Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

September 21, 2012

London Plein Airs and Some Figure Studies

Here we are again, no one is more astonished than me that I have kept up this journal. When I started I gave it 6 months before I lapsed into long gaps between posts. Other than being able to hold forth to an audience that can’t answer back, one of the reasons I have kept it up is that I found it has considerably increased my output. IE I have been doing paintings in order to have enough to post. Anything that gets my nose out of a book and settled down before my easel is to be welcomed! To my astonishment 5000 people visit a month which is more people seeing my work than I ever would have imagined; even if 2/3 of them click away immediately due it not being their sort of  thing. So a thank you to all my visitors, you are helping me keep my nose to the grindstone!

The other thing that has improved and increased my output has been meeting other like minded painters. When working in the commercial arena I only very occasionally met other artists. When I did it was a different sort of relationship to that of going out to paint for a day with friends. Life drawing sessions as well have broadened my artistic and social horizons. Another thread is interactions with other artists on the Wet Canvas site. There is much encouragement to be gained by positive feedback as well as the occasional negative comment. Though we none of us exactly love critical comment I have found that comments, however inexpert, are very rarely wrong. Where I have not made much progress is getting my work in front of people in the flesh.

I am starting to get work into the open exhibitions in London but these only add up to a very few paintings exhibited in the year. Still with only just over 2 years of setting out on the course of painting for myself full time I am pretty pleased with the progress. Next must be a trawl for galleries that might want to have a few of my pictures for sale on the wall. Also sooner or later I must attempt an exhibition of my London paintings, one of the most enjoyable aspects the pictures I have painted so far are the local pictures from around where I live.

Something I have attempted to do with this part of my output is to catch a few of those moments of beauty in everyday life that would otherwise go unnoticed. This is actually harder to do away from home as you just don’t encounter such brief moments on occasional visits. It is only by being frequently in a place those infrequent charged moments are encountered.

Returning to the online world for a moment, it is indeed a strange new world we inhabit. I have a presence on quite a few places online, from Saatchi Online to the oddly named  deviantArt as well as posting much new work to Wet Canvas. Whether any of these platforms will become dominant in a Facebook kind of way I don’t know. Saatchi produces very few views, but have nonetheless sold one picture. deviantArt requires you to base your online social life around the site in order to gain popularity and hence views. Wetcanvas is the most rewarding as you can both get a response to your work from experienced artists and also encourage others in turn. I wish more professional artists would take part as I think it would lift the standard and supply inspiration to beginners. All of these forums for showing your work suffer from the same issues. There is no selectivity, anyone can post anything no matter what the quality or stage they are at in their journey. This is not a criticism, becoming too elite can put people off, as ConceptArt found to some degree, I heard, when they tried to separate out the wannabes from the pros.

However I do think there is a place in the online world for somewhere where it is very easy to put your work forward but very hard to get your work shown. One problem would be: who would do the winnowing of the chaff from the wheat and why would they put in the time in in the first place? I don’t think that would be insuperable though. Viewing and voting would be relatively easy online. Open voting systems are of no use as they are open to abuse, so in each area of achievement (landscape, abstract, figure etc) you would need separate jurors and each set in turn would need to have the general respect of their peers in that style, that in itself would attract potential selectors, as to be one would bring a certain amount of kudos and exposure. Maybe also the selections could be broken down to three monthly displays of limited number rather like the Summer Exhibition at the Academy. A rolling constantly updated gallery format has no structure and so tends to have no sense of occasion. Specific shows at specific times as you have in a physical gallery would I think attract a more focused interest from both artists and collectors. People who have an interest are more likely I think to check out a display that appears on a particular date, rather than to check back at regular intervals, or bother with constant emails that inform of updates. The main benefit might in my opinion be the ratcheting up of the quality of the work, there is nothing like giving people a goal to work for to make them raise their game. On the subject of putting work up for consideration I feel it would be vital to make a small charge for each submission, that in itself would I suspect help prevent there being an unmanageable  flood of offerings. It would also supply revenue to run the whole thing. Prizes and so forth would be another tried and tested method of attracting interest and support from commercial sponsors.

Saatchi online are trying to drum up interest with curated selections, but the curators are seemingly woefully ignorant and are drawn from the modern art clique exclusively. There was a recent curated selection with the title of “Impressionism” that contains much that it would be hard to shoehorn into that category. The lack of intelligent focus is underlined by the woeful lack of interest in views, sales and comments that these collections receive. At the time of writing the Impressionism collection which was posted on the 13th Sept 2012 has, seven days later, garnered not one single comment despite being on their front page.

It would be easiest, I would imagine, to launch such an exhibition site on the back of an existing player. Even then such things take time, patience and money to establish and may fail to attract enough interest despite all efforts.

That’s the guff over, some scans of tactically dirtied bits of paper are next.



