David Bellamy – Sketch-notes

Last week I did a watercolour demonstration for Hythe Art Society in Kent. It was their 50th anniversary and the event was held in the baronial hall of Lympne Castle, a grand place with marvellous views across to the French coast. It was followed by a splendid cream tea – a most enjoyable occasion, and what a lovely art society! May their next 50 years be a great success.

Naturally I was keen on taking the opportunity while on the Kent coast to do some sketching, and though there was not much time I managed a quick pencil sketch of the fishermen’s beach at Hythe.

The fishing boats were backed by a couple of the old Martello towers that run along the coast, thus giving it a touch of local flavour. As you can see, I included quite a few written notes on the sketch to remind me not just of colours, but any other useful information such as the uniform level of the base of the clouds which was very marked and the whole revealing an obvious diminution in the size of the clouds as they receded into the distance. Tonal values were also important with the main shadow area over the closer tower, so I have emphasised this. Notes on observations can be of enormous help to the artist, and even if you are not sketching it is worthwhile keeping a notebook in your purse or pocket to add to any photographs you may take. Sadly the fishermen’s livelihood is now threatened by building taking place to the right of the picture.
Next week I shall be demonstrating at the Patchings Art Festival in lovely countryside just north of Nottingham. My appearances will be at 1pm on Thursday 4th, 1pm on Friday 5th, and 11am on Saturday 6th, with each demo lasting around one hour, so do come along if you are attending the festival. I shall be using the brilliant Saunders Waterford High-white papers made by St Cuthberts Mill. Hope to see you there!

Jenny Keal – Sketching in Kent

David and I have just returned from a trip to Kent where David did a demonstration for Hythe Art Society at the stunningly beautiful Lympne Castle, overlooking Romney Marsh, to celebrate their 50th Anniversary. We were made very welcome by this warm and friendly art group and shared their celebration tea with them after the demonstration.

We took the opportunity whilst in this beautiful corner of England to explore Dover Castle, Folkstone Harbour and St Margaret’s at Cliffe, which yielded numerous sketching subjects. The weather was beautiful as we sketched the White Cliffs of Dover in the hazy sunshine.

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White Cliffs of Dover, St Margaret’s at Cliffe, sketch by Jenny Keal

I know I’ve said it before but I can’t emphasis enough how important sketching out of doors is to improve your painting. The watercolour sketch above only took about 30 minutes to complete. Working in a hardback cartridge paper sketchbook, with a slight breeze to dry the washes, I was aiming to capture the freshness of the morning and the delicate quality of the light. Leaving out lots of foreground detail to retain the freshness I was aiming for.

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Photograph, St Margaret’s at Cliffe

So often a sketch can capture something that is lacking in a finished painting, and working purely from a photograph can rarely portray the magic of a place. When I look at the sketch I can smell the sea, but not when I look at the photograph.

Capturing autumn colours in watercolour

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.

autumn trees

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

And now for something different

Now and then we get into one of those dreadful artistic ruts that leave us rudderless for periods, not quite knowing which direction to take, and finding little inspiration in anything. One great way of snapping out of these doldrums is to try a different medium, perhaps only slightly different, but enough to spur you on to greener pastures. Derwent are always bringing out exciting new ideas, and many of them are related to watercolour, which has the advantage of taking us into new areas of working, but ones which can also give our watercolours a new lift.

Misty Stream - XL Graphite

Misty Stream – XL Graphite

I’ve just been trying out the new Derwent XL Graphite blocks – a set of six chunky watersoluble blocks, and as you can see in the picture on the left, you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between these and watercolour. I began by laying olive green across the foliage areas, blending it in with a finger and then washing over it with a number 10 round brush with clean water. I had already laid more olive green on a piece of scrap paper and picked up a quite strong mix of this with a fine number 2 brush, drawing the tree trunks and branches into the wet wash, wet-in-wet style. Quickly I then applied more olive green strongly into the upper parts and directly with the block. Going on to a wet surface it produced a deeper tone which I then worked into with a brush to suggest the loose leaves and some of the ground cover. The paper was still wet enough for me to work in a soft grey colour with the number 10 brush to suggest the more distant rocks. I then drew burnt umber in with the block for the darker rocks, softening it off in places with a brush before completing the work with blue over the foreground. including a touch of green reflections here and there.Spatter with XL Graphite sm
Derwent have also come up with a really useful sprinkler tool – a small grid across which you rasp the XL Graphite block to create a spatter effect. I did this on a different composition, and the technique works deliciously when dropped onto a wet surface as here where I’m suggesting a bush. The branches were created with a fine rigger, picking up colour directly off the burnt umber block.

These blocks can be used for many purposes, apart from creating paintings by themselves. They can be combined with normal watercolour, can be used to rescue a wayward watercolour, and are great for doing quick studio sketches in planning out a larger painting. Give them a try, they really are tremendous fun, and if you wish can be readily combined with the Graphitint pencils. The only problem I have now is that Jenny has just seen my work and has run off with my XL blocks……..