Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

August 15, 2016

Taking Stock

Filed under: Dorset,Drawing,Painting,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Rob Adams @ 11:06 am

I have a lot of pictures in my attic. I counted them and it gave me pause for thought, 1200, that is a lot of paintings. Though I dare say a fair few other painters could out do my total. Many of course would be best left to moulder or be painted over, but it still means there are many more perfectly adequate “Rob Adamses” in the world than anyone will ever want. Early on in this blog I wrote a section on why I paint which is here, in it on re-reading I essentially wrote about why I paint what I do in the manner I do, rather than why I bother in the first place.

The “why I bother” is actually simple and mundane, I enjoy doing it and the challenges it throws up. In my previous existence as an artist for hire I did whatever I was asked as well as I had it in me to do at any one time. As in painting pictures now I enjoyed the challenges and having to stretch what I was capable of in new directions. When it stopped being a challenge I rather lost interest and as my career had been relatively successful I was in the position of being able to stop and change direction with little risk. It was also one of those things that we nebulously script into our futures: I will give up work and just paint for me… or garden, or whatever. It is a sort of rosy will o’ the wisp destination that is reassuring when the present becomes a little tedious, like looking forward to a cold beer at the end of the day.

As with all ambitions the reality is a little different, not disappointing just different. Doing the work is satisfying, I am eager to start the next days painting and am often painting by 7.30 in the morning. Some things have been unexpectedly rewarding, such as the many fascinating people I have met through a shared interest. Also the trying to master the many difficulties of distilling and then painting the observable world for a frame rather than a page. This blog has been an unexpected pleasure, I never thought to write so much, I initially intended it just to be paintings with brief descriptions about technical matters. Instead I have found myself on an erratic voyage over theoretical, philosophical and motivational waters.

So, the taking stock bit. It is six years since I set out on my new course. In that time I have reshaped my life almost completely, moved a hundred miles west into the country and become a painter of pictures of the world around me. I no longer sit long hours at the computer or paint pictures of theme park developments. I am mostly free to shape each new day as it comes. I no longer have a city street outside my door, but a garden and trees.

I am not one to dwell on dissatisfactions, despite an inherent restlessness I am blessed with a mostly sunny disposition only briefly disrupted by the occasional melodramatic storm. I am a little concerned that I spend my days doing an activity which produces a product that few want or need. There is a part of me that irritatingly points out that I would better serve the community by doing something that improves the lot of my fellow man a little more directly. Still giving others the occasional dose of visual stimulation is not entirely worthless, just not as important as many in the art world would like to believe.

So stock taking is more difficult than I thought, it is hard to assign either positive or negative values. I cannot produce a neat chart with pros on one side and cons on the other. The part of taking stock that entails possibly adjusting your course, is problematic too. I can only form very prosaic ambitions, such as doing more printmaking and improving my oil painting. It is one of the results of ageing that your perspective changes, success is not a lure, the vague desire to become “known” dissipates. Although the quality of not understanding the world becomes more nuanced with age, the actual degree of understanding steadily decreases as old poorly founded certainties get progressively eroded.

So that is the end of the audit, my plan is to add more shelves to my attic and carry on painting regardless!

Not many pictures done and I seem to be more prone to re-working than I have been previously, which means pictures evolve. This makes it a little tricky for the blog as I don’t quite know when a picture is finished. I will I think post updates as I go along as this might be of interest to other painters, you will also be able to annoy me by telling me the first version was better!

Hambledon Hill, oil painting, dorset, landscape

I had this one sitting on a ledge in the living room for a week or so. It started life as an unfinished plein air done at dawn, but this reworking though it retained the basic tonal structure had a quite different feel. Eventually I felt it was more of a nocturne than a dawn and had the idea of adding a moon.

 

Hambledon hill, landscape, oil painting, nocturne

Here it is, it makes I feel a better nocturne than a dawn! It is amazing how so little paint can alter the whole emotion of a picture. The other change that was reassuring was that before when the picture was in my living room nobody noticed it, but when put back with its silvery addition it drew eyes and comment. 10in by 19in oils.

 

Cattle, bullocks, Fontmell Down, oil painting

I wanted to do a different take on Fontmell Down. On a painting visit we were chased away by this very rambunctious herd of bullocks. There was no chance of carrying on with the plein air painting so as they approached in fits and starts I took tons of photos. I am for now pleased with the result it has a quieter mood than I intended but I think that is probably a good thing. 10in by 19in oils.

