Archive for the Blog Category

Happy New Creative year!

Here we are already well into 2019 and I am only just writing my first blog of the year.

To be honest I have been struggling to know how I want to paint recently and I have been hibernating until this week when I decided to give myself some time out to play. If my ideas did not appear to be related to my usual work I have still given myself permission to do it. What I really felt like doing (as opposed to what I thought I should be doing) was to make a patchwork cushion cover for an antique Indian settle that I have in my kitchen! I do love decorative pattern (minimalist looks beautiful – but it’s just not me) and collect textiles whenever I travel.  I have various gorgeous pieces made from old Indian saris with embroidery and beads. I decided to look at them in order to plan my own piece.

When I examined one of these fragile patchworks I noticed it had a piece of loose, dark fabric that needed sewing back in place. On closer inspection I realised that it was not a torn scrap of fabric at all- it was the closed wings of a butterfly.  It was hibernating- just like me -but on sensing movement it opened its wings to reveal its own beautiful pattern. It looked amazing against the colourful and complex background.

 

I felt inspired to spread my own wings and begin piecing together all kinds of bits of material that I had squirrelled away. There were too many plain rectangles so I used some Indian woodblocks to print patterns on these and sewed pieces of lace doily to others.   I am going to embroider a butterfly on another square in memory of what I had seen. My mind was now racing. What if painted a butterfly on paper (in my usual way) and used it as a paper patchwork piece? What if I made other sections by creating patterns and textures on different types of paper which could be collaged together? What if I embroidered my painting?  How about the butterfly having three dimensional paper wings?

Suddenly my stagnant winter brain was churning with ideas. What if it wasn’t a butterfly- but a snowdrop from my garden? I could actually paint a series of snowdrops in different ways.

In this way my hibernating artist self has begun to unfurl. So if you have been feeling like me- try taking a baby step towards doing one small act in order for the log jam to loosen up and let the creative river flow again.  It does not need to be a big project- just get going by doing something small that you want to do. You may be surprised how one thing leads to another.

Happy New Creative Year!

 

 

Happy Christmas with love from Ann x

I have just been going through my images to find something suitable as a Christmas card. I thought that the reds and greens in this painting were  rather festive ( although most of the rosehips have disappeared from the local hedges by now – so I’m using artistic license!)  This detail  is from  a painting called  ‘Through the rosehip hedge’ that is featured in my book ‘Watercolour Workshop’.   The background is a monoprint made from  actual wild  rose  leaves. Then I painted into the patterns to create a focal point of  rosehips.

 

 

Moroccan  alchemy

I have just got back from a trip to Morocco. I have been several times before and we decided to explore a different area. Chefchaouen, in the Rif mountains, is a paradise for artists- but also for  everyone else! In picturesque places like this I make myself see past the trappings of tourism and look for the underlying atmosphere. The medina is a tangled and confusing muddle of tiny up and down alleyways and streets. I find it best to allow myself to get lost- and once I have that attitude it is amazing how you find your way round instead. I suppose it is a bit like one of my tangled paintings. I lose myself in the textures and loose paintwork then find a path through the semi abstract marks towards a kind of reality.

The stone, brick or plaster walls of this medina  have rounded corners and edges. Sometimes the paintwork has crumbled off creating rich patina and texture.  Almost all are painted in every imaginable shade of intense blue. I saw french ultramarines, cobalt blues, cerulean, different tones of turquoise, blues that edged towards purple, sky blue, teal and more. These sapphire daytime hues deepened at dusk to shadowy shades of navy. By night-fall the magical dusky alleys took on the soft depths of indigo. It is an exotic oriental patchwork.

 Chefchaouen, Morocco

When we had taken in enough of the claustrophobia and hassle of the blue town we headed into the mountains.  At the start of the path we passed tourists holding their mobile phones as if their lives depended on them. They looked at the surrounding scene through the screens or placed themselves within the view to take ‘selfies’. I must be turning into a grumpy old woman because I just do not understand this need and actually find the increasing addiction to technology quite depressing.   I feel that I am being left behind.

As it began to rain we decided that there were two options. We could moan about the weather or look for the positive. Having made our choice we   began to see beauty in our surroundings. How the wet path   shone through the misty drizzle, snaking up the hillside and leading the eye towards ancient groups of silvered olive and golden leaved fig trees. When we followed a similar walk the following morning in bright sunlight we realised that each day had given us a different kind of magic.

 Argan trees? Not olives! 

When we returned to our riad we chatted to a fellow traveller- he was about to lead a group of young people into the mountains for a week of back to basic living- without their mobile phones!  He was literally coaching them how to view the world in a richer way. He described how someone might be looking for something on their screen that was actually right in front of them.  The conversation felt like a coincidence after our thoughts earlier – and these moments of synchronicity became a theme throughout the rest of the trip in further encounters. It may sound fanciful but it is almost feels like there is a secret invisible energy that connects us all that we are not even aware of- something positive in the air that we are in danger of losing but can still access if we want.

 

 

 Pause for thought

I have been keeping my eyes open  in recent years and question whether the emphasis in many art books and workshops has swung too far towards technique and use of materials and away from the essential act of making meaningful and personal interpretations. Of course, we need practical information and expertise to help us to crystallize our ideas but  the danger is that the very kernel or initial spark triggering a painting could be diminished in favour of method, effect and (dare I say it?) commerce.

For a painting to have authenticity and integrity, surely it needs to be based or developed out of something we have personally experienced?  There are always exceptions and we could counter argue that the realm of our imagination is enough. However, I still feel that even that is usually triggered by some kind of knowledge,memory, immersion or happening.   It is so important to spend as much time looking and feeling as ‘doing’. Once we have established what we want to say in our visual commentary, we can then start to explore ‘how’ to distil this into pictures. Without this backbone of personal meaning, artwork is in danger of becoming an empty pastiche.  I hope that I don’t sound judgemental- this is simply my honest appraisal of  potential art ‘market’ pitfalls.

In my latest book ‘ Watercolour Workshop’ I  have emphasised these thoughts; the importance of  individual interpretation and  ways of seeing. Yes, it is important and fun to experiment and play with methods- this is the way we learn and I will always advocate that- but let’s not forget ‘why’ we are doing it.

‘The secret life of bees’ is featured in                       ‘Watercolour Workshop’ and based on my husband’s bee hives partly hidden in some brambles near our local allotment patch.

After two years of non -stop activity; painting and writing for books, magazines and exhibitions I want to slow down and work in a more mindful way. Therefore, in the last couple of months I have been out and about gathering reference material and ideas, soaking up visual imagery and thinking about what is important and worthwhile to me as person and artist.

 

 

Book Review

There is a nice review about my book ‘John Blockley-A Retrospective’(Batsford) by Henry Malt in this month’s Artist magazine.

“John Blockley was a pioneer of what we might call modern, muscular watercolour and a popular author, teacher and demonstrator. Even if his name is perhaps not as familiar as it was even a decade ago, his influence is felt today, not least through the work of his daughter Ann, who has compiled this retrospective. In print, John is best known for 1979’s The Challenge ofWatercolour and Watercolour Interpretations, published in 1987. The former had the limited number of colour illustrations typical of its time and the latter, while more copiously inclusive, does not really come up to modern standards. This nicely selected volume is, therefore, the first time John’s work has been given the treatment in print it merits. His paintings leap off the page and it is possible to appreciate the sheer impact of his use of colour. It’s a tour de force you won’t want to miss.”

Pennine Farm-water based mediums  c 2001

The painting above (which  is  not featured in the book) was exhibited in the RI exhibition in 2001.   It’s hanging on my wall at the moment but if anyone is interested in having it on their own wall do please email  me at ann@annblockley.com  . You can find the book   in the shop section of my website.

Exmoor- Light and lichens

I have recently returned from a rewarding trip to Exmoor where I joined a group of like-minded artists. We sketched, photographed or painted on our own during the day according to our interests, and met up in the evening at local pubs to compare notes and relax.

 beech hedge

Exmoor is lined with wonderful beech hedges, their woven shapes growing out of stony banks. I love them especially in the autumn when the coppery leaves are still clinging and adding colour. Tiny toadstools and groups of round waxy pennyworts huddled against damp mossy trunks and rocks. The woodlands were swathed in bracken and beams of low light seemed to search for and illuminate certain plants like a spotlight giving them a moment of fame. This is an opportunity for the artist to add a focal point to the otherwise wild and decorative patterns of nature.  Some ferns had faded or bleached to a pale ochre colour reminding me of a brittle and yellowing piece of intricate Victorian lacework.

