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 – Making Still Life more interesting

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The weather continues to be glorious sunshine every day, as though mocking us in our state of lockdown, though even a brief sojourn into the garden can lift our spirits immensely. One genre of painting that is so pertinent in our current situation is, of course, still life. Did I hear a groan? Yes, I’m afraid the thought of painting apples and oranges in a bowl doesn’t exactly set me alight, so when I had to include still life in my Complete Guide to Watercolour Painting many years ago, I really had to rack my brains. My answer was to look for still life subjects based on my hobbies and interests. Ice climbing was one of my interests and when I came across an ancient ice axe and snow shoes in a French refuge I made a sketch of them hanging on a wall.

    As you can see, I’ve lost parts of the snow-shoe rims in order to emphasise other parts. For the book I’d painted a snowy mountain background, but here I wanted to show up the ice-axe much larger. When doing the original sketch I didn’t have much control over the lighting, but if you have the object before you then you can adjust the lighting to create highlights in the right places. If you are a gardener you may like to depict a spade or trowel, or maybe a wheelbarrow. Balls of wool make colourful subjects, perhaps accompanied by knitting apparatus, while fishing reels, old worn-out boots, favourite hats, model ships and the like, and so much more can make challenging objects to paint or draw.

    Many thanks for all your best wishes and comments. Try to keep painting and being creative. Check out the online community of The Artist and Leisure Painter magazines at www.painters-online.co.uk where you’ll get a host of help and ideas. Please note that if you order anything from our shop at the moment there might be a slight delay owing to the current situation. The next blog will feature my painting of the subject I set on the previous blog. Stay safe!

David Bellamy – Creating a sense of sunlight

Today we have glorious sunshine lighting up our landscapes, so I am eager to get out into the fresh air once this is written. On Sunday I was up on the local moors in brilliant sunshine, but how different – icy blasts swept across the hills, so I kept moving. However poorly I may be I always find that getting outside lifts the spirits and I return in a much better mood. If I haven’t managed any sketches I am still eager to get stuck into painting. Such is the power of nature!

Sunshine, whether scorching or accompanied by icy blasts, is so vital to the landscape artist and it is great practice on sunny days to consider the effects of sunlight on landscape features rather than concentrate too hard on the landscape itself. 

This is a watercolour sketch of Abinger Hammer nestling below the North Downs. My prime aim here was to capture the strong sense of a hot summer day, so I ensured there were strong tonal contrasts in the buildings where sunlit walls abutted shadow areas, and where the sunlight fell strongly I reduced the effect of architectural details as you can see between the clock tower and the main tree on the left. Most importantly, the shadow cast from the tree conveys the greatest feeling of sunlight, and this was the last part of the scene that I rendered. The illustration is featured in my book Landscapes Through the Seasons published by Search Press, and available from my website. 

You can still take part in the competition featured in Leisure Painter magazine, to win one of my original watercolours. You need a copy of the December issue of the magazine, and if you cannot find it in the shops you can obtain it post-free via this link https://www.painters-online.co.uk/store/back-issues/leisure-painter/leisure-painter-december-2020-issue-262-1  

    Keep painting!

David Bellamy – Painting autumn scenes in watercolour

Autumn is upon us, and with the trees turning colour it’s a great time to be out capturing those magical views, whether in sunshine, rain or whatever: rain can create more atmospheric scenes, but if you can catch that moment after a shower when the sun comes out and makes everything sparkle it can be truly magical – watch out for those stunning reflections of colour and light in the puddles. 

This year autumn is also bringing out my new book, Landscapes Through the Seasons, which has just been published by Search Press. It is in fact an expansion and update of my Winter Landscapes book – many people were asking about a summer book, but with other books in the pipeline I could not have written a whole book on summer landscapes for several years. The spring and autumn sections have also been expanded.

