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Porthleven 23
'Porthleven 23' 40x30cms

 

A smaller piece, this might well be finished. Love the sea/paint/sea/paint/sea.......edges breaking down....Reds from cadmium/indian-red/geranium/burnt sienna- more prep. for the 'Red' December Workshop in Canterbury!

 

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'D.C. - (Diamond City)' 168x132cms

 

I have enjoyed looking at this painting again in the studio, triggered by a recent re-reading of ' Shame the Devil' by George Pelecanos. He has written a brilliant series of crime novels set in Washington DC. I can't remember which particular novel I was reading, but this 2003 painting from the Americascapes series, originally highlighted the locations of all the murders, using the repeated motif of a gun.

My own personal experience of Washington is non-existent - just a few minutes in the train-station! During my travels around the US, I had an Amtrak Railpass which was about to expire and I had to be back in New York by midnight, so when I got to Washington I had to stay on the train. In a sense, i have got to know the city through the novels of George Pelecanos.

In my work, I have always been fascinated by the 'shapes of places' and the almost-diamond shape of Washington had to be taken on. In the hands of politicians, planners, cartographers, a few drawn lines on a map become reality- the diamond of Washington, the capital, distinct from all the rest. Even within the diamond, the city is divided into four quadrants, like a kite, NW, NE, SW, SE. shown in the detail below, and centered in the painting.

 

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I love the colour and the composition in this piece - the placement of the diamond - and the subversion of scale with the out-sized Washington Monument, whose angled top echoes the diamond. To give a true sense of scale - to help judge how big the city is- I've put in the runways of Ronald Reagan airport (detail 3) close to the meeting of the Potomac and Anacosta rivers.

 

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detail 2

 

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Arizona and DC
'Arizona' and 'DC - (Diamond City)' at the Michael West Gallery

Penzance 9 30x40cms 2011
'Penzance 9'   30x40cms

 

Another Penzance painting that changed dramatically- the only constant the rose-colour of the Inner Harbour. I enjoyed highlighting it's house-shape, echoed by the images of the Lifeboat Station and concertinaed warehouses. I don't usually care or remember the paintings underneath but I'm still very fond of 1, below. It was my demonstration painting in my very first Freedom in Painting workshop at the Penzance School Of Art - I was new to teaching and talked too much and one of the artists left after 10 minutes saying she was 'going home to paint'!

 

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Penzance 2
'Penzance 2'   150x120cms

 

The still center in 'Porthleven 22' brought memories of this painting - a wild night in Penzance when it seemed the town was about to be overwhelmed by the sea. Penzance 2 was shortlisted for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 2012.

As usual the painting changed orientation several times during the process, hence the two lighthouses in the detail below! Male (structure) and female (the sea) in battle. Curiously, towards the end, when I was asking friends which way up it should go, opinion was split by gender, with the majority of females i asked preferring it with the left hand side as top and all the males liking it this way.

Throughout my career, I have intrigued/obsessed with the shapes of places and how that shape can define their uniqueness. With Penzance, I was particularly interested with the house-shaped inner-harbour which appears in a different position in each of the paintings in the series, the lighthouse pier moving round like the hands of a clock. Looking at it now, sea-shape in the earlier version lookjs like a creature, a sea-horse? The almost-diamond shape remains, now it's like a spinning top, the painting full of movement. 

 

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in progress

P22 Final version'Porthleven 22'     70x50cms

Wed 11 November

The reds are so dark and dense- I've been waiting for two days to see the painting in the daylight. The cross/post/vertical has gone back in, further to the left and not as stark. Also a little bit of drawing of a building - an incident in the bottom left corner, breaking up the reds. The building is the Old Lifeboat House, the studio where we hold the Porthleven workshops, and it's presence gives an opportunity to acknowledge the enormous influence of Matisse's 'The Red Studio' on my work and re-title the painting. Nice balance with the angled lines of the slipway in the top right, creating a diagonal movement across the painting. The final act was to strengthen the bottom line of the top-right of the four central piers, which had seemed a little bit lost. A long journey from the original drawing which I think works as it is- an exploration of the idea of angled lines. On to the next painting.

