City of Glass 27 600 edited 1
City of Glass 57 - (as the crow flies...)   120x80cms


Great to be painting again in Open Studios. It's over a year since the last City of Glass painting but I've had this idea for a new piece for even longer...


The story 'City of Glass'*, begins with Quinn taking a phone call from someone asking for the Auster Detective Agency. When the phone rings agan a couple of nights later, Quinn pretends to be 'detective' Paul Auster, and takes on the case. Author Paul Auster also places a character 'Paul Auster', a writer, in the novel, whom Quinn visits, giving the location of his address on Riverside Drive, between 116th and 119th street. Continuing the ideas of journeys and the record of journeys in the novel, and extending further the blurrings between 'fact' and 'fiction' that run through my series, the idea behind this piece was to make visual a journey between fictitious 'Paul Auster's' home to 'real' Paul Auster's home in Park Slope in Brooklyn. Looking at the map, and drawing a line between the two locations, I picked up on the dynamism of the angle created and decided to use it in the painting - a journey as the crow flies...

Planning ahead, (and linking to an exercise on the recent Port Isaac course, where, to force dynamism, I asked the artists to begin their painting with a corner to corner painted cross), I started this piece with a top-right to bottom-left diagonal, it's traces now almost hidden but critical to the painting.  I moved my 'journey-line' several times until I was happy with the position. (In 'reality' Park Slope is the shape to the left of where the line ends, but ending there, while more 'truthfull', was visually,not as satisfying so the line moved). Three main colours: orange from Indian Yellow and Venetian Red, a Magenta and Venetian Red mix, and a Cerulean Blue and Viridian turquoise. A new colour, Michael Harding 'Brilliant Pink' to add intensity.

It looks different, more fragmented than usual, but I think we are done. The space is open and ambiguous, including a mixture of painting grid and street-grid. Rhythms of triangles, jewels of colour and incident. Had one of those days where every change, every line, every colour works out, strengthening the painting. I'll start another version today where, as a finale, by manouvering the canvas, I shall guide a line of liquid-paint between the two locations, across Brooklyn Bridge....There could be a series of different journeys, different routes across different bridges in the painting.. we'll see.


City of Glass 27 DETAIL2 edited 2
detail: Brooklyn piers


* from 'The New York Trilogy'



Congratulations to the twelve artists who came on our recent Freedom in Painting course in Port Issac,Cornwall, a new venue. Their response to place, the landscape and the challenges resulted in a very strong body of work.  The artists were a mixture of all abilities and experience with some new to painting. You may be able to deduce that some of the exercises were about 'frames' and the space between piers...


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Trebarwith Strand


The first day was spent on location at Trebarwith Strand and Port Quinn two of our favourite places. The sea was wild at Trebarwith, crashing against the black rocks. With a mixture of group exercises and personal study the objective as always was to capture the essence of a place through drawing and to find ideas for painting. The brooding presence of Gull Rock became the subject of many of the paintings later in the studio. We had lunch at the Port William Inn, just above Trebarwith, with it's fantastic views of sea, before heading out to Port Quin, dramatic in a different way, with its clifftop views and sweeping 360 degree panoramas.


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Port Quinn


On the second day we worked in and around Port Isaac, on both sides of the harbour and in the fascinating narrow backstreets, seeing the village from all possible viewpoints.  


port isaacPort Isaac - Erica sketching from the pier


The next three days were spent in the studio, using the drawings and studies and the group exercises as a springboard into painting.  We all loved the studio in Port Isaac Village Hall - well-lit, sea-views  and a garden outside. At the end of the course, as always, we ended with a group critique where we could see their paintings properly for the first after the studio was cleared and the artists receive invaluable feedback on their work. Hope we meet again!


DSC 0037In the studio


demo edited 1


port isaac3Port Isaac - the artists





Janet Jervers

Janet Gervers


Thank-you for a stimulating week. Really enjoyed it and will move forward with my own work now.

Francis Beaumont

Learned some useful techniques and more info on how to look and see. Felt useful to be stretched and moved.

Dawn Benson

I found it very helpful - I am trying to use abstraction in my work and feel a little closer every course - but can not work from nothing- there has to be an element of drawing- observation.

Kate Watkins



View from the temporary bridge


Following on from the recent  courses in Faversham, our spiritual guide for the April Porthleven painting course was Peter Lanyon, whose lifelong search for new perspectives ended tragically with his early death in a glider accident in 1964.  We met at the studio early Monday morning, and after a talk about Lanyon's life and work we set out with a twin purpose: to get to know Porthleven through drawing and to search for ideas for painting. The afternoon painting session in the studio was intense with three different exercises geared to start three paintings in different ways. One began with colour, one from abstracted drawing, the third a drawing in paint of the harbour from memory with the discipline of a blue stripe down one side and a horizontal divide.




Tuesday was a gallery day. After seeing Jessica Cooper at Kestle Barton, whose work inspired many of our artists, we visited Tremenheere and had a top lunch before going to see a Gillian Ayes print show and an exhibition of sculptors' prints, 'With Space in Mind'. A personal favourite were the Anthony Gormley etchings of the figure. Then we went off to St.Ives where the highlight was a fine exhibition of St.Ives artists at the Belgrave Gallery.

