Wandering through the woodlands at this time is a real pleasure for the artist, with the great variety of warm colours as the leaves turn. I can’t resist picking up a handful of leaves and taking them back to the studio to play with. There’s nothing like the process of experimenting with artistic ideas for stimulating our work, even if you have tried the particular process before.
A branch of leaves – or perhaps I should say, a twig of leaves in case we get too carried away – can make a superlative still life subject, but here I have pushed the leaves into thick watercolour paint straight out of the tube, applying a few different colours for each leaf before placing them on the paper. With a sheet of tissue paper over the leaf I then rub it with fingers to create the image. It can be hit or miss, but when it works the result can be inspiring. You can work in two or three leaf images in this way and perhaps add some spatter and further detail, lettering, collage or whatever. The addition of a little thickener such as Winsor & Newton’s Aquapasta may help improve your results.
You can get ideas on painting autumn scenes in my Landscapes Through the Seasons book, available through my website
We are now planning painting courses for 2022, and details of these should be released before long. At the moment I’m spending a lot of the time away from the studio, so these blogs have been in short supply. Anyway, enjoy your autumn painting and do have a go at recording those stunning leaf shapes in one form or another!
Autumn is upon us, and with the trees turning colour it’s a great time to be out capturing those magical views, whether in sunshine, rain or whatever: rain can create more atmospheric scenes, but if you can catch that moment after a shower when the sun comes out and makes everything sparkle it can be truly magical – watch out for those stunning reflections of colour and light in the puddles.
This year autumn is also bringing out my new book, Landscapes Through the Seasons, which has just been published by Search Press. It is in fact an expansion and update of my Winter Landscapes book – many people were asking about a summer book, but with other books in the pipeline I could not have written a whole book on summer landscapes for several years. The spring and autumn sections have also been expanded.
The illustration shows a watercolour sketch done on a cartridge sketchbook on a sunny November afternoon and reproduced in the book. If you are out sketching at this time of the year it really does pay to use colour, whether in watercolour, watercolour pencils, acrylics, inks or whatever you fancy. Note that the most powerful effects occur when abutting the complementary colours of purple and orange against each other – if that tree of glowing orange doesn’t quite come in front of that distant purple hill, then give it an artistic shove and see the effect. Likewise warm yellows against the blues and purples will make your autumn scenes sing. Flying leaves and trees with just a few single leaves remaining can add to the season’s visual treasures, and these can be achieved in watercolour by little dabs of masking fluid. By applying a dark colour over these dabs you can then create sparkling light leaves when you rub off the masking fluid. Let your yellows, reds and oranges run into one another in the foliage to vary the overall effect.
The later paintings in the book are carried out with Daniel Smith Extra-fine watercolours, and many of these are exceptionally effective for autumn colours, such as Aussie red gold, transparent red oxide, moonglow and quinacridone Sienna. Quinacridone gold and gamboge are also great colours for this time of year. We all need something new to brighten up these difficult days of lockdowns, so treat yourself to some of these amazing colours.
Are you making the most of the stunning colours in the countryside at the moment? It’s a great time for getting out to capture one of nature’s most flamboyant periods with your camera, sketchbook or maybe even a full alfresco painting. Watch especially for those vivid colours backlit with strong sunlight that will simply leap off your watercolour paper. Birch trees can be especially rewarding when lit up by strong light, as white trunks and warm colours work together extremely well.
My watercolour of the River Wye in autumn on the left includes a great many trees (although this is not the entire painting), but the distant conifers have been left without detail to throw the emphasis onto the trees with autumn colouring. For these I have used new gamboge, cadmium yellow pale, cadmium red and some touches of cadmium orange, with French ultramarine with a touch of cadmium red for the far conifers. The painting was done several years ago, and since then my autumn palette has changed a little: I now use quinacridone gold, transparent red oxide, Aussie red gold and cadmium red in the Daniel Smith watercolour range, as these colours fairly sing out. In the painting note that the trees on the extreme edges of the painting have been kept fairly dull. This is to throw the emphasis onto the brighter trees and to avoid drawing the eye towards those edges.
While the sun doesn’t always oblige us when we need it, don’t forget that autumn scenes can benefit from a little rain, wind and mist – elements most artists prefer to keep at a distance. Rain produces puddles which can be used to reflect these vibrant colours, and if followed by a sunny spell the result can be magical as the scene glistens and sparkles. Mist can throw the emphasis onto a small group of interesting trees and obscure the rest, and wind, that bane of all landscape artists, can send clouds of leaves hurtling through the air. To include a few of these suggests a lovely sense of a windy day. Make the most of these moments as they can add so much authenticity to your work.
You will find further tips and examples on painting autumn scenes in my bookDavid Bellamy’s Winter Landscapes, published by Search Press. It contains a chapter on the subject which is a preliminary to working on winter paintings. Signed copies are available at www.davidbellamy.co.uk
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