Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

March 3, 2019

The finer points of being boring

Filed under: Dorset,Uncategorized,Wales — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Rob Adams @ 6:52 pm

How immediately interesting should a painting be? Should it grab you by the collar and shake you up. Shout across the room to you? What do you do if all the other paintings by other artists are screaming at you too? Shout louder? For property they call it curb appeal. The risk if you don’t shout out is that you will be ignored. Your candle will only be lighting the inside of a private and obscure bushel. Does quality reach out across the room? I’m afraid not. Large size, strong contrasts, shocking content and primary colours are what does the trick. Of course one option is to promote yourself rather than the art, the celebrity option, if that’s you then read no further.

It is a problem there is no denying it. We all want to be noticed. We don’t paint pictures for them to be ignored. Then again if your picture is devoted to grabbing that across the room glance/instagram scroll past moment, then that is a pretty shallow reason to paint a picture in a certain way. Also as I said before everyone else is shouting too. There is a saying, “When all others are shouting, try a whisper.” Sound good, very zen like and that, great to drop into an arty conversation… but unfortunately not true. Some of my favourites in my own work are quiet mood pieces. Having watched visitors looking at my pictures they mostly don’t give them a first glance let alone a second. The distribution of Facebook “likes” seems to confirm this.

Maybe what we need is a better quality audience? That is not so silly. Putting your pictures before people who are keen on the sort of thing you produce is a pretty good strategy. Rather hard to carry out though, but with Instagram and so forth an easier project than in earlier times. I am not convinced that internet presence generates many buyers. They are consuming your images as momentary eye candy and all at your expense too. I pay good money to publish this blog, does it sell pictures? Yes a few but not as many as my galleries do.

This muttering has been provoked by Instagram. I had been ignoring it even though I have had an account for ages. You can trawl through an unending smorgasbord of paintings, many very good indeed. They do fall into categories though. There are the head studies with developed Sargent type features surrounded by loosely brushed block in. There are impressions done from snaps again with that all important brushy unfinished look. There are the academic wannabes doing saccharine Bouguereau impressions. There are the numerous contemporary impressionists who like myself trawl the waters stirred up by the arrival of photography in the 1850s. All the historical styles are there… except anything anything historical or religious. No Thatcher as Winged Victory with her foot on an Argentine neck! No Last Supper set in a Little Chef.

Much if not most is quite shouty, there are welcome islands of serenity, but mostly brushwork fireworks. As an ex 3D modelling man myself I keep an eye on the game design wannabes. Endless iterations or killer robots, zombies and scaled demons. Don’t let us not forget the swathes of “attitude” exuding girls wielding big swords who neglected to get dressed before teaching those Demon Killer Zombie Robots a stern lesson or two. I can’t help liking those huge vistas of post apocalyptic landscapes with vast spaceships and teeny tiny foreground figures to ram home all that vastness.

I may seem to be digressing here, but all of the above is designed to quickly zip through your eyeballs, give quick visual tingle and then be forgotten. Am I alone as an artist in finding the whole, post it and watch it slide briskly into the past with no trace, phenomenon a little wearisome? Is there any way for an artist to step back from feeding the social media beast and survive? I fear the answer is no. We are doomed for the beast in the machine to chew on us ad infinitum without even the hope of getting spat out.

Enough of dystopia, some daubs…

Swanage, Dorset, plein air, oil painting

A difficult windy day to paint a rather wide canvas, it took a tumble or two and has a ton of sand embedded in it. Difficult light too, this is not the final as I repainted the left side as my drawing was a bit to wonky. It is from Swanage beach looking East. I am getting rather fond of the three squares wide format it seems to suit seascapes particularly. 24in by 8in Oils.

cardigan, llangrannog, oil painting, Wales

Off to Wales for the New Year. This is Llangrannog in Cardiganshire. The day had been quite stormy and was clearing as the evening approached, which often means lovely light. 16in by 10in oils

Dorset, sutton Waldron, plein air, oil painting

One of my favourite scenes near Sutton Waldron, it always seems to make a good picture whatever the light. 10in by 8in Oils.

