Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

March 3, 2019

The finer points of being boring

Filed under: Dorset,Uncategorized,Wales — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Rob Adams @ 6:52 pm

How immediately interesting should a painting be? Should it grab you by the collar and shake you up. Shout across the room to you? What do you do if all the other paintings by other artists are screaming at you too? Shout louder? For property they call it curb appeal. The risk if you don’t shout out is that you will be ignored. Your candle will only be lighting the inside of a private and obscure bushel. Does quality reach out across the room? I’m afraid not. Large size, strong contrasts, shocking content and primary colours are what does the trick. Of course one option is to promote yourself rather than the art, the celebrity option, if that’s you then read no further.

It is a problem there is no denying it. We all want to be noticed. We don’t paint pictures for them to be ignored. Then again if your picture is devoted to grabbing that across the room glance/instagram scroll past moment, then that is a pretty shallow reason to paint a picture in a certain way. Also as I said before everyone else is shouting too. There is a saying, “When all others are shouting, try a whisper.” Sound good, very zen like and that, great to drop into an arty conversation… but unfortunately not true. Some of my favourites in my own work are quiet mood pieces. Having watched visitors looking at my pictures they mostly don’t give them a first glance let alone a second. The distribution of Facebook “likes” seems to confirm this.

Maybe what we need is a better quality audience? That is not so silly. Putting your pictures before people who are keen on the sort of thing you produce is a pretty good strategy. Rather hard to carry out though, but with Instagram and so forth an easier project than in earlier times. I am not convinced that internet presence generates many buyers. They are consuming your images as momentary eye candy and all at your expense too. I pay good money to publish this blog, does it sell pictures? Yes a few but not as many as my galleries do.

This muttering has been provoked by Instagram. I had been ignoring it even though I have had an account for ages. You can trawl through an unending smorgasbord of paintings, many very good indeed. They do fall into categories though. There are the head studies with developed Sargent type features surrounded by loosely brushed block in. There are impressions done from snaps again with that all important brushy unfinished look. There are the academic wannabes doing saccharine Bouguereau impressions. There are the numerous contemporary impressionists who like myself trawl the waters stirred up by the arrival of photography in the 1850s. All the historical styles are there… except anything anything historical or religious. No Thatcher as Winged Victory with her foot on an Argentine neck! No Last Supper set in a Little Chef.

Much if not most is quite shouty, there are welcome islands of serenity, but mostly brushwork fireworks. As an ex 3D modelling man myself I keep an eye on the game design wannabes. Endless iterations or killer robots, zombies and scaled demons. Don’t let us not forget the swathes of “attitude” exuding girls wielding big swords who neglected to get dressed before teaching those Demon Killer Zombie Robots a stern lesson or two. I can’t help liking those huge vistas of post apocalyptic landscapes with vast spaceships and teeny tiny foreground figures to ram home all that vastness.

I may seem to be digressing here, but all of the above is designed to quickly zip through your eyeballs, give quick visual tingle and then be forgotten. Am I alone as an artist in finding the whole, post it and watch it slide briskly into the past with no trace, phenomenon a little wearisome? Is there any way for an artist to step back from feeding the social media beast and survive? I fear the answer is no. We are doomed for the beast in the machine to chew on us ad infinitum without even the hope of getting spat out.

Enough of dystopia, some daubs…

Swanage, Dorset, plein air, oil painting

A difficult windy day to paint a rather wide canvas, it took a tumble or two and has a ton of sand embedded in it. Difficult light too, this is not the final as I repainted the left side as my drawing was a bit to wonky. It is from Swanage beach looking East. I am getting rather fond of the three squares wide format it seems to suit seascapes particularly. 24in by 8in Oils.

cardigan, llangrannog, oil painting, Wales

Off to Wales for the New Year. This is Llangrannog in Cardiganshire. The day had been quite stormy and was clearing as the evening approached, which often means lovely light. 16in by 10in oils

Dorset, sutton Waldron, plein air, oil painting

One of my favourite scenes near Sutton Waldron, it always seems to make a good picture whatever the light. 10in by 8in Oils.

Gold Hill, Shaftesbury, Dorset, plein air, oil painting

The same day at Gold Hill in Shaftesbury. I was in a hurry so this is really dashed in. I intend to have a go at a cinemascope version… People say I shouldn’t paint Hovis hill as it is a bit naff… do I care? Not even a tiny bit! 10in by 6in Oils.

Llangrannog, Cardiganshire, Wales, oil painting

This is Llangrannog again I stood taking photos as the sun dropped and wished I had my paints with me! Still I enjoyed painting this. It was very difficult to get the feeling of tranquility that I remembered from the day. I ended up smoothing the tones more than I normally would to help the mood. 16in by 16in Oils.

Portland, Dorset, Plein air, oil painting

An early visit to Portland, this is on the west side. Very breezy but excellent light. I then painted a truly ghastly one on the other side that I wiped off in a fury… 10in by 7in Oils.

