David Bellamy – With watercolours to Austria

September was another of those all-action months where there was no time to write blogs: sadly there are many things happening which I simply don’t have time to relate. On 14th September I had one of the proudest moments of my life when Catherine, my daughter, married Nicko. They met at clown school in Paris many years ago and had an amazing wedding with the reception in a delightful woodland setting. Overwhelmingly, the guests were actors, actresses, directors, producers, musicians, magicians, clowns (of course), singers, and folks from the entertainment industry. The Bollywood-style dance was truly jaw-dropping, and the church service rocked.

A few days later Austria beckoned: a painting group holiday arranged by Richard Cartwright of West Norfolk Arts with the assistance and local expertise of our friend Christof Hoelzl who found us some exciting locations to paint.

Based in the beautiful Stubaital valley we painted and sketched the surrounding peaks, and on a very wet day tackled a waterfall. Although I don’t do many city and town scenes we spent a day in Hall which has many splendid old buildings, and I found myself really enjoying the change. The watercolour of Rosengasse was done quickly in a cartridge sketchbook while it was spitting with rain. I could see much more than I’ve included, particularly beneath the church tower, but I did not want to over-work it, and eliminating distant detail further suggests distance.

I’ve run the colours of the walls into one another, assisted by the falling rain, while Christof gallantly held his umbrella over the sketchbook as I demonstrated. One feature I love about these Austrian towns is the ubiquitous hanging signs with their ornate metal hangers. I took the opportunity of photographing many of these to use elsewhere, possibly as collages. Note how I have vignetted the interesting stonework of the street so that only few stones are shown in the foreground.

 With autumn upon us do get ready for those glorious colours. Don’t wait just for those lovely sunny days, as the bright yellow and orange leaves reflecting in puddles can work wonders for your painting.

David Bellamy – Thrashing around for a sketch

The recent Patchings Art Festival in Nottinghamshire was something of a whirlwind for us, with almost non-stop activity on our stand, and interest in my new book, Seas & Shorelines was astonishing. The book sold out and that was not including the other books. Having meetings with a number of people, I really didn’t manage to see even half the show this year, and had to miss out meeting many artists, but as usual it was a fabulous show, easily the best in the UK. It was a delight to meet so many students even though I was torn away so often by sheer numbers. I did three demonstrations in the St Cuthberts Mill marquee on their superb Waterford and Bockingford papers, and had the privilege of being accompanied on stage by some local wildlife: at the rear of the marquee a nest of bees became interested in the demonstrations. Having these massive bees circling round your head as you paint away does tend to inject a real buzz to your work!

 Getting back home was no picnic. The next day my two-year-old grand-daughter arrived and more or less took over the place, causing delightful mayhem and scattering my toys all over the place. About a week after returning from Patchings things returned almost to normal and I decided to go for a hike in a local gorge. Unfortunately it was massively overgrown with vegetation and I’d forgotten my boots and stick. It took some time to break through to the lip of the gorge, but once there I managed a couple of pencil sketches, one of which appears above. I had to leave out most of the background tree detail.

I continued upstream, high above the rocky course of the stream along a slippery, eroded pathway, but by now armed with a sturdy pole I’d found lying on the ground. Under some cliffs and round the corner I descended into the undergrowth from hell. Nobody had been this way for years probably. I was confronted by a dense area of briars, nettles, branches and other vegetation, all covering many fallen tree-trunks. I didn’t want to return the way I’d come so I literally thrashed my way through the undergrowth, mounting each tree-trunk and attacking the undergrowth beyond before leaping down the far side. This took ages and in the heat the perspiration was running off me. At the far end – some 70 yards or so – I looked back and realised it would have been better to have jumped into the river and waded up, thus avoiding the undergrowth.

There was much more to the day, but I shall pause there. I returned home happy with a brace of sketches and having had plenty of exercise. Just being in such a marvellous spot and enjoying the natural environment is something really special. Even for a few scratches!

 Signed copies of Seas & Shorelines are available from my website