Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

December 15, 2012

Last Expeditions of the Year

Filed under: Kent,London,Painting,Surrey,Watercolour — Rob Adams @ 3:18 pm

The year always seems to come to an end in a rush. It’s a good moment to look back and take stock. I have painted 200 odd landscape pictures and another 200 life drawings which is not bad I suppose. The watercolours have dominated due to a health issue with solvents that has abated thank heaven. Once again plein air has rather dominated. I must get a better studio routine going where I have several pictures going at once and work on each as I feel. At the moment if I don’t finish a picture in a few days it never gets finished which is silly. The problem is paying jobs interrupting, that’s my excuse anyway. I have had mixed success with exhibitions, but I have sold enough pictures to just about put me in profit. Not enough however to feed and house me and pay for my car, I still rely on commercial work to keep me alive! I’m not altogether sure I much care whether it makes a great deal of money, that was not after all the intention. Also if I do want to sell more it means putting more time than I can spare into hawking my wares.

So this year I must find a gallery to do some of that work for me. That process will be quite painful in itself, but once done I can hopefully concentrate on painting pictures not marketing them. I well remember the effort it took to establish myself as an illustrator, then I did the whole thing again as a scenic artist, then once again as a theme park visualiser and designer. This will be my fourth or fifth career! In some ways it would have been sensible to have just stuck to one and painted pictures, indeed all through my varied career I painted landscapes for my own pleasure. However I learnt a huge amount from the varied commercial work that has improved my painting no end.

In illustration I learnt the very basics of drawing and composition. Also a certain amount of anatomy and how to research a picture. It was much harder then than now, I used to keep folders full of picture clippings and had books on everything from bears to stave churches. Now I can Google a subject and have an astonishing cornucopia of images to refer to. I keep the books out of sentiment but in truth I rarely open one now. There is just more and better information on the web. Working building scenery and painting for film and TV taught me the beginnings of how to leave out and simplify. For some reason over detailing looks dreadful on screen or stage. I got to watch some real masters painting immense backdrops in wild mixtures of roller marks, brush dabs and splashes that somehow when you retreated to the back of the studio all merged into a convincing scene. Later still working to produce concept illustrations for big projects I learnt how to make a drawing that would “sell”, by that I mean an image that would put over the essence of quite a complex scene in a way that could be taken in at a glance.

I don’t deny I have had real trouble in trying to integrate this disparate set of influences and skills together in my own personal work. I think I unconsciously kept these influences at bay in my spare time landscape watercolours. Now I feel I should try and weld the whole lot together, which I have started to do, but a long way to go yet I feel. So the aim in the coming year is to get my studio oil painting going properly. I managed a mere 5 out of seventy odd pictures this year which is just not enough to begin to establish a coherent way of working in the medium. I don’t want to be painting pictures that look as if they might be plein air in the studio, I want them to have the distinct flavour that time and a more considered execution can bring.

This blog gets far more hits than I could have ever expected, so a thank you to those that took a look and I hope you found something of worth. I will try and add more tutorial stuff over the next year as I have quite a fund of purely technical experience gleaned over the years. It is quite hard to put some of this in a form that is digestible and not too formulaic. Painting pictures is not like cooking, it is impossible to write a recipe for a better painting. All you can do perhaps is point out avenues that are worth exploring or aspects that might be useful to consider, whatever is learnt from any journey depends upon the individual.


whitstable, sea, oils, painting, plein air, brass monkeys, beach, kent

Another Brass monkeys expedition this time to Whitstable in Kent. I wish I had arrived a wee bit earlier as although the light was good I got the feeling it had been better an hour before. The light this time of year can be very luminous with warmth on the horizon for most of the day. Also due to the sun not rising as high the shadows remain descriptive and interesting allowing painting opportunities for longer in the day. 14in by 10in.


whitstable, kent, street, plein air, oil painting

A bit of a rush job this. The light was going very quickly so no time for analysis and careful drawing. Nonetheless I often quite like paintings done in a mad dash, somehow being put on the spot makes you fish out the really important stuff from the incidental detail. A good subject though with potential, I will do another of it next year hopefully. 10in by 8in.


windsor castle, eton, thames, plein air, oil painting

I was once again kindly invited to paint with Steve Alexander in Surrey. This is Windsor Castle. The weather was just clearing which often gives great painting opportunities. I tried to just put in enough detail suggest the castle without getting into arrow slits and battlements! This is an iconic scene that has been much painted, I have done it several times before but not for a decade or more. 12in by 10in.


