Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

September 11, 2016

Measuring

Filed under: Dorset,Drawing,How to do,Painting,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Rob Adams @ 1:10 pm

I often see artists vaguely waving their brush at arm’s length when painting and measuring by sliding their thumb down the handle. It looks very good to passers by and perhaps makes a marginal improvement the proportions in their painting. However the picky pedantic bit of me notes that they have not dropped their head onto the shoulder of their outstretched arm or closed one eye. This means they have never learnt how to do measuring and the distances they are checking will be pretty inaccurate.

The very first thing about measuring is what and when should you measure? If it is a bunch of trees or other shrubbery then do we care if a painting has accurate shrubbery in it? You never hear people say, “That’s a pretty good painting, but a pity the clump of rhododendrons is out of proportion…”. So when it comes to hills, mountains, trees and general greenery I just use the diagonal method which is estimating the box the target will fit within and then finding the angle from corner to corner as below.

illustration

Once you have that angle you can scale it any way you wish.

Something that might need a little more accuracy is how the verticals of buildings fit across your picture. For this I use a version of the sight size method. If you hold up your painting board so that it exactly covers the area of your proposed masterpiece, then without moving it nearer or further away slide the whole board downwards  or upwards and you will be able to mark where the verticals divide the picture along the top or bottom of the board. The same can be done with horizontals if you slide the board sideways. I usually only knock in the top and bottom of the box that encloses the structure rather than any internal lines which are usually effected by perspective in any case.

Here is my board covering the composition I want.

Slide up and mark key points.

Once you have those then join up the dots. I am not aiming for perfect accuracy only reasonably correct proportion.

Taking angles, which I have already mentioned, deserves a little more attention. It is not always straight forward to transfer an angle from a brush held against the subject to your canvas. Firstly it is not a bad idea to mark a toe line, just scratch a mark on the ground to set where you will place your feet when you make any measurements. Next, when measuring make your canvas vertical and as near eye level as you can. Transferring an angle to a sloping board is not impossible but much harder! Remember, drop that head to the shoulder to get your eye as near to the line of your fully stretched out arm as possible.

I frequently use angles as a quick check against distance measures, make a box around the bit you want to check the proportion of and if they don’t match then rechecking is required.

If you are doing a really complex scene think about using a thread frame, it looks seriously uncool and everyone will mutter cheat, but it is really no different than measuring piece by piece. You need to hold up the frame so that the right number of squares covers your subject. A trick is to note a left and right feature in your scene so you can reposition the frame easily, or you can even better set it up on a stand. Either way you will need to mark your toeline so you keep your position consistent. Some even go so far as to set an eye point which can just be a pole stuck into the ground coming up to an eye level point.

My thread frame is a very basic 14in by 10in with the threads at inch intervals. I have a larger one with 2 inch threads which I use in the studio, so if I am painting from a reference or sketch I can grid it up and transfer the drawing. Again people feel this is somehow cheating but Durer, Rubens, Rembrandt and Michelangelo all used this method and everyone knows that they are rubbish! One thing you will find is that after a while you develop a sort of internal grid and so need the real thing less and less.

I have managed to print off a few of my linocuts with my new press. So much easier than a barren and wooden spoon!

 

linocut. print, child okeford, dorset

This is my local the Baker Arms in Child Okeford. Just two plates.

 

Kington Magna, linocut, dorset

This is a slightly more stylised one of the church at Kington Magna. The way the lino cuts really lends itself to this sort of treatment. I pushed the boat out with 3 plates on this one. I also did a much more worked out preparatory drawing.

 

Kington Magna, church, linocut, relief print

My new press allows me to print on paper that would be very laborious with a barren. I wanted to use the black key plate and try and get a very different feel with the same image. I added the white by hand, but I could have cut a white block.  Next I am attempting an MDF cut!

 

This is a version of my more monochrome tonal sketch of Dorchester I posted previously. I wanted a more up beat feel. Oil, 16in by 12in.

 

Pinacles, Old Harry, Dorset, Cliffs, oil painting, sea

I went down to the coast to draw Old Harry rocks. By the time I finished drawing the light was almost gone but I couldn’t resist a try at this nearby sea stack. The light went over so quickly I only got a very basic block out done, so this is much more studio than plein air. I ended up making it quite different from both the block in and the photos I took, so this is how it felt in my memory rather than how it actually was! 12in by 12in oils.

 

Old Harry, Poole, Sea stacks, cliffs, sea, pen and ink, drawing, dorset

Here is Old Harry rocks. Sitting with my feet almost dangling over the edge here! As I drew the sun came through and lit the chalk cliffs very dramatically, but I felt it looked better a bit before the sun reached its flu strength. Pen and Ink.

I have a one man show at The Gallery on the Square in Poundbury it rune until the 18th of October 2016.

August 15, 2016

Taking Stock

Filed under: Dorset,Drawing,Painting,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Rob Adams @ 11:06 am

I have a lot of pictures in my attic. I counted them and it gave me pause for thought, 1200, that is a lot of paintings. Though I dare say a fair few other painters could out do my total. Many of course would be best left to moulder or be painted over, but it still means there are many more perfectly adequate “Rob Adamses” in the world than anyone will ever want. Early on in this blog I wrote a section on why I paint which is here, in it on re-reading I essentially wrote about why I paint what I do in the manner I do, rather than why I bother in the first place.

