Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

March 11, 2022

New places, same me.

Filed under: Cornwall,Devon,Dorset,London,Painting,Portraits,Thames,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Rob Adams @ 2:05 pm

I stopped this blog a few years ago as I had got well settled in Dorset and was too caught up with a new places, new people, music, painting an unfamiliar place and the general blizzard of life. I was also short of new takes on old topics and felt I was rehashing previous posts. As I age I have more difficulty being certain of my own position on any subject, which doesn’t help with creating posts. It is perhaps bad to be dogmatic, but worse to have opinions that are so vague and nebulous as to be similar to having no opinion at all.

I had left London just as I was making headway with getting known. I was regularly in the exhibitions of the various societies and a Member of the Wapping Group. I met with others to paint most weeks. I was having fun and actually making a living at this strange occupation called painting. I threw all that away and moved to Dorset. From and urban first floor flat in Deptford to a 17th century cottage in Dorset. I still don’t quite know why, some part of me came to a turning in the road looked down it and thought, why not?

Age is one aspect, it changes the focus of your ambition. As a young or middle aged person you look at the future and wonder where you might journey. What you might achieve in the eye of the world, in other words success. This inevitably looses appeal as the future gets smaller. As Woody Allen said, “I don’t want to be immortal through my work, I want to be immortal by not dying.” When it comes down to it I have no interest as to whether my work is remembered or dumped in a skip when they clear my house.

This might sound a little depressing, but in reality it is rather liberating. All that wanting to be noticed and recognised is just a distraction really. With that mostly gone as a driving force I find I still paint just as much. Long term ambitions are replaced by short term ones, just to know whether the current painting flies or dies. The other thing that never palls is craft. How can I do this thing called painting better, differently or more subtly? How can I dance the line between what is being painted and how it is painted in a more elegant or appropriate manner?

I re-read the paragraph above and might also suggest an opposing view. Ambition is gone but what remains is mere habit. After a long lifetime doing nothing outside the visual arts I don’t know of any other way of filling my days. The hours are there and painting is a way of filling them, a pleasant distraction. In other words therapy, a way of staying sane. I find I can hold both of these views at the same time. As to which is more true and valid I have not the faintest idea or any wish to know.

Another thing that was perhaps to blame for squeezing out the blogging was music. To my surprise the music scene in Dorset is very vibrant, so music fills an ever greater part of my days. As with painting the only ways to get better are practice and refining your understanding. Music has always been a contrasting and perhaps balancing interest for me. With painting the results of your labours pile up and clutter the walls and the attic. With music the notes hang in the air for a moment and are gone.

Which brings me neatly to the purpose of this blog. It’s original intent was just to map my progress as I moved from being a commercial artist to one who painted pictures to frame and hang on the wall. From theme parks to decor. As I went along it mutated into a one person forum to help me understand what the hell this business I was engaged in actually was and how that might contrast with how I and others wanted it to be seen. That the blog became popular and others enjoyed my rather random thoughts was a complete surprise.

Over the years blogging has become supplanted by social media. Many artists now in reality paint just for their Instagram account. Is the final result of your labours a painting for someone’s wall, or a generator of likes? I understand the process, getting likes and followers gives that delicious hit of serotonin that we all love. Social media is cruel though, it moves relentlessly into the future, it leaves a trail of images that nobody ever looks at. You have to feed the monster regularly or you will be quickly forgotten. It is at root entertainment, but when everyone is an entertainer where is the audience to come from?

I look at my own account. My followers are painters… and those I in turn follow… painters too. It is not a comfortable thought, but the word ‘incestuous’ springs to mind. The other thought that emerges is that other painters are perhaps not my ideal audience. It is lovely to be appreciated by your peers and I consider their opinions on my efforts more seriously than those from others. They however are mostly not the people who are going to hang my product on their walls. I have done open studios with Dorset Arts Weeks for a few years now and those who buy my pictures are for the most part not artists, maybe they buy them because they don’t know any better.

So some pictures. What have I been up to in these intervening years? Far too many to post so I have decided on quick scoot through the missing 3 years. The last bit of 2019 before the world ended here we go.

The nearby Piddle valley has several interesting villages strung out along it. This one is about as big as I get en plein air, 24in by 12in.

Why do I paint self portraits? I have not the faintest idea. I like them done by others, I could type some guff about honesty and inner life. Are they a glimpse into the inner workings of the artist or just a painting of an old bloke on an aluminium chair? Your choice.

Sometimes I rest my camera on the dash and leave it filming as I drive through Corfe. The castle does a great reveal as you approach. 16in by 12in. I thought this one would sell but it didn’t… another one for the attic.

