Yesterday was about establishing the palette and bringing in the ideas about image and location from the novel. Today was about bringing unity and simplification to the painting, finding a balance of shapes and colour. After trying a few things out on Photoshop, I was In the studio early morning. The orange was deepened and brought round to the left side, butting up against a new dense green triangle, top-left. Gone were chimney pots and superficial gesture. The drawing inside the the labyrinth was also refined and we have a new title:'1981', my first year at art college...



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The first session...lunch. A novel where a serial-killer is not the main news...,


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BOOK 11: Re-visited Nov/Dec

Always an awkwardness with the relationship between the central red-shape and the larger lozenge red/orange shapes - a suspicion of images crowbarred into the painting. I took them all out to bring emphasis to the design of curves and the sparseness and palette of the (written) landscape that inspired the painting.


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A revisit: intensifying the reds in the central shape and introducing a tiny yellow cross, marking the location of the climax of the novel and bringing a point of focus to the painting...


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Yellows poured and scraped and knifed onto the left side, set off by the tumbling purple curves, a roller-coaster ride to the bottom-right corner. Deeper into painting: ideas introduced, manipulated, discarded, finding out what is important to the piece. At first view, it's colour and shapes, surface and rhythms of curves, controlled by horizontals and the canvas-divide. But the desert-palette is specific to the source novel, with disguised imagery and location locked into the composition. There's a new transparency to the paint, with more taking off than usual and a boldness and delicacy in the marks.

Time to walk away and enjoy...


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That's better- a large swipe (and wipe) of transparent red from bottom right to top left has created a simplification and unity, its edge linking to the scarlet lines.


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A good session trying out ideas, location and image.  It's got a little busy with too much narrative - I don't think the dark 'building' belongs in the painting. I am enjoying the drawn double 's', abstracted from a key image. It needs to be more prominent.


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Crossing continents in many ways...a psychopathic gunman, good versus evil & Biblical references - a great book to work from...

Reds and orange leftovers from 'BOOK 12 - (Heat)', surrounded by washes of Indian Yellow and Transparent Oxide Yellow and spots of a dense Red/Green mix, one more red, one more green. 

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Here's a dilemma... portrait is more ambiguous, more about colour and line and the idea of harbour, whereas the landscape-format is closer to place, image more prominent, the yellows implying the swell of water curving upwards on the left-side. Back to portrait, and slipway becomes a triangle, pointing upwards to a near square, the eye continuing a clockwise journey around the painting, the tension of a fragile frame, barely containing the weight of yellows ...

What is real? Blue stripe or strip of sea? It can be either or both, the frisson of possibility that runs through my work. But more importantly, the cobalt line belongs in the painting, bringing in vitality and difference. We can, and are, enjoying the painting both ways...


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 This is the buzz with painting; taking an intuitive leap that risks all and brings completion, joy and surprise. I feel lucky.



Painting in my sleep again...thoughts of had to be Cobalt (with a touch of Viridian) - it looks sensational with the Raw Sienna. Late yesterday, I introduced Lemon and reworked the  internal yellows, particularly around the curved bulge in the bottom right, picking up the green underneath. There is a solidity about that section now, held by the blue line....We're done.


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HARBOUR: structure and movement, solidity and liquidity. The idea of 'harbour': enclosure, entrance, like a vase...



A shift in orientation. A higher-key yellow adds weight to the centre and pushes the 'frame' to the canvas edge, reinforced with a heavy smeared line. Sitting good. Now there is more space, strength of colour, clarity and a delicacy with the new drawing - a harbour has been found. Nearly there...(4)


The painting began with a Raw-Sienna/yellow stain, a new colour- a Light Green/Magenta mix, adding weight and contrast - and a slash of masking-tape. (1). Too many same-size elements: the painting is simplified with a flood of a liquid three yellow mix (2). Now there are too many entrances! This is resolved with a chunky sweeping mark in the bottom right, simplifying the composition, taking the eye upwards. (3) Now there is an internal frame, with a movement between the four elements. Love the colour hum in the top-left corner and the hidden strength and precision of the revealed line when the masking tape was removed.  This beautiful mark is the unexpected - let's build around it (below)


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Ever since art college, I have long admired the paintings of Richard Diebenkorn, (above 'Ocean Park 131), beautiful and painstakingly fought for, seeing them in the flesh for the first time at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1991. At a time when artists were taking a stance about the future of painting, what painting should or should not be, Diebenkorn just followed his instincts, seamlessly switching from from abstraction to figuration and back to abstraction in the Ocean Park series, in my view one of the greatest bodies of work of the 20th Century. 

In the recent 2-day 'Freedom in Painting' workshop at Queens Park Art Centre in Aylesbury, the twelve artists looked at his work and methods and used this as a springboard into their own painting. To achieve this, each artist was asked to bring along a printed image of a favourite Diebenkorn painting and then to draw a simplified translation onto a canvas. Then they were asked to find a visual connection between between the same image in the studio and make a drawing on paper. The new drawing was then superimposed onto the the drawing on the canvas and the painting began - a mixture of art history and reality. The studio was rich with possibilities - lots of windows, exposed roof-beams, paintings, easels, tabletops, which were all inventively used and explored in the paintings below:


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'The course challenged me to explore texture and form. Loved it!' JENNY GREEN

'The workshop helped me to loosen up and look anew'  ALAN KIDD

'Wonderful! All the advise Ashley gave really helped me think about my painting - composition especially, marks and lines' APRIL JONES



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The aim on all the Freedom in Paintings courses is for our artists to leave their comfort zone, take some risks and go deeper into painting. In the Spring painting-workshops at Creek Creative, in exploring the idea of 'HARBOUR', the two groups of ten artists certainly delivered.

The preliminary talk was divided into three sections, which led into three different ways into painting. The first section was weather, looking at the work of Joan Eardley and Emil Nolde in particular. In their first painting, the artists were asked to put down a simple harbour structure which they were encouraged to overwhelm with gestural and inventive mark-making, echoing the movement and power of the sea.


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This was followed by looking at the motif of harbour in the work of Kokoshka, Dufy, Marquet and the Post-Impressionists. In an exercise to mirror the methodical Pointillist technique of Signac and Seurat, the artists were asked to paint/print an interpretation of their chosen harbour using only given a small wooden block (canvas tighteners!). Within that remit, the artists were impressively inventive.


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For the third source of inspiration we looked at the abstractions of the St.Ives School - Terry Frost, William Scott, Paul Feiler, Peter Lanyon  - leading to simplifications of the source material and the idea of melding different viewpoints and image.



To see a gallery of larger images please visit the Freedom in Painting Group on Facebook HERE. Below is my own painting from the workshop....


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'A very enjoyable two days - excellent teaching from Ashley who shared his knowledge and experience with the group generously'  FRANCES BEAUMONT

'Ashley has pushed me on to experiment with new ideas'  KARIN BOURNE

'Always moves me out of my comfort zone'  JANE CRANE