Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

September 12, 2010

Painting on the Medway

Filed under: London,Painting — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Rob Adams @ 3:43 pm

This post is recording a day out on the Medway, around Strood and Rochester with a few diversions to Hoo Island and Upnor. I was to meet with the Wapping group, but the morning was very foul with lowering skies and driving rain… after nearly weakening and rolling over and sleeping another hour I mustered my will power, such as it is, and set out. The journey was not a very optimistic experience, the rain got worse and I somehow doubted if anybody else would be so daft as to mount a painting expedition. Strood is on the west bank of the Medway with the impressive ruin of Rochester Castle on the other bank. There is plenty of the ship related clutter that makes for interesting subjects.

The rain had actually let up a little so without much enthusiasm I settled to paint the menacing presence of the Russian submarine that has its moorings there. The only sound was the water lapping  and the echoing noise of someone banging away in a disconsolate manner with a hammer over on the submarine. I wondered as I worked if someone was converting it into a house boat… The rain picked up again and I had to paint with an umbrella in one hand. Finishing this and in a pretty foul mood by now I went and fortified myself with a “Full English” at a local cafe… Italian owned, so delicious coffee rather than instant muck.

Strengthened I did a very quick watercolour of the castle then I decided to see if any members of the Wapping group was about so I headed over to Hoo marina, where I had painted once before, which was the other venue. As I drove the weather was distinctly improving, unlike my map reading which led me to Upnor by mistake. Upnor itself has a fine castle and pretty main street and Lower Upnor has boat yards and moorings. After I turned the car I noticed the crane of the boatyard was interesting against the improving light, so decided to stop and paint the scene.

This done I drove on to the marina but no sign of painterly life and the light had worsened again so I headed back to Strood to paint a scene of the castle I had spotted earlier. The light had got quite good again so I bravely set up a larger canvas. The weather had noticed my impertinence and prepared to attack, I hadn’t time to do more than block it in before having to take cover. I had taken a few photos so all was not lost. By now the weather was very threatening so I packed up and drove back through dramatic thunderstorms to London.

As  I got to Greenwich the sun came out as it dropped below the clouds and I could just see that the light would be fantastic on the river, so I parked quickly and grabbed my camera. I wasn’t disappointed I got some great pictures that will be the basis of couple of studio pictures I hope in due course. I should have stopped and painted but by then I needed supper and a drink!

Medway, Rochester, river, oils, painting, Strood

Here’s my Submarine, painted in the wet. The water had that pearly hue that it can take on beneath grey skies. The wind was battering my brolly making the whole process rather uncomfortable. My position was higher than I would have preferred, but I took a few photos from a lower point by reaching down through the railings so I might well do a studio painting using the colouring of this and taking the drawing from the photo.


Rochester, Strood, Medway, castle, river, watercolour, painting

Here’s the watercolour, it’s only really a very quick note, but it’s amazing how useful sketches like this are if you decide to do a studio painting using photographic reference later.


Upnor, Medway, castle, crane, river, oil, painting

Here is the boatyard at Lower Upnor, I was lucky in that the light improved as I painted with the sky brightening behind the crane. It’s always a struggle to keep plein air sketches simple and direct. If I had painted every strut on the crane I know from experience the impression would not be as good. Exactly as to why that is the case I’m never too sure, but it seems better to just give the eye hints to work on, leaving the rest to imagination.


Rochester, castle, strood, medway, river, oils

This larger canvas I knew I could not finish this plein air, so all I did was do the basic drawing and then block in the main areas with the correct (or so I hoped) tonal values. The sky was more or less finished on site but the rest took another day painting from photos. What I liked about the scene was the glitter and fuss of the river and boats between the sky and castle and the still inlet . I might return here as I think at sunset it might be quite dramatic on a better day. I resisted the temptation to “improve” the day in this painting. Somehow it never really rings true when you do that. Seeing the picture on the monitor as I type this I think the reeds are too fussy in the mid ground and need simplifying. This shows how useful seeing a picture a fresh can be I use a mirror a fair bit for the same purpose. The image above is the adjusted painting! You can click the image to enlarge.


Hoo, island, marina, Medway, estuary.

Here is an acrylic from an earlier visit a few years ago, another blustery day! After I painted this the day cleared and I painted a studio picture from the photos I took. It is of Hoo Marina which has some great subjects for painting in and around.


Hoo, Marina, Medway, estuary, acrylic, painting.

Here is the studio painting hard to believe they are of the same day! I took a few pictures of this same scene on this visit and three of the boats are still there ten years later. I might well do another of this. You can click image for larger version. So that’s it for the Medway…

1 Comment

  1. excellent work .Should be all put into a book for the public to enjoy and to inspire would-be artist’s.god bless your work!ttfn

    Comment by ron — March 2, 2011 @ 5:34 pm

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