David Bellamy – Capturing colour and texture on tree-trunks

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Trees are some of the loveliest subjects to paint, whether they are part of your composition or the subject itself. Often, the villagers where I live, seeing me setting forth with knapsack will enquire where I am going.

“I’m off to find a tree,” I reply. They tended at first to look in puzzlement as several hundred trees would be visible from where we stood. Now they know I am scouting for good specimens of trees to sketch, for it’s always reassuring to know that your sketchbooks contain many examples that can be placed into a composition that needs just a little extra. Trees that are close by and reveal fascinating trunk detail make exciting subjects.

I loved the way the branches twisted snake-like in all directions on this oak, but it was the colours and textures of the lower trunk that excited me most. Seek out colour in the bark of trees and exaggerate this if need be to accentuate the character of the tree. Find good examples – not all oaks display a handsome profile – and take the outstanding textures of one tree to enhance another, perhaps more shapely specimen to combine them in one within your composition.

This illustration is taken from my new book Landscapes Through the Seasons, just published by Search Press. It includes a great many examples of trees in their various states. Many artists find summer is the most difficult time for painting trees and there are many tips and techniques for tackling all that greenery and making your trees look so much more authentic. Signed copies of the book are available on the website at www.davidbellamy.co.uk

 In the current issue of Leisure Painter magazine there is a competition to win one of my original watercolours, so do check it out.

With England once more in lockdown these are not easy times, but through our painting we can escape into other worlds. With thousands of sketches from many parts of the world I find it a great solace to be able to paint scenes from far-flung places while working in my studio, bringing back memories of exciting times amidst some remarkable people and places. So many of the sketches are linked to stories. I hope you are also able to conjure up these times through sketches, photos, diaries or even books about places where you’ve been. Sometimes all we need is a little spark to set us off on an inspirational painting, and these are some way in which to light that spark.

David Bellamy – Creating a sense of movement in vehicle paintings

Sketching moving objects can be quite dramatic, especially if it’s an enormous tank churning around in mud with bits of earth flying in all directions. Vehicles make for complicated subjects, and tanks are no exception, but when they are moving across rough ground they often throw up a lot of dirt, dust, smoke and all kinds of things that are very handy for losing parts of the vehicle and giving a strong impression of movement.

This sketch of a Soviet T-72 tank of the Cold War era was done with a 4B pencil. The cloud of dust behind it and the loss of detail in the lower wheel and track suggest movement. I’d already sketched one coming directly towards me as I tried to capture the sense of atmosphere and a fast-turning tank, but in this view I wanted to bring in more detail as it moved broadside on from my viewpoint. The advantage here was that it paused enough for me to render a lot of the detail before it resumed a steady progress to the right.

Simply suggesting some of the wheels helped to give a sense of a moving vehicle and of course it made my task easier. To indicate greater speed I would normally lose more detail at the rear, but here I wanted to include detail I might need later. Spattering more muck around at the rear would also emphasise this effect.

Whilst you may not wish to sketch in the middle of tank manoeuvres these points can help when you are painting a scene with moving tractors in a field, or excavators digging up your local green space, and it makes quite a change from a still life after weeks of lockdown!

I will be doing a free 45-minute online demo at 2pm on Tuesday 4th August which you are welcome to join in with your own painting at the same time – details are at  https://www.shopkeeparty.com/artyclasses 

and on Tuesday 11th March at 3.30 pm I will be doing an online watercolour masterclass details can be found at   https://www.shopkeeparty.com/artyclasses
Both will be live online so you’ll be able to ask questions.

Enjoy your painting…….

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 – With watercolours to Austria

September was another of those all-action months where there was no time to write blogs: sadly there are many things happening which I simply don’t have time to relate. On 14th September I had one of the proudest moments of my life when Catherine, my daughter, married Nicko. They met at clown school in Paris many years ago and had an amazing wedding with the reception in a delightful woodland setting. Overwhelmingly, the guests were actors, actresses, directors, producers, musicians, magicians, clowns (of course), singers, and folks from the entertainment industry. The Bollywood-style dance was truly jaw-dropping, and the church service rocked.

A few days later Austria beckoned: a painting group holiday arranged by Richard Cartwright of West Norfolk Arts with the assistance and local expertise of our friend Christof Hoelzl who found us some exciting locations to paint.

Based in the beautiful Stubaital valley we painted and sketched the surrounding peaks, and on a very wet day tackled a waterfall. Although I don’t do many city and town scenes we spent a day in Hall which has many splendid old buildings, and I found myself really enjoying the change. The watercolour of Rosengasse was done quickly in a cartridge sketchbook while it was spitting with rain. I could see much more than I’ve included, particularly beneath the church tower, but I did not want to over-work it, and eliminating distant detail further suggests distance.

I’ve run the colours of the walls into one another, assisted by the falling rain, while Christof gallantly held his umbrella over the sketchbook as I demonstrated. One feature I love about these Austrian towns is the ubiquitous hanging signs with their ornate metal hangers. I took the opportunity of photographing many of these to use elsewhere, possibly as collages. Note how I have vignetted the interesting stonework of the street so that only few stones are shown in the foreground.

 With autumn upon us do get ready for those glorious colours. Don’t wait just for those lovely sunny days, as the bright yellow and orange leaves reflecting in puddles can work wonders for your painting.

David Bellamy – Thrashing around for a sketch

The recent Patchings Art Festival in Nottinghamshire was something of a whirlwind for us, with almost non-stop activity on our stand, and interest in my new book, Seas & Shorelines was astonishing. The book sold out and that was not including the other books. Having meetings with a number of people, I really didn’t manage to see even half the show this year, and had to miss out meeting many artists, but as usual it was a fabulous show, easily the best in the UK. It was a delight to meet so many students even though I was torn away so often by sheer numbers. I did three demonstrations in the St Cuthberts Mill marquee on their superb Waterford and Bockingford papers, and had the privilege of being accompanied on stage by some local wildlife: at the rear of the marquee a nest of bees became interested in the demonstrations. Having these massive bees circling round your head as you paint away does tend to inject a real buzz to your work!

 Getting back home was no picnic. The next day my two-year-old grand-daughter arrived and more or less took over the place, causing delightful mayhem and scattering my toys all over the place. About a week after returning from Patchings things returned almost to normal and I decided to go for a hike in a local gorge. Unfortunately it was massively overgrown with vegetation and I’d forgotten my boots and stick. It took some time to break through to the lip of the gorge, but once there I managed a couple of pencil sketches, one of which appears above. I had to leave out most of the background tree detail.

I continued upstream, high above the rocky course of the stream along a slippery, eroded pathway, but by now armed with a sturdy pole I’d found lying on the ground. Under some cliffs and round the corner I descended into the undergrowth from hell. Nobody had been this way for years probably. I was confronted by a dense area of briars, nettles, branches and other vegetation, all covering many fallen tree-trunks. I didn’t want to return the way I’d come so I literally thrashed my way through the undergrowth, mounting each tree-trunk and attacking the undergrowth beyond before leaping down the far side. This took ages and in the heat the perspiration was running off me. At the far end – some 70 yards or so – I looked back and realised it would have been better to have jumped into the river and waded up, thus avoiding the undergrowth.

There was much more to the day, but I shall pause there. I returned home happy with a brace of sketches and having had plenty of exercise. Just being in such a marvellous spot and enjoying the natural environment is something really special. Even for a few scratches!

 Signed copies of Seas & Shorelines are available from my website