Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

June 14, 2016

The Simple Pleasure of Looking

Well I am free to paint and post again. My house and studio are finished and the 2 weeks of open studios over. I thought that being mewed up with my exhibition for 2 weeks would be tedious but in actuality I rather enjoyed it. It was fascinating watching people viewing my efforts. I got everyone from the systematic 10 seconds look at each picture, to the rapid skim round and leave. What was intriguing was that there was great constancy in which pictures provoked comment. After the show I put the ones that didn’t sell in a row and tried to work out what the magic ingredient was. No luck though, if I came up with a formula I’d be rich! Though other factors were also at play. I had one picture in prime position in the centre of the wall and it drew consistent comment. I swapped it for another and it then became the subject of especial interest and the previous star languished in a corner unremarked!

Other than the mostly very positive general reactions one comment stayed with me. A lady said on leaving, “Thank you I really enjoyed looking at all the pictures.” That, I thought, about sums it up. Painting is about giving others pleasure through looking. It is about distilling and getting down something that will please and arrest. By this I don’t just mean pretty, but the full spread of reaction to visual input. It is not about me expressing my inner self, pushing any nebulous boundaries, trying to educate or explore, just about producing an interesting “looking” experience. In the same way as good music induces a worthwhile hearing experience.

I sat and drew and made linocuts while people went round so here are the pen drawings.

Bicycle, London, City, pen and ink, drawing

Done from a very blurry iPhone snap taken near the Royal Exchange in London. I’m going to do a bigger oil of this though as I think it will make a good picture.

 

Wales, pembrokeshire, sea, coast, pen and ink, drawing

This is Cwm yr Eglwys in Pembrokeshire, I did this as a plan for a linocut.

 

Albert Bridge, Chelsea, Thames, London, pen and ink, drawing

A view off Albert Bridge of the Thames, it was fun trying to get the impression of fading light in pen, that water was hard work I can tell you!

 

Okeford Fitzpaine, Dorset, church, pen and ink, drawing

The full English village in Okeford Fitzpaine. Almost too pretty… I resisted the temptation to add a car.

 

Salisbury, pen and ink, drawing, cathedral

A view of Salisbury done from an extremely dark and blurry iPhone snap. It was actually taken through the side window of the car when stopped in traffic. Due to this mostly a work of imagination. A distinctly medieval mood developed so I decided to go with it!

 

Wells, wiltshire, cathedral, drawing, pen and ink

This is Wells. A busy day with 60 or so visitors so a bit disjointed.

 

Child Okeford, Dorset, drawing, pen and ink

A local view of Child Okeford, another planned linocut.

 

Kington Magna, church, Dorset, drawing, pen and ink

Last one, this is Kington Magna and yet another potential linocut. I actually stopped doing drawings and set about cutting the lino blocks so hopefully the next post will be some prints!

December 16, 2015

Inspiration

“I just can’t get inspired!” How often do I hear that? I feel it too, I have the vague urge to be painting something but can’t find anything that gets the juices going. With me that usually means retiring to the sofa with a book or a bit of gardening is on the cards. I have to note that this feeling only occurs when deciding for myself what to paint. I never once had the feeling in several decades of being told what to paint by others!

So what is it this “inspiration”? The Greeks and Romans believed that it was something breathed into you by the Gods or Muses. IE something coming in from the outside. The same idea held sway when Christianity arrived except it was the Holy Spirit that did the breathing. In the 18th century it became a bit mystical, a sort of divine resonance. In the 19th Freud of course thought it was unresolved childhood conflicts, but he then he would wouldn’t he.

The moments when rudderlessness strikes me are quite distinct. If I am out with the intention of painting and nothing quite takes my fancy. All plein air painters know the feeling of wandering randomly seeking a “subject”. The other time it hits me is on a wet day when I am going to have to paint from reference. Sorting through endless old photos on screen looking for the one that gets you started. Most of those photos you took had some sort of possibility seen in them when you took them. Recapturing that feeling at a later date can be nigh on impossible though.

I think for me the resonance idea of the Romantics appeals most. If a photo or a real scene triggers a cascade of possibilities and potentialities as to how the final thing might be then that prompts us into action. It is not really (or very rarely) a vision of the completed work, but a plausible course toward a hazy and perhaps worthwhile destination.

