Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

July 7, 2019


Filed under: Uncategorized — Rob Adams @ 3:00 pm

Readers of this, now rather occasional, blog will know that I don’t much go for the linear story laid down by many of our esteemed art historians and as taught to me at art college. This neat branching tree with pivotal moments and “discoveries” trying to shoehorn a cultural phenomena into a neat “progress of science” template. God help us soon someone will pen a tome on the sort of realism that I do, pick a few flag bearers identify some bogus trends and call it “Distracted Realism” or some such.

It takes very little consideration of the actual material produced by different ages to realise that the whole idea of progress in art is perhaps misguided. The earliest cave paintings so far are 40,000 years old and we understand them with no problem. If I did a sketch of a cat and sent it back in time they would in turn have no difficulty comprehending it either. Both I and the cave person are doing the same thing in much the same way.

So our early artist down in that cave with his flickering tallow lamp, what art movements could we associate him with? Well he is figurative… expressionistic… oooh… impressionistic too… oh wait a minute he is a realist… dammit some are a bit on the surreal side… some abstract stuff too… er and the figures are symbolic… oh hell… some have narrative… You get my drift, it was pretty much all there from the start.

Of course art “movements” are a new thing… ” artists” as a sort of druidic shamanic figures are pretty recent too. It was that rogue Vasari that started it all with his racily named “Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects” published in 1550. Vasari though was of the football supporter school of art history. He was the cheerleader for Tuscan or more specifically Roman and Florentine achievements, though he grudgingly added the Venetian Titan (who would have been so much better if he had learnt to draw in Rome) to later editions. Early stuff was dismissed as barbaric and labelled “Gothic” in scorn. The classical Roman was exalted as the pinnacle of art and thus the Renaissance was born.

Of course art does have a history, but it is tied to ordinary history as it merely supplies what a particular culture or society requires. An icon painter for the Orthodox Church is not required to be an impressionist, but is required to be a realist with symbolist overtones. A painter of funeral portraits in Ptolemaic Egypt was required to paint realistically and because of the constraints of paint to some degree impressionistically too.

It is after the arrival of photography that things go bananas in the art history dept. With impressionism it was photographers who “discovered” a new way of seeing, not painters per se. Of course we tend to gloss over the fact that the impressionists were keen photographers and frequently painted from them, as that does not quite fit with the later mythology.

The other factor that had a seismic effect was the arrival of ethnic art from the east and Africa. Our art arriving in Japan had similar result as the works of the Ukiyo-e artists attests. So suddenly we get all sorts of emulation of cultures far and wide both temporally and geographically. It is perhaps a European fantasy that things are discovered. We discovered America after all… we seem to almost forget that it was there all the time and people lived innumerable lives in the place before we arrived!

Now the picture has fragmented even more. Electronic dissemination of imagery has brought every kind of eye candy into our homes at the click of a button. So bearing this in mind what does our society and time require of us who produce imagery of various kinds? Well the answer may not be very flattering but it requires an image that gives a brief visual hit on a small screen. A tidbit that gives a quick mental reward and for a moment draws the viewer in. Success is measured in likes followers and comments… but not I have noticed often in currency!

There are of course the old uses are still chugging along, marketing, conceiving, decoration, supply of status enhancing objects to the rich. These still bring reward in the old manner thank heaven. Unfortunately due to spare time to follow art interests becoming more widespread the supply of art objects exceeds demand in almost every area. On the plus side the sort of person willing to put in the hard work over decades to master an idiom is still comparatively rare, so their work will always have a base level of desirability.

Will there be new art movements? Yes I suppose so but I feel they will become evermore fragmentary and irrelevant. Look at the list Here of art movements and schools in Wikipedia 97% are after photography stirred the pot! I also note I don’t quite fit any of them. I am a bit impressionistic but not divisionist enough really, I am not neo- anything, which is always a good ploy as you can reboot any old movement by slapping it on the front.

There are many now painting in much the same way as myself, I fancy Observationalist or maybe Lookist. Come on art historians watch the ball, we are a brand new movement and none of you have even noticed!

Right some of my offerings into a manically crowded market place. Rest assured that if you offer me large sums of money for any of the originals below I shall get a little richer, but you will gain hugely in prestige and your friends will be envious of your good taste and sophistication…

Salisbury, Salisbury Cathedral, plein air, oil painting, Wiltshire

A visit to Salisbury. It is almost impossible to get a photograph of the famous cathedral that in anyway captures the feel of being there. If you get that iconic spire in you have to tilt the camera skywards and everything is wildly distorted, the same left and right. So this is an attempt to present the whole building in one image. In order to do this I have made many changes to the perspective, each of which I have tried to limit within the bounds of believability. I have not completely succeeded but I was pleased with the result as it gave me an idea as to how to get a better result still. 16in by 10in Oils.

