Travelling Adventures in Watercolour - David Bellamy


Travelling Adventures in Watercolour

Artist: David Bellamy
Language: English 60 mins
Format: PAL DVD
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Price: £28.55 (Inc VAT where applicable + P&P worldwide)

Filmed in the spectacular scenery of Andalucia in Southern Spain, David gives practical advice for those painting away from home. He moves off the beaten track, travelling from the magnificent Alpujarras mountains to the stunning gorge at Ronda and the coast, where he sketches and paints mountain villages, castles, farms, plants, animals and a harbour.

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THE ARTIST - October 1990

Coastal Adventures in Watercolour shows us the intrepid artist scrambling over rocks, clambering down cliffs at the end of a rope, and bucketing about in a canoe at sea looking for new viewpoints along the Pembrokeshire coast. This film must have been fun to make and it is enjoyable to watch. There is nothing like a bit of vicarious discomfort. Degas once said that art was not a sport. But this tape shows the timid that it is possible to work out of doors without waiting for conditions to be perfect. Indeed the hazards may well provoke a more exciting response. As Bellamy says, when rain falls on his watercolour sketch, it makes things just that little bit more interesting.

Castles in Spain

David Bellamy, not to be confused with his namesake of wild life and conservation fame, is perhaps best known for his accurate and atmospheric painting of mountain scenery. In a new one-hour video he takes us to southern Spain and shows his versatility in sketching castles and cottages, boats and bridges and, of course, mountains.

The video begins with some general advice on what to take with you on painting trips abroad, avoiding excessive weight on the one hand and the omission of essentials on the other. He warns against taking flammable solvents and pressure sprays of fixative by air, but as watercolour is to be the medium on this trip, no problems arise. His watercolour palette is a wide one and to it he adds such colours as cadmium orange to help capture the warm mediterranean scene. He also includes glycerine to counteract the over-rapid drying which occurs in hot climates - a few drops added to the water jar helps to prevent the disaster of prematurely drying washes.

The first subject tackled is the 13th century Alhambra, the Palace of the Moorish Kings - a glorious subject for any painter. Unfortunately it is too crowded for comfortable or easy sketching, as the artist observes, but his flamboyant sombrero and his fortissimo T-shirt hardly assist his anonymity! Despite such problems he uses a terra cotta Conte pencil to produce some quick impressions, including one of the famous Court of Lions.

The scene then changes to a Moorish fortress in the mountains south of Granada a splendid and dramatic subject. The artist lays a full wash of raw sienna over the whole paper and strengthens the fortress and its rocky bluff with more raw sienna and some light red, painted wet in wet. These warm tones are allowed to show through gaps in subsequent washes of stronger, cooler colour and this helps to unify the painting. Texture is achieved by scumbling with the side of a rigger and detail is added with its tip.

The next subject is the winding street of a little hill village and here the artist simply makes a pencil sketch on which he bases a studio watercolour later in the video. He takes care to capture the subtle twists of the roadway and exaggerates effectively the wayward lines of the old, white-washed buildings. The next port of call is an attractive harbour with a jumble of old houses in the background and some gaily painted craft at anchor in the foreground. The treatment of the sky is very simple so that it does not compete with the busy scene below. The shadows of the buildings are tackled next with cool washes of ultramarine and burnt sienna.

The deep gorge and bridge at Ronda and a Spanish farmstead are the subjects of further watercolour sketches. Back home, in his studio, the artist shows us a pictorial diary of his trip, and further examples of his finished work.

The artist's method of working is to make quick, watercolour, pencil or Conte sketches on the spot and to use these as a basis for watercolours painted in the studio. This approach often works well with accomplished painters but can lead to loss of spontaneity with the less experienced.

The video is very well produced and the camera work does full justice to the stunning scenery of southern Spain.

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