Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Way I Was: doing a Wesson

When starting out in watercolour it’s a good idea to focus on a painter whose work appeals. Once, for me and others in my painting circle, it was Edward Wesson. His loose understated style in the tradition of Sargent, Whistler, and Edward Seago evolved as a means of quick direct observation done en plein air. It seemed the right way to paint watercolour.

I’ve never regretted the time when I hauled an easel, a rucksack full of painting gear, and a drawing board out of the car boot and set up in the corner of some field – but it is a bind. Often when walking our local footpaths a compelling subject would present itself – no time to set up all the paraphernalia even if I’d had it with me. I soon decided that travelling light with just a sketchbook was better.

Most of the interest in painting landscape comes from recording effects of light and these are often fleeting. Mood and the sense of place can be captured quickly and directly in a bold medium like charcoal or graphite pencil. Colour is not critical, it is an element that can be worked on imaginatively in the studio, but tonal values are much more difficult to recreate convincingly from memory.

Looking through some old sketchbooks at my charcoal drawings they seemed to lead naturally to the ‘Wesson treatment.’ He’s a hard act to follow and so many have trodden the road where he led. There’s a fascination and charm about his way of working though – so maybe I’ll do one more ‘Wesson’ for old time’s sake.

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