Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

July 25, 2016

I Know what I Like

Filed under: Dorset,London,Painting,Thames,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Rob Adams @ 10:36 am

Well we all do, don’t we? My interest in this post is how those “likes” are shaped. Also, as artists, should we allow those likes to shape the work we do? This is prompted by the experience of putting up studio paintings and the sketches for them on social media. You can guarantee that people will pipe up to say that they far prefer the sketch. However in my last show I had several sketches and the paintings that finally resulted on the wall together. The studio pictures got the gaze time and the comments , the sketches mostly got ignored. The computer screen of course puts a 24inch oil and a 7in watercolour on an even footing which might be part of the reason.

This led me to consider what element of appreciation of a thing is taught to us by our upbringing and peers. A Victorian person would I suspect find a modern minimal apartment sparse and unwelcoming, and a thirty something today would find a Victorian parlour cluttered and dark. Both spaces might be perfectly practical to live a life within, so I would suggest that the way we choose to perceive them has changed.

This has ramifications for how I paint I feel. There are many ways of looking at a painting. Take a Breughel and just do a quick glance. What did you get? My guess is not a great deal just a general impression of complexity. Take a Munch, a quick glance at “The Scream” is a very different experience, the image delivers its freight of emotion instantly. Which one would reward the most if it was on your wall for a year though? My guess is that it is the Breughel that would garner the most looking time.

I am not, I hasten to add, assigning artistic merit by this measure. Only proposing that there are many different ways of looking. There is the quick high impact look, over in a moment, and the long accumulative look that might take years. Logically there must of course be all sorts of other ways and durations of looking. For many, painters especially our fast forward world today, the quick look or impression is all important. I hear the phrase “Over worked” or “Tight” used if anything is at all detailed or finished. The holy grail is looseness, expressiveness  and freedom all of which cater for and aid the rapid appreciation of a work. None of these things is true of the Breughel though, but I still feel his paintings are among the great artistic creations of man.

Artists tend to scorn detail, but the general public stubbornly loves it. I myself cringe slightly when someone says one of my pen drawings is wonderfully detailed. I want to protest out loud that it is mostly only random hatching that they are interpreting as detail that is not actually present. I have to conclude I suppose that in large degree we like what we are taught to like. Extending the range of what we are able to appreciate takes effort and an open mind. I am always nowadays a little uncomfortable uncomfortable when another artists dismiss and entire genre of work with a wave. “Mere Illustration” is one I hear a lot, I counter with the fact that the Sistine Chapel ceiling is illustration, but usually to no avail! If something is illustrative it is of a lower degree, what I am trying to say here is that such opinions are often more guided by fashion rather than actual aesthetic consideration.

Sadly it sometimes seem the case that people don’t allow themselves to enjoy certain things. They have a set of criteria that guides what they will appreciate. So a Victorian morality piece by Quiller Couch Orchardson would be dismissed even if it (as they mostly were) was beautifully composed and painted. Even more oddly these criteria have a strange irrational flexibility, so a Hieronymus Bosch from the 15C might be appreciated as art but a contemporary image in a similar vein might be dismissed as “fantasy” and not given a fair look.

I am far from being immune to this kind of snap judgement myself, but do attempt to make the effort to recognise that the “automatic” assessment might be poorly founded and take a second look.

Due to the dampness in France I did more oils than I expected in France, which got me fired up to do more on my return. I am trying to paint each day in “office hours” which does really help to keep the paintings coming.

 

Fontmell Down, Dorset, plein air, oil painting

This is Fontmell Down, I went up to do the main view which I have done several times before. In the end though I did this less dramatic subject, it is really just a cloud study. 10in by 14in Oils.

 

Child Okeford, Dorset, Plein air, Oil Painting

I haven’t managed to do many plein airs of my local village Child Okeford so this moment when the sun glimmered through after rain was fun to do. I might re scan it as it was very wet when this was done which makes the tones cruder than they really are. 12in by 12in Oils.

 

Shaftesbury, oil painting, St James

This is St James’ seen from Shaftesbury. I actually started this last year but got stuck. It seemed to have potential when I was going through my heap of unfinished and outright disasters so I set about finishing it. It is always hard to paint big areas of nothing much that have to be vaguely like undergrowth and layers of trees. The temptation is to define them and make them coherent, where in real life they are not that way at all. 12in by 20in Oils.

 

Hambledon Hill, Dorset, oil painting

I wish I had photographed the different stages that this one of Hambledon Hill went through. My first lay in felt somehow wrong. It is always annoying when something almost works but you just can’t put your finger on why it misses the target. A few days later when I came back to it I decided to re draw and it then look like a comic strip panel with black outlines. Crude as that was it did allow me to see where to go with it. Some bits may be glazed back yet but am happier with it for now. I made the mistake of posting the watercolour sketch on Facebook which garnered the usual “I prefer the sketch” feedback. I sort of knew this would be the case but to my eye the images are so different in intent that the only thing they share is the subject. 12in by 26in oils.

 

London, City, plein air, oil painting

This is a small plein air I did when I was first starting to try and paint the City of London. I always intended to paint a studio version but after this 1oin by 14in sketch sold I never got round to it. I have not done enough translating plein airs into studio pictures so I was quite looking forward to getting to grips with this.

