After 'End of the Hard. Pin Mill' by Edward Seago - take three...

So much to say…

…and so little time to say it in! This is one of those weeks when I’ve managed to squeeze in some time for painting but left so little time for writing about it, so apologies in advance for the brevity of this post. (Although I’m sure that this will come as an absolute blessing to many!)

So, first up is a little homage I did to acknowledge the birthday, on 29th April 1910, of one of my great artistic heroes, Edward Wesson.

(Detail) After Edward Wesson's 'Yarmouth, Isle of Wight'
(Detail) After Edward Wesson’s ‘Yarmouth, Isle of Wight’

I really enjoyed painting this, especially the sky… right up until I was putting in what Joseph Zbukvic refers to as ‘the jewelry’. In this instance, the rigging on the boat. I’ve become quite confident with doing fine straight(ish) lines, but a curved, sagging line… well that’s an entirely different matter. In this case, my supposedly delicate bit of rigging is actually thicker than the mast it’s supposedly attached to. Hopefully this is generally lost in the overall picture,  but from my perspective – it really SHOUTS out at me because I could feel it going wrong as I painted it but was then powerless to rectify it. And therein lies the beauty and wonder of watercolour – you live (and often die), by your last brush-troke (metaphorically of course!)

And so on to something I’ve been both promising and avoiding for some time now. Taking an oil painting, doing a tonal pencil sketch, and then basing a watercolour on the sketch.

Pencil sketch based on Edward Seago's oil painting, 'End of the Hard, Pin Mill'
Pencil sketch based on Edward Seago’s oil painting, ‘End of the Hard, Pin Mill’

Now as sketches go – mine especially, I quite liked the this. I was pleased with the placement of everything and tonally I thought I’d given myself enough to work with. What I particularly liked was the thinking processes that went on as I did this. Aside from thinking about the overall composition, I was thinking about the palette, what colours would I use, in what order would I paint this, where would colours bleed, where would edges be hard. It’s as I was doing this that I really began to marvel at Seago’s mastery. The way the background coastline picks out the sail and shape of the boat, the white sail on the horizon – everything is positioned exactly where it needs to be to make visual sense.

So. Sketch done, time to get on with some painting:

After 'End of the Hard. Pin Mill' by Edward Seago - take one...
After ‘End of the Hard. Pin Mill’ by Edward Seago – take one…

I really liked painting the sky on this, which was done in two quick washes in rapid succession. Sadly, also in rapid succession, I also painted in the distant headland, so that it bled into the sky. At this point, I’d pretty much already decided that this wouldn’t be my last attempt at this! This decision did give me a certain freedom to paint without care.

I’d always worried about capturing the reflections, and especially the edges of where mud meets water, and where shallow water acts as such a brilliant mirror. I’ve seen it done brilliantly, but equally have never figured out how it’s done brilliantly!

So, onto version two:

After 'End of the Hard. Pin Mill' by Edward Seago - take two...
After ‘End of the Hard. Pin Mill’ by Edward Seago – take two…

Again, much fun had painting the sky. Two washes done standing up at the easel with wide, sweeping gestures – rapidly applied onto paper that had been pre-wetted in certain areas. I went in much bolder in the foreground, again using broad sweeping brushstrokes, and again got carried away and left too little space for the water and reflections. I also felt that I went in too heavy with the verticals near the boats, and too heavy with the distant shoreline so that I lost the feeling of depth. Nothing for it then but for another attempt!

After 'End of the Hard. Pin Mill' by Edward Seago - take three...
After ‘End of the Hard. Pin Mill’ by Edward Seago – take three…

Okay, so what I tried differently on this version, aside from trying to correct the errors that I’ve already mentioned, was to really place everything ‘just so’. After taping out my paper, I measure thirds across the page, and fifths down the depth of the page. The horizon line was placed at a fifth. The mast of the boat was a third into the painting, and the sail on the horizon was on the other third. An imaginary vanishing point was put on the horizon line and I put in some guidelines to direct the foreground lines towards the sail (seen in sequence I reckon it could give the impression of this boat sailing along a quite a clip!)

As much as I enjoyed painting the sky, I’m not sure it’s my favourite of the three. I also think that the precision of this approach, and it being my third attempt, led to me to  tighten up in some areas, especially around the boats. Overall however, I think this is the strongest version in its entirety, even if I do prefer elements of the two earlier versions. Be great to hear anyone’s views on these efforts but for me, the most enjoyable thing that I take from all of these is that I can’t wait to take on my next challenge – and who knows, I may even attempt another sketch!