London, st pauls, watercolour, plein air

A visit up to town to explore a particular view with an eye to doing a few studio pictures. Upon my arrival though the light refused to co-operate. I needed

the sun to light up St Pauls when seen from Cannon St, but despite the mostly blue sky the sun determinedly hid behind almost the only cloud in the sky.

Whilst waiting I sat on a wall and did this which was fun, but hard on the neck. I was interested in the tone against the sky which was very dark for an

almost white building. The challenge was to get the feeling of a Portland stone building in the shadow rather than a building just made out of something

darker. Oh and the perspective was a bit of a devil too! 5in by 7in.


St Pauls, London, watercolour, plein air, City

Eventually the light played ball and I got this quick sketch done. I didn’t have time to reserve all the lights, so I used some body colour which I hope annoys

the purists. I have given upon my monopod for now and this was done on my tripod set up, no problem as the pavements here are miles wide. 5in by 7in.


St Pauls, London, city, watercolour, cannon st, plein air

For this one I retreated even further down Cannon St. I had brought with me a sheet of dark blue toned paper and a few tubes of gouache. The main tone

of the RH building is about the initial colour of the ground. I have to say this is a very fast and easy way of doing one of these contra jour city scenes.

With pure watercolour so much of the work is building up the strong tones required. The downside is a loss of luminosity derived from the white of the

paper. 11inby 7in.


child okeford, Dorset, watercolour, mist, fog

A 1/4 sheet studio painting from material gleaned on my Dorset visit. A misty morning in Child Okeford. The gentleman in red was off for his morning

shop. He was a little surprised to be photographed! This looked so dull until the figure and car were put in that I nearly abandoned the whole thing a few

times. Once the key element were in it looked much better thank heaven. All done with my magnificent new size 14 Kolinsky Sable from the excellent

Rosemary & Co who make quite the best brushes I have ever used.


Greenwich, London, church plein air, wapping group, watercolour

I was once again invited to paint with the esteemed Wapping Group. I went along despite being somewhat under the weather. I set off early with fellow

painter Graham Davies, this view was an obvious winner so it was our pre breakfast subject. It is from the graveyard of St Alfege in Greenwich. 7in by 5in.


A view up a road leading to Blackheath from Greenwich. Absolutely super light. Getting up early is so very worthwhile. The central part with the vans

had to be done later due to a large lorry parked smack in front of us! A bigger painting will be developed from this in due course I hope.


The Royal Observatory, greenwich, london, watercolour, plein air

This was done around lunchtime as I was fading fast. After finishing it I sloped off home to sniff and sneeze miserably while sitting  on the sofa watching

telly. It is of course  the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. 7in by 5in.


life drawing, nude, figure

Life drawing has got going again. I have started to rather like these Brushpens from Pentel. They are capable of a great variety of marks and soften a little with

the watercolour wash. An odd thing with my drawing, I have entirely given up measuring. Mostly because it breaks the flow of drawing, so what you loose in accuracy

you gain in fluency. Painting is so often marked by this sort of trade off. It wasn’t a conscious decision it just sort of happened.


life drawing, nude, figure

Another couple of 5 min ones.


Life drawing, nude, figure

A longer 30 min pose. The model Alice is a dream to draw, she is a dancer and is seemingly incapable of taking up an ungraceful pose. She also bravely

holds poses that would put me into intensive care!


life drawing, nude, figure

Life painting is an odd thing. I love them when they are a study, but tend not to like finished works. Somehow figure studies are timeless and could

almost come from any age, but as soon as they become a finished statement they become fixed like flies in the amber of the time of their milieu.


Rather chuffed with this one. Last of the session and I was really flying.


  1. Wow, that’s some nice sketching you have there. For your urban scenes, you just go straight to watercolors, or there’s a a tiny bit of pencil lines underneath?

    Comment by ugo capeto — October 2, 2012 @ 7:19 pm

  2. Hi Ugo, Thanks! I just put in the main shapes with pencil. Unless it is a complex building, the cathedral for example.

    Comment by admin — October 2, 2012 @ 7:54 pm

  3. Rob, I hope you are well, I’ve gotten used to a wonderful new post from you each Friday, and am now worried that you are ill. This post is wonderful, the London watercolors are superb and I love the Royal Observatory piece. Feel better, if you are ill, and give us another post when you can. – Bobbi

    Comment by Bobbi Heath — October 3, 2012 @ 12:12 am

  4. Hi Bobbi, thanks all well had a vile cold when I did the Greenwich paintings, but my throat problems have gone thank heaven. New post this weekend I have been doing some larger oils so I have been happily occupied! I try to post every 10 days but it slips sometimes, maybe I should post each pic as it is done but I quite like the longer timescale. I’ve been watching your blog, like the pine tree and other pen drawings.

    Comment by admin — October 4, 2012 @ 12:42 pm

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