Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

January 16, 2018

More Musings and Recent Oils

Filed under: Dorset,Painting,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Rob Adams @ 2:53 pm

Many things in the world are lovely or fascinating to look at. When in the West of Ireland, as I often am at this time of year, I will often stop to admire the growth of a lichen or some other wonder. Many of us admire the textures of rocks or a rusting gate. The paint flaking off an old door, the patina on an old workshop floor. You can transfer these objects directly into a gallery and the public will look and enjoy. Why wouldn’t they? The things are intrinsically interesting and if separating them from their context makes them more accessible to appreciation then all the better. It does not however in my opinion really make them art. Too much that is really just interesting in an old fashioned cabinet of mysteries way is hailed as art. Richard Long’s famed rock circles in galleries are just rocks, anyone could have arranged them in a circle in the gallery and the result would have been the same. The same with bisected sharks, it does not require a specific artist to present them.

This is of course why the much discussed urinal of Duchamp fame is art historically pivotal. How much or little intervention on an object is required to make it art? The urinal is an art historical comment and thus of interest, but not an aesthetic product of Duchamp’s hand and so the art content was supplied by the craftsman or designer who made the item. However the art world took it to mean that anything touched by the hand of the artist and declared to be art was henceforth thus sanctified. So how do we decide what is a sufficient input into a work to call it art and sit an object next to a Degas or a Rembrandt? The question is also relevant to objects made by accidental splashing or indeed painting flat areas of colour such as in a Barnett Newman. For me a hint is that a decorator with basic painting skills could do a pretty good painting in the manner of Newman, but very few people in the world, if any, could do a decent work in the manner of Rembrandt. I say “in the manner of” because we all know people can copy any painting, but that is not what I am considering here.

There are I think a few different things going on here. It is plain we have different degrees of interaction with the stuff or materials any work is made of. We also have different degrees of difficulty in the actions carried out. So how are we to link our Barnett Newman with our Rembrandt? They are both flat, both made to go on a wall, both paint applied to a surface, made for the same reason, to be looked at. We have to note however that Barnett in all likelihood could not have painted a Rembrandt, but Rembrandt could easily have painted a Barnett if he had so chosen. I think there is a clue in the difficulty of the task faced by each. Rembrandt had to balance and resolve all the things that Mr Newman had to deal with, colour, composition, structure and surface. then he had to deal with a whole other set of problems on top such as, subject, representation, space, narrative and content.

I am not saying that things that are difficult to achieve are intrinsically better. Only that the ambition is smaller with an abstract expressionist work. It is painted for an aesthetic elite. A Rembrandt may be commissioned for a wealthy individual, but it is intended to speak to all who see it. One is narrowcasting the other broadcasting. With art the wider the target is the harder it is to successfully hit it. What might please an intellectual might put off a simpler soul. To speak to each at their own level without condescension or false sophistry is an achievement indeed.

Rather a mish- mash of work this time as these oils are done over a month, I’ll add another post soon with the drawings and watercolours.

Bridport, market, plein air, oil painting, Dorset

This is the excellent Saturday market that takes place in Bridport. Very lucky both with the light and being able to squeeze myself into a gap that didn’t annoy too many people. Still I only had a little while as those lovely shadows were not going to sit there and wait for me. I very briefly sketched in both the lit pavement shapes and the sky shapes. Once I had blocked those areas in the drawing was really done as the in between prime colour stated the buildings. When I first started wit oils I used to paint tree branches over the top of my under painting. The result was never satisfactory so now I paint in the negative shapes instead. It takes longer but the result is more integrated and gives the feel of light coming between the branches. I took off 2 inches from the left when I framed it as it improved the composition. Oils 14in by 10in.

Bridport, market, plein air, oil painting, Dorset

Bridport again even quicker this one as it was time to move on. I blocked in very broadly and then scattered accents in more or less the right places! It is amazing how much you can get in with 20min of slapping the paint on. 10in by 7.5in Oils.

