For the landscape painter grey is an extremely useful colour, often to set the mood, or equally importantly to provide a passage of quiet dullness that can be vital to make those exciting vibrant and perhaps bright colours stand out. In this scene of a stream in the New Forest, painted on Waterford NOT 140lb paper, I have used the superb Daniel Smith Lunar Blue to create the background, an exciting blue-grey colour that has interesting characteristics that may not at first sight be apparent. At it’s full strength as you can see on either side of the main tree-trunk where it defines the tops of the grasses, it reveals a powerful granulation, yet on the right-hand side where I have simply laid a weak wash of the same colour, there is no granulation. The stronger tone used, the more prominent become the granulations.
Daniel Smith have introduced a number of useful new greys into their collection recently and I’ve been trying out some of them. Alvaro’s Caliente grey is a lovely, warm grey which is quite dark at full strength, and is excellent for creating moody landscape backgrounds. The cooler Alvaro’s Fresco grey can inject a feeling of drama into a composition, for example if you may like to portray a cold sea or stormy sky, or simply cool shadows. The third grey I tried was Joseph Z’s neutral grey, a versatile colour that will be a welcome addition to the landscapist’s palette, again for creating moody scenes. All these greys can of course be modified by mixing, but one great advantage of these Daniel Smith greys is that the artist will already have a selection of interesting and varied greys without having to do any prior mixing, and in each case above the colours can produce a wide variety of tonal values.
I love exploring quiet estuaries, well away from the hubub of modern life, where all you may hear is the haunting cry of the occasional curlew, and to sit sketching the scene as twilight begins can be a memorable experience. Often at such times the colours are reduced and it is easier to get a moody effect, though having to work quickly before darkness descends can induce mistakes. I generally begin with a few quick photographs of the scene at a variety of exposure settings, and then launch into the sketch. Photographs are helpful to back up your sketches and having several at different exposures where there is a strong lighting contrast will give you a better chance of producing a result that is closer to what you actually see with the eye.
In this watercolour I have added birds, with the closer one acting as the centre of interest. A hint of sparkle on the water was achieved by drybrushing a light grey wash across the central areas. The large white parts are simply white paper, but where I went too far with the paint I have scratched out highlights with a scalpel, mainly to the right of the white water. The paper is Saunders Waterford High White, Rough 300lb
This painting, with several others is now on show at Beaulieu Fine Arts, in Beaulieu High Street on the edge of the New Forest, postcode SO42 7YA. See www.beauliefinearts.co.uk or telephone 01590 612089
The painting is also featured in my new book, Seas & Shorelines in Watercolour, which is doing extremely well, and even those who have no intention of painting the sea will benefit, as it includes a wide variety of skies, buildings, rocks, cliffs, figures and birds, as well as some exquisite daubs of mud! For more information see my website. Now that summer is here I hope you are all getting out with your paints – make the most of it.
Making life easy for ourselves isn’t really the done thing in painting – we do love striving to find the most complicated and difficult way of producing a painting. In my new book, David Bellamy’s Seas & Shorelines in WatercolourI have outlined a number of ways to simplify and ease our ways of working, from basic use of French curves and rulers to mono-printing and highlighting alternative ways to cope with painting those nasty rocks and cliffs, and much more.
In this painting of waders in an estuary I have used low-tack masking tape to create the horizon and also streaks of colour depicting different tones in the water on the mid-left of the composition. These latter might not be so obvious in this small image, but this method is so simple and can be used to create many features involving straight lines. The horizon line, by the way is not exactly halfway down the composition – I have cut out some of the sky to try to show up the lines better!
The book is crammed with paintings, sketches, diagrams showing a great many techniques, and has four step-by-step works. I have introduced many alternative methods of working with watercolours, bringing in additives to create various textural effects, introducing collage to create rock and cliff structures, pulling out colour with greater force, and producing effects with sponges, knives and other tools. A number of different methods have been demonstrated to illustrate how to achieve the white highlights, sparkles and splashes on boisterous and calm waters, and there’s a number of ways of coping with boats.
Signed copies of the book are available via my website It’s a great companion to take away on a summer holiday or break by the sea, and though subjects are mainly around the British coastline there are many from abroad. It includes a chapter on painting on holiday and a variety of ways of working on the spot, including pen and wash, watercolour pencils, critical observation methods, making the most of figures and seabirds in your work, and beefing up your compositions with a completely different sky to that in your photograph or sketch, plus a host of other ways of achieving a more exciting result, whether you want a tranquil estuary scene, raging seas, a gentle beach or harbour composition or dramatic cliff scenery.
We are blessed with so many stunning river and stream subjects of great variety in the UK, and whatever the weather may throw at us there is something truly pleasurable to sit beside a bubbling brook or fast-flowing mountain cascade. These features can also make excellent lead-ins to an interesting focal point, and there is something almost lifelike in a moving stream.
In this watercolour I’ve played down the actual river, to concentrate more on the surrounding forested hills and the large crag on the right. By introducing a lot of mist I’ve simplified the background, although there is still much detail visible. With a river or canal it will add a sense of mystery and interest if you have the further part of the river turning round a bend – we are all eager to see what’s round the bend!
For the misty effect use plenty of water and build the scene up gradually, dropping the blue-greys or green-greys of the distant trees into a damp area to create lovely soft edges where tree masses appear and disappear into the mist. By placing hard-edged forms with strong tones such as those just above and to the left of the crag, in front of misty passages you will create a powerful sense of depth in the painting.
On Monday 29th April Jenny Keal and myself will be demonstrating for Holderness Arts at Burton Pidsea Memorial Hall, Back Lane, Burton Pidsea HU12 9AN, from 10am to 3pm. I shall be doing a watercolour demonstration in the morning and Jenny will be carrying out a pastel demonstration in the afternoon. Information and tickets are available on 01964 670269 or from the Burton Pidsea shop. Tickets won’t be available at the door on the day. Do come along if you can. We will have books, DVDs, art materials and a number of paintings for sale, and are happy to answer your painting questions. Click here for more information
I will be giving a talk and demonstration at The Galtres Centre, in the Market Place at Easingwold on Friday 26th April, and you are welcome to come and have a chat. The theme will be “Wild Serengeti” and I will be covering encounters and sketching with African wildlife. The event starts at 7.30 pm and for those using satnav the postcode is YO61 3AD. For tickets and information please ring the Galtres Centre on 01347 822472
The scene shows wildebeeste startled by a lion during the annual pilgrimage across the Serengeti, when the line of wildebeeste runs from one end of the horizon to the other. The lion watched them with indifference, probably having eaten so many he couldn’t face any more for a while! I enjoy working on a narrative like this, where there is more than just the visual image. To make the main animals stand out I deliberately simplified the ground directly behind them. Fast movement is depicted not just by blurring the legs slightly and placing them in running positions, but also by the angle and attitude of the body. This is at its clearest in the two beasts 3rd and 4th from the left, where they are moving away from the viewer and their bodies are slightly leaning over to the left as they turn away. The painting was done on Saunders Waterford 140lb rough paper.
Some folk may wonder why I don’t use Facebook, even though there is an account in my name (which I don’t use). I find it almost impossible as I live quite an action-packed life with little time to spare – in fact I don’t paint so often these days because 21st-century life just is too demanding of one’s time. Technology is supposed to make life easier for us, but I find it just adds an extra burden, being so incredibly slow and error-prone. It’s much greater fun to be out in the wilds or at least brandishing the old-fashioned paintbrush somewhere nice and remote.