Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

September 1, 2011

A Mixed Bag, Home and away.

Been rather inconsistent this month, with works that rather vary in style. In my work as an illustrator I often had to mimic the styles of other artists. This was very educational but detrimental to me forming my own distinctive style. I still see a subject and think, that would make a great picture in this or that manner, something I am trying to avoid now that I have only myself to please. I have just read Richard Schmid’s “Alla Prima” which is very good with much excellent advice. I don’t warm to some aspects of his painting, such as his fading off his pictures with scumbled expressionistic brushstrokes… once in a while this is nice but it soon becomes a bit of a distracting quirk. Nonetheless he is a very fine painter, with wonderful drawing skills. I do disagree with his horror of working from photo reference, I don’t that often work just from a single photograph but when I do I don’t notice any dreadful side effects, I even occasionally trace stuff which he seems to think is the work of the devil, Durer, Degas, Caravaggio, Vermeer and others who did similar would seem to have survived the taint! In truth if I have a very complicated cityscape I will usually trace over the buildings in photoshop, then hide the photo and work into it, get other reference shots of busses and people and sketch over them in turn to try out different arrangements. The end result for me is that it fixes in my mind what I want to achieve. I very rarely print a photo out and then trace it down simply because not many photos are fit for painting straight out of the camera. Some times I paint from a screen image as if it were a real scene, this can work fine but you have to not be shy of leaving the reference behind, when I do this I will often work over the painting without the reference to pull it together, then go back to the photo and often repeat. Well there’s all my street cred blown! Better get on with the paintings!


Ashmead Rd, London, St Johns, Deptford, Watercolour, painting

This is a quarter sheet of Ashmead Rd in Deptford where I used to live a very typical street for the area. I enjoyed trying to get the balance of detail and simplified to work.


Whitstable, watercolour, sea, rain, painting

Another quarter sheet reference here was a plein air and some photos taken on my last visit. I shall be doing more in this area plenty of great subjects. This picture entirely depended on the sky going well, once done the rest was plain sailing.


Bank, plein air, watercolour, painting, London, Deptford

I’ve been meaning to paint this for a while as I had seen it lit like this quite a few times. I got the bank building in first as the light was moving quite fast, then the trees. Once they were there then I could finish off at my leisure. I am very pleased with my new paints from Daniel Smiths they are much nicer to paint with than Sennelier or W&N which I find too finely ground.


Richmond, thames, watercolour, plein air, painting

This was a revenge painting, as on my last visit I had made a pigs ear of this scene. As I was passing close by I stopped and exorcised the past by doing this… still not my finest, but better than the one in the bin!


Whitstable Harbour, kent, oil painting

Another from my visit to Whitstable, it’s not quite what I want though, I might darken the buildings to unify them and soften the trees. That is the wonderful thing with oils, you can change things so easily… so this one might turn up again revised. It is annoying though when something almost works but you can’t quite put your finger on what needs to be done to make it gel. If anyone reads this and thinks they know don’t be shy of making a comment! All opinions gratefully received.


Box Hill, Surrey, plein air, oil painting

Out in the weather again… you get great light effects when rain and sun alternate. I had to be pretty swift to get this note down about 20 min was all it took. That’s the beauty of working at 10in by 7in a couple of sweeps and it’s blocked in! Oops almost forgot the location, this is Box Hill in Surrey.


Box Hill, Surrey, oil painting, plein air, rain

Encouraged by the last one I set up a few yards away and did this. The rain came down though and I had to crouch under my brolly several times as squalls assaulted me.


Box Hill, Surrey, forest, woods, tree, oil painting, plein air

I retreated into the woods to escape the worst of the rain, I don’t know why I painted this… just to pass the time hoping the rain would stop.


Box Hill, Surrey, woods, forest, oil painting, plein air

Fuelled slightly by the drink I had imbibed at a family gathering earlier I still had another in me. The rain had eased and the flat light allowed me to take my time with this, it is always a challenge to get the greens working. many avoid the issue and just do everything khaki and olive which is guaranteed to look good but I prefer to tackle them head on.


Cannon Street, London, city, commuters, oil painting, art

Another morning in the city painting. Re my intro the sketch for this was drawn directly over the photo in photoshop. I have a Cintiq screen that you can draw directly on which makes computer art a real pleasure, you can draw with complete freedom in as many layers as you wish, it is a wonderful tool for organising a composition. Below is my starting point.


London, Cannon St

Over a period of several weeks I have about a hundred photos of this view in the morning on different days. Also various oil sketches. I liked the slight haze that made the distance fade, and of course the people on their way to work who I find endlessly fascinating. I culled traffic and people from various photos to assemble the sketch below.


Sketch, cannon st, London, City

Here is my sketch. I print this out and trace down the important shapes. There is no point in putting too much in as it will get lost under the block in. If you compare with the final you can see how it evolved. The centre bus was too dominant once painted and had to be reduced and the figures got scraped out and redone a fair few times. The colour was loosely based on a plein air looking the other way in the evening! I find it invaluable to do a 3 tone sketch like this as it established the flow of light through the picture as well as the main compositional points.


Blackheath, Rangers House, Rose Garden, plein air, oil painting

A final plein air. I have yet to get a painting I am happy with of this subject. I must get up there at a few different times of day to try and catch it at its best. This was rather rushed and I only had a horrible Daler board which is like painting on sandpaper… that’s it excuses over.

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