Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

August 28, 2012

Flowers, Nudes and Streets

Filed under: Drawing,Life Drawing,London,Painting,Still Life,Watercolour — Rob Adams @ 2:17 pm

It’s never good to get too comfortable. I could I suspect knock out elagaic street scenes ’til the cows come home. Not that I’m tired of them, just that once I have the material then it is not very stretching to paint one. So I have jumped in to a subject I have very rarely painted… flowers. Not too scary, how hard can a couple of roses be… the answer it turns out is very hard indeed. Of the five I started only three survive and two of those may hit the bin yet. Still I shall persevere, if it’s hard and I’m failing then overcoming that will inevitably improve my skills. If I improve my skills then those street scenes will get better too. The other classic subject I never do is still lives. I quite like the pictures when others do them, but somehow I’m never inspired myself. I think it’s the arranging that puts me off. Shuffling a few choice objects around on a tabletop just doesn’t seem very exciting. Most still lives are too decorative for me in that saccharine kittens in a shoe sort of way. There’s no easy way of saying anything much about anything except how nice that vase of flowers looked on the windowsill.

In a way that only points out the more that I ought to dip into the subject as only by doing a couple will I find out what I don’t know. My first instinct with anything is research. I look at as much stuff as I can to sort of prime the pumps. A quick Google told me I was in trouble. Almost nothing that I saw in image search took my eye. There was plenty I didn’t like and others I liked well enough but don’t want to do. The main thing I hated were all these “Flemish” highly finished concoctions of  3 lobsters, a cut glass bowl overflowing with a cornucopia of fruit, assorted pewter tankards, a recently deceased game bird and a rug. There are still painters doing these by the 10097 layer flemish method or whatever. The results are to my eye dead as a doornail but each to their own I suppose. I very much admire botanical illustrations when done well but don’t have the desire or the eyesight to do any myself. The other thing that struck me about still lives is: where is all the stuff we use and gloat over owning today? Why is there no “Rose in a Coffee mug with iPod? or “Partridge with Blender.” “Morning light on Playstation and Smoothy.” Just typing those out made me snigger but why? They at least would have some relevance to our everyday lives, not some daft Dutch world of the stuff of days gone by. I’m going to have to put my money where my mouth is here and do a few! Watch this space they will be in a later post…

Only a very few images from the web got my juices running. First were the simple flowers that Manet painted as he was dying. Confined to bed this was all he could practically paint. I’ll put two below even though they will make all the paintings of my own that come later look complete rubbish!

manet, still life, flowers

Just two roses but gorgeous handling of the paint.

Manet, still life, flowers

…and another, nothing at all fancy but perfect nonetheless. Lastly a Chardin.

chardin, still life

Again simple, just the ordinary stuff he had around. Stunning soft tones and clever composition.

The attraction seems to me to be abstract values without the abstraction itself. We shall see. A mixed bag this post I’ll start with the streets. I was told by an American commenter that I should put a warning on my blog that naked people might be encountered… I considered replying, but just deleted it. There will be no warning, if anybody dies of exposure to drawings of naked people they are welcome to sue me.


London, trafalgar square, plein air, watercolour

Return to Trafalgar Square. I wasn’t altogether happy with my last attempt at this subject. So on my way to drop pictures into the Mall Gallery for the

Marine Exhibition I stopped and did this and took a rake of photos. (I got one into the RSMA by the way…hurrah!)


Trafalgar square, london, watercolour

Here is the finished studio painting. I am much happier with this version compared to the last. 20 in by 10 in. I had great fun tweaking the composition.


Here is the compositional grid I used to place the elements. Horizon halfway, considered a no no but produces I feel a feeling of stillness and balance.

The rest is split into thirds each with a different dynamic. The diagonals indicate flow and I only use for general position, if you over do this sort of

structural planning then the painting can I think become rather formal and lifeless.


Cutty Sark, Greenwich, london, watercolour

Another second attempt at a subject. This is the Cutty Sark at Greenwich. There are a few possible pictures here a subject you may see here again.

19in by 10in.


St Martins Lane, London, watercolour, plein air

Another small plein air. They had stopped the traffic briefly to do craning stuff so I snatched a rare chance to stand and paint

in the middle of what is usually a busy road. I will do a bigger one of this I stayed and took snaps after I had finished so I have

the makings of a studio painting. 7in by 5in.


Brockley, london

In the middle of the road again! This time a reassuring skip at my back. I have been eying up this scene for a while. Not sure this is the one but I feel

there is a super painting here somewhere. I just need the right figures to complete the feeling of place. 7in by 5in. I am trying to take my small sketchbook

and watercolours with me more often, a sketch like this is so useful when doing a studio picture from assorted photos. When ever I do this I find it is the

plein air sketch that sets the mood.


roses, watercolour

Here we are in unfamiliar territory. This was done in the rose garden of the Rangers House in Greenwich park. I like the background rose but the other is

rather overworked. If I frame this I shall crop through the larger bloom.


Rose, watercolour

Another a studio pic this time. I have added more dark areas after scanning this but not a great deal. A little cut out and stuck on but it framed up very

well. 14in by 9in.


This one went wrong really, but interesting none the less. I prefer the softness, but the composition is lousy and the greens too.


Nude, watercolour, life drawing

Here we are with the naked ladies. Super model, I decided to do no initial drawing and just jump in with the paint.


Life drawing, nude, watercolour

I used a brush pen to do the black which is rather nice as it is not quite waterproof so it softens with the paint but doesn’t dissolve entirely.


Life drawing, watercolour, nude

As the poses were 45min I did two of each, as one is drying you can work on the other.


Nude, life drawing, watercolour

No one shocked to death? Excellent!


  1. Rob, once again beautiful work. It is very interesting looking at the plein air piece and the studio work, thanks so much for showing us, and explaining the process of modifying the composition. And congratulations on the RSMA acceptance, that is just great and very well deserved (if an American is allowed to say so – and not the one who complained about the nudes, …). Which painting will be in the show, can you show us?

    Comment by Bobbi Heath — August 29, 2012 @ 12:42 am

  2. Hi Bobbi, It’s odd explaining things in a blog, in some ways you are explaining things to yourself that you just do without really having considered properly.
    Don’t worry I don’t have any hint of a no Americans commenting policy! The fellow stressed that this was the proper thing to do and what people did in America, but there are mad people everywhere mostly harmless. In retrospect I should have approved the comment and replied in the comments section rather than in a post but I deleted it in a moment of exasperation!
    The RSMA picture is in this post. The James Prior at Deptford Creek

    Comment by admin — August 30, 2012 @ 9:00 am

  3. Had to laugh about the nudity warning, Rob..think you did the right thing to ignore the comment!

    Comment by pat — September 1, 2012 @ 6:56 pm

  4. This American thinks you did the right thing just ignoring the idiot, too.

    (Arrived here from Gurney’s blog – I’m going to bookmark your site! Love your work and comments both!)

    Comment by Terry — September 12, 2012 @ 8:40 pm

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