Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

August 3, 2019


Filed under: Dorset,Painting,Uncategorized,Watercolour — Tags: , — Rob Adams @ 11:25 pm

When writing this blog I occasionally revisit topics and then write something which disagrees with what I wrote before. I don’t find this remotely embarrassing as I have come to feel that any position on any subject should be up for rethinking and revising at any point. As I get older the cliche, “Set in stone” becomes less useful. I have previously commented on how the idea that the artist only paints or creates for themselves is a flawed one as any artwork presumes a second party appreciating it. I argue also that any artwork only becomes art in that moment of being viewed by another rather that when the artist creates it.

My discomfort with the idea of the artist creating an object of magical or iconic significance remains. However I now feel there is perhaps more to the personal satisfaction and reward element in an artworks creation than I had allowed. Much can be learnt from picking an idea apart but conversely sometimes the parts then don’t adequately express the whole anymore. If you give a disassembled phone to someone who had never seen one before then they would be unlikely to get much of an idea of its original purpose.

Many if not most serious artists will talk of being driven to paint, or be obsessed with painting, or be passionate about painting, or that they only live to paint… etc…etc. They quickly descend into expressing their inner selves and so forth. As a landscape painter I tend to think that my inner-self isn’t really very well described by a Dorset landscape! However my inner life is quite well described by the anticipation of doing a painting, the immersive process of painting it and the feeling of satisfaction or disappointment at the end of the process. As I have got better at it there is also the reward of others appreciating your efforts which feeds back into the urge to do more.

As well as painting I also play music and it is this that has prompted a partial rethink. I took up playing late in life but ever since it has been a constant factor in my life. Indeed I probably spend more time playing than painting. 95% or more of my playing is practicing or learning, only a small percentage is someone else hearing me do it. For many years no one at all heard me play, it is only recently that music has become a cooperative rather than an individual experience. Music if not recorded is an ephemeral thing, once the tune has ended and the last reverberation faded there is only a memory left, and that soon in its turn fades. The act of painting in contrast leaves physical evidence behind.

There are similarities. The learning, practicing and gaining of skill. The result of each is a stream of information enriching (we hope) the mind of another. The dissimilarities are that one is performed the other mostly not. A poem, to consider another art form, could be either read or listened to. In the first the poem travels through the eyes as a painting does. In the other it travels through the ears as a tune might. In the first all the freight of meaning is supplied by our own reactions to the words, in the other there is an overlay of the person delivering the words. A painting might be considered as a performance that leaves a trace behind from which some shadow of the actions and processes that made it can be inferred.

Which brings me to the title of this post. When other artists talk of only doing a painting for themselves without any interest or care about who might view it I find it sounds unhealthily self obsessed. There is a knock on from this that they often aver that only the opinion of the artist matters in relation to their own work. IE all criticism is null. You only have to make a critical observation to such self sufficient souls to find out that this is mostly not really the case! It seems self evident that we do care what others think of our efforts. If this is the case then to some small degree we must have made the thing in the hope of a positive reaction. We make a painting to fulfil our own hopes and ring our own bell, but also in turn hope that there is later positive proof that it in turn chimes with another. In a word affirmation.

So perhaps my selfish artists are not quite so selfish as I had thought, it should have been obvious to me that whatever the assertions of creative purity and self reliance are, affirmation from outside remains an important factor. It is partially a personal reaction of mine that I often disliked it when people said, “Oh I don’t care!” when caring is actually one of the most important things we do.

Salisbury, Wiltshire, watercolour, plein air, salisbury cathedral

A dose of watercolours. This blog is getting a little mixed up vis a vis timeline with paintings a little out of the order in which they were painted. Not that it matters I suppose. This is Salisbury cathedral looking down Castle St. There is really alas only one place you can stand and paint, I would prefer to be nearer and in the road! Still a lovely scene and I really enjoyed painting this. The light remained good for far longer than I expected so I got it all done. 15in by 6.5in watercolour.

salisbury cathedral, Wiltshire, plein air, watercolour

Later the same day… I ran out of time on this one and didn’t really nail the drawing well enough… resulting in a slightly floaty Salisbury cathedral. 12in by 6in Watercolour.

Swanage, Dorset, Watercolour, beach

A couple of Studio watercolours, this is Swanage. Actually a compilation of several visits. Very nice to paint without the pressure of getting it down on the spot where the conditions often undo your best efforts. 14in by 7in. Watercolour.

Swanage, Dorset, Watercolour, painting

A companion piece to the previous painting. I love Swanage and all the activity. I shall do an oil of this eventually for my one man show in October in The Gallery on the Square in Poundbury. Both this and the other sold very quickly in Gallery 41 in Corfe. 14in by 7in Watercolour.

Stour, Flood, plein air, watercolour

This is the River Stour in flood. More of a war zone than a work of art! Once I was set up and had the first washes in the wind blew my easel into the flood paper and all. I was very lucky in that my paints fell off or they would have been lost. I nearly went in myself as I just grabbed one of the legs in time. Now that is what I call wet into wet! Then it rained furiously on me, finally the fates were kind and the sun came out and a stiff breeze dried out the swamp allowing me to finish. 12in by 8in Watercolour.

Peveril  Point, Swanage, Dorset, plein air, watercolour, sea, waves

Peveril Point in Swanage. More weather! It was blowing a gale and the only place I could find to paint was halfway down the cliff wedged in a crack! I had no choice but to paint the only thing I could see. Still it didn’t rain on me and the flat light allowed me to take as much time as I needed to plot the ebb and flow of the waves. 12in by 7in Watercolour.

Piddle valley, pathway, watercolour

Last one. This is the Piddle Valley. Not much to say really, just a bit of path and a hedge. If I was playing to the audience I would put a Lion in but I am above that sort of cheap crowd pleasing trick… 14in by 7in watercolour.



  1. Beautiful work. I like the themes of your blog and the questions that you contemplate. You are an amazing artist!

    Comment by Elga Dzirkalis — August 4, 2019 @ 1:58 am

  2. The Swanage and Salisbury scenes are very lively and impressive, but I particularly like the Stour in Flood – painting can be quite a dramatic performance, particularly when it’s done on site rather than in the timeless detachment of the studio. Under the pressure of working in changing conditions, one doesn’t (or I don’t) spend too much time looking at the work and judging it and wondering if it’s all right.

    Comment by John N Pearce — August 4, 2019 @ 11:24 am

  3. Selfactualisation is supposed to be one of the highest ( whatever that means , maybe it means one of the more luxurious ) needs. Certainly now I am retired from the fray and don’t need approbation and purchase to survive physically, I find I don’t especially want to share my work with ‘ the world’ , though I am pleased when others like or approve it. I don’t avoid exposure in order to escape negative criticism, I just don’t actively seek out approbation. I would prefer no comment to the regulation cry of ‘ lovely’.

    But it is true that when someone sees what you are trying to do, even if it is just a door grained and painted to appear two centuries old instead of plywood from the sixties….it is heartening and enriching to the spirit.. Not because they ‘ like’ your work, that is, approve and praise you, but because you are seeing and sharing the same thing.

    Comment by Niobe — August 23, 2019 @ 8:41 pm

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