Notes to self following a fabulous week of painting

Well, after six month’s of mounting anticipation and fevered practicing – my week of painting with artist and Edward Wesson expert Steve Hall finally arrived. My first ever course of this kind, I was excited and apprehensive. And now, looking back, I’m finding it difficult to condense the experience into a single post. What I would like to say though is that the course, and the experience of painting solidly for four days was absolutely brilliant. After weeks of rain, and my expectation that most of our week would be cancelled due to adverse conditions, we were blessed with four days of clement weather. I met some fabulous fellow painters and greatly enjoyed and benefited from seeing a professional artist at work and have him offer his personal opinions on my efforts and advice so that I might improve.

Instead of providing a blow by blow account of my week (which would take me at least another week to write, and even longer for you to read) I’m going to make a list of ‘notes to self’ based on the advice, comments and suggestions that I received and that I need to pay heed to in the coming months as I try to develop my painting. I’ll begin with the recurring theme, after which I’ll add things as I remember them:

  • Colour mixing. This is the single most important aspect that I need to focus on. Steve’s view was that I’m overmixing in the palette. Too many colours, overly mixed leading to muddy colours.
  • Let colours mix on the paper more, control them, but let the colours create their own magic, apply two colours side by side and let them touch and merge, instead of thoroughly mixing a colour in the palette.
  • Pay close attention to the lights and darks, wrapping lights around darks and darks around lights – look for the areas of greatest contrast and plan my painting around them.
  • Hold the brush higher up the handle – mark them with some tape if necessary as a reminder
  • Try counting how many brushstrokes a painting takes. This was one of Steve’s suggestions that I really like the idea of. It’s not suggesting any kind of optimum number – but more as a means of making sure every brushstroke is meaningful rather than hopeful dabbling
  • Touch the paper only as much as is absolutely necessary
  • Don’t extend my easel legs all the way!  I’ve been doing this automatically but it means that my board is usually a little too high with the result that I’m often painting in a constrained fashion, from the wrist rather than more freely from the shoulder.

Now as I’m sure the more discerning among you will have noticed, there’s a theme throughout this list. It’s funny writing this little compilation down like this – it makes slightly more desperate reading than I think is the case! It is however a great to have this little checklist of notes to self – some of which I expect to be much more difficult to adhere to than others.

I’ll leave you with just a few images from the week, and expect more may follow in future posts, but I hope that this will give you a flavour of the experience. If anyone else is considering or debating on taking a similar class – I can thoroughly recommend it and I can thoroughly recommend Steve Hall too!

Day 1 and Steve Hall’s first demonstration painting – a deliciously and deceptively simple lightness of colour and economy touch
And what the same painting looks like in a mount and frame – the painting is half imperial size
Still day 1 but moving into the afternoon and a view of Amberley Church with Steve Hall demonstrating at the easel
And Steve’s finished painting…
…and my interpretation of a similar view (this took me for ever to draw out but, in comparison, moments to paint. The frustration and despair of drawing this out resulted in a very free and relaxed application of paint that led to an most unexpectedly satisfying study!)
Day 2 and Steve’s first demonstration – a view of the delightfully picturesque Stopham Bridge
And one of my views of the bridge. you can see here how, in comparison to Steve’s work, my colours have a heavy muddiness to them
And another view of the bridge. The foreground of the bridge on the left feels a little more successful but the opposing riverbank and the building is distinctly underwhelming.
Day 3 and my view down the river Arun looking towards Arundel castle. Was quite pleased with elements of this but the castle is too warm and I think the painting lacks a sense of depth.
This was a similar more expansive view. My set up here shown sheltering under the book of my car to avoid a minor rain shower.
And a closer view of the same painting. This, was probably the most successful painting of the week – although I think, knowing what I know now – I could do an even better version of this!
Steve’s demonstration on the fourth and final day at Dell Quay, near Chichester.
Probably the best of a bad bunch that I did on a day when I really struggled with changing light, tide, mudflats, green slime, boats… just about everything really (including the realisation that this was the end of my first ever watercolour course!)



Thoughts on Notes to self following a fabulous week of painting

28 thoughts on “Notes to self following a fabulous week of painting”

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  3. John, I can really see your style of painting comparing to another painting. I must say, I love them both, but your’s sticks out more to me. It’s all personal preference. I have yet to try painting outside. I still need to construct a portable easel.

    1. Thanks so much for this Al! Good luck too with the painting outside. It’s something I don’t do anywhere enough of, and I’m sure would massively help my development but sadly circumstances don’t permit at the moment. We can only do what we can do and sometimes, it’s as much as I can manage to paint indoors at home!

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  5. I think your first watercolor is great! I like watercolor as well but often end up with muddy colors. Keep up the good work. I think you have a future And thanks for the follow

    1. Hi Rebecca and many thanks for your kind and encouraging comments – they’re much appreciated! As for avoiding the muddy colours, it’s a constant battle but one that I feel I’m beginning to to get the upper hand in – hope that you’ll persevere too!

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  8. Thanks for sharing! I am a big Wesson fan, and his line and wash palette contained only three colours! just wonderful! I believe to in a palette with a few colours. There was last time a friend on facebook, she did have a palette with 65 colours on it! and still short in space for more colours!? I learned from my teacher, take a blue ish red ish and yellow ish color and paint everything with that! could be cobalt blue, Alizarin, and New Gamboge. but also Ultramarine. burnt sienna and Raws sienna as the blue,red and yellow.
    Like the paynes grey in Wessons line and wash paintings, the colour closest to a blue can be your skycolour! and perfectly accepted! looking forward to more of your adventures with Steve!
    regards Edo

    1. Thanks Susan – much appreciated most of these were specific to me and where I am with my own development but hopefully they’ll also be relevant to others too

      1. I am sure they will help most. No one wants to paint with muddy color. Holding a paint brush higher up so one will use their shoulder is something I need to try. Or check to see how I hold my brush…….

    1. Thanks David – the ‘really impressive’ work is all Steves but I’ve got lots to work on and feel really excited about the direction my painting may take as a result of this course.

  9. I love your “notes to self” something that I am always trying to work on, as most watercolorists, I imagine. My ultimate favorite is that first one with beautiful color…..and it looks wonderful in that gold frame. My next favorite is probably of the harbor…..can’t wait to see how this workshop will affect your painting in the ensuing weeks. 🙂

      1. Haha that’s fine Margaret. The captions are particularly small on this theme! Your choices were however spot on – Steve’s work is far far better than anything I’m currently capable of but I feel that I have what I need to significantly develop my work with a little dedication and perseverance! Many thanks Margaret

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