Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

March 11, 2022

New places, same me.

Filed under: Cornwall,Devon,Dorset,London,Painting,Portraits,Thames,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Rob Adams @ 2:05 pm

I stopped this blog a few years ago as I had got well settled in Dorset and was too caught up with a new places, new people, music, painting an unfamiliar place and the general blizzard of life. I was also short of new takes on old topics and felt I was rehashing previous posts. As I age I have more difficulty being certain of my own position on any subject, which doesn’t help with creating posts. It is perhaps bad to be dogmatic, but worse to have opinions that are so vague and nebulous as to be similar to having no opinion at all.

I had left London just as I was making headway with getting known. I was regularly in the exhibitions of the various societies and a Member of the Wapping Group. I met with others to paint most weeks. I was having fun and actually making a living at this strange occupation called painting. I threw all that away and moved to Dorset. From and urban first floor flat in Deptford to a 17th century cottage in Dorset. I still don’t quite know why, some part of me came to a turning in the road looked down it and thought, why not?

Age is one aspect, it changes the focus of your ambition. As a young or middle aged person you look at the future and wonder where you might journey. What you might achieve in the eye of the world, in other words success. This inevitably looses appeal as the future gets smaller. As Woody Allen said, “I don’t want to be immortal through my work, I want to be immortal by not dying.” When it comes down to it I have no interest as to whether my work is remembered or dumped in a skip when they clear my house.

This might sound a little depressing, but in reality it is rather liberating. All that wanting to be noticed and recognised is just a distraction really. With that mostly gone as a driving force I find I still paint just as much. Long term ambitions are replaced by short term ones, just to know whether the current painting flies or dies. The other thing that never palls is craft. How can I do this thing called painting better, differently or more subtly? How can I dance the line between what is being painted and how it is painted in a more elegant or appropriate manner?

I re-read the paragraph above and might also suggest an opposing view. Ambition is gone but what remains is mere habit. After a long lifetime doing nothing outside the visual arts I don’t know of any other way of filling my days. The hours are there and painting is a way of filling them, a pleasant distraction. In other words therapy, a way of staying sane. I find I can hold both of these views at the same time. As to which is more true and valid I have not the faintest idea or any wish to know.

Another thing that was perhaps to blame for squeezing out the blogging was music. To my surprise the music scene in Dorset is very vibrant, so music fills an ever greater part of my days. As with painting the only ways to get better are practice and refining your understanding. Music has always been a contrasting and perhaps balancing interest for me. With painting the results of your labours pile up and clutter the walls and the attic. With music the notes hang in the air for a moment and are gone.

Which brings me neatly to the purpose of this blog. It’s original intent was just to map my progress as I moved from being a commercial artist to one who painted pictures to frame and hang on the wall. From theme parks to decor. As I went along it mutated into a one person forum to help me understand what the hell this business I was engaged in actually was and how that might contrast with how I and others wanted it to be seen. That the blog became popular and others enjoyed my rather random thoughts was a complete surprise.

Over the years blogging has become supplanted by social media. Many artists now in reality paint just for their Instagram account. Is the final result of your labours a painting for someone’s wall, or a generator of likes? I understand the process, getting likes and followers gives that delicious hit of serotonin that we all love. Social media is cruel though, it moves relentlessly into the future, it leaves a trail of images that nobody ever looks at. You have to feed the monster regularly or you will be quickly forgotten. It is at root entertainment, but when everyone is an entertainer where is the audience to come from?

I look at my own account. My followers are painters… and those I in turn follow… painters too. It is not a comfortable thought, but the word ‘incestuous’ springs to mind. The other thought that emerges is that other painters are perhaps not my ideal audience. It is lovely to be appreciated by your peers and I consider their opinions on my efforts more seriously than those from others. They however are mostly not the people who are going to hang my product on their walls. I have done open studios with Dorset Arts Weeks for a few years now and those who buy my pictures are for the most part not artists, maybe they buy them because they don’t know any better.

So some pictures. What have I been up to in these intervening years? Far too many to post so I have decided on quick scoot through the missing 3 years. The last bit of 2019 before the world ended here we go.

The nearby Piddle valley has several interesting villages strung out along it. This one is about as big as I get en plein air, 24in by 12in.

Why do I paint self portraits? I have not the faintest idea. I like them done by others, I could type some guff about honesty and inner life. Are they a glimpse into the inner workings of the artist or just a painting of an old bloke on an aluminium chair? Your choice.

Sometimes I rest my camera on the dash and leave it filming as I drive through Corfe. The castle does a great reveal as you approach. 16in by 12in. I thought this one would sell but it didn’t… another one for the attic.

My last visit to Richmond, hardly been back since. I miss the Thames and the life along it. 10in by 8in.

Combe Martin. I bought a huge MPV that is half turned into a camper. This was one of my early expeditions to Devon. I started this in a patch of shadow standing in a rock pool… the sun came round and I proceeded to bake. Odd how paintings carry the memory of the day they were painted. I look at this and I can even remember the vile coffee I had at the cafe. Not in the attic, sold this one… I actually sold most pictures painted on this trip which means I should go back maybe. 14in by 10in.