Bulbarrow, woods, snow, plein air, oil painting

SNOW!!! Everyone else in the country had it and here it was at last and a sunny day to boot. This was a lot to take on but could not resist having a crack at it. I will glaze it to give focus once it is dry. This is up on Bulbarrow. 24in by 8in Oils.

Rawlesbury, Dorset, Bulbarrow, plein air, oil painting

Went straight on to do this of the side of the ridge running up to Rawlesbury Camp. The sky tone was tricky a it had to be dark enough to give the snow punch. Snow has so many different hues, such fun to paint. 10in by 7in Oils.

Bulbarrow, snow, Dorset, plein air, oil painting

There was no stopping, Bulbarrow again, it had been melting rapidly and more and more green showed through. A race to get this done as the light was going over very quickly. A grand day out painting though. 10in by 7in Oils.

Dorset, snow, oil painting

I did this next day to try and catch the memory. Not quite what I want but I intend to glaze. Glazing is an odd process as you have to put your picture away for 2 months while it dries and then come back to it. It does things no other technique can though. I have quite a backlog of ones ready to do so I will try and put together a tutorial… a bit cheeky maybe as I am still feeling my way with the process. 16in by 16in Oils.

 

March 24, 2018

Art for the End of Times

Filed under: Art History,Dorset,Painting,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Rob Adams @ 11:11 am

The age of discovery is drawing to a close. The scientific theories are done with, there will never be another dramatic moment of displacement in a bathtub that prompts the cry of Eureka! No fresh and shiny E = mc 2‘s no more 2πr2′s hidden in the woodwork. We will never again discover the unexpected fact that blood circulates, or find out how nerves do their electrochemical tango. There will be no more elements that last longer than a pico second to extend the periodic table. No new languages, no new geometries, we have found it all, made it all. The world of knowledge is perhaps a little like a sphere and we have pretty much mapped out all the continents upon it.

So now we are in the age of refinement, dotting the i’s, looking after the p’s and q’s. We might voyage to new planets, but never be surprised that they were there in the first place. We are encyclopaedia collators, we are indexers, we arrange ducks in rows. We wistfully talk of escaping the box and finding some mythical bleeding edge, but really we are at the end of innovation and at the beginning of a long age of tinkering with infinitely recessive boundaries.

There will be no new art movements, no new impressionists, we have been abstract, surreal and can only repeat the old well trodden expressions, there will be no more new, just warmed over old. Who could have expected human understanding to have grown so fast? We have the jigsaw puzzle on the table and the box is nearly empty. There are only a couple of pieces of sky to go and a bit of sea lost under the sofa, but the picture on the whole is just about complete. We are just a little disappointed that it does not quite match the one with the jolly bearded chap in the clouds that we imagined might be printed on the box!

Should we retire? Is our job done, like Deep Thought in Hitchhikers Guide have we found our 42? Should we become whimsical and quirky, always looking for some brief glimmer of newness to punctuate the ennui? Return to big wigs and farthingales, go mad for Steampunk? Butterfly at being this of that for just a day or two before moving on to paint a prettier flower? The world has enough books, tunes, plays and paintings to amuse anyone for a century or more. It sometimes seems pointless to paint another when there are so many better ones already available.

There is that word, “available” we are drowning in available. If I want to look at Russian painting, clickety click on my key board, and hey presto there it is. Not only that but most of the images are better than the ones you would have got in that 60 quid book 20 years ago, certainly there are far more of them. Affluenza doesn’t just effect material things it effects culture too. In times past you had a music collection… serried ranks of cd’s and Lp’s proudly displayed. Now you can rent any tune for the price of an advertisement. We don’t need collections, I sold all my art books, I never looked at them, they just took up space.

So, I must ask, does it matter? Most of human lives throughout history have been lived without a hint of new. In Tudor times, before the revelatory rush had really got started, it was a compliment to tell an artist that what he had done was almost as good as what everyone had always done before. They had guilds to prevent any possibility of innovation or deviation from the approved way. So no, maybe it does not matter.

Still for an artist today the idea of originality and newness is made out to be of vital importance. How cruel fate can be! We are like explorers born just as the last of the “Terra Incognitas” are filled in and the final “Here be Dragons” neatly erased. We have explored right round the world and met ourselves coming back in the other direction. Fortunately for us the world of ideas is fractal as a fern. We have broadly mapped out the major fronds, but each frond is made of smaller fronds and they too of smaller yet. So perhaps our world is unconfined, I can paint landscapes that make just a section of a part of the serrated edge of our landscape frond a tiny bit frillier.

For what is vaguely known as contemporary art this is a slight problem. Its avowed mission is to find new fronds, to go as Star Trek tells you, “Where no man has been before.” To this end they rush about making submarines out of tyres, piling up things to make other things, incongruity is king. All to no avail though, as, like our explorers who spot a hopeful new shore, upon landing they find footprints of men who were there before them in the sand, already softened by the tide. They have all the time only been filling in a few small wriggles in a coastline already mapped.

