David Bellamy – Painting massed trees in a landscape

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 Most of the time I find there is too much action happening and not enough talking – it’s great fun, but leaves little time for communicating, and there is not enough room in this blog to cover everything. I’ll have to leave my sketching adventures in Snowdonia of last week for the next blog.    

On Sunday in Aberedw we had an event to raise money for the Ukrainian refugees. We are only a tiny village but we raised over £1,000 and will be trying to get another event organised soon in which I hope to be able to sell paintings in support of these unfortunate people. It’s hardly believable that this is happening in Europe in the 21st century, and sadly we have a pretty poor political representative locally, so I’ve been active in ruffling some political feathers as well.

As with Covid, it is amazing how art, like nature, can help us in wartime, whether to take our mind off the dangers of war, or  perhaps cooling our anger at the appalling and brutal actions of dictators like Putin. With spring about to burst upon us it’s a good time to get out into the landscape. One of the things that causes many students problems is when trees are massed together. Trying to make sense of it all can seem unsurmountable at times.

 In this section of a painting you will see the varying tones on the four blocks of conifers, the strength of tones suggesting a sense of depth in the scene, aided by a feeling of a misty day. It’s usually a good idea to include a bright colour amongst duller ones as you can see in the bottom centre. The light is coming from the left so the edges on the right-hand side of the trees have been kept soft, while those to the left are harder-edged where they are caught in the sunshine. The bright yellow foliage does not appear in the centre of the full painting as that would not be compositionally helpful.

 My watercolour course in Builth Wells from 3rd to 8th April still has a few vacancies, and anyone who would like to join us on a non-residential basis will be welcome. The Caer Beris Manor Hotel will charge a modest fee for refreshments and hotel facilities, plus a tuition fee of £215. You can check the course information on my website and book the course with the hotel on 01982 552601  We shall be using the hotel ballroom as a studio this time, so there is plenty of room for us all to work and keep apart.

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 – PAINTING WITH DANIEL SMITH WATERCOLOUR STICKS

For some time now I’ve been using the watercolour sticks produced by Daniel Smith, mainly for sketching out of doors. They make a great addition to my sketching gear, and although I still love using the half-pans in the great outdoors, the sticks provide a rapid method of capturing a colour rendition of a scene. Lovely rich colour peels off the sticks effortlessly with a brush, but you can also use them directly onto the paper. As I use the robust Saunders Waterford watercolour papers they can take quite rough treatment whether you apply the sticks onto wet or dry paper.

This is a rapid sketch of the Edw Gorge done whilst standing beside the river and applying colour direct from the sticks onto Saunders Waterford rough paper, then applying water with a large Pentel Aquash brush. These brushes hold their own water, so there’s no messing about with pots. I laid French ultramarine over the background, mixing in quinacridone Sienna lower down. The foliage was painted with yellow ochre plus Bismuth Vanadate Yellow in places. I then washed over it all with the Aquash brush. While the foliage was still damp I added quinacridone Sienna dirctly with the stick. To achieve sharper and more accurate detail I then picked up colour off the sticks with the brush and painted in the rock detail and trunks and branches, using lunar black for the very dark details, including some mixed into the river with French ultramarine. It was all over in a few minutes.

I shall be demonstrating how to use these sticks at Erwood Station Gallery & Craft Centre on Friday 7th June when I will be signing copies of my new book David Bellamy’s Complete Guide to Landscapes. Action starts at 2pm and I will be there till 4pm so do come along and join in the fun. Erwood Station is a great place to hang out, enjoy a cappuccino and they have the most delicious cakes and pastries! I’ll also have framed and unframed paintings at a discount, but do come and have a look at these magical painting sticks and ask any questions. Erwood Station is about six miles south of Builth Wells, just off the A470 from where it is well signposted. Telephone 01982 560555

DAVID BELLAMY PAINTING LANDSCAPES

Every time I’ve been away this year my hiking and sketching has been accompanied by so much wind and rain that it may well put one off these activities, but no, it’s just great to get out into the wilds. Having recently finished my next practical book, which will be published next year, it’s a marvellous sense of freedom. I’ll say more about that book in another blog before long, but this time I must mention my Complete Guide to Landscapes book which is just out this month. It’s a big 288-page volume that has been put together by Search Press from my previous 4 how-to books: Mountains & Moorlands, Skies, Light & Atmosphere, Seas & Shorelines and Landscapes Through the Seasons. It’s a very comprehensive guide to painting landscapes, and at £19.99 good value if you don’t already have any of the original books.

You can obtain the book directly from Search Press if you wish: www.searchpress.com Email: sales@searchpress.com telephone 01892 510850

Please note that we have now closed our own online shop that was linked to my website. After many stalwart years of keeping it going, so often with many battles coping gallantly with constant online changes and hassles , Jenny has decided to retire. I shall endeavour to carry on painting and writing as it is the main thing that keeps me (relatively) sane in such a mad world.

