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'20 Books = 20 Paintings' can be seen in 'Painting the Novel', a solo-exhibition at Linden Hall Studio, Deal, 26 Jun- 17 July, 2021


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Great elation with the completion of the series, paintings spawned from the crime-fiction that I read incessantly. BOOK 7 has been re-worked several times - a beast indeed -  but now,finally, we have a strong painting. A three-year project that took me deeper into painting, with many moments of pleasure, despair and surprise. In the search for ideas for paintings, many books were read, many were rejected, many favourite authors didn't make the cut.

Working in series brings in a competitive element: the recent reworkings have brought greater clarity to several of the pieces. Now there are no more brushmarks, adjustments to make, no more scouring the pages of the novels for further possibilities. Instead we have the exciting anticipation of seeing the series together for the first time in the beautiful space at Linden Hall Studio. 

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’20 Books = 20 Paintings’ celebrates the act of reading, the twin canvas-format referencing the physicality of books, of holding, turning pages. But these are paintings, books that don’t close. 

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These interpretations of the novel continue a lifelong interest in the frisson and ambiguities between information and imagination, between image and the shape of place, between ideas and process. In contrast to the 63 paintings of the 'City of Glass' series (from Paul Auster's'The New York Trilogy), where I had the space to develop both the breadth and detail of the novel, in this series the challenge was to sum up the essence of each book in a single paintIng. Although each are different, there are common threads: a distinctive, specific palette in each, a critical image perhaps, locations, on differing scales,often wth pointers to where the bodies were found. 

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In the spirit of the genre of crime-fiction, I have deliberately withheld the source novels, leaving a space for the viewer to become a detective themselves in interpreting the clues in the imagery, palette and titles. If they wish. This elusion forced a new discipline within each painting - what not to put in.  If I felt a visual 'clue' was too obvious, a new solution had to be found. 

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The series opens-up the question of whether outside references are needed at all to enjoy/understand the work: painting is, after, all a visual medium.  This dilemma has been my challenge, the edge in the series, the juggling act between context, communication and the formalities of painting.  

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Viewer, the choice is yours: however you wish to 'read' these paintings, my hope is that they engage and intrigue you, as purely visual entities, working on the senses or as a bridge between the visual and written worlds. Or both. The pleasures of looking...

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I recently returned to my 'Penzance' series in 'The Painting Process 4'. The making of the new paintings was recorded on 8 half-hr videos, filmed by my daughter Faye, and posted on YouTube, available to subscribers. These are still available to view for a subscriber fee of £50. Please email and we will send you the links.

Three very different paintings emerged which I'm looking forward to showing together in my exhibition at the Crypt Gallery in St.Ives 29 May - 4 June. There is a wildness and freedom in PZ 15, with colour/water flowing through multiple entrances and exits around the canvas.  


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A candy-striped beginning before a harbour-shape is forced into the painting, first in line (1) then with poured and smeared liquid-paint. Not happy with the shapes, which seemed to follow the edges of the canvas too uniformly, the painting is transformed by turning it around and allowing the viridian/rose mixes to spread around the canvas before bringing in a new softer shape with rounded corners (4). In the finale, the droopy green was lifted towards the top-right corner, supported by a vibrant orange stripe.


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The sharpness of the house-shaped innner harbour leads the eye to the harbour entrance...


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 The harbour entrance, both a barrier and an entrance: paint brushed and cut, poured and smeared...




Finding a shape in Indian Yellow (1). this harbour-painting somehow morphed into an exotic interior (3), before being rescued by working from a new dynamic drawing (4)


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After a few tinkerings, questions answered, the painting is done, the last act a barely-there horizontal edge of turquoise across the large pink-shape. A tough calI but I decided that the windows in the church in the version below were a distraction, disrupting the flow of colour and the sublime tension of whether the pink paralellogram touches the tower...


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Love this detail - could be a painting in itself. So does the pink-shape touch?


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Four stages of the painting, continuing with the triangular composition that I explored in my recent interpretation of Cezanne's 'The Large Bathers', but here, more dynamic. 


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For a long time, the drawing was stronger than the painting, but now the painting gives so much more.


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A transformation in the studio this morning. Gone are the anaemic pinks and crude green from last week (below) and the hesitant meeting of the central pink and blue. The painting is now about colour, tuning in to Cezanne's exquisite relationship between warm and cool hues. I've enjoyed re-drawing the figues with rust-red line and and the negative-space of the blue that now floods downwards, echoing the lake in the original.  In this interpretation, I've picked up on Cezanne's distinctive slanting brushmarks and repeated triangular motif, also highlighting the beautiful curve where the two groups of figures almost meet. Leaving out the horizontals and vertical trees and figures and making the foreground more triangular seems to emphasise the 'leaning', creating a different, twisting, more ambiguous space.


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Working from great art from is commonplace and a valid part of art training. Incredibly, although I have been influenced by many artists, this is the first time I have worked directly from another painting. One of my artistic heroes, Frank Auerbach, draws incessantly from his heroes at the National Gallery - Tintoretto, Turner, Titian, Poussin, Rembrandt. 'Towards the end of a painting I actually draw from pictures more, to remind myself what quality is and what is actually demanded of paintings. Without these touchstones, we'd be floundering...' 

