Sunday, 5 May 2019

EDWARD WESSON 1910 - 1983 By John Softly

In the past I've collaborated with my friend John, notably on brushes and easels, taking advantage of John's experience and expertise on these subjects. On this occasion his knowledge of the iconic English artist Edward Wesson is unsurpassed so the obvious thing was to get John to write the article.




Edward Wesson died in September 1983 and yet his popularity is greater now than it was during the years prior to his death. Known primarily as a watercolourist but like many others working in the medium also painted in oils. 

He was prolific and said that one painting in four was a keeper - the rejects were usually given away to students in his courses and there are art dealers scouring the country in search of these rejects as they are worth their weight in gold - literally.







Born and in the closing days of the Edwardian era (April 1910) in the London suburb of Blackheath, upon leaving school  he found a job in the textile industry.

It was after his marriage to Caroline, always referred to as “Dickie”, in 1937,  that Ted became interested in painting and studied the methods of E W Haslehurst and Adrian Hill.

He served in the Middle East, Sicily and Italy during  World War Two and an encounter with Ascanio Tealdi, a Tuscan oil painter, was responsible for Ted learning to paint in oil. Within three years of being demobbed his oil paintings were being accepted by the Royal Academy. 
The Academy never accepted any of Ted’s watercolours but the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours did as did the Royal Society of Marine Artists. 






Ted’s work ethic was amazing and it was recorded that, at on time, he did five watercolours in the forenoon and cut the grass in the afternoon. He painted in the English tradition and had little time for gimmicks. His comment was “Those who can do - those who can’t teach - and those who do neither become critics’.

The most publicised thing about Ted’s technique was his use of a polishers mop. He found the first one in France and later the  Herring brothers of the  Dorchester art supplier obtained them for him. He used sizes 6, 12 and 15 but I think they were rounds although Ted’s brushes given to Steve Hall by Ted’s daughter, Elizabeth, had a couple of smaller sized squirrels and as we know the sizing of these brushes has never been standardised. In addition I have had a good look at Steve Halls video 'Watercolour Secrets' on the big screen. The brush roll given him by Elizabeth Wesson as being the brushes left in Teds studio, at the time of his death, are dissected by Steve and the numbers I gave 6, 12 and 15, certainly refer to the mops. There doesn't appear to be a round larger than 8 and the mystery brushes are three flats. Ted never mentioned flats in any of his articles, and although they appear pristine they must have been there for a reason. I've always assumed the 'mops' are what are currently known as Isabeys? PGW








His gear consisted of a Winsor and Newton Perfect Easel, where he complained that the wing nuts used to unscrew and land in the snow or sand, initially a De Wint palette, followed by a Binning Monro and finally a Holbein 1000. They were filled with the following W&N artist tube colours :-
Raw Sienna, Winsor (or Cadmium) Yellow, Burnt Umber, Light Red, Burnt Sienna, Winsor Blue, Ultramarine Blue and Cobalt Blue.His palette for his pen and ink wash was:- Payne’s Grey, Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna and Raw Sienna. The other colour he used extensively was “filth” which was the amalgamation of all the used colours on his dirty palette.

The Bockingford paper he used was made especially for him by Reme Green of Barcham Green the surface being rough and the weight 140 pounds and heavier.  According to Ranson he approached Green and asked him to make a heavier weight. The result was the 200lb Bockingford which is popular to this day. John says that this was the rough surface and was the only one made at the time. Now 200lb Bockingford in both rough and not surfaces is readily available and they even make a 250lb weight. PGW





His method was to place a few pencil dots on the paper for key points and then straight in with the washes. No sketch books or detailed drawings?.
Ted Wesson traversed the country in his Renault doing courses and demonstrations and was always happy to pass on his knowledge of the medium. He was also an excellent organist and would play church organs in many of the places where he conducted courses.









A source of income was the London store Liberty’s and Elizabeth Wesson recalls that they would ring up for “ Four more paintings of Tower Bridge or some other location” which Ted would have to do immediately. There were times when Ted would take Elizabeth to London with him and she had to be on her best behaviour as “We would be seeing the Lady from Liberty’s” .

Ted wrote his autobiography “My Corner of the Field “ in 1982,  a superb book of which he was justly proud. His other foray into journalism were articles for “The Leisure Painter” ( 13 issues) and “The Artist” (18 issues). A couple of these were on oils but they were mainly about watercolour.  There have been 5 biographies written on Edward Wesson, two of them co authored by Steve Hall, who paints in the Wesson style and has done more than anyone else to keep the memory of Edward Wesson alive.
Had there been APV and Townhouse instructional videos in Ted’s day he would have surely been keen to use the medium as he was one of the best teachers of watercolour the country has produced  







Wesson was amongst a group of artists commissioned by British Rail to paint posters of specific rail destinations for promotional use and also to be displayed in railway compartments - under the luggage rack. Later the Post Office Savings Bank asked him to do promotional paintings of small obscure Post Offices in the British Isles a task which necessitated travelling to small villages in far flung corners of the country. The Post Office paintings were true watercolours whereas the Railway posters, by necessity, were done in gouache.

