Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

May 13, 2017

Brushwork

Filed under: Dorset,Painting,Uncategorized,Watercolour — Tags: , , , , , , — Rob Adams @ 6:40 pm

Something painters occasionally compliment each other on or otherwise obsess about is brushwork. I have done it myself… it is a safe compliment if there are no other redeeming features in a painting you have to react to.

“I rather like the handling of the paint on that barn!”

“Barn? It’s portrait of my uncle.”

“Ah… is it… ? Jolly good brushwork though…”

I thought in any case it would be a good subject for a post… I have been blogging about painting for a while now and new subjects are getting harder to think of. As I have often found however as soon as I start to organise my thoughts niggling contradictions soon arise.

Good for what? Was my first thought. A brush stroke could be the dogs B’s in one context and its dinner in another. What makes it good? Is it confidence? When I asked the question of fellow painters that seemed a major factor. I can however think of lots of situations where a bold confident stroke would be inappropriate and an uncertain, indefinite and tentative one just the thing. Also as Degas says it only has to give the impression of confidence it does not require actual confidence to make that apparently confident mark. Singer Sargent used to repeatedly re-do brush stroke over and over wiping them off if they didn’t have the right “I just dashed this portrait off.” feel.

I do admire as others do when brushstrokes appear  to have just been let lie and not fiddled with… people say fresh and other nice things if you get that effect. Though as an experienced fiddler I know full well that the not fiddled with look often requires a great deal of covert fiddling in order to achieve that coveted not at all fiddled with appearance.

It occurs to me too that brushstrokes need not be visible at all as such, the word blending appeared to cause shudders to run through the more delicate and elevated artistic souls. Pointillism also failed the test, divisionists of all sorts that just use a repeated dab seemed to be in the non mustard cutting zone for brushwork. Any kind of flat filling in is no good unless it has “movement” whatever that might mean, just signs of the paint being applied I assume. Glazing would seem iffy too, but best not to bin the family Rembrandt just on my say so.

There seemed one factor that was to the fore. That was that artists want people to be able to believe they discern clues as to their emotional state during the act of creation from the manner in which the paint was applied. So leaving big drips showing through, quick patchy scumbling over ground layers and signs of rapidity and urgency in general. Signs of corrections made but not hidden get brownie points too. All in all it is starting to look as if all that “free” brushiness might be just as contrived in its own way as a smoothed off portrait by Bronzino!

All paintings are illusions even abstract ones and the clues that artists give us from which we are meant to derive extra meaning are illusion too in their own way. It also means that the way we as painters judge quality of work is just as tied to our era and received culture as it ever was. A Victorian painter might have given points for sentiment, smoothness of finish and classical allusions. A Flemish still life artist on the accuracy of the tulips and the perfection of the dew drops on the leaves in their still life. In looking for expression, brevity of means and truth to materials we are not really any different or indeed advanced.

Not to worry though painting was always driven by fantasy. From the juicy mammoth painted in a cave which is surrounded by lucky hunters, to the saint being swept up to a reward in heaven, the recording eye of the impressionists uncluttered by literature or history, the impending technological triumphs of the futurists and the sweeping reductions of the abstractionists, to the artist as media magician waving the wand of deconstruction and finally the all powerful curator using the art of others as their preferred medium; all are dreams for the epochs in which they are set, fulfilling yearnings to bring relevance and meaning to a bewildering and intractably opaque existence.

Well I didn’t expect to end up delving into such philosophical backwaters just from considering a humble dab of paint!

I am painting pictures faster than I can blog them at the moment, so a rag bag of leftovers in this post. You can amuse yourselves by trying to determine the state of my soul from my wishy washy brushwork…

Rawlsbury Camp, Iron Age fort, watercolour, plein air, painting

This is Rawlsbury Camp on the side of Bulbarrow Hill. One thing about having moved out to the sticks is that I get to paint the same subject in lots of different moods. It is all getting very green now which I always find harder than the russets and greys of the winter. 13in by 7in watercolour.

 

Hambledon Hill, Dorset, watercolour, painting

Another old favourite. This view always fascinates me. I frequently pass by it on my way elsewhere and nearly always stop to see what mood is on offer that day. This is done from a very dodgy iPhone snap. 13in by 6in Watercolour.