 

City of London, oil painting

Here is the first version, I wanted a bit more dynamism in the figures but after having it on the wall in this state for a while I decided that it wasn’t quite gelling compositionally. So I decided the central figure had to go. It is always nerve wracking making a big change to a painting that almost works as it can easily end in disaster!

 

City of London, oil painting

Here it is after surgery, much better I feel, the composition takes the eye on a proper journey. 16in by 24in Oils.

 

Hambledon Hill, Oil painting, Dorset

Another one from the discards pile. This started life as a very quick sketch of Hambledon Hill done at dawn, but as I recall the sun bounced up into the sky too quick for me and I had to stop! I like the still mood though so I spent a pleasant hour or so playing with it. Not much of the original sketch left! 10in by 19in oils.

 

Hammersmith, Bridge, plein air, oil painting

Now my building works are done I can get up to London to paint with the Wappers. The summer at last gave us some sun and heat. This one of Hammersmith Bridge was very enjoyable to paint, I had almost forgotten what shadows looked like with all the grey days we have had. 10in by 6in Oils.

 

Hammersmith Bridge, London, Thames, plein air, oil painting

Before the previous painting I had blocked in a painting of the Bridge from the middle of the road here. I had intended to carry on with it but the light was very different and the reservation in the middle was in full baking sun. This looked much more pleasant to paint! I might do a studio one of this. 10in by 14in Oils.

 

Hammersmith Bridge, London, Thames, scooter, oil painting, plein air

Here is the first one of the day finished off. Better composition than the previous one so this might get the studio treatment instead. 10in by 14in oils.

That’s all for this instalment, maybe some watercolours need doing next.

July 18, 2016

Fifty Shades of French Grey pt2

This is the rest of my efforts from a distinctly damp France. It is so good to have an intensive period of just drawing and painting the day and place as it presents itself. I probably spent more time than I needed hunting for subjects rather than just getting on with it.

 

St Malo, France, Drawing, Pen and Ink

Grey and drippy St Malo… One of pen and ink’s great strengths is that flat light often makes interesting drawings. Here the rain made the distance merge into a single tone. It was not like that when I actually drew as the rain stopped almost as soon as I sat down. One of the key skills of doing anything plein air is to remember how it looked 5min ago!

 

Pont Aven, drawing, pen and ink, france

This is the pretty town of Pont Aven. I was attracted by the unusual viewpoint here. A slipway ran down to the water allowing me to get a snail’s eye view of the town. I was very careful to get the head heights of the people within a plausible range. People too close tend to look like giants!Pont Aven, France, drawing, pen and ink

Another one in the town. I was taken by the huge gothic mansion but wanted to show how it stood above the street rather than do a purely architectural rendering. To that end I decided to crop the building and allow it to fade to paper.

 

Pont Aven, waterwheel, drawing, pen and ink, France

This is the famous waterwheel in Pont Aven which was painted by Gauguin. It is a tricky subject that is prone to overdrawing. I saw several versions painted by others of our party where they had worked very hard to get the wheel correct, but in doing so had over done it. With that sort of thing you need to do all the careful drawing out, but then edit most of it out again! In this way the wheel becomes part of the scene and does not overly draw the eye. This mind you is a tendency we all have, if a bit is tricky we pay it more attention and by doing so give it undue prominence. With wheels I make sure I spend the time to get the underlying ellipse correct. To do this you need to draw in the major and minor axis, just winging it will lead in most cases to disaster!

 

Villerville sur Mer, France, drawing, pen and ink

This is Villerville sur Mer, I would have liked to have had more time here, a charming small seaside town. To draw this I had to perch precariously on a small pavement. Quite tricky perspective on the cars, you have to always check the length of the sides  in views like this, you subconscious wants you to draw them longer than they really appear. The same with the buildings I frequently see artists get buildings twice as wide as they should be.

 

Villerville, france, drawing, pen and ink

Another from Villerville, these mad gothic mansions are a feature of the area so I had to draw one. I had to finish the shrubbery later, one of the disadvantages of pen and ink is that any dark area is very labour intensive. It is also important not to try and draw the trees too carefully. What is needed is an equivalent in tone and texture, it does not need to be too specific. I try to add interest by varying line weight and use a variety of groupings of marks.

 

cricqueboef, France, church, drawing, pen and ink

This is the 7thC chapel at Cricqueboef just outside Villerville. I must do more pen work on plain paper I have become a little over addicted to that blue! Straight pen is great for quick sketches like this.

 

Villerville, steps, drawing, pen and ink, france

Last drawing of Villerville I liked the tricky viewpoint.

 

Pont Aven, France, watercolour

I would have liked to have done more watercolour, but it was so wet the oils were more practical. I did this one of the boats in Pont Aven under the shelter of some trees, even so the washes took forever to dry.

 

Pont Aven, watercolour, painting, france

This is the last from Pont Aven it got a bit muddy, the dark green area just would not dry so I had to resort to more detail in that area than I would have liked.

 

That’s it for France. I now have to paint like mad for some upcoming exhibitions!

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