My last visit to Richmond, hardly been back since. I miss the Thames and the life along it. 10in by 8in.

Combe Martin. I bought a huge MPV that is half turned into a camper. This was one of my early expeditions to Devon. I started this in a patch of shadow standing in a rock pool… the sun came round and I proceeded to bake. Odd how paintings carry the memory of the day they were painted. I look at this and I can even remember the vile coffee I had at the cafe. Not in the attic, sold this one… I actually sold most pictures painted on this trip which means I should go back maybe. 14in by 10in.

You never know when you will paint a good one. It is a rare thing for me to like one of my own paintings. This was done in a rush on Bridport’s market day. I had no sooner set up than someone started to set up a stall almost on my toes. I was going to finish it off but it looked like just enough next day so I left it. Still in the attic so the buying public has different tastes to me. 16in by 8in.

Swanage, I love the old school seaside atmosphere of the place. Studio painting and on someone’s wall rather than in my attic. 20in by 16in.

More seaside, Weymouth this time. I love Dorset’s slightly faded seaside towns. In the attic this one but I still have hopes of getting it on someone’s wall. 12in sq.

I had a moment of pointillism with this one of Bath abbey. I am sorry and it won’t happen again. 16in by 12in.

A plein air sketch…

A studio version from the same day. You can now have a discussion as to the merits of each. Don’t do it in my hearing though as I don’t give a rat’s arse as to where or how a picture was painted.

Plein air, standing on a tiny ledge with the wind ripping at me and rain coming in horizontally. Guy ropes on the tripod and the painting rattling away making it hard to get the brush in the right spot.

Studio painting of same subject. Nice comfy studio, breaks for coffee. No rush an hour here and there, bit of a tune on the flute then back to it. 20in by 12in.

Last one before the pandemic hit. The Stour at White Mills. Mostly water the bit of land at the top is just a supporting actor. 12in sq.

That’s 2019 caught up with. Next we have the strange tale of what happens when you lock an old bloke into a cottage all by himself for a year or so.

May 30, 2013

100th Post… Hitting the Three Year Mark!

I can’t believe I have been writing this blog for three years. I hope it has been of interest or use to others. I have not done as many tutorial posts as I intended and posted more on philosophy as regards to painting than I might have expected. It is just when it comes down to it the thought and motivation that lies behind making a picture is as important as the actual smearing on of the paint! This is a discovery for me and a change of perspective that writing these tracts has brought about. It is also 3 years since I set about making painting original pictures the main focus of my day to day life. I am pleased and a little surprised I have mostly managed to stick to my original intention. I have produced  300 watercolours and 330 oils so 200 per year or 4 per week along with many hundreds of drawings. I have also squeezed in enough commercial work to pay the bills. I may have many faults but perhaps laziness is not amongst them!

I am also managing to sell pictures, indeed this year I am substantially in profit, a target I had vaguely expected to reach at about the five year mark. So a big thank you to all those who have bought a painting online as It is very brave to spend money on the basis of a screen image and I do hope that no one was disappointed by the actual painting!

In popularity by far the most popular posts are not about my pictures alas. Top of the list is the one on Spherical Perspective, and the next ones are my appreciation of other watercolourists down the ages. I must apologise here for the many typos and posts in need of editing, I intend to go back and do the thankless task of tidying, but the idea is not attractive… a bit like contemplating doing the hoovering when it is sunny outside and there are pictures to be painted!

I am more and more coming to the belief, especially having read many arguments of the “Yes it is!”, “No it isn’t!” variety that there is no quality in an object that confirms it can be called “Art”. We cannot define it, we cannot say with any confidence if an object has what it takes or not. This leads me to think the quality only exists in the cultural and individual mythic imagination. So a superstition then, not a real quality. I am guessing we like the idea that such clever mammals such as us can produce an object that has some mystical aspect. By our working we imbue an inert object with some soul, maybe some small part of our self is preserved from the coming dark. Magic and conjuration with the artist as prophet and witch doctor. Old idea I suppose, but we have always loved totems. Royalty, pop stars, celebrities, brands, masterpieces and magic swords, they all seem cut from the same cloth woven of wishes, dreams and disappointments.

I can argue that there is no actual art, only opinion as to what might be art. It is art only because we agree it is. Due to the fact we differ in point of view an object can be both art or not depending on who is having the opinion. There is no inherent property of an object that confers art status, therefore the property must come from elsewhere. IE from the opinions of those both alive and dead whose belief made it so. That opinion is also mutable, what was considered art is not necessarily art today and todays art may not be in the consensus of art tomorrow. So art is not the business of artists as it is not in their power to instil that imaginary property and beatify their own work. They may and do work at getting their work canonised, but that is called marketing and has nothing to do with the making of the thing.

