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And a small dot in the circle...


The last-move: the circle on the yellow (the residue of a key image from the novel). It strengthens the main-horizontal and a gives a bit of competition to the blue triangle, making it part of a larger triangle. Now there are visual criss-crossings of incident across the canvas and somehow the painting seems more complete. Restlessness, trial and error, following the question 'What if?' until there are no more questions - great preparation for the Diebenkorn workshop in Aylesbury next week.  

'I want painting to be difficult to do'  Richard Diebenkorn


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SAT 8 FEB 3pm

Working the right-side: a subtle shadow cruciform, a soft-pink on the right-edge, a calming down of the floating green block. I've also picked out one of the angled roof-lines of the church and worked in a sliver of green inside. The blue triangle is now even stronger - it gives the painting so much heat - forming a gorgeous relationship with the tiny green triangle, which has its own power. Now there is an elegant cascade of marks from the blue triangle to the bottom-right corner, which counteracts the dominant verticality.  The colour-balance and the weight of the presence of the central image feels just right.  We could be there...


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SAT 8 FEB 1pm

The painting moves on. I've broken down the solidity of the church further with the drawing inside, a church within a church, and moving the brighter orange into the surround. The strong image I had in mind from the first few pages of the novel has been subtly introduced. The right side of the church has been left more indistinct, like when edges move in the heat-haze. I've brought in some quiet horizontals to imply landscape. The green shape was a isolated building in the landscape which I considered too literal. 


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 WEB 5 FEB 2020

Definitely feeling the heat - but how to make it hotter? Acid greens and pinks? More shimmering edges? What is the hottest colour red, yellow or orange? Or white? Not sure where to take the contrasting border yet or why it's there but more interesting  in (2) than (1). The solidity and external view of the church in (1) is now broken down with the cruciform-shape creating ambiguities of inside and outside, plan-view and elevation, which I'll expand further in the next session.  Also resolve how the church sits on the bottom edge. I do like the left-side, the right-side is dead. The church is a better shape in (1), slimmer with the angle of the roof more acute - let's go back to that.

 Too many words about too little...


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When painting 'Heat', this masterful painting by Hans Hoffman sprang to mind. Maybe we can look at Hoffman in the autumn workshop in Faversham...


pompeii 'Pompeii'  1959     Hans Hoffman   Tate Modern


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BOOK 9: Re-visited Nov/Dec

I was shocked at how raw this painting was when I re-looked recently. But the crude whites gave me the springboard to produce a beautiful pastel surface which is unique in my portfolio. In the simplified design, there is now a stronger relationship between the 'images' in the white and the black. A re-read also brings a new title...




I worked on bringing the isolated dark right-side into the painting. A day for detail: punctuations of line and colour across the canvas. I'll have a long look tomorrow but I think we are done. As always the title is critical, changing several times already. Favourites for a while were 'Horizontal' or 'Cold' both with duality of meaning. 'Horizontal' references the powerful horizontal in the painting and also the many victims in the novel. 'Cold' acknowledges the palette but also the emotionless boy-killers in the novel. Denice came up with 'Ice', again with a delicious dual-meaning...


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FRI JAN 24 2020

The introduction of the orange tree has stirred things up...


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The triangle of the mountain top in (1) leads to the angled line in (2) which leads to the tip of the diamond shape in (3). Pourings and smearings; interminglings of the expressive and the geometric, the raw and the refined, the intuitive and the analytical. Now we have meat on the bones...freedom and control, freedom and control...What role for the right-hand dark?


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'BOOK 9' is sourced in a cold landscape, an imaginary island in a real place. Yesterday's beginning (below) was without subtlety, an illustration of an idea, proof again that a pre-conceived painting is a fake painting. With each piece, I have to be in a different place with a new set of problems. Back to the studio to 'whiteout' the painting before re-drawing.


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'BOOK 8 - (smile)'   45x70cms   oil on canvas



The blue was a distraction (see below)

From the pure enjoyment of mixing and placing colours to a tougher painting with the introduction of specifics from the novel, the essence of the novel, locked into the language but with a different presence...


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 The only hard-edged shapes in the painting, enclosing an emptiness of yellow with a solitary dot, like a bullring at noon...(an observation, not a clue)


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6 MARCH 2021

 The curves of 'the beast' are now more prominent and flowing better across the canvas...Orange to red and a swell on the top-right horizon. 


