David Bellamy – Five Tips for Painting Snow Scenes in Watercolour

We’re coming to the end of a rather strange year, and like many of you I am so thankful for being able to immerse myself in art, to take away the pain of lockdowns, social distancing and lack of travel opportunities. In my painting mind I’ve travelled to many fascinating places while in my studio: the Bavarian Alps (well, I did actually go there in February), Yemen, East Africa, Jordan, Egypt, Oman, Lebanon, Italy, and many other places. I hope you have had similar reflections on past trips while you paint.

With winter upon us it’s a good idea to prepare for any snow scenes, and as the snow doesn’t often last long in the UK we need to be prepared to move fast. This watercolour of Exton village shows only two thirds of the composition, as otherwise some of the features I discuss would appear too small. When working on snow scenes I have 5 tips to share with you:

    1   With much of the paper left untouched to show the snow areas, throwing cast shadows across this will add interest, break up the flat whiteness, and can show up any contours in the ground;

    2   Pull out highlights in cast shadows with a damp brush while the shadow wash is still damp, as seen in the foreground of the painting;

    3   Introduce warm colours to alleviate the coldness of the snow, as I have done here with light red in the left-hand roof and the bushes, even if little colour shows in the scene;

    4   Flecks of white in bushes and trees will enliven the painting, but avoid over-doing this;

    5   While you can use masking fluid to enable you to create white on branches, fence-posts and the like, you may find white gouache or acrylic easier to render.

Enjoy your painting, and if you can’t get out then do as some of the Impressionists did and work from the comfort of an accommodating window, or of course a car. Monsieur Monet, however, quite undeterred by intense cold would put on three overcoats and take a stove with him to work in the snow!

 Anyway, Jenny and I wish you all a Happy Christmas wherever you are, and may all your Christmas stockings overflow with paints, brushes and all manner of art materials.

    See you in 2021!

David Bellamy – BRINGING WARMTH INTO YOUR SNOW LANDSCAPES

I’ve just returned home from doing some staged paintings in the studios at Search Press. They are aimed at the next book which is about landscapes through the seasons. More on that before long. It’s been a truly busy autumn, so busy that I was only able to squeeze in one trip, a visit to the Cinque Terre in Northern Italy, where I managed quite a number of sketches despite appalling weather for much of the time.

There have been so many demonstrations and workshops that my own work has had to be put aside for a while, but at least I might do some of my own painting over Christmas – painting is like a disease, I just have to keep throwing the paint around!

 Hopefully we’ll have some snow at some time, when we can get some new subjects. How it changes the landscape, so be ready to go forth with paints and camera – it might not last long.

The watercolour shows Pen-y-fan, the highest peak in the Brecon Beacons, which is currently on show at the Ardent Gallery in Brecon Tel 01874 623333 (the painting, that is, not the mountain!) I sketched it in colour during the middle of the day a few years ago, but felt it needed more colour, so I added a warm, evening sky and heightened the warmth of the vegetation and on the central tree. It’s always a good idea to add some colour to a cold scene if you can manage it.

 Have a great Christmas and I wish you much success with your paintings in 2020

Painting misty ice-rimed trees

We have a lot of mud in Wales, and this winter it has excelled itself, making hiking something of a messy process, so it would be a pleasant change to see some good clean snow for a change. Then back to mud, of course.

I love those misty mornings with the sun beginning to filter through. It’s worth finding a local river scene on these mornings as they lend themselves well to this sort of atmosphere. This scene shows only part of the composition, and I have applied masking fluid at the top of the birch trees to accentuate the hard edges of the ice-rimed branches. When this had dried I worked in the background wet-in-wet to create a soft, misty effect, and this included the distant trunks and branches. It was an intensely cold morning. I have washed in Naples Yellow into the right-hand sky area and into the birch trees to add a sense of warmth, as well as in the reeds. The water was again achieved wet-in-wet – note how the bank below the birches has a slightly darker reflection than the bank itself.

This is taken from my Winter Landscapes book which is crammed with ideas for painting winter scenery, even if you have no intention of going outside to take full advantage of all that glorious mud!!!

David Bellamy – Painting different sorts of snow

My snow theme continues from the last blog as we’ve had a considerable amount of snow in Mid-Wales in the last few days – about 12 to 15 inches and it is incredibly beautiful. Before the great snowfall, though we had a dusting of snow and it is this I will concentrate on now as it will hopefully give you new ideas and help hone observation skills.

This is part of the view from my bedroom window, and may appear unremarkable. It does have a number of lessons for us, though. Starting from the top, you will see that on the left the white moorland top is caught white against a medium grey sky, but as the eye travels to the right this changes gradually as cloud shadow falls across the moor. At the far right the moor is now darker than the sky. This counterchange effect is extremely useful to add interest to our work, especially in the less exciting parts of the composition.

Below that top band lies rough ground with dead vegetation. The dusting of snow has all but disappeared here but you can detect a slight warming of the colour. One way of achieving this in a watercolour is to rub a candle horizontally across the paper, then lay a wash which perhaps includes some light red to suggest the warm colour. Rough paper will accentuate this technique, and you can create the white pathways visible in places by combining this with masking fluid.

Beneath the band of warmer, broken colour the snow lies on a smoother field and so is more continuous. Grey cast tree shadows fall across it in places and there is an occasional patch of rough ground here and there.

As you are no doubt aware, snow does not always look a pristine white. Observe and analyse the scene before choosing your paper, methods and approach; alter your cloud shadows and move these various parts around to suit yourself. It’s great, creative fun, so enjoy it!

My Winter Landscapes in Watercolour has a lot more on the subject of tackling snow scenes

David Bellamy – Creating a sense of sunlight in snow scenes

Injecting a little sunshine into your landscapes will give them a strong appeal, and the best way of achieving this is to lay cast shadows across a light surface. Nothing will give a more striking or fresh approach than doing this across a pristine snow scene. With winter upon us you will hopefully have opportunities for practising this effect before long.

In this watercolour the sense of strong sunshine has been achieved by laying cast shadows across the foreground and over the left-hand part of the roof. For the shadows I used a mixture of cobalt blue and cadmium red, although very little of the latter was included as it is a powerful colour. This produces a lovely, fresh shadow and is not as dull or overpowering as say burnt umber mixed with the cobalt blue. French ultramarine is also a superb colour if you wish to substitute it for the cobalt blue.

Note also the warm colours employed on the house and trees – this takes away the utter coldness of a snowy landscape. Aim to have white highlights on the snow, but not an overall whiteness. On the left-hand trees I deliberately applied white gouache with a painting knife. I don’t normally do this, but I wanted to show a variety of techniques in my Winter Landscapes in Watercolour book, where this scene appears.

This painting is now on show with several others in the Ardent Gallery, in the High Street, Brecon tel. 01874 623333, and is also available as a Christmas Card, available here 

Don’t forget to watch out for that snow – it rarely seems to stay long these days so make the most of it whilst it’s still around, and preferably before all those tobogganers have churned it all up!