So you cannot say if one thing is art or another not, as art is an imaginary mythic property. The same as the holiness of icons or the magic of a tarot pack. The bible is holy to a Christian, but the very same item physically unchanged is not holy to a Hindu.That a Warhol, a Leonardo or a Rothko is art depends upon faith. If you believe it is art then it is, but your opinion is no more right or wrong than someone who thinks the opposite. There are of course the Blessed Serota and the Sainted Saatchi who may with a wave beatify your effort, but such power is not granted to mere artists only to prophets. So photography or painting is both art and not art. It is your decision as the observer, not the photographer’s or painter’s.

There is only craft. Whatever the arena, be it photography or painting. Whether the result of that craft comes to have some totemic quality for an individual or a society or not is as far as I can see completely irrelevant to the crafts person. The carpenter merely makes a chair in a workshop, it is society that later says it is a “Chippendale” and thus imbued with some extra invisible quality due to the history of the place in which it was made. Leonardo painted a portrait as best he could, it is us who later created the masterpiece and icon in our imaginations. It is not Leonardo who placed his painting in a vast cathedral upon an altar of bullet proof glass to be worshipped.

In Bonhams and Sotheby’s we see them praying to the holy Warhol and the blessed Rothko. The rich give of their wealth in search of absolution as they always have. Indulgences, chantry chapels, immortality has a price. What a terrible trick was played on the collector and connoisseur when the words, “Less is more.” were uttered! If less is better surely nothing is best? Ah well, no matter, we have worshipped dafter things than a patch of canvas painted black.

For you as an individual painter or photographer or whatever none of this matters a fig. Learning a craft is a journey, it is important only in the changes it makes to you as an individual as you tread the path, not to the changes you make to some bit of primed cloth.

It is common now to think of the goal as celebrity or recognition. People say to me, “It must be wonderful to be able to paint like that.” I have heard the same thing and indeed thought it myself when I saw wonderful musicians playing. I know now however that the wonder is for the listener not the player. They think perhaps you see with other eyes, gazing past the ordinary to some deeper truth. It is not so however, my world is the same as that of any other, as far as I can know my eyes see what you see. If anything my efforts have been aimed at seeing less not more. You can expect no rewards for the mastering of a craft other than the occasional satisfaction of having done a job as well as you are able and the disappointment that it still fell short.

After that sermon, a few pictures.


St Ives, Cornwall, Harbour, boats, watercolour, painting

I am trying to get more Cornish pictures painted before the memory fades. This is St Ives. Painted half from a plein air and half from a photo. It only looked

like this for about 10 min, but I do love the light you get after a rain shower when the sun comes through. 1/4 sheet Atches rough.


Mousehole, cornwall, fishing boats, watercolour painting

This is a re working of the plein air oil I did of the same subject. Nicer as a watercolour but still a bit too pretty for me! It is Mousehole in Cornwall.

1/2 sheet Arches Rough.


Leigh on Sea, fishing boat, watercolour, plein air , painting

A day out with the Wapping Group. I wish I had taken my oils as the light was very transient. With oils you have a chance of catching the light when it

suddenly comes through This is Leigh on Sea in Essex. With watercolour you can’t back track! 1/4 Sheet Arches not.


Leigh on sea, Essex, Fishing Boats, watercolour, plein air

Leigh on Sea again, again there were some wonderful moments of light, I tried to get some idea by doing a quick sketch as I painted this one. 1/4 sheet

Arches Not.


Leigh on Sea, Essex, watercolour, plein air

A little 7in by 5in done in my Moleskin as the light changed.


Richmond upon Thames, Surrey, watercolour, river, rain, plein air

Another Wednesday with the Wappers. This time in Richmond Upon Thames. It was determinedly wet and grey so I sat under a tree and did this little

10in by 8in on a bit of ancient Whatman paper.


Richmond Upon Thames, watercolour, plein air, river, boat

The drizzle increased so I stuck to my Moleskin as anything bigger was impractical. The dappled texture in the trees is caused by the rain getting through!


Richmond Upon Thames, River, Watercolour, plein air

Last one from Richmond, I was not going to paint another just take photos, but this scene took my eye and I couldn’t resist. I was glad to get to the pub

just before the tide cut it off! That’s it off to France so I hope the rain lets up!

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