David Bellamy – Reserving whites in a watercolour

One of the greatest problems concerning the watercolourist is that of reserving whites in a painting. There are several ways of tackling this: the use of the negative painting technique, masking fluid or film, scratching with a knife or scalpel, or the use of Chinese white, white gouache or acrylic. Pulling out colour with a damp brush or tissue, or sponging out when the wash is dry, are further ways of achieving a considerable lightening of the tone, although these latter methods rarely are as glaringly white as the aforementioned ones. Down the centuries white body colour has been employed, the equivalent of our white gouache or Chinese white.

These days even the main watercolour societies feature paintings carried out with much use of white gouache or acrylic paint, so there is no stigma attached to using that method, and I shall illustrate it in a future blog. Scratching can be effective for minor features such as ropes or rigging in a harbour, limited sparkle on water, and similar items, but for larger or more intricate work masking fluid or the negative painting technique is a better method.

In the watercolour on the right I applied masking fluid over the actual icefall with all its complexities, in the positions where you see the absolute white. This, of course, is the naked paper after the masking fluid has been removed near the end of the painting. For the snow lying on the peak and crags, and also for the light cloud, I used the negative painting method, that is, I worked round the white shapes with the darker sky, the rocks and shadow areas. When it was all dry I applied further shadow washes using French ultramarine and cadmium red over some of the snow and rock areas that were in shadow. I could have employed masking fluid to some of these parts, but it results in hard edges and much of the edges there I wanted to appear soft, especially the light cloud. I find it best not to mix the two techniques in the same area as it can get confusing, thus causing errors, so I have deliberately kept the top and bottom halves of the composition apart in that sense.

This is one of the paintings that will appear in my exhibition at the Windrush Gallery from 3rd to 10th May (it will be closed on 7th and 8th May), at Windrush, Gloucestershire, OX18 4TU  Telephone 01451 844425 The gallery open times are from 11 am to 5pm daily. The exhibition will cover a wide variety of scenery, including marine and pastoral paintings. I shall also be doing a watercolour demonstration Painting in the Cooler Months in Windrush village hall on Saturday 9th May at 2pm. If you wish to come along please book in advance:  j.neil299@btinternet.com or phone 01451 844425

Painting reflections in ice

No doubt many of you can’t wait to get out into those crisp winter days, with the countryside bedecked in a white mantle of snow and the iced-up pools and puddles glistening in the pale winter sunlight. Alas, here in wind-swept Mid-Wales there is no snow, no ice and little sign of the sun at the moment. Still, in anticipation of an icy bonanza in the not-too-distant future lets have a look at capturing ice in watercolour.

This is a small part of a watercolour painting of Ffynnon Lloer, The Well of the Moon, a beautiful tarn high up in Snowdonia. It was completely covered in ice when I last visited it. To achieve an ‘icy’ effect rather than a watery one you need to keep the surface of the water absolutely smooth – no ripples, unless you want to apply some to an area of open water. This latter method can help to show the contrast between the ice and water.

Any reflected features, such as the rocks in the above painting, should be kept simple, lacking in strong detail, and use vertical strokes of the brush when applying these reflections. I always find it works best if I use the wet-into-wet method as in this picture. If you bear in mind those few principles when you tackle ice it will hold you in good stead. Ice is one of my favourite subjects, whether in glaciers, ice-caps or just general winter scenes.

Enjoy your painting in 2012 and may it be your best artistic year ever.