Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary

Winter Trees

oak, sycamore, limehollyChristmas Day, 25th December, 2006

Christmas time again, and this year it's my great niece Elise who's asking. Don't these kids ever learn! She gets some paper from her granddad's office (whoops, should have told her to take it off the scrap pile!) and draws me a landscape with a big blue sky, green, green grass and a pond with lily pads for the bullfrogs. She's using the Derwent watercolour pencils we gave to her elder sister for Christmas (children never seem to have enough art materials). So far, so bucolic, but she says she's going to add the black haunted house emanating squadrons of bats later.

oak, sycamoreI draw the holly (upper right) and a bare branches of the oak, sycamore and lime before lunch and just about manage to stay awake after Christmas dinner (apparently there's something in turkey that sends you to sleep) but by then it's too dark to see anything out of the windows so I draw my hand.

handWhen I come to add watercolour to the Sakura Micron 0.1mm drawing I have to change the position of my hand to hold my tiny box of Winsor & Newton watercolours so, my wits recovering from the wine and the feasting, when I come to do a second drawing (below left), I make sure that I'm holding the box right from the start.

Shadows on Hands

handIf I mix a 'flesh colour' (which for a 75% Anglo Saxon/25% Welshman like me means pinkish ochre) and use two washes of that, one on top of the other, to create the shadows, I find that I end up with the shadows looking too warm. For the second drawing (left) I painted the shadows first in green, let them dry, then went over them with a ochre/alizarin crimson wash.

You can still see some of the green showing through but I think it gives an effect nearer to what I was seeing in the mellow light of the living room than the first drawing where I used a greyish wash.

Working in a shadowy room like this it's useful to know your way around your paintbox. This box has only ten colours in it: warm and cool versions of each of the primaries, a brown (raw umber?), a green (Hooker's?), a yellow ochre and Payne's grey.

water brushI was able to work one-handed because I used a Pentel Waterbrush; you squeeze it to put a few drops of water onto your palette and clean the brush on a tissue or paper serviette, which I held, not shown, in my left hand.