The importance of light in paintings

    Light is precious to all painters, whatever medium they use. Without it we would have no picture, but how much thought do we give it when we are about to embark on another painting? To avoid dull, lifeless paintings it is worth taking a few minutes to consider how you will organise the lighting effects in your painting. Strong lighting does give the composition a boost – think about highlighting part or parts of the work to emphasise features, or create overall cast shadows that suggest strong sunshine coming from one side, or even backlit with haloes of light around prominent features.
Of course, you need an image to reference if you are going to make a decent job of depicting the light, so sketches and photographs of what you have in mind are vital to success. This sketch of an old house-boat in Amsterdam was achieved with a water-soluble graphite pencil, brushed over with water once the image and tones had been put in. It was a glorious evening and I returned with many sketches and photographs of features lit by stunning lighting effects which can be used on other subjects. Take advantage of such days: not only do they supply you with excellent reference material, but they teach you how to treat a variety of lighting situations.

This approach to light and atmosphere is a strong element in the watercolours I shall have on display at the Barnabas Arts House in Newport, Monmouthshire from 15th September to 3rd October, in their exhibition on Welsh landscapes in support of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales  tel. 01633 673739

You can see more on achieving lighting and atmospheric effects in my book and DVD, both entitled David Bellamy’s Skies, Light & Atmosphere in Watercolour and currently there is a special offer if you buy the pair. The DVD is only available from our website

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