The latest Freedom in Painting workshop at Creek Creative explored the powerful opposites of black and white.

Each 2-day workshop explores a different aspect of painting to challenge and inform the participating artists. My own practice is dominated by colour but black has been increasingly creeping in over the past few years, and giving it some thought, I concluded that there is usually a reason behind choosing a black and white palette over colour- there are undeniable associations.  In advance of the course, I asked the artists to think about what black & white means to them, both symbolically and emotionally and to resond to the question: Is silence black or white or grey?

Other questions were posed: are black and white colours or non-colours? What's the difference between a black and white painting and a drawing? 

A brief talk on the use of black and white in painting, historically, from 'grisaille' to Gillian Carnegie (with Spain and the USA in the fifties prevalent) was followed by the first group exercise. Each artist artist was given two pieces of A4 card - one black, one white- glued together along three edges. The artists were asked to tear, cut, collage, improvise, to produce an idea/template for a painting. Would black dominate or white? Newsprint was the grey and and I handed out pieces of a glossy cut up Rembrandt painting (shame!) as a contrasting black. Some very inventive results which led to some remarkable paintings. Have fun matching the studies to the paintings...


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A short critique of the studies was followed by a demonstration exploring, discussing, mixing the different tube blacks and whites and made blacks and whites on a grid-structure, including using my first ever tube of Paynes Grey which every other artist in the world seems to have. The artists repeated the exercise onto a grid on their own canvas, another way into painting. This exercise too, led to some strong and eclectic work. My canvas was also the beginning of a new painting in the '20 Books=2 Paintings' series, where black & white are significant in the narrative. 

The rest of the time was spent developing the two exercises into paintings and we concluded the workshop with a invaluable review and critique of the work. Congratulations to the artists. For a perspective on the workshop from one of the participating artists please visit artist Margaret Ramsay's Blog. Click here


A gallery of a selection of paintings - where you can view on a large scale - can also be seen on the Freedom in Painting Group Facebook page here 






Hard work, challenging and really enjoyable thanks particularly to the quality of Ashley's teaching but also to the other participants. I certainly learnt a lot from all of you.  AIDEN FLOOD


 It was a great workshop and some really good work emerged. Huge thanks to Ash and everyone there who made it v special. PHILIPPA LANGTON


A huge thank you to Ashley for this week's painting workshop. The best yet!  TEDDY KEMPSTER



4 Copy4. 'Porthleven 20'  80x80cms

I've recently found some images of 'Porthleven 20' in progress - a much-loved painting soon to be shown in 'Cornwall, Colour & Coast' at The Old Fire Station Gallery in Henley.The sequence shows my enduring fascination with the dialogue and tensions between straight-lines and curves, pared-down representations of male/female and the man-made and natural elements in the landscape. I had a lot of problems with this painting, stemming I think from the three near-equal divisions within the perfection of the square.

The painting came alive when the nonsense of the clocktower/horizontal was removed - which of course took the eye to the left - and with the introduction of the large paler pink-shape curving to the right. The idea came from looking again at Degas's wonderful 'La Coiffure' in the National Gallery, with the curve of the face and the hair sweeping to the right. This clockwise-movement movement was reinforced by the procession of straight lines cutting across the form. Clarity.

The parelell angled spikes of the slipway make a great entry to the painting. Still fond of the s-shape in 1., a purity of drawing which was a breakthrough in this piece which came back in later paintings in the series.

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degas edgar 48'La Coiffure'   Edgar Degas

DSC 018411800 Copy'Cool Yellow Harbour'  50x40cms


Made during last weeks course in Port Isaac.  It's Port Isaac but of course it's Porthleven too...Cool yellows - Lemon, Primrose, Indian Yellow mixes against a just-purple stripe. The conscious/unconscious looping black line, pure and free, securing space. The wedge of grey, critical and holding its own amongst the gang of yellows....The final refinements the two small yellow brushmarks, below the black-line bottom-centre and up the right-side, creating another movement...

The painting began with a demonstration of why the knee-jerk blue sky against green hillside is rarely the most exciting palette in a landscape...

And now it's here: an operation around my eye tomorrow. I needed to do this painting.

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A new painting made on the recent Porthleven course. Chance plays a part in all painting; after a drawing session around the harbour, we began the first painting with a lottery, resulting in each artist having a different colour to work with. My 'selected' colour was BROWN which you don't see often in my work. I had to borrow some Umbers and Sienna's from one of the other artists.  It was a colour challenge but I'd used brown before with Stillman's overcoat in the 'City of Glass' series, so I knew I would be reaching for the blues and pinks.

Waves barrelling in, threatening, submerging the oval harbour-shape that is there but not there, a fragile line. Anti-clockwise circular movement, the different thing the pure pink curve in the foreground - hovering -and the Auerbachesque chevron that defines the top of the painting and brings the eye downwards...


City of Glass 15 Stillman walks1 50x40cms1 Copy'City of Glass 15 - (Stillman walks...)'


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'The Riddle of the Sands'    40x280cms  Penny Watts


There was a fascinating and varied response to the novel from the artists on the recent 2-day Freedom in Painting workshop at Creek Creative, Faversham.  Narrative, incident, characters, location, timelines, were all explored alongside colours and emotions sourced in the text. The theme of the novel was particularly challenging with nothing physical and 'real' to respond to but words provoke image and stir the imagination and the painters' skill makes those images and ideas visual and concrete. 

We did not have a set novel. The choice was down to the artists, who were asked, in advance of the workshop, to read and re-read their chosen work and find the essence and bring ideas and studies to the workshop to transform into painting. Some of chosen novels (or poems) were recently read but most were long-term favourites connecting to the artists' personal journeys and interests. The chosen works were:

'The Riddle of the Sands', 'The English Patient', 'Housekeeping', 'Moby Dick', 'On Chesil Beach', Journey into Nature', 'The Day before Happiness', 'A Sleepwalk on the Severn', 'Wide Sargasso Sea', Remarkable Creatures' & 'Swallowing Mercury'.  Many of the novels contained dark themes which came across strongly in the paintings. 

The wording of the title of the workshop - 'BOOK - Painting the Novel' was deliberately ambiguous, allowing room for the artists to include the physical presence of their book in their painting(s). 


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The relationship between books/text/words and painting is long and distinguished, from illustrations of the Bible and Greco-Roman mythology to Anselm Keifer's responses to the Kabbalah and Paul Celan's heart-wrenching poem 'Death Fugue' in the Margeurite and Shulamith paintings. However, during my research I was surprised to find how rare the novel is/was as a subject for serious painting. 

As always, the workshop began with an introductory talk, referencing paintings inspired by 'Don Quixote', Edgar Allen Poe, Kafka, Lewis Caroll,  Grimms Fairy Tales, 'Lord of the Flies', Albert Camus and inevitably 'The New York Trilogy'.  We also looked at illustration and at the magical trinity of calligraphy, poetry and painting in Chinese art. Ideas and methods were discussed and exchanged before the artists began their personal translation of those ideas into painting. An almost impossible task in 2 days but this commited & hard-working group of artists certainly delivered. 








'Very exciting and challenging workshop.Loved the lecture with photographs at the start'  GRISELDA MUSSETTS

'The workshop brought the painter in me opened the soul - made liquid the heart'  KATHLEEN ALBERTER

'I learned a great deal and now feel I am beginning to understand abstract painting. Ashley is a very inspirational teacher and always has a way forward out of a difficult situation'  ANITA BONE

'The workshop opened me up to trying something I haven't done before - very exciting.'  TEDDY KEMPSTER