Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

November 20, 2012

Estuary Days

Filed under: Drawing,Kent,Life Drawing,London,Painting,Thames,Uncategorized,Watercolour — Rob Adams @ 7:52 pm

Another period of commercial work. It’s odd I nowadays get offered jobs that I would have died for in earlier decades. Having been a freelancer all my life it is second nature to say yes to jobs when they come up. To say no so I can concentrate on my own painting is surprisingly traumatic! I am outrageously fortunate to have never run out of interesting and challenging work over nearly 35 years. Despite that there is always that nagging feeling that the work will run dry. I can quite understand why it wouldn’t suit many to not know if you have work or not in a months time. If I had had a family to bring up I suspect I would have had to take secure employment rather than living the risky existence I have done.

This period of work has underlined the fact that I haven’t missed work at all. Some of the people, but not the projects or the deadlines and certainly not the meetings. The worst things were “creative” meetings or, “brainstorms”. It is an odd idea that if you stick a bunch of people in a room and get them to spew out random ideas it will generate startling artistic ideas. In my experience it never does. Art just is not democratic in that way. The film industry recognises this with its strict hierarchy, even with that I suspect many films fail because of too many opinions rather than too few.

Imagine doing a painting by committee. First a discussion as to subject. Well that is likely as far as it would get. Even if there are just two painters out for a day that can double the time taken to settle on a subject! Then assuming we have our subject then the composition would have to be voted on, with no doubt plenty of thumbnails and even the odd feasibility study. The marketing manager would state the requirements for saleability and perhaps do a word picture and an image board to be put before a randomly chosen selection of the public. Then the whole thing would have to wait while a risk assessment of injury, rain or other acts of man and God would have to be carried out and a report made. Once done a scope of works could be developed. Health and safety would have to be considered, the easel checked and half the colours and the turps removed as hazards to health. Their work done the committee members could then retire to a safe distance while the picture was laid in by the painter. The painter as a manual worker would of course be the junior partner in the enterprise. The pecking order would be marketing manager, finance head, creative director, art director, producer, personal assistants to all of the above, tea maker, the framer, and finally the painter.

Once the picture is blocked in a progress meeting would be held. The subject, composition, format and medium would be changed and the painter rebuked for not following the brief properly. After a quick brainstorming session the title is decided to be “Morning Symphony”. The second attempt is judged to have fallen at the same hurdles, but with the deadline looming and despair setting in the painter is told to carry on. But for God’s sake try and make it more cutting edge and contemporary! Is the Creative director’s parting plea. At last the painter is allowed to paint in peace while the committee have a late lunch during which they come up with the idea of a nocturne. Hours pass and the committee is reconvened to stand around the (hopefully) finished work. They are not pleased. Why has the artist painted a morning scene when plainly what is required is a nocturne? The marketing man rings the lawyers to check if the painter can be sued for the costs that the failure to deliver will have incurred.

As fortune would have it a member of the public arrives and buys the painting off the easel, paying the accounts director in fifty pound notes. Hurrah a success is declared! The committee congratulates itself for a project well conceived, managed and executed. With a flourish the Creative director signs the painting and hands it over. They then retire to the pub for a well earned drink. The painter cleans his brushes and packs up his easel and hauls the whole lot back to the car. In a week or so he will send an invoice that will be ignored until the next painting is needed…

Painting is I’m afraid irrevocably elitist and undemocratic. You are after all supposed to be looking for exceptional achievement. You wouldn’t choose runners for your team on the Olympics on any other basis than high levels of ability. Oddly the current art establishment believes art should be democratic and skill or ability should play little of no part in the assessing of artistic worthiness.

I have been woodworking again in the quest for the ideal pochade for hand holding. The results below. I have just had to accept that 7in by 5in is the most practical size. In the places I wish to paint from you often cannot stay for very long in any case. There is also the consideration of discreteness, I quite like painting in cafes and pubs, so at this size a quick sketch is more than possible. In the end I got the weight down to 1lb or 800g including panels. Pictures below for the plein air nerds!


pochade, plein air


pochade, plein air

I plan to load the palette before and only carry a few key colours in a plastic pencil case.


Medway, Thames, river, plein air, oil painting

This was a visit to the Saxon shore near Gillingham with the Brass Monkeys. Wonderful day with rapidly moving clouds that changed the light from moment to moment. 16in by 10in.


medway, thames, river, marshes, plein air

The same hulks from a different side. I really had to race to catch the light. When it is changing so quickly you need to fix in your memory how you wish to do the light. If the far shore is dark as it is here I find it best not to change it if a moment later it becomes brightly lit, chasing the light rarely works. 16in by10in.


medway, thames, estuary, plein air

Last one of the day, the light was going fast so I had to radically simplify to get it all in. 8in by 10in


Life drawing, watercolour, figure

I am persisting with watercolour in life drawing. Maybe back to pastels next week, it does you good I feel to swap media every now and again.


life drawing, watercolour, figure

I would quite like to occasionally introduce line but I think I will have to make the tones lighter for it to work well.


figure drawing, nude, watercolour

Here I tried to build it all up in single strokes.


life drawing, nude, watercolour



  1. Your comments about “creative meetings” and “brainstorms” made me shudder. How glad I am to be shot of them! Painting is individualistic and I can get on and paint a watercolour – sometimes good, sometimes bad – and be answerable to nobody but myself.

    Beautiful light against dark, Rob, in your second hulk painting. Amazing amount of light in a picture that is predominantly dark in tone – lovely!

    Keep posting – very much enjoy your observations and paintings. Was enthused by St. Alfege Graveyard Greenwich to have a go in watercolour at the same scene…..


    Comment by Michael Trask — November 20, 2012 @ 10:39 pm

  2. Thanks Mike, yes I don’t miss being, “art directed” not least because some of the time I was actually doing that too but had to pretend that my decisions were theirs. That said some were a joy to work with and became friends, not always the easy ones, it is actually fun when someone good is at the helm and you only have to deal with trimming the sails. Hope the St Alfege turned out well, it is a great scene but you have to get there very early!

    Comment by admin — November 21, 2012 @ 9:19 am

  3. St. Alfege…..not as good as yours….but not bad, thank you!


    Comment by Michael Trask — November 21, 2012 @ 11:59 am

  4. Lovin that paint box !!! ….. I’d sit beside u in a cafe or pub and paint …. Good spots to paint and draw …

    Comment by Sandra heading — November 26, 2012 @ 2:17 pm

  5. Hi Sandra, not had the courage to do a pub pic yet… but I’m off to paint with friends soon so there will be safety in numbers!

    Comment by admin — November 26, 2012 @ 2:40 pm

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