Rob Adams a Painter's Blog

November 11, 2014

Getting Old

Filed under: Dorset,Drawing,London,Painting,Thames,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Rob Adams @ 6:39 pm

It is a common idea that as painters age they gain in wisdom and depth which makes their late works more resonant and moving. This idea was key to Simon Schama’s latest program on the late Rembrandt. I  enjoyed the program but it was an extremely orthodox view which I am tempted to question. If you look at the great man’s paintings they actually in my opinion fall off a great deal in quality. I suspect some problems with his vision as Titian and Turner show much the same retreat into inchoate yellow orange tones. With Rembrandt of course falling off in quality is a relative term, he was in my opinion one of the all time greats. What I dislike is the hijacking of this change in quality, probably brought about by diminuition of sight, as a harbinger of modernism. This was the final line of Shama’s spiel. I have heard this argument and commented on it in relation to Turner in earlier posts. In my opinion to take this view is deeply silly. None of these artists as far as I can see could have had any understanding or sympathy with what we call modernism. What we see in their works is physical decline not a new visionary conceptual direction.

This is well illustrated by this quote from a letter from Monet to Marc Elder, in 1922 He wrote, “in the end I was forced to recognize that I was spoiling them [the paintings], that I was no longer capable of doing anything good. So I destroyed several of my panels. Now I’m almost blind and I’m having to abandon work altogether. It’s hard but that’s the way it is: a sad end despite my good health!” . Yet these same canvasses are now held up as the artist making a bold step forwards towards abstraction. For Monet however they were a desparate struggle against increasing blindness. Why abstraction should so often be regarded as a step forward in this road to Damascus manner rather irritates me as abstraction has always been with us in one form or another and cannot really seen as step toward nirvana. There it is though, we are constantly assured that moving from representation to abstraction is like gaining adulthood and leaving the whimsy and the toys of childhood behind.

I have been rather distracted by building a studio in my new garden and the general hassle of relocating a hundred miles from London. It has been very frustrating seeing the countryside of Dorset looking very paintable while I was doomed to be wheeling barrows of concrete for foundations. Still I have managed a few bits and bobs. Also I have a fair few pictures in this exhibition at Bankside with the United society of Artists.


oil painting, Dorset, plein air

A tiny oil I snatched the time to paint, it is going to take a little while to adapt fully to doing pure landscape. The relative lack of people will be one of the greatest changes.


Child Okeford, fog plein air, oil painting

I did this in about 15 min on a damp foggy morning. Walking through the village to get my morning pint of milk was so magical that I had do rush out and try to catch it.


St Martins Lane, London Plein air, oil painting

Briefly back in London to paint with the Brass monkeys. I am experimenting with different primes on my boards, this is wuite a rough one with marble dust in the acrylic gesso. Unusually I took this to a finish on site. oils 10in by 14in.


Admiralty Arch, London, plein air, oil painting

After making a mess of two looking down Whitehall I settled to paint Admiralty Arch, only about 45min for this little sketch but I was pleased with the feel. 8in by 10in oils.


Surrey St, London, plein air, Oil painting

I managed another quick excursion before heading back to the country. This is looking down Surrey St from Mary Le Strand. 10in by 14in oils.


Parsons Green, Fulham, New Kings Rd, pen and ink

I got up to London for a single day but just took my drawing stuff. It was a fantastic day around Parsons Green in Fulham, the low winter light is fantastic and you can draw or paint all day really. This is the New Kings Rd .


Parsons Green, Fulham, London, pen and ink, drawing

A very quick sketch on the way back to the station. This is the North end of Parsons Green. Pen and ink.


Southbank Carousel, drawing, pen and ink.

As my train wasn’t until 8pm I sat on the Thames South Bank and drew the Carousel. After doing a very rough pencil outline I got the figures in first, some are just sketched from passers by, and others cribbed from snaps on my iPhone. Much of the sky hatching I did on the train home! That’s it Posts will be a bit few and far between for a while but I shall still be snatching the odd chance to paint and draw.

June 27, 2014

The Loire and Normandy

It is the holiday season again! As usual I went on the annual Wapping Group holiday, this time to Amboise on the Loire in France. Literally a busman’s holiday as we go in a coach in a group of about 20 painters and their partners. The great joy of these expeditions is that the whole thing is focussed around painting… er… well and eating too I suppose. I always have great dificulty deciding which media to take. I was intending not to take oils but relented at the last moment. A new addition to the watercolours was the pen. I had decided to start adding wash as well so I took some Noodlers inks which have a pleasing balance of mostly permanent but a fair bit of ink will dissolve into the wash.

I set off on these trips with a high degree of anticipation which is of course immediately dashed as soon as you are sitting before the subject. I did manage to force myself to be quite experimental, varying the media depending on subject and time available. The watercolours rather suffered as I didn’t quite get into my stride with them due to drawing a lot. Watercolour is one of those mediums that requires you to be in the zone if you want to paint them en plein air, which tends only to happen when you paint a string of them one after another. That said I am pretty pleased with the variety of my output.

A great advantage of this sort of coach based holiday is that you have to paint where you are taken. It is all too easy when touring by car to spend most of the trip driving around looking for a subject rather than trying to catch the flavour of a single place. I had been to Amboise 40 years ago so I was intruiged to see if I remembered much about it. I’ll do the pictures in sequence as much as I can. There will be another post though as the oils I brought back were left deliberately unresolved, but more on that  in my next post.