In 1958 “The Wapping Group” invited Ted to join their number and during the summer months he would travel from Guildford to London every week to paint scenes on the River Thames with the group. Due to his workload of courses, lectures and exhibitions his time with the prestigious group only lasted a year but resulted in many marine works.








On a personal note. Edward Wesson’s paintings have been a source of enjoyment to me over the years and obtaining all the Leisure Painter and Artist articles as well as the six books was a labour of love. Anyone wanting to delve further into Ted Wessons art could do no worse than obtain a copy of 'The Art of Edward Wesson' by Ron Ranson, himself a watercolourist of note, who has written biographies of several artists, all of which are excellent. My thanks to John for producing this superb account of Edward Wesson, without doubt an iconic English artist and -  I believe- a real 'character' in the English sense.




















This is the East Anglian village where John, resident in Australia, was born.

There have been a few errors concerning the paintings, entirely my fault and not John's. They've now been corrected apart from one painting that is in gouache but I'll leave that in. John was responsible for the text and myself the illustrations. As you know he's in Australia and I'm in England (and we're both getting on, especially me, a bit.) so apologies again.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Watercolour Paintings 54

For this latest batch I've tried to go a little 'left field' if that is the right expression, at least with a proportion of them. The idea is to represent watercolour in as wide a range as possible. A  lot of these artists are new to me. I never cease to marvel at the incredible artists from China, Taiwan etc.  I hope there is something here for everyone.



Yong Hong Zhong


Kazuo Kasai


Judi Whitton - I enjoyed several workshops with Judi, both at Crantock Bay and Painswick



Lucia Del - The simplicity of this appeals to me.


 
Orhan Gurel - Great Artist


Joanna Boon Thomas


Marc Taro Holmes



Elke Memmler


Gilly Marklew



Jeanette Clark


Catherine Rey - I love Catherines work



Ivars Jansons


Stephie Butler - trying out a new Daniel Smith colour Wisteria


Charles Reid - possibly from an old black and white photograph




Charles Reid again - a sketchbook painting - love it.



Brian Dickinson- terrific



Rajkumar Sthabathy



Donglu Yu



Ping Long



Tina Klitgaard Eriksen

That's it folks!

Monday, 8 April 2019

Beware the Hype!

As readers of this blog will know I have something of an axe to grind regarding the very high price of watercolour materials, specifically paints. but also brushes and papers to a lesser degree. What has prompted this piece is the campaign by Daniel Smith (and others) to appoint 'ambassadors'- using well-known artists -  or other titles to promote their products. We get the usual stuff with the designated artist claiming they are the 'best in the world' or the best they have ever used 'etc etc. The latest instance had the artist squealing with delight and receiving posts from followers on her Facebook page congratulating her and 'assuming' she was getting them free.


 I know Daniel Smith watercolour paints are very good but 'best in the world'? They certainly have the largest range at 200 plus and growing. They do include some unique colours. However do  we really need 20 plus or more shades in reds, yellows, blues, browns etc. On my dot cards many seem similar or have only minor differences. Who has a palette with 50 or 60 colours let alone 200. I would guess the average varies from about 12 to 24. Is it really ethical for these successful artists to encourage their followers or students, many of whom will be amateurs or hobby painters, to pay the very high prices charged for Daniel Smith in the UK? The late Ron Ranson told me privately that the whole thing about watercolour materials was a ripoff. Of course he wouldn't say it in print but personally used Cotman paints, less than a dozen, cheap brushes and Bockingford paper. The famous Chinese master Guan Weixing reportedly uses Cotman also. These are approximately one quarter the price of the Winsor & Newton 'Professional' range. There are many who will say this is their preferred paint for this or that reason and personal preference is a factor but the idea that they will help you produce better paintings is debatable. In the case of Daniel Smith the lure of many of these colours is hard to resist. I've fallen for it in the past and bought umpteen which you then struggle to incorporate in your paintings. Other top makes like Schmincke and Winsor & Newton now have over 100 in their ranges and this seems likely to increase. Maimeri have gone from 72 to 90 and even - most intriguing of the lot - Van Gogh a budget make increased recently from 40 to 72.




Some years ago I did a series of workshops with an artist who used and promoted Daler Rowney watercolours. He didn't say they were the best in the world but nevertheless his students took note. One of the participants, who knew him well, said they were provided free. Later this was withdrawn and the next thing was articles appearing in an art magazine promoting another make.

A few years ago I got into a spat with a well-known artist who was promoting various makes as 'the best in the World.' These included Da Vinci paints and Escoda brushes with the statement that Charles Reid used Escoda. I pointed out that on all the workshops I'd done with Charles Reid he used and recommended Da Vinci Maestro brushes. This was not well received and I got an unpleasant response and subsequently received further vitriol.  Charles was on a workshop in Spain and visited the Escoda factory where he was given the VIP treatment. In my final workshop with him he was using some Escoda brushes and not long afterwards a three brush set  with his name on the handle was introduced. Escoda have done this with several other artists and they are at slightly higher prices than the normal Escoda range, presumably because the artists get some sort of monetary return. John Yardley, who always previously used the Winsor & Newton Series 7 Size 10 brush (at over £100 each) also has a three brush set now from Escoda with his name on the handle. I'd clarify that I've some Escoda brushes. I bought a size 14 Kolinsky after examining one that Charles Reid was using, and have one or two others. They are excellent brushes but smaller size by size than makes like Da Vinci. Best in the World? I think Da Vinci and others would strongly dispute that. Very good certainly but that isn't the same thing. Does a name on the handle make your paintings better?

