The Ugly Tractor

Hawthorne on Painting

Every good plein air student needs to discover Hawthorne at some stage. “Hawthorne on Painting” is a little paperback which is currently being listed on Amazon and other book selling sites.

Charles Hawthorne is often quoted by painterly illuminati, although some say his teachings are contradictory. I bought the slim paperback online. It is without any illustrations but it IS full of advice.

The book consists of students’ notes of his teachings collected by his wife.

I’m paraphrasing here:

“Avoid drawing – simply put one spot of correct colour and value next to another…”
“Don’t paint with a brush, use a lot of paint with something like a palette knife without a pointed end.”
“Exaggerate colour, create a surprise…”
“Paint something ugly…open peoples’ eyes by showing them the beauty inherent in commonplace things.”

So I took my pochade box to Government House in Victoria and and instead of selecting the gorgeous flowers I chose a tractor in the gardens.

Wow, did I struggle. I missed my brush, I missed my under painting, I missed my drawing and I duly started with a spot somewhere in the middle, laying other spots around it, ignoring edges. Just like he said.

I’m not so certain about the end-result but I learned a lot, and had fun. Just like he said I would.

The 6 x 8 was dripping with wet juicy acrylic so I had to carry it to the Show ‘n Tell with my dustpan – my fellow Al Frescoes laughed when they saw my Hawthorne-method painting.

Next I’m going to discover Henry Hensche. The book is listed at over $1,500.00 on eBay but I’ve ordered the penny-horrible version off the Internet. Talk ta ya later…



Here are the two separate methods I have used as sleeves on a tripod leg to keep the umbrella in place.The sharp end of an umbrella pole can slide into either of these. The upper grip can either be a hole drilled into the paint box or a key-ring wide enough to accommodate the umbrella pole.


LEFT :: From the liquor store, a plastic sample holder

RIGHT :: From an old bicycle tube, some rubber. (Note- the valve is not necessary but it does provide a helpful handle).

5 replies
  1. irg719 says:

    Came across this picture Googling set ups for PA. How does your umbrella set up attached to the tripod? Is it adjustable to any angle?

    • Ron Wilson says:

      Ron’s reply about the umbrella option:

      (1) the umbrella should have a diameter wide enough to shelter both you and your box and canvas. I bought a golf umbrella which is wide enough for me (and which is reasonably priced). If the cover is wide enough I don’t need to tilt it in any direction. Sometimes I drape a 9 x 12-foot tarp over top of the umbrella, forming a “tent”, but that isn’t always necessary. Wind is the enemy, rain – not so much.

      (2) I fitted a ring (near to central as possible) on the side of my box. The pole part of the umbrella slides into this ring.

      (3) Then the bottom of the umbrella pole is tucked into a leg of my tripod, using either a sleeve of a piece of bicycle tubing or one of those plastic gizmos that comes with a whisky bottle which has a miniature sample bottle attached.

      I can attach photographs for Mr.King to put up if you wish.

      • irg719 says:

        I believe I get the gist of it. I’m just not so sure about attaching it to the box, but it would really make it secure. In that case your tripod must be heavy duty then. How do you counteract blowovers?

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