The illustration shows a watercolour sketch done on a cartridge sketchbook on a sunny November afternoon and reproduced in the book. If you are out sketching at this time of the year it really does pay to use colour, whether in watercolour, watercolour pencils, acrylics, inks or whatever you fancy. Note that the most powerful  effects occur when abutting the complementary colours of purple and orange against each other – if that tree of glowing orange doesn’t quite come in front of that distant purple hill, then give it an artistic shove and see the effect. Likewise warm yellows against the blues and purples will make your autumn scenes sing. Flying leaves and trees with just a few single leaves remaining can add to the season’s visual treasures, and these can be achieved in watercolour by little dabs of masking fluid. By applying a dark colour over these dabs you can then create sparkling light leaves when you rub off the masking fluid. Let your yellows, reds and oranges run into one another in the foliage to vary the overall effect.

The later paintings in the book are carried out with Daniel Smith Extra-fine watercolours, and many of these are exceptionally effective for autumn colours, such as Aussie red gold, transparent red oxide, moonglow and quinacridone Sienna. Quinacridone gold and gamboge are also great colours for this time of year. We all need something new to brighten up these difficult days of lockdowns, so treat yourself to some of these amazing colours.

David Bellamy – Making the most of summer landscapes

I’ve at last managed to see my grand-daughter after nine months…..far too long a time, but the re-union was a wonderful moment! Bit exhausting as well, keeping up with a lively 3-year-old. That, and other urgent work has kept me from doing any blogs for 6 weeks, I’m afraid.

Summer still clings on with some beautiful days, the trees in fine form. When painting summer trees in full leaf I find it easiest to do the foliage in two stages, firstly the lighter colour – usually green – and then the darker, shadow green. It pays to run your branches into the darker shadows, losing them naturally rather than in stark contrast. Make sure you stab little spots of the green outside the main boundary of the foliage as you see in the watercolour below, otherwise your foliage will appear lumpy.

Just above the stile and slightly to the right you will see some light spots of yellowy-green. These were achieved with gouache, which being opaque will show up over dark areas, unlike pure watercolour, and here they suggest detail within a dark, featureless part of the tree. The stile and some branches in the bottom right-hand bush have been done with the negative method whereby the darkest passages have been painted with a fine no. 6 sable brush to avoid those features.

This painting is featured in my new book Landscapes Through the Seasons, to be published shortly by Search Press. Amongst other things, it includes introducing flowers into the landscape, managing summer greens, brushwork for foliage, the power of introducing spot colour, coping with riotous summer foregrounds, emphasising a sense of spring and fiery autumn colours. The book is actually an extension of my Winter Landscapes book, as so many have enquired about one on summer landscapes. You will find details on my website, www.davidbellamy.co.uk in a few weeks time.

Make the most of what is left of summer and make sure you gather as many subjects to paint in sketch or photographic form before winter arrives and we get any further lockdowns. Painting is such a wonderful antidote to Covid-19!!!

David Bellamy – On-line watercolour workshop of a Mountain Painting

I write this as a follow-up to my online workshop this afternoon on Shopkeeparty, which was a simple 45-minute demonstration in watercolour of the Middim Khola River in the Nepal Himalaya where I led a trek and paint group in 2000. The aim was to demonstrate how to achieve a sense of space and distance, create a tranquil mood in dramatic backlighting, dropping in spot colour and illustrating several brush techniques.

This shows the finished painting: I added a little extra sparkle by scratching with a scalpel below the trees and finally painted in a few dark blobs in the foreground to suggest larger stones in the river, but otherwise it is basically as completed during the workshop. If you took part I hope you enjoyed the experience and if you missed it you can still find it on Youtube

Next Tuesday, 11th August I will be running a watercolour Masterclass again with Shopkeeparty, and this will last around 2.5 to 3 hours. The subject will be Blencathra mountain in the Lake District with Thirlmere in the foreground, and of course with much more time I will be covering so much more, showing mountain structure, atmosphere, reflections in still water, massed and individual trees, crags, how to introduce more colour naturally, brushwork, negative painting and much more. I will be using my favourite, Saunders Waterford paper. Details are available at    https://shopkeepeasy.com/davidbellamy   You will be able to ask questions throughout and we will move at a pace that will ensure you can keep up with the painting being demonstrated. The Masterclass painting will bring in more colour than the above scene which was aimed at creating a strong moody backlit subject.

In the meantime, enjoy your painting!