salisbury, salisbury cathedral, oil painting

Before I left I took a series of photos walking left and right for about 200yrds. I then once home I took a central strip from each and roughly joined them together. That done I did an averaged perspective layout over the top of the composite trying to minimise perceived distortion. That done I painted largely from my plein air sketch. the result would have benefitted from a more dramatic day but I can see several possibilities for more dynamic versions in the future. I could have done a wild curvy tilted job but for me that’s a bit too like what I used to do for work… still might have a crack at it as the subject rather suits such treatment. 22in by 12in. Oils

On my way home I did this very rushed sketch of another view I fancy. Salisbury has so much to paint so I must get back on days when the light and weather are being more interesting. The trouble with lovely sunny days is that you don’t tend to get those moments of magic light that can make or break a picture. 14in by 10in oils.

Pimperne, Stourpaine, Dorset, plein air, oil painting

Last one of a busy day, this is my road home headed towards Stourpaine. The light was getting better and better but had only 20 min to get this down. The road is frequented by huge gravel trucks which makes painting from the verge interesting. 12in by 7in Oils.

weymouth, dorset, plein air, oil painting

A trip to Weymouth on showery day. Not much of a market for wet Weymouth daubs I’m afraid… no matter I had fun painting it! 10in by 8in Oils

Weymouth, look out cafe, plein air, oil painting, dorset

The view over Weymouth from the Lookout Cafe. I could not quite see where this painting was going as I worked on it. Then the runner came along and it seemed to have a reason. Figures have a very strange power to transform an image. 10in by 8in Oils.

Bournmouth, Dorset, plein air, oil painting

A very quick sketch looking over Bournemouth beach. Fun trying to get the subtle tones in the soft light. Strong contrasts are easy in comparison I think, maybe due to the greater room for error. 12in by 6in Oils.

Studland, Bramblebush Bay, Dorset, plein air, oil painting

This is the beguilingly named Bramblebush Bay on Studland. Very picturesque but I struggled a bit to find compositions I liked. Or maybe the lack of breakfast was telling on me! 10in by 6in Oils.

Studland, Bramblebush bay, Dorset, plein air, oil painting

View from the other way. Much better this one I feel. I did two more but I cannot continue putting every thing up as I produce paintings quicker than I can blog them… and very much faster than I can sell them! 10in by 6in Oils.

That’s it for this issue. Blogging is yesterdays news alas and readers are far fewer now than when I started. I have stayed much the same in relative popularity compared to others who blog on the same subject, it is just that the format is perhaps on it’s way out. Instagram has become more the go to platform but no real use if your writing is slightly longer in form. Vlogging I am avoiding at present as my wizened beardy features and unfashionable attire would only put people off.


  1. Very enjoyable article most thought provoking! Lovely paintings and interesting ideas on perspective.

    Comment by Robbie — July 8, 2019 @ 9:40 am

  2. I wouldn’t worry too much about beards and attires, most of the youtubers I like are disembodied voices with pretty and/or subject-related images for the strictly visual part.

    Comment by Bruno Souza — July 8, 2019 @ 4:12 pm

  3. I hope you keep blogging, because yours is the most interesting art blog I have found – plus I love your style of painting, whether it has a fancy name or not.

    Comment by Pat Bowne — July 8, 2019 @ 4:56 pm

  4. Don’t stop blogging, Rob. I enjoy your thoughts and images very much, and I look forward to them. I read every word.

    Comment by Michael Chesley Johnson — July 8, 2019 @ 11:47 pm

  5. Please keep going with this blog Rob. I enjoy your comments and paintings a lot. I check here for a new episode virtually every day (usually disappointed of course !).

    regards – Peter

    Comment by Peter Dewar — July 9, 2019 @ 8:03 am

  6. I recognize the studio version of the cathedral is more finished and certainly beautiful. Still, I really like the plein air work. Maybe leaving a touch more to the imagination holds my attention better. Gary

    Comment by Gary McCarty — July 13, 2019 @ 4:27 am

  7. Thanks Gary, in a way that is what I want. A plein air is always more immediate than a studio painting. Here the subject is the same and the manner of painting is much the same too. The difference maybe is that the studio painting has more underlying order and is more considered. This in turn changes its appeal. Painters will mostly prefer a sketch to a more finished work. Non painters often the reverse. I myself find both interesting, but perhaps more fascinating is the odd way that an almost identical activity is so different as a discipline. With plein air you are mostly reactive, in the studio you are more proactive. I see other painters doing essentially studio painting out doors IE they are taking much more from their imagination and sense of style that they are from the subject. You also see painters trying to magic up the plein air feeling in the studio by inserting uncertainty where in reality there is none. My attitude to the dilemma is unresolved really, a work in progress, at the moment maybe I am wavering between the two.

    Comment by Rob Adams — July 13, 2019 @ 11:18 am

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