The “why I bother” is actually simple and mundane, I enjoy doing it and the challenges it throws up. In my previous existence as an artist for hire I did whatever I was asked as well as I had it in me to do at any one time. As in painting pictures now I enjoyed the challenges and having to stretch what I was capable of in new directions. When it stopped being a challenge I rather lost interest and as my career had been relatively successful I was in the position of being able to stop and change direction with little risk. It was also one of those things that we nebulously script into our futures: I will give up work and just paint for me… or garden, or whatever. It is a sort of rosy will o’ the wisp destination that is reassuring when the present becomes a little tedious, like looking forward to a cold beer at the end of the day.

As with all ambitions the reality is a little different, not disappointing just different. Doing the work is satisfying, I am eager to start the next days painting and am often painting by 7.30 in the morning. Some things have been unexpectedly rewarding, such as the many fascinating people I have met through a shared interest. Also the trying to master the many difficulties of distilling and then painting the observable world for a frame rather than a page. This blog has been an unexpected pleasure, I never thought to write so much, I initially intended it just to be paintings with brief descriptions about technical matters. Instead I have found myself on an erratic voyage over theoretical, philosophical and motivational waters.

So, the taking stock bit. It is six years since I set out on my new course. In that time I have reshaped my life almost completely, moved a hundred miles west into the country and become a painter of pictures of the world around me. I no longer sit long hours at the computer or paint pictures of theme park developments. I am mostly free to shape each new day as it comes. I no longer have a city street outside my door, but a garden and trees.

I am not one to dwell on dissatisfactions, despite an inherent restlessness I am blessed with a mostly sunny disposition only briefly disrupted by the occasional melodramatic storm. I am a little concerned that I spend my days doing an activity which produces a product that few want or need. There is a part of me that irritatingly points out that I would better serve the community by doing something that improves the lot of my fellow man a little more directly. Still giving others the occasional dose of visual stimulation is not entirely worthless, just not as important as many in the art world would like to believe.

So stock taking is more difficult than I thought, it is hard to assign either positive or negative values. I cannot produce a neat chart with pros on one side and cons on the other. The part of taking stock that entails possibly adjusting your course, is problematic too. I can only form very prosaic ambitions, such as doing more printmaking and improving my oil painting. It is one of the results of ageing that your perspective changes, success is not a lure, the vague desire to become “known” dissipates. Although the quality of not understanding the world becomes more nuanced with age, the actual degree of understanding steadily decreases as old poorly founded certainties get progressively eroded.

So that is the end of the audit, my plan is to add more shelves to my attic and carry on painting regardless!

Not many pictures done and I seem to be more prone to re-working than I have been previously, which means pictures evolve. This makes it a little tricky for the blog as I don’t quite know when a picture is finished. I will I think post updates as I go along as this might be of interest to other painters, you will also be able to annoy me by telling me the first version was better!

Hambledon Hill, oil painting, dorset, landscape

I had this one sitting on a ledge in the living room for a week or so. It started life as an unfinished plein air done at dawn, but this reworking though it retained the basic tonal structure had a quite different feel. Eventually I felt it was more of a nocturne than a dawn and had the idea of adding a moon.

 

Hambledon hill, landscape, oil painting, nocturne

Here it is, it makes I feel a better nocturne than a dawn! It is amazing how so little paint can alter the whole emotion of a picture. The other change that was reassuring was that before when the picture was in my living room nobody noticed it, but when put back with its silvery addition it drew eyes and comment. 10in by 19in oils.

 

Cattle, bullocks, Fontmell Down, oil painting

I wanted to do a different take on Fontmell Down. On a painting visit we were chased away by this very rambunctious herd of bullocks. There was no chance of carrying on with the plein air painting so as they approached in fits and starts I took tons of photos. I am for now pleased with the result it has a quieter mood than I intended but I think that is probably a good thing. 10in by 19in oils.

 

Dorchester, oil painting

This was a sketch to work out a tone structure for a bigger picture, now I’m not so sure and this might be the finished one. It is based on a pen drawing augmented by some very over exposed iPhone snaps. It is the road in to Dorchester. 10in by 10in oils. I’ll put the pen drawing below.

 

Dorchester, pen drawing, dorset

I think I will still do a bigger painting but I might need to make another expedition. Fortunately the phone snap has time and date info so I should be able to return at the optimum moment!

 

Springhead, dorset, oil painting

This is Springhead an old mill up the hill from Fontmell in Dorset. I loved the mood when we were there after a rained off evening picnic. The photos were, as is so often the case, not at all like how I remembered it so this an attempt to recapture the memory. It looks like another one that might benefit from a moon being added, though I am holding off for now! It is one of those pictures that makes a big leap on being put into a frame, I find it hard to find a reason why that should be so but it does show that testing a picture in a frame as you work on it is a good policy. One especial benefit is it makes it easier to judge when a picture is finished. 10in by 14in oils.

 

White Nothe cottages, dorset, oil painting

These are the old coast guard cottages at White Nothe near Lulworth. Nothing particularly wrong just didn’t have the focus I was looking for, almost scrubbed it off but have attacked it again since.

 

White Nothe, oil painting

Here it is after surgery, I wanted to focus it in more. Still not quite the painting I had in mind when starting but will leave it a while before any more messing. It started off as a 12in by 20in but got lopped down to 12in by 16in. Oils

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