Wednesday, 10 December 2014

'City of Glass 28- (The Space Between)'

'City of Glass 28 - (The Space Between)'  60x50cms

The space between left-side and right-side, between West Side and East Side. The space between the front and back of the painting, between interior and horizon. The space between shifting planes of colour and between lines. The space between figurative and abstract, fact and fiction, between map-truth and painting truth.
I have been working on this painting for the fast few days and it is directty connected to the forthcoming Canterbury workshop 'The Space Between.. and the ideas from the last painting in the series, 'The Stillman Apartment'. Once again 'the space between' is Central Park and I have been exploring ways to make it dominant, the subject of the painting. The link to the novel* is obscured: the proportions of city blocks and the park with Columbus Circle anchoring the painting on the bottom edge. But these 'facts' are ambiguous and subservient to the painting. The black/violet space is deep and seductive.  I spent an hour staring into that space late last night. Ceramic artist Paul Jackson saw the painting today and posed a question about the grey/green shape hanging in the violet from the horizon/69th St.  The comment made me look hard again but I decided the shape must stay: it is an escape, a way out and is where the eye comes to rest,
A breakthrough piece.

in progress
in progress

* 'The New York Trilogy', a novel by Paul Auster 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

City of Glass 27- (The Stillman apartment/The Space Between...)

'City of Glass 27'  160x80cms

It has taken a while but the latest 'City of Glass'* painting has emerged with satisfying ambiguities.  There are even two titles, two ways in, even two possible solutions. (I removed the ziggurat shaped top section but it's worth another look now the painting has moved on).
The blue block is of course Central Park, 'the space between' West Side and East Side, but continuing the themes of the series and my interest in the play between the plan view of New York, the grid of the streets and frontal view, I have also made Central Park an entrance, a gateway to a space beyond.
During the process I had the figure of Stillman walking through the opening but the idea never worked. Colour replaced image, much more intriguing, the last of my Williamsburg paint -'Sevre Blue' and 'Courbet Green' - boosting the intensity of the block at the southern end of the Park.
The dividing line between the canvases is 69th St, highlighting the location of the Stillman apartment but the painting can also read as an interior, inside the apartment.  Referencing Matisse's 'French Window at Coulliere', the blue block is an opening, a view to outside, but the denseness and emptiness of the negative space dominate. The blue is both inside and outside. 8,7,6,5th Avenues below Central Park become a balcony. I love the uncertainty of the definition between vertical and horizontal planes.

I am still coming to terms with this piece - it inhabits the space between abstraction and figuration but the blue is something else, something sensuous, seductive and undefinable.

In the alternative ending, you lose the idea of being physically inside the apartment but the ziggurat- topped tower- shape is the apartment building on 69th St and links to the Tower of Babel in the story. With the severity of its' shape, the increase in greys and the abrupt ending of the blues at 110St, the tower-shape is oppressive resonating with the darkness in the novel and with the atmosphere inside the apartment when Quinn meets Peter and where of course the story ends. This version is more about image and object and claustrophobia, the other more about colour and the senses.

I love the idea of the two alternative endings/versions. It happens in literature, 'The French Lieutenants' Woman (and The Magus?), and in film, the two versions of Apocalypse Now!, why not in painting?
I may change the name of the first version to 'The Blue Space'


'What is not possible is not to choose'    Jean-Paul Sartre. 

All the artists who have been on my 'Freedom in Painting' courses will recognise this quote, often nailed, Luther-like to the studio door.  However, with this piece, with the two versions, two solutions, I have decided not to choose because I believe they both work in their own, different way.   I find it exciting, that with one screw, I can make the severest of editing, and make a very different painting.
We have had the 'roof' on for a couple of days, now it's time to take it off and enjoy the interior of the apartment.  

I have, however, been decisive with the title, it is now simply called The Stillman Apartment.

'The space between...' is the theme I set for the forthcoming Canterbury workshop and the words and concept have been constantly in my thoughts in this piece. The idea will drive the next paintings in the series. I was in St.Ives, Porthleven and Falmouth on a perfect day yesterday, enjoying the moment but painting in my head, ideas, colours, words, compositions. Smaller canvases next- I wish to make something as powerful as the blue in 'The Stillman Apartment'...the detail above gives a clue to the direction I will be taking..

This painting happened because I was in the studio day after day- it is the only way to work, to focus. I had a fascinating talk with curator Charlotte Davis at Falmouth Art Gallery yesterday. She organised and participated in a 24 drawing session. It is a bizarre concept but poses many questions; is it possible to focus for 24 hrs?  Because of the intensity of the session will the work go somewhere new?  I'm going to take part in the next one, work on a painting for 24hrs...catch a train home! 

* from 'The New York Trilogy', a novel by Paul Auster

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Paul Auster speaks......

