David Bellamy often finds himself in all sorts of predicaments when seeking an elusive sketch. Despite tripping over a crocodile in Kenya and tumbling down a cliff, nothing seems to stop this 74-year-old from being in the great outdoors.
Growing up in the West Wales countryside, he cultivated a love for nature, with a keen fascination for its moods in wild places. Seeing the raw landscapes of Iceland motivated him to venture further north, into the Arctic. After a dog-sledging trip to East Greenland, his hunger to explore more paint-worthy landscapes drew him back another seven times – backpacking across mountains on foot, sailing up the Svalbard coast in a 49-foot boat and cruising in a Zodiac up an 81km fjord. Each visit exposed him to more facets of the Arctic’s natural charm, such as the moulins at Greenland’s ice cap.
His book, David Bellamy’s Arctic Light, includes his most fearful moments, such as when the glacier beneath him broke up while he was sketching a natural ice bridge.
While he revels in the atmosphere of the moment when sketching outdoors, the Arctic’s subzero temperatures also means that brushes freeze when dipped in water – an artist’s worst nightmare. Bellamy’s witty solution? Add gin to lower the freezing point. In exceptional conditions, he has even rubbed snow over dry watercolour pencil sketches.
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To Bellamy, “the High Arctic can be a hostile and unforgiving place, but it will well reward lovers of truly wild places”. Besides preparing for potential severe weather conditions, he encourages travellers to hire a local hunter-guide for any Arctic expedition.
“And take along a little luxury with you to relieve difficult moments, even if it’s just a bar of your favourite chocolate.”
PHOTOS: DAVID BELLAMY
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.