright-coloured individual leaves that still hang around.
Don’t forget though, that a drop of rain can liven things up by creating puddles. These can form really useful features in a foreground, and can be introduced into a painting quite easily. They really come alive if you stand on the opposite side of the puddle to the sun, as the backlighting can create extremely bright and contrasting tones as you can see in the photograph on the right. It gets even better if you can get some of those autumn colours to reflect in the puddle, See how the light part of the puddle stands out against the darker leaves on the right-hand side, and the dark water stands out against the glistening wet surface of the path at other points. We can learn so much simply by observation like this, but it’s even better if you can manage a sketch and a photograph of the scene, as it will really drive the effect home.
It was great to meet so many enthusiastic folk at my seminar in Great Bookham last week, and the response was really heart-warming. Thanks to you all who came along for the event. My exhibition across the road in the Lincoln Joyce Fine Art gallery continues until November 14th, so there is still plenty of time to pay a visit. http://www.lincolnjoyce.com/ or Tel. 01372 458481
Autumn colours have been late arriving this season. I’ve just returned from running a painting course in Snowdonia, hoping for a blaze of colour, but sadly only a few trees co-operated. Despite the strong winds a lot of leaves remain on the trees and it is still worth getting out and seeking colourful subjects out there.
This is a small demonstration piece I did for the group. While I use a number of warm colours for autumn trees, here I’ve applied gamboge, a lovely warm yellow, with cadmium orange. To make your autumn colours really sing you need to juxtapose them against a mauve or blue-grey, as these are complementary colours. You will see this phenomenon at its best where autumn trees stand against distant hills or mountains, or against a dark sky as in the painting.
There are some good examples of this in my Mountains & Moorlands in Watercolour book, and the DVD of the same name. There is a special offer on this package, which is only available on my website.
At the moment Jenny is working on a fascinating staged pastel painting of a Moroccan scene – I pop into her studio every now and again to have a peep, and you can find it at on her blog
Don’t forget, my exhibition in Lincoln Joyce Fine Art continues until Saturday 9th November, where you will find some watercolours from some of my books, as well as new paintings. They can be found at 40 Church Road, Great Bookham, Surrey, Telephone 01372 458481