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,
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)
"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)
"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."