DAVID BELLAMY: LANDSCAPE COMPOSITION

Taking time to consider your composition before you begin painting is critical, and unless you are working from a sketch with a fairly well-planned composition it’s worth doing one or two studio sketches to plan the overall design. While we may feel that composition is solely concerned with the positioning of the various elements of a scene, we also need to think about the atmosphere and lighting conditions, and how this will affect the finished result.

In this watercolour of Ravenglass in Cumbria I have kept the horizon line below the halfway mark and the focal point – the cottages – approximately one third from the bottom and one third from the left-hand side in the classic golden rule of thirds. There are times, however when you may wish to ignore this rule, so don’t feel you are bound to it. Happily in watercolour you can always cut a bit off the side, top or bottom if you want to adjust matters! While most of the detail is around the cottages I placed a boat over on the right-hand side to balance things out: it doesn’t compete with the focal point but helps the overall design. Note that the boat is happily looking into the composition. It was in fact sulking a long way off to the right.

The streaks of water in the foreground were all over the place, so I changed them to use as a lead in to the focal point. Closer to the left-hand edge I have washed a dull shadow over the buildings, as it is best not to introduce strong detail or contrasts at the very edge. Between the posts to the right of the cottages you can see two figures, although these might well be mistaken for giant sticks of rhubarb as I haven’t given them much shape, Figures and animals of course draw the eye and it’s helpful to position them near the main detail. Finally we come to the format. I wanted to suggest a tranquil, early evening mood, so I opted for a rectangular layout emphasising the horizontals in the sea, the cloud formation and the ground detail, with the distant land lost in the haze by laying a glaze over it. It was painted on Saunders Waterford rough 140lb paper using Daniel Smith extra-fine watercolours.

Just to remind you that I shall be demonstrating how to use Daniel Smith watercolour sticks 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 sheep and lambs in springtime

 The onset of spring nearly always gives us all a sense of hopeful anticipation of more pleasing times to come, perhaps more so this year than ever before as we attempt to recover from this dreadful virus. I hope you are able to get outside and take advantage of the better days, and perhaps manage a sketch or two. For me, daffodils always make a powerful foreground feature, and it’s worth capturing some images of these while you are out.

     This image is part of a painting depicting lambs in early spring. Sheep are relatively easy to draw, but can pose problems for the unwary at the painting stage, especially where you have a light-coloured field caught in sunshine: you need a slightly darker area behind the sheep so that it stands out, and as you can see in this painting I have included several darker patches of grass in order to highlight the sheep. Generally I use Naples yellow for the main body, often leave a white top on head and body to accentuate the sense of light. This is normally left as white paper, but touching in a little white gouache can help rescue one that has not quite worked.

    When including lambs it is important to put across a sense of the relationship between mother and lamb, or between a number of lambs enjoying each other’s company. This makes it look so much more natural. Compare the lamb by its mother in the foreground with the one on the distant right which is lying on it’s own. The closer couple invoke a much more pleasing composition.

    One of the stronger background features is the gate. Although this has nothing to do with springtime I mention it because it is a good example of negative painting. Here, I have worked the darker colour around the gate and posts to define the light woodwork. I never include all five or so bars as it’s good to keep some hidden in the long grass! The painting was done on Saunders Waterford NOT 140lb paper.

    Enjoy springtime, and you can find more help on seasonal work in my book Landscapes Through the Seasons in Watercolour, which you can obtain as a signed copy from my website www.davidbellamy.co.uk

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 – Pen and wash with limited colours

One of the joys of going away on holiday is the anticipation of exciting things to come, and one of the joys of being a professional artist is that this sort of thing is classified as ‘work.’ Whether you are professional or amateur you can still get a real kick in preparing for these exciting moments, and I do recommend that you give some consideration as to how you are going to tackle all this excitement with your methods, materials and choice of approach to the various subjects you have in mind.

This alfresco watercolour of Malcesine on Lake Garda was a demonstration for a painting group. Before flying to Italy I had decided that I would be using pen and wash for some of the lake scenes and limiting my use of colours. For this scene I decided on a palette of cool blues – mainly cobalt blue, with warm colours concentrated on the main features and the centre of interest, ie, the town itself. The warm colours were mainly light red, cadmium red, yellow ochre and quinacridone gold. This approach really does make the buildings stand out.

Because of the intense heat and the fact that I had to use Waterford hot pressed paper to accommodate the pen I had to work fast as the washes dried incredibly quickly. The smooth hot pressed paper tends to dry quicker than a not or rough surface. The pen I used was a fine-tipped sanguine colour to complement the warm-coloured buildings. I did not use it on the mountain features. This lends itself to creating a more unified result.

I’m afraid the reproduction is not first-class as it was photographed by a camera and not scanned at home, but it does give you an idea of the sort of methods you can try out, and not just while you are on holiday, of course. It always pays to think out how you wish to tackle the type of subject matter you will encounter on holiday, and ensure that you have all the right materials to work with.

David Bellamy – Creating a wildlife montage

It was great to see so many familiar faces at Patchings Art Festival earlier this month, and exchange experiences with many of the artists and exhibitors. It’s a wonderful show that seems to get better every year, so if you’ve not been then put it in your diary for next July. As well as demonstrating the fabulous Waterford papers in the St Cuthberts marquee I had a stand next door. With just Jenny and myself on the stand we were run ragged and completely sold out of how-to-paint books by the third morning. We also ran out of some of the exciting Daniel Smith watercolour paints, despite an emergency deliver from DSHQ!

We almost sold out of my new Arctic Light book as well. It’s had some tremendous reviews, with its wide range of subjects, including several painting techniques that I haven’t featured in books before. I particularly enjoyed creating the wildlife paintings, especially those where I spent quite some time with the animals, studying both their form and ways. My favourite poseur was the walrus, generally an amiable fellow on land, especially when basking in the sunshine, though he can be rather vicious in the water if he takes a dislike to you!

At a bull walrus colony on Svalbard I found these beasts in a great many fascinating poses – many more than shown here – and in order to feature as many of these as I could in the book I decided to render them as a montage on one large sheet of Saunders Waterford hot-pressed paper. This paper really enhances the detail in the walrus’s extremely textured hide. It’s really worth thinking about creating a montage where you wish to display a variety of actions or features in a scene, and perhaps add a little bit of humour at the same time. I also did a similar montage depicting the amazing actions of a single polar bear. Great fun!