After exploring the wood I decided to head over to open moorland and see if I could find some windswept hawthorns. I am still following the project that I set in my book Watercolour Workshop and am always looking out for new versions of my favourite trees to explore . I prefer these slightly scruffy commoners to the grander glories of tall and specimen trees.  I drove through narrow high hedged tracks until I reached the cattle grid which meant I had arrived. My heart soared as I soon discovered that the way across the wild landscape was lined with perfect subjects.  Some of them were silhouetted against a backdrop of coastline that looked towards Wales.

As I leapt around excitedly the temperature suddenly plummeted. The air became painfully icy and a bitter wind   crept through the frozen fingers of the hawthorn branches. Their gnarled and fissured bark and twisting shapes writhed and stretched in protest.  An eerie pink glow across the sky was the only warning that hailstones were about to lash furiously across the hillside. This stopped as quickly as it began and the early evening sun counteracted with an intense and extraordinary light. It etched highlights around each grassy tummock and shone through the nets of hawthorn twigs. A small holly tree stood staunchly on the other side of the path, its trunk and branches bathed in light.

 Hawthorn

Holly

I felt overloaded with so much information and imagery filling my senses. However, I could not resist the tip off I was given by my B&B hostess about a secret valley where the best lichen was to be found.  The following morning I left the car on the side of an ordinary road and walked across an unpromising field. As the path descended on the other side of a gate I instantly encountered the most amazing hawthorns, dripping with fronds of lichen which dangled like wisteria from the tree. Strong sunlight turned it pale as blossom and its ribbons fluttered in a breeze through the russet and scarlet haws. A precious  moment and  parting gift as I headed back home.

 

 

Dartmoor

After the  hectic events  this year I needed a break and we have just  spent a few days  on Dartmoor. Walks through moorland, ancient woodland,  gushing rivers, ferns, lichen, moss- it’s a painter’s heaven. But not just that- in three days we met so many interesting , alternative, friendly and artistic people that I can’t wait to go back. Admittedly, the sun was shining, we had more than our fair share of cream teas and  it’s my favourite time of year but even so- this place has a special and unique magic. ( Actually -it’s horrible- don’t go- I want it all for myself). So now I ‘m back in my studio, replenished and looking forward to a few month’s creativity – starting NOW!

Here’s some photos.

 

 

John Blockley exhibition- update

It was terrific having  an exhibition of my father’s artwork in the studio- drawings and paintings that had either been stored away for many years or contributed by members of the family.  Thank you to  so many of you for coming and sharing your many stories about how he had influenced or even totally changed lives- both from a  personal and creative perspective. Members of the ‘Blockley Group’ came from as far  afield as Australia- especially to see the work  and get together. Many other well known artists  came to visit- I loved  in particular having coffee with Shirley Trevena in my kitchen and swapping tales. ( I should say that I’m sorry to name drop- but I’m not really!) My father had a great sense of humour and loved to draw cartoons- and so does Shirley.  She sent me a copy of her hilarious  booklet of cartoons when she got home, describing the terrors and joys we all share in our artist’s lives.

I was asked if I felt sad to see some of John’s artwork  from my private collection go- but it was actually the opposite. Between us, the family have a lot of  paintings and it felt very uplifting to let go of some of them and think that they were to be enjoyed by someone else. It has been a really cathartic  experience doing both the exhibition and book (which I am happy to say is currently being reprinted in  a second edition).  However,  it felt  fantastic getting my studio back to normal and re-installing my own work. It feels like  the start of a new era and my priority now is to start work on  paintings for the RI exhibition next year. No more procrastination… (but will just have a coffee first).

 

 

 

 

John Blockley – Retrospective Exhibition September 2018

John Blockley RI PPS RWA NEAC  ( 1921-2002)

 

I have  been getting ready for the exhibition that I am curating at my studio  of my late father’s work. I  had always wanted to put together a retrospective book of his work and this came to fruition in July. An exhibition was the obvious  follow up.  A large quantity of work had been stored in a plan chest or in cupboards for  over sixteen years   and it seemed a crime  for them not to be  seen. Hopefully, some will end up on people’s walls-  but also it will be lovely  for fans to simply come and enjoy looking at this collection. There is a range of different images for sale  some of which are featured in the recent book but lots of other work  too and a wide range of sketches and drawings that have been arranged in  portfolios according to subject, place or other related matter.

Pembrokeshire cottages by John Blockley

This year has been busy to say the least.  ‘Watercolour Workshop’ was published in March this year and ‘John Blockley – A Retrospective’ in July .It was the publishers request to do them so close together and it has certainly kept me on my toes!  What I had not realised was that this year was also going to be the year I  made it into the RI ( Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour). My father was elected when I was a child  and I can still remember my parent’s excitement when they found out- it was like he had been made king!

I attended my very first RI exhibition as an exhibitor in Tenby, Pembrokeshire in Wales this July. It was held in the  Naomi Tydeman RI gallery .  She asked me to send her  one of John’s book. In it  there is a painting that  he did  in the very early days when he was first learning to paint. I  did not know where it was so simply called it ‘fishing harbour’. Naomi immediately recognised it as being Tenby and I felt ridiculously pleased to discover this.  It had almost certainly been painted on a family holiday and somehow , with the RI connection , it felt like something had been completed.

I  deliberately planned a  series of events  this  year  which would eventually lead to a quieter , more contemplative time of creativity. I am so looking forward to  this John Blockley exhibition-   It will be an informal event and a one off opportunity to see this work in the flesh.  After that – it’s  ‘Me time’.

 

Online exhibition- updated

I have just updated my online exhibition taking all the sold paintings off and adding  ten new  images to the collection.  Other than some large paintings  in a few art  galleries   and exhibitions around the country that are taking place  right now or reserved for gallery events in the autumn these are the only original paintings now available. It has been a crazy year!   The image shown here  called ‘through the gate’ is another loose  interpretation of a painting that  I  featured in my book ‘Watercolour workshop’.  I came across this  old bent iron gate   wedged between large stones  when exploring a magical mountain lane in Wales.

 

‘Through the gate’ is now available from the online exhibition  at £275 plus p&p

 

 

Arborealists and other artists- John Davies Gallery

The exhibition by members of the Arborealists and other artists has begun at the John Davies Gallery in  Moreton in Marsh . I went to the private view at the weekend and was blown away by the quality of the artwork.  All the paintings  celebrate trees and nature but in a huge array of styles and mediums.   Some of the usual gallery artists  were invited to contribute to the show including one of my favourites, David Tress.  I am feeling very proud to be exhibiting alongside these incredible artists-

John Davies has said  of the current exhibition “These are paintings to truly contemplate. They are works of art that can slow us down. ” I hope that this will be one of the most absorbing exhibitions that we have ever staged at the gallery.”

The exhibition is featured in this week’s Country life as their pick of what to see in the UK  and my painting ‘Green Tree’  has been used to illustrate this ( it sold at the pv!) For further information please visit www.johndaviesgallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Finding Me’

 

I thought  I was the butterfly

fluttering against  the pane

to seek an opening through

and hide  my deckle edged wings

among spotted  ragged leaves

in a tangled land  of bramble

I thought I was the moth-

a kind of butterfly goth,

strange outlier of the night,

waiting for the light,

unfurled  at last from my cocoon

And reaching for the moon

I thought I was the bee

in a shape shifting swarm,

searching for a new place

where I would feel at home-

A hive filled with the golden hum

of sweetness and activity

I thought I was the tree

with bare and broken bough

But where the wind tore

parts of me away I saw-

the tiny buds of hopeful  leaves

And a different story grow

 

I thought I was a metaphor-

that I could metamorphose

into something more,

and with morse code marks

create an allegory.

But I reached another page

and realised  after all-

  that I was simply…  me

 

 

Ann Blockley 2017- A first poem

Online Summer Exhibition

Lots of people have requested that I do another online exhibition  and so I have decided to do it now  whilst I still have a few  of the  original paintings left  that are in my ‘Watercolour Workshop ‘ book.  They are mainly smallish pictures but one or two large pieces too.   I shall send them  without mounts or frames to make  delivery  easier and they can be sent to most places around the world. For some reason there is a glitch with Sweden. I’m sorry about that but do please email me if you are from Sweden and we will  arrange something outside the usual system- it’s nothing personal I can assure you!

