Turner began most oil paintings with coloured, transparent washes on a white or slightly warmed offwhite priming, whether on canvas or panel. His watercolour beginnings on white or offwhite paper can be very similar. The washes indicate the key features of the composition, even though they lack the depth and opacity of fully worked-up oil paint.
There is no preliminary drawing here, nor was it needed. The sky is sufficiently developed to show that the weather is fine, and the warm clouds suggest afternoon. The bank and the water are suggested only by the cows’ hooves in the water, and their reflections, yet give the viewer a clear impression of where the still water must be. The trees balance the distribution of the buildings. In a separate session, even years later, Turner could have added people and foreground vegetation to build both a subject and a season into the empty landscape…