Advice & Guidance, General, Inspire, Tuition

Brushstrokes of Memory: Painting Emotions and Nature’s Beauty in Watercolours | David Bellamy

4th December 2023 Estimated reading time: 4 mins



Join David Bellamy in exploring the art of emotive watercolour painting. Learn to capture memories, embrace nature’s beauty, and infuse historical charm into your artwork.

Is your painting based purely on finding some sort of appealing subject to paint, or do you sometimes respond to experiences, emotions and feelings following a day out in the countryside?

Memories: Capturing Nature’s Beauty

We all enjoy beautiful moments outdoors. It might be the smell of newly mown hay or the sight of bluebells in woodland sunlight. Crisp winter days with sunshine casting tree shadows on pristine snow are equally delightful. Even a strong breeze sending autumn leaves across a scene of fiery gold adds to the charm. Recalling these moments is worthwhile.

Creating a painting that vividly recalls a memorable time gives endless satisfaction. Sometimes it stems from historical associations, as seen in the North Saskatchewan River painting. Other times, it’s the pleasure derived from simple yet glorious landscape images encountered on a hike. For instance, striking spring blossoms of blackthorn pierce the morning mist, like that in Mountain Stream.

“Summer Flowers in the Preseli Hills” takes me back to my youth. I remember cycling up to these hills, forming the distant backdrop to my home. It gives a powerful sense of freedom while being steeped in the beauty of nature.

Think about memorable times in your life or places with special resonance. Use sketches, photographs, diaries, memories, or the Internet to evoke those feelings and create a composition. Sketch your visual ideas several times until the most striking image forms on paper. Then, begin the painting. This rewarding exercise is especially valuable when unable to explore new subjects outdoors.

North Saskatchewan River, Canadian Rockies – Watercolour



Many of my feelings for this subject go way back to my boyhood, when I became enthralled by tales of the early pioneers and the hardships faced in exploring such unremittingly difficult terrain. Association with strong historical events has always been a powerful factor in uplifting the quality of my painting. The cloud streamers introduced a mood of mystery as they drifted, sometimes revealing awesome peaks. This is one of my later paintings when I changed to using Daniel Smith Watercolours: the fiery autumn colour on the right was rendered with Aussie Red Gold. I used Lunar Blue, a lovely granulating colour, for the water. The greens are varying degrees of Green Apatite Genuine, which in strength reveals delightfully strong granulations.

Mountain Stream Watercolour

watercolour-painting-memories-david bellamy

This was a gloomy spring day when mists hung low, the sort of day when streams are often the only
worthwhile type of scenery to sketch in such landscapes. The painting ended up rather dull, yet the elements appealed to me. It needed something uplifting to bring it to life.
I decided to experiment and inserted a couple of blackthorn trees in blossom, scratching furiously with a scalpel into the 200lb paper. I ended up with a fairly pleasing result. Even dullness can have a positive effect!

Summer Flowers in the Preseli Hills Watercolour

watercolour-painting-david bellamy

Where little is happening in the distance other than rolling hills, the foreground becomes more important.
I like to record flowers, reeds, plants and the more aristocratic sort of weed in these situations. By introducing strong darks into foreground vegetation, and waiting for this to dry, you can then apply gouache colours over the dark area to represent these flowers and plants. Painting white gouache splashes, letting them dry and then applying another colour over the white gouache, can be effective – as you see here.

Lochan na h-Achlaise Watercolour


watercolour-painting-memories-david bellamy
Warm foreground colours set against the cool snows of distant mountains provide an appealing subject. For the sky, a weak wash of Naples Yellow acted as a base colour over which I immediately laid horizontal washes of a medium-strength mixture of French Ultramarine and Cadmium Red. I continued this mixture wet-into-wet for the righthand peaks, the furthest one almost lost. Allowing the paper to dry, I then painted in the lefthand prominent peak with the same mixture.
Where sunlight caught the mountains, I left the paper untouched. The crags were created with a stronger mixture of the same colours, as were the ripples across the loch. Foreground details were mainly painted with light red and Cadmium Orange. Note how effective it can be to depict the lower shoreline with dark vegetation on the left and light against the darker reflection to the right.

This article was originally published in Paint & Create, the magazine of the SAA, one of the many benefits of SAA Membership.

For more information about David and his work please click here. You can purchase David’s books from the SAA online shop here. 

David Bellamy-artist



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