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'City of Glass 33 - (Buried)'     100x100cms

June 11 p.m

The dots/perforations worked, closing the gap between Manhattan and the left side and also referencing the notebooks of Quinn & Stillman. Space & scale more intriguing/ambiguous.

June 11 a.m

Unable to sleep - 'Washington Square' as a title is too innocuous. The painting is what it is, dominated by the heavy yellows. I cannot get past the image of a post-apocalyptic New York choked/drowned/buried by oceans of sand.

June 10

Four days in, very close- the colours and their proportions are working now. Manhattan is trapped/held by the heavy yellows, like an archaeological find. 'Sea of Sand' and 'Buried' were the more dramatic, alternative titles at one point. Like how the image sits on the bottom edge. I was happy with the piece at the studio but as soon as I got home and saw the image on screen more ideas emerged that I'll try out tomorrow. I suspect there is a stronger composition if I put in a vertical row of dots/perforations near the left edge which will pull Manhattan towards the left side and subvert both space and scale. It feels a bit tight, lacking in movement but it could be it's just a different kind of painting. Let's find out.

I also have the idea of putting in a differently angled line from bottom left to top right slashing across Manhattan. The image of the tightrope between the Twin Towers: if Manhattan is that far below, how high is the building the viewer peers down from?

In this painting instead of orientating Manhattan on the vertical, like the other paintings in the series, to break the square I have used the (real) 60 degree angle of Manhattan to create a dynamic diagonal.

In the novel*, Quinn ambles across the square during his meticulously described walk from his home to the southern tip of Manhattan, and then back up the East Side to the Stillman Apartment on E69thSt.

Washington Square was chosen simply because of the shape of my canvas. It is actually not a square but a double square. Now a small yellow blob, the (double) square originally filled the canvas. The strong angled lines, almost hidden, structure the painting.



colours from 'Buried'

* 'The New York Trilogy', by Paul Auster

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'City of Glass 32 - (The Apartment'     70x100cms


Janie asked me why the painting was pink, so unlike the darkness of the novel* Aside from there not being a pink painting in the series, the idea was to help disguise the naked figure of Virginia. Perhaps the colour alone is enough to suggest her presence.

The vertical lines and subtle horizontals cut the space, linking to the grid of New York and the other paintings in the series. The centre divide is Park Avenue and the intersection with the main horizontal- where wall and floor meet- pinpoints the location of the apartment on E69thSt.

Another painting inspired by 'French Window at Collioure' by Matisse.

* The New York Trilogy, a novel by Paul Auster

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'City of Glass 31 - (A Study in Violet)'     180x200cms


'City of Glass 31 - (A Study in Violet)' was shortlisted and exhibited in the 2015 Lacey Contemporary Art Prize, London and longlisted for the 2016 Jacksons Art Prize.


Monday 1 June

I have no doubts now- it is one piece, there is a massive design and subversions of reality, space and scale, rhythms of verticals and angles controlled by the horizontals. This morning, I made a few subtle changes to the figure, strengthening the drawing of the figure making a sharper angle of the flare of the coat on the left-side. Then I started to enjoy the painting. I had a great chat with Janie M McDonald about the painting and it's connections to New York and the novel* The left side is elegant, sophisticated, the language of painting and abstraction, as Janie commented, 'a reflection of New York's glossy capitalist veneer' The right side is gritty, dark, menacing- the street. Just like the New York, the raw and the refined side by side.

This is going to be my entry for the John Moores Painting Prize.

Cleave: to separate, to join together..

A recurring theme throughout the series, the possibilities (and complications) of working with 2 canvases..

I need to redraw the head, arm and especially the hand tomorrow, but some exciting things happening's full of movement. The anti-clockwise movement of centre yellow stripe, flicking upwards though the coat is counteracted by the clockwise movement of the black lines of the figure, linking to the violet-black curves in the top left corner via the black triangle on the bottom edge. Stillman returns - with the figure, the relationship with the title and Sherlock Holmes is more explicit...location and narrative fused together...the angled line along the East River becomes the angle of shadow on Stillman's coat....scale subverted....menacing...'Noir', an almost title..

A difficult choice- both paintings work alone but are they stronger together, a fusion of the figurative and the abstract?





* 'The New York Trilogy, a novel by Paul Auster

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'City of Glass 31 - (A Study in Violet)' 180x100cms


A reference/homage to 'A Study in Scarlet', the first Sherlock Holmes story - after all, 'City of Glass'* is a detective novel. The painting was originally worked as two canvases side by side, and planned as a much larger version of 'Celestial' with a less sweet blue/black sky. I had great problems dealing with the scale, lots of bitty areas, confusion. After separation, the colour-scheme was pared down, the composition strengthened with the introduction of the violet/black stripe, an extended Central Park. There are obvious connections with 'City of Glass 29- (The Space Between' and intriguing ambiguities. Is the violet stripe a sinister tower? A violet void - the entrance to the alley where 'detective' Quinn obsessively watches the entrance to the Stillman apartment? Love the play with the violet-black curves of Riverside Drive and the horizontal of 42nd St - in my eyes, the painting is exquisitely balanced. Perhaps because of the scale, the paint is less all-over heavy, with staining and transparent layerings bringing areas of light to the piece.

