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BOOK 5: Re-visited Nov/Dec

New reds, new reductions brings a new clarity and a powerful painting...


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Changes made, painting sharper and more vibrant - we're done.


A six hour session in the studio - out of the black - liking this painting now, (5) driven by Fisherman's Blues and The Koln Concert. Strangeness: 'place' hanging from the significant tree, with its' blue box. Intersections of branches and streets connecting visually. An embedded symbol. There are some good reds in there but perhaps they have picked up too much black - I'll freshen them up in a few days and straighten up the edges of the black triangle.The blue mark needs to be a couple of shades darker, more cobalt... possibilities of a thin black curve springing to the top right corner from the nobble on the triangle's right corner...

A black & white colour-mixing exercise (1) becomes a painting...


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The painting at 3pm, (4) was a contender:graphic and strong, but too raw and not enough. The bottom reds kept sliding off! This forced a repainting over the black-lines, re-drawing, and freeing the triangle, with the refined lines sparking the idea of the introduction of the image of the tree, a third element from the novel.


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Darkness and despair! Looking again at (3), not as lost as I thought: we have a book, we have a place - the black triangle - the seeds of the idea are established - now to bring the painting to life...


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Sticky, oily blacks..this could be many things (2) An idea I explored today from a recent crime-novel didn't work with the location too obvious. But there is another book where black is significant...Love this stage of a painting with it's uncertainties and possibilities, working with paint that is alive...let's build around the point of focus of the bright green disc...


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A good session in the the studio today. The painting is joyous, playful, different, the colours a higher key - we're done. The swimmer has always been there (by chance) and I have suppressed/denied the thought but I find I am enjoying the switch from image to abstraction and the painting is richer for it. Today's moves: a balancing purple disc, then several reworkings of the bottom right corner - which I considered too flat - until I found the orange shape/plane. Beyond the enjoyment of colour, shape and line there are Porthleven references if you seek them but I'm happy with the 'hints of structure and telegraph wires'. Very exciting to see the four new Porthleven paintings as a group (bottom of page). Now to find somewhere to show them...

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I don't care much for beginnings, but the one below is quite tasty with yellows, primrose/emerald green and a pink cup-shape, lifted from my painting 'Falmouth' that I've been looking at in the COLOURSCAPES exhibition. I think we have advanced with the introduction of line and simplifications - hints of structure and telegraph wires. Love the pink-shape and violet-white curve, and the movement from bottom to top...


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(L-R: Porthleven 34, 35, 37. 36)

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We're done.The only painting move today a small but powerful angled line, cut into the paint just below centre. A counter-movement reinforcing the top left to bottom right diagonal. A better photo outside the studio: the rose and green across the top are critically equal-toned to create a colour-hum not a vertical.  


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A difficult day in the studio but a good last hour, with eyes, mind and body in sync to transform the tame decorative water (2) into an elemental force. The final brushstroke the central horizontal controlling the tremendous weight of paint/water. Enjoying the cascading marks from sky-blue top-left to rust-red stain. The colour is working, the painting now has depth and is full of movement, different kinds of movement. Top left and bottom right are talking to each other or does there need to be another mark emphasising that relationship? The return of the purple perhaps across the green? As a viewer I feel queasy and unsteady, low in the water, harbour-safety somewhere over there... Mmm...we could be one mark away. I'll be painting in my sleep tonight.


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(3) The diagonal stained with Michael Harding Red-Oxide then wiped..a glow. More drawing, hints of image. 'Place' emerging, a contender...


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 (2) A more complex space with the introduction of line...a disc hangs, magenta added to the blue...I like its' scale and presence.


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(1) Mixes of Light Green and Rose on pale-grey- new colours. Sky-blue contrast. A dynamic formed by masking-tape - a channel...curves against straight-edge...


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'Working with familiar motifs can be freeing...' was something I said during the making of the 'City of Glass'series. Working recently in Porthleven, the challenge once again was to find something new in the familiar. Within the discipline of working with a given colour and one of the letters from the word PORTHLEVEN, (in both cases the letter 'E'), I'm very pleased with the these two very different paintings. On a small canvas, with the scaling up of marks, radical changes can be made quickly with liquid paint and loaded brushes. with image both forced and discovered. 'Edible paint...' commented a viewer...

Working with dense pinks and greens, in '34' there is a new red, a Venetian mix, that glues the painting together. I'm very fond of the framing curved vertical band on the left and the thick pink inverted 'L' in the bottom right corner. I wish I'd taken more photos of the paintings in progress but here's a couple from 'Porthleven 35'.


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With 1, the accidental boats grabbed the attention and with the overwhelming yellow and the spots, the painting an unintended jolly feel. And so the painting was turned and turned...


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2 was a contender but I felt the linking yellows formed too large a shape and the left-side too complex. I wanted the intriguing spaces in the harbour-shape to dominate. After a late night discussion with a couple of artists (thank-you Elizabeth and Mick) I decided to simplify and the painting was turned for the final time. The heavy green was pushed through the paint, smashing the purple triangle and shifting the colour balance, revealing the beauty of the harbour-shapes and the central negative-space to the right of the curve, The final act was the deep pink mark creating a movement across the green verticals. Both paintings went straight onto our wall.


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EXHIBITIONFinal-day exhibition


Once again, a group of seven artists from around the country gathered in Porthleven for the latest 6-day 'Freedom in Painting' course at the Old Lifeboat House studio. The aim, as always, was to find inspiration in the beauty and complexity of Porthleven and use this as the springboard to explore the possibilities in painting...The Old Lifeboat House is in an incomparable location at the head of the harbour, a special studio for all the artists who work there.


The Old Lifeboat House (on left)

The first day of the course is now our 'gallery-day' and this time we headed to Truro. We were all impressed by the mark-making and saturated colour in the landscapes of Martyn Brewster at Lemon Street Gallery. We also visit the Tregony Gallery - great crab sandwiches in the Kings Arms! - and then onwards to COLOURSCAPES, my solo-exhibition at the Heseltine Gallery, which included a selection of my Porthleven paintings.

We returned to the studio for an afternoon painting session where the artists had the challenge of making a small painting with a given colour and one of the ten letters that spells PORTHLEVEN. Out of their comfort-zone, the artist's response was varied and inventive. Some of the artists, including myself, continued to work on these paintings throughout the week. 

GILLIAN SYLVESTER 21Gillian Sylvester's 'N'

 YVONNE AULD 41Yvonne Auld's 'H'


On Sunday morning, a brief talk was followed by a drawing session around the harbour from a multitude of viewpoints, recording place, structure, water, incident, in our search for ideas for paintings. The afternoon session began with a group exercise exploring a variety of opposites, again challenging the artists' skills and ingenuity. For the next three days, the artists pushed their ideas and paintings forwards, interspersed with demonstrations, individual tuition and group critiques. We worked hard, often late into the evening, painting, observing, conversing, learning. 



At 2pm on Thursday, we finally put down our brushes to hang the exhibition. It's always a magical moment when the studio is cleared and the paintings are revealed, with the space to see. Denise joined us for our celebratory dinner at The Square restaurant, delicious food as always. Plenty of mmm's around the table!

We finished the course with a one-day exhibition, welcoming many visitors to the Old Lifeboat House studio.

Below is a gallery of some of the exceptional paintings from the course and I've also posted a gallery on the Freedom in Painting Group Facebook page here , where you can of course view them large scale.

 PS Although our Autumn Porthleven courses are full, we have three places available on the May Port Isaac course. See here for details