West Bay, plein air, oil painting, Dorset, beach

Then to the nearby West Bay. Only a colour note really as the light was going. I do find these looking down the beach paintings tricky. It is something about how the sea just runs off the painting edge. 10in by 5in oils.

Cann, melbury, Dorset, plein air, oil painting

This is looking towards Cann with Melbury Hill on the left. The weather was looking chancy but I love this scene with its winding undulating roads. It is nearby to me so I will give this another go in different light. 10in by 8in Oils.

satans square, Dorset, plein air, oil painting

Talking of returning to old scenes, this the track to the threateningly named Satan’s Square. I have painted this 4 or 5 times now and it never fails to engross me. Here the light was going fast producing some wonderful hues in the landscape. I put the reflections on the track in very first thing and then built the picture out from there. 10in by 7.5in Oils.

Kingston Lacey, Badbury, Beeches, road, Dorset, Plein air, Oil painting

This is the wonderful beech avenue that leads to Kingston Lacey past Badbury Rings. I have painted it 3 or 4 time but this is nearest I’ve got to catching the feel of the place. Quite by chance I passed by with a friend on the way to Wimborne and thought that this was a perfect time of day light wise. So I returned at the same time a few days later. Initially it did not go well as the negative shapes between the branches took forever and the result didn’t look great. Once the tree tones were in I could see my way better and after messing with the tone of the sky and road several more times it more or less came together. 16in by 8in Oils.

Wareham, road, plein air, oil painting Dorset

This the road to Wareham where the road crosses some marshy moorland. The day was gorgeous with fantastic atmospheric perspective. A bit of nothing really but I was pleased with the mood as it caught a little of the magic of the day. I had to be pretty quick though as the sun was evaporating the magic in double quick time! 10in by 7.5in Oils.

Kimmeridge Bay, Dorset, plein air, oil painting, sea

This is the famous Kimmeridge bay which has dramatic strata on show when the tide is out… This you may well notice is with the tide in! I must get a set of tide tables… Still a great view with the Clavel tower on the headland. Most of the work was in the sea which seemed to have every tone and colour present in some part or other. It is very easy to fall into the lazy paint the sea all blue habit, but when you really look it is endlessly subtle and surprising. I suppressed everything else really and made the sea the star. 14in by 10in Oils.

Christchurch, Dorset, plein air, oil painting

This is Christchurch, the forecast was rain but in the event it was lovely. It just goes to show, never be put off by the weather forecast! Besides if you only paint on bright sunny days you will miss many of the best pictures. The sun came out halfway through doing this but I was too far on to change horses. I might well do a studio one of this as I have the sunlit photos. It is rarely a good idea to chase the light, making the facades brightly sunlit would have meant adjusting the underlying tone of every single area in order to be able to express the contrasts. 10in by 7.5in Oils.

Next up drawings and watercolours.

December 8, 2017

Life Painting and Amateurism

Filed under: Drawing,Life Drawing,Painting,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Rob Adams @ 1:59 pm

I am very pleased to be in the January 2018 edition of the Artist magazine (on sale now!). Throughout my childhood and as I grew up my mother was always a keen reader. It was, I understood even then, a step up from the Leisure Painter despite it sharing a publisher, much of its production team and containing very similar content. It was only in later years that I was informed by other artists that these publications were for the amateur market of enthusiasts rather than professional artists. By this time I was a professional commercial artist myself and so busy I gave the subject no more thought.

Now however I am not sure I fit the profile of professional anymore. Professional surely means you make your living or at least the bulk of it through painting both by selling pictures and fulfilling commissions. Artists have an understandable desire to talk up their sales so it is not always easy to discern exactly what return they are getting on their efforts. I gave up a pretty lucrative business as an illustrator, designer and visualiser that paid for my way through life and generated enough savings to get me to the position where I could say, “What the hell I just want to paint!” Nearly 7 years after that decision where am I? My friends tell me it is just so uncool to reveal your financial details… but well what the hell I don’t care in the least. So… painting pays for a couple of holidays and the materials required to produce and frame as much work as I please. It does not supply housing or something very close to my heart… dinner! Or any of the other every day bills and needs.

