Tuesday, 26 July 2016

'City of Glass 37- (PLOT.noun/PLOT.verb)'


Exciting news - this painting has been shortlisted for the Lacey Contemporary Art Prize and will be on show in the Finalist Exhibition at Lacey Contemporary, London W11 from 3 -16 August


I've spoken many times about 'breaking (the perfection of) the square' - well, it's not a square now....

This is very exciting; the power and tension of the black-lines of 8th Ave and 14th St, holding the shape that wants to spin round...I've pushed the shape of Manhattan right into the corner - more plotting.  Because of the orientation of the canvas, the original drips now become a subversive, subtle pattern of angled lines beneath the transparent paint.  I think it might be done. 

Mysterious doorway.

'Hello Mondrian..' would make a good title, though he wasn't fond of green! (or curves)

This goes back to something I was looking at during Open Studios last year when this painting and 'City of Glass 33 - (Buried)' were in very early stages. 

I have used the idea of the controlling vertical in a shaped canvas before in 'Porthleven 13', (below), the only circular canvas that has worked and that I've kept.

'Porthleven 13'

detail- City of Glass 37


in progress

Early days but I already have a title- the relationship with words is so important in this series witrh its source in text*

Love the multiple meanings of the word 'Plot':

  • plot as in narrative
  • plot as in conspire
  • plot as in plan or map....

In the novel, Quinn plots Stillman's walks onto a street-map of New York

In turn, in City of Glass 6 and 35, I have 'plotted' Quinn's walk described on pages 106-112...

In the act of painting, I have 'plotted' the grid of New York, already several times in this piece, to establish the angle, scale and position of Manhattan within the canvas , looking for the strongest composition. 

My 'plot 'is for the Manhattan shape, once established, to be painted entirely with layers of transparent colours, giving the appearance of coloured-glass.....

*'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

'Looking at Diebenkorn' - Workshop Review

Teddy Kempster

The latest Freedom in Painting workshop, 'Looking at Diebenkorn', took place recently over 2 days at  Creek Creative  in Faversham, Kent. As it was a new venue I was a little nervous, but the room we worked in was ideal, with its features and central columns featuring in several of the paintings. I've already booked it for the next Freedom in Painting workshop 'Still-Life' in October. 

Jane Crane- in progress

In advance of the course, the 14 artists were asked to choose their favourite Diebenkorn painting and bring along an image to the workshop - a difficult task but of course it forced everyone to look at all of Diebenkorn's work. 

After an introductory talk about the three distinct phases of Diebenkorn's career, his ideas and methods, I asked to the artists to find a connection between their chosen image image and reality, with something out there, and make a drawing and use this as the start point for their painting. Some artists found their inspiration outside, others in the studio, perhaps proof that, because of his range and his seamless shifting from abstraction into figuration and back again, Diebenkorn is everywhere.

Drawing was an integral part of the workshop: drawing from Diebenkorn's work, from the world outside, from the drawings themselves and from the paintings in progress. Here is a selection of studio shots and paintings - I'll be adding more images as they arrive. 

Anne-Marie LePretre
Jo Rollnick

Jo Dunlop

Catriona Campbell

Jane Crane at work

   Jan Bunyan

We had a fascinating conversation in our Group critique about Jan Bunyan's paintings working as a diptych (or not) 

Margarita Hanlon- work in progress

Teddy Kempster

Rob Frampton-Fell's three paintings

Here are a few comments about the Workshop:

'Outstanding tutoring and camaraderie really helps the atmosphere of serious enquiry'  Margarita Hanlon

'Having Diebenkorn's range of work was inspiring and stimulating. The course is a springboard for future work. Ashley's a great teacher!'
Teddy Kempster

'Every time I work with Ashley I feel more confident that I am progressing my art' 
Catriona Campbell

Saturday, 18 June 2016


'Coaster'   30x40cms

The return of image- a fine resolution to a troublesome painting. A small painting is often more difficult to work than a larger canvas because there is no space.  I was actually packing up my space in Open Studios when I thought I'd give it one more go.  I forced a harbour into the over-busy paint - and brought in Mars Violet, Rose and magenta pinks to set off the green and bring space and clarity.  I saw the boat shape and worked with it. I am enjoying the way it sits with its turquoise twist and the rhythm of verticals linking to the vertical edge of the mark at the stern. 


