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Looking again - no need to change a thing. The final mark, the angIed-line/branch in the top-left corner, pushing everything behind, bringing depth. The strength, delicacy and movement of the tree is captured, contrasted by the purity of the lemon ground/shape. I have my elusive 'difference'.  Thoughts of 'The Tree of Crows' by Caspar Friedrich - one of those kind of trees!. Time to play the sublime 'Brilliant Trees' by David Sylvian again. 'Nostalgia' indeed...


Öèôðîâàÿ ðåïðîäóêöèÿ íàõîäèòñÿ â èíòåðíåò-ìóçåå'The Tree of Crows'  Caspar David Friedrich 1822



A writhing Porthleven tree, leans to the left, shaped by the wind, now becoming more volumetric with redrawing and trapped layers.  is the lemon too sharp? 


IMG 70441900in progress


Pursuing the idea of a Porthleven tree, a 'telegraph-tree' and a hanging-harbour. The twin-curve idea came from this early stage in my painting 'Penzance 15', below:


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Some interesting shaped-paper!


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Reflection and final marks. The severity of the squared off black shape niggled me (5), now softened with a red-oxide glaze and resolved by a sweep of orange/red and a vertical line of small dots beneath. It's a return to the curve/branch from the early stage of the painting (1) and the possibility of 'tree' and 'hanging-harbour' - hence the name-change!


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The idea of 'tree' is less explicit, transformed into colour but we have a painting... It's a beautiful piece of red, with Pyrolle Red and Michael Harding Venetian Red in the mixes, picked up by the red crane. A softening of the transition between red and black. I kept seeing a face which slowed down the movement around the painting. I took out the black mark/eye - now you can see better the red crane and the procession of small marks/colour-incident in the detail. 

Colour versus drawing - balance. Done. 

In this morning's session, denser colour down the left, a new red!, a new blue and simplification along the top, and opening up and re-drawing the bottom right.  The messing around in Photoshop (4) last night didn't go to waste. If you've been on one of our Porthleven painting courses you'll know the significance of the thin sliver of yellow towards the top of the painting and also see that the end of the long pier at the bottom twists the wrong way but is the right way for the painting!


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Nothing yet clear about this painting (3). It looks familiar but not my own. Too graphic, not enough about colour.

To stir up the Porthleven series, the idea is to bring in a new element; a tree or 'telegraph-tree' - either side by side with the harbour or the harbour hanging. 

I thought about stopping in (1)  but felt it was too sketchy, with the bases of the two trees, too similar, with the harbour barely descibed, but I liked the simplicity of the language, reducing it to a few vertical and horizontal lines. The space under the arched branches, sparked a memory of Matisse's glorious 'Entrance to the Kasbah', which co-incidentally also has a red triangle...


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(2) kind of works but do the three elements cancel each other out?. Replacing the tree on the left didn't resolve it either in (3). Love the flowing reds and the left edge with the nobble but the painting is now too static,  closing the harbour at the bottom a step backwards. Should I move the red further to the left or does it belong in the painting at all? In all three, the top strip is a mess and making the blue straighter in (3) a mistake.

I've just seen something. The red is the tree - a great title - exploiting the 'v' shape at the top of the red, splitting the tree into two branches, perhaps taking the right branch all the way to the right-edge. Need to open up the bottom of the harbour again...


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A couple of tweaks today - good moves I think. I painted the red-lines 'redder' and brought in some brighter yellows to the bottom-left corner. I also took out the angled horizontal across the bottom, freeing up the lines above. I extended the red/orange vertical post and opened up the narrow space between the two angled posts. In the painting below, the wires/lines seem to on the same plane running horizontally across the canvas. Now, the space is now being stretched and twisted by the tugging wires. The painting above now seems more vibrant, with increased tension and movement. The twin posts oscillating, the orange gable moving back and forth in the picture plane. Less about image now: you see the lines, you see the colour, you see the building...Might leave it alone now!


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The four paintings of the Old Lifeboat House studio in Porthleven: 'Porthleven 40 (The Possibility of Window), Porthleven 41 (Diamond)', 'Porthleven 61 (Red Lines)', 'Porthleven 63 (The Studio)' 


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The last move: the sharp red triangle/crane brings precision, scale, geometry, difference, context and a further upwards movement... love this painting!


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A painting is time captured, a history and visual summary of ideas, life, process, doubt, wrong-turnings, moments of bravery, clarity and understanding, beauty...