 

Dorchester, oil painting

This was a sketch to work out a tone structure for a bigger picture, now I’m not so sure and this might be the finished one. It is based on a pen drawing augmented by some very over exposed iPhone snaps. It is the road in to Dorchester. 10in by 10in oils. I’ll put the pen drawing below.

 

Dorchester, pen drawing, dorset

I think I will still do a bigger painting but I might need to make another expedition. Fortunately the phone snap has time and date info so I should be able to return at the optimum moment!

 

Springhead, dorset, oil painting

This is Springhead an old mill up the hill from Fontmell in Dorset. I loved the mood when we were there after a rained off evening picnic. The photos were, as is so often the case, not at all like how I remembered it so this an attempt to recapture the memory. It looks like another one that might benefit from a moon being added, though I am holding off for now! It is one of those pictures that makes a big leap on being put into a frame, I find it hard to find a reason why that should be so but it does show that testing a picture in a frame as you work on it is a good policy. One especial benefit is it makes it easier to judge when a picture is finished. 10in by 14in oils.

 

White Nothe cottages, dorset, oil painting

These are the old coast guard cottages at White Nothe near Lulworth. Nothing particularly wrong just didn’t have the focus I was looking for, almost scrubbed it off but have attacked it again since.

 

White Nothe, oil painting

Here it is after surgery, I wanted to focus it in more. Still not quite the painting I had in mind when starting but will leave it a while before any more messing. It started off as a 12in by 20in but got lopped down to 12in by 16in. Oils

July 25, 2016

I Know what I Like

Filed under: Dorset,London,Painting,Thames,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Rob Adams @ 10:36 am

Well we all do, don’t we? My interest in this post is how those “likes” are shaped. Also, as artists, should we allow those likes to shape the work we do? This is prompted by the experience of putting up studio paintings and the sketches for them on social media. You can guarantee that people will pipe up to say that they far prefer the sketch. However in my last show I had several sketches and the paintings that finally resulted on the wall together. The studio pictures got the gaze time and the comments , the sketches mostly got ignored. The computer screen of course puts a 24inch oil and a 7in watercolour on an even footing which might be part of the reason.

This led me to consider what element of appreciation of a thing is taught to us by our upbringing and peers. A Victorian person would I suspect find a modern minimal apartment sparse and unwelcoming, and a thirty something today would find a Victorian parlour cluttered and dark. Both spaces might be perfectly practical to live a life within, so I would suggest that the way we choose to perceive them has changed.

This has ramifications for how I paint I feel. There are many ways of looking at a painting. Take a Breughel and just do a quick glance. What did you get? My guess is not a great deal just a general impression of complexity. Take a Munch, a quick glance at “The Scream” is a very different experience, the image delivers its freight of emotion instantly. Which one would reward the most if it was on your wall for a year though? My guess is that it is the Breughel that would garner the most looking time.

I am not, I hasten to add, assigning artistic merit by this measure. Only proposing that there are many different ways of looking. There is the quick high impact look, over in a moment, and the long accumulative look that might take years. Logically there must of course be all sorts of other ways and durations of looking. For many, painters especially our fast forward world today, the quick look or impression is all important. I hear the phrase “Over worked” or “Tight” used if anything is at all detailed or finished. The holy grail is looseness, expressiveness  and freedom all of which cater for and aid the rapid appreciation of a work. None of these things is true of the Breughel though, but I still feel his paintings are among the great artistic creations of man.

Artists tend to scorn detail, but the general public stubbornly loves it. I myself cringe slightly when someone says one of my pen drawings is wonderfully detailed. I want to protest out loud that it is mostly only random hatching that they are interpreting as detail that is not actually present. I have to conclude I suppose that in large degree we like what we are taught to like. Extending the range of what we are able to appreciate takes effort and an open mind. I am always nowadays a little uncomfortable uncomfortable when another artists dismiss and entire genre of work with a wave. “Mere Illustration” is one I hear a lot, I counter with the fact that the Sistine Chapel ceiling is illustration, but usually to no avail! If something is illustrative it is of a lower degree, what I am trying to say here is that such opinions are often more guided by fashion rather than actual aesthetic consideration.

