Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

June 18, 2018

Making an Exhibition of Myself

Well I have had 16 days of open studios. More than 600 people marched or mooched, depending on mood, through my house and admired my decor whilst briefly glancing at the pictures on the walls. I sold 25 pictures so a buyer every 24 people… though less actually since some bought more than one. I set myself up to paint and draw throughout as a sort of educational how to do exhibit or should I call it performance art? I had about a hundred works on show so I am pretty pleased with the way it went.

I am not shy about painting while people watch, that is one thing being a plein air painter prepares you for. What was fascinating though was watching people look at my paintings. There seem to be a few different sorts of art gazers. There are the skimmers, they zip round in a trice, some seem merely to revolve once in the room and they are done. They seem to scan in order every picture getting the briefest of glances. Their visits are over in minutes and they never buy anything. Next fastest are the skippers. They take a more random approach flicking past most paintings then diving in close for a better look every now and again. They don’t look in order and if they return to a painting more than twice it is time to chat with them… a sale is unlikely but you never know. Next are the browsers. They are going to look at everything in order. Some paintings are briefly assessed others given the third degree. They often look at a painting move on then dodge back again as if something has struck them. Browsers are definitely potential buyers. Next slowest are the indexers, they give each work the same length of gaze and do them in order, they never go back to look twice and never buy anything. Then we have the enthusiasts they bounce around admiring things gasping and ooing and ahing if they like something. They raise your hopes but alas they are usually other artists! Then the rarest bird of all, the collector, they always grab a price sheet and move quite briskly from picture to picture pausing occasionally to make a note against a  title on your list. They might go away without buying but if you are lucky they will return once they have thought about what they like and they might buy more than one.

After you have watched a hundred or so peruse your efforts it becomes clear that some pictures are the stars of the show. Mostly they are not the ones you expect to appeal. There was one small, soft and subtle painting of Portland which garnered many gazes despite being in a corner and high on the wall. Damned if I know why… but if I could work out a theory I’d be rich! One thing that pleased me was that my pen drawings were a hit. I had put them in amongst other works last time and they got rather lost, so this time I grouped them on two adjacent walls. It worked almost too well, they out sold the oil paintings! It has decided me to work towards an exhibition of just pen drawings at some future date. Prints also went down well so I shall persevere there too. Now it is all over I am at a bit of a loss, but am painting in France soon so that will perk me up.

So here are my efforts from the 16 days. It was a little odd getting just 10min here and there to work. Short bursts interrupted by chatting to visitors and meeting and greeting.

Corfe castle, Dorset, pen and ink, drawing

I had decided to do Corfe from Nth, Sth, East and West, this is looking South. As I was marooned in my house I had to work from reference. I remembered I had needed to clamber all over the hill when I was taking photos to get everything in an interesting relationship. The day had been dull so the lighting here is largely imaginary, the result could almost be moonlight.

beaminster, Dorset, pen and ink, drawing

Another day another drawing. Beaminster was my next victim. On this day I had painted one view of the church only to find a much better one a few yards round the corner! With no time left to linger I had to take a quick snap and moved on. With tonal pen drawings the more dark the image the more work it is. Here though I used my new Fude pen that can make very broad lines, which somewhat reduced the task.

Corfe Castle, pen and ink, drawing, Dorset

Here is the next view of Corfe looking West. Monday was bit slow with the visitors so I could take my time. I love the chunky marks the Fude pen makes, you can really give weight to the foreground tones.

Corfe Castle, Dorset, pen and ink, drawing

Tuesday was another Corfe drawing, here we are looking East. I actually didn’t get this completed so it was Wednesday’s drawing too. Usually I would complete one of these in a couple of hours so a drawing dragging on over two days was a little odd.

Corfe Castle, Dorset, Pen and ink, drawing

The last of the Corfe ones this is of course looking North. You can see the thick Fude lines in the shadow on the road. This one sold next day.

Hambledon Hill, Dorset, pen and ink, drawing

During the brief snow we had here in Dorset I had climbed Hambledon hill to paint and was amazed at how the snow had brought out the shapes in the ground. Not the easiest subject in pen and ink but great fun to do. It will I hope become a Lino cut at some future date.

I realised at this point that I had better start pushing the oils, so I changed medium.

Dorset, plein air, Plush, oil painting

I actually got out to paint this quickie near Plush. The evening light was gorgeous and it was great to be outside to paint after being mewed up indoors. Oils 16in by 10in.

Wellington Clock Tower, Swanage, Dorset, oil painting

Back to working from reference. This is the Wellington Clock Tower in Swanage. I did a watercolour of this en plein air, as I was packing up the clouds rushed in and I rather liked the mood, but had no time to paint it. Oils 14in by 10in.

Dancing ledge, Jurassic Coast, Dorset, sea, oil painting

Next day I felt like doing a bit of sea. Also I have to give a talk on sea painting later in the year. I have done several others for the talk, but they keep on selling! this is Dancing Ledge, I went several times a year ago as I had a commission. 14in by 10in Oils.