That “perhaps” tells more of the story maybe. The moment tension between, “Shall I do this? It will be great.” and “It probably won’t work, so don’t bother.” is perhaps the fulcrum of inspiration. We are programmed to avoid disappointment and the less that seems likely the more we will feel inspired! Not that anyone will be impressed if when asked what inspired you you reply, “Because it looked a good bet!” that might not gain you many artistic brownie points.

So inspiration is the imagining what I might make of something, whether idea or something seen, of how I might transform it, refine it from ore to gold. If I see a glittering golden prize then I say I am inspired, but if I see only dull lead sheet then I flop about in consumptive despair.

This means for me I fall between ancient and modern thinking, taking a little from each. As far as I can see all inspiration comes from the outside in, from the world we perceive and live in, rather than any God or some vague spiritual source. Our complex and largely unconscious psyches take this material and return it to the world transformed. Then when a person looks at the result they might see the familiar in a new way. It is this “seeing afresh” I think that is the reward that people who like to look at pictures enjoy.

Advice as to how to get inspired? Well that is tricky. The optimist will probably paint more pictures but plenty of duds. The pessimist might be harder to push into action but the results should be good if only they don’t get despairing halfway and never finish! For me I have several methods of prompting myself into action. Firstly I look at what others have done. This shows you what is achievable and brings the seeing possibilities bit of your head online. Then if you immediately look through what material you might work from you are I find more likely to spot a potential winner. We often say, “Oh I find so and so’s work so inspiring!” so put it to use. Sometimes though I just do it the hard way. I just sit down and start even though I have no proper plan or subject I am confident in. It is a risky tactic but every now and again it will produce something unexpected and exciting which pushes you out of a rut.

I have been hopping about from medium to medium recently so a very mixed bag of pictures.

 

Knightsbridge, london, plein air, oil painting, art

We have has so many dull days of late, this visit to Knightsbridge was no exception. I had not painted in London for a while so I was determined to get something from the day. The wet street is imaginary I’m afraid as it needed something to tie the background plane to the foreground. 8in by 10in Oils.

Knightsbridge, oils, london, harrods, painting plein air

This painting occurred in the previous somewhat satirical post… but I painted it straight after the previous one. It only took 25 min but everything seemed to fall into place as I worked. I could see straight away that it had potential. For the stages of the studio picture look at the previous post but ignore the sarky words! 10in by 12in Oils.

 

Farnham. church, surrey, oil painting, plein air

On my way back to Dorset next day, this is Farnham. The sun was out for just about 2 min so I had to slap on the highlights with mad abandon. A bit rough and ready but I think I have the makings of a studio picture. 10in by 12in Oils.

 

Tenby, wales, oil painting, harbour, boats

A studio picture of the harbour at Tenby based on a very quick sketch. I took the composition from the drawing which is here. I have attempted a big picture of this before and the result was pretty much a train crash so I was pleased to finish this without going off the rails. I have worked a little more on it since this photo, but only to unify and knock back the town in the background. 12in by 20in Oils.

 

strand on the Green, London, Thames, watercolour, painting

Another visit to London with the Brass Monkeys. This is the ever popular Strand on the Green near Chiswick. It is in sepia because I forgot my watercolour box and only had one tube of paint in my bag! I was fortuitous in the event as monochrome suited the dull light very well. A4 Watercolour.

 

Thames, olives Island, London, Strand on the Green, pen and ink

Strand on the Green again, this is Olivers Island and the only hint of sun we saw… a bit rushed as I needed a coffee badly! Pen and Ink.

 

Chiswick House, London, watercolour

Days are so short this time of year so the light was fading rapidly when I got to the perfectly Palladian Chiswick House. I only took me 30 min or so to draw but nonetheless I was nearly locked in the park for the night! I was going to do a painting but the photos I took are just a black silhouette.

 

Spitalfields, London, pen and ink, drawing

This is Spitalfields, all I got done after a nightmare drive across London. I must get some of these drawings printed up as I think they will make attractive cards. Pen and Ink.

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