Windsor, plein air, oil painting, town

I went up into the town to join the others, a distinctly chilly day. I had done a small watercolour sketch of this subject on my previous visit which had potential, so I was keen to get another painting of it. I will do a studio picture of this eventually when I have enough information. It is the sort of scene that is very dependent on the figures to give it an interesting mood. 10in by 8in.


Windsor, thames, river, castle, plein air, oil painting

Back to the same scene of the castle. Amazing what a difference a few hours makes to the mood. I had to do this very rapidly in less than half an hour. I had to darken the grass back in the studio, but I was pleased to have got the rest down pretty much as it was in one go. 12in by 10in.


english longhorns, windsor great park, plein air, oil painting, cattle

Next day we returned to Windsor. I had another go at the scene with the pillars but it wasn’t an improvement on the first one so I wiped it. Having had enough of architecture we went over to Windsor Great Park where we found these English Longhorns. I had to put them in afterwards as they scarpered as soon as we set up! A bit too clumsy this one, I couldn’t quite get it to all meld together into a picture. The actual scene was so beguiling I was sorry not to have really done it justice.


farnham, town, park, plein air, oil painting

This is looking down on Farnham in Surrey. I want a figure in this somewhere but I just cant decide where. It is always a problem with figures that they are such a strong draw to the eye. Here I would quite like to use them to reduce the dominance of the fallen tree and take the eye more easily beyond it into the distance.

16in by 10in.]


Windsor, eton, thames, bridge, river, watercolour

Looking from the Windsor side of the Thames to Eton. I must do more line and wash. I used to do a lot but somehow got out of the habit. 7in by 5in.


Another quick sketch of Windsor Park just after painting the Cattle.


Farnham, watercolour, plein air

This is Castle St in Farnham. My camera had run out of battery alas so when the sun came out and made this view truly stunning I couldn’t record it. That’s it, I’m off to Ireland for Christmas so I’m hoping to get plenty of painting done. It will have to take a back seat to friends and socialising but that is no bad thing!


  1. A very successful year I would say Rob.

    BTW the last image of Farnham plein air is showing as a blank on my browser.

    Have a good Christmas and I wish you a Happy and successful New Year.


    Comment by Yorky — December 15, 2012 @ 4:08 pm

  2. Thanks Doug, a happy Christmas and New Year to you also. The last picture seems OK, probably just a glitch.

    Comment by admin — December 15, 2012 @ 5:21 pm

  3. Another wonderful bunch of pictures.

    Comment by Mick Carney — December 16, 2012 @ 5:38 pm

  4. Thanks Mick, have a great Xmas etc!

    Comment by admin — December 16, 2012 @ 6:20 pm

  5. Such beautiful paintings. The first of the beach houses at sunrise is a knockout but they are all fine works.
    My husband and I visited England and thought it was the most beautiful place, ever and I must say that seeing all the Castles and historic sights made a much deeper impression on me than I expected.
    Seeing Windsor Castle from the highway was surreal as was seeing Stonehenge as we came over the hill toward it.
    I hope, someday, to visit Cornwall and the Southern Coast, and paint there.

    Comment by Mary Sheehan Winn — December 16, 2012 @ 10:35 pm

  6. hi,
    have been a lurker on your blog, i like the ‘philosophy talk’ side of it very much.

    i was very struck by this sentence – “For some reason over detailing looks dreadful on screen or stage” – and I think a post that expands more on this topic, hopefully with visual examples, would be really good,

    Comment by abc — January 6, 2013 @ 12:23 am

  7. Hi A the detailing thing is odd. Logically you would think that the more precise the better the effect, but this is not in practice the case. As to why I am not entirely sure. It is I guess tied up with why Impressionist pictures work. I will return to the subject once I have thought it through as is quite a key idea.

    Comment by admin — January 6, 2013 @ 2:17 am

  8. Hi Rob, I’ve been re-reading this post, enjoyed it so much when it came out in the Christmas rush. I love what you’ve done with the Whitstable beachfront. In the Scottish Isles, I didn’t know what to do with all the white houses, and now you’ve shown me. And the people in the arches painting is superb. Definitely merits a larger version. You know I love them all.

    Comment by Bobbi Heath — January 9, 2013 @ 12:52 am

  9. Thanks Bobbi, I’m always delighted if anyone reads, let alone re reads one of my semi literate efforts!
    I did do another arches painting but it all went wrong and got wiped off…

    Comment by admin — January 9, 2013 @ 6:46 pm

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    Comment by self catering cottage marazion — December 15, 2013 @ 2:21 am

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