So that’s it I have to demote myself to amateur along with Van Gogh and Vermeer. There are however different degrees of amateur I might be a serious amateur rather than a dabbler. That would give a little boost to my ego after the previous collapse in status. Professional might need a little light shone on it too. If you make most of your living selling DVDs and giving demos aren’t you a teacher rather than a painter? I am not I might add trying to offend anyone here, but just wondering if our current categories are a little arbitrary. Maybe there is a better way of assessing the relative dedication of painters.

I could perhaps define someone who spends most of their lives effort over a long period into improving their capabilities as serious, through to the enthusiast who finds the process fascinating and maybe has only had the chance in later life to take up their lifelong interest full time. I must note this has little bearing on the quality of paintings produced. That being the case you may wonder, and I do too, if making any such judgements, or paying any heed to those that do, is worthwhile. The answer has to be for me, none whatsoever, there is a little waggy tailed needy bit of me that would enjoy the pat on the head of being deemed professional, but a much larger part that can’t take any such divisions seriously.

I have been experimenting with doing small oils in our wonderful weekly life sessions. At first I didn’t attempt it because is seemed unlikely that anything worthwhile could be achieved in the 30min window of opportunity that you have. I was wrong of course it seems with a bit of luck you can get quite a lot down and described in that length of time.

Figure painting, oil painting

I had on my palette a set of tones left over from doing a self portrait which eased the process considerably, you don’t always realise how much time you spend mixing and re-mixing. Direction of stroke is very important, here I have painted along the direction of the arm, which is not a good idea as the arm also has a direction at 90 degrees to that. Oils

figure painting, oil painting

Here’s the next go. These are all 30min or less so little time for drawing out. I try to see shapes and keep areas distinct as it is impossible to do much laying paint on top of paint in this timescale. Oils.

Figure painting, oil painting

Another session and I am painting a little better now as I gain confidence These are all 7in and smaller so not a great deal of real estate to cover. I try to be very systematic patching areas in by importance and size until most of the ground is done and only then refining edges and details. Oils.

figure painting, oil painting

A little better here with the choices in direction of stroke. I am swinging between getting the lights or darks in place first. Here I did the lights first but was mindful that the tone needed to take a final highlight. Oils.

Figure painting, oil painting

This session was just with a few of us which made it easier to focus. This was 15min or less so not too accurate but has an immediacy that pleased me. Oils.

figure painting, oil painting

This one was the first of the session on a tiny bit of board. I had arrived telling myself to not try and get the whole figure in! Oils.

figure painting, oil painting

I loved painting this! The head against the light gave me an easy hook to build the rest of the picture around. Oils.

figure painting, oil painting

It was grey outside so this one and others from the session were more subdued. Oils.

figure painting, oil painting

I tried to get the mood of the room here, would have loved a bit longer on a bigger board. Oils.

figure painting, oil painting

I was pleased at how I managed to fit the figure to the board here, stretched out poses are always difficult I find but helped by close cropping. Oils.

figure painting, oil painting

Only 10 min time – gone in a flash! Oils.

figure painting, oil painting

Didn’t take my own advice and crop here. That said I am getting better at placing paint strokes concisely. Oils.

figure painting, oil painting

Another private session with only a few of us. A bit longer about 40min. On canvas board which I don’t like as much as MDF, something about the quality of the dragged paint isn’t as nice. Oils.

figure painting, oil painting

I loved the soft hues and tones in this pose. I quite like to introduce the occasional unashamed drawing stroke, but I cut them back a bit after with lighter tones which makes them “sit” in the picture nicely. Oils.

figure painting, oil painting

Last one, I could easily get addicted to figure painting and it is a great challenge that brings to the fore any weakness in your technique or laziness in observation. Oils.

That’s it Christmas looms and I will be off on my travels with my paints… Wales and Ireland this time so I hope I get some painting done in-between the eating, drinking and catching up with friends and family.

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