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Atlantic Shore, Passing Clouds by Robert Jones
Atlantic Shore, Passing Clouds by Robert Jones

How to Paint Land, Sea and Sky in Oils


Robert Jones - Posted on 12 Aug 2007



Robert Jones describes his special affinity with the sea and love of landscape


The energy of the sea, timeless landscapes and the drama of light and weather — subjects and qualities such as these appeal most to Robert Jones.

In Cornwall Robert's favourite painting locations include sites around Hayle and Godrevy near where he lives, on the Lizard, near Falmouth, and at Gwennap Head. He often travels to the Scilly Isles, to paint on St Agnes for example, and he has also painted in the Channel Islands and on Lundy Island. Additionally, in recent years he has made trips to the Aegean and to California, which included painting in the Mojave Desert.


Passing the Coast, Evening, oil on board,
48x461/2in. (122x118cm)

Passing The Coast by Robert Jones

Painting on site

For his location paintings Robert works on small prepared panels, usually about 9x13in. (23x33cm) in size."These paintings are made very quickly," he explains. "The fact is that time is limited and conditions can change rapidly, so inevitably there is a sense of urgency. In turn, this gives the paintings an energy, a life. Generally I start with just a few marks and these somehow suggest the next move. It is rather like a game of chess — sometimes I think the painting is almost creating itself. These small panels feed ideas for larger works in the studio and often result in interesting, saleable paintings in their own right.

"The weather is always a key factor. For instance, I often paint at Horse Point in the Scilly Isles, and there the weather can change dramatically. But all types of weather interest me, including the types that most other people hate, such as strong winds, heavy clouds and rain. I especially like the way the weather affects the mood of the sea.

Blackthorn Trees, oil on board, 26x23in. (66x58.8cm) 

Blackthorn Trees by Robert Jones

"It is intense work and obviously you can only concentrate for so long when painting outside. Another influence, of course, is the fact that it is not very comfortable.

"On location I also use my sketchbook for drawings or watercolour studies, and I will probably make a few jottings and notes in the pocket notebook that I carry. And I may decide to take a few photographs, just as a reminder of the scene, although in fact I rarely refer to photographs for information. Instead I prefer to rely on my memories and experiences."

Oil paints and supports

Robert paints in oils, working either on gesso-primed MDF boards or canvases. He prefers a toned surface, so the support is prepared with a burnt sienna ground. His palette is fairly limited and usually includes phthalo blue, cobalt blue, ultramarine, cerulean blue, London red, rose madder, cadmium lemon, cadmium yellow medium, viridian, raw umber, raw sienna and titanium white.

In the studio, as outside, Robert works intuitively rather that relying on a preconceived plan of action. These paintings are usually larger and more considered than the plein air work, and while there may be some reference to the on-site sketches and paintings, usually the starting point is something taken from memory. 

"The motivation might be a specific place," he explains, "but once the painting is under way things can change radically. Much is determined by the way the painting is developing and how different qualities and marks within it influence the working process and objectives.

"For me, the subject matter is not so important. Instead, as the painting evolves I become increasingly interested in the formal qualities, such as the way that one shape relates to another, the spaces around and between things, and relative scale and proportion.

"The balance of shapes and the intervals between them — what I would term the architecture of the painting — is a significant consideration in my work. In achieving that balance things will appear and disappear, and similarly other aspects, for example tonal values, the sky colour and the position of the horizon, will inevitably need to be adjusted and readjusted. Part of the balance and structure concerns the foreground, and this again needs very careful consideration. It is a matter of resolving the foreground in relation to the distance, so that the composition and sense of space work successfully.


Gorse, oil on canvas, 8x8in. (20x20cm)

Gorse by artist Robert Jones

"The best paintings in the studio are developed over a period of many weeks — perhaps even years — with me adding to them bit by bit until I am satisfied with the result. I sometimes mix colours with painting medium to create glazes that can be applied over previously dried work, or I might scrape back what was there before and repaint areas.

"Every painting is a fresh challenge and I never quite know what the result will be. In seeking a conclusion, each painting goes through many phases of change and this often means that the final work is quite different from the idea I began with."

This extract from an interview with Robert Jones by Oliver Lange is from the July 2007 issue of The Artist.

For more inspirational articles on painting landscapes click here

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4 comments so far...


helena vaan ruth

16 Feb 2008 00:34

Dear Robert, I live in Australia were clouds only appear in the winter, The sky here is a very hard bright blue. my painting teacher advised me to paint the sky with a tiny bit of red in the blue, it gives it warmt and a touch of purple in the cloud's shadow also looks better. what do you tink of that advise ? I live near the beach here and you paintings are a joy to behold ! greetings, LEN


Peter Meuleners

10 Jun 2010 23:46

Dear Robert . This is a short mail from Peter Meuleners. I like yours blue sky,s paintings. You ask me about the key in my paintings.Key and keyholes symbolized the reconstruction,protection and maintain of old buildings [casles and mills] I hope now you understand my paintings better. Greetings Peter Meuleners.


Michael Harrison

19 Feb 2011 15:23

Dear Robert I'm not sure whether you reeceived my earlier email sent last week but if you did.nt this is just to say how much I appreciate all the time and trouble you have taken to add encouraging comments on my gallery site.


Michael Harrison

19 Feb 2011 15:28

.........I don't know hat happened then but the message closed and went before I could sign off thanks again any how I trust you got the gist of it I am very very grateful ! with best wishes Michael Harrison. I would welcome your email address if you could let me have it sometime mfh100@btinternet.com

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