Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

July 7, 2019


Filed under: Uncategorized — Rob Adams @ 3:00 pm

Readers of this, now rather occasional, blog will know that I don’t much go for the linear story laid down by many of our esteemed art historians and as taught to me at art college. This neat branching tree with pivotal moments and “discoveries” trying to shoehorn a cultural phenomena into a neat “progress of science” template. God help us soon someone will pen a tome on the sort of realism that I do, pick a few flag bearers identify some bogus trends and call it “Distracted Realism” or some such.

It takes very little consideration of the actual material produced by different ages to realise that the whole idea of progress in art is perhaps misguided. The earliest cave paintings so far are 40,000 years old and we understand them with no problem. If I did a sketch of a cat and sent it back in time they would in turn have no difficulty comprehending it either. Both I and the cave person are doing the same thing in much the same way.

So our early artist down in that cave with his flickering tallow lamp, what art movements could we associate him with? Well he is figurative… expressionistic… oooh… impressionistic too… oh wait a minute he is a realist… dammit some are a bit on the surreal side… some abstract stuff too… er and the figures are symbolic… oh hell… some have narrative… You get my drift, it was pretty much all there from the start.

Of course art “movements” are a new thing… ” artists” as a sort of druidic shamanic figures are pretty recent too. It was that rogue Vasari that started it all with his racily named “Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects” published in 1550. Vasari though was of the football supporter school of art history. He was the cheerleader for Tuscan or more specifically Roman and Florentine achievements, though he grudgingly added the Venetian Titan (who would have been so much better if he had learnt to draw in Rome) to later editions. Early stuff was dismissed as barbaric and labelled “Gothic” in scorn. The classical Roman was exalted as the pinnacle of art and thus the Renaissance was born.

Of course art does have a history, but it is tied to ordinary history as it merely supplies what a particular culture or society requires. An icon painter for the Orthodox Church is not required to be an impressionist, but is required to be a realist with symbolist overtones. A painter of funeral portraits in Ptolemaic Egypt was required to paint realistically and because of the constraints of paint to some degree impressionistically too.

It is after the arrival of photography that things go bananas in the art history dept. With impressionism it was photographers who “discovered” a new way of seeing, not painters per se. Of course we tend to gloss over the fact that the impressionists were keen photographers and frequently painted from them, as that does not quite fit with the later mythology.

The other factor that had a seismic effect was the arrival of ethnic art from the east and Africa. Our art arriving in Japan had similar result as the works of the Ukiyo-e artists attests. So suddenly we get all sorts of emulation of cultures far and wide both temporally and geographically. It is perhaps a European fantasy that things are discovered. We discovered America after all… we seem to almost forget that it was there all the time and people lived innumerable lives in the place before we arrived!

Now the picture has fragmented even more. Electronic dissemination of imagery has brought every kind of eye candy into our homes at the click of a button. So bearing this in mind what does our society and time require of us who produce imagery of various kinds? Well the answer may not be very flattering but it requires an image that gives a brief visual hit on a small screen. A tidbit that gives a quick mental reward and for a moment draws the viewer in. Success is measured in likes followers and comments… but not I have noticed often in currency!

There are of course the old uses are still chugging along, marketing, conceiving, decoration, supply of status enhancing objects to the rich. These still bring reward in the old manner thank heaven. Unfortunately due to spare time to follow art interests becoming more widespread the supply of art objects exceeds demand in almost every area. On the plus side the sort of person willing to put in the hard work over decades to master an idiom is still comparatively rare, so their work will always have a base level of desirability.

Will there be new art movements? Yes I suppose so but I feel they will become evermore fragmentary and irrelevant. Look at the list Here of art movements and schools in Wikipedia 97% are after photography stirred the pot! I also note I don’t quite fit any of them. I am a bit impressionistic but not divisionist enough really, I am not neo- anything, which is always a good ploy as you can reboot any old movement by slapping it on the front.

There are many now painting in much the same way as myself, I fancy Observationalist or maybe Lookist. Come on art historians watch the ball, we are a brand new movement and none of you have even noticed!