Denise recently sent a catalogue of the 'City of Glass' series to Paul Auster's agent in New York, to introduce him to the series and as a way of saying thank-you for the inspiration. Yesterday I was thrilled to receive the following response:

Dear Mr. Hanson,

Incredibly moved by your magnificent paintings. They are strong and
beautiful -- and haunting. To think that my book could have inspired such
vivid colors. I am very happy. 

All best thoughts to you, 

Paul Auster

My paint-spattered copy of The New York Trilogy

A post about the latest painting in the series, working title 'City of Glass 27- (Shadow)' will follow shortly.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Freedom in Painting in Porthleven with Ashley Hanson

Sun 19 - Sat 25 April & Sun 4 - Sat 10 October 2015
 5 Day Course & Saturday Exhibition Day, Cost £350
This course is a unique opportunity to work in a small group with acclaimed colourist and landscape artist Ashley Hanson in the Lifeboat Art Studio in Porthleven, Cornwall, dramatically positioned on the edge of the harbour facing the open sea. Ashley has recently been elected a member of the Newlyn Society of Artists.

Porthleven 17 - Ashley Hanson

Ashley has a very special connection with Porthleven; the paintings of Peter Lanyon (in particular 'Porthleven' made in 1951) have had a major influence on his work and this unspoilt fishing town, with it's double harbour and iconic clock tower was the inspiration for Ashley's first series of paintings about Cornwall.

Artist Sara Bor Painting in Porthleven
Working in the studio

"Image, structure, movement, all the ingredients are here to make paintings. This workshop is an opportunity for artists to explore and respond to its richness, rawness and complexity. It's a special place for me, - so far there are 19 paintings in the series and each time I visit there are ideas for more".

During the workshop Ashley will inspire and encourage participating artists to produce their own personal interpretation of Porthleven, adding to its rich tradition.

PV of Exhibition
The course will start with an introduction and an opportunity to meet the other artists on the Sunday afternoon, followed by four and a half intense working days in the studio and around the harbour. From Friday afternoon the group will transform the studio into an exhibition space, leading up to a Private View in the evening with the exhibition continuing through to Saturday, giving artists the opportunity to show and sell their work.


Course Information

 In order to get to know the subject and provide information and ideas for paintings the first morning will be spent drawing and making studies around the harbour, with opportunities for further drawing exercises during the week.

Ashley mentoring artist Jan Bunyan
On the course there will be a mixture of group exercises, demonstrations and discussion to help artists engage with their painting and take it somewhere new. Colour, mark-making, space and composition are all areas that will be explored during the week and by working in a small group there will be plenty of opportunity for one to one tuition with Ashley. He will also be working on his own Porthleven painting and using this as a teaching tool for demonstrating techniques and ideas. The group loved this last year and found it a great way to build on their existing knowledge and pick up tips.

There will be a group critique of all the work on Saturday morning prior to the exhibition opening.
Ashley's 'Porthleven 19'
Jane Crane's Painting & Study
The course is designed for painters who wish to enhance their creativity and look towards abstraction and beyond the representational. Ashley looks forward to sharing his wide knowledge and passion for colour, landscape and oil/acrylic painting with the group.
Sara Bor's Painting
Joy Viegas' Painting

Chris Salmon's Painting

Helen Herbert's Painting
Jane Crane's Painting

 Your Tutor - Ashley Hanson 

Ashley has over 30 year experience as a professional artist and this combined with his teaching as a Visiting Lecturer at Canterbury Christchurch University and the National Academy of Art, Bergen, Norway, ensures the tuition you will receive throughout the course will be at the highest level. In addition he has run many popular and successful workshops of his own around the UK.
Ashley's paintings have been shown nationally and internationally. His work has been selected for the Discerning Eye (2012 & 2014), the National Open Art Competition (2012), the Ludlow Open (2012 & 2013) and the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition (2011). He was also joint prize winner of the 'Canvas & Cream Art Prize' in London in 2012. Ashley is a former recipient of a Boise Travel Scholarship from the Slade School of Art and a prizewinner in the Hunting Art Prizes.


Above Beach Cottages have a good selection of cottages and can also arrange a Sunday to Sunday let on certain properties. Porthleven Holiday Cottages offer a 10% discount if you advise them you are booking this course. They also have some excellent bed and breakfast en-suite rooms in The Artist Loft and once again a 10 % discount is available to participants on the course . See also for alternative B&B's and accommodation available.

To Book

Email or call 01208 77656. As we can only take up to a maximum of 8 artists on each course, bookings will be taken on a first come first service basis. Early booking is recommended to secure your place. A £70 deposit is required at the time of booking and full payment made 8 weeks prior to the start of the course.
View a write up on our Porthleven 2013 and Porthleven 2014 course here.
For a further insight into Ashley's art see
Ashley with Artist Petra Rohr-Rouendaal
Our Freedom in Painting holidays and courses continues to inspire and challenge artists of all levels of ability with many participants finding they continue to benefit from the tuition and experience long after the course.

