Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

September 11, 2016


Filed under: Dorset,Drawing,How to do,Painting,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Rob Adams @ 1:10 pm

I often see artists vaguely waving their brush at arm’s length when painting and measuring by sliding their thumb down the handle. It looks very good to passers by and perhaps makes a marginal improvement the proportions in their painting. However the picky pedantic bit of me notes that they have not dropped their head onto the shoulder of their outstretched arm or closed one eye. This means they have never learnt how to do measuring and the distances they are checking will be pretty inaccurate.

The very first thing about measuring is what and when should you measure? If it is a bunch of trees or other shrubbery then do we care if a painting has accurate shrubbery in it? You never hear people say, “That’s a pretty good painting, but a pity the clump of rhododendrons is out of proportion…”. So when it comes to hills, mountains, trees and general greenery I just use the diagonal method which is estimating the box the target will fit within and then finding the angle from corner to corner as below.


Once you have that angle you can scale it any way you wish.

Something that might need a little more accuracy is how the verticals of buildings fit across your picture. For this I use a version of the sight size method. If you hold up your painting board so that it exactly covers the area of your proposed masterpiece, then without moving it nearer or further away slide the whole board downwards  or upwards and you will be able to mark where the verticals divide the picture along the top or bottom of the board. The same can be done with horizontals if you slide the board sideways. I usually only knock in the top and bottom of the box that encloses the structure rather than any internal lines which are usually effected by perspective in any case.

Here is my board covering the composition I want.

Slide up and mark key points.

Once you have those then join up the dots. I am not aiming for perfect accuracy only reasonably correct proportion.

Taking angles, which I have already mentioned, deserves a little more attention. It is not always straight forward to transfer an angle from a brush held against the subject to your canvas. Firstly it is not a bad idea to mark a toe line, just scratch a mark on the ground to set where you will place your feet when you make any measurements. Next, when measuring make your canvas vertical and as near eye level as you can. Transferring an angle to a sloping board is not impossible but much harder! Remember, drop that head to the shoulder to get your eye as near to the line of your fully stretched out arm as possible.

I frequently use angles as a quick check against distance measures, make a box around the bit you want to check the proportion of and if they don’t match then rechecking is required.

If you are doing a really complex scene think about using a thread frame, it looks seriously uncool and everyone will mutter cheat, but it is really no different than measuring piece by piece. You need to hold up the frame so that the right number of squares covers your subject. A trick is to note a left and right feature in your scene so you can reposition the frame easily, or you can even better set it up on a stand. Either way you will need to mark your toeline so you keep your position consistent. Some even go so far as to set an eye point which can just be a pole stuck into the ground coming up to an eye level point.

My thread frame is a very basic 14in by 10in with the threads at inch intervals. I have a larger one with 2 inch threads which I use in the studio, so if I am painting from a reference or sketch I can grid it up and transfer the drawing. Again people feel this is somehow cheating but Durer, Rubens, Rembrandt and Michelangelo all used this method and everyone knows that they are rubbish! One thing you will find is that after a while you develop a sort of internal grid and so need the real thing less and less.

I have managed to print off a few of my linocuts with my new press. So much easier than a barren and wooden spoon!


linocut. print, child okeford, dorset

This is my local the Baker Arms in Child Okeford. Just two plates.


Kington Magna, linocut, dorset

This is a slightly more stylised one of the church at Kington Magna. The way the lino cuts really lends itself to this sort of treatment. I pushed the boat out with 3 plates on this one. I also did a much more worked out preparatory drawing.


Kington Magna, church, linocut, relief print

My new press allows me to print on paper that would be very laborious with a barren. I wanted to use the black key plate and try and get a very different feel with the same image. I added the white by hand, but I could have cut a white block.  Next I am attempting an MDF cut!


This is a version of my more monochrome tonal sketch of Dorchester I posted previously. I wanted a more up beat feel. Oil, 16in by 12in.


Pinacles, Old Harry, Dorset, Cliffs, oil painting, sea

I went down to the coast to draw Old Harry rocks. By the time I finished drawing the light was almost gone but I couldn’t resist a try at this nearby sea stack. The light went over so quickly I only got a very basic block out done, so this is much more studio than plein air. I ended up making it quite different from both the block in and the photos I took, so this is how it felt in my memory rather than how it actually was! 12in by 12in oils.


Old Harry, Poole, Sea stacks, cliffs, sea, pen and ink, drawing, dorset

Here is Old Harry rocks. Sitting with my feet almost dangling over the edge here! As I drew the sun came through and lit the chalk cliffs very dramatically, but I felt it looked better a bit before the sun reached its flu strength. Pen and Ink.

I have a one man show at The Gallery on the Square in Poundbury it rune until the 18th of October 2016.

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!

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress

error: Content is protected !!