I guess we all have the weight of art history on our backs when we pick up a paintbrush, but it's there to learn from, a guide and a resource, as we search to make our own statement.


The Large Bathers 'The Large Bathers' 1898 -1906 Paul Cezanne


'The Large Bathers'  was my choice for my demonstation painting in the  'INTERPRETATION: Re-working the Masterpiece' workshop, that I hosted recently. I've always loved the version in the National Gallery, but chose this painting because of the powerful triangular composition. In the workshop, all the artists were asked to produce 4 drawings from their chosen masterpiece, with a different emphasis in each, as a way in to painting. Looking back, my painting contains elements of all 4 of my studies.


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'The Conversation', Matisse


'All artists have their influences. Many have taken this further and re-worked and re-interpreted the work of other artists...'

We recently held our second online ZOOM painting-workshop, 'INTERPRETATION: Re-working the Masterpiece', with the artists choosing a favourite painting to work from. Their selection included works by Matisse, Pieter de Hooch, Gauguin, David Hockney, Klimt, Bonnard and Cezanne.  A formidable task, with the ambition for each artist to put their own individual stamp on their chosen work.  However, the focus and intensity of working over the 2 days resulted in some striking and inventive paintings.

The workshop began with each artists introducing themselves (and their chosen painting) to the group. This was followed by a talk and Powerpoint presentation, showing the many different ways that artists - both historical and contemporary, have responded to the work of other artists. 

The group were then asked to produce four drawings from their 'masterpiece' - each with a different emphasis, injecting the personal, giving four options and ideas for a painting.


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Hazel Crawford's studies from 'Garrowby Hill' by David Hockney


The rest of our time was devoted to painting, with further demonstrations, with each artist having a personal tutorial on both days.  During the workshop artists were asked to email images of their paintings to help with their tuition. For our Group Critique at the end of the course I put together another Powerpoint slideshow so we could all see and comment on the many fine paintings produced.






1. Beryl Hawker: from 'The Conversation' , Henri Matisse

2. Jenny Kellington: from 'The Pink Studio', Henri Matisse

3. Catriona Campbell: from 'The Virgin', Gustav Klimpt

4. Ruth Dalzell: from 'Courtyard in Delft', Pieter de Hooch

5. Ashley Hanson: from 'The Large Bathers', Paul Cezanne

6. Hazel Crawford: from 'Going up Garrowby Hill', David Hockney

7. Barry Kellington: from 'Are you Jealous?' Paul Gauguin

8. Hazel Crawford: from 'Garrowby Hill', David Hockney

9,10,12. Suzanne Jones: from 'The Conversation', Henri Matisse

11. Barry Kellington: from 'The Table', Pierre Bonnard 



'I cannot thank you enough for two amazing days I was very apprehensive at first with Zoom but it went well. I was blown away by the explosion of colour particularly  happy making in these peculiar times. I learnt so much and hope I can take part another time. Meanwhile I have fallen back in love with my oil paints and feel inspired to use them again'  SUZANNE JONES

'I really really enjoyed the course and meeting the other participants. My best bits were the individual tutorial time with Ashley, watching Ashley work on his own painting and the group crit at the end. It was also great to have some general chat time, which we would have had at lunch and breaks on a physical course. I  also tuned in some times to other people's tutorials while I was painting and I enjoyed that too. The course was the right balance of teaching and practical time for painting'  RUTH DALZELL

'We really enjoyed the workshop, which was just at the right time amidst this terrible lockdown.  It gave us a ray of light to lift the spirits and to get us painting again. I enjoyed the initial talk you gave Ashley and understanding how the great artists had copied other pictures. The quick drawing worked for me and I will use again. In fact I am hoping to use the entire process again'  BARRY & JENNY KELLINGTON

'I’ve attended a few workshops with Ashley in real life so wondered what the virtual experience would be like. I was pleasantly surprised and as usual felt inspired by Ashley’s presentations and demonstrations.   The tutorials worked very well and it was good to see everyone else’s work throughout the two days and in the critique at the end. To anyone hesitating about doing an online workshop with Ashley I’d definitely recommend you give it a try. You won’t have to carry your materials and the time you save on travel you can use to do more painting!' CATRIONA CAMPBELL


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The possibilities of painting in crime-fiction...


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We may have reached the end of the series! The flatter blue has transformed the painting, pulling down those blues from above. Ditto the black-side. I've tuned up some of the colours in the top band and the white -stripe on the left, now sharper & clearer. It is very satisfying seeing an idea from the novel, making it visual but without compromising my own ideals and ambitions for painting. I'm enjoying the contrasting drawing on the left and right sides and the crafted, musical marks in the top bands. And the elusiveness of the imagery, there but not there...


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 Things are happening. The novel is about a strange symmetry and of course the twin-canvas format allows that. But this is emphasised by the placement of the location as a balanced dynamic chevron. 

There have been a lot of blues towards the end of this series - I need a very special blue to simplify the area above the chevron, something less gestural...


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Two rows completed...


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Three different ways to go with this painting...


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The '20 Books=20 Paintings' series will be shown for the first time in 'Painting the Novel', a solo-exhibition at Linden Hall Studio, Deal 3 - 24 April 2021.