Quoted from February 2013 edition of 'The Artist' magazine by editor Dr Sally Bulgin
"Ashley's concern as an artist and teacher, is to unleash the emotional response to the subject matter that enables the painter to take risks, discover a 'personal colour palette that excites', and to provide the fresh vision of Britain's natural beauty that places him within the long tradition set by the masters of the landscape genre"


Ashley is a very fine and energetic tutor- plenty of ideas. He sees things in our work that even we don't see! I have been much encouraged and inspired.
Joy Viegas - October 2014
Ashley always gives so much that one automatically works towards ones goals and stretching ones expectations. A half hour discussion about a pink spot is fundamental and portrays the integrity of the course.
Jane McClement - October 2014
Enjoyed the company and Porthleven, which I came to adore. Ashley was the perfect host, artist and tutor!
Alison Garner - October 2013
The course lived up to my expectations and more. Since returning my work has moved on, Wonderful environment - wise criticism - excellent company.
Helen Herbert - October 2013

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Freedom in Painting - October Course, Porthleven, Cornwall

Porthleven with studio on the left - Photo courtesy of Heather Rachel
Our second 'Freedom in Painting' course in Porthleven was once again a great success and although the weather was unpredictable, it added to the drama of the location with the fantastic light, surging seas and extreme high tides. We were delighted to welcome back 5 of our artists, who were all brave enough to return to another Ashley Hanson lead course!

After setting up the studio on Sunday, Ashley gave a talk about the aims of the course and the programme for the week ahead, before the group retired to The Ship Inn next door for the all important pint!

The next morning was spent drawing the harbour from a variety of view points as a way of getting to know Porthleven and find inspiration and ideas for painting. It was then back to the studio where the first painting session began with a group colour exercise. 

Ashley with his painting - courtesy of Heather Rachel
This year the group really enjoyed the benefit of seeing Ashley working on his own painting during the week,  as a way of demonstrating tips and techniques and how he approached the transformation of drawing into painting. Ashley made sneaky visits to the studio in the evenings and early mornings and when they arrived the group could see the dramatic changes that took place. (To see the blog about Ashley's painting 'Porthleven 19' click here )
Heather working hard
Jane Crane, Mitzi, Ashley & Jane McClement working in the studio

Ashley discussing Jane McClement's work
It was fantastic having Porthleven on the doorstep as a point of reference. Some people chose to work both around the harbour and in the studio, whilst others preferred to pursue their strong ideas in the studio. Each day the artists received individual mentoring and and there was also time for plenty of group discussions about the work.With the exhibition day on Friday looming, the group worked on their paintings with intensity and focus, often until the early evening.But there was still time for a bit of fun and frivolity in the evenings, although the group didn't do so well in the Ship Inn pub quiz- there wasn't a single question about art!

The studio - before- courtesy of Heather 
The studio -  after- courtesy of Heather
Friday morning was spent transforming the studio into a gallery space, followed by an invaluable group critique. The end result was a really impressive exhibition that the artists should be proud of, each found their own Porthleven and the work was really strong, colourful, full of personality and ideas.

During the Open House - photo courtesy of Heather

Joy Viegas' Painting

Jane Crane's Painting

Mitzi Delnevo's Painting

Heather Rachel's Painting

Jane McClement's Painting
Helen Herbert's Painting

We all celebrated the week's achievements with a great evening at the Seadrift Restaurant in Porthleven, joined by the junior Hanson's who kept the group thoroughly entertained!
Friday Evening Celebration at the SeaDrift

Well done to everyone and thank-you for coming along, we are already looking forward to next year. 

We are delighted to announce we will be running 2 Porthleven courses next year, in the Spring and Autumn. The course will be run over 6 days, giving artists an extra 1/2 day painting, a Friday evening PV and an all day exhibition on the Saturday.

Dates for next year are:

Sun 19th - Sat 25th April & Sun 4th - Saturday 10th October 2015.

Contact Denise , if you would like to find out more about next year's courses.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

'Porthleven 19'

'Porthleven 19'      100x70cms

My latest painting was made during the recent workshop in Porthleven. It was a demonstration painting but I had some sneaky late night and early morning sessions. The week was fantastic, with storms and surging seas, a full moon and extreme high tides.  The fishing fleet stayed behind the barrier all week. There was a magical relationship between the white disc of the moon and the white face of the clock in the tower, which I may have to paint.  I'm very fond of this piece- it's good to be painting again.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Photos & Update on our September Painting Holiday in Cornwall

Port Isaac- Day 1
We were delighted to be welcoming our artists from all over the UK to our September 'Freedom in Painting Holiday in Cornwall,' including John and his wife Jenny from Kent, (who rebooked after coming on our May holiday earlier this year) and Nicola our prize winner of the Great Art Postcard challenge, from as far a field as Scotland near John O' Groats!

