For those who are new to abstract painting, the process of creating an image that is not a literal representation of what inspired it can seem daunting. We caught up recently with our partner artist Ashley Hanson to learn more about how his recent work ‘Porthleven 38’ was created. It’s always fascinating watching Ashley work. And it was interesting to see a bit of the thought process that goes in to creating his paintings.
‘The coastal village of Porthleven in Cornwall continues to inspire my work, with over forty paintings produced over the past 10 years. The courses I run each year in Porthleven provide plenty of opportunity to find ideas for new paintings. This is the story of the making of ‘Porthleven 38 – (A Pint of Doom and a large Merlot)’.
The Birth of a Painting
In October 2017, looking out from the Ship Inn, across the harbour I saw the shape between the gable-ends of two buildings as the aerial view of the harbour. The negative space crisscrossed with telegraph-wires.
Two years later, that memory, and the quick sketch I made, became the source of this painting. After a series of small pieces, I decided to work on a larger canvas, 80 x 60cms, covered with a few marks made with leftover paint.
Since my college days my preferred medium has been oil paint. As always, the painting begins with colour, this time a yellow. I was remembering Bonnard’s wonderful yellows in the recent Tate Exhibition. I painted a yellow frame – the possibility of window – before introducing the drawing of the oval table and distant buildings.
Bringing the Outside, Inside
Like Bonnard, I wished to bring the outside, inside so I made the decision to make the buildings larger and closer, filling the frame. With the main elements established, now was the time for refinements of colour, composition and drawing.
The window was darkened, almost black (a violet glaze over yellow) and the oval table lowered, becoming a subtle curve on the bottom edge. Pourings of magenta and rose pink brought the harbour-shape towards the centre. Working with brush and knife, the gable end of the building on the right became turquoise, representing the water. I then carved Harbour piers out of the pink paint, before a thin veil of zinc white brought further clarity to the buildings and harbour shape.
Then a white angled line, representing the sloping path in front of the buildings, was deliberately joined to the white highlights of the window, thus bringing everything forwards.
It’s nearly there…
I started to do drawings with objects on the table and then in a flash of inspiration, the yellow mark on the left became a beer glass, a pint of Doom. It was shortly followed by a wine glass – a large Merlot- just as it was when I’d sat with my friend Mitzi looking out over the harbour two years before.
A few more adjustments – drawing with colour – and I had a painting that surprised me. It was something different, which is the ambition in every piece. The colour sings, the space is intriguing, the ‘pentimenti’, the history of the painting, not covered up but part of the painting’ – October 2019
2020 Painting Courses with Ashley Hanson
Ashley is a renowned colourist and landscape artist, with an extensive national exhibition record, including exhibiting at the RA Summer Exhibition and National Open Art Exhibition. If you would like to enhance your creativity and work with Ashley he runs several courses a year in Cornwall and Kent under the banner ‘Freedom in Painting’. The courses are designed for painters with some experience who wish to enhance their creativity and look towards abstraction’