Wednesday morning began with a half-hour demonstration where I began my own Porthleven painting, inspired by the yellow gig on the walk to the studio. With the Lanyon talk, the drawing, the exercises and the many wonderful pieces we saw on Tuesday, the artists were now fully primed for painting. Over the next three days the artists worked incredibly hard, moving their paintings forwards, working towards the exhibition on Saturday.




Around 2.30pm on Friday we put down our brushes (almost everyone - no names EA!) to clear the studio before hanging the show. This all went smoothly and we managed to show nearly all the work including Richard Barton's astonishing eight canvases. A very strong exhibition once again and to celebrate the achievements of the week we all went out for a delicious meal at The Square restaurant in Porthleven.


P Dinner 2 Copy




 gallery 1new3blog




Great to be challenged to work quickly and try things out and keep moving painting along. Enjoyed having the history of the artistic contect, and particularly Peter Lanyon as back drop to working.

Elizabeth Aspinall

 Always stimulating and thought provoking, not to mention challenging some preconceived notions!

Mitzi Delnevo

Ashley was very good at spending time with each individual and his comments and input were always very helpful. As a result I feel I made some very good progress during the week.

Richard Barton

 Porthleven 29 Lowen Mor 70x50cms 2017 Copy
'Porthleven 29 - (Lowen Mor)'   70x50cms


The yellow gig, 'Lowen Mor', with its' black stripe against a beautiful blue becomes the palette for the painting, made during the recent April Porthleven course. It looks different, playful, spacious, graffiti marks/hieroglyphics describing structure and incident - I feel it has that desired and elusive balance between freedom and control.  The painting follows the instruction given to the artists on the course to place a blue stripe on the side of one of their canvases- an idea designed to break the tyranny of the horizon and the automatic reflex of putting a blue sky at the top of the painting. The blue stripe can be sky, or sea, or a stripe or a vertical or a division of space or a colour to bounce off....

 Pyellow boat 2 Copy


Many thanks to Dave Benbow, one of the artists on the course, who took these photos of the painting in progress and also some videos which we'll try and get uploaded soon giving further insights into my process and thinking.


Publication1300web Copy


The painting was actually started a couple of weeks ago during a talk and demonstration I gave to the Truro Art Society (below). It was a very enjoyable evening and I have fulfilled my promise to the society, that, although obscure at the beginning, the painting would become 'Porthleven 29'.


Ptruro Copybeginnings....

Peter Lanyon Solo Flight new Copy
Peter Lanyon 'Solo Flight'


 ‘It is impossible for me to make a painting that has no reference to the very powerful landscape where I live’ 


Last October, when I announced that the next Freedom in Painting workshop would be 'Looking at Lanyon', the fact that the course filled up very quickly, as did a second workshop put on to fulfill demand, pays testament to the enduring popularity and influence of one of the leading lights of the post-war St.Ives School. And so, recently, there was a remarkable gathering of thirty Lanyon enthusiasts (including myself) at Creek Creative in Faversham, Kent.....

On these 2-day workshops, the aim was not to produce a pastiche but to look at Peter Lanyon's work, ideas, passions and methods as a springboard into another way to approach painting. Using his painting 'Solo Flight' (above) as a start-point, the artists were asked to bring to the workshop evidence and memory of a recent journey, including their own unique 'journey-line', printed off from AA Routefinder....

Both workshops began with a talk about the concept of flight and an in-depth review of Peter Lanyon's life, work and influences. Then, in a replication of one of Peter Lanyon's innovative ways into painting, the artists were asked to make a construction/sculpture, with the theme of 'movement', from card, perspex, string, clay, dowel and anything else to hand, using their 'journey-line' as a key component. Thrown in at the deep-end and with limited materials, the artists responded to the challenge with an array of playful and inventive constructions.


L13 Copy


In the afternoon session, the artists painted from the constructions, considering them not as a still-life but as 'experiments in space to establish the illusion and content of space in painting'. Adding to the complexity of the painting, into the mix went drawings, image, colours, ideas, memory from the artists' journeys. The aim of all the Freedom in Painting workshops is for the artists to explore the possibilities in painting and have in front of them something they have never made before. With a new beginning to a painting.....

The artists worked on this painting until mid-morning on Day 2. Then I gave a demonstration of frenzied mark-making and decision-making, using motifs from my own recent journey to Looe, as encouragement for the artists to make a freer, quicker second painting in a squeezed amount of time.  During the introductory talk, I had inevitably referenced Peter Lanyon's 'Porthleven' (1951) and the story of how, because of the disintegration of the original painting that had taken 14 months to make, Peter Lanyon painted a replica in four hours - the painting hung in the Tate. 


L1.1 Copy
in the studio


As always, the workshops ended with an invaluable group critique. The exercises were challenging - full credit to the artists for their response. The paintings from the workshops can be seen on The Freedom in Painting Group page on Facebook. This was an experimental workshop and many of the paintings in the galleries are works in progress but I hope all the artists can take away from the workshop ideas and inspiration from Peter Lanyon's own journey, life and work. If there was ever an artist that personified Freedom in Painting it is Peter Lanyon.


Very instructive and informative. Really felt I achieved going over my edge. Ashley works really hard for us.   Margarita Hanlon

Stimulating and challenging. Very useful - expanded my perception.  Mitzi Delnevo

 Absolutely great course, talk was fascinating and construction idea was great - even if i went off brief!   Heather Johnston