You never know when you will paint a good one. It is a rare thing for me to like one of my own paintings. This was done in a rush on Bridport’s market day. I had no sooner set up than someone started to set up a stall almost on my toes. I was going to finish it off but it looked like just enough next day so I left it. Still in the attic so the buying public has different tastes to me. 16in by 8in.

Swanage, I love the old school seaside atmosphere of the place. Studio painting and on someone’s wall rather than in my attic. 20in by 16in.

More seaside, Weymouth this time. I love Dorset’s slightly faded seaside towns. In the attic this one but I still have hopes of getting it on someone’s wall. 12in sq.

I had a moment of pointillism with this one of Bath abbey. I am sorry and it won’t happen again. 16in by 12in.

A plein air sketch…

A studio version from the same day. You can now have a discussion as to the merits of each. Don’t do it in my hearing though as I don’t give a rat’s arse as to where or how a picture was painted.

Plein air, standing on a tiny ledge with the wind ripping at me and rain coming in horizontally. Guy ropes on the tripod and the painting rattling away making it hard to get the brush in the right spot.

Studio painting of same subject. Nice comfy studio, breaks for coffee. No rush an hour here and there, bit of a tune on the flute then back to it. 20in by 12in.

Last one before the pandemic hit. The Stour at White Mills. Mostly water the bit of land at the top is just a supporting actor. 12in sq.

That’s 2019 caught up with. Next we have the strange tale of what happens when you lock an old bloke into a cottage all by himself for a year or so.


  1. Great to see you back! I for one value your posts and feel I learn a lot from them. I’d never make it as a gallery owner, as my favourites in your post are all non-sellers. Weymouth beach and the pointillist Bath Abbey are superb.

    Comment by Karl Smith — March 11, 2022 @ 2:20 pm

  2. Thanks for starting your blog again, always interesting to hear your news and very thought provoking. What a strange business this painting is, I have so many conflicting thoughts, no idea how idea how I will evolve! Always thankful for the Brass Monkeys.

    Comment by Robbie Murdoch — March 11, 2022 @ 2:47 pm

  3. Re Paras 3&4 on motivation. The last gallery to regularly show my work closed in 2014. Oddly enough I had just drafted a letter to say I felt I didn’t quite fit in there. But in fact I was feeling the sub-conscious pressure and limitation from a relentless requirement to come up with more of what I’d done before, yet at the same time courageously cutting-edge. Since then limbo. Suddenly, now, I’m offered an exhibition in Normandy – to highlight (what has always been a sideline) my portraiture! ‘Great’ I think, ‘something to work towards!’ But no! I realise the very last thing I want is to work towards something. Instead I want to find myself doing something quite unexpected; perhaps painting more like Tracy Emin… I want to be an old master, still showing early promise. So all new projects are postponed till after the show.
    Incidentally, someone gave me the book from the recent R.A. exhibition LATE CONSTABLE, and I realised I’d never fully understood and appreciated that artist. But ‘late’ in his case was quite young, because he died at 60. I don’t think any other painter saw the light and felt its significance as he did, particularly in his later years.
    I particularly like the light in your Piddle valley village scene and the Stour at White Mills.

    Comment by John N. Pearce — March 11, 2022 @ 2:56 pm

  4. It’s great to have you back — and good to hear that you are OK and still painting!

    Comment by Mike — March 11, 2022 @ 3:00 pm

  5. Delighted to read your news in your blog.
    I do admire your work as well as your humour, so thank you.

    Comment by Julian Lovegrove — March 11, 2022 @ 3:05 pm

  6. What a treat to find this in my in box today! I greatly enjoyed the previous blog posts.

    Not being on social (social substitute?) media, I don’t ‘follow’ people or topics. I do subscribe to quite a few blogs, though, maybe it is laziness, maybe it is a more judged commitment? Certainly it is a much surer way of making contact with an audience.

    That’s quite a move from Wapping to Dorset! I live on the outskirts of Oxford, previously in the Cotswolds, but when we spent a week in Poole, exploring the surrounding country we felt it was a far more traditional, heartland ‘English’ environment. I was particularly taken with Wareham, so redolent with history. Sailing into the quay from Poole Harbour , it was easy to imagine the Viking raid on the Saxon Town. Wonderful early English Church, dedicated to one of my patrons, as well.

    I’m looking forward to the next instalment. Keep well, keep happy

    Comment by Niobe — March 11, 2022 @ 3:59 pm

  7. I have never had trouble with motivation having been born with an entire ant’s nest in my pants, though many of my friends do I know. I have entirely given up expecting in all areas of life, but especially with painting, paintings never turn out how I expect in any case. I do plan, especially this year as exhibitions have sprung back to life… I never plan the pictures though, only the frames! Constable is a funny fellow have you read his letters? I am not a fan of his high drama 6ft paintings, but love his sketches. I had a chance to leaf through his watercolours when down in the vaults of the V&A, there were lots that will probably never see the light of day again, many pencil drawings too.

    Comment by Rob Adams — March 11, 2022 @ 5:25 pm

  8. Hi Robbie, first a pandemic now world war three, hope you are surviving it all, I too remember the Brass Monkeys fondly, I am still not entirely sure how I came to be running it… a sleight of hand by Mike!

    Comment by Rob Adams — March 11, 2022 @ 5:27 pm

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