 

Fontmell Down, Dorset, plein air, watercolour, painting

A slightly different take on Fontmell Down. Quite difficult indecisive light and I was sitting on a very slopey bit of ground.  I love the dry valleys that are a characteristic of the Dorset chalk lands but they are hard to make into a good composition. 10in by 6in Watercolour.

 

Fontmell Down, Dorset, plein air, watercolour

The clouds were gathering for my second one. This view is so distinctive I must think of some new variations. The painting looked dreadful until the last dark foreground wash went in and then seemed to suddenly make sense. 10in by 7in Watercolour.

River Stour, Child Okeford, Dorset, watercolour, plein air

I have been wanting to do this view for ages. The problem of doing it is that you have to stand on a narrow concrete ledge on the bridge over the Stour with huge tractors pulling slurry tanks zipping by inches behind you. The light was very kind to me staying so constant that I could take my time. The wind was very chilly and was drying the washes a bit too quick, but I became so involved two hours were gone in a flash. 13in by 7in Watercolour.

 

River Stour, Dorset, watercolour, plein air, painting

Next day I went back to do the less interesting view from the other side of the bridge. The cloud shadows were regularly throwing either foreground or background into shade. I decided I would have the nearby river shaded which I now think was a bad call… with oils I could have jumped horses but not with watercolour alas! 10in by 7in Watercolour.

 

Mudeford, watercolour, painting, Dorset

This one of Mudeford was done from the oil that appears in the previous post. When I was painting the oil I felt I had chosen the wrong media so this was to find out. The result? Well better than the oil but still a little boring. 10in by 7in Watercolour.

Mudeford, crabbing, Dorset, watercolour

Slightly reluctant to post this one! Usually when I do a painting where a figure is front and centre I put it in first so if it goes awry you can start again without much time lost. But here I finished the rest of the picture then botched the figure! I post it as a warning to you all! 10in by 7in watercolour.

 

Melbury Hill, Dorset, plein air, watercolour

I got up very very early to do this one of Melbury Hill. I had seen the view a few days before and thought it might make a good painting but the actual day disappointed a little. Still on the way back I saw a different view that I will definitely be returning to do. I might have another look at this in the evening light. 10in by 6in watercolour.

 

 

March 31, 2017

The Internet

Filed under: Dorset,Painting,Portraits,Uncategorized,Watercolour — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Rob Adams @ 12:20 pm

I was reading an interesting article about the ghettoisation that is beginning occur on the web. The gist was that the search engines try to find out what you like and what you believe in and then attempts to build a profile and feed you stuff that you would approve of. A little research showed it to be a strange truth. The internet is dividing us up not drawing us together. So eco folk tend to get only stories about how the planet is being ruined and fracking was invented by the devil, presumably deniers get stories about how the global warming theories are wrong and its all a plot by pinko liberal commies. You can try it yourself search for something balmy like chemtrails and it will bring up lots of views for and against. If you just click and browse the sites of the chemtrail believers then next time you search the loonies will come higher up. So people tend to exist in a tailor-made bubble of information they broadly tend to agree with rather than the full spread of wildly conflicting information.

How does this relate to art? Well as a representational painter with certain preferences I will tend to be served images and information I approve of. Also my posted images in turn will be served to those who have previously shown similar tastes. I do not mean this will be a 100% correlation, just that things that fit my profile will predominate. This process is just getting started and will I assume become more effective and widespread as time goes by. So people interested in conceptual art will get the sort of fodder that they approve of and plein air artists the same. There is nothing specifically wrong about this but it does tend to split human interests into separate bubbles that have very little cross talk. Just look at any discussion forum that propounds any view political, religious or otherwise, they consist almost entirely of people who are true believers plus a few trolls, who only serve to emphasise what horrid people those who disagree with the local majority view are.

The other thing that effects me as a painter is how much time the internet eats. You see a picture you like by a painter you hadn’t heard of and off you go searching for more and then maybe finding other related artists that painted in the same place or time. Next thing you know an afternoon has gone. It seems to speak directly to our hunter gatherer instincts. I now have folders and folders full of paintings that may, but probably won’t in some unforeseen future, inspire me to paint a better picture myself. I suppose to look at them all has been educational, but possibly not as much as painting something myself. It is much the same with kit, I recently wasted almost a whole day looking at etching presses. Reading about which types  were good and which were less so. Looking at sites that sell them (and other tempting goodies of course) or scanning ebay for a bargain second hand one.