Sadly it sometimes seem the case that people don’t allow themselves to enjoy certain things. They have a set of criteria that guides what they will appreciate. So a Victorian morality piece by Quiller Couch Orchardson would be dismissed even if it (as they mostly were) was beautifully composed and painted. Even more oddly these criteria have a strange irrational flexibility, so a Hieronymus Bosch from the 15C might be appreciated as art but a contemporary image in a similar vein might be dismissed as “fantasy” and not given a fair look.

I am far from being immune to this kind of snap judgement myself, but do attempt to make the effort to recognise that the “automatic” assessment might be poorly founded and take a second look.

Due to the dampness in France I did more oils than I expected in France, which got me fired up to do more on my return. I am trying to paint each day in “office hours” which does really help to keep the paintings coming.

 

Fontmell Down, Dorset, plein air, oil painting

This is Fontmell Down, I went up to do the main view which I have done several times before. In the end though I did this less dramatic subject, it is really just a cloud study. 10in by 14in Oils.

 

Child Okeford, Dorset, Plein air, Oil Painting

I haven’t managed to do many plein airs of my local village Child Okeford so this moment when the sun glimmered through after rain was fun to do. I might re scan it as it was very wet when this was done which makes the tones cruder than they really are. 12in by 12in Oils.

 

Shaftesbury, oil painting, St James

This is St James’ seen from Shaftesbury. I actually started this last year but got stuck. It seemed to have potential when I was going through my heap of unfinished and outright disasters so I set about finishing it. It is always hard to paint big areas of nothing much that have to be vaguely like undergrowth and layers of trees. The temptation is to define them and make them coherent, where in real life they are not that way at all. 12in by 20in Oils.

 

Hambledon Hill, Dorset, oil painting

I wish I had photographed the different stages that this one of Hambledon Hill went through. My first lay in felt somehow wrong. It is always annoying when something almost works but you just can’t put your finger on why it misses the target. A few days later when I came back to it I decided to re draw and it then look like a comic strip panel with black outlines. Crude as that was it did allow me to see where to go with it. Some bits may be glazed back yet but am happier with it for now. I made the mistake of posting the watercolour sketch on Facebook which garnered the usual “I prefer the sketch” feedback. I sort of knew this would be the case but to my eye the images are so different in intent that the only thing they share is the subject. 12in by 26in oils.

 

London, City, plein air, oil painting

This is a small plein air I did when I was first starting to try and paint the City of London. I always intended to paint a studio version but after this 1oin by 14in sketch sold I never got round to it. I have not done enough translating plein airs into studio pictures so I was quite looking forward to getting to grips with this.

 

City of London, oil painting

Here is the first version, I wanted a bit more dynamism in the figures but after having it on the wall in this state for a while I decided that it wasn’t quite gelling compositionally. So I decided the central figure had to go. It is always nerve wracking making a big change to a painting that almost works as it can easily end in disaster!

 

City of London, oil painting

Here it is after surgery, much better I feel, the composition takes the eye on a proper journey. 16in by 24in Oils.

 

Hambledon Hill, Oil painting, Dorset

Another one from the discards pile. This started life as a very quick sketch of Hambledon Hill done at dawn, but as I recall the sun bounced up into the sky too quick for me and I had to stop! I like the still mood though so I spent a pleasant hour or so playing with it. Not much of the original sketch left! 10in by 19in oils.

 

Hammersmith, Bridge, plein air, oil painting

Now my building works are done I can get up to London to paint with the Wappers. The summer at last gave us some sun and heat. This one of Hammersmith Bridge was very enjoyable to paint, I had almost forgotten what shadows looked like with all the grey days we have had. 10in by 6in Oils.

 

Hammersmith Bridge, London, Thames, plein air, oil painting

Before the previous painting I had blocked in a painting of the Bridge from the middle of the road here. I had intended to carry on with it but the light was very different and the reservation in the middle was in full baking sun. This looked much more pleasant to paint! I might do a studio one of this. 10in by 14in Oils.

 

Hammersmith Bridge, London, Thames, scooter, oil painting, plein air

Here is the first one of the day finished off. Better composition than the previous one so this might get the studio treatment instead. 10in by 14in oils.

That’s all for this instalment, maybe some watercolours need doing next.

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