Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

July 3, 2011

The Thames, then off to France

Filed under: Drawing,France,London,Painting — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Rob Adams @ 7:18 pm

Been very busy, so this is a slightly tardy update. I have been building in painting storage, canvas and board racks which hopefully will make my studio space more user friendly. Also as I was due to go away to France painting so I had to reorganise my plein air painting kit so it was all light enough to haul to the ferry port. I have been very fortunate to get a chance to go painting in Saumur with some of the Wapping Group and other worthies. Great to look forward to but a bit nerve wracking to be painting under the gaze of so many expert eyes! But first an expedition to Gillingham with the “Wappers”.



Thames, watercolour, plein air, Gillingham, Pier, London

This visit was to Gillingham pier which was unfortunately in the grip of “redevelopment” which means getting rid of all the evocative clutter and building eye-wateringly  ugly apartment blocks. We turned our backs to these horrors and painted the last remaining old bit, soon to be swept away no doubt. The light was very flat but the shapes of the jetties were fun to unravel and I tried my best to not get too fiddly.


Gillingham, Thames, estuary, oil, painting, plein air.

Out of order here but never mind. I went a bit further east first thing and painted along what they call the Saxon Shore, Chatham can be seen in the distance. Beautifully quiet with only an occasional dog walker and birdwatcher. I find in very relaxing to paint in the early light, there is a softness and subtlety to the colours that is hard but fun to try and catch.


Gillingham, painting, plein air, oil, Thames

After painting the pier in the first picture I set off to look for better subjects, so went east again. I sat and painted a barge as the tide went out but made a complete pigs ear of it… later scraped off! I always feel if a painting goes awry it’s a good idea to do another immediately. So after wandering a little disconsolately for a while I sat on a bench and painted this view over to the powerstation on Hoo Island. Once done I felt considerably more cheerful!


Honfleur, France, watercolour, plein air, painting

Off to France! After a ferry crossing we drove to Honfleur which has been painted by many artists before. Almost too “picture perfect” I struggled to find a subject, but settled to do this as a “warm up” then I had lunch which was to be a very bad move…


Honfleur, France, oil, painting, plein air

As the light moved round I got out my oils and set about this. A very complicated subject that in a moment of bravado I decided to do without drawing out. This isn’t really as hard as you might think, the key is to get your centre of interest placed just as you wish at the right scale. To achieve this I merely hold my board up to the subject until it covers the width of the crop and mark a few key verticals, then do the same for the horizontals. Once this is done it is quite straight forward to place everything. Once done we went to seek supper… but I began to feel distinctly odd and feared the worse, done for by a dodgey “moule”on the first bloody day!


Honfleur, France, watercolour, plein air.

Not being able to face food I wandered the streets while everybody else ate. As I had my little watercolour sketch bag with me I did this to take my mind off my queasy stomach. I was happier with this more ordinary subject than the “headline” scenes in the marina. Indeed after doing this I felt a good deal better.


Honfleur, France, oil, painting, plein air

Back at the hotel I felt pretty grim and couldn’t sleep so I sat and did this wee oil out of the window. A handy spot to paint with the loo close by… Later when travelling to Saumur this and another small oil slid out of their travelling box and formed a close association with a pair of my underpants, so some repair was needed once home!


Honfleur, harbour, france, oil, painting, plein air

Felt a bit better and managed a bit of breakfast then went out and set about this, very nice light when I started which changed rapidly, but I got most of it in. Michael Richardson passed by and told me I was finished and looking at it now he was right!


Honfleur, drawing, France

I stopped and did this quick scribble of the “famous” view, but decided not to paint it. Another mishap struck with the frames of my glasses snapping, this required me to buy “le Super Glue” for a running repair… walked around slightly hunched after that waiting for the third disaster to strike…


Honfleur. france, harbour, watercolour, plein air

By lunch time I was feeling odd again, I rather unwisely started this larger watercolour, I got most of it done bar the nearby boat when I had to dash back to the hotel…


Honfleur, France, watercolour, plein air, watercolour

Headed out again with my A4 watercolour pad but only had the energy to quickly note this down, I rather messed up the figures but as it was only 20 minutes worth it caught most of what I wanted


Honfleur, France, beach, oil, painting, plein air.

