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In a departure from the 'Beach Huts' series - though there are links - the discipline and enjoyment of a 'Pure Abstract' painting. But what is 'Pure Abstract'? A self-contained painting with no image or reference to the outside world? Is that possible? In this case, the triangle, circle and square become the 'subject', their placement & relationship, scale, colour, application, difference, the essence of the painting. 

I've loved making this painting, a pared down version - 'abstraction' - of what I normally do, just three elements to work with and the emptiness of the ground. The orientation was quickly resolved, the red circle moving upwards from the bottom-edge. The breakthrough was freeing up the shapes and allowing them to float within the colour-field, with the more subtle internal frame helping the movement, dragging the shapes towards each other. Does this follow the principles of Clement Greenberg? - this painting is tactile not flat, the hand of the artist evident, not disguised. A painting of doubt and refinement and search for 'painting-truth'.

Is this 'Painterly Abstraction'. Does it matter?



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RED DOOR MASTER 1200W Copy'Beach Huts (Red Door)'  30x40cms   oil on canvas  2022


The seventh painting in the 'Beach Huts' series. Colourscapes. Different, fresh-looking, open. Enjoying the seamless switching between the abstract and the figurative, the simplified triangle under the steps critical to this transition. Which stripe is the red door? This is my territory, injecting personal experience into the formalities of painting. This is a painting, this is Whitstable, where I lived as a student at Canterbury College of Art, where I found my freedom in painting through colour.

This is colour, this is drawing, this is composition, this is a love of oil-paint, all the things it can do: wet-on wet, wet on dry, opaque and transparent, thick and thin, weight and lightness, glowing colour - new yellow, new reds - knife, brush, pour, fingers. The decision-making comes from intuition and from the painting: what to leave, what to embellish, creating space and colour relationships and ambiguities. Transformation of the jigsaw below into a painting. 

Looking again, I'm enjoying the unintended subversion of reality. The beach huts face the sea, the viewer is on the beach, but the colours of the sea creep in from the right side, behind the beach huts, until a form appears.


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STUDIO 11 CopyOur studio: the Old Lifeboat House, Porthleven


Once again we welcomed artists from all over the UK to our two Autumn 'Freedom in Painting' courses in Porthleven, Cornwall, held in the fabulous Old Lifeboat House (above). Both courses ended with a final-day exhibition, showcasing the exciting and varied work produced during the week.

This year's courses began with a visit to the Kurt Jackson Foundation in St.Just to see his latest exhibition 'Kenidjack', followed by a quick drawing session at nearby Priests Cove, the subject of several paintings in the exhibition. Back at the studio, the drawings inspired our first colour-based painting exercise, with the challenge of the palette for each artists' painting drawn by lottery...


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Drawing played an important role during the week both as a response to the landscape and a source for the paintings. Artists were also encouraged to draw during the painting process, to work through ideas and possibilities for their paintings. On both courses, typical to Cornwall, we had an ever changing range of weather and light to inspire our artists: wild seas, high tides, rainbows, and beautiful, calm sunny days.


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Looking out from the studio


The September course co-incided with the inaugural Porthleven Arts Festival and we took a time out to hear a wonderful talk and slideshow about the making of Peter Lanyon's great painting 'Porthleven' (1950), given by Chris Stephens from The Holbourne Museum, Bath.


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The course was punctuated by further group exercises, demonstrations, group critiques and plenty of one-to-one tuition. As the week progressed each artist found their own focus, all encouraged to take risks and push their paintings further. It is a joyous thing when you have in front of you something new and unexpected and fought for. 


JAN X2EDIT CopyThe development of Jan Bunyan's 'Clocktower'


It's always a wonderful moment when the the studio is cleared and transformed into a gallery and the paintings are finally revealed. The final-day exhibitions make our courses unique and allow the artists to talk to the public about their paintings. And the rota system also gives the artists an opportunity for a bit of well-earned R & R after their labours during the week!


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 On each course, as part of my teaching, I work on a new Porthleven painting for the final day exhibitions. Here are my two from the Autumn courses:



 You can find details on our Painting Courses in Cornwall for 2022, from here 

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16 SEPT 2021

'Yellows on a wet Red-Oxide/Phthalo Green ground first...then the beach-huts. Work the imge, work the ground, re-draw the image with the ground...move the image, get the spacing right, open up the image, allow the ground equality: this is colour, this is drawing, this is composition, this is instinct, this is knowledge, this is now, this is art history, this is painting...'





I recently hosted a 2-day painting workshop at Paxford Village Hall, deep in the Cotswolds, where we explored a shifting relationship between 'Image & Ground', working with the motif of Beach Huts. The nine artists were asked to bring studies/drawings/photos of their favourite beach-huts as a reference but everyone's beach huts painting developed into something more personal, more ambiguous, more interesting, as much about ideas, process and imagination as the source material.


jancrop CopyThe progress of Jan Bunyan's painting...


The workshop began with a talk, illustrated with many historical and contemporary examples, showing how, in the history of painting, the role of the background changed, from a purely secondary one, supporting the image, to something much more prominent and equal. As always, the talk was followed by a demonstration, and then the artists began their own paintings, alternating between image and ground, shifting scale, colour, composition, even orientation, until the paintings began to emerge.

During the 2 days there were further demonstrations and plenty of one-to-tuition, with many of the artists working on a second canvas

The ambition behind every 'Freedom in Painting' workshop is that instead of painting the subject, we are using the subject to make a painting. In the Paxford workshop, this ambition was achieved by all the participating artists in their painterly, inventive interpretations of the subject.