Porthleven 47 900 Copy'Porthleven 47 - (Rose Harbour)'  75x65cms  oil on canvas  2020



We have colour & place, sensuous shapes and a storm gathering force...

Abstract as a verb, not a label. A painting sourced in reality & memory, information and imagination, with the ambition of finding the elusive 'new'...

The fragile boat on the bottom edge enters the rose-pink harbour sanctuary, secured/controlled by the strength of the top to bottom zig-zaggy line. On a flat grey ground, the harbour switches from line to shape, from black to pink, with the entrance moving from top to bottom, framed by red (port) and green (starboard) lights...

There is freedom in this piece. Appropriately, the final stages were painted listening to a favourite album, Joni Mitchell's 'Song to a Seagull', with its metaphors of seagulls and seaside and freedom. This album has been a constant in my career, ever since I packed my bags for art college...

'My dreams with the seagulls fly
Out of reach
Out of cry'

 (Joni Mitchell, 'Song to a Seagull')


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'Porthleven 40 - (The Possibility of Window)'  25x30cms 2019-20


Another problematic painting revisited. Working from a drawing from the back of the Old Lifeboat House studio, at the core of the painting was the diamond-shape roof and the dynamic zig-zag relationship with the pier above. Thrown into the mix was the exploration of the idea of the internal frame/border, the possibility of window...

With 'Porthleven 40', I had to lose everything to save the painting. Endless reworking, including a switch in orientation, until I found the mark/shape that I could build the painting around - the translucent Indian Yellow diamond (5).  All the shapes are working now and with the extension of the pier to the canvas edge - the final mark - we have a delicious ambiguity/duality: pier or window? Good colour too; the yellows and juicy, precious Old Holland Cadmium Orange - what a colour! - set off by a Phthalo Green and Cobalt Blue ground, working to the image. Playing loud was the Cocteau Twins: 'Treasure'.


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Looking back at the development of this painting, I was drawn to the rawness and daring of stage (2)? That blue 'roof' - wow!  There was a makeover in December, with the introduction of the green and orange, bringing a colour-zing to the painting (4) but I was always troubled by the roof.


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'Porthleven 40' completes a quartet of paintings investigating 'the possibility of window' inspired by the stunning Bozenna Biskupska show Epiphany of Time at the L'Etrangere Gallery and the 2019 Bonnard exhibition at Tate Modern. 


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'Porthleven 41 - (Diamond)'


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'Porthleven 41 - (Diamond)'  60x60cms

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It's very rare that I return to a painting, but looking again at 'Porthleven 41', I thought the diamond of the roof our Old Lifeboat House studio could be a better shape and bigger. One thing led to another and now we have a more dramatic composition and stronger painting. Now the canvas-divide is more integrated and doing a job for the painting: the possibility of window...

The spirit of Bonnard..soft lines and brushwork and complimentary colour.


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'Diamond' and 'Zigzag' were painted during the recent Porthleven courses in Cornwall, both working from a drawing of the back of The Old Lifeboat House studio looking out to sea.

Responding to the course theme of 'window', 'Diamond' started with a new yellow made from Primrose and Burnt Sienna. The process below shows how the scale and positioning of the building was established in the composition and how the diamond-roof came to dominate the piece. 

In the final version (above), all fripperies from (4) were removed and the diamond was painted in a lighter, stronger yellow. Now the building sprawls in a deliberate diagonal corner to corner dynamic, its' weight dissolved by colour. The simplicity and geometry of this piece appeals, and the intensity of the yellow is startling. My strongest critic Denise likes this one!





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MARCH 6 2021

New green dots - what do they signify?


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BOOK 13 - Re-visited Nov/Dec

I've been thinking for a while that there was too much blue in this 'red' painting and that the top blues cancelled out the blues at the bottom. A bright new red red at the top sets off the rest and has made the painting stronger. 


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Love this painting - packed with colour-pleasures, texture incident and spatial complexities. And we have mystery: manipulations of 'fact' and 'fiction' that provoke the enjoyable questions: 'What is real, what has meaning, what is accident, what is design, Is that a clue?' The painting changes constantly under different light but the reds and blues and greens are the similar-toned and dense colour, which perhaps comes over best in the details. The spirit of Matisse. The possibilities of painting in crime-fiction...


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A small grey square has its own quiet power. A new vibrant pinkish 'v-shape' - an abstracted symbol - makes visual links with its friends around the canvas. I was troubled by the proportion of blues in the painting but they are now tamed by new intrusions and the cut-out red shape is now twisted by stronger verticals and the final intuitive marks...



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A new green-square - one that grips the eyes (6). Soundtrack: 'Led Zeppelin 2'. Awesome...


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A day of detail and redrawing and bringing in some more reds and more verticals. I also reworked the top-left blue: it's much stronger now and comes forward with the top-right blue going back. Great light this morning - the photo above shows the beauty of the surface. Just a couple of things to try in the last session...


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Two days intense working on this piece - getting close. Building on the red under-painting (1), specifics from the novel are introduced (2). I also found my key-red, based on Venetian Red, with additions of Yellow Ochre, Zinc White and Cadmium Red. The reds are gradually built up with forceful marks and spikes are cut in to the extended blue across the bottom (3). Today, new reds are worked in, built up, in shifting directions (detail below). The blue is intensified and set off by a vertical hot-pink, shooting up from the bottom-edge (4). The red-shape is wild and the colours are starting to sing...


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The red/blue proportion doesn't seem right and the top & bottom blues seem to cancel each other out. I can either make the top blues a lot darker or cover them with floods of new, flat reds, reds that don't exist in the painting. The bottom blue/turquoise will be even more powerful, but the reds should now dominate. Only one way to find out...


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Clarity and balance. Simplification below the line so now the zigzag has the strength I was after - a zigzag taken from reality that structures the painting. The bull's head now connects to the grid, the horns mirrored by the sharp-curve cutting into space. Incident of yellow and pink across the canvas. Strangeness. What am I looking at? The painting has that neon feel of a city at night, the bull a symbol of dark...It's Mondrian, it's Miro, it's Noir. We are done.

With its' source in crime-fiction, the '20 Books=20 Paintings' series needed a black and white painting, the palette referencing the good v.evil drama played out in each novel. In visual terms, this black and white piece will add impact and contrast when the series is exhibited next year at Linden Hall Studio. I'll be starting a new painting in the series on Saturday, working title 'BOOK 14 - (Red)'. 


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(6) Refining the drawing and extending the deep violet further below the white-line. Getting very close...


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(5) More whites. Working on the delicate-frame of the grid and introducing image and a second key location from the novel on the left-edge of the white-line - a counterweight to the tilting, sculptural grid...


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(4) An additional grid intrudes into the left-side. Back to the original idea of the tension of the grid tilting, balancing, now in a better place. But the tonal balance is disrupted with the dark violet sweeping through the pink....


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(3) A slight shift in position of the location shape, with the grid superimposed. Too many competing colours. The pink slab and painting to the edge takes out most of the yellows and simplifies the painting. 


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(2) The painting is built around the white-line, formed by dripped paint on an angled canvas. The idea of balancing the 'location-shape' on the zigzag emerges in a drawing...


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(1) The key to this painting is a line that cuts across the painting at a specific angle and then zigzags. Trying out four different positions and bringing in blue-black and violet...



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HARBOUR Pink and Yellow 30x25cms 2020 Copy'Charlestown 11 - (Rose and Yellow)'  30x25cms  oil on canvas  2020