Of course the evil web has some bonuses. As I put my paintings on line they are seen by more people than they ever would have in a previous era. It is however possibly easier to go unnoticed due to the sheer quantity of others doing the same thing. This blog is apparently the 13th most popular painting blog, the 6th if we are just counting artists. This is the result of the 10,000 or so hits I get a month. Is this all due to my nifty painting skills? Well my ego would like to think so, but a little bit of me knows that much better painters than I languish in the lower regions of popularity. So my web skills have to take some credit, I know how to make life easy for the search engines and how to attract their attention in the areas I wish them to notice.

I have written before about the feeling I get that I am only painting and drawing to supply images to be seen on screen. I don’t think that is necessarily bad though. After all musicians are mostly heard second hand in a recording, their actual live performances are in many cases never heard at all as they don’t play any gigs. Painters often forget that they are a part of the entertainment industry, not as many would like to think part of the spiritual and philosophical world. We do sensory gratification not ideas.

So hopefully here are some images that gratify more than just me in the painting of them!

dave, portrait, oil painting, zorn palette

Another portrait of Dave, who featured in my last post. Here I was trying out the Zorn palette of Yellow Ochre, Ivory Black, Cadmium Red and White. I actually liked it a lot. Reducing you choices actually smooths the process, it certainly makes remixing colours a lot easier. I intended to only do an hour on this but went about 20 min over. Annoyingly this is a better likeness than the ones where I tried harder to get his character to show through. 10in by 12in oils.

 

rob adams, self portrait, oil painting

A self portrait here, I was interested in doing a different angle again with a restricted palette. This one is Naples Yellow, Cad red, Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Umber and Tit White. I intended to just do an hour, but as the light outside was flat and unchanging I only stopped when the sun came out and realised I had been painting away for two hours! Interesting what adding a blue does. 12in by 10in oils.

 

Wareham, Dorset, river, boats, plein air, oil painting

This is the view down the river Frome at Wareham. It was very flat and hazy which rather suited this view. Only 30 odd min as it didn’t really grab me as subject. 10in by 6in oils.

 

Wareham, Dorset, church, plein air, oil painting

Wareham again, this time seen from across the marshes I actually worked on another painting (below) at the same time with the boards one above the other on the easel. The second scene was straight ahead of me and this one at right angles. 10in by 5in oils.

 

Wareham, oil painting, plein air, dorset

Here’s the view 90 degrees to the left. Amazing how the change to looking more into the light transforms the mood. You would hardly think the were painted simultaneously if they were hung side by side. Such lovely tones and subtle hues at this time of year. Soon I will have to wrestle with the spring greens. 10i by 5in oils.

 

Satans square, Sutton Waldron, oil painting, Dorset, landscape

A studio painting this time. I did this from a watercolour (below) which is something I should do more often. This is the a path that runs to the dramatically named Satan’s Square and is near Sutton Waldron. I drew it out from a photo then painted it from the watercolour, hard to resist checking the photo as you work initially, but as you get into it the temptation fades! 16in by 12in oils.

 

Sutton Waldron, Dorset, watercolour, painting, plein air

Here is the watercolour for comparison. This is mostly plein air I just did a few bits of darkening and delineating later. I love this view and will be back to paint it in some different lights. 10in by 7in Watercolour.

 

Fontmell Down, watercolour, painting plein air

This is Fontmell Down and painted just before the previous one. I wish I had taken a much wider view, which is a lesson to me to put a few differently proportioned bits of paper in the car. Went a bit grubby as I got the tone in the foreground wrong twice and had to overlay more washes than I like to normally. I was working under some strain though as the wind was attempting to blow everything up to Glasgow! Watercolour 10in by 7in.

That’s it, some London stuff next. I have sadly resigned from the Wapping Group as I now live too far away to get to their painting days on a regular basis. I owe them a great deal of gratitude for prompting me to go out and paint the river and the city which has really transformed the way I paint. Hopefully I will still join them occasionally on an ad hoc basis so it will not mean the end of cityscapes!

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