bigcrop900Collaborative painting, Aylesbury: 'you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone...'  120x180cms    oil on canvas


'Painter Joan Mitchell and singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell, both pioneering women artists ‘being free’, share an extraordinary facility to project their emotions and experiences into their art - landscapes of the heart and mind and memory'


On all the 'Freedom in Painting' courses and workshops we look at a particular aspect of painting, a different way into painting and our inspiration for the recent workshops - one online, the other at the Queens Park Art Centre in Aylesbury - was the art of Joan & Joni Mitchell. In advance, the artists were asked to draw/make studies fron their favourite Joni Mitchell songs, to bring along to the workshop with the following brief: what do you feel, what do you see, what colours, marks and emotions are evoked? 




In both workshops, after an introductory talk making connections between the two artists and an extensive look at the paintings of Joan Mitchell, the artists took part in a group mark-making exercise responding to words, including many musical terms. In the online workshop, there was a series of demonstations over the 2 days, where I worked on a painting responding to my favourite Joni song and album 'Hejira' whereas in the 'live' workshop we were able to work freely on a large collaborative painting.


RACHEL X4 WEB CopyRachel Gotsman 'Chelsea Morning'



The aim in the workshop was to translate the studies into painting, to find our own 'Emotional Landscapes'. My reasoning for choosing Joan Mitchell to help us do this, is that, aside from the emotional content, there is a directness, range, physicality and confidence in her mark-making, qualies that are often lost in translating drawing into paint, a slower medium...




In Aylesbury, in the group painting, the artists were asked to translate and scale up one of their responses to words directly onto the canvas in oil-paint. Artists were also encouraged to come back at any time to the painting to try things out and make changes. On the second day, the artists mirrored Joan Mitchell's use of white to create space.


BIG PAINTING in progress1 CopyCollaborative painting, Aylesbury: in progress


Over the 2 days of the workshops, there was an intensity of working from all the artists, each seeking that sweet spot ('The Mellow Pad' - Stuart Davis!) - of content, emotion and the visual. As you can see from the paintings in the galleries below, there is a fantastic range and individuaiism in the colour, technique and paint-handling from all our artists responding to the music of Joni Mitchell. Songs referenced include 'River', 'Both sides Now, 'Moon at the Window', 'My Old Man', Chelsea Morning', Hejira', 'The Circle Game','Turbulent Indigo', 'Little Green' & 'Big Yellow Taxi'. Thank-you Joan & Joni!



GALLERY online bestcrop Copy



aylesbury galleryCROP1 Copy


Of course, it's not always possible to resolve a painting in a 2-day workshop and many of our artists carry on working afterwards. Since the online workshop in January, Barrie Kellington continued working, expanding his painting into a triptych and yesterday Barry sent me his final version which I would like to share with you, a stunning and ambitious painting.


'My Garden'   60x150cm 




 'I loved the way all of us working on the huge 2 canvases released inhibitions and felt to be such fun'  ERICA SHIPLEY

'I loved the presentation at the beginning. You managed to share your fascination and understanding of processes clearly and it was catching. It was a good introduction to an artists approach to finding inspiration. I also really enjoyed watching your painting process: down to earth, sharing your thought processes, making mistakes and changes and taking inspiration from participants'  RACHEL GOTSMAN

'It was so useful us thinking about different sources of inspiration.Using different creativity such as music and poetry light up the mind'  HAZEL CRAWFORD

'The tutorials worked really well. I always enjoy Ashley’s unique and positive approach to one to one tutorials'  BERYL HAWKER

'The group canvas - working at scale with oils was liberating as was the initial drawing exercise with words. I found ashley's comments discerning and incredibly helpful!'  ANNA BADAR

'Abstraction is a new practice for me and i am beginning to understand.' JENNY LAW