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Denise was right..again. In (4) the colour was 'grubby' and the painting needed some flatter, quieter spaces. I think I had problems grappling with the scale of the painting, my largest for a while, with too much stop/start, it's too raw, the marks too similar.

And so...a monster day in the studio. The painting is now more vibrant and flowing (5) with a greater range of paint...and emotions. Strength and joy! . There is a new elegance with todays simplifications of the tall vertical and the busy marks on the right. Now the central cut line is critical, with its echoes of the crisscrossing wires that cut the space in Porthleven. Telegraph tree...the return to the original idea.


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FRI 5 JAN 2023

A good day in the studio - the painting, impossibly, now wilder yet more refined (4). My first thought today was that one of the red 'poles' had to go (1).  I chose to keep the one on the right - it glows! - bringing more space to the centre. The harbour-shape was now behind something. The verticality was still intact but less straight, with larger marks and more movement (2). I also felt that the two sides of the harbour in (1) were too similar.  A new green and broken ultramarine marks bring difference and interest (2).


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In (3) the weight of the green was softened by a delicate sheet of Ultramarine/Alizarin purple and the orange curve. The graphic building, (Ship Inn), was a step too far, with the simplifications in the last session, in the bottom-right corner and through the centre now bringing attention to the successsion of smaller marks slanting across from the startling green, centre-left. Colour and shapes are good: the last move was blending the red and orange curves together, making something purer, faster...


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Thoughts on (1): The star is the whippy red curve, hanging from the top-line - lets build around it...


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'Do you have a special tree? A 2 day ZOOM workshop painting your tree: real or imagined, magical, spiritual, symbolic, totemic, in bloom or bare and linear. In terms of painting, the motif of the tree presents opportunities to explore narrative and structure, strength and delicacy, expressive mark-making and abstraction'


The selection of paintings above above shows the exceptional response to the motif of 'TREE' in our latest online 'Freedom in Painting' workshop. The artists were asked to bring along studies and ideas to the workshop which began with a comprehensive slideshow of trees in art history from Durer to Auerbach. For me, the highlight of the research was the full-blown visceral expressionism of Joan Mitchell and Chaim Soutine.


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The talk was followed by a demonstration and group exercise, where I showed how to make further linear studies from the studies, exploring possibilities of composition, strength, delicacy and mark-making with a single brush. Surrounded by studies we made our choices of design and colour for the morning painting session. Luckily, Denise was on hand to take photos during the day, as my own 'Tree' painting developed.


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The afternoon was taken up with individual tutorials, with each artist emailing me an image off their painting before we discussed their ideas and paintings. There were also further demonstrations mid-afternoon and first thing on Friday before the morning tutorials. Things were happening, studies transforming into paintings, those first thoughts and marks leading to others...

On Friday, some of the artists took up the option to start a second painting. After lunch, we had the final painting session, silent working time as the artists pushed their paintings further.  We finished the workshop with a Group Critique, after I put together a Powerpoint of the latest versions of the paintings. It was a revelation, how far the paintings had come in 2 days concentrated working. A real treat for us all, and instructive too, to see the work of the artists and to give and receive comment. Below, you can see the how a couple of the paintings developed in the workshop and afterwards.

Hats off to all the artists!

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'I want to reach the state of condensation of sensations which constitutes a picture. Perhaps I might be satisfied momentarily with a work finished at one sitting, but I would soon get bored looking at it; therefore, I prefer to continue working on it so that later I may recognize it as a work of my mind'  MATISSE 


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 Artist Testimonials

I think your method of running the workshops must be unique. You put so much effort and time into the preparation and give so much attention and interaction with participants individually. We learn so much from sharing your decision making, courage to experiment and change things, choices of colour palette, composition etc with your own painting.  You have an amazing way of teaching which is by inspiration rather than prescription. Beryl Hawker

Ashley has become expert in presenting a two-day online painting workshop, with a packed timetable including tutorials, demonstrations, plenty of painting time, information, inspiration and group comment.  And a friendly atmosphere! Jan Bunyan

I really loved the workshop. Ashley is a brilliant teacher and always encouraging. I thought the slide show was particularly good and really well researched. I have started a series on trees as he recommended. Barry Kellington

I always enjoy Ashley’s intro and slide show from the historical up to sometimes unexpected contemporary art. Ashley doesn’t dictate, he suggests the possibilities in your painting keeping you positive. You may not always agree but to have someone really look at your work and discuss what is working or not is a privilege. Carol Hayslip