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BOOK 7: Re-visited, December 2020

Possibly the painting that has changed the most during the recent reflections. I thought the version below was confusing and the language too close to the work of Howard Hodgkin. The painting now better reflects the apocalyptic darkness that permeates the novel.

After toying with 'Retribution', 'Retribution Blues', 'Mood Indigo', we have a new title 'The Beast from the Sea', which works on several levels in the context of the novel.


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Looking, brooding over the weekend...brought in some different blues today, cobalt and cerulean, working mainly around the perimeter with cascading shapes and fast marks creating more movement. There is also a new, subtle but critical reference from the novel which of course I can't talk about until the series is complete! I think we are there...


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Is it what you see or what you want to see? 


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Today I brought in light and specifics from the novel. The blues were intensified with ultramarine glazes. I'm enjoying the relationship between the snaking Prussian Blue line and the delicacy of the geometric red-lines, which in turn reinforce the larger triangular motif off-centre. Now there are questions, ambiguities, complexities: is the blue-line free, gestural or controlled, an 'illusion' of freedom? Are the red-lines behind the blue-line or simply smaller? What am I looking at?

This painting is now on a knife-edge. At the moment, the idea of introducing a submarine to bring it closer to the novel seems ludicrous but not impossible - a question of finding the right language,scale and presence. A few different marks or turning the canvas and it becomes Porthleven - now the boards are up in the harbour (below)

 Or perhaps the painting just 'is' - blue can be water or just 'blue'.  


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 SAT 13 NOV 2020

Two books are favourites to be the next painting on the '20 Books=20 Paintings' series...the series needs a rich-blue painting. Starting with paint, marks, colour; then looking for visual connections in the paint to ideas sourced in the novel, before imposing those ideas and looking again...

It's a process that allows for the unexpected and the joy of painting and the flexibility to ride the paintings and change the ideas...


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How to use the beautiful blue? 

A book springs to mind, different from the one's I started with. It struck me that the letters that spell 'BLUE' appear in the name of one of the main characters. Back to the letters again! - It's meant to be. Where to place that submarine?



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We recently welcomed two groups of artists to our Autumn courses at the spectacular Old Lifeboat House in Porthleven.  As always, with its' changing light and tides Porthleven worked its' magic and the standard of work produced this year for our final-day exhibitions was higher than ever. 


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The 6 day courses began with a visit to galleries in St.Ives followed by a group colour exercise back at the studio. Naturally, the subject for all our paintings was Porthleven, but the sub-theme for the courses was the idea of 'window' and painted frames/borders, something that I'd been exploring in my own work since seeing Bonnard at Tate Modern and the wonderful Bozenna Biskupska exhibition at l'etrangere earlier on this year.


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Day 2 began with a talk followed by a morning drawing session around the harbour. Before leaving the studio, the artists were asked to draw simple frames/borders - all different - on 10 pages of their sketchbooks and then place their drawings outside within those frames. This discipline carried through to all the paintings during the week; a painted frame/border/window to be used, worked with or even discarded, to achieve the aim of a different painting.


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On both courses, there was a fantastic sense of purpose and intensity of working, all the artists seizing the opportunity to make art, talk art, eat and sleep art in a supportive atmosphere in a wonderful location. Being a small group, there was plenty of one-to-one tuition during the week, and also an invaluable group critique. As part of my teaching, on each course I worked on a new Porthleven painting. This year, the studio itself became a popular subject for painting, including both my own pieces. 


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We cleared the studio and hung the exhibition on Wednesday afternoon. Always an exciting time when the paintings are revealed!  A quick scrub up before heading off off to The Square restaurant for our well-deserved celebratory meal.  The Exhibition days on Thursday were a great success, the paintings on display showcasing each artists' talents and individuality in their response to Porthleven and the theme of 'window'.




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'I come away each time more able to think as an artist, gaining a deeper understanding which supports and spurs on my painting practice'. JAN BUNYAN

'Ashley you are a wonderful inspiring teacher. You have such a passion for art, that it really shines through your personality, but equally you are patient and sensitive  in your instruction'  APRIL JONES