Like many painters, he used squaring up to copy drawings and smaller studies to canvas. Some of his larger works apparently show evidence of tacks spaced regularly around the edges of the canvas, to which threads could be tied in a grid. This is instead of using pencil lines, which can be a pain to get rid of. It's a method I've used before, and saves a lot of time and dented canvas from rubbing out. So I spent a sweary fifteen minutes hunting down the drawing pins and carefully measuring out the edges of the canvas before sticking the pins in at regularly spaced intervals and threading a length of cotton around them all to make a grid.
I'd also previously applied a thin wash of Light Red to cover the scary white of the canvas and provide a contrast to the greens that are going on top of it.
I've seen videos of American landscape painters like Scott Christensen starting a large canvas in the studio freehand, working from studies but with no preparatory drawing or underpainting. Great if you can do it, but that's a little too nerve wracking for me. I like a tight underpainting I can work into, with all the drawing and compositional problems worked out beforehand. Also, I think some effects are only to be had with overpainting and layering, and that calls for a more planned approach.
The sky is going to present problems. I have several choices as to what's going into it, and good records of the light and cloud conditions from the time I made studies on site, but I want to make sure it gets the full Constable treatment - the sky as 'chief organ of sentiment' in a painting. To that end, I'm doing small sky studies to try out different things.
Dishonest? Yes. This is art. It's a bunch of lies that tell a truth.
To get back to the title of this post - why is Constable's work the paradigm of English landscape painting that resonates so deeply with most of us? If you want to paint English landscape, you can't help but acknowledge him, despite the fact that there are other, equally well known English painters whose work is no worse, and who arguably should have just as great a claim on the national consciousness.
In part, it's because his paintings are so well known, from hundreds of reproductions hanging on parlour walls all over the country. It's also because of what they represent; a rural idyll that many long for, but most will never live in.
Mostly, though, it's the simple fact of recognition. When you look at a Constable, you sense the sheer simple pleasure he obviously took in being there, wherever he was painting.