The creative journey of the artist can be full of perils: self-doubt, fear, inner criticism, procrastination, avoidance and even resignation. But this journey is always one of interest – such is the route Rob Adams has taken. His father was a photographer, author, film maker and broadcaster and his mother a keen amateur painter; and from a youthful aptitude for art and mathematics (which was leading to architecture) through to a peaceful retirement in Dorset, his journey is fascinating. Fate intercepted when a serious motorcycle accident put Rob in hospital for a year and necessitated another year in rehabilitation. Having to spend hours on his back provided the opportunity to draw…. and draw. On recovery, there was a Foundation course, a study of Sculpture at Portsmouth and a degree in Fine art. As Rob says, “I am, I suppose a little unusual in the painting world in that I have had several careers in the art and design industry before becoming a full-time dauber.”
Initially working as an illustrator, Rob penned a children’s book, published in 1995, featuring a character called Abysmal Gloom, a small blue monster who always moans and complains about everything. One review said:
“This would have been a great book to read when I was a kid: basically, one in which you learn that it’s okay to be gloomy because it is what you are supposed to be in the world. There are those of us who have delighted over time in our own misery, and this book is the best example of why we exist that I have read.”
However, the gloom dispersed when Rob was given the opportunity to design sets for film and television. He made stage sets for the theatre and models for some very large productions such as the first Batman movie and a thirty-foot-high polystyrene version of Rodin’s The Kiss for a pop video. There were vast murals for the VE day celebrations, the Queen’s Jubilee and the re-design of the O2 following its use for the Millennium. He was involved with the Tussauds group for many years, designing Theme Parks and roller coasters for their many attractions, including Alton Towers. There were projects with famous photographers of the time including David Bailey and Terence Donovan, plus videos with Duran Duran and Sting. During all this time Rob continued to paint landscape and architectural watercolours and was also one of the finalists for Artist of the Year 2013 run by the Artists and Illustrators magazine.
The Wapping Group (or the ‘Wappers’ as they are known), are a group of twenty five dedicated and capable painters, whose aim is fellowship and the enthusiastic recording and interpretation of London and the Thames. On initial application to be a candidate, Rob was turned down as his work was perceived to be too ‘slick’! However, he persevered and gained full entry in 2014 when he was, amongst others, instrumental in ensuring the inclusion of the first women into the group.
At the age of fifty-three Rob took the bold decision to give up full time work. It was “one big experiment” but has now paid off. In a move that surprised not only himself but all his friends, he moved to Dorset and has been painting the wonderful local landscapes ever since: “I am minded to pursue a humble course of painting what moves or merely interests me in the most capable way I can manage, with no expectation of others either liking or being moved by my efforts. … I have come to think what I wish to show is ordinary things around me in moments of extraordinary beauty. This often means getting up very early!”
“I have no set way of working, sometimes I will draw a picture out carefully, other times I dive straight in with the paint. I frequently finish work ‘en plein air’ but don’t hold back from adjusting or amending once back in the studio if I feel it necessary. I often use photographs as reference in studio paintings, but am careful not to allow the photographic image to dominate proceedings. My great passion is drawing and I am a regular attender at a local life-drawing group. For me drawing is the bones upon which the flesh of the rest of the painting is hung. … My professional life has left me comfortable when working with many different media, from pen drawing to watercolour.”
When I visited Rob’s delightful village studio during Dorset Art Weeks there was a wonderful range of work on display from atmospheric landscapes reflecting both the changing light and the seasons to street scenes that conveyed a real sense of time and place. There was a quirky and self-deprecating self-portrait showing him peeking through the ‘letterbox’ shape of the frame, to light infused seascapes such as Studland Bay. Rob explained: “The only problem with painting this was that the tide came in so quickly I had to retreat! When painting ‘en plein air’ you often have less than an hour to get the picture mostly done. Here I had to finish the foreground from a phone snap.”
Looking West to Corfe Castle portrays the sensitive use of colour and composition to create atmosphere and harmony. “When painting a scene like this on the spot I first of all try to get the mood of the day established as I want to paint that particular moment. This is why I mostly paint from life rather than photos. The challenge here was that the sunlight was constantly changing as the clouds rolled by.”
You can find an extensive selection of Rob’s work on:
or for sale at The Gallery at 41in Corfe Castle and the Gallery on the Square, Poundbury, Dorchester.
By: Edwina Baines