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New pleasures and observations, a different wall, beautiful light, the pinks warmer, zinging, holding their own more against the dark-blue... it's a wonderful thing if a painting can continue to please, change, provoke thought over time. A days' distance from the deliberation of painting the idea...sensation:colour against colour, the intuitiveness of the placement of the large green block on the right of Central Park forming an invisible necessary horizontal with the thin red shape on the left. Above the orange, the rightness and crispness and purity and criticalness of the double-curve (in the same green), forward against the red: without it the painting would dissolve into mush. Try it - cover it up with your finger. All the horizontals and blocks/blobs/colour seem to have the right controlling weight. Ideas and intuition in sync. QUESTION: what am I looking at? ANSWER; many things....The painting is also intimidating: an artist has to do it again in the next piece..and again...'the fear and thrilll of the chase....'


Looking at the painting again this morning, the excitement cranking up further: The Book is Central Park is the Tower(of Babel) is the dark-blue of night is the Book. Quadruple-meanings and possibilities...the verticality of New York, street-view, simultaneous. The New York canyon-thing, the Book is the negative space between buildings... the organic marks a crowd, people moving through space....         Painting Truth.


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The book that inspired the series* is now in the painting, is the subject of the painting. It sits - a powerful presence, it's hard to look anywhere else. The Book is Central Park is the Book. This duality is the essence of the piece: flitting from one interpretation to another, impossible but exhilarating. The book was scraped-back and repainted several times today until I found that critical tipping-point where paint is something, gains an identity or even has the possibility of being something. One more brushstroke and the paint becomes illustrative and grabs too much attention, discordant in the language of the whole. That's why having the book title down the spine didn't work.   Glazes of ultramarine and alizarin, now a convincing shape, monumental. The colours are working for me.


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The Book is Central Park is the Tower (of Babel) is the dark-blue of night is the Book



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Denser, weightier blue, book-form emerging, 'side' and perpective suggested by two tiny onto green - love the large writhing pink-mark on the right-side- 'organic', near-rectangle, echoes the blue...hovering, coming forward, making space...Manhattan elusive - hinted at, defined? by specific shapes and proportions and the new dark angled line edging the orange, now extended...'there but not there'- the mantra for the series

It's open, ambiguous, exciting - the book/park still a slab of paint with a mere suggestion of form. To shake up the painting, I have to try putting in the title the title and author's name down the spine - another downward movement- to see if the painting looks ridiculous or, because of the source in text, it gains an edge. 

 Getting deeper into painting.


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Some wilder marks on the right-side, lines of movement linking to the curves. The park/book now having a physical-presence, beginning to sqeeze out from the surround. A few horizontals to bring some order & stop the eye sliding out of the painting. The cluster of horizontals/streets, piers and blobs underneath the park/book looking interesting...


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It's good to be working again...this is the painting after the first session, on a red/orange ground. The idea has been around for a while...I saw that Central Park was the same proportions as the spine of my copy of 'The New York Trilogy' or any book.  In this painting the Park will be the book, an image painted graphically, near life-size.  Lets see how it sits in the language of colour and mark-making that surround it. The challenge is to make it work- the illusion of being able to grab and slide the book out but from what space?

 The blue/park/book not yet right- needs to be more ultramarine. Underneath is a pink to further drag through tomorrow. It has a presence. Early days.


 *'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster


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I recently hosted two back-to-back Freedom in Painting courses in Porthleven, welcoming artists from all over the country. As per usual, each course ended with a one day exhibition in our studio at the Old Lifeboat House, with its fabulous location at the the harbour-entrance in Porthleven. 


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Early morning in Porthleven: the Ship Inn with the studio just beyond


Each Porthleven course has a theme, this year it was 'Curve & Boat', which caused a couple of groans when the theme was announced!  The artists were introduced to a range of images exploring the theme, including Van Gogh, Munch, Kandinsky,Dufy, Matisse, Patrick Heron, Terry Frost, Bridget Riley & Ellsworth Kelly.

