Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

August 15, 2016

Taking Stock

Filed under: Dorset,Drawing,Painting,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Rob Adams @ 11:06 am

I have a lot of pictures in my attic. I counted them and it gave me pause for thought, 1200, that is a lot of paintings. Though I dare say a fair few other painters could out do my total. Many of course would be best left to moulder or be painted over, but it still means there are many more perfectly adequate “Rob Adamses” in the world than anyone will ever want. Early on in this blog I wrote a section on why I paint which is here, in it on re-reading I essentially wrote about why I paint what I do in the manner I do, rather than why I bother in the first place.

The “why I bother” is actually simple and mundane, I enjoy doing it and the challenges it throws up. In my previous existence as an artist for hire I did whatever I was asked as well as I had it in me to do at any one time. As in painting pictures now I enjoyed the challenges and having to stretch what I was capable of in new directions. When it stopped being a challenge I rather lost interest and as my career had been relatively successful I was in the position of being able to stop and change direction with little risk. It was also one of those things that we nebulously script into our futures: I will give up work and just paint for me… or garden, or whatever. It is a sort of rosy will o’ the wisp destination that is reassuring when the present becomes a little tedious, like looking forward to a cold beer at the end of the day.

As with all ambitions the reality is a little different, not disappointing just different. Doing the work is satisfying, I am eager to start the next days painting and am often painting by 7.30 in the morning. Some things have been unexpectedly rewarding, such as the many fascinating people I have met through a shared interest. Also the trying to master the many difficulties of distilling and then painting the observable world for a frame rather than a page. This blog has been an unexpected pleasure, I never thought to write so much, I initially intended it just to be paintings with brief descriptions about technical matters. Instead I have found myself on an erratic voyage over theoretical, philosophical and motivational waters.

So, the taking stock bit. It is six years since I set out on my new course. In that time I have reshaped my life almost completely, moved a hundred miles west into the country and become a painter of pictures of the world around me. I no longer sit long hours at the computer or paint pictures of theme park developments. I am mostly free to shape each new day as it comes. I no longer have a city street outside my door, but a garden and trees.

I am not one to dwell on dissatisfactions, despite an inherent restlessness I am blessed with a mostly sunny disposition only briefly disrupted by the occasional melodramatic storm. I am a little concerned that I spend my days doing an activity which produces a product that few want or need. There is a part of me that irritatingly points out that I would better serve the community by doing something that improves the lot of my fellow man a little more directly. Still giving others the occasional dose of visual stimulation is not entirely worthless, just not as important as many in the art world would like to believe.

So stock taking is more difficult than I thought, it is hard to assign either positive or negative values. I cannot produce a neat chart with pros on one side and cons on the other. The part of taking stock that entails possibly adjusting your course, is problematic too. I can only form very prosaic ambitions, such as doing more printmaking and improving my oil painting. It is one of the results of ageing that your perspective changes, success is not a lure, the vague desire to become “known” dissipates. Although the quality of not understanding the world becomes more nuanced with age, the actual degree of understanding steadily decreases as old poorly founded certainties get progressively eroded.

So that is the end of the audit, my plan is to add more shelves to my attic and carry on painting regardless!

Not many pictures done and I seem to be more prone to re-working than I have been previously, which means pictures evolve. This makes it a little tricky for the blog as I don’t quite know when a picture is finished. I will I think post updates as I go along as this might be of interest to other painters, you will also be able to annoy me by telling me the first version was better!

Hambledon Hill, oil painting, dorset, landscape

I had this one sitting on a ledge in the living room for a week or so. It started life as an unfinished plein air done at dawn, but this reworking though it retained the basic tonal structure had a quite different feel. Eventually I felt it was more of a nocturne than a dawn and had the idea of adding a moon.


Hambledon hill, landscape, oil painting, nocturne

Here it is, it makes I feel a better nocturne than a dawn! It is amazing how so little paint can alter the whole emotion of a picture. The other change that was reassuring was that before when the picture was in my living room nobody noticed it, but when put back with its silvery addition it drew eyes and comment. 10in by 19in oils.


Cattle, bullocks, Fontmell Down, oil painting

I wanted to do a different take on Fontmell Down. On a painting visit we were chased away by this very rambunctious herd of bullocks. There was no chance of carrying on with the plein air painting so as they approached in fits and starts I took tons of photos. I am for now pleased with the result it has a quieter mood than I intended but I think that is probably a good thing. 10in by 19in oils.


Dorchester, oil painting

This was a sketch to work out a tone structure for a bigger picture, now I’m not so sure and this might be the finished one. It is based on a pen drawing augmented by some very over exposed iPhone snaps. It is the road in to Dorchester. 10in by 10in oils. I’ll put the pen drawing below.


Dorchester, pen drawing, dorset

I think I will still do a bigger painting but I might need to make another expedition. Fortunately the phone snap has time and date info so I should be able to return at the optimum moment!


Springhead, dorset, oil painting

This is Springhead an old mill up the hill from Fontmell in Dorset. I loved the mood when we were there after a rained off evening picnic. The photos were, as is so often the case, not at all like how I remembered it so this an attempt to recapture the memory. It looks like another one that might benefit from a moon being added, though I am holding off for now! It is one of those pictures that makes a big leap on being put into a frame, I find it hard to find a reason why that should be so but it does show that testing a picture in a frame as you work on it is a good policy. One especial benefit is it makes it easier to judge when a picture is finished. 10in by 14in oils.