Right some of my offerings into a manically crowded market place. Rest assured that if you offer me large sums of money for any of the originals below I shall get a little richer, but you will gain hugely in prestige and your friends will be envious of your good taste and sophistication…

Salisbury, Salisbury Cathedral, plein air, oil painting, Wiltshire

A visit to Salisbury. It is almost impossible to get a photograph of the famous cathedral that in anyway captures the feel of being there. If you get that iconic spire in you have to tilt the camera skywards and everything is wildly distorted, the same left and right. So this is an attempt to present the whole building in one image. In order to do this I have made many changes to the perspective, each of which I have tried to limit within the bounds of believability. I have not completely succeeded but I was pleased with the result as it gave me an idea as to how to get a better result still. 16in by 10in Oils.

salisbury, salisbury cathedral, oil painting

Before I left I took a series of photos walking left and right for about 200yrds. I then once home I took a central strip from each and roughly joined them together. That done I did an averaged perspective layout over the top of the composite trying to minimise perceived distortion. That done I painted largely from my plein air sketch. the result would have benefitted from a more dramatic day but I can see several possibilities for more dynamic versions in the future. I could have done a wild curvy tilted job but for me that’s a bit too like what I used to do for work… still might have a crack at it as the subject rather suits such treatment. 22in by 12in. Oils

On my way home I did this very rushed sketch of another view I fancy. Salisbury has so much to paint so I must get back on days when the light and weather are being more interesting. The trouble with lovely sunny days is that you don’t tend to get those moments of magic light that can make or break a picture. 14in by 10in oils.

Pimperne, Stourpaine, Dorset, plein air, oil painting

Last one of a busy day, this is my road home headed towards Stourpaine. The light was getting better and better but had only 20 min to get this down. The road is frequented by huge gravel trucks which makes painting from the verge interesting. 12in by 7in Oils.

weymouth, dorset, plein air, oil painting

A trip to Weymouth on showery day. Not much of a market for wet Weymouth daubs I’m afraid… no matter I had fun painting it! 10in by 8in Oils

Weymouth, look out cafe, plein air, oil painting, dorset

The view over Weymouth from the Lookout Cafe. I could not quite see where this painting was going as I worked on it. Then the runner came along and it seemed to have a reason. Figures have a very strange power to transform an image. 10in by 8in Oils.

Bournmouth, Dorset, plein air, oil painting

A very quick sketch looking over Bournemouth beach. Fun trying to get the subtle tones in the soft light. Strong contrasts are easy in comparison I think, maybe due to the greater room for error. 12in by 6in Oils.

Studland, Bramblebush Bay, Dorset, plein air, oil painting

This is the beguilingly named Bramblebush Bay on Studland. Very picturesque but I struggled a bit to find compositions I liked. Or maybe the lack of breakfast was telling on me! 10in by 6in Oils.

Studland, Bramblebush bay, Dorset, plein air, oil painting

View from the other way. Much better this one I feel. I did two more but I cannot continue putting every thing up as I produce paintings quicker than I can blog them… and very much faster than I can sell them! 10in by 6in Oils.

That’s it for this issue. Blogging is yesterdays news alas and readers are far fewer now than when I started. I have stayed much the same in relative popularity compared to others who blog on the same subject, it is just that the format is perhaps on it’s way out. Instagram has become more the go to platform but no real use if your writing is slightly longer in form. Vlogging I am avoiding at present as my wizened beardy features and unfashionable attire would only put people off.

April 27, 2019

Ideal Homes

Filed under: Dorset,How to do,Painting,Thames,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Rob Adams @ 2:32 pm

So what kind of house has a picture like yours? Is it posh? Is it sleek and modern, an apartment with views over the Thames? Is it a tastefully updated Georgian terrace with a gymnasium in the sub sub sub basement? Surely only people with discrimination would buy one of your works.

When artists and galleries display work they often put them on the wall of an ideal room. It always has a minimal sofa with a few swish designer goodies, the people who exist there do not do clutter. No mould in the bottom of forgotten coffee cups or abandoned crisp packets for any one who might purchase your oh so trendy wares. Here is one of mine in a designer penthouse… he is in marketing and she is an interior designer.


Is it only me? When I see one of my pictures inserted into such an aspirational setting I have to choke down the desire to snigger… So let’s have a go at some other potential hanging sites, maybe it is just the setting I object to and if I nailed the right context I would have to beat off potential buyers with a spiked club. How about somewhere grander?

Versailles, palace

Louis XVI might ring me up and say he had a spot in his country hideaway for one of my pictures. I’m sure Louie would be convinced by this… Ok Ok he’s dead and I’m getting delusions of grandeur. Anyway the super rich, as history repeatedly shows, have the worst possible taste. Those super-yachts have so much gold plate, general bling and marble aboard it’s a wonder they don’t sink.

How about the Waitrose set? Restrained, comfortable they aspire to an understated elegance. They buy pictures for period rooms and my old fashioned daubs would look better in a chic updated Georgian job with Farrow and Ball “Elephant’s Last Gasp” painted on the walls…

That’s more the thing, I could put an ad in Ideal Homes… but wait a minute maybe poor people could be lured into mortgaging their granny or taking out a payday loan to buy art… or grannies might sell off their grandchildren as chattels and snap up my painting of Christchurch… you have to appeal to a broad cross-section of society in this credit driven world.