St malo, France, Brittany, pen and ink, drawing

St Malo where the ferry docked is a fascinating walled town. Full of up market shops and restaurants. The day however was grey, which was not great as the place is built out of quite a dark grey granite! I settled in the end for quite a wide perspective done from the city walls. This allowed a grand view down into the square where most of the restaurants were. The hardest thing here was to decide how to let the drawing fade off to the edges. I decided in the end to make the whole thing revolve around the tree and the white building to the left of it. Objects that were  towards the edge can then be simply indicated just by outlines. It is odd that the eye finds this perfectly understandable and acceptable.


St malo, France, drawing

Our visit to St Malo was only a few hours so this was my last there. I only had 15min so I blocked the whole thing in with acrylic markers. I bough two mid greys to add to my white which gives quite a  good range when combined with the black pen work. I deliberately kept the whole thing bold and kept the line work quite calligraphic.


Amboise, France, Loire, watercolour

I painted a couple of oils in the early part of the first day in Amboise. They will feature in the next post though. After eating I went down to the Loire and did this in the last of the light. Quite hard to see either my painting or the palette but still it captures the feel of the evening. I was so smothered in anti mosquito spray that I was a chemical hazard to myself and the surrounding wildlife!


Amboise, France, watercolour

Next morning I settled down to paint this small 7in by 5in watercolour. I tried to keep the whole thing light and airy and not over define. Quite a difficult perspective as none of the buildings were parallel to either the arch of each other. People are so important in this sort of painting, the scene would be very dull without them. I did not however want to tale them to a stage where you could engage with them as individuals. I still find this sort of fine judgement very hard to achieve.


Chenonceau, per cher, drawing, pen and ink

This is Chenonceau. There is a very famous and beautiful chateau there, but I decided quixotically not to paint it. There have been a thousand drawings of the chateau and I had seen it before so I walked into the town and drew this. The light was dull when I started then grew sunny, but I decided to stick with the soft light. Pen and ink is very good at describing buildings without needing strong shadow. The trick is to vary the textures and weight of the hatching to indicate the differing surfaces and planes. I will do a tutorial on pen hatching in a week or so as it is a technique many do not get the most out of.


Montrichard, Le Cher, Pen and ink, drawing

Our next stop was Montrichard, a small town on the river Cher. It had once been a very important place controlling a river crossing, but now a bit of a backwater. After wandering around I settled to do this using sepia ink I had mixed myself from two shades of Noodlers ink. A young child from the house behind me watched for a bit then got her siblings, they in turn brought the parents to see and finally the grand parents arrived to watch me to a finish! How odd it is that drawing and painting breaks through people’s reserve and makes them engage you.


Amboise, Chateaux, France, Watercolour, painting.

The next day was very hot indeed and I was faced with subjects that didn’t allow me any shade! This is part of the Chateaux of Amboise, there is another view of it later in this post that explains how unusual the building is. I struggled a bit to catch the feeling of it, bright sunny days are far from my favourite especially in the middle of the day. Still I got some better composed views in photos so this will help with the final studio picture. The washes were drying instantly which was very difficult.


Amboise, Chateaux, loire, france, pen and ink, drawing

I had drawn this view of Amboise 40 years ago, so was keen to have another go. I was sitting on the roof of a tower and the heat was quite something. I decided from the start to use two colours of ink, something I haven’t done before. Quite pleased with the result. By the time I had finished I was baked to a turn!


Amboise, Chateaux, France, Pen and ink, drawing

Last of the day I settled in the relative cool to draw this. I could not get far enough away really so the perspective is rather extreme. Mixing the inks again but less obviously.


Amboise, Chateaux, loire, france, watercolour

This was a real struggle. I was a little too early really. It made a better picture  an hour later. I had to risk life and limb to get by the waterside and was perched very uncomfortably on some rocks in the water. Looking at the photos I don’t think there is a larger painting from this viewpoint, so this will remain a sketch.


Amboise, chateaux, church, watercolour, france

This is the little church I painted earlier. This time it is seen from street level. I could not resist doing this though due the narrowness of the street the perspective was extreme. I had to position my stool near a wall and lean back. The light was racing so I had my work cut out getting it all in.


St Ceneri Le Gerei

This is a small chapel at St Ceneri le Gerei. We were there at lunch time so the light was directly overhead. I would have loved to do the trees all wet into wet but the heat was so extreme the paint dried instantly. I settled for putting in the tones and then washing quickly with water so the redisolved. Not ideal but needs must.


Dives sur Mer, france, pen and wash

Our next stop was Dives sur Mer, from where Bill the Conquerer set off to give us a good kicking. Badly bombed in the war but still some lovely things to draw. I drew this in the brown ink then washed over it and gave it body with the acrylic markers. I love this quick and direct way of sketching.


Dives sur Mer, France, Normandy, market hall, pen and wash

This was a scary subject. It is the market hall in Dives sur Mer. I drew it out in pencil and then inked the structure. To finish I washed over the whole thing so soften the inking then picked out the counter shapes in watercolour. There were more light sources than this but I decided to reduce it to just the one. I tried to keep the whole thing light and easy. With subjects as complex as this it is easy to get carried away with the detail and loose the character. I deliberately curved the perspective to draw the eye in but was artful not to push it to the point of “fisheye”.


That is it for this issue! I have as much again to come so it will need two posts.

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