'Pier', 'Porrthleven 27', 'Coaster'

Thursday, 16 June 2016


'Pier'   60x40cms

A continuation of the idea of 'surge', this painting has a rawness and dynamism rare in my work. That sea is an irresistible force, the orange pier frail and overwhelmed...... The canvas-divide provides the only point of stability in the piece....Fast marks/fast thinking.... Fast paint, a twisting, surging, writhing mass...uncontrollable..Tension: the dark blue line visually holds the paint but will it physically hold the paint?   Already a fat piece of blue slid off while I was watching the football...


The beginning, (1) was too static the frozen moment akin to a photograph,  The second canvas was added (2) to diminish the scale of the structure and enlarge the 'surge'. These are my daughter Faye's colours -using her leftover paint- but the canvas a perfect match. The last act was to open up the painting more by taking out the downward movement of the heavy blue line on the bottom left edge

'Pier' is a very personal motif, in my life and in my art. The title is a kind of tribute to Mondrian's wonderful 'Pier and Ocean (Composition No.10)'. and I was secretly thrilled when Janie  said 'where's the pier?' when I told her the title. This of course is a common reaction when seeing Mondrian's painting for the first time! If you know Porthleven you may recognise the pier with its' distinctive kink - here the crisp line leads the eye back into the painting, and forms the tip of the diamond-shape. 

'Pier and Ocean (Composition No.10'   Piet Mondrian




Friday, 10 June 2016

'Surge (Yellow & Blue)'

'Surge (Yellow & Blue)'    30x40cms

We're done. An hour of looking and I added the yellow-line (on the right-edge above). Perversely I put it in to make A work because I felt the heavy yellow was slipping out of the picture.  What it has done, for me, is to make the landscape less literal and strengthens the inner-frame.  The lumps and bumps in the yellow have shifted in the night!

the three paintings made in Open Studios



I feel very lucky to have had two fantastic conversations about this new piece today, with Janie M McDonald at our shared studio and with Yvonne McCann online, where I posed the question about which way up the painting should be And why. All four ways were shown. Once again their analysis and observations were spot on. Both artists highlighted the neccessity of having the heavy yellow at the bottom but differed on which orientation. 

Yvonne talking about 'B': 'I love how the sweep of blue between the two yellow masses sails down and out. The bottom yellow creates a powerful foreground mass pulling from the flat to the 3D and back again' 

I'm still undecided- the painting may need a mark, a touch to convince. Athough linked to Porthleven, with the oncoming tide pouring through the gaps between piers, this piece is more about the idea of harbour rather than a specific place. Of containment. Of fragility. Of futility even, in the face of stronger forces. In B, the fragility of the inner frame seems more prominent, but is it too obvious a landscape?

I have four more small canvases, 40x30cms, same size as this one. I feel a series coming on.

Another week of Open Studios- bliss.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

'Porthleven 27'

'Porthleven 27'  180cms x 60cms

Far, far stronger now - it's done. The verticality of the painting is reinforced by the stacked and levered curves and the long vertical line on the right, cutting through the paint. Much more movement. Poured pinks and purples shake up the colour, setting off the greens. The canvas divide is now integral, linking to the higher horizontal of the green pier. 

