'Sea Palling/Wexham' after Edward Wesson

Only two months to go!!

With only two months to go now until my course with watercolour artist and Edward Wesson expert Steve Hall, the mounting anticipation and excitement is palpable! So, with Wesson much on my mind, especially following the recent anniversary of his birth, it was without surprise that I found myself drawn to another of his paintings.

For a fleeting moment, I thought that I had finally produced a painting that I was pretty happy with at my first attempt. Until however, I recalled that I did try to paint this scene a short time ago and that I’d managed to ‘almost’ erase the memory of it from my mind. This is the ill-fated first effort:

Unlike most of my paintings, which normally reside on a shelf for a bit of thoughtful consideration before being put in a cupboard to be replaced by another painting – this one was consigned immediately to the cupboard! I seem to remember thinking at the time that, despite my recent progress, I may have reached beyond my capabilities. In retrospect, it’s a a surprise that I returned to it again so soon.

When I did this first effort (above), I was trying to be intentionally ‘loose’ – which somewhat unintentionally led to me become rushed and ill-considered. From the initial planning and sketching through to my choice of colours, tonal values and brushstrokes. The final result was, to my eye, a real mish-mash of errors.

With this later effort I endeavored to be much more thoughtful ahead of applying the paint. What order was I going to work in. What area could I work on whilst another was drying, what did I need to leave light, where where the main areas of contrast etc. Remarkably, it seemed to come together pretty well and the painting was all done and dusted in one relatively brief sitting.

'Sea Palling/Wexham' after Edward Wesson
‘Sea Palling/Wexham’ after Edward Wesson

If I had to be picky…  looking at the sky you can discern a distinct vertical aspect to the passages of orange – now whilst these aren’t deal breakers, they’re not like any cloud formations or light effects that I’ve ever seen. The sky wash was done in one take, first wetting the paper in parts, then applying the orange hue, then the blue and letting everything flow together. In the heat of the moment however, I think my easel was on too steep an angle which I think led to the somewhat harsh vertical runs in the paint. Like I say, not a deal breaker, especially when there’s so much else I like about the sky. The other area that niggles me a bit is the sand in the foreground. Whilst I like the sense of light falling on it, I think it’s a little ‘flat’ and could have done with a little more variation in tone to suggest the lie of the land a little better. In the grand scheme of things however, these are relatively minor concerns and, of all the paintings that I’ve done of late – this is one of those that I’m most pleased with.

Its now five months since I discovered that, for my birthday,  I was going to be embarking on my first proper watercolour course. Since then, I’ve managed to spend some time every week painting, and I feel that the dividends are plain to see. Hopefully I can continue along a similar trajectory over the next couple of months so that I begin the course in the best watercolour painting condition of my life!




Thoughts on Only two months to go!!

20 thoughts on “Only two months to go!!”

  1. Hi John. Congratulations, lovely painting. Can I ask you please what colours are on your palette/paintbox and what mix do you use for your sand? Thanks

    1. Hi Ann and thanks so much for getting in touch. So pleased that you like this painting (must confess that it’s one of my favourites from this year!). Beginning with my palette, I’m trying to work with a relatively restricted palette that I can really get to know. I only use Winsor and Newton Professional colours and my basic palette is something like: French Ultramarine, Cobalt Blue, Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Alizarin Crimson, Light Red, Paynes Grey, Winsor Yellow. I’ve also gradually added a few others such as raw umber, winsor red, Pthalo (winsor) blue, cerulean blue and another yellow that I can’t recall but bought because it was on special offer somewhere! I can’t recall exactly but the sand in this painting was most likely done with a really pale wash of raw sienna with maybe just the tiniest bit of winsor yellow (but I’d try just the raw sienna to start with). I think the shadows were done with some alazarin crimson and a touch of ultramarine. I’d love to be more specific but I’m normally painting quite intuitively so sometimes find it quite hard to remember what I’ve used where!! Hope that this may be of some use.