For any artist Cornwall is inspirational whatever the weather but we were fortunate again to have
fabulous weather, helping to enrich the week's experience for everyone.

Day 1 - The North Coast
Beryl in Port Isaac

 Port Isaac our morning location was spectacular. Ashley took the group to a number of different viewpoints where everyone was encouraged to make quick sketches before finding their own special place to work from. The difficulty was, how to capture the vastness of this wonderful landscape? Quite a challenge for any artist! 

Erica & Antonia in Trebarwith Strand

By the time we reached our afternoon location, Trebarwith Strand, we were building up a good appetite. A hearty lunch at The Port William Inn, (overlooking the bay) followed and everyone couldn't wait to get started for the afternoon drawing  /painting session. Here, Ashley spent time with each artist individually, discussing their composition and helping them to use a different approach to looking and sketching/painting the landscape .

Light, shape, shade and colour were all taking shape on canvases and sketchbooks  - this was just the begining!

The Group in Charlestown
Day 2 - The South Coast 
Charlestown , our first stop and  a very special place for Ashley. The harbour has a dramatic presence and even though on previous visits with our group the heavens have opened, this time the sun shone (except for a fleeting shower) and Charlestown was both striking and tranquil. Ashley started the morning with a brief drawing demonstration followed by some group sketching exercises helping the artists to simplify their drawings, looking at shapes, lines and contours.

Kate in Charlestown
They then went on to sketch /paint individually whilst Ashley checked in with them, giving input  and encouragement. Lunch was at the trusted Pier House Hotel opposite the harbour and then it was time to head for Fowey where we caught the ferry to Polruan, our afternoon destination.

Once again everyone enjoyed the diversity of the location and the panoramic view from the top of Polruan Hill was definitely worth the climb. It was time to make sure everyone was fired up with plenty of studies to take with them into the studio for tomorrow!

Panorama at the top of Polruan Hill

Ashley Demonstrating
Day 3 - 4 In the Studio, situated at the top of Bodmin Moor 
Ashley began the first day with a variety of demonstrations and colour exercises, he then shook things up a bit with the introduction of words to highlight and demonstrate movement, mark-making and finding different ways to put paint down. 

Joy's Painting in Progress
Some exciting paintings started emerging but were they finished yet or where they just opening up the possibilities in painting? 

Erica's Painting in Progress
Nicola our PrizeWinner

Joy, Nicola, Erica & Antonia
The last studio day allowed the artists to focus on their own paintings with Ashley mentoring each person throughout the day. As well as demonstrations , there was time for discussion and listening to discover what each each artist hoped to achieve in their work and Ashley set out to direct and encourage. 

Beryl discussing work with Ashley

By the end of the two days the paintings really started to take shape with some really exciting, colourful work coming through and although the subject matter may have been the same, each artist produced something entirely different, finding their own unique style and pathway.

Joy's Painting
Antonia's Painting
Nicola's Painting

The last day in the studio concluded with an invaluable  critique about the work where the whole group looked constructively at each others paintings and contributed to the discussion.

John's Painting
Erica's Painting
Beryl's Painting
Francine's Painting

Kate's Painting

Thanks to The Old Inn, St Breward for looking after all again for lunch over the two days - it was perfect!

And of cause our week wouldn't be the same without our wonderful Friday evening meal at Asquiths Restaurant, Lostwithiel. (After a swift pint in the 13th century The Globe Inn). Thank-you Graham, Sally and staff, as always the food was top notch and your care and attention to detail, exceptional!

Friday Evening at Asquiths Restaurant

Thanks  to everyone for signing up to 'Freedom in Painting in Cornwall', you were a great group (yet again) and we hope you enjoyed yourself as much as we did and found the course both inspiring and beneficial. We look forward to seeing (and hearing ) about your future work and hope that we might see you again soon!

Denise & Ashley

Nicola won the Great Art postcard challenge with this entry. We hope you agree it was very well deserved. She also writes a blog and if you would like to read about her own experience with us on the painting holiday , you can read about it here.

We also have some exciting news from Kate Dove who was came on the holiday. She has been short listed for the Artist of the Year Award with the Artist & Illustrator magazine. Well done, Kate!

We now have our painting holiday dates for next year:

Mon 11th - Sat 16th May & Mon 21st - Sat 26th September 2015

If you are interested in finding out more or would like to be included on our mailing list for information on courses/holidays or exhibitions, contact or call 01208 77656 .
See also for more information about Ashley's art practice, exhibitions & previous holidays etc.