Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

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!

July 6, 2016

Fifty Shades of French Grey

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rob Adams @ 5:32 pm

Don’t worry about the title nothing racy is ever likely to appear here! As is usual this time of year I join other painters to explore and paint a bit of France. Going on a painting trip always requires setting some sort of limits to medium and size. I wanted to be especially lightweight this year so all the paintings are quite small. Our destination was Pont Aven where Gauguin and other miscreants hung out and painted. It is a small town built on a narrow inlet with a small tidal port. Plenty of subjects from boaty stuff to old buildings and rushing streams. After such a long gap in painting I was a little unsure of how I would perform. You always imagine bouncing out of the hotel door on the first morning and dashing off a masterpiece in gorgeous light. The reality this time was flat grey and drizzle! The only real colour was the occasional blue boat.

To avoid the issue of this less than beguiling set of conditions I took out my pens and drew stuff. I always find it odd that although a flat grey day might still look lovely, actually translating it on to board or paper is very hard. For a start the tones are much more subtle. Contrasts are subdued. This means your mixing and assessment of tone needs to be more accurate than on a sunny day. Also deciding the key or the range of tone from dark to light is, I find, distinctly tricky. Key is a matter of choice. You merely set the darkest dark and the lightest light and all the other tones must fall between these two extremes. If you set the range from full white to darkest black it will have a very different feel than if you set the range from pale grey to mid grey.

This is, I am well aware, a weak area in my oil painting. With the best will in the world the temptation to darken or punch up areas is almost irresistible. Nonetheless I feel I made a little progress, though I rather regretted the decision to only take small boards. Still on with the paintings good and not so good!


Pont Aven, France, wreck, plein air, painting

On day two I set out to explore down stream. As always finding a subject was far from easy. The path by the water was wooded and only offered teasing glimpses of possible scenes. In the end I settled on this view from a large boulder which had I felt interesting compositional possibilities. Here is where plein air makes the whole thing more difficult. There was no room to set up my tripod so I had to paint sitting crouched down with my pochade on my knee. There was the added frisson of danger in the distinct possibility of toppling off into the water 20ft below! With the best will in the world delicate accuracy was not on the cards so I tried to keep it simple. I could only manage an hour at this as it got very uncomfortable. Oils 7in by 10in.


Pont Aven, painting, France, plein air

After walking a long way looking for possible paintings I came back to Pont Aven and did this tiny 5in by 7in. More of a quick note than a painting. I felt the scene had possibilities with the dramatic silhouette of the roofs and trees. The key thing here was to get the foreground dark enough. I always make an aperture by curling  a finger and thumb and then flick between the sky and a light area in the landscape. Depending on the intensity of light you will get a stronger or weaker “kick” in the brightness as you flick between the areas. This tells you perhaps that the water, despite looking to the eye a similar tone to the clouds, is in fact considerably darker. The brain often doesn’t pick up on these differences as it adjusts and processes the image to aid clarity. However if we paint as the brain perceives then when we later look at our painting a double adjustment occurs as the brain appies the same filter to our painting as it had to the actual scene. Oils 5in by 7in.


Chapelle de Tremalo, pont aven, France, plein air, painting

When visiting an area I can never resist galloping off in every direction trying to take in a bit of everything. I had bought a large scale map and spotted this small chapel which looked interesting. A bit of a climb up the hill it is called Chapelle de Tremalo. We actually had a moment of sunlight and everything looked gorgeous as as I set up. I lifted my brush up to the board and the sunlight vanished as if flicking a switch and never came back. What had been a colourful scene immediately became titled “An Arrangement in Grey”! I resisted trying to paint a sunny version and only punched up the tone of the path a little. At least the overhanging trees gave some variation of light and shade. 10in by 7in Oils.


Pont Aven, plein air, painting, France

As planned I returned to the scene of the little 7in by 5in and did this larger version. I kept the greens very subdued by adding lots of red. I have recently been using Quinacridone Magenta for this as it doesn’t add any unneeded yellow. While I was painting it began to drizzle and I rather liked the way it washed out the distance. 10in by 7in Oils.


Boat, pont Aven, France, oil painting, plein air

In my next post I will deal with the drawings and watercolour stuff but this was a scene I had already painted in watercolour. I wanted to do it in oils too so as to see the difference. The subject also had the attraction of being able to sit under some thick trees that kept the rain off. 10in by 6in Oils.


Pont Aven, France, oil painting, plein air

I fancied a change of mood so I set off upstream along the banks of the river Aven. About a half mile along I found this quiet backwater. Even harder here to keep the greens under control. We seem to see greens brighter than they actually are. Here I took the precaution of getting a few leaves and sticking them to my palette. It is amazing how dull and brown they are in reality. Painters often forget that if you are unsure of a tone you can actually take the painting to the object to check you are getting the tone and colour right. People often get foregrounds far too bright. If you lay your painting on the actual ground surface you will see very quickly if you have got anything wrong. The rest of the day I toiled up stream and walked back a circuitous route through the forest. Nothing really took my eye so this was the only daub of the day. 10in by 7in Oils.


Pont Aven, France, cars, oil painting, plein air

Pont Aven again. I can never resist showing how beauty spots really are after being liberally garnished with shiny metal cars. Many artists avoid them, but in a few decades I suspect they will look as quaint as horses and carts! Quite a hard bit of drawing made harder by the flat light, by this time I had almost forgotten what sunshine and shadows looked like. 10in by 7in Oils.


Pont Aven, France, oil painting, plein air

Another one of the town. 10in by 7in Oils.


plein air, painter, pont aven, oils

I did this little oil in-between doing a pen drawing of Pont Aven’s famous waterwheel. Another tiny 7in by 5in.


Villerville, france, plein air, oil painting

We moved next to Villerville near Honfleur. Now the rain really set in and the greys started to merge. I wiped off the first of the day which was of the town church, not because it was particularly wrong it was just dull and I was running low on boards. The sea gave more possibilities and despite the rain running down my neck I enjoyed doing this. Very hard to get sky sea and land in the right tonal relationship. 10in by 7in Oils.


Villerville, oils, plein air, sea

After eating the tide retreated enough to do this. Just 15 min on a tiny 7in by 5in. Oils.


Villervill, beach, sea, pillbox, plein air, oil painting,france

Last one. A way down the beach we came across these wartime defences that had tumbled on to the beach. I had run out of boards but Robbie Murdock kindly gave me this 10in by 8in. It rained throughout but I enjoyed painting it immensely. Oils

That’s it for oils drawings to come.

« Newer Posts

Powered by WordPress

error: Content is protected !!