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‘Narrative Art’ is art that tells a story: something happening, happened or about to happen…

Figures invariably create a narrative but so can a painting without the figure: an empty room or chair, an open door, something hidden or disguised…

‘narrative’ can be autobiographical, magical, historical, psychological…

‘narrative’ can be sourced in an alternate narrative: books, music, film…

‘narrative’ can also be the conversation or relationship between different elements in a painting…


The latest 'Freedom in Painting' workshop was held in Paxford Village Hall in the Cotswolds, exploring the idea of 'NARRATIVE' in painting. 

In advance, the artists were asked to think about what narrative means to them and what story they would like to tell in their paintings and to work out a few ideas on paper, bringing their studies to the workshop. 


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The workshop began with an extensive talk on the depiction of 'NARRATIVE' in painting, including works by Breughel, Vermeer, Caspar Friedrich, Munch, Sickert, Hopper and contemporary painters  Peter Doig, Eileen Cooper, Andrew Cranston, Zia Partou and Arthur Neal.


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Then I sprung a surprise: in a group exercise, the artists were asked to make one final study, where either a figure or an extra figure was introduced or a figure taken away, to see the effect on the narrative. The figures could be drawn or collaged - I brought a pile of printed figures of various sizes to use including some images of Peter Lanyon, one of which found its way into a painting. See if you guess which one! This was followed by a demonstration, translating my studies into painting and introducing a figure and a narrative.  


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Over the next 2 days, working from their ideas and studies and with a mixture of one to-one tuition and further demonstations, the artists developed the idea of narrative in their paintings, but critically, also being aware of the painting itself, its strengths and weaknesses and interest. As always, the workshop ended with an invaluable Group Critique, discussing the paintings and possible ways forward.

During the workshop, I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations with the artists and seing the paintings develop. As you can see from the gallery, each artist has a distinctive voice.  The collection is full of intrigue and personal memories, the narrative rich and wide, sourced in journeys and incident, real and imagined landscape and interiors, and the workings of the brain. Hats off to the artists!



'I had not considered the way narrative could be used in painting before and this course was really ete-openin for me and will certainly inform future work. I also enjoyed the run through narrative in art history at the beginning of the firsr day - very illuminating'  RACHEL CRONIN

 'I enjoyed learning about the artists who have used narrative in their work. I particularly enjoy watching Ashley paint and seeing his thoughtful processes'  ROSIE WELLS

'I especially loved the time on the chairs with Ashley, looking in detail at my efforts - most encouraging.'  HAZEL BECH