Summer, West Bergholt, England

oil on canvas, 1910mm x 810mm
digital image colour balanced by John Cupitt 

Private collection

full size print available click here

oil studies

On a cloudless early morning crop and sky colours change subtly but dramatically across the field. Standing up, I made studies comparing colours across 120 degrees:


studio sky blues

With the canvas on the floor, strips of colour mixed with slow drying stand oil were laid out. The photo below was taken at this point. Adjacent strips were then blended using badger blenders, which look like little shaving brushes. If their domed tops are applied at right angles to the canvas they deposit hundreds of tiny dots of paint. A circular dabing motion across the strips eventually blends the paint so that colour transitions become imperceptible.*


hand made and digital images

Comparison of a source photo with a similar area in the final painting shows key differences between painting and photography. The photo has thousands of colours, and we tend to make sense of this kind of scene by latching onto objects or groups of objects, and perhaps noticing the illumination. But the scene is hard to see. 


The painting has a limited number of colours, which makes the scene easier to see (parse) and also draws attention to the colours of nature. We feel we understand what we see because we sense an organisation in seeing. This creates vitality. It's me and you doing this, not a machine.

Unlike the smooth surface of a photo, its possible to see each colour as a separate mark of working paint - hand made and eye made. Textural articulation comes from a contrast of dark filmy glazes and lighter opaque paint. For brown leaves made orange by transmitted sunlight, thin glazes are used over paler reflecting paint. These are all common rescources of oil painting. **


The picture is one of a series based on the same field near West Bergholt in Essex. Because we can't look towards and away from the sun at the same time it's hard to appreciate the full grandeur of the effects of light that surround us in quite ordinary places. But you can do this with an image.

It's mid morning. Looking towards the sun, transmitted light shines through dry leaves changing them to orange stained glass. 120 degrees to the right, raking light turns the wheat ears into countless little white sculptures. Blue damsel flies and wild oats float in a cereal sea of huge power. Demeter unleashed. A pair of wood pigeons swerve away from Bill Jack, the farm manager, as he walks the tramlines to inspect his crop. The wheat ears are just starting to curl, an indicator of good moisture level for harvest. A contrail in the sky moves towards London Stansted, like a needle weaving man and nature together.

accross generations
The eye level is the same as that of the farm manager suggesting that both farmer and artist work outdoors and have that much in common. I showed a full size print of this painting at an art fair in New York. The place was packed and one visitor in a thick Bronx accent asked "Is that your father?". My dad had died just before I started this picture, and amidst all the noise I realised this passing American had seen a truth that I had not. 

That a piece of ordinary farmland should offer a place for this kind of memory is not surprising : I've lived most of my life in English suburbs and the adjacent countryside has always been a sort of heaven.



* This method of blending is described in Ralph Mayer, The Artists Handbook of Materials & Techniques, 1991 edn. pp.543-544. It's pre-impressionist.
** This use of a tinted reflecting layer beneath a glaze of similar hue is found in Titian. See Arthur Lucas & Joyce Plesters, The National Gallery Technical Bulletin, Volume 2, Number 1, January 1978 , pp. 25-47.

Paintings and prints available. For information, images and all other enquiries please contact


Phone: +44 (0)1353 667014

Letter: Coach House, 7 Douglas Court, Ely, Cambs, CB7 4SE, UK


Copyright © 2024 Stephen Taylor Paintings. All rights reserved. Website by Studio Nova