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'Polruan Tree Blue' 70x50cms


TUES 6 DEC 2022

'A celebration in blue' - thank-you, Jane Crane. A final few tweaks of line and colour, a final soaring, framing blue introduced, the wonderful Michael Harding 'Kings Blue Deep' into the top-right corner.

A remembered tree, with the diamond-shaped Fowey estuary wedged into the 'v' of the twin-forks of a tree. Except memory plays tricks: a return to Polruan and no such view exists, the tree is not where I remembered it. This is the artist putting together a painting in his head, finding visual connections, fusing the two elements together. Painting-truth. The blue palette was chosen as a reaction to the oranges and yellows I've been working with predominantly this year. Thank-you Denise!


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A third element was the long shed-like Polruan Village Hall - which we have used as a studio on our 'Freedom in Painting' courses - jammed into the studies below. Above or below or behind the tree? The simpler solution I found was to have an ambiguous broken red/orange line, that references both the roofline and estuary. The breakthrough in the painting came with the mirrored upward movement of blues and branches and the procession of blue and green mixes through the centre, diamond within diamond...


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 The painting emerged from the studies below, exploring possibilities of design and orientation and weight of line, then developed on our recent online 'TREE' painting-workshop, 

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We recently welcomed two groups of artists to our Autumn 'Freedom in Painting' courses in Porthleven, held in the Old Lifeboat House, in Porthleven, Cornwall, in its magnificent location at the head of the harbour. The artists, with different levels of experience, came from all over the UK, looking for inspiration and with the ambition of pushing their practice further. As always, Porthleven delivered...


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We began, as always, with a Saturday morning gallery visit, this time visiting Tate St. Ives and exhibitions by contrasting contemporary landscape painters, Paul Wadsworth and Neil Canning. Back to the studio for our first group painting exercise, where the artists were asked to explore the motif of 'stripes', which have been increasingly prevalent in my own work recently. The artists were asked to reference colours from both the landscape and the paintings from the morning in St Ives, with the discipline of giving all the stripes their own character and difference.  Below is a selection of the resulting studies from the exercise, showing some remarkable ingenuity.


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On the Sunday morning drawing session, we continued the theme of stripes, with the artists drawing stripes on the pages of their sketchbooks - horizontal/vertical/diagonal - before entering the landscape. The idea was to adapt the stripes on the page to the landscape, to find connections, to make a different kind of drawing which could lead to a different kind of painting. 

In the afternoon demonstration, I started my own painting of Porthleven, starting with stripes of differing colours and textures, applied with differing techniques, before introducing one of my drawings of the gap between two of the piers, which had caught my eye that morning. The artists followed the demonstration in their own paintings, choosing a favourite drawing to work from. 


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At the end of the day on Monday, we had a group critique with all the artists ready to show their paintings after 3 long sessions. Most artists started a second or even third or fourth painting over the next couple of days, each painting feeding the next. There was continuous one to one tuition and further demonstrations as I worked on 'Porthleven 61'. We cleared the studio around 2 on Wednesday to prepare for the Thursday exhibition, with all the artists contributing amicably to the hang. Always a thrilling moment when the paintings are revealed. 


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Our exhibition is a point of difference to other painting courses in Cornwall and this year we had  200 visitors over the two exhibitions, giving the artists getting a chance to speak with visitors about their work and to have a good look at what the other artists achieved on the course. All part of the learning process.


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The October Course followed the same format with the exploration of the theme of stripes. As you can see below, the September group hung on closely to the theme, whereas with the October artists, the theme is generally more elusive, providing a structure for the paintings. Congratulations to all  fourteen artists: your hard work and ambition has resulted in a fantastic group of paintings. We hope to see you again soon and also see some of the paintings in our exhibition in Henley next October 'Cornwall, Colour & Coast'.










