We’ve had intense heat here in Wales now for weeks, and the landscape is starting to resemble a desert in places. For the landscape artist it’s an interesting time, and strangely our skies have not been entirely blue and cloudless – in fact the cloudscapes have been fascinating and worth sketching in their own right. Here are a few tips for working outside on hot days:
- Get up at 6am and be out there sketching and painting by 7am while it’s still cool;
- Try to keep the paper out of direct sunlight as it hurts the eyes and affects tonal values;
- Use plenty of water, both in your washes and to drink!
- Watch that suncream as it can act as a resist to watercolours;
- In case you don’t find any shade take along a sun-shade or umbrella;
- Make the most of those lovely cast shadows, and they will be at their best at 7 am!
The Patchings Art festival
takes place from Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th, and we will be there on the first three days. I shall be demonstrating in the St Cuthberts Mill marquee on their marvellous Saunders Waterford paper. We also have a stand in the art materials marquee, so do come along and have a chat. The festival is incredibly popular and is just about the best day out in the country for the aspiring artist.
I have just dropped a number of paintings in to the Ardent Gallery in the High Street, Brecon. If you are in the area do pop in and have a look around as they have some lovely work on display. Their telephone number is 01874 623333. The watercolour of Cottage on Mynydd Dinas (see below) is one on display.
The brooding sky and background moorland ridge throws the emphasis firmly onto the sunlight cottage forming the centre of interest. Note how I have slightly darkened the lower part of the cottage roof in order to make it stand out against the stark white of the front wall. Sadly, there are not many of these traditional old Pembrokeshire cottages remaining now.
We are taking a group of painters to Ronda in Spain during September, and the painting holiday booked up very quickly. Unfortunately two people have had to drop out because of illness, so if you fancy coming along you will be very welcome. Details of the painting holiday are at http://www.davidbellamy.co.uk/painting-holiday-to-andalucia-september-2018/
It is organised by West Norfolk Arts
who do a really superb job of organising these holidays for us, and they appear to know every shady spot around the Mediterranean!
One of the joys of going away on holiday is the anticipation of exciting things to come, and one of the joys of being a professional artist is that this sort of thing is classified as ‘work.’ Whether you are professional or amateur you can still get a real kick in preparing for these exciting moments, and I do recommend that you give some consideration as to how you are going to tackle all this excitement with your methods, materials and choice of approach to the various subjects you have in mind.
This alfresco watercolour of Malcesine on Lake Garda was a demonstration for a painting group. Before flying to Italy I had decided that I would be using pen and wash for some of the lake scenes and limiting my use of colours. For this scene I decided on a palette of cool blues – mainly cobalt blue, with warm colours concentrated on the main features and the centre of interest, ie, the town itself. The warm colours were mainly light red, cadmium red, yellow ochre and quinacridone gold. This approach really does make the buildings stand out.
Because of the intense heat and the fact that I had to use Waterford hot pressed paper to accommodate the pen I had to work fast as the washes dried incredibly quickly. The smooth hot pressed paper tends to dry quicker than a not or rough surface. The pen I used was a fine-tipped sanguine colour to complement the warm-coloured buildings. I did not use it on the mountain features. This lends itself to creating a more unified result.
I’m afraid the reproduction is not first-class as it was photographed by a camera and not scanned at home, but it does give you an idea of the sort of methods you can try out, and not just while you are on holiday, of course. It always pays to think out how you wish to tackle the type of subject matter you will encounter on holiday, and ensure that you have all the right materials to work with.
As landscape painters why are so many of us obsessed with bottoms? Why do we feel the compulsion to describe everything in minute detail? It’s not necessary and in fact detracts from the overall effect in a painting.
I have cut out some of this composition so that we can get in closer to view the relevant bits. Note the drystone wall on the left, the white walls of the buildings and the small gate immediately to the right of the barn, and how I have not rendered a definite bottom line in each case. By omitting this I have endeavoured to make the effect more natural. Usually I only paint in the top two or three bars of a five-bar field gate. You can see that for the right-hand hedgerow I have indeed given it a fairly distinctive bottom, probably a minor aberration when I was desperate for coffee! It’s not a great problem as it is in the distance and the bottom part of the hedgerow could be softened off with a damp brush.
So watch those bottoms as you’ll get a more natural effect if you keep them soft. Hard boundary lines around a feature can make it look cut-out, rather like a garish sticking plaster on a donkey’s ….er, bottom.
The watercolour was painted on the fabulous Saunders Waterford 200lb rough high white paper in order to make the most of the textures on the hillside.
Don’t you wish sometimes that life could be really dull, drab and boring? It can get a little too exciting for much of the time, leaving you breathless and with no time to sit back and recall all the fun you’ve had. Being out on the hills tends to energise me and is far more pleasant than sitting in the studio, especially when you have to listen to the racket of builders across the road with their loud radios and screaming stone-cutters. And I usually take a cappuccino and Danish pastry out with me anyway – it’s amazing how it helps the washes flow across the paper!
When I went out recently on the Brecon Beacons, I took with me some small sample sheets of the new Saunders Waterford High-White hot-pressed paper from St Cuthberts Mill. It really is delightfully smooth and as one would expect with St Cuthberts, it takes the washes well. As you can see in the rough sketch, the snow really does stand out on this paper. Note how the terracing of the rock outcrops appears in broken horizontal lines, with a few gullies sweeping down here and there. It’s important to spend a few moments observing these aspects as they give a marvellous sense of place in your work. This paper also works well for wash and line work, and should be in the art shops fairly soon. I can’t wait to work on some big sheets.
I shall be demonstrating at Patchings Art Festival next month in the St Cuthberts Mill marquee, on the 9th, 10th and 11th June, so I hope you can come along and enjoy the event. It’s always a great pleasure to be there, with so many artists and crafts-people, and of course, all the materials to check out. And make sure you try out some of the Waterford HP paper!