I think I have reached the end of the Constable binge. But I want to point out what I think his "secret" was. It was his drawing ability. I know he made plein air sketches and full sized sketches and that was certainly important. But I think our contemporary predilection for looser work, conditions us to ascribe greater importance to those things than the they deserve. The same predilection encourages us to overlook that which his generation would have considered his strength, his drawing.
So many painters today are straight to paint guys (myself included) that it is easy to miss that Constables paintings are built on a scaffold of drawing that an impressionist painting is not. I think it was not only his drawing ability, but his preliminary drawings that really made his work go. I believe there is more from these drawing in his paintings than from his oil sketches.
The usefulness of these drawings to Constable was not quite the same as if they had been photos. The drawings are already carefully purged of the nonessential. They gave him a simplified reference from which to work.
I wrote the other night about copying a Church. Church's secret was also his drawings. If you can learn drawing skills like these, you could work like Church or Constable. Their art was more a colored drawing than the paintings most of us make today. We are not accustomed to the idea of landscape pencil drawings but that was the basic start for Hudson River school paintings, Constable, and all that went before impressionism.
I want to contend that drawing is the most important element in the landscape (excluding design anyway) When I teach, the the students ability to paint the landscape is the same as their drawing ability. Those who have had atelier training, before the cast, usually have the best results. Students who have drawn heads, or done lots of still life seem to do well also. I have had many students who just want to do the landscape and have neglected to do the studio work that builds drawing ability and they are more likely to flounder.
Even loose painters like Emile Gruppe or Seago have this strong drawing underlying their paintings. Abbreviated and simplified as their work may be it has a rightness to it that tells. There is more drawing in a landscape that has been designed and pushed around than in a more straightforward project. So don't think because you want to do loose or rapidly executed work you will skirt the need for sound drawing. You will need it MORE.
If you want to paint better landscapes I advise you to study the figure, do still lifes and whatever else that will teach you how to draw a subject in its proper proportions and values.Working from photographs will not improve your drawing ability! The ability to paint something is the same thing as the ability to draw it.
DRAWING IS THE PROBITY OF ART -Ingres
Tomorrow I believe I will go to a new subject, but I haven't a clue yet as to what it will be. I think it will be art technique for a while. I also am planning to do a series suggested by a reader, called 100 paintings that an artist should know.