Thoughts on So much to say…

29 thoughts on “So much to say…”

  1. Pingback: Only two months to go!!

    1. Thanks – I did enjoy painting those skies! Less so the foreground which is like to think I could improve on – but I think I learnt enough from these attempts to move on to something else. Thanks again for introducing me to a new source of inspiration!

      1. I also can recommend the painter Rowland Hilder, especially the book Rowland Hilder painting landscapes in watercolour. he is the very best in glazing, and layer by layer work! its amazing what he does with skies! a first wash with black and burnt sienna!! after that 5 layers more! no mud! I tried it once and it is stunning how much light that gives!

        1. Thanks for this Edo and I’m already familiar with the genius of Hilder – I think I’ve got more books on / by him than any other artist. He’s also the reason why I carry black in my palette. I think one of my favourite of his books is called Sketching Country which features more of his initial / looser sketches. You’re right that his glazing is astonishing, I think my approach is currently somewhere between the layered washes of Hilder and the direct immediacy of Wesson and Seago. It’s great to have such shining examples to learn from!

    1. Thanks so much Laura and for following my endeavours – I try to put out a post a week of anything that I’ve been up to/managed to fit in (well that’s the plan at least!). The pencil sketch is a rarity – in fact I think it’s the first time in the life of this blog that I’ve ever featured one of my own sketches but responses like yours may encourage me to try my hand at a few more – thanks so much!

      1. Yes, and I saw Charlie and others liked it as well! I really need to learn and understand tone and bring that to my wc work. I was working in pencil most of the winter, drawing detailed faces, animals, etc. and boy graphite taught me so much! It’s not always easy to transfer that to my watercolor work though. I probably need tons more practice!

        1. Yes – there’s a wonderful community of supportive people out there all working away – it’s been one of the most unexpected surprises to me how important the company of those I’m meeting along the way actually is. As for the practice, well, I think that goes for all of us!

  2. Hey John, well done – so much improvement! The skies are looking so much better and its nice to see you taking on more detail. Keep up the good work!

    B x

    > On 03 May 2016 at 20:13 Brushes with Watercolour > wrote: > > John posted: “…and so little time to say it in! This is one of those > weeks when I’ve managed to squeeze in some time for painting but left so > little time for writing about it, so apologies in advance for the brevity of > this post. (Although I’m sure that this will com” >

    1. Thanks Bec, much appreciated and glad that there’s a discernible improvement. Think I might have to order some more paper to keep up with this flurry of activity!

    1. Thanks very much for this – great that you like #3 and that there’s something to be gained from the process. Next ambition is to strive for more successes from fewer attempts! Thanks again

    1. Thanks – it’s comments like this that make the failed attempts even more worthwhile than the ‘finished’ painting (although I think I’ve yet to do a properly finished, happy with every bit of it painting!)

  3. Beautiful, I am so amazed by your work and your thought process while painting. I agree I like the skies better on take 1 & 2 though my favorite is take 3. After going back to take another good look, the sky in take 3 is actually pretty darn good! I need to start doing sketches beforehand, so hard to discipline myself. Only reason I bypass it I am too impatient and I am afraid that too much study I would lose that fresh eye that I take into the session. Who knows I should give it a go a few times before I paint and then go back to going straight to painting. Wonderful work as usual John!

    1. Thanks so much Margaret and I’m with you! never mind the pencil sketch, let’s just get on with some painting! I think in my case it’s because I much prefer painting, and the potential results, to what drawing offers. That said, if the process of drawing significantly improves my eye and helps be plan my paintings better – then maybe I won’t have to keep on doing quite so many versions! Since this post, I’ve already dived straight in for some more painting so maybe I need to curb my impatience and force myself into trying a little more drawing.

  4. Once again John your art amazes me. Well done. The sky in #3 has more interesting light so I prefer 3. Not only for the sky but in its entirety. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much Susan – now if I can just get straight to three without efforts one and two I’ll be able to save so much time (for more painting of course!)

    1. Thanks so much – I think I’m with you on take 3 but I think I prefer the sky in two? One day, I hope to achieve a single painting that features lots of best bits without too many practice runs!

    1. Thanks so much Charlie – I still find it much harder to put pencil to paper than brush to paper but I can definitely see the value to it – and as we know all too well – things tend to improve with practice! I’m still a long way from matching your daily doodlewashes though – I honestly don’t know how you manage it!

        1. 45 mins a day still stacks up over a week! I think it’s great to have the discipline – something that’s never really been a strong point for me!

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