Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

January 21, 2019

Certainty

Filed under: Dorset,Painting,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Rob Adams @ 6:45 pm

Much of painting is understanding things. Working out exactly what it is you are seeing and getting it down in an elegant a manner as possible. Or so I thought for many years. I understood that over resolving would make a picture dead and mostly I hope avoided it, but I never quite understood until fairly recently why that is the case.

I have touched on this before, but I wanted to do a post on it to organise my own thoughts on the issue. It turns I think around certainty. When you glance at a subject much about it is unclear. If you take a longer look then more things are resolved by understanding and interpreting the visual information. So you now have a composite image in your mind’s eye the visual input and the interpretive overlay of understanding and assumption. So the question is: which of these do you paint?

I have decided that for me it is just another choice. It is for me to decide how much of my understanding of the subject I transfer and to what degree. If I choose to do the first fleeting glimpse then the problem is to winnow out those elements. Easy to say but hard to do though! Painting inevitably involves looking for a period and that looking brings with it insights into what exactly is in front of you. It is very hard to regain that “first glance” moment. It takes  a stretch of the imagination to unlearn things and recreate a simulation of an initial impression.

Life drawing helps me in this regard I find. If you cannot quite make out the bottom edge of an arm because it is in shadow then defining it will probably take away from the effectiveness of your drawing. If the side of a cheek is a little hard to resolve because it curves away from you in differing degrees, then your drawing should perhaps reflect that uncertainty in some way. This in some part answers my longstanding puzzlement as to why those 5min quick poses so often produce the most satisfying result of a session. People seem to wish to believe that it is the rush and the letting go that frees you up, cutting that pesky consciousness out of the equation, but I suspect not.

So, to try and put all that together. We are not painting or drawing elements we are sure of, we are painting degrees of uncertainty. Once you start to think of it that way then all sorts of possibilities come to mind. Not just in making things less resolved here and there, but in controlling the degree of resolution that you feel suits the various parts of your composition. So what you are doing is not just unifying and simplifying, which is the usual route and often removes delicacy and subtlety from any resulting work. It is choosing which parts of your observations to put on the canvas and at the same time varying the definiteness of the information.

Plainly this cannot reliably be done by splashing and hoping. I quite often knowingly over paint a subject. This means that when you are done you can erase, blur or knock back anything that is a bit to prominent. I might even when painting plein air deliberately over detail as I know that I can simplify later. If a painting won’t come together it is far from a bad tactic to knock the whole lot back and bring it forward again as many times as is necessary.

I am blogging less frequently at present, in some ways because I have covered a great deal of ground over the years so subjects where I feel I have something useful to say are inevitably getting fewer. However I made a new year resolution to do a post per month and not to put every picture I paint up here as I had originally intended. I do however intend to carry on posting the ones that go wrong as often they are the ones that benefit from a post-mortem.

So oils it is…

Blandford, Dorset, bridge, plein air, painting

This is the bridge over the Stour at Blandford. I didn’t set out with many hopes as the day was flat grey, but this scene had some interesting contrasts. I always find bridges hard to work into a composition and this scene was no exception. What makes it work I feel is the punctuation  the reeds bring by cutting through the water to bridge line. 14in by 8in oils.

Sue Fawthrop, portrait, oils

This is my friend Sue Fawthrop who was exhibiting with me a selection of life paintings, so we decided to each do a painting of the other painting. A sort of brushes at dawn moment. I did one prior to this which still needs attention, but I had to stop as there was too much wet paint to continue. This one I did very quickly in 20 or so minutes and of course it came out better than the more worked version. However in such cases it is well to bear in mind that I probably could not have painted this without all the looking that went into the first effort! 12in sq Oils.

Golden cap, dorset, plein air, oil painting

This was a fearsomely windy day above Golden Cap on the Jurassic coast. I had to hold on to everything while I painted. Not sure I quite caught the scene as it looks quite peaceful, perhaps a flying brolly or bullock would have helped tell the story! 10in by 5in Oils.

Lyme Regis, sea, plein air, oil painting, dorset

Another wrestling match with the wind later on in the day. This is Lyme Regis, 45 min of almost continual bad language as I strove to prevent my easel and painting from heading off towards France! Great fun though a more placid day would never have delivered the same results. 10in by 8in Oils

Durdle Door, Dorset, plein air, oil painting

This is a franken-painting made up of two plein airs. It is also the first time I have painted the famous Durdle Door. Such iconic scenes always bring problems linked to the inevitable fact that everyone already knows what the place looks like. The first picture had a decent Durdle with a boring sky, the second had a poorly composed Durdle with a decent sky. So I wiped of the sub-standard cliffy bits and painted in the Durdle from the other. Finally I wiped off the first one to hide the evidence. I regret this now as it would have been interesting to compare the two before surgery. 12in by 12in Oils

Chesil, Dorset, Abbotsbury, plein air, painting

This is Chesil as seen from Abbotsbury castle. The light wasn’t ideal but a great view that I will return to. I am more and more coming to like the idea of repeatedly returning to scenes I know are interesting. It makes sense that if you get an inspiring subject on an inspiring moment you will be more likely to paint a winner. 12in by 7in Oils.

Well that is the oils partially caught up with… only 20 more to go!

1 Comment »

  1. The Lyme Regis picture appears to be missing from treeshark.

    I’m pleased to hear that you are planning to up the frequency of your blogs. Thanks.

    regards – Peter

    Comment by Peter Dewar — January 22, 2019 @ 6:58 am

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