      1. Hi John,
        Thanks so much for taking the time to reply and for details of your palette.I too am adding to or trying to find the least number of paints I can get by with and am always interested in what other artists who chase the ‘loose’ dream use.I have discovered that Daniel Smith’s version of Raw Umber is a fine transparent substitute for W&N Burnt Umber albeit more pricey.A little bit of Burnt Sienna to it and you have the Warm Sepia that beloved by John Yardley and it is excellent when added to Ultramarine for clouds.Thanks again and best wishes with the painting.Oh,that Seago book you have listed, is there a good spattering of watercolours in it or are they mostly oils?

        1. Hi Ann and thanks very much for your reply and the top tip about the Daniel Smith Raw Umber is a good substitute for the Winsor and Newton version. I’ve recently fallen foul of some really dead areas of painting from going in too heavy with Burnt Umber. Is the Daniel Smith variant just called Raw Umber or does it go be some exotic name? (I see a lot of painters that I admire use the Daniel Smith range but I’m feeling a bit stuck in my ways plus, deep down, I don’t think it’s the colours at my disposal that let me down so much as my abilities!! As for the Seago book, it does contain a goodly amount of watercolours and I’d really recommend it if you can get a copy – it’s proven endlessly inspiring to me. Many thanks Ann

          1. Hi again John. The DS Raw Umber is totally different to the W&N version and it is how I discovered it- a happy accident if you will. I thought I was buying the same pigment as the W&N which I use but instead discovered the DS to be rich dark brown. There isn’t that reddish hint in it that you might find in Burnt Umber but that can be gotten with a touch of Burnt Sienna which gives it a lovely timber colour. But you get lovely transparency with it. It looks more like a Sepia but without the muck here
            https://m.youtube.com/watch v=1m0blMLQYLw
            I agree with you that Burnt Umber can be very dangerous, can make mud in secs!!
            Thanks for the info on the Seago book, might treat myself
            Take care

          2. Thanks so much for this Ann – I might treat myself to a small tube of the DS Raw Umber and have a little play around with it. If you check back you’ll see in my next post where I’ve overdone the burnt umber! Oh – do let me know what you think of the Seago book if you get it. All the best

  2. Both are good – but you’re right the second one is overall better! The sky in the first one is excellent but the second one wins all round. The composition of the second is more dramatic – and follows more the thirds ‘rule’.

    1. Thanks for this, much appreciated. Great too that you noticed the thirds! When I sketched out the second one, I first gridded up the paper on thirds to help me map the image out – so the horizon line of the sea runs on the third section… And some of the areas of greatest tonal contrast are placed to appear on sections of thirds. Feels good when it all comes together – thanks again

  3. I like take #2 better and I feel that those verticals with the orange is very expressive and I don’t think that we need to abide with all the “nature rules” out there….I always will side with expression especially the way you expressed yourself with this painting. How exciting to have the opportunity to take a course with a master watercolorist! you must be elated and I am sure that two months will fly by very quickly. 🙂

    1. Thanks Margaret – glad you like this latest effort and yes, I’m really excited about my forthcoming course. It’ll be four and half days dedicated to painting. Weather permitting we’ll be working outdoors as much as possible so there’ll be lots of challenges to contend with (not least my levels of expectation!) but I can’t wait to spend that much time painting – that will be a completely new and unique experience for me.

        1. I think it will be quite intensive. It’s the first time I’ve ever been on such a course so it’ll all be quite unfamiliar and it’s hard to know quite what to expect! I reckon I’ll have enough information and things to write about to keep my blog posts going for the rest of the year!!

  4. You draw with the brush, no mean feat. You get one chance and everything has gone into the right place first time. The sky is convincing. No problem there. I especially like the sand dunes

    1. Wow! Thanks David – funny how you can labour over something for an age and come up short on one occasion and, on another, everything can fall seamlessly into place!

    1. Thanks so much for your kind and generous comments! I suppose that despite my best intentions I’m still slightly comparing my efforts against the Wesson original and I usually feel that I fall far short which can perhaps lead to me being a little overly critical. It’s wonderful to get a more objective reaction – especially when it’s so positive!

I'd love to hear any thoughts you have about this

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