Corfe Castle, Dorset, oil painting

I had enjoyed doing the drawing of Corfe so I decided to do a painting of the same view. It was a very busy day so I painted this in fits and starts. 14in by 10in Oils.

Fortuneswell, Portland, Dorset, oil painting, Chesil

I was getting into the swing of it now so I took on this view of Chesil looking over Fortuneswell. It had to be seriously reorganised to make any kind of a composition so it was fun trying out different options from various reference pictures I had taken on different days. 12in by 10in Oils.

Pembrokeshire, cliffs, oil painting, sea

More sea! This time it is Pembrokeshire. I wanted to experiment with the knife to try and get the sparkle of the water. I was really getting into the routine of painting a bit chatting a bit now so I just did the knife work in stages. It was vital here to get the underlying tones of the sea right. It is very easy to get it too light then the highlights won’t sparkle. 10in by 14in Oils

Portland Bill, lighthouse, Dorset, oil painting

This is the lighthouse at Portland Bill. Another one where I took a quick snap after finishing a different view. This one had been sitting as a basic block in up in my studio for a month or more. Again very good control of tone was needed a many areas were quite close toned but the contrasts had to be there without being too harsh. 24in by 12in Oils.

cardigan, sea, waves, oil painting

Another bit of sea for my talk. A bit more Welsh sea near Cardigan. You have to be so careful painting stormy seas as too much structure and there is no movement, not enough and it is just foam soup! Here I merged the features of about 10 photos picking bits here and there. I kept on defining and then blurring back until I felt I had the right balance of movement and structure.

That’s it I was surprised how much I got done during the exhibition. Many thanks to all those who came and took a look and even more thanks to those who made appreciative noises or even bought something. Being a painter is an odd business and a little bit of positive feedback really spurs you on, now I have to get back out and paint pictures from the real stuff!

7 Comments »

  1. Enjoyable read and very interesting observations! As usual, awesome work, both ink drawings and paintings.

    Comment by Gaelle1947 — June 18, 2018 @ 10:29 pm

  2. You sold a fair number compared to many artist’s open studios, but I’m not surprised – the light in some of these is wonderful, and the pen series has a lovely use of the brown ink hatching (if that’s the right word) and soft blue are, so to speak, your mature style (sorry, I meant to respond to your ‘style’ blog – my point, or rather inconclusive musing, was going to be that there’s a difference between ‘style’ and ‘a style’) Your observation of browsers and buyers is highly perceptive – no surprise there – but I think the best sort
    has inside knowledge and gets there before the show opens.

    Comment by John Pearce — June 18, 2018 @ 11:03 pm

  3. My above comment’s a bit garbled – I hope you make sense of it.
    I usually paint out of doors, but often in the relative solitude of a London garden or a remote Normandy estate. One year though I spent the whole summer as a public installation in an outdoor art event. Most of the other’s were conceptual artists who set up their installations, had a few beers and went home, whereas I was there for several months. Under the eyes of visitors I realised I was acting a rôle, and when they left I invariably scraped off what I ‘d done and went back to swearing.

    Comment by john pearce — June 19, 2018 @ 10:29 am

  4. Many years working under the eyes of art directors and clients in the commercial world has inured me to the gaze of others. There is the temptation to do flashy stuff and do a performance if someone is watching, which is why I avoid doing to many demonstrations! People want an artist to appear special, perhaps they can’t quite believe apparently ordinary people can do good paintings. I grew a big bushy “art beard” for the occasion to satisfy them. I agree about the style thing, maybe personal style should be called “manner” or even the more prosaic “method” to avoid confusion.

    Comment by Rob Adams — June 19, 2018 @ 10:41 am

  5. I’m not surprised the pen drawings were so popular, you really have that nailed.

    Comment by Desmond Waterman — June 19, 2018 @ 11:59 am

  6. Excellent show, and it was good to meet you after following this blog for years. It was also great to see your work “in the flesh” as it were, for the first time. Myself and Angela enjoyed it very much, and now we live in this part of the country I’m sure we’ll see you again. I was also, incidentally, very impressed by the amount of effort and trouble you had gone to to transform your house into a gallery! Hopefully it was a bit quicker to restore it to your home. And contrary to your comment I did spend my time looking at your work and didn’t even notice your decor.

    I must also assure you that although we are artists and probably fitted your “enthusiast” category above, we do buy other artists’ work. Alas, the personal finances did not allow us to do more than buy your cards on this occasion, but it was not due to any lack of desirability in your work.

    Congratulations also on the “art beard”. We thought it was quite heroic.

    Comment by Martin Harris — June 22, 2018 @ 10:26 am

  7. Hi Martin, thanks yes easier to ungallery the house than the other way round… the beard has gone thank heaven…

    Comment by Rob Adams — June 23, 2018 @ 12:26 pm

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