DAVID BELLAMY – THE JOYS OF SKETCHING

Whether you go out sketching to find subjects to paint back home, or perhaps to record days out in a sketching journal, or simply for the joy of being out enjoying sketching, there is no doubt that the value of this activity stretches well beyond just the artistic side. For me sketching is calming, and like nature, helps to reduce the stresses of life. I often sketch just for the joy of it, without any thought of working up a painting from the experience, and find that diving into old sketchbooks brings so many happy memories flooding back.

This pencil sketch was done on a December day on Dartmoor, a place I have always loved. I’ve only made on colour note, and that’s about the chimney pots being black, a rather unusual colour. In the centre of the buildings is a rather confused area, the sort of things we often find when we want to do a painting of the scene back home. It can be very annoying when you have a stunning subject to paint and there’s an annoying omission, and especially when it’s bang in the centre of the composition.

Here the problem is fairly easy to overcome: I could simply lose the apparent gap and join the buildings together, or hide it behind a bush, a figure, or another feature. However, one remedy I regularly use is to introduce a little bit of artistic obfuscation, which has the advantage of simplifying matters. I swipe across a wash of colour without attempting to add in any detail whatsoever. I also use the technique to substitute an ungly feature with the wash, sometimes dropping in a second colour for variety.

Erwood Station Gallery & Craft Centre near Builth Wells is now open after a short break, and they are organising an Amateur Portrait Artist of the Year 2024 competition over the summer months, to promote the arts, give amateur artists an opportunity to be seen and showcase how the arts can help people in their mental health. The first round takes place on Saturday April 6th. If you don’t feel up to participating just come along and watch, and maybe pick up a few tips. You can obtain information from Stacey on 01982 560555 or email her at erwoodstation@hotmail.com

DAVID BELLAMY: PAINTING WIND-TORN CLOUDS

Recently I was up in the Brecon Beacons on a windy day which was unpleasant for sketching out of doors high up, but marvellous for the ever-changing cloud formations rapidly scudding across the mountains. The light and shadow effects were constantly providing new sketching opportunities. On days like these it’s invaluable to take advantage of such stunning skies, but so often if I rely simply on photographs I find the results less than satisfying. So I try to get in one or two sketches at least.

The image shows wild clouds over Corn Du, and for this I used two Daniel Smith Watercolour Sticks: French ultramarine and Lunar black, to produce an almost monochrome blue-grey. There sticks are fabulous as sketching tools, and are especially effective on a windy day like this when you can hold them in one hand which also grips the sketchbook, while painting with a synthetic Aquash brush which has water in its handle. I completely wet the paper first, then picked up colour directly off the sticks, applying one colour to the sky area and then picking up the other colour. Mixing them on the paper like this can be very effective, but you can mix them on the side of the sketch, on scrap paper, or carry a small palette – even a jam-jar lid would work well if you were limiting your colours to just a few.

Because I wet the paper first all the cloud edges are soft and my brush darted to and fro, inserting blobs of paint to create darker patches of cloud, while leaving some parts as clean, white paper. Soon the paper had dried and I then outlined the mountain peak in, softening the edges of it in places before entering the rock strata lower down. I now use these sticks constantly – the lovely rich colour lifts off so easily, and the sticks mix so well, and they have a definite advantage over a box of half-pans when you need to stand up to paint. Unless, of course you have a suitably positioned table nearby, or a friendly Egyptian policeman who is happy to hold your half-pan box as has happened to me in the past! Do give them a try.

David Bellamy – Looking into Fierce Light

Strong evening or early morning light, when it is low on the horizon, can produce some powerful atmospheric effects, such as losing detail, creating a dynamic sense of drama and changing the actual colours of various features. However, it’s not always easy to look into fierce sunlight and observe the scene for any length of time, even with sunglasses. Taking a series of photos, each with a different aperture setting can reap rewards, but if you are able to quickly capture the essential elements of the scene with a colour medium, so much the better. Watercolour pencils can be very effective for this, as watercolour paints can be quite a challenge in such fastly-changing effects.

Evening light, Llangwm

In this painting carried out on Waterford 300lb NOT paper I created the light area in the sky with Naples yellow around a white spot and then introduced quinacridone gold and permanent alizaring crimson. Working quickly I brought in washes of weak French ultramarine, in places mixed with cadmium red for the stronger wisps of cloud. These wisps were applied with a large swordliner brush. After allowing the paper to dry I painted in detail of trees and buildings with mixtures or French ultramarine and cadmium red in various strengths, sometimes with hardly any ultramarine. Aussie red gold also enlivened things up in places, particularly the right-hand bush.

By leaving out certain details like one end of a building on the sunlit side, the sense of mood is increased, with the colours becoming cooler the further away they are from the centre of the light. You may well have existing photos that can be used to create a work of this nature, but do take care when looking into fierce sunlight and wear dark sunglasses to protect your eyes. Avoid staring directly into the sun.

Well, Christmas is upon us once more, and hopefully you will find some artistic present in your stocking! Have a great Christmas and I wish you every success with your paintings in 2024, and good health.