Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

April 23, 2016

Taking a Break

Filed under: Dorset,Drawing,Painting,Uncategorized,Watercolour — Tags: , , , , , , — Rob Adams @ 5:16 pm

First post in a very long while. I am at present rebuilding my house and studio which has alas consumed all of my energies. At first I tried to keep the paintings coming but had to give up as there were just too many calls on my time. As I am cursed with a fair degree of practical know how I am designing it all and doing much of the work myself. Oddly I find building a brick wall almost as satisfying as painting. There is a definite link in all making activities, there is the same planning and problem solving going on and the same satisfaction in looking at the final result after a day’s work. Presumably this is the feeling that a stone age person felt upon looking at a hand axe he or she had just napped from a chunk of flint.

Looking back I think this is the longest period I have gone without painting or drawing anything for three or four decades. I do wonder if it will bring any change. I am very much looking forward to restarting and wonder how it will feel. Will I be rusty? Full of new inspiration and drive? We will find out in due course. My instinct tells me that it will be hard to get the flow going but also that the break will have done me good. In some ways I haven’t stopped. I have thought of things to paint and have been planning new work in my head. I’m not sure I am in any way able to turn off that part of my brain!

One of the reasons for the big rebuild is to be able to exhibit work in my home and have open studio days. The first of these is coming up soon and here is the link to Dorset Arts Week which happens every 2 years. Fortunately I have plenty of work framed so I don’t need to frantically prepare content, though I do have to get cards printed. The date does at least give me a deadline on the building works that I cannot avoid!

Here are a few watercolours I painted before my constructional sabbatical began.

Golden Cap, Dorset, watercolour, painting, plein air

This is Golden Cap, I have been here a few times to paint but never been very lucky with the light. This day was no exception! Very breezy and hard to paint but I enjoyed it anyhow.

 

Melbury Hill, Dorset, Watercolour, Plein air, painting

This is Melbury Hill one of the highest hills in Dorset, it was done just after Christmas on a wet and windy day. It was hard work just holding on to everything! I was lucky though as it rained on just about everything but me. Very dramatic and I wished I had brought my oils.

 

Melbury Hill, Dorset, watercolour, painting

Once home out of the weather I tried my hand at a half sheet, but not quite right, I will have another go as I like the subject.

 

Stour, River, Dorset, plein air, painting

This is the River Stour near my house. The river was swollen due to storms and looked great in the early morning light.

 

crematorium, Manston, dorset, watercolour

This is in the village of Manston near St Nicholas’ church which is the site of one of the first cremations in recent times. Needs a figure maybe.

 

Hammoon, Stour, River, hambledon hill, watercolour, plein air

This is the Stour again but near Hammoon. A great view but I am going to have to get up really early to catch it at its best.

 

Fiddleford, river stour, Dorset, watercolour, plein air

Finally here is the River Stour yet again this time at the lovely Fiddleford Manor and the last time I put brush to paper. The third watercolour of the day and easily the best.

I was then busy with organising the Wapping show at the Mall Galleries. I only sold one, but was delighted that it was one of my pen drawings that I had exhibited to test the water as it were. Drawings are hard to sell as they sit somewhere between prints and paintings.

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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