Gold Hill, Shaftesbury, Dorset, plein air, oil painting

The same day at Gold Hill in Shaftesbury. I was in a hurry so this is really dashed in. I intend to have a go at a cinemascope version… People say I shouldn’t paint Hovis hill as it is a bit naff… do I care? Not even a tiny bit! 10in by 6in Oils.

Llangrannog, Cardiganshire, Wales, oil painting

This is Llangrannog again I stood taking photos as the sun dropped and wished I had my paints with me! Still I enjoyed painting this. It was very difficult to get the feeling of tranquility that I remembered from the day. I ended up smoothing the tones more than I normally would to help the mood. 16in by 16in Oils.

Portland, Dorset, Plein air, oil painting

An early visit to Portland, this is on the west side. Very breezy but excellent light. I then painted a truly ghastly one on the other side that I wiped off in a fury… 10in by 7in Oils.

Bulbarrow, woods, snow, plein air, oil painting

SNOW!!! Everyone else in the country had it and here it was at last and a sunny day to boot. This was a lot to take on but could not resist having a crack at it. I will glaze it to give focus once it is dry. This is up on Bulbarrow. 24in by 8in Oils.

Rawlesbury, Dorset, Bulbarrow, plein air, oil painting

Went straight on to do this of the side of the ridge running up to Rawlesbury Camp. The sky tone was tricky a it had to be dark enough to give the snow punch. Snow has so many different hues, such fun to paint. 10in by 7in Oils.

Bulbarrow, snow, Dorset, plein air, oil painting

There was no stopping, Bulbarrow again, it had been melting rapidly and more and more green showed through. A race to get this done as the light was going over very quickly. A grand day out painting though. 10in by 7in Oils.

Dorset, snow, oil painting

I did this next day to try and catch the memory. Not quite what I want but I intend to glaze. Glazing is an odd process as you have to put your picture away for 2 months while it dries and then come back to it. It does things no other technique can though. I have quite a backlog of ones ready to do so I will try and put together a tutorial… a bit cheeky maybe as I am still feeling my way with the process. 16in by 16in Oils.

 

February 9, 2019

Loose and free…

Filed under: Devon,Dorset,Painting,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — Rob Adams @ 11:57 pm

Loose and free, so so many voice the desire to arrive at this painterly nirvana. This transcendental moment when we express our selves in paint as naturally as breathing. Intuitive, expressive, instinctive… these words are often dancing in close attendance when artists convene to share their hopes and ambitions. I hear this mantra again and again… and in weaker moments I have supinely agreed. It is after all received wisdom that nearly all would accept. Except I don’t. It speaks to the part of us that would like hard things to be easy or at least become easy. My experience is alas that it never becomes easy, or even easier.

The dreadful thing is that to an external observer watching you do your thing it does look easy. Many artists make a good living churning out videos with tinkly music as they make paintings fly effortlessly off the brush and never ever go wrong. They never stamp on their daub and go off in a huff. They almost all, with a few honourable exceptions, recite the mantra of keeping it loose. They also raise the fear of the demon that hovers at the shoulder of many painters… the demon of overworking, the wicked being that lures you into making one stroke too many. If you make that evil stroke the painting will be ruined there is no going back.

Always there is the nagging, don’t put in too much, less is more, let the brushstroke lie and don’t fiddle. For beginners I feel this is a little cruel and also I suspect not entirely honest. I would lay money that all these super free painters have dark secrets in the bottom drawers of their plan chests… those early drawings where every leaf is defined, every root lingered over. There is also the heretical suspicion that maybe they gained the ability to appear loose and free via an extended period of drawing kittens with every hair defined! Maybe there is even that secret pencil drawing of Elvis done from a photo using an 8H pencil with a scalpel point.

