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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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'Porthleven 34' 30x25cms

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'Porthleven 35'  30x25cms


'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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4 CopyPaint-pots from 'Porthleven 35'



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






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Happy with the new painting now. it's been hard to get into the studio with so much going on but of course I've been painting in my head for days, searching to move the painting forwards both as a painting and an idea. I mentioned earlier that the painting was specific to a series and not a particular book, but I think I have resolved that problem. Images are now embedded, subservient to the painting - the essence of my work. As no-one has discovered the identity of the novels that inspired the first three paintings in the series, I thought i'd put a clue in the title with this one.


Something I tried earlier below, the green shape within the green, was too tentative, irrelevant, a droopy downward movement that weakened the painting. Contrast with what the yellow dots bring in the final version..they explode upwards and outwards...


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 'BOOK 4' - The first session...

A strong start with an idea that establishes the series but not the particular novel within the series. A kind of blue...


Exhibition day


The springboard for this years two October Porthleven courses was the sizzling colour in the Patrick Heron exhibition at Tate St.Ives and the lineage of colour through Bonnard and Matisse. This year, our 'gallery-day' was at the beginning of the course with a colour-exercise on canvas on our return to the studio late afternoon. Many of the exercises then became paintings during the week.


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Day 2 began with a drawing session around the harbour, which never fails to inspire. Each artist worked on a single sheet of paper, with several drawings superimposed, which undermined the idea of 'truth' from a single viewpoint with repeated motifs and unexpected rhythms providing another way into painting.


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As we moved around the harbour, the artists were asked to pick out shapes and shadow and negative-spaces. Manipulations/editing and collage were encouraged to strengthen and simplify the drawings, a process designed to provoke ideas and specifics for painting. 


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Over the next few days, these ideas extracted from the landscape were developed into paintings, the artists also responding to incident and phenomena such as the gig-race and the extraordinary shadows thrown by the clocktower seen from the studio.


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Each artist found their own Porthleven, and as always, the paintings were displayed in a one-one day exhibition at the end of the week, this year attracting a record number of visitors (and sales!).


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