David Bellamy – Introducing counterchange into a painting

 One of the little subtleties I enjoy putting into my paintings is that of counter-change, sometimes simply to create a variation and sometimes out of necessity. In my recent workshop demonstration at Shopkeeparty I employed the technique for both these reasons in the painting of a farm in Nant Ffrancon.

This is the central part of the watercolour, and you can see the slate fence in the right foreground with two of its uprights light against a darker bush, while the rest of the uprights are dark against a light area of the farmyard. I could just as easily painted the two left-hand uprights dark and it would still have worked, so in this case it was painted like that just to include a little variation.

If we now move across to the barn on the right of the composition you will see that the roof has been painted dark of the left-hand side where it stands in front of a light background, and then the roof is depicted light on the right-hand side against a dark background. In this instance it was necessary to introduce counter-change to make the roof stand out at both ends. This is an extremely useful device to have in your artistic armoury, so try to incorporate it into your work whenever you can.

I have further Shopkeepeasy workshops coming up in early May and you are welcome to join in. The first is on Thursday 6th May at 2pm, is free to Shopkeeparty patrons and lasts 45 minutes, which you can check out at Mountain Stream with David Bellamy (shopkeeparty.com)          while the second one which lasts between 2 to 3 hours is on Thursday 13th May at 3.30 pm, which you will find at  Workshop: Autumn Waterfall with David Bellamy (shopkeeparty.com) for which there is a charge. Both events will feature a mountain stream with a cascade or waterfall.

I hope you are all able to get out into the countryside to paint and sketch now that things are easing up.

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 – Enjoying the detail in a painting

How do you cope when you are presented with a complicated scene such as a harbour full of boats of all colours and sizes? Beat a hasty retreat and look for a simpler subject? I love painting and sketching boats, and there’s always a way round the problem: you can leave out craft that don’t appeal, reduce their number, enlarge one so that it hides two or three others, or perhaps cast a dark shadow over the ones further away.

    This is a watercolour I did of Oare Creek in Kent, a place crammed with lots of lovely craft, and although there seem to be a lot in the composition I did leave many more out. This is one of those works that doesn’t have just one centre of interest – there is a whole line of them! I do this sometimes as it makes quite a change, and some buyers do enjoy a mass of detail, and to get a sense of the place you do need to suggest that many boats line the creek, especially if working to commission.

    On occasion in scenes like this I lay shadow across many of the boats, simply suggesting them, and highlight the main ones – the focal point – with strong lighting. If you wish to subdue one or two off-centre then just paint them in silhouette as I have done with the boat on the extreme right background. The masts and gulls were rendered with white gouache when everything else had been completed. If need be I create dark areas deliberately so that white gulls can be placed there and stand out. This is at fairly low tide so much of the mud-banks are revealed. To avoid too much monotony I have made some lighter and on the right bank splashed in some cadmium red to add interest. The painting was done on Saunders Waterford hot pressed, 140lb weight.

    Now most of us are able to get outside do make the most of the summer days to find some new subjects. This is important not just from the point of view of finding new material to paint, but getting outdoors rejuvenates us and gets us away from the lethargic indoors syndrome that can deplete our enthusiasm for creating anything. There is nothing better than perching on a rock warmed by the sunshine, overlooking a stunning view while sipping a cappuccino as you sketch. I’ve been out there with my new Daniel Smith watercolour box of gorgeous half-pans lately, so it’s been a double pleasure!

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 – Getting in the mood for painting

 It’s really heart-breaking to see some of the problems besetting the world at the moment, which put into perspective my frustrations at not being able to travel. In many ways we are seeing the best and the worst of humanity, and we wonder how it will all end. While art is giving so many people a great relief from all this misery, I know some artists are finding it difficult to concentrate on painting at the moment.

If you are finding it hard to get going then consider doing a few minutes of quiet meditation before you begin to think about what you would like to paint. I am not an expert on meditation but I do sometimes retire to a quiet spot – usually the studio – where I visualise myself back in some of the lovely locations I’ve explored and sketched, doing this for 5 or 10 minutes, helping to get myself in the mood. You may like to try it with some gentle music, or even some more lively stuff if you wish. When I do this I often start dancing and swinging the brush around more vigorously and my audience starts to get nervous at this spectacle – when I go out to the studio in the morning I am greeted raucously by them, the adulating noise often being terrific as I open the door. This is especially loud if I am carrying a bag, as the sheep think I’ve got food for them!

I’ve put together another scene for you to paint from if you wish, and I will show you my version in about ten to 14 days’ time. This scene is Llyn Mymbyr in Snowdonia, with the Plas y Brenin Mountain Centre just left of centre. You can leave the building out if you wish, just show the trees at that point. My painting will be from slightly to the right, and will include a crag descending into the right-hand side of the lake as shown in the second photograph.

Unfortunately my photographs are not filed with any precision, so I often struggle to find suitable matches, unless I’ve only recently done the painting. It takes quite some time to organise one of these mini projects. Working from more than one photograph or sketch is common and helps us introduce additional features like these crags, so this is a good exercise. Try to introduce more light and colour into the work, as the scene as it stands is rather dull, and feel free to change the tonal values where you feel this would enhance your composition.

If you don’t feel up to producing a full painting at the moment then try little sketches or small vignettes, perhaps simple experimenting with one or two techniques. Stay safe!