'What a wonderful location to be in. I feel energised and ready to pursue my painting with vigour again. Your one-to-one sessions are so helpful, your insights are brilliant, Ashley. Thank-you.' CARMEN RENWICK

'The course was really helpful  - colour, tone, methods of mixing and choosing colour, line and definition. Ashley - you are a super teacher and so willing to offer suggestions as to the way forward' CHRISTINA HARRISON

'I needed this weeks course to get my art going again, thank-you. Really enjoyed myself, very inspirational and Ashley is an amazing tutor'  LESLEY TURNER



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MON  22 AUG 2022

This morning, I worked more yellows into the top oranges - 'sky' - to find another, softer, stripe. Above is the best solution: straight but curved, a quiet presence, an echo of the brushstroke on the bottom edge and the thin line above. It went back into the studio three times: It is pure instinct - pure painting - why each of the three versions below were rejected. . (3) was close, the top-stripe strong, pressing downwards,  but too attention grabbing and competing with the force of the charging blue brush-mark. My best brushmark ever? Pure knowing. The final version (above) just 'is': sublime colour and twisting, ambiguous space and form., Porthleven as I've never seen it or painted it.

My only doubt - the title! 'Porthleven 48' was also called 'Orange Pier' - still time to change before I write on the back?

This orange/green thing is getting out of hand!


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The big moves were made yesterday, finding Porthleven in the paint. The breakthrough was the loaded cerulean brush mark smashing into the chevron -  like a meteor - the same mark reversed on the bottom-edge, dragged through the orange. There is an exciting motion in this piece, contained - barely - by the strength of the green-line, now open on the right edge. The isolated orange brushmark, originally one of five, is very powerful, now the only vertical. Visually, it seems in the right place. I wish I'd recorded the early stages of the painting: random marks, including black, with a possibility of 'harbour'...


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 Selected for the Winter Group Show at Linden Hall Studio, 1 Dec 2023 - 30 Jan  2024


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This has been on the wall in our kitchen ever since it was made. I knew the orange shape on the right but couldn't place it, not stopping the enjoyment of the painting.  Finally this summer I remembered the shape of Maine, which I'd painted 5 times in my 'AMERICASCAPES' series and changed the title, which I felt gave it an extra layer of meaning and memory.  Perhaps I am not an abstract painter after all!



A return to the excitement of colour and materials and taking risks....freedom in painting...

Taking ownership of those 'Scully' stripes (my demonstration painting in the recent workshop, below) and bringing vitality and movement to the canvas. The central transparent red-earth stripe broke the pattern, the angled liquid orange broke the division and the stasis, introducing the dynamic, reinforced by new greens and an uplifting blue stripe in the corner. Looks good this way too; 


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Staring for an hour at the study below...self-doubt, juggling possibilities, painting in my head. This could have been a seascape, harbour; this could have been beach huts, this could have been Porthleven...but I chose colour to unify the painting, first the greens, then the orange, over a drawn triangle, guiding the direction of the pour...


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 ‘You can do certain things with painting that are unique to painting that you cannot do with anything else. With a painting you can contain within borders a lot of experience, narrative, emotion, poetry, idea, thought, time, references and so on, all within a frame … Painting has a unique potential to stop time and compact feelings and experience'  SEAN SCULLY     


On the recent 'Freedom in Painting' workshop, held in Paxford, in the Cotswolds, we looked at the work of influential abstract painters Hans Hofmann and Sean Scully. Their contrasting ideas, methods, language, provided a fascinating insight into colour and space, pattern and repetition in painting. The workshop began with an introductory talk about their life and work, followed by a group exercise, where in a symbolic entry into abstraction, the artists collaged floating rectangles of colour over reproductions from Matisse's 'Notre-Dame' series!  


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The exercise was aimed at exploring Hofmann's 'Push/Pull' theory of how space, depth and motion in a painting can be affected/controlled by shapes of varying colour temperature, saturation, tone & scale, and the studies produced became the template for the first painting.


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'I don't paint space, I paint things.'  The way in to the second painting was the grid, the structure of all Sean Scully's work. The artists were asked to draw several grids/patterns/possibilities before selecting one to take forward into painting. Like Scully, some of the grids were a synthesis of life-experiences, others pure invention, but another set of strong, punchy paintings emerged. Hats off to the artists!