See my picture adds a little bit of class to an otherwise depressing granny flat. I think that those gallery sites should offer all these options…

Students might be persuaded to blow their loans and buy art to decorate their squats. Hmm how low should I go…I need to research this. Is there an “Ideal Slums” magazine do you think?

I have some exhibitions coming up so I am trying to get some larger studio pictures painted. I find it so much easier to paint plein air that when I move to the studio to paint you can almost hear the gears in my head grinding. The two disciplines use similar skills, but are very different in process. With plein air you paint whatever the day brings and you are constrained by time. In the studio there is too much choice and you can linger over the work as long as you like. Both are fraught with danger!

So I have been trying to do the pictures I would have painted on the day but there was no way to set up. I nearly always take snaps of these in any case. So I have my reference and also whatever I actually did paint on the day.

Bridport, market, oil painting, Dorset

This is Bridport market on a busy day. This view was great but only from the road so I ended up painting further down. One thing I soon remember with studio work is that it has to go through at least one “ugly” stage and maybe more. I scraped this one back twice and then brought it forward again. Once you have resigned yourself to the process it becomes less traumatic. You have to learn to set aside that, “If I do more I’ll ruin it.” feeling we all get. Actually if you loose something good you can nearly always get it back. This one is 27in by 20in which is the great thing about studio where you can stretch the size up a little. Oils.

Sketch, Salisbury

Next up was Castle St Salisbury. I had done a watercolour but felt the scene would work well much bigger. For once I remembered to take snaps as I went along. This is my drawing out, it is really just notes of relative positions of things, I use different colours to remind me what things are. If I want to change things now is the time. Here I wanted to invert the curve of the perspective to sweep the eye down the road faster than otherwise. I tend to use oil to draw out as I can just wipe out with turps to redo an area. This is about 2 hours worth of scribbling and adjusting.

salisbury, oil painting, block in

This is the most dramatic moment in any picture and in someways the most fun. Blocking in is quick and once done you get an immediate idea if your picture is going to work. Here I spent considerably more time mixing colours than applying them! With current ideas of art many people prefer this stage to the finished thing, but for me it is just a way marker.

Salisbury, Castle St, Wiltshire

The next stages are the donkey work, the dramatic transformations are done with. Here I am just making corrections to the drawing and tones. I really try hard not to get any area in advance of another. About 3hrs work from the previous image.

Castle Street, Salisbury, oil painting

Here it is all brought forward a bit more. I left it for a few weeks to dry as I wished to do some general glazes. My darkest darks and lightest lights are missing from the buildings and road at this stage.

Salisbury, oil painting, castle st, Wiltshire

Here it is finished, I left it another couple of weeks then “brought the sun out” with the final highlights. This has made some of the distant darks a little sharp and over defined so I will do a couple of softening glazes to finally finish. 36in by 20in Oils.

Richmond Bridge, thames, oil painting

Next big one… This is Richmond Bridge. I took the reference shot after I had completed a pen drawing of the same scene and the light was signalling time for the pub… The picture is 36in by 36in so quite an area to cover. Fun to block in with a 3in brush. The middle stage here was particularly ugly and I nearly abandoned the whole thing. I felt he “last light” mood was all important, so took a lot of work to get all the close hues and tones working together. Perhaps finished, a few bits of softening to do. Oils.

Dorchester, Oil painting, Dorset, High East St

This is High East St in Dorchester. Learning my lesson from Salisbury I made the sunny side of the street softer, which I feel works a little better.

I find the boundaries between accuracy and mood fascinating, if you are over precise you loose mood and atmosphere, if you are too vague you loose structure and the narrative sense of place. It is technically easier to work at the extremes than trying to get them to play well together, the risk being that you achieve neither aim. 20in by 16in Oils.

steam engine, locomotive, Swanage, railway, oil painting

This is the railway at Swanage. On the day I painted the contre jour view of the workshop that was to be seen from the other side of the bridge. As luck would have it they were testing a train or whatever and they kept going to and fro under the bridge. This allowed me to get lots of action shots and nearly got me run over a couple of times as I dashed from side to side on the narrow bridge. In the reference the locomotives merged more but I decided they had to dominate, so I gave them the strongest contrasts and suppressed everything else. 20in by 16in Oils.

That’s it. I shall catch up on the plein airs done in between next time.

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