It’s too hot to paint this week with my watercolours drying as fast as they hit the paper and so I have really enjoyed  having a blitz in my studio, clearing stuff out . After two years of working on books  I feel that I am building up to start afresh quite soon. I know I am always saying that!   However,  I suppose it is in  the nature of an artist to always want to  look around at  creative possibilities and explore options. As I write this it reminds me of the poem that I ended my book with called ‘Finding Me’. It was a bit of a cheek really, including one of my first poems  in a published book but I thought back to when I did my first books on watercolour and really I was only just learning to paint myself! And so I decided that it was ok to include a first poem in this  recent book too.   You can find it in the  separate post- ‘Finding me’.

 

‘Dragonfly’ is featured in ‘Ann Blockley’s Watercolour Workshop’ and is now for sale in the online exhibition.  

John Blockley – a retrospective. NEW BOOK NOW AVAILABLE

I have spent the morning packing up copies of John Blockley- a retrospective. It is the new book that I have compiled about my late father’s life and work, published by Batsford. Publication date is actually July 5th but my advance copies have  arrived and box loads have gone off to the post office in the back of my husband’s truck to begin their journeys  around UK and as far as  New Zealand , Canada and USA.  It is a really  exciting moment for me  because this is a last stage in a long cherished project.  He died in 2002 so  the world is a very different place now but somehow  the  images he produced with such integrity and passion are as fresh  and meaningful as ever.  I am glad that I have had such warm feedback from people saying  that it was a lovely way to honour my father and give back .

He has been a massive inspiration to me and many other artists around the world and  his  influence  has been incalculable.  I am really proud to have   been able to put this book together showing  the many different subjects, mediums and  ways of interpreting that he progressed through as his work changed and developed over  forty years of painting. As an untrained artist, who only  became a full time  painter in his fifties, his story is as inspiring as the paintings themselves.

 

Fishing boats-Dungeness , G.John Blockley, c2000

Book launch exhibition-

The exhibition is hung  and  although I say it myself – I think it’s looking good!  I am prouder of my latest paintings than ever before so I really hope people will like them- as it’s rare for me to say that!  The barn where the exhibition takes place is  a really inspiring venue- being grade 2 listed medieval tithe barn.  The different areas within the barn lend themselves to different subject displays. Some huge, towering walls contain my latest large watercolours of hedgerows  and  trees. Bird paintings fly up the stairs leading to the balcony where my latest prints are hung.  The   country wall series  look appropriate on the lovely Cotswold  stone walls of the barn  and there are separate areas for water and meadow paintings. The cafe walls have a medley of  more intimate, smaller works – largely from my book Watercolour Workshop.

The good news is – the weather is looking good- although  even in warm weather the barn can be chilly.  If you think you might be tempted to take  a painting home-  please bring a blanket for wrapping  and save the planet from its sea of plastic bubble wrap.  You can always wear the blanket  if you forget your jumper! Also- a reminder that  I don’t have a card facility in the barn so bring cheque book if possible- Sorry to be so old fashioned.  Failing that – just come along and have a look – the gardens   are looking fab… and let’s not forget the cakes…. Hope to see you!

‘By the light of the silvery birch’ one of the original paintings in the exhibition

 

 

Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours

I am thrilled to be sharing with you the news that I have just been elected a member of the RI. This has been a life long ambition of mine and I feel deeply honoured to have been accepted into such a prestigious group of diverse and excellent painters. I am really looking forward to my involvement  with the society over the years to come.  The portfolio of paintings that I submitted as a candidate has now been returned and I shall be framing some of these paintings for inclusion in my forthcoming exhibition. I will write a longer piece about my  long journey towards this moment once my exhibition is over- but for now- I’m off to share some champagne with friends!  www.royalinstituteofpaintersinwatercolours.org

 One of the paintings submitted in a portfolio to the RI to support my candidacy

 

 

 

 

 

Exhibition

There has been so much happening recently I can hardly keep up with my blogs!   The next big event is my exhibition at Bourton House Gardens in Gloucestershire. It is four years since my last solo show so I am really excited to be back there, celebrating the launch of  my new book ‘Watercolour Workshop’  There will be a lot of paintings on display!  When I put a book together many of the images are kept back  until after publication so many of the images from ‘Watercolour Workshop’  will be for sale at the exhibition as well as  other interpretations. In size they range from full sheets of watercolour paper to little tinies  and as always  some are framed and others in mounts only.  There are also other surprise surfaces and experiments.   Subject wise there are plenty of trees and woodlands, watery scenes, wildflower meadows,   country walls, beehives  birds and butterflies.  There are flowers, sheep and lots of other rustic interpretations with  tangles, textures and a little bit of magic!

Spring Hawthorn(from ‘Watercolour Workshop)

I have had a  new range of  greeting cards printed and also some new giclee prints ( The prints will also go online next year)

I have just received  my first copy of ‘John Blockley – A Retrospective’ so you will be able to see that on display at the exhibition two months in advance of publication! I should get early copies in June and will be taking orders at the exhibition ( as well as online) . My own book ‘Watercolour Workshop will of course be there as well.  The publishers have taken no chances in it selling out  like it did  with my last book (  which had sold out before the book launch!!!) and so I have lots of copies.

I will be at  the exhibition most of the time so look forward to meeting some of you!  It’s in a gorgeous part of the Cotswolds.  Bourton House gardens are lovely at this time of year and well worth a visit ( the exhibition is free but there is a fee for the garden)   Tea, coffee and lovely cakes are available- Batsford Arboretum is just down the road if you want a larger lunch and of course Moreton in the Marsh is  not far.

Wifi and phone signals are not reliable in the tithe barn so as in previous years  I will not be able to take cards payments so please bring cheques or cash or  we can arrange bank transfers.

This year so far has been all about books, magazines and exhibitions  and it has  been very positive. I have had some really lovely messages and feedback . However, I am looking forward to getting back to blogs about inspiration, nature and painting  when all this madness quietens down! That , after all is what it’s all about!

Book launch Exhibition: The Tithe Barn, Bourton House Gardens, Bourton on the Hill, Gloucestershire, GL56 9AE

Saturday 5th May to Saturday 12th May 2018 (closed Monday 7th May) 10am to 5pm daily

 

John Blockley RI PS RWS NEAC

The time has come for me to share my big secret- I have recently compiled another book!   It is with huge pride that I can announce that my publishers commissioned me to write a long overdue  book about the life and paintings of my  late father G. John Blockley  RI PS RWS NEAC.  For those of you who do not know of his work- you are in for a treat! For those of you who are familiar with  it  you will know that John was a visionary and  progressive artist, whose paintings influenced and continue to influence a huge range of other artists across the globe ( including of course- myself!)  He wrote many books about his ways of looking at the world and the techniques that he used to interpret this vision.  Each covered the  different mediums and subjects that he was concerned with at the time.   These books are long out of print and for many years I have been asked by fans where they could obtain copies .

The commissioning editor of all my books, Cathy Gosling, who I followed from Harper Collins to Batsford books, was also editor  of some of my father’s books.  She was very keen  for me to  compile   this  brand new book and helped me  through  the difficult decision making. We decided to  show the full range of  his artistic legacy- the mediums and subjects, all linked through the practice of drawing. Some of the images are featured in previous books but  a large proportion are previously unpublished and it is visually stunning! Working on two books  in one year has been quite  challenging but I am so excited and proud to have  put this together and feel that in some way it is the final piece of a jigsaw.

 

 John Blockley- A Retrospective is due to be published by Batsford on July 5th. (144 pages- hardback)

Copies can be pre-ordered from my website shop: www.annblockley.com   

UPDATE! An advance copy of the book has arrived! It will be available to view at Ann’s Book Launch exhibition and pre-orders can also be made at the exhibition. Early copies should be available in June. 

Please follow this link or cut and paste to find the  brand NEW  JOHN BLOCKLEY WEBSITE for further information  :    http://johnblockley.com

 

Himalayan foothills

Just got back from the foothills of the Himalayas walking from village to village. It was a fascinating and humbling experience staying in simple village houses often without electricity or hot water. The walking was challenging  but the  stunning scenery and plants  and  the vibrant and friendly  villagers  tending their land made it a memorable experience.   I have just looked through all my photos and have plenty of predictable ones of the rhododendron flowers with snow capped mountains behind but I rather like  my close up shot of some of the tiny ferns and their skeletons that clung to the mossy branches of the rhododendron trees. I also loved the patterns of colourful saris  used to make fences around the  many small vegetable plots within the terraced  hillside. Now it’s back to  work- I have a really busy  month ahead!

