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The possibilities of painting in crime-fiction...

We're done - final adjustments of the figure to show that he is walking towards the pub. I'm enjoying the tension between abstraction and figuration and the melding of ideas from the narrative and the visual.  Plus the tension of what lies beyond the black doorway...

Unexpectedly, the figure of Laidlaw himself is in the painting, adding interest. Once again, a figure walks into a painting, dragging the viewer behind, echoes of Stillman in the 'City of Glass' series'. After all, Laidlaw takes his Sergeant to meet John Rhodes in 'The Gay Laddie'...Enjoying the dense, smoky, moody colour too, the palette of Glasgow - sort of - endorsed by a couple of artist ftriends who know the city. 


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The red pub brings to mind 'Red Virginia Creeper' by Edvard Munch...



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A 6 a.m.start in the studio! Reworked the doorway and figure, both now with more presence and linking visually to the upward moving slabs on the left, the angle of the figure the same as the blue (6). Now, the figure is doing a job for the painting. One or two extra brushmarks, as you do, the red one below the line of the pub transformative...

Love the possibility/impossibility of the chimney being the return of the red line that leaves the canvas!


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WED 26 JULY p.m.

Simplication of the bottom-left corner frees up the shapes and a movement upwards (5). The strengthened shallow curve across the pub now links to the pale yellow dot of the City Morgue - a movement across. The figure is back (5) but not sure about how it is painted or whether the painting needs it. I sense the black doorway needs to be larger.  Need some clean brushes and another session! 


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WED 26 JULY a.m.

Getting closer (4). Enjoying the relationship between the twin images of the simplified grid and larger pub with the sinister doorway and high windws prominent. The canvas divide now comes into play, one of a series of verticals across the canvas. I'm tempted to put the figure of Laidlaw back in the right corner as a simple red sillouette.


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Tuning up colour, breaking up the the grid and taking out the figure but the painting has gone backwards. Disconnecting the grid and the pub was a mistake. I'm going to make the pub bigger, perhaps intruding into the left-side, locking onto the grid again, its physicality representing the violence within. 


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MON 24 JULY 2023

Working with 'facts from fiction'...

The ironically named pub 'The Gay Laddie' hangs from the red grid of Glasgow streets where the City Morgue, Police Station and hiding place of the killer are all in close proximity off the Saltmarket.(2). The pub is the symbol of unflinching 'hardness', violence and revenge.  The complex character of Laidlaw cuts through those attitudes: there must be a better way of placing him in the painting, possibly as white against the black doorway. Or not at all...


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Another wonderful course recently, working with a group of eight artists in Port Isaac. As you can see from the gallery above, each artist responded in a highly individualistic way to the landscape and light of Cornwall in the three different locations we worked from: Port Isaac, Bude and Trebarwith Strand. 


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We met up early on Wednesday in Trebarwith Strand. The weather was glorious for our morning drawing session where we were both recording the dramatic landscape, and looking for ideas for painting. After lunch at the Port William Inn, we headed to Bude, with its distinctive meeting of sea, river and canal.  As the tide came in, the yellows were replaced by blues, the sea-pool almost covered, reduced to a fragile line. 


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 After setting up the studio on Thursday morning, we set out for our drawing session around Port Isaac, getting to know our subject. Piers and water, rooftops and flowers, narrow passages and panoramic vistas - all became subjects for our paintings.


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 The afternoon session began with a talk and demonstration followed by our first group exercise.  The next few days were devoted to painting, responding to drawings and memory, both analytically and intuitively. There were further demonstrations and group exercises, with plenty of one-to-one tuition, discussing ideas and options for pushing the paintings forward.


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The studio in Port Isaac Village Hall, is only a five minute walk to the harbour, and the artists were encouraged to re-look and re-draw to feed into their paintings. There was a great creative atmosphere and work-ethic in the studio, with the artists taking full advantage of the opportunity to make, talk and think abour art in a concentated period of time in a wonderful setting. 


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The weather remained glorious during the week, great for drying the paintings and working outdoors in the garden. Yellows and blues seemed to domonate the work - I wonder why!


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As always, we finished the course with a group critique, looking at two paintings by each artist, inspired by our three locations. We hope to some of the paintings in our 'Cornwall, Colour & Coast' exhibition in Henley in October! 





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So glad I took a leap and landed in such an inspiring and enabling environment. Thank-you Ashley and Denise, can't wait to return! Barbara Meredith

Ashley was wonderfully generous with his time and gave equal commitment to support all artists individually in their work. Wonderful working in a shared studio to enjoy the enthusiasm and companionship of fellow artists. Marion Owen

For me this has been a specially good course and really helpful. Ashley takes great pains to help you discover and uncover what you are trying to do. Erica Shipley

Very helpful. Lots of teaching, ideas and input from Ashley. Exceptional input and help given. Karen Martin

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12 JUNE 2023

 A return, after 6 yrs to 'Porthleven 30', which I was never happy with and refused to exhibit. I always loved the lyrical line but felt the colout too chalky and lifeless. With the new colour shifts and simplifications, there is a purity and vibrancy and flow in the work, all leading the eye to the slipway in the top-right corner.  Love the subtle presence now of the large central curved shape and the weight and mysterious transparency of the bottom-right pier.

 Looking forward to showing it now!


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The painting's origins are in a group exercise on the 2017 'Freedom in Painting' October course in Porthleven, where we started with 12 curves from drawings from the landscape, each with a differing shape, weight colour and execution 



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A great day in the studio. Incessant refinements of colour, design and drawing until the essential remains, reconnecting to the idea that sparked the painting, vessel within a vessel. Breaking the symmetry was key and having confidence in the shapes, many of which are specific to Porthleven. The finished piece has a beautiful simplicity and depth of colour and meaning.  


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Brought in two 'vessels' (4) but now too complicated - one has to go! I kept the linear 'vessel', now hanging from the red line with a mast at a much more satisfying angle, leading the eye upwards. 


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Took out the green (3), a colour too many. Missed the vertical up the left in (1) so put it back, with a new circle.  More elegant now, with more space to the right.


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Vessel as harbour and boat/ship. The idea of a vessel inside or alongside or hanging from a vessel. Working out the design and proportions and building up the colour. A good start. drying super-fast in this heat! Suggestions of form and shadow with the repeated drawing and green shape at the bottom. Working on the curves of the 'vessel' (2) and took out the heavy verical on the left. The 'vessel' is an ugly shape.


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WED 31 MAY 2023

More like it! Breaking down marks, paint through paint, creating movement, drama and contrast. The space opens up, the shapes are free, the canvas unified at last. The reinforced 'double-drawing' at the bottom brings weight and depth (and movement), the heavy line twisting outwards.

Rhythms of yellows, taking the eye to the left-side, then diagonally across to the top right. Now the canvas-divide has a role in the painting: a formal-device creating spatial ambiguities - where is the line? - and its crispness and difference bringing the possibility of image. 


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After a series of recent disappointments, getting in the zone today. Working out the painting...slowly. (1) and (2) are just marks, looking for a visual metaphor for the contrast between the man-made and natural elements in coastal towns. Went vertical for a while, (3) had something, the colour is better but the marks too regimented - pattern.

Making new yellows yellow and redrawing in (4), but still too many marks, stopping the flow. I'm liking it as a landscape (5), more unexpected, the relationship between the purple and yellow marks along the bottom of especially exciting. Needs a fat horizontal, on the right of the upward curve, with purple punching through the gap. 



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