Both courses followed the same-format with a mornings drawing session around the harbour, working with the theme and searching for ideas for paintings. Following the theme, on our gallery day this year we visited galleries in Penzance and Newlyn, with further drawing sessions around both harbours with different shapes and larger boats.

We saw some fantastic paintings by Jeremy le Grice at the Tremenheere Gallery and paintings and inventive collage by Robyn Denny at the Newlyn Art Gallery plus some inspiring work by contemporary Cornish artists. 


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The group-exercises this year included starting a painting with twelve curves, each different in shape, weight, colour or execution. On another, the artists worked with paper, using shapes taken from the landscape, which then became a template for a painting.




There was an amazing work-ethic in the studio, inspired by the beauty of Porthleven with the sound of the sea through the open studio door. No-one can expect to resolve a painting in a couple of days but the quality, quantity and range of work produced was a revelation. There was plenty of socialising in the evenings aswell, often with the artists returning to the studio after a visit to The Ship next door. 

As always, exciting times when the studio is cleared and the paintings revealed for the exhibition. Congratulations to the 14 artists!




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My two paintings from the October courses.




'I think all good painting looks as though the painting has escaped from the thicket of prepared positions and has entered some sort of freedom where it exists on its own, and by its own laws, and inexplicably has got free of all possible explanations' 


'The more courageous that I am in destroying partial success, the more likely it is that I will get something alive and true'


A brilliant 2 day Freedom in Painting workshop at Creek Creative in Faversham, using the ideas, ideals, methods and the work of Frank Auerbach as a springboard for our own search for truth in painting 'clearly and raw'. Without the luxury/challenge of 200-300 sessions with the model to finish a piece, each of the ten artists went deep into painting, acknowledging destruction and change as a neccessary part of the creative process, to push their paintings forward to find the unexpected.

An introductory talk was followed by an intense 2hr drawing session and a painting session after lunch. On the Friday morning, the artists were given the option of erasing the previous days work and starting again, mirroring Auerbach's discipline since the mid 70's. As always, the workshop ended with an invaluable group critique.

 A special thank-you to Sharon Smithers, our model and inspiration for the selection of paintings in the gallery below. 


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'I have learned to be not care but to really be me. It was a profound but not easy experience - I went beyond limits'  KATHLEEN ALBERTER

'Ashley made me take risks & get out of my comfort zone'  HAZEL MCINTOSH

'This Auerbach workshop was extremely inspiring. Ashley's knowledge and enthusiasm shone'  MARGARITA HANLON

'Good enthusiastic class helped by active teacher'  JOHN CACKETT




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'Black Harbour'  80x60cms


Disparate sources providing ideas for the new painting.  Joni  Mitchell's 'Black Crow' from 'Hejira' on the way to the studio- love that album, all-time favourite. The three versions of Dufy's 'Black Cargo'. Richard Diebenkorn's black and orange 'Ocean Park 133'. The dark paintings of Jeremy le Grice at Tremenheere - stirring. 

Inky, dense blacks, mainly Prussian Blue and violet + another: Hookers Green, Magenta, Raw Umber.  A single focus - find a shape, find the shape. Paint poured and pushed towards the edges and corners, obliterating the unncessary.  Shape refined, drawing and re-drawing, exhilerating, Female. The left-side, dark to light to reveal and contrast the beauty and density of the black harbour-shape. The last act: the fat pale- blue brushmark, top to bottom- twice. Spawned by Porthleven, this painting escapes 'place' and simply 'is'.

A last look at the sea: it's relentless, like life...

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The painting from the recent Porthleven course, exploring the course-theme of 'Curve/Boat'.  Playful, graffiti marks - movement though the gaps between piers to the the two paralell lines of the slipway, top-right. Purple to purple. Shapes taken from the landscape. The shape with its scalloped-corners revealed at low tide on the top-right pier. Triangle motif,  green to set off the orange and pink. Pastel-palette- looks different. The key to painting Porthleven harbour is to find the shape- a shape, different each time, to position in the rectangle of the canvas, using the structure to structure the painting. 



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'Porthleven 30 '- beginnings..