 

 

 

 

 

Artist magazine

As soon as I posted about my article in the Cotswold Life  the post arrived with the May edition of The Artist magazine! In it there is a compilation of excerpts  from my new book ‘Watercolour Workshops’.  This will be followed in the June edition with another article featuring  new paintings  and text but still following some of the themes in the book.

 

 

 

Cotswold Life magazine

I have written an article for Cotswold Life about myself and my father’s life and paintings. It is in the April edition and now on sale in  newsagents in and around Gloucestershire for those of you who live locally.It’s called ‘Like father like daughter’ and talks about parallels that have happened – in spite of my every attempts to weave my own path!

 

April edition Cotswold life- article by Ann Blockley

 

 

 

 

There will also be articles in the Artist magazine. One is an excerpt from the new book and another with new content. I have also had an  interview  with Artist and Illustrator magazine , who visited my studio recently. I will add updates about publication dates very soon.

 

 

 

Book Review

Nice book review – Thanks Henry! Glad you liked it!

 

Henry Malt – book review

  Watercolour workshop- Projects and interpretations

 

Ann Blockley is one of the most innovative painters around and her work is

both challenging and inspiring.

This is one of her most practical books and includes plenty of exercises and

demonstrations that show you both how she works and how you can get the

most out of the medium of watercolour. It fully lives up to its subtitle, Projects

and Interpretations, providing both examples of Ann’s own work and ideas

for you to work on yourself. Its dedication is to “imagination, integrity and

interpretation, to being true to yourself”, which I rather like.

Ann’s style is very much her own and could be difficult to follow if she wasn’t

so generous with her explanation and instruction. The book is full of advice

and ideas and really does feel like having her at your side while you work.

As you would expect, interpretation is the central theme and Ann includes

photographs of her subjects so that she can show you how ideas develop and

different approaches can be tried. It’s an illuminating insight into a thoroughly

creative mind.

There are four main sections covering Flower and Field, Trees and Hedgerow,

Landscape Features and, finally, Towards Abstraction. There are six complete

projects, as well as sidebars, exercises and technical explanations. All the

main elements of intimate landscape painting are covered.

This is a beautiful and fascinating book that both stimulates and satisfies the

creative imagination

Image from ‘Ann Blockley’s Watercolour Workshop’ book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WORLD BOOK DAY- My new book is now officially published!

It’s World Book Day – so rather appropriate that my new book Watercolour Workshop has officially been published today! Thank you for all the kind words that  many of you have already sent to me after receiving your early signed copies. I really appreciate it. For those of you who have waited for it to be published- there’s plenty more!

To celebrate the day I thought I would show you a photo of our village ‘library’. My husband renovated the local phone box and put shelves in it so that people could contribute books of all kinds for everyone to share. It’s been a great success and we have really enjoyed seeing folk from all walks of life borrowing and bringing their books. All to encourage people to read. I have to admit I haven’t put a copy of my ‘Watercolour Workshop’ in yet but maybe I will!

 

Our village ‘library’!

 

Royal Institute of Painters in watercolour (RI)

I am really pleased that I have had 3 paintings accepted for the annual RI exhibition this year. I have not submitted paintings for a few years due to other commitments so am thrilled to be back! The paintings are all  part of a set of  images that I made as an ongoing project throughout the seasons. I am exploring the ever changing atmosphere and plant life within a  section of ancient hedgerow near my studio. I am enjoying looking at the patterns and textures that the webs and tangles of plant forms make and the abstract shapes made by  light through gaps between these  hedgerow tapestries..  Here is one of my entries  called ‘Teasels in the briar hedge’ .  I have shown some of the stages of its development on the workshop page.  For more details about the RI exhibition please visit my Events page.

 

 

 

 

Book update

I have got books!!! Lots of them!! A  Big thankyou  to everyone that has pre-ordered. It has been an overwhelming response so far and the orders are still pouring in.   I am steadily working my way through them. Soon the post man will be busily  trekking up and down garden paths leaving them in sheds , porches and greenhouses as requested! Lots of them will be heading off  to live in far flung corners of the world. So again-  Thankyou! I  really hope you will  enjoy  it.

 

Through the old iron gate- from ‘Ann Blockley’s Watercolour workshop’

 

 

New Book- March 1st!

Now the New Year has arrived I am  starting to count down the weeks until the publication of my new book ‘Ann Blockley’s Watercolour workshop’ The formal publication date is March 1st but I have exclusive pre- publication rights and will be able to include the book on my website shop in February!

This is my most ‘ hands on ‘, practical art book to date. It is full of information in both text and pictures on building up the stages of a painting. I hesitate to use the words ‘step by step’ because this is not a term that I agree with. I don’t believe in the idea that you can create art using a strict formula. The loose, impressionistic (and sometimes unpredictable) way in which I use watercolour means that each and every interpretation can be unique. Therefore I have called the demonstrations ‘Projects‘  instead. The photographer took close up pictures as I painted so that you can see in detail how an image might develop.  Where these are different to the usual step by step demonstrations is that I offer alternative technique suggestions, at different stages to suit   individual preferences and abilities. You can immerse yourself in the different themes and adapt them to you own choices and make your own decisions.  As well as these practical elements there are also plenty of interpretations following the subjects and themes to give you lots of ideas and inspiration.

My last book ‘Experimental Landscapes’ was   very popular and I have had some amazing feedback from many of you- for which I’m extremely grateful.   Listening to you at art festivals and workshops however I have realised that that not everyone has the time ( or finances) to do lots of experimenting. So although I still thoroughly endorse the idea that an experimental approach to painting is vital to all artists at times in their development, my attitude in this book  has been to share more of the  technical tips  that I have discovered through my own years of experimenting with watercolour. I really do hope that you will love it.

 

The magic apple tree

Overnight the apple tree seems to have bloomed with a froth of wintry frozen blossom.  Clusters and clots of white snow cling to each frail twig. A blackbird hops among these crystalline bouquets hoping to find  frosted fruit. Earlier the sun was a mere pale milky glimmer in a sullen sky but as the day lowers itself into the evening it begins to gleam in a last bid for attention. A sharp light, brittle and bright pinpoints itself into laser beams, picking out individual glittering snowflakes in the snow flowers of the snow tree.  The cold cumulus flowers are edged with light as this low sun caresses the whimsical chimerical shimmering shapes. Underneath each sugary clump the melting has begun and slow trickling drips have formed tiny icicles in a myriad silky glass blown shapes of the strangest beasts and wild imaginings.  The sun notices these icy confections and concentrates its alchemy into each misshapen glassy bauble, so that each one sparkles with  nuggets of a priceless gold . I am lost in the magic apple tree, drawn into this other world. I watch the frosty whites turn to blue shadow as the sun fades away and the snow blossom transforms into the dark silhouettes of the strangest fruits. It is too cold for the bats to fly from the watching steeple and the circling rooks have gathered in the safety of the wood.  It is just I that  sees the apple tree disappear into the  silent blackbird night.

 

 

 

Facebook and feedback

I have been on my own in my studio  doing lots of painting for several weeks now. I don’t know about you but I find it hard  working in a kind of vacuum,  painting  away but not having any feedback. I do ask my husband sometimes for his opinion ( when I’m desperate!)   but he is not in the least arty so if he approves (or not) I am still in the dark as to the merit of my work (or not!). The strange thing  is that I think I am actually rather good at looking at other people’s paintings and knowing instantly and instinctively  their strengths and weaknesses. When I teach at  workshops it is easy for  me to  watch a student’s painting develop  and advise about what to add, take away or when I think that they  should stop.

I find Facebook  very good in times of self doubt. You can post a picture and instantly have lots of positive reaction which is a lovely boost to the confidence. If you feel on your own with your painting or any other form of art social media  could be a really useful form of communicating with other like minded people- everywhere! I have noticed that  people only seem to leave positive  feedback and I mean in general, not just with regard to my posts. It would be dangerous to suggest that  it might be more useful if people  sometimes offered constructive criticism because not everybody is nice ( or so I have heard)  and we are all so very vulnerable. Nasty negative comments have the potential to shatter one’s confidence and  so it is probably easier to play safe and  just pay compliments.

