Ted Wesson wrote in The Artist April 1962: ‘This is the type of summer subject I always enjoy – a farmland scene, set against big trees with a sky which seems to echo the shape of the trees below. I found the subject in the middle of the morning when the light usually remains constant for an hour or so. Occasionally the sun would be hidden by cloud, but this does not worry me unduly. I find that when it comes out again the lights, momentarily, are shown even more clearly, and I am able to check that I am conserving these precious passages.’ The following demonstration painting is mine, while the words are Ted’s, taken from his feature in The Artist, April 1962.
DEMONSTRATION: A Hampshire Farm
‘In this case I started with a few pencil notes which would indicate the lie of the field and the distance beyond, and followed up with the rough position of the trees and buildings, paying particular attention to the passages which would need to be left white. These included the low buildings in the centre, though much of these would ultimately receive some colour. I made no attempt to draw-in the cloud formation as I knew this would change by the time I was ready to tackle it.
‘With a large brush charged with diluted raw sienna, I now had to decide on my sky, but not having any drawing I was able to pop this in quite freely and, adding a touch of vermilion, carried a broken wash down into the horizon. With the same colour I noted the lighter passages in the stream where the clouds would be reflected.
‘Returning to the top of the sky I now put in the blues, modified with black or Payne’s grey where they were deepest, diluting as I went and giving the cloud formations some shape by skirting round them. This last mixture I took down towards the horizon, being careful to avoid the lights in the buildings. And so into the stream, taking care to make the tone deeper than the sky. This wash would run into the lighter passages which were still damp, thus giving a limpid softness usually seen in slowly moving water. By now I could return to the still damp sky and, with cobalt, light red or vermilion, let in the shadows. At the same time, with a wet brush I could soften off the edges here and there, leaving a coarse one now and again to give shape and contrast.’
‘As the sky was generally too damp to allow me to put in the trees, I next attended to the field. In the sunlight this was by no means an even green and I saw it rather as raw sienna modified and broken up by warm shadows and some highlights. These I was careful to preserve as they would help to convey the broken surface of a rough field. I also had to allow for the light on some of the foreground stakes. Next I needed to put in the distance, indicating the downs beyond the trees and the loose shapes behind the cottage buildings on the left. ‘I was now at the halfway stage and needed to leave things to dry out a bit before doing
‘Next came the trees. These needed to stand up against the sky and were laid in with ultramarine and raw sienna. Where I wanted to indicate some form, a mixture of ultramarine and burnt sienna was let in to give the darker passages. With this same dark mixture the shadows on the field, and along the banks of the stream, were added; following this came the darker reflections.’
A Hampshire Farm, watercolour, (38x56cm)
‘By now I could tackle the tree branches and the stakes and stumps in the foreground. And as the field dried out I was able to apply the darks in the buildings. These were burnt umber, modified with burnt sienna and blues. The lighter warm colours were mainly of burnt sienna and gave contrast to the greens around them. A little sharpening up along the bank and the trunks of the trees seemed to pull the whole thing together. ‘On looking back at the result of the exercise, I realised that the composition leaves much to be desired. The stream rather cuts across the foreground and the main buildings would have been better had they been nearer the centre. However, as I wanted to stand in the shade it seemed the best natural.
Read the complete article by Steve Hall in the June 2013 issue of The Artist
In 1962 Edward Wesson wrote a series of articles for The Artist called watercolour through the seasons. Steve Hall has based his demonstration, above, on the feature exploring summer
Click here to read the first in this series, by Wesson himself, all about painting spring
Spring on an Essex Stream, watercolour, (13x18in.) by Edward Wesson, R.I., S.M.A.