The onset of spring nearly always gives us all a sense of hopeful anticipation of more pleasing times to come, perhaps more so this year than ever before as we attempt to recover from this dreadful virus. I hope you are able to get outside and take advantage of the better days, and perhaps manage a sketch or two. For me, daffodils always make a powerful foreground feature, and it’s worth capturing some images of these while you are out.
This image is part of a painting depicting lambs in early spring. Sheep are relatively easy to draw, but can pose problems for the unwary at the painting stage, especially where you have a light-coloured field caught in sunshine: you need a slightly darker area behind the sheep so that it stands out, and as you can see in this painting I have included several darker patches of grass in order to highlight the sheep. Generally I use Naples yellow for the main body, often leave a white top on head and body to accentuate the sense of light. This is normally left as white paper, but touching in a little white gouache can help rescue one that has not quite worked.
When including lambs it is important to put across a sense of the relationship between mother and lamb, or between a number of lambs enjoying each other’s company. This makes it look so much more natural. Compare the lamb by its mother in the foreground with the one on the distant right which is lying on it’s own. The closer couple invoke a much more pleasing composition.
One of the stronger background features is the gate. Although this has nothing to do with springtime I mention it because it is a good example of negative painting. Here, I have worked the darker colour around the gate and posts to define the light woodwork. I never include all five or so bars as it’s good to keep some hidden in the long grass! The painting was done on Saunders Waterford NOT 140lb paper.
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
The other day, despite poor weather I went out for a walk, optimistically taking my sketching gear along……..but then, I’m never without it anyway. The morning became even drabber, the weather forecasters had really screwed this one up! However, we shouldn’t be too despondent as we can learn so much outdoors, even in the direst of weather.
I suddenly came upon this view of a conifer wood, and marvelled at the simple moody beauty. Apart from the closer trees, all detail is lost in the atmosphere – here was a superb lesson on how to cope with massed trees in a painting, courtesy of Mother Nature herself. You can easily make out the various tones, getting stronger as the massed trees get closer, and it makes the rendering of them so much easier when approached this way. In a painting you would do best to lose some of those edges – perhaps have an intermittent edge on the rows of trees, as in fact you see in the middle line.
This technique can be used in good weather as well, of course. I’ve been out again today in glorious sunshine and the same effect on massed trees was clearly visible when viewing them against the sun. Practice the method with your watercolours. If you have a large area of massed trees try to avoid putting in too many of the lines of trees, and often a half-line can be equally effective. These lessons are all around us, so keep your eyes open – you don’t even need a sketchbook!