I know many artists struggle to make a living from painting alone. This is one reason we have them doing demonstrations, paintings holidays , workshops etc. However the successful artists who promote various products are - presumably-  far from struggling financially.  I am an amateur or hobby painter and the majority who paint are in the same category. Some are reasonably affluent but many are not. Is it really ethical to suggest amateur artists must buy the highest priced artists quality paints? I suggest the answer is no as there are quite a few much more reasonably priced makes that are perfectly adequate. In the case of  'artists quality' Sennelier, Lukas, Rembrandt amongst the European makes, and then you have Shin Han, Mjello and Turner from Korea and Japan.  New ones seem to be appearing regularly which includes house brands, all worth consideration especially for the standard colours. While I have some reservations about some of the Asian makes; if you look at them selectively and avoid certain ones there are many with good single pigments that are worth trying. The ranges are quite large, much more so than the recognised budget or 'student' quality makes. The new Van Gogh  range is worth a try. I've used them in the past and they were perfectly acceptable. With 72 paints (from 40) they have quite a few single pigments and some that haven't appeared previously in budget makes. I would avoid certain blues like Cobalt Blue  and Cerulean as they are combination of Phalo blue and white. I don't like paints with added white as they are  more opaque and , in my experience, tend to solidify in the tube after a relatively short period. The same reservation I make about multiple pigment paints due to the unreliable results  that can occur if used for mixing. One other way of saving money is to buy 5ml or 10ml tubes, where offered, of colours that are not regulars.

I'm not going to cover brushes or paper in detail as I've done so fairly recently. Naturally I can only do so where I've actually used them myself or looked at what recognised artists use. With paper Bockingford is the  most popular in the UK and there are also some good synthetic papers in the Hannemuhle range. I do agree it is desirable to use a good quality paper. It doesn't have to be hand-made but 100% cotton like Saunders Waterford, although increasingly expensive,  is my favourite in the High White not surface.  As for brushes I believe the standard of synthetic brushes is now very high, and while they may not be exactly like sable they are getting closer all the time. A good compromise are the sable/synthetic brushes readily available from makers such as Rosemary. The best amateur artist I know - semi professional in some respects - used Pro Arte synthetics almost exclusively - seconds at that - but has been impressed by Rosemarys sable/synthetics.

I have on occasion contacted some manufacturers with specific queries. In the case of Daniel Smith and Maimeri I received no replies, even to a second e-mail to Daniel Smith. Winsor and Newton, to their credit replied promptly and  - while not bending an inch - gave their reasons for not doing so. I disagreed and said so but what can I do? That's it folks.


Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Latest Amerindian

My Indian paintings tend not to be very popular.  I post the better ones on Facebook/ Google groups like 'Portraits & Figures in Watercolour' - which I started - and 'Watercolour Addicts' as well as my own Facebook page. When I see the huge number of likes some others get I admit surprise and puzzlement at times but there you are. I'll keep trying. The one below is my latest and I quite like it. Some of my older ones, when I see them now horrify me as they are so bad and they quickly end up in the recycle bin. I'm still, at this late stage, trying for a more consistent result but it remains elusive. 


Indian Brave - 16" x 12" Waterford High White not

The overall affect is fairly close to what I was aiming at, although the eyes may be too close together. Resemblance to the guide photo is moderate but I don't aim for a  particularly realistic result. I have learned some lessons over the time I've been painting but it has taken longer than it should have done, partly because I took up watercolour - indeed painting - at a late stage in my life. Still I enjoy it !

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Watercolour Paintings 53

Here are this months batch. Varied as usual showing a wide range of styles and subjects. Hopefully there is something for everyone although this is always a tall order to fulfil. Some of the artists are no longer with us, some are already famous and World renowned, some well known and some lesser known or not at all, at least to me. Of course many may  have reputations in their own countries or local reputations where they are based.



Robin Berry - This is very recent from this fine American artist



Leilie Abadie - A study in delicacy from this French lady



Sarah Yeoman



Vladislav Yeliseyev



Tim Wilmott



Yuko Nakayama



Alvaro Castagnet - The Workshop King, Great Artist.




Herbert Brocklebank  1892 - 1932 A fine Australian artist



Correction - Stephen Zhang - Still Stunning!



Andy Evansen



Michiko Taylor




Ross Paterson - one of the leading Ausrtralians



Harold Herbert - Very Charles Reid like.



Lorna Muir 1920 - 1990 - Another  Australian




Jinnie May



Erkut Sevin


Rae Andrews



John Salminen - Amazing!




My Mistake! It is Charles Reid- Thanks Ray



Keiko Tanabe

Any name corrections or more information on the lesser known artists above welcomed