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The main idea for my (unsuccessful) applications to the Pollack Krasner Foundation, Triangle Arts Association & the Tate St.Ives Residency, was to make a suite of paintings, each containing one of the letters that spell T.H.E.T.O.W.E.R.O.F.B.A.B.E.L. Maybe this is the first painting in that series within a series....(L). Might need some funding though - these are substantial canvases! The concept still excites me, it is a piece I have to make, somehow, sometime. Because the 15 paintings will be arranged/hung with the greatest visual coherence, the letters will inevitably be all jumbled up, forcing the viewer, like Quinn, to discover the letters that spell T.H.E.T.O.W.E.R.O.F.B.A.B.E.L.


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*from 'The New York Trilogy', a novel by Paul Auster

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Rock and the Camel Estuary


We were very much looking forward to meeting our May painting holiday group as we had a number of artists returning from previous years (Sigi from Canada and Elizabeth and Antonia from last year's holiday) along with welcoming our new artists who had all signed up to the 'Freedom in Painting' experience.

A fantastic week followed that inspired the group to produce some amazing results by the end of the holiday. Here is an insight into what we got up to...

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Elizabeth sketching at Rock


Day 1 - The North Coast. Rock and the Camel Estuary looked breath taking. The sun shone on us all day and the changing colours of the sea and altering shapes of the sandbanks were quite magical. Ashley brought the group together to begin the day sketching before everyone was encouraged to find their own special place to draw or paint from. He then chatted and discussed the sketches and studies individually with everyone throughout the morning. Our artists were just warming up!


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Rocky beach at Porth Quinn


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Hazel sketching at Port Quinn


After breaking for a delicious lunch at the Longcross Hotel, we headed five minutes up the road to Port Quinn our location for the afternoon. This place is a wonderful contrast to the calm sea of the Camel Estuary and the group enjoyed the diversity of the landscape. Once again Ashley began the afternoon with a drawing challenge on the small rocky beach before taking the group up onto the cliff tops, for some spectacular views to work from.


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Polperro Harbour


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Antonia painting at Polperro


Day 2 - The South Coast. Polperro our morning location was just waking up when we arrived, so an ideal time to visit this traditional Cornish fishing village and harbour. Ashley began the morning with a series of sketching exercises from different viewpoints and he then encouraged the group to start looking/thinking about ideas for paintings, whilst making their studies. A hearty lunch followed at the Blue Peter Inn and we were then refreshed and ready to move on.


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Kate painting at Polruan


Polruan was our final south coast destination and it didn't disappoint. The 360 degree panoramic views were stunning as always and here Ashley introduced some linear exercises before our artists were encouraged to draw or paint from their own personal viewpoint. For those who wanted, there was more amazing landscape to see and paint/sketch from along the way down to the ancient ruins of the Blockhouse and harbour. The difficult task of processing and editing all the work from the past two days would begin in earnest tomorrow!

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Carol's studies in the studio


Day 3- 4 The Village Hall at St Breward , high on Bodmin Moor was our studio for the next two days. The first morning was devoted to group exercises exploring colour and composition with the artists editing and abstracting from their own drawings. After a break for lunch at The Old Inn pub (conveniently located next door) the artists began working on their paintings. Everyone was asked to work on two pieces simultaneously developing their studies and ideas further.


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Ashley 'in action' demonstrating techniques


Over the two days Ashley discussed the work of some of his favourite artists and demonstrated many of his painting tips and techniques, including numerous ways of mark- making and applying paint . Under his guidance everyone was encouraged and inspired to move out of their comfort zone and take their painting somewhere new. The finale as always was an indepth group critique which the artists found both enjoyable and invaluable, a wonderful shared experience.

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Ashley working with Hazel


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In the studio


After the intensity of working over the past few days our artists certainly earned their celebratory dinner on Friday evening and enjoyed a quick pint at The Globe Inn before settling down to a superb three course meal at Asquiths Restaurant in Lostwithiel.

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Thanks once again Sally and Graham for looking after us so well.


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Antonia Glynne Jones painting


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Diane Bedser's painting


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Philippa Hutton's painting


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Elizabeth Aspinall's painting


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Kate Watkins painting


We had a terrific week with you all and the dedication you gave to your paintings really shone through. Thanks for joining us and we really hope you felt the benefit of Ashley's guidance and tuition . We would also like to thank all of our contributors that help to make our painting holidays a success.

We do hope to see you again soon!


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Philippa Langton's painting


If you would like to join us on our 21st - 26th September painting holiday in Cornwall 2015, there are still places available. For lots more information see the website here. If you would like to make an enquiry or booking contact Denise or call 01208 77656.


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Hazel Crawford's painting


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Carol Hayslip's painting


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Sigi Johnson's painting