On my workshops  I  sincerely find there is always something good to say about every piece.( Although it has to be said that sometimes it is harder than others!) I usually try to suggest ways in which the artwork or a follow up interpretation of it could be improved.  On one occasion a student once asked me to stop my pleasant comments and really give a  full on serious critique- warts and all. I  began tentatively suggesting that perhaps the composition  could be improved upon  and she was immediately upset as  she had thought that was the best bit!  Being a teacher is  a minefield especially when you have large feet and are not a trained psychologist!

On the subject of workshops- I  had promised myself not to tell you again  until next year the fact that I have a new book coming  out on March 1st called Ann Blockley’s Watercolour Workshop’.  And so I won’t mention it , or maybe I will ,but only quietly, because I’m excited about it and I haven’t got anyone else to confide in….!

If you would like to  join me  on Facebook  my page is Ann Blockley Artist  and I am also there as Ann Blockley.

 

Blackberry and sloe hedgerow- unfinished(?)

 

 

 

Next year’s events

I have just updated my website Events page with lots of exciting happenings for 2018. These are just some of the activities and events planned- there is more to come later in the year-so keep watching this space!

I am off to the woods tomorrow  to participate in a woodland project with the Arborealists- and the sun is  promising to shine. Really looking forward to doing some Autumnal drawing and poetry.

 

Autumn creativity

 

 

I have gone into mad mode. I call it that but really it’s a kind of creative whirlwind! This time of year always sends me into a frenzy of activity and my studio is chaotic. Vivid paintings, half- finished works,  experiments, scraps of colour, unresolved compositions, potential  mixed media scraps-  These pieces are piled on the floor of my studio – a colourful carpet of paper. They are like Autumn leaves and I can almost envisage them floating through the air, somersaulting and  whirling around my studio. I feel like tossing handfuls of them into the air and seeing the patterns that they make as they fall!

Many of my recent works are inspired by this very subject- the autumn leaves that create incredible  patchwork patterns in the trees and hedgerows, threaded through with bead like berries.  I have also been dabbling with watercolours that veer into the textile world using stitches and patching pieces together  to echo the tapestries of the  hedge.    Different surfaces, collage, printmaking, pouring liquid colours. I am loving it all. It sounds a bit random but actually they are all linked by the rich and magical theme of nature and its organic textures and shapes.

Writing has become part of my explorations and I announced my tottering tiny steps into the world of poetry in my last blog- Thank you so much to those of you who sent me such lovely encouraging messages!   I will keep at it and will post another of my efforts soon- if I can only find a pencil and paper amongst all this Autumnal creative chaos!

             Detail-‘ Sloe shadows in the hedge’

 

        Detail ‘A blustery day in the hedge’

New Book

I have been told by my publisher that I can start talking about my new book! But not too much-  publication date is still  four and half months away but the time will race past and I am now on a count down to March 1st 2018!  It feels like I have been working on this for ever. It is a year since  a photographer visited my studio  and took  shots of my paintings as I developed them . I had decided that it was time for me to do a  more ‘hands on’ book.  I then had to sort through about a thousand photographs  choosing the ones that best illustrated the points that I was  making and whittle them down to a usable number. Once these were allocated I had lots more painting to get done and of course all the writing to explain everything, making sure it is informative but still reads in an entertaining way and provides inspiration.

One of the aspects I enjoy about  developing a book is the layout and design process. I always get heavily involved  in this . I have a feeling I may have a  bit of a reputation  for being rather picky and difficult about the tiniest detail but it’s only because I am passionate about getting it ‘right’. It’s a bit like composing a painting- you know instinctively when something hangs together well.  So hours, days and weeks were spent over fonts, word counts and juxtapositions of images. The next stage was the exciting bit , when a large packet of colour proofs came through for my comments and  corrections.  It never stops being  a thrill to see your  pictures in print. Viewing the pages on a computer screen just isn’t the same. The next adrenalin packed installment was when I returned the corrected package to the publisher and it got ‘lost’ in the post!  Luckily, Royal Mail discovered where they had sent it to by mistake and  my baby was  returned into the arms of the publishers.

The final piece of the jigsaw was choosing an image for the cover  and here it is! It is called Ann Blockley’s Watercolour Workshop, to be published by Batsford on March 1st 2018.  I will be posting more information each month about this new book and what you can expect from it. So excited!!

 

‘Ann Blockley’s Watercolour Workshop’ will be published on March 1st 2018

 

 

Written in Stone

I find painting difficult. I always have done. It sometimes feels like drawing blood from a stone. I often feel that I could write a book about artist’s block- My name even has a ‘Block’ in it! However, I have realised that my problem is not stifled creativity – it is a surfeit of ideas! I am always so brimming with thoughts that sometimes I get confused about which way to turn.  Ever searching- earlier this year I decided to explore a completely different  avenue –something I have always been drawn  to but not had the confidence to try. Poetry.   I went on a day ‘s workshop at a local college feeling slightly foolish and fearful. Poetry scares me.

There were six of us and the tutor suggested that we begin by sitting in a circle to meditate and focus on what images came to mind about how we felt.  My heart immediately sank. What was I supposed to be feeling?  What kind of images did he mean?  Why had there been no tutorial before we began? At least we did not have to sit cross legged and hum.  I was clearly out of my depth and my cynicism was at full   pelt. Everyone had to recall what they had been thinking and we took turns to tell.  When it came to me I confessed that I did not really know what I was supposed to be saying or what was appropriate. In desperation I conjured up the idea that I had been lost in a  wood and had reached a clearing where a golden beehive stood.  I waited for the tutor’s comments.

‘Why did I feel that I was ‘supposed ‘ to be doing something specific? ‘……..At these words my internal  light bulb   switched on!   I realised straight away that I did not have to try and please anyone, that nobody could tell me what to do or think. There are no rules- we just search inside ourselves to find a way forward.

And my image?  The wood was a metaphor for my uncertainty about which way to turn but the bee hive was my inner knowledge of being a  sweet treasure trove of industry- full of creativity.   ‘I love that idea’ , I said ,’but I  am a fraud because that image only came from having painted something similar last week’. ‘ But out of all the many thoughts that were possible’,he replied, ’ the beehive in the wood is the one that surfaced at this particular moment.’   SOLD.

Having spent the morning inside (with no poetry to report yet)  we were sent on another exercise outdoors ‘to see what we were drawn to in nature and write about it  if we wanted to.’  I was relieved to be in the fresh air and wandered past a few daffodils , wondering whether these were going to show any  magnetic signs of  luring me in. Nothing so far. I meandered a bit further and spotted a magnolia tree in bud. Something made me move towards it. I could hear the murmur of some water- an underground  spring perhaps, as I could not see it.  Birds sang as I approached the tree and saw that a large, pointed stone was dangling from one of its branches. I found myself reaching for my notebook.  scribbling down words as fast as they poured out.  I wrote  the last two verses later, after I had returned to photograph the scene. I  had approached it from a different path and was astonished to see that the other side of the stone was actually a colourful mirrored mosaic.   The metaphors and meanings woven inside  the  words suddenly seemed enriched and I discovered  layers of thought that I had not even been aware of:

 

Written in stone

Stone

Suspended from string

Turning, twisting

Swinging to and fro

Pondering, testing the air

Feeling the energy

Divining which way to go

 

String

Tied to magnolia bough

blotched branches twist

With buds expectant

Pointing. Sensing the air

Gauging the temperature

Wondering if the time is now.

 

Spring

 Gossiping and bickering

A running commentary

 with harts tongue fern

A source unseen

A scene unsourced.

Babble to be ignored.

 Listen to birdsong

 

Stone

Suspended from  string

By the spring

Under the magnolia  tree

Stirring. Gently moves.

Spins and swings towards me

But shyly turns away.

If I wait it will turn again.

Another day

 

Later

 Drawn to the  pencil line

 of string  holding

 taut this hanging thing 

I approach in a different way

Out of the shifting shadows

Into a sunlit part of the play

 

And see

the other side of the rock

Contains images of me!

Not written in stone

 but   in multi coloured glass

shining  shattered shards

fragments of pain  and glory

 but also I  reflect-

windows to a different  story.

 

I could not believe what I had done and reported back with sheepish glee to the other students who were now back in the circle.  They encouraged me to stand and read my first poem and they  applauded when I finished.  It was a huge moment that I won’t forget.  

I published my first  painting book when I was  just beginning to learn how to paint- the cheek of it!  So I thought- why not share my poems or creative writing whilst I learn this too? (It has taken me six months to pluck up courage after my initial bravado at the workshop)! I would love to hear from you  if you have any  constructive criticism  or tips at: ann@annblockley.com  Thanks!

