David Bellamy – Changing the mood in a landscape painting

I missed doing an intended blog last week as I had three short videos to produce in connection with the forthcoming Patchings Virtual Art Festival next week. It starts on July 9th which was the intended date for the original festival, and you can find information on www.patchingsartcentre.co.uk Of the other two videos I made, one was for Painters Online at  www.painters-online.co.uk  run by Leisure Painter and The Artist magazines, and this shows ten tips I’ve put together for landscapists, while the third one was for Search Press which you can find on  www.searchpress.com  and this features a number of my crazy anecdotes on sketching expeditions. All three videos are quite different and I hope you enjoy them.

 You’ve had to wait a little longer than intended for my version of Llyn Mymbyr, so here is my effort together with the two photographs shown in the earlier blog:

This is the original scene that shows afternoon light catching the Plas y Brenin Mountain Centre buildings on the far side of the lake. As some interesting crags dropped into the water to the right of this composition I wanted to include them in the painting and illustrate how I go about bringing two visual sources of reference together for one painting.

This is the shot of the crags to the right of the above view, though it’s in shadow, a common problem when we are working outdoors, but it’s easy enough to bring two prints together and even better when you have a sketch as well. Getting these to fuse together on a laptop for the purpose of showing you, however, is not so easy for a non-tech neanderthal……..

In my version I have reduced the buildings so that interest is focused on the craggy peak, Clogwyn Mawr, which I’ve featured in strong evening light, while bringing in some mist behind the line of trees. I often change the atmosphere of a scene completely, and that really is my main lesson here: you don’t need to paint the scene as you see it, but as you would like to see it. Try small versions as studio sketches before you make a start on the painting. There are so many different ways of tackling a scene with a variety of moods and seasonal changes. Enjoy your painting! 

David Bellamy – Subjects to Paint in Self-Isolation

Spring is always a great pleasure in Mid-Wales: buds are springing out, daffodils caught in the spring sunshine invoke a joyous feeling as they are set against the sparkling water of the garden pond, while the birdsong is especially uplifting at the moment. The frogs have come and gone after their annual orgy in the pond, their massed croaking drifting into the house in waves of communal ecstasy. The sparrows are forever darting about, but with the mating season in full swing they are pretty aggressive: at times the undergrowth is waving about madly with their exertions! All this I see from my studio window, as well as the new-born lambs gambolling around in the field next door.

    All this seems utterly surreal given our present predicament with this nasty virus, but as artists we are lucky to have an occupation or hobby that transports us to other worlds, if only for a brief period. Your response to my last blog post was so rewarding and I’m glad so many of you found it helpful. I’ve just completed a deadline for my book on Landscapes Through the Seasons, so while I am still working on another book, I now have more time to push out blogs that will hopefully give you some ideas during this difficult period when we have to self-isolate. Although I am mainly a landscape artist I will try to cover a number of genres to provide as much variety as I can, including imaginary subjects and maybe even fantasy – we all need a little fantasy now and then. I know many of you are flower painters, for example, so why not start there?

    Flowers and still life are obvious subjects to fall back on when we are house-bound. My work on flowers is almost exclusively on wild flowers as part of a landscape, but I did touch on cut flowers in my book Complete Guide to Watercolour Painting. If you are painting a vase of flowers pick out one or two blooms that stand out and play the others down slightly by losing edges and running colours into one another. Suggesting background shapes with a plain, shadowy wash can accentuate a sense of depth in the composition, and introducing some spatter effect as I’ve done round some of the edges in this watercolour, gives a sense of spontaneity and life. You don’t always need a background but if you do include one then play it down so that the flowers take pride of place. A simple suggestion of perhaps the edge of a table can also set it up well. Saunders Waterford high white is an excellent paper for flowers as its white is so brilliant, and Bockingford is a good alternative.

    Those without a garden may find it difficult at the moment, unless you have a window-box. Now, of course is the time to set seeds so if you are bereft of window-boxes or flower baskets try to get one, even if you have to rely on a rusty old bucket – sometimes these decrepit old things can have far more character than the latest gleamingly spotless container. Plant a few seeds and before very long you will have new subjects to work on, but don’t ask me what to plant – unlike my late namesake Professor David Bellamy or my brother Malcolm, I’m not a horticultural expert! Also consider getting miniature trees and exotic plants.

    More tips and ideas soon, and maybe I should shortly do one especially for the lads, perhaps on how to paint the Cold War era Soviet T-64 main battle tank in action, although I doubt that many of you will have one of those in your garden…….  Keep safe and keep painting!

Direct sunlight bleaching out detail in trees

Capturing sunlight effects in watercolour can be a magical, though sometimes a little less than magical experience, depending on the result. One effect that many artists ignore is that of the sunlight burning out the detail of branches when you look directly into a low sun, yet it can enhance a landscape immeasurably. Usually we observe it only when it intrudes on our scene as backlighting towards sunset, but it is easy enough to go out on a sunny evening and seek out a suitable example.

  Looking directly into the sun can be dangerous to your eyes, so wear dark glasses and don’t look right into the sun. If you use a camera be sure you don’t look at the sun through the lens. Staring into bright light for any length of time can be extremely uncomfortable and cause spots before the eyes, so if you are keen on capturing this effect then keep your gaze away from the brightest part of the sunlight, making sure you are fully protected with sunglasses.
This scene is detail from one of the paintings in my forthcoming book Skies, Light & Atmosphere, and you can see how the strong direct sunlight has bleached out the ends and parts of branches, while at the same time turning them to red and gold. It also has the effect of weakening the strength of tone in the affected parts. Most of this effect was achieved with a fine sable brush – a number 2 or 3. Try out the effect of changing colour and strength of tone on scrap paper, and with a little practice you’ll find it won’t be too difficult a technique to master. Ease the pressure off the brush as you describe the branch, moving outwards from the trunk.
Skies, Light & Atmosphere covers a wide range of landscape subjects and will be available in early June. There is an associated DVD of the same name, available exclusively from our website or at my demonstrations and courses. Watch out for our special offer on the book and DVD