David Bellamy – Fun with Foregrounds

A Happy New Year to you all: I hope you had a great festive season and are looking forward to a better year ahead. Keeping our spirits up during these grim lockdown days is vital, and after so long it’s not easy to come up with new ideas to stop our art becoming stale. Like many, I’ve been going through mountains of old stuff with a view to throwing a lot out, and that process itself has thrown up some interesting ideas. Firstly checking through old transparencies I’ve recently found some real gems from which to work up paintings. Secondly, sketches I previously hadn’t given any thought about creating a painting from have inspired me, highlighting how our tastes and perceptiveness change over the years, and why it’s important to revisit some of these old resources. Thirdly, some of the old art books can trigger ideas for new types of subject, a new medium, or perhaps a different approach to observing subjects.

So this time my tips involve the foreground in a landscape where we may wish to include flowers, plants or wild entanglements. Above is a section of detail from a painting reproduced in my book Landscapes Through the Seasons. I painted the dark areas first and allowed them to start drying. When the sheen was off them, but they were still damp I used a painting knife to score out light stalks/grasses in the right-hand red patch. When all was completely dry I then painted on the cow parsley using white gouache applied with a rigger. Finally I spatttered white gouache in places with a toothbrush. There are more foreground methods in the book to give you ideas for this tricky part of a composition. See my website for details.
Enjoy your painting, and do have some fun going through those old treasures – you never know what you may find!

David Bellamy – Where do I stick the boat?

Many people find painting boats a challenge, and although they love working on harbour or coastal scenes where boats are featured, it is often the rendering of the boats that lets them down. Some boats, of course, are notoriously complicated and awkward even for the professionals, but here I’d like to offer some help and a few tips for those who find these fascinating subjects rather a struggle.

This watercolour is part of a small painting on Waterford 300lb rough paper, where I have included a few small dinghies that together with the figures form the focal point of the composition. Pushing boats into the middle distance like this makes them considerably simpler, and yet they can still be the centre of interest. By having them broadside on to the viewer you will eliminate those often excruciatingly difficult curves which may be present when you look at them from a side angle, but you can still give them a gentle rake where the top of the gunnel curves slightly upwards to the prow. If you are working on a reasonably large boat that is broadside on, closer to the foreground then use the shallower curve of French Curves to help you. With more experience work on more challenging boats.

Keeping the figures close to the boats emphasises the two elements as a focal point, but you can also use figures to hide those parts of the boat you may find awkward. Tarpaulins, netting, buoys, oars, lobster pots and all manner of seafaring detritus can also be used to break up parts of boats, as well as adding colour. Of course, you may be painting a truly picturesque harbour and find the main boat in the scene is a complicated mess and not at all attractive. Leave it out and substitute another, more handsome craft to your liking. It pays to sketch and photograph really good individual boats from all angles and at a variety of distances so that you can use these as substitutes in a composition. 

A few years ago I filmed a number of scenes painting on the coast aimed at a DVD to release with my Seas & Shorelines book, but I mislaid the footage and the book came out on its own. However, I found the coastal footage a while back and this has now been produced as a new Seas & Shorelines DVD, which can be bought on its own or as a special book & dvd offer and this is solely available from my website. It contains many tips on painting boats as well as other maritime subjects. There is also a clip of the DVD on You Tube.

This is not the best time of year for getting out to sketch in the landscape, but given the problem with Coronavirus you may well feel the effort is worthwhile. I spend a lot of time outdoors and on Saturday went up the Black Mountains to paint some snow scenes. Being out in nature is one of the best antidotes to our current situation, but make sure you wrap up warm. I visited Cotswold Outdoor a few days ago to get some new sketching gloves and they have two or three excellent versions which are thin, warm and ideal for sketching in cold conditions. There are naturally many tips for working outdoors in winter in my Landscapes Through the Seasons in Watercolour book. 

    Enjoy your painting!

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 – Capturing colour and texture on tree-trunks

Featured

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 – 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.