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

Autumn delights

Hurrah- Autumn starts tomorrow!  I have enjoyed the Summer days  but I always feel as if I am arriving back home when we turn the corner into September. I feel that it is a  new season and a fresh start again.  There have been long, heady days spent in my garden this Summer.I often sit and simply look around me, soaking in the sounds,scents and sights of my magical  cottage garden. It is  a small oasis away from all the horrors of the outside world. I sit and watch the games that the insects play- tiny spiders  weaving an adventure playground of trails and webs across an obstacle course of stems , leaves and twigs.  Silvery winged insects  having fun  dancing and   dodging their way through the perilous  maze. This year there have been clouds of butterflies in the garden, not glamorous ones wearing   frilly frocks but simple white patterns; stencilled shapes against leafy backdrops. The pigeon has cooed his way  through the days- a soft, satisfying rhythm  and the swallows ( or are they swifts or martins?)  have been swirling, diving and swooping in circles , having a wonderful celebratory leaving party before they head off  for their winter holidays.

My garden is being invaded by the Japanese- lanterns I hasten to add. I love the traffic light colours of these plants and I allow  them to trail where they like  around the purple smoke tree, curling against the quinacrodine magenta sedums. I pick off the overly green leaves and let the  green gold and cadmium orange lanterns shine through.   The star of the show this year has been the echinops . Their textured purple globes are often ringed with light. and the abstract pattern  is echoed by the smaller circles of poppy heads  clustered near by.  When I can drag myself out of the garden  I gaze at the hedges which  are already filled with Autumnal delights. Elderberries, rosehips , hops, and honeysuckle,  blackberries and bindweed.  Not sentimental views of pretty berries  but rich,  serious, abstract patterns   seen with a painter’s eye.  Which reminds me-  I am about to throw myself into a  passion of painting. having finished my book and almost ready to hand in my ‘other’ project -but more about that next time.

 

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

 

 

 

 

 

Demonstrations July 2017

I  was demonstrating last weekend at an Arts festival near Nottingham called Patchings,working for St Cuthbert’s paper mill who make Saunder’s Waterford paper. A treat for me because it is one of my favourite surfaces. I worked on  140lb Not (CP)  paper which I didn’t stretch before hand because I find that is , for me, an inhibiting process. If I have  prepared my paper in that way it means I have to perform and get it right! If I just take a piece of loose paper and play on it- I can be more spontaneous and experimental. That’s how it works for me anyway. Everyone was asking why my paper does not cockle as I work with quite a lot of water and  I think it is because these demonstration pieces are relatively small. . I use heavier weight paper if the painting is bigger .On any rare occasions that the painting needs flattening ,  I wet the back of it when the picture is dry , cover it with a protective layer and weight the whole thing down until it dries. That squishes out any  undulations. The other reason I like to paint watercolour on loose sheets is that I can curl up corners and move the paper about in an organic way in order to manipulate the paint and have more chance of  all the happenings- happening where I want them to!

Here is one of the demonstration pieces of an atmospheric woodland corner. It started out as two dark trees but I quickly realised that the  negative space between them was reading as  one pale tree . I decided that I rather liked this, changed tack and added some further details to explain my new focus. I used some Daler Rowney ink  to add the suggestion of a sun and I must admit there was a  bit of a   gasp when the ink  went on and everyone leapt awake! I did several more demonstrations over the three days and met lots of people. I really hope that if you came you enjoyed it and I am sorry that I sold out of books on day 2! I thought that  you had all already got a copy – but apparently not! I will be extremely well prepared next year when I hope to go back again and will take lots of copies of  my new book with me.

 

Demonstration

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

The Arborealists in France-review

This is a review of the current Arborealist exhibition showing in France. I am not showing in this particular exhibition as I have only just joined  the group but  will be exhibiting in their future shows.

The exhibition “Les arbres de la Vienne” by Les Arboréalistes, until July 31 at the Dortoir des
Moines (Dormitory of the Monks) in Saint-Benoît, is simply sublime. More than a group, the
Arboralists movement was born in 2013 in the United Kingdom, led by Tim Craven, one of the
exhibiting artists, Chief Curator of the Southampton Gallery in England.
The aim of the movement is not only to paint trees, but also biodiversity, their representation and
preservation. ” Cut a tree and it reveals all its history, its scars, its fights and its sufferings. The
trees irrigate our history, ” says Philippa Beale. This English artist who has lived in Vaux-En-Couhé
for many years, has organized the exhibition. Composed of 51 artists with international media
coverage, the Arborealists are predominantly British. The movement also includes a few French
and an Italian. 23 of them are participating in this exhibition. Each artist has his own approach, his
interests, his technique, his supports and his style. Painters, sculptors, engravers, watercolors …
including two British royal academicians and artists present in the English national collections.
After several events in the United-Kingdom, the Arborealists have chosen to present their work in
France, here in Saint-Benoît, for the first time. “In the fall of 2016, they spent a few days in the
Vienne in search of French landscapes and trees as a source of inspiration, ” explains Beale. This
exhibition is the fruit of their work. The trees are immortalized and sublimated, in their visual
requirement, in exceptional pallets, sometimes unexpected.
“Les arbres de la Vienne” until Monday, July 31 at the Dortoir des Moines of the Abbey of Saint-
Benoît, 11 rue Paul Gauvin. Free entry. From 9h to 12h30 and from 13h30 to 18h (on Wednesdays
from 9h to 12h30), on Sundays 9th and 30th July from 13h30 to 18h. Private view open to all,
Friday July 7 at 5:30 pm. Presence of artists every day. philippa.beale@orange.fr,
www.arborealists.c

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The secret wood

I have recently been lucky enough to  become a member of a group called the Arborealists who are passionate about nature and in particular trees. Each artist in the group uses a different style or  medium  and the work varies from tiny to huge-  There were   watercolours  of at least a couple of metres long  in a recent exhibition and there are also wonderful etchings, oils, prints of trees made on  handmade paper using leaves from the same tree,  huge  draped, dangling installations of abstract work on paper made by a collaboration of artists and much more. It is really exciting .

What is also very inspiring is the number of projects that are being lined up  throughout UK and in France too.  I joined the group just in time to be involved with a project that will  culminate in an exhibition in Uk next year. There is a secret wood that has been unmanaged for many years as an ecological experiment and barely any humans have entered it for decades. The group have been given permission to  visit the woodland  to gather information, paint and draw and  the resulting works will  be exhibited. We paid a spring visit to the wood  recently and will  return in the autumn. It will be interesting to see how  the atmosphere changes  with the  different plants and cycles of vegetation, the differing colours and  weather of a new season. This  theme is endlessly fascinating to me.

When we visited in April the wood was a shimmering haze of  tender greens, flecks and speckles. White stars of wild garlic shone out from the  earthy floor and ferns with their shuttlecock feathered leaf patterns   sat snugly among last year’s crunchy bronzed leaves . I sat under   a group of  ancient yew trees  to paint the textured bark and twisting shapes of the trunks.  It felt like a dark oasis of earth   and shadow  under the  evergreen trees. Through the gaps  I could see  the  delicate  filigree and sparkle of the  sunlit foliage in the more open woodland beyond.

As I made my sketches I began to feel that perhaps what I had chosen as a subject did not best capture the overall atmosphere of the wood . I had spent a long time earlier wandering through the varied tangled treescapes looking, listening to birdsong, smelling the scent of the wild garlic,looking again, soaking up the feel of the place  before settling. I  remembered the words of my late father in one of his books*:’ I like to settle quickly wherever I happen to be and see what I can make of the material immediately available, looking at in terms of interesting patterns.” It saves endless time spent walking around  looking for the paintable subject.’  Sound advice as it is not what the subject is but how we interpret it that can make it interesting. I noticed one of the other artists had immediately settled in front of  some shrubs that to me looked uninspiring and noted how she stayed there for the whole two days , painting it in detail. Perhaps I should have chosen something earlier? Maybe I should be painting, not sketching? In fact , what I had  been drawing was probably  complete rubbish in comparison to her amazing work!  I realised that I could go two ways with these thoughts. I could either learn from them and act accordingly or allow all my insecurities and doubts creep in. I decided that  the lesson I would take from this was to be more confident about my  decisions because it was how I interpreted the subject that mattered.   My paintings are not ‘of’ the woodland’  but  ‘about’ it and the arguably ‘wasted’ time spent  gazing and absorbing the sense of the place was actually crucial to my way of working, as it becomes more towards abstract and less about representation.