Once again doomed to wander the streets at night while the others gorged themselves in fancy restaurants I set off to to beach nearby. Still felt pretty rough but got this little oil done which cheered me up. This was the other victim of the great underpants disaster so it’s a bit more blurry than it started out, which is on the whole an improvement… a variation on “Tonking”!


Honfleur, watercolour, plein air, France, painting

Heading back from the beach I stopped to do this, all in all being poisoned in Honfleur had led me to do more painting than I had expected, but considerably less eating alas. I didn’t really do this scene justice but I might do a studio painting later.


Saumur, watercolour, painting, France, plein air

First day in Saumur on the Loire. I wandered about to get my bearings and just took my camera and wee sketch book. This doorway took my eye but was fenced off with no way of painting properly so I drew it out quite carefully on the spot then retired a short way to add colour, not too difficult as there are so few tones in it, even so it came out better than I expected. Having recovered from the “Moule of Death” I couldn’t wait for dinner so no more painting that day.


Loire, Saumur, France, plein air, watercolour, painting

A larger watercolour of the Chateaux, not really happy with this, it needs to be a bit crisper and would have benefited with another half hour on the drawing out, but it’s a lovely scene so I think I’ll give it a go in the studio. When I set up I was in the shadow of a large van which promptly drove off leaving me in the direct sun, so the paint was drying almost as soon as it was applied.


Loire, Saumur, Oil, painting, plein air, France

Third day in Saumur. I had noticed when driving into the town that one of the streams of the Loire had almost dried up, so I set out to see if I could get a view from the river bed. Fiercely hot but as the river was mostly dry I could paint from under one of the arches of the bridge. That and a breeze up the river made it one of the more comfortable places to paint from! The colours were gorgeous and I enjoyed painting this immensely.


Saumur, France, Loire, painting, oil, plein air

An early start here, up at 5.30, I must be mad! But the dawn was beautiful. John Killens and I wandered about on the dry river bed looking for a subject, but one painter looking for a subject is bad enough but two painters trying to settle on a scene can take forever! So I wandered back to shore and set up to paint as the sun came up. As I drew this out the sun rose and lit up the church. The composition needs something to stop it zipping off to the right so I might add a cyclist, I am always a bit cautious about additions like that so I will leave it a few days to consider.


France, Saumur, oil, painting, plein air

The same church but about 10am next day. A bit rushed but it will make a good basis for another painting as I love the scene.


Chinon, watercolour, plein air, Loire, France

A trip out to Chinon, a blindingly hot day so I chose subjects I could paint from the shade. The river is especially lovely here. I only took my small sketch book so these are only 7in by 5 in but I find that a good size if I wish to do quick studies.


Chinon, Loire, France, watercolour, painting, plein air

As the day went on it grew progressively duller building up to a thunderstorm, so I painted this as it looked beautiful in the diffuse light. It needs a few figures perhaps, but I probably won’t bother.


Loire, France, watercolour, plein air

After the storm the light was fantastic and it was frustrating to be in the coach and not be able to paint! So as we entered Saumur a few of us abandoned ship to try and catch the last of the light. I only had 20min to do this but it catches a little bit of the feeling of the scene. I resolved to come out a bit better prepared and do an oil next evening.


Saumur, Loire, Curch, dome, watercolour, plein air, painting

I was meant to be taking the day off painting but I had this already sketched so i returned and added colour.


Sunset, Saumur, France, Loire, oil painting, plein air

Then I took most of the day off, sometimes it’s best just to wander without painting in mind, so I drank coffees and beers and ate gorgeous cakes, but after eating I couldn’t resist going out to try the sunset again. I had drawn out the scene on a board earlier and marked my position with a stick. Even so I had to scrub the tones in very briskly and adding a few details later had to wait until I was home.


Saumur, Thouet, France, watercolour, plein air, painting

My last day in Saumur so I decided to take a hike out along the course of the Loire. A perfect day the weather had cooled off a bit do walking was very pleasant. Saumur has rivers both sides so first I looked at the river Thouet on the south side. I did this in my A4 sketch pad, I did my best to catch the greens running from viridian hues through to verdant yellowy ones.