Why is control and cool calculated precision so evil? If it is then we must avoid enjoying Breughel or Van Eyck. Escher is a no no. None of the beautiful books of hours are worth a candle. Chardin, Vermeer and so many others must be consigned to the dustbin. Degas because he fiddled for France, so much so that you can’t date many of his works as he fiddled with them over decades. He liked to comment that the just flown off the brush appearance is a lie and likened it to a crime done in secret. Which is interesting as it is about this moment that the myth of instinctual expressiveness was being developed. There was nothing Degas enjoyed more than tweaking the noses of other painters if they got too above themselves.

Really the whole unify, simplify, keep it loose mantra only refers to impressionism which is only a very small style backwater. It is essentially the art of painting something that looks like you did it while squinting when you left your glasses at home. This allows the viewer to squint in turn and marvel at how clever they are to manage to see the donkeys and holidayers frolicking on the beach with only a few well chosen blobs of paint as clues. I am being deliberately provoking here obviously as it is the area of painting I am involved in myself. What I do want to get across though is that it is only one avenue out of many to explore. Not a gold standard that needs to be stuck to or indeed a formula for good painting.

I have just trawled the internet for good how to do its. Most are unbelievably bad, but one thing that stands out amongst the ones I felt were good is that they were all very systematic. They always went from A through to J (X  or Z would be over finishing obviously) there seems to be no getting it wrong knocking it all back and bringing it forward again. The watercolorists especially work from broad to key details and from light to dark. The oil painters patch areas together like a quilt over a mid tone block in. All in all not very free or exuberant even if the final result looks that way. This in turn makes me wonder about the anally retentive tinkly music… if you are free… really really free, surely you would be painting to the Pogues and pogoing while you splashed paint in the general direction of your canvas. I might float the idea with APV films.

There we go that is most of the painters offended, now for some of my own crimes.

Dartmoor, Devon, plein air, oil painting

I have a new development… I have always fancied having a painting wagon so I could overnight without getting cadmium red all over a hotel’s towels. So I could camp out near my scene and be up and at it before the sparrows had broken wind. So I finally bit the bullet and purchased a suitable vehicle with spartan but adequate internal arrangements to cook and sleep. This is my first outing… yes children it rained… oh God how it rained. In the middle of the night on the middle of Dartmoor I needed carry out a call of nature. The rain was horizontal so I decided that taking all my clothes off and just getting wet was the best option. Very bracing I have to say and now several sheep are in therapy. However as the rain was approaching I just about had time to paint this. 12in by 7in Oils.

Moretonhampstead, Devon, Dartmoor, plein air, oil painting

Next morning Dartmoor was entirely absent and the rain and wind were rocking my little home from home. Bodily needs were nagging me again too. I had passed through Moretonhampstead on the way and noted a public loo in the carpark… which pretty much decided my next painting venue. After eating a breakfast that knocked at least a year off my lifespan I parked my van inconveniently for all the locals and painted this from under the shelter of the back lifting door. 10in by 7in Oils.

Blytheswood, dartmoor, Devon, plein air, oil painting

I decided to head for the coast but got distracted in Blytheswood by a let up in the rain… I got 30 min on this before the heavens opened again. I must fiddle with the trees on the left but painting the water was great fun. 10in by 7in Oils.

Sidmouth, Devon, plein air, oil painting

I was just getting near to Sidmouth when I found a cosy carpark with a great view. I have to glaze the right hand side to soften it but it was great fun perched on a narrow bank trying to get this wide view in. Then to bed in the van feeling a little more cheerful but still a little damp. 24in by 8in Oils.

Sheep, Dartmoor, oil painting

Next day it bucketed down so I just drove home. The day after I painted this from a phone snap taken through the rain smeared windscreen. It sort of summed up the whole expedition… one of the sheep winked at me as it went by. A few days later I went shopping in Lidls, they had fold up buckets for a fiver… I bought one. 24in by 8in Oils.

Twyford, Shaftesbury, Dorset, plein air, oil painting

After the trauma of Devon I went out to Shaftesbury and on the way came across this scene which I had painted before in less than ideal light. We had to wait for the rain to stop but the wet road made a wonderful ribbon of light as it led away to Twyford. 24in by 8in Oils.

Off to Wales next… but staying in a nice warm bungalow…

 

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