               ‘fallen tree’ in the secret wood.

I found it fascinating and sometimes worrying over the weekend to get a glimpse into the way other artists work and discovered a few things about myself.  I decided not to allow other  artist’s  creative decisions feed my  negative self doubts  but  let the experience  strengthen  my sense of being ‘me’ . Creativity is not hierarchic. There isn’t a ‘best’ way to do things.  Whatever I or any of us decide to do artistically can be  unique and valid.

 

* ‘Watercolour -Practise and progress’ by G. John Blockley published in 1985 by  A&C Black ( out of print)

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Online exhibition-extra paintings

Through the distant tree-small watercolour

The pictures in my online exhibition of small  paintings are being snapped up  really quickly. Thank you to all of you that bought one ( or more!). Most of them have been posted   now. I decided to add a handful more paintings so have added some finishing touches to some that were not quite ready before and they are now  in the exhibition. To see which ones are available at a glance look on the shop section  then go to the online exhibition section for further information.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

 

 

The Arborealists

I came across the group called the Arborealists about a year ago and was blown away by  the variety of  incredible paintings, prints and drawings all linked together  through a shared theme of trees. I made a mental note that perhaps I should contact them. I  recently  happened to meet one of the founder members who told me that if I was interested in joining I needed to act fast as it was complicated to join, that they had recently capped the number of  members  to 50 and they were almost full. I applied immediately and am thrilled to say was promptly accepted as the 48th member.

The Arborealists were formed in 2013, the brain-child of curator and artist Tim Craven after the critical success of  Under the Green Wood : Picturing the British Tree, an exhibition he co-curated at St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, Lymington, Hampshire. This exhibition was formed of two distinct parts. Part one was an historical review of artists who had occupied themselves drawing and painting trees and landscapes and included John Constable and Paul Nash amongst other 19th and 20th century celebrated artists. Part two, ‘Under the Greenwood’, featured 32 contemporary artists including a Turner Prize short-listee ,two Royal Academicians, contemporary artists such as Kurt Jackson and other artists who had given trees, forests and woods a special value. The exhibition showcased a great diversity of art practice, including scale, medium, style and philosophy, centered around the unifying subject of the tree.Under the Greenwood proved a substantial critical success and when the exhibition closed, many of  the original group and other artists, including painters and printmakers  formed together to become the Arborealists. Each time they have exhibited it has been to critical and popular success.

Trees provide a wonderfully versatile subject for artists, not only in terms of the incredible diversity of form, character and colour they provide, whether individually or collectively, but also in terms of the wealth of association, myth, folklore, religious and symbolic significance, which they have come to embody. I am absolutely thrilled to have become an Arborealist- particularly because of what the group stands for. It is not simply a showcase for trumpeting one’s own success. It is aimed at raising people’s awareness of nature. In these digital days we are becoming increasingly separated from nature and I think it is vital that we try and connect back to these roots in order to regain contentment.  If through my paintings I inspire someone to go out into the countryside, breathe the air, stand and stare and listen to the birdsong I will feel I have achieved something worthwhile.  The enthusiasm and ideas buzzing out from this group of artists in a sharing way is refreshing and I cannot wait to get started on some of the enriching projects that are lined up… more about these later.

 

The Arborealists are currently exhibiting at ‘Nature in Art’, which is the world’s first museum and art gallery dedicated to fine, decorative and applied art inspired by nature. I am not showing in this exhibition as I have only just joined the group but it is a fascinating  and varied group of paintings and prints.

The Arborealists: A Celebration of Trees

April 11th – May 14th

Nature in Art
A38, Twigworth, Gloucester, GL2 9PA, UK
Telephone: 01452 731422

www.natureinart.org.uk

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

 

So what have I been up to?

I have just handed over the artwork and text for a new book. It has taken ages to put together because for various reasons I  have done a lot of the decision making and  designing myself and it has proved to be a more complicated book than usual ( but in a good way I think)  It is too soon to describe the contents as it takes a year from handing over the paintings and manuscript to it being published. This is largely to allow time for the printing and binding to be done in China and for the shipping……. So there will be no fanfare until next spring but I can assure you I will be shouting out the news nearer the time as this is my baby!

By June I should have the first layout to look through. By the end of the summer all the text will have been edited and I will have added all those bits I forgot to say and rewritten all the bits that made no sense!  I am mentioning it all now because I have been a bit quiet online and I wanted you to know that I have not disappeared! I have in fact been as busy as a bee.

‘Woodland beehive’ will be featured in Ann’s Spring online exhibition beginning in late April 2017.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Happy New Year. Happy New News!

Happy New Year everyone.  There is almost a sense of relief to  be saying goodbye to the old year and welcoming the new one in. It is strange how every January it always feels like the chance for a fresh start when in fact every morning is a new beginning.   I have a busy year ahead although a lot of the work will not be evident until next year- which will be really busy! So here is  a bit about some of the things happening:

I am currently working on- A NEW BOOK!  This one will be quite different to most of my other books and I am really excited about it.  Putting a book together takes a loooong tiiiime and is very slooooow.   So I still cannot say too much at this stage as you will get bored  hearing about it !  The images  are mostly finished but I now have the writing to do. Then  the publishers take  a year to put it all together in time for Spring 2018!    The only reason I am telling you this now is  because I have been quiet recently and I don’t want you to think that I have been slacking!

Still in secretive mode-I have another project to work on as soon as my book is handed in that will keep me busy over the summer.

A lot of you have been asking about exhibitions. At the moment I am keeping images back for the book and  some major shows next year. In the meantime there may be an online exhibition in 2017 or a studio exhibition.   I always have work here  though so do email me if you are looking for something and cannot wait that long .

Next: WORKSHOPS!!  I am planning some workshops this spring.  A newsletter will be  sent out SOON with information and a booking form. I’m afraid that places  cannot be reserved in advance as it is an automated booking package. People who have subscribed to the website newsletter will be  given first notice that bookings and information  are  up and running.

That’s all  for now. Happy January!

 

dsc_0878

The first snowdrop has appeared in my garden. A lovely sign to start the new year.


 

 

Happy Christmas Everyone!

My Christmas  tree is  glitzy with decorations, standing on an ornate indian mirrored chest. It is sparkling with  precious baubles saved from my childhood. The branches are hung with   little felt sequinned shoes  made by my children at playgroup  over 20 years ago ,  tiny wooden toys  bought from a German Christmas  market , miniature knitted stockings,  patchwork stars, dangly glass heart shapes from a broken chandelier; all kinds of diverse treasures   carefully unwrapped and remembered each year.  Nothing matches and there is no colour scheme or theme! The crowning glory at the top of the tree is ‘grubby fairy’ ,named by my husband as until this year she was still wearing the gauzy dress I made for her when I was 12 and looking slightly worse for wear. I  decided this was a disrespectful title for a fairly elderly doll and  decided to treat  her to a new dress made from some pieces of victorian lace and rechristened her ‘lacy fairy’!  The lace was rather reluctantly  donated to the Christmas cause  as it had been set aside for  a yet to be planned collage.   So now you know my guilty secret- I still play with my toys!

Well ,I guess  the  arty moral of this sentimental tale is to keep in touch with our playful childish thoughts  and dreams. If  we let our inner child shine  through all those barriers we build around ourselves it is more likely that  our true,authentic and unique  artist voices will   shine through in our paintings.