Chenehutte, Loire, France, watercolour, plein air.

I’m afraid with walking and looking I didn’t get much painting done! I did do this at my destination Chenehutte where I had lunch and a well deserved beer. My last decent painting but all in all a fantastic trip which will I hope make for some good studio paintings over the next few weeks while it is all still fresh in my memory.


  1. A fabulous set of paintings Rob, you really did the trip justice.

    Comment by Yorky — July 3, 2011 @ 7:31 pm

  2. What a week that must been, superb work!!
    Not all of them but well worth the trip, … oooh man am I envious.

    Welcome home btw.

    Comment by René PleinAir — July 4, 2011 @ 7:14 am

  3. Ooow btw. I shared you posting on my FB.

    Comment by René PleinAir — July 4, 2011 @ 7:28 am

  4. Thanks Doug, it was a great week, and it has given me inspiration for a fair few paintings, which will hopefully get done soon, Rob

    Thanks Rene, painting is a bit like gambling… some times you win sometimes you don’t, but that’s part of the addiction!, Rob

    Comment by admin — July 4, 2011 @ 7:53 am

  5. Ps Rene I’ve added you to my bloglist links, Rob

    Comment by admin — July 4, 2011 @ 7:57 am

  6. I really look forward to these collections of yours and this bunch is fabulous. The variation and confident use of colour in both oil and watercolour are clearly the foundation to your speedy plein air performance. Great drawing, composition and execution.

    Comment by Mick Carney — July 4, 2011 @ 6:51 pm

  7. I recognise Honfleur – beautiful spot!

    Great reminders of France.

    Comment by Kevin Birch — July 4, 2011 @ 10:46 pm

  8. has been really great to re visit all the Wapping trip painting places …but seen through your eyes … loved all of them and what great source material for further work , well done Rob , wish I could be so swiftly organised but life busy on return … watch for some on the website ..all best Felicity

    Comment by felicity house — July 7, 2011 @ 6:58 pm

  9. Thanks Felicity, it was great to go painting in such company, I’ll be putting a few photos of painters in action on a private bit of my site I’ll pass on links to Wappers and others.

    Comment by admin — July 8, 2011 @ 10:17 am

  10. Rob,

    It is delightful to read this after doing the Wapping trip with you in 2012 and having been to Honfleur a couple of times (Saumur is now on my list!). So sorry about the Moule of Death, but you made it into a great story. And the underwear tonking had me in stitches.

    I’m very impressed by what you get done in your little watercolor sketchbook, these are just beautiful. I love the Honfleur building and masts scenes and the Saumur church door and after the storm scenes in particular. You are in inspiration to me on this front, I’m trying some water color and even gouache outside, but the later really does dry fast. I bought a Roberson watercolor sketchbook like yours at Cornellisen’s (thanks for that tip), but feel I need some practice before using its lovely pages.

    The oils in this post are of course, lovely as well, and it’s interesting to compare the plein air sketch above with the studio painting in your later post, where you go through the process. Thanks so much for showing that.


    Comment by Bobbi Heath — August 14, 2012 @ 4:07 pm

  11. Hi Bobbi, yes Saumur was lovely… sunny too it got up to nearly 90C! The studio pic was my first attempt at a step by step which rather put me off and the painting suffered. It is sitting in my must work over it stack at present. I love using the small sketchbook as in 20 min you have a picture done and when they are full they are very satisfying. They are the only paintings I won’t sell because they are like diaries and bring memories flooding back. Gouache is a tricky medium but worth learning as it is very convenient but you have to get used to the fact that once you lay down a brushstroke that is it you can’t fiddle with it again. The other draw back is the change of tone upon drying but you do get used to that. What works quite well is a tonal wash painting using acrylic and then gouache on top. If I have time I’ll do a demo as gouache is not often covered how to do’s.

    Comment by admin — August 14, 2012 @ 4:22 pm

  12. Rob,

    That will be an awesome demo, I will look forward to it!


    Comment by Bobbi Heath — August 14, 2012 @ 5:30 pm

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