Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

December 8, 2017

Life Painting and Amateurism

Filed under: Drawing,Life Drawing,Painting,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Rob Adams @ 1:59 pm

I am very pleased to be in the January 2018 edition of the Artist magazine (on sale now!). Throughout my childhood and as I grew up my mother was always a keen reader. It was, I understood even then, a step up from the Leisure Painter despite it sharing a publisher, much of its production team and containing very similar content. It was only in later years that I was informed by other artists that these publications were for the amateur market of enthusiasts rather than professional artists. By this time I was a professional commercial artist myself and so busy I gave the subject no more thought.

Now however I am not sure I fit the profile of professional anymore. Professional surely means you make your living or at least the bulk of it through painting both by selling pictures and fulfilling commissions. Artists have an understandable desire to talk up their sales so it is not always easy to discern exactly what return they are getting on their efforts. I gave up a pretty lucrative business as an illustrator, designer and visualiser that paid for my way through life and generated enough savings to get me to the position where I could say, “What the hell I just want to paint!” Nearly 7 years after that decision where am I? My friends tell me it is just so uncool to reveal your financial details… but well what the hell I don’t care in the least. So… painting pays for a couple of holidays and the materials required to produce and frame as much work as I please. It does not supply housing or something very close to my heart… dinner! Or any of the other every day bills and needs.

So that’s it I have to demote myself to amateur along with Van Gogh and Vermeer. There are however different degrees of amateur I might be a serious amateur rather than a dabbler. That would give a little boost to my ego after the previous collapse in status. Professional might need a little light shone on it too. If you make most of your living selling DVDs and giving demos aren’t you a teacher rather than a painter? I am not I might add trying to offend anyone here, but just wondering if our current categories are a little arbitrary. Maybe there is a better way of assessing the relative dedication of painters.

I could perhaps define someone who spends most of their lives effort over a long period into improving their capabilities as serious, through to the enthusiast who finds the process fascinating and maybe has only had the chance in later life to take up their lifelong interest full time. I must note this has little bearing on the quality of paintings produced. That being the case you may wonder, and I do too, if making any such judgements, or paying any heed to those that do, is worthwhile. The answer has to be for me, none whatsoever, there is a little waggy tailed needy bit of me that would enjoy the pat on the head of being deemed professional, but a much larger part that can’t take any such divisions seriously.

I have been experimenting with doing small oils in our wonderful weekly life sessions. At first I didn’t attempt it because is seemed unlikely that anything worthwhile could be achieved in the 30min window of opportunity that you have. I was wrong of course it seems with a bit of luck you can get quite a lot down and described in that length of time.

Figure painting, oil painting

I had on my palette a set of tones left over from doing a self portrait which eased the process considerably, you don’t always realise how much time you spend mixing and re-mixing. Direction of stroke is very important, here I have painted along the direction of the arm, which is not a good idea as the arm also has a direction at 90 degrees to that. Oils

figure painting, oil painting

Here’s the next go. These are all 30min or less so little time for drawing out. I try to see shapes and keep areas distinct as it is impossible to do much laying paint on top of paint in this timescale. Oils.

Figure painting, oil painting

Another session and I am painting a little better now as I gain confidence These are all 7in and smaller so not a great deal of real estate to cover. I try to be very systematic patching areas in by importance and size until most of the ground is done and only then refining edges and details. Oils.

figure painting, oil painting

A little better here with the choices in direction of stroke. I am swinging between getting the lights or darks in place first. Here I did the lights first but was mindful that the tone needed to take a final highlight. Oils.

Figure painting, oil painting

This session was just with a few of us which made it easier to focus. This was 15min or less so not too accurate but has an immediacy that pleased me. Oils.

figure painting, oil painting

This one was the first of the session on a tiny bit of board. I had arrived telling myself to not try and get the whole figure in! Oils.

figure painting, oil painting

I loved painting this! The head against the light gave me an easy hook to build the rest of the picture around. Oils.

figure painting, oil painting

It was grey outside so this one and others from the session were more subdued. Oils.

figure painting, oil painting

I tried to get the mood of the room here, would have loved a bit longer on a bigger board. Oils.

figure painting, oil painting

I was pleased at how I managed to fit the figure to the board here, stretched out poses are always difficult I find but helped by close cropping. Oils.

figure painting, oil painting

Only 10 min time – gone in a flash! Oils.

figure painting, oil painting

Didn’t take my own advice and crop here. That said I am getting better at placing paint strokes concisely. Oils.

figure painting, oil painting

Another private session with only a few of us. A bit longer about 40min. On canvas board which I don’t like as much as MDF, something about the quality of the dragged paint isn’t as nice. Oils.

figure painting, oil painting

I loved the soft hues and tones in this pose. I quite like to introduce the occasional unashamed drawing stroke, but I cut them back a bit after with lighter tones which makes them “sit” in the picture nicely. Oils.

figure painting, oil painting

Last one, I could easily get addicted to figure painting and it is a great challenge that brings to the fore any weakness in your technique or laziness in observation. Oils.

That’s it Christmas looms and I will be off on my travels with my paints… Wales and Ireland this time so I hope I get some painting done in-between the eating, drinking and catching up with friends and family.

5 Comments »

  1. Rob, this is marvelous. Great insights, help, and cheering for us not-even-worthy of enthusiast designation. Thank you for sharing your progress. Xx Your Fan Cathy

    Comment by Cathy — December 8, 2017 @ 4:53 pm

  2. Really interesting Rob, I think they are all brilliant!

    Comment by Robbie Murdoch — December 8, 2017 @ 9:04 pm

  3. You are an artist. That speaks for itself and says it all.

    I read your blog and enjoy your paintings because you are an artist.

    The limiting and often devaluing adjectives to which you refer mislead the public and artists as well. I think we should stop using them.

    May you and all artists continue to bring your gifts to the world.

    Comment by Louise — December 9, 2017 @ 6:24 pm

  4. What a refreshingly honest blog. I too would love to be able to say I make my living from art but I am not there yet, far from it . I am a solicitor by profession and paint in time I carve out as mine ( not always successfully) . Saw your article in the Artist magazine which a member of a life drawing class I go to asked us to look at and who is also featured – Ruth Buchanan. I look forward to reading your eloquent blogs in the future .

    Comment by Katie Leng — December 21, 2017 @ 9:17 am

  5. Enjoyed reading this post – the portraits are lovely! I too found your site through the piece in ‘The Artist’. Look forward to reading more.

    Comment by Diana Vazquez — December 27, 2017 @ 5:28 pm

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