And now I must go and put  a mincepie out for Rudolph…. or is it Santa who gets the pie?  Either way…. have a  wonderful Christmas and may all your dreams come true! X

winter-11-misc-012


 

Magical morning

There have been some spectacular winter days recently and I have been out soaking up the colours and textures   for inclusion in some atmospheric paintings.   This morning I woke up early and could see from the window that the earth was frosty pale against the palest tangerine  tinted sky.  The valley  was layered with wisps of of mist.I  decided a walk before breakfast was in order before the frost melted and was so glad I did. It was simply magical.

dsc_2816

I walked down a favourite track where the hedgerows grow wild  up to several meters high. The intricate designs of their interwoven twigs and branches were emphasised by the frost and powder coated white. The  shady side  of the path sparkled silver but turned to gold where the sun  filtered through to the other side. Light dazzled through tiny  gaps in the shaded branches.

dsc_2781

It was a huge tapestry of tangles and my eyes scanned the  rich patterns  for focal points.  A few colourful  leaves were still clinging and   sang out from the pale glittering monochrome hedge. The ruby red rosehips were also sumptuous accents of colour against the dull pewters of the shaded hedgerow.

dsc_2794

 

The bare skeletons of some  hogweed  beckoned me . Their  fragile  stems  were  linked  into lacy  patterns by frosty cobwebs sparkling  with tiny beads  of water.  The leaves on the ground were deliciously crunchy. Their white rimmed abstract shapes reminded me of some prints  I had made earlier in the Autumn . In the field at the end of the lane  the sheep had  similar bright halos -this time from the low morning sun . Long shadows were cast through the grass. Where the sheep had beaten a path through the icy  sage green meadow  the shadows of the tracks were the brightest blue.

dsc_2789


 

November update

Just in case you are thinking that I have gone very quiet I thought I would let you know that I’m beavering away in my studio. I haven’t forgotten you!   I recently had a great photographer visit my studio to  take shots of me working and I have been sorting through these  as well as finishing off  a series of Autumn pieces. I have a  project in hand that  I can’t say too much about yet as it’s such early days but will do so in due course.

The photographer   decided  that the portraits he took of  me  should have a  watercoloury feel, a bit like one of my paintings with washy faded  textured areas contrasting a more sharply focused bit – in other words – me!    I like the way the colours are a bit pastel and ‘vintage’   especially the photo-shopped pink water jar.  Never let it be said that I would ever let my water get so mucky- or that I would use such a ‘pretty ‘ pink!

  I  had been out   the day before  foraging for hedgerow material to  paint from. There were buckets laden with sprays of blackberries, rosehips ,colourful leaves and sloes with lichen encrusted bark .  I find it inspiring to be surrounded by such things even if I am only gathering ideas for colour and texture rather than  creating an actual picture of them.

 

_o7a4522

                  Having fun in my studio

 

_o7a4314

    twig encrusted with silver and gold lichen

  Photographs   copyright Steve Russell studios 2016


Honeymoon!

Following on from my last post I thought you might like to see some photos. Here is me looking somewhat pleased with myself. We had just got married on the beach in the Seychelles. It was beautiful, with the sun sparkling silver on a turquoise sea and coral white sands. I  like to think that I looked appropriate in my aqua  silk dress with shimmering moonstone jewellry!  :

dsc_1946

 

Earlier that day we had been snorkelling. The  marine underworld  is totally inspiring and opens up  whole new vistas of visual experiences. I had ‘splashed out’ on an underwater camera  and was  very glad I did . Even though I could scarcely see through  my blurry snorkel  I just kept snapping and it paid off.  I will have to write a separate blog about the fish because the  sheer variety, the colours and  shapes not to mention the backdrop of corals and seaweeds simply blew me away.   Actually, the current almost swept me away- it was very strong indeed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

One of the places  that we stayed on our honeymoon was  a tiny piece of paradise  called Bird Island. Not everyone’s cup of tea as the million and half birds in a very small area definitely  deafened you! But for us nature lovers it was utterly spectacular.  White Fairy terns  flit through the palm trees,   black seabirds gathered in their thousands on bleached driftwood structures,  humming birds  sipped at bougainvillea. It was just amazing.

 

dsc_2269

thousands of birds gathering for a sunset party!

 

dsc_2446

‘Fairy tern’ – I just love that name!

The interior of Bird island is a mini jungle and  again, it was wonderful to be surrounded by such a natural environment with so many organic shapes and patterns.  Now we are home and the  holiday is over but I feel that the honeymoon  has just begun. I  can’t wait to get started on  the next bit of my life and immerse myself in my painting again.

 

dsc_2324

‘The jungle path’ . I look so tiny against those massive palm trees!

 


 

 

 

 

Moving forwards

It is Monday and the party is over. The last guests have been dropped at the airport. The house and my studio have been tidied . The bins have been emptied. The washing is on the line. All that is left to do is write this piece. This blog has been something I have been hesitant about posting. I have rewritten it in my head a hundred times but it never felt right until now.  Today feels like the right moment to share with you some of the journey I have been travelling through over the last three years. Writing it down feels like the last little piece of the jigsaw.

I will tell you more about the party later but at this very moment, I feel I am beginning a new and exciting phase in my life.  I am sitting at my computer and I feel so very joyful!   Sadly, the last few years have not been so happy.  I feel that I want to explain why I have not been so ‘out there’ and why there have been fewer workshops and exhibitions, blogs and Facebook offerings.

I told everyone that I was ‘having a sabbatical’ which was something I did originally intend to do.  After my mother passed way and another precious family member died unexpectedly soon afterwards I decided that  I would take some time out. I would explore and develop further my artistic ideas and spend time feeding  my soul. Days after making the decision to have a sabbatical I too was diagnosed with a serious illness and my world fell apart again. I won’t bore you with the details because so many of us have similar tales to tell- but it wasn’t much fun.  I tried to focus on the positives and  luckily was able to immerse myself in painting which was a huge solace. I had handed over my book ‘ Experimental Landscapes’ to the publisher the previous year and  it was being launched in  the Spring. I went ahead with a big book launch exhibition and the success of the book was the most incredible boost. It gave me the encouragement and motivation to continue painting and helped me  through the blackest of times.

My story is not unusual and I know I am one of the lucky ones.  I was given the ‘all clear’  quite a while ago but  I  still needed to work through a kind of emotional healing. I cleared my studio in a sell out sale last year. It was all part of the cleansing process.  One thing I felt certain about was not to punish myself if – shock horror- I actually didn’t feel like getting my paints out. There were moments when for the only time in my life I felt that I might stop being an artist and tried to think if there was something else I could do?  My way of dealing with this was   to cut down the hours I spent painting and   tried to concentrate on quality rather than quantity. I also spent time doing other   kinds of creative things such as redecorating my dark, olde worlde house   and turning it into a haven of light and colour.    I enjoyed time in the countryside surrounded by nature gathering information for future work. Gradually, gradually I began to feel like ‘me’ again.   And now I’m on top of the world!

There is a wonderful book called ‘Women who run with the wolves’ by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. One of the chapters  is called ‘Clear Water : nourishing the Creative Life.’ It uses the metaphor of a river and clear water in relation to creativity, particularly within females. She likens the creative force to an underground river searching for outlets in our psyche. It flows, cascades, meanders in new directions, empties, rises and falls again in natural cycles.  Even when the river appears to have  run dry it may be quietly bubbling and simmering away, waiting to spring forth. Problems arise when the clear water becomes diverted, forced into dams and contaminated by all kinds of negative forces including  illness. At that point we need to purify the water of its pollution so that it can flow freely again. One day I would like to write more about this as it is such an  important aspect of  our creative functioning. Being kind  and patient with myself  has been part of this process and now I feel the river is about to overflow again!  I am full of ideas and enthusiasm and desperate to get painting after a recent trip away!  I have some very exciting projects to plan and work towards.

 

And the party?  It was   a wonderful celebration with family and friends to celebrate Life, Love and Moving Forwards.   And – getting married in the Seychelles!  Photos and blog to follow!!

With love to you all   and thank you for being there!

Ann  xx

Harvest home

It is  still Summer but  already there is a taste of Autumn in the air. In the rural village where we live the lanes are lined with  the straw that has fallen off trailers piled high with bales.  Our kitchen table is laden with gorgeous red and orange tomatoes , some small and some large and flouncy shaped.   The victoria plums  are plumping up by the minute and I can sense the wasps  just sitting quietly on the sidelines just waiting for their moment to rush in and  begin their buzzy annual angry  tyranny in the garden.  In the street, neighbours disappear  back inside their houses when they see us coming with  yet more  armfuls of courgettes to give away.  There are seedheads , seedheads , seedheads  all over my garden. I love it.    When the stems  fall over or break I stick them in pots  by my studio door so that I can still enjoy their shapes and they can still spread their seeds for next year.

Inside the studio I am also buzzing around  gathering together paintings for  inclusion in the exhibition that I have been invited to join as a guest artist.  This is in the local market town of Chipping Campden with its honey coloured stone and  charming high street. As the exhibition has been called ‘Fair Michaelmas’  I thought it only right that I include some seasonal subjects.  Every year in the local hedgerows I watch the butterflies dancing through the blackberries.  They never keep still for a moment  and when I paint them I like to try and catch an impression