What has brought all this on you might wonder? Well the fear of Venice is beginning to set in. The most painted place ever. The most mapped in paint, its every mood, however transient, daubed by someone. There is a veritable Everest of paintings, an unstoppable grinding glacier of topographical art heading my way! All sorts of silly ideas pop up in my head, ignore the famous scenes, just paint dead ends and wheelie bins. Get behind the hollow tourist facade and tell it how it really is. I know of course that reality is not Venice’s strong suit, it is the oldest and most successful Disneyland on the planet.

In the event of course I will go and paint and draw stuff that looks pretty much like what everyone else has painted. I will then put them in my attic as Venice paintings don’t sell in Dorset. They will make a dandy blog post and garner a few ego boosting “likes” on Facebook and I will move on. The real gain will be inside my head. I will have been and looked. I will have observed tricks of the light, embellishments of stone, reflections in water. I will have been immersed in the place and be made a little bit different inside. An extra, hopefully elegant, wrinkle will be defined on my own personal frond. Like painting a portrait, they are much the same, we have been painting faces and bodies for thousands of years, but this will be through my eyes which will be, in the smallest humblest way, a first. Then I will paint Blandford with a little bit of Venice sitting behind my eyes.

Fontmel Down, Dorset, Plein air, oil painting

A bright and breezy morning up on Fontmel Down, I’m not quite done with it yet and might have to return for another bash. I am showing it here with the bottom cropped, but I might reverse that and crop the top instead. It is one of those that has a decent picture in there somewhere, I just have to muck about with it until it gels. 16in by 10in Oils.

Fontmel Magna, oil painting, Dorset, plein air

Here is Fontmel Magna later the same day once the rain had set in. Quite pleased with this one as it is great subject and I managed to get a feeling of the day down. I need to try it again in different lights and a slightly more refined composition. I love painting in the rain, everything is transformed, if only the practicalities of holding the umbrella and such were easier. Though the painting stayed mostly dry, the rain ran down my neck and made my boxers soggy! 14in by 10in Oils.

Gold Hill, Shaftesbury, Dorset, oil painting

A studio painting of the famous Gold Hill in Shaftesbury from the first bout of snow. By the time I arrived here I was too cold to paint any more so just took snaps. Great fun to paint, I mixed up all my tones first as without sun the contrasts were very subtle. With snow scenes it is very tempting to take every area to white which ends up looking crude. 16in by 10in Oils.

Portland, Dorset, plein air, oil painting

Here we are on the Isle of Portland, the snow is gone and the sun is out. This is a great spot on the West side of the island I had not been to before. This was only one of the possible paintings to be done on this spot. The morning was quite misty with the last of the sea fret being dissolved by the sun. The tone of the distance was very hard to nail down. Too light and there was not enough contrast with the sea and sky, to dark and the feel of the atmosphere between you and the cliffs is lost. 10in by 12in Oils.

Portland Bill, Dorset, sea, plein air, oil painting

Are we in Corfu? Is this the Adriatic? No this is the same day looking South from Portland Bill! There was a great vantage point for the waves coming in so I decided a sea study was the thing to do. When people paint sea they often struggle with the fact that it is always the same but always different too. The result is that they impose their imagination upon it and it becomes rather static. My tactic is to get the tones and colours of the whole scattered about but not really resolved. Then I observe each smaller area and do a snap shot study of what is going on. Once done I just watched for a bit before putting a few features that tied the whole together. So the main wave was the very last thing to go in. 10in by 12in Oils.

Hambledon Hill, snow, Dorset, plein air, oil painting

The Mediterranean is gone and the Arctic swiftly returns! Our second batch of snow was bonus and I was determined to paint it. I waited and waited for the light to move from grey to sun before going up Hambledon Hill. When I got there I found the wind and sun had removed the snow from raised areas revealing the scars in the ground left by the walkers ascending to the earthworks that crown the hill. I got completely lost in painting this it had such fascinating contrasts. The snow came in handy too as I could build a level platform to paint from by kicking it in a heap and stamping it flat! Once again I took a deep breath before starting and mixed the key tones before doing anything else. 10in by 10in Oils.

Child Okeford, Church, snow, oil painting

The last of the snow. On my way back the light on the church and reflecting on the remains of the snow look pearlescent and very beautiful. However I was pretty cold and had a very wet bum from sliding down Hambledon Hill so I just blocked the bare bones of the focal point of the view and took a few photos. Thank heaven I did even that small amount as when I looked at my snaps they were just grey with none of the colours I remember seeing! So I had to work mostly from imagination colour wise and there is none of the original lay in left. In the last stages I put the photos away and allowed myself to play. 14in b y 10in Oils.

Next Post will suppose be Venice… wish me luck!

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