White Nothe cottages, dorset, oil painting

These are the old coast guard cottages at White Nothe near Lulworth. Nothing particularly wrong just didn’t have the focus I was looking for, almost scrubbed it off but have attacked it again since.


White Nothe, oil painting

Here it is after surgery, I wanted to focus it in more. Still not quite the painting I had in mind when starting but will leave it a while before any more messing. It started off as a 12in by 20in but got lopped down to 12in by 16in. Oils


  1. You are doing some wonderful work Rob. Can’t believe you have 1200 unsold paintings.

    Comment by Doug Elliot — August 15, 2016 @ 12:57 pm

  2. Hi Rob,
    Great reflections on painting and is it a waste of useful time.
    My thoughts also as I have about 1200 paintings also.
    5 years ago I decided to number them and this was very useful when used for greeting cards.
    My wife has ideas as to where I can store them! And as I live in a chalet bungalow I don’t have the advantage of a good loft space.
    My studio has been flooded twice and though the paintings are above the water line they are safe but suffer from damp during the drying out period.
    How do you feel about copying famous paintings, out of copyright of course (70 years from the artists death)
    I have recently enjoyed this challenge but not sure. If there is a market for this?

    Comment by Doug myers — August 15, 2016 @ 4:51 pm

  3. I really enjoy reading your blogs and hearing your philosophical thoughts . Keep them coming they’re very reassuring.

    Comment by Robbie Murdoch — August 15, 2016 @ 6:13 pm

  4. I love your painting. Gifted…

    Comment by Liz Parr — August 15, 2016 @ 10:44 pm

  5. I follow the visual side of your blog with some interest, Rob, and always find it interesting. I wanted to comment on the writing though – as someone who is used to talking with you, I like the way you’ve settled into your discursive style. We don’t write just as we speak, but you’ve arrived at something that has a conversational quality about it that suggests you are “thinking out loud”. I suspect there’s a bit more to it than that, a bit of tweaking and tidying, but it comes over very well. It will be useful when you write the History of World Culture.

    Comment by Colin Johnston — August 15, 2016 @ 11:30 pm

  6. Great reading your blogs this morning, Rob. It’s interesting to read the ‘parts’ which resonate with other artist’s dilemmas. I’ve sold 1780 paintings to date but tend to destroy or rework ones that hang about my studio for a year or two. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be able to move about my studio. I like the fact that you try and workout what a picture needs or analyse the painting progress. Your addition of a moon was a great idea, but I feel you overworked the middle distance in the “Old Coastguards Cottages” painting. But that’s me and it is all very subjective in the final analysis. Keep up the good work.

    Comment by John Patchett — August 16, 2016 @ 10:02 am

  7. Thanks John, yes the cottages are a problem is the story the person or the cottages one or the other has to be suppressed, my instinct is that the walker has to go!

    Comment by Rob Adams — August 16, 2016 @ 10:11 am

  8. Of the over 200 blogs I follow, yours is way up on the list of the ones I particularly look forward to and thoroughly read (and often re-read) each time. Your exquisite artwork and personable narratives feed my muse and motivate me not to give up my humble attempts at sketching and painting. I’m sure you are a creative lifeline to tons of other readers, so be assured of the worthwhile value of what you’re doing – Keep on keepin’ on fellow sojourner!

    Comment by Gayle — August 16, 2016 @ 2:33 pm

  9. Hi Rob, this comment is not really mean’t for publication, I wanted to let you know that I wanted to use the two images of the paintings where you added a moon for a blog post I’m doing about color. The general theme is on the use of pure black or white in graphic design or anything visual, and how it’s not always the right choice to use 100% of these values. I figured your two images showed how a muted color palette allowed the artist to push it further with a brighter addition, which wouldn’t have been effective if the original had already contained those bright values. I intend to leave a link to your blog in the post if I use the images, but I’m holding off posting until I get your feedback.

    Comment by D.J.Waterman — August 17, 2016 @ 12:32 pm

  10. Beautiful nocturnes. And the rest are just wonderful. I feel pangs of nostalgia for places I didn’t even visit. Absolutely great work.

    Comment by Jose De Juan — August 22, 2016 @ 7:35 pm

  11. And by the way. Do not listen to the “I would me more productive to the world walking children in nature” voices in your head. I have the same feelings sometimes BOTH about my work in the commercial field and as a painter. But I’ve realized we are not here to be f*ing (pardon the expletive) ‘productive’ to the blessed community. Bunch of slackers the lot of them. We are here to follow our calling and , funny, that is what makes us most productive if we can manage the trick. Your artwork makes Dorset look amazing, magical, it translates the feeling of the infrequent moments only a person in love with the place can seek out. The ‘community’ should count itself lucky to have you there and have the smarts to embrace your artwork the way it deserves to be. That means people lining up to buy paintings, prints, jigsaw puzzles and candy boxes with your paintings plastered on them. Your art keeps people off drugs and suicide and keeps old ladies from joining street gangs. Ok, ok, may be not. But it is the best and most unique “productivity” we could all hope for.

    Now, i turn around, and tell myself that again.

    Comment by Jose De Juan — August 22, 2016 @ 7:52 pm

  12. Ha! A great rant Jose, and one I entirely agree with, in a way the best life is one that harms neither the world or those in it whilst still being rewarding and uplifting both for yourself and those around us. We do a great deal of harm by doing too much.

    Comment by Rob Adams — August 23, 2016 @ 9:51 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress

error: Content is protected !!