In a discussion about the painting, Janie M McDonald, commentated on how the green curve coming in from the left and the reverse curve of the purple made the painting appear 'hinged', 'with the possibility of flipping' where they join, as if the orange strip could flick backwards and forwards 'over and over as an animation..'

detail- 'hinge'

in the studio


I've been struggling with the shape and scale of this piece for the past few days, at 180 cms the largest painting yet in the Porthleven series. I feel I'm getting closer with the colour and harbour-shape (4) There is greater clarity but it's looking a bit too controlled. Much has been lost: the sea has gone backwards, the red/orange is too flat and the bottom panel feels a little disconnected.  I have in mind a fat, off vertical line of force- a slightly paler turquoise with streaks of pink- that runs from top to bottom of the canvas, crashing through the gaps between the piers.  It will bring life/light/movement if I get it right. I'll be re-drawing tomorrow and cutting/scraping through the paint to bring out the hidden colours and energise the surface.




Thursday, 2 June 2016

Freedom in Painting in Porthleven- May Course

The latest 'Freedom in Painting course was recently held at the Old Lifeboat House in Porthleven, Cornwall - a stunning location at the head of the harbour (left above). It was a very intense and very enjoyable week that ended with a one day exhibition,  where we received over a hundred visitors during the day. 

Looking towards the Clocktower from the studio

The eight artists met up on Saturday and set up the studio space before returning the next morning for our first drawing session around the harbour. But there is always a twist: before leaving the studio I asked the group to place a vertical line on 20 pages in their sketchbooks in different positions, including some on the Golden Section. The aim was to find different ways to use that line in the landscape.....the exercise resulted in some very strong and inventive drawings.

The idea of 'The Intruding Line' continued in our first painting session after lunch: the artists were asked to put two structural lines on their canvas on the Golden Section- one vertical and one horizontal. The antithesis of 'freedom' perhaps - I was not the most popular person in the room! - but the artists could choose whether to go with the lines or against them....

There was another, shorter, drawing exercise on Monday morning and a full-on painting day working from the studies. We ended the day with an invaluable, informal group critique before retiring to the Ship Inn next door for a well earned drink and delicious food.  During the day there was also a discussion on time, tide and movement in painting in preparation for the Tuesday morning visit to Marazion. We saw the causeway uncovered and walked across to St.Michaels Mount and as the tide receded we saw some astonishing colours.

In Marazion we also visited a some galleries, including the Summerhouse Gallery and the Market House Gallery, which specializes in 20th Century and contemporary Cornish painting which further inspired our artists. The trip to Marazion proved to be a great success and one that we'll repeat on future courses.

Denise joined us for the day and once again took some great photos.

By now, each of the artists had found their own direction and the paintings started to take off. There was a fantastic work ethic with the artists often working late and coming in early. Hats off to Joy for putting in a 6 a.m.appearance!

In keeping with the idea of 'Freedom' the group collaborated on two paintings, a large piece (below left) and a small canvas where we took it in turns to push the painting forwards. Both pieces were exhibited in the exhibition and Carol was the lucky winner after we drew lots for the very desirable small painting!


We painted until midday on Thursday - though Elizabeth continued battling with her piece. There is always one!  The studio was then transformed into a gallery during the afternoon and as always it was a revelation seeing the quality and quantity of work produced over the last few days. 

Finally the doors were opened- the evening Preview was a great success (with a few sales) and afterwards, as per tradition, the artists went out for a celebratory meal at Amelie's Restaurant nearby. 

Smile please! Dinner at Amelie's

GALLERY- A selection of Paintings

Elizabeth Aspinall
Elizabeth Aspinall

Estelle Jourd

Estelle Jourd

Heather Rachel Johnston
Heather Rachel Johnston

Mitzi Delnevo
Mitzi Delnevo
Hazel Crawford
Hazel Crawford
Joy Saunders
Joy Saunders
Carol Hayslip
Carol Hayslip
Ashley Hanson


'I really think the course has moved me forwards. Ashley devotes himself totally to each learner.' 
Hazel Crawford

'Honest, generous and delivered with kindness!'  
 Joy Saunders

'.....Ashley his usual encouraging and constructive self. I thoroughly enjoyed the course and hope to be back next year'  
 Mitzi Delnevo