 

Porthleven 22 70x50cms
Wednesday

Mon 9 November

The last session I think. Neil Young's 'Southern Man' blasting out. Saturdays painting was just a little too graphic, a little too still, so I've gone in with more red and used directional lines in the paint to create movement. The final dilemma was whether to remove the post/cross at the bottom of the painting which seemed to be grabbing too much attention. Lets' do it - let the red dominate the drawing.
The line is now barely there, deliberately off-vertical, and doing a job for the painting, linking with those other discreet verticals.

Porthleven 22 with Cross
Saturday

Sat 7 November

A good day in the studio. Sorry to tease, it was too dark to photograph, I'll post a new image tomorrow.

My latest painting, 'Porthleven 23' made me look again at this piece last night. I concluded that while '23' was a painting, this was an illustration. I saw confusion: too many shapes, too many small areas, too many lines, too much painting to the line. Perhaps I was too deferential to the linear elements of the original drawing. Above all, I saw lazy colour: is that the best blue against that red, the best green?- answer, no. I also realised that the red and blue/green areas were too evenly balanced - very dull - and that the sea, compared to the sea in '23', was a cartoon, an illustration, the marks stopping you seeing the quality of the marks up the left-hand side. There is a point where information, drawings, photos, have to be put to one side and imagination allowed to take over. Paint is different stuff. I realised there was a stronger, purer painting to be found. I had no hesitation in taking the plunge to find it, do whatever it takes for the painting.

Freedom in painting.

Listening to early Bjork -'Definitely, maybe' Ho hum.

Mon 26 Oct

Dreaming about my painting- got up early to resolve a niggle and put in a tiny red, near horizontal-line to hold the sea-shape in place. It's on the right hand side near the top, bang in the center in the detail below. Not only are reds difficult to work this they are also difficult to photograph- they look garish on some screens, dull on mine. You have to see the real thing- I think these are pretty tasty reds!

 

Porthleven 22 70x50cms

 

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Apologies for confusing my friends on Facebook by putting out 2 versions of the painting yesterday! I think this final version is stronger and more interesting spatially. Since turning the canvas round, I repainted the sea, reversing the direction of the waves and adding a warmer green at the top to make the transition into the center green basin less harsh. I much prefer how the harbour is held now by the pink curve, with the choppy sea leading the eye into the painting. I quite often turn my paintings round during the process - this painting started off in the landscape format- doing whatever it takes to make a stronger piece. The buildings you see on the left-side are in fact the buildings you would see 'in reality' at the back of the harbour at the top of the painting. But I feel they work better for the painting on the left- painting-truth.

 

Porthleven 22
Earlier version

 

So, after one or two false alarms, I'm finally happy with the painting - it has something else, something new, something different to the other paintings in the series. Maybe to tie in with the 'Red' workshop in Canterbury in December, I thought it was time to explore red again: Indian Red, Venetian Red, Cadmium, Alizarin, Light Red, Rose....

Red is difficult because it changes so much in different light; bright reds in the artificial light in the studio become, deep, dark reds in natural light. I have to find the reds that work in both. And of course, the blues and greens look darker in the studio...

The start-point was a drawing I made recently in Porthleven from the fisherman's quay, picking up the rhythms of angles and triangles of cranes and boats, the slipways and the buildings behind. The painting followed the spirit of the drawing but I wasn't happy with the big shape- like a loaf of bread- the too obvious blue sky and the static viewpoint.

 

 Triangles

 

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The painting began when I put the drawing away and turned the canvas: immediately the imagery was less obvious, the space more interesting. Now we are looking at the whole harbour, with its' three distinctive kinds of water, separated/broken down by the two pairs of piers and jetty.

Forms, structures are hinted rather than illustrated, the marks and shapes and colours have their own interest. The viewer has to work!

 

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Now I do like the large shape and how it sits within the rectangle of the canvas, and the strong and beautiful 's' - shape within. The painting is full of intriguing shapes, the pink curve, the sea barrelling in, the warm green still center, the curious curved triangle/structure/pier, pointing in from the right. It is probably the most 'Lanyonesque' of my Porthleven paintings, with its' twisting forms and multi viewpoints, but I am enjoying its' colour, the cascade of red shapes and the journey around the painting, in and out and around. It is Porthleven and it is a painting, and in my eyes has the elusive balance between freedom and control that I'm after.

P.S. Soundtrack: 'Brilliant Trees' by David Sylvian., 1984. '..drowning in my nostalgia....'
Five Live- United win again
Bjork, 'Debut' and 'Post'