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Art Masterclass   

                              July 2007

Each month presents a feature from either The Artist or its sister publication, Leisure Painter.       

Art masterclass  

from The Artist, the monthly magazine for amateur and semi-professional painters, giving practical instruction in painting and drawing in watercolour, pastels and oils, as well as news of art events, exhibitions and competitions open to leisure artists;

This month: an  'Artists  of the world' feature from the current edition of The Artist, the magazine for amateur and semi-professional painters.



Robert Jones describes how his special affinity with the sea and love of landscape feed into the oil sketches he makes outdoors, and into his studio paintings


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. Having grown up in the seaside town of Newquay, in Cornwall, and later skippered several fishing boats working off the southwest coast, he has developed a deep knowledge and understanding of the sea. This affinity with the sea, and indeed with particular landscapes in Cornwall and elsewhere, enables him to paint these subjects with sensitivity and integrity.

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.


Atlantic Shore, Passing Clouds, oil on board, 48X461/2in. (122X118cm)


Passing the Coast, Evening, oil on board, 26X23in. (66X58.5cm)

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 — a very different type of subject matter, although inspiring because of its particular mood and sense of remoteness.


"I haven't experienced anything like the Mojave Desert before," Robert explains, "but it was really remarkable. You expect the desert to be featureless and uninteresting, but somehow it seemed full of life. It was a special place, with a wonderful quality of light. It is difficult to gauge exactly why certain subjects appeal and others do not, but essentially it amounts to being somewhere and feeling that you really must make a painting. You could be in a hundred other places and not want to paint!"

Sometimes Robert will have somewhere in mind for his location work, but generally he prefers not to set out with a fixed agenda regarding subject matter and his intentions.


Blackthorn Trees, oil on board, 26X23in. (66X58.5) 


May Blossom, oil on board, 26X23in. (66 58.5cm)

"The danger with being focused on something specific," he says, "is that you become less receptive to other, perhaps better, ideas that might present themselves. I find that quite often when I am on my way to a certain location something else will catch my eye and so I stop and work at that instead.

"I remember on one of my trips to the Scillies, for example, I had started painting at a particular location, intending to return the following day. However, the next morning, on my way to the site, I noticed a field with just a few irises in it, and this struck me as such a wonderful subject that I decided to stop there and do some painting. In fact, I spent the next three days painting irises in that field. The best paintings come from that sort of reaction and response to something that instinctively appeals to you."

Painting on site

For the location paintings Robert works on small prepared panels, usually about 9 13in. (23 33cm) in size.

"These painting 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. On one occasion I was painting there in the morning in wonderfully atmospheric damp and misty conditions, but when I returned after lunch it was bright sunshine and the scene had, in effect, become another painting. 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.

"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. I normally sit on the ground; however, I usually find that after a while, having been engrossed in the work, I suddenly become aware that my legs have gone completely numb. So to remedy this I lie on my back and wave my legs in the air — which can look a bit odd to passers-by!

"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,

  Atlantic Shore, oil on canvas, 37X39in (94X99cm)



In the Aegean, Tamarisk Trees and Geese, oil on board, 251/2X24in. (65X61cm)

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.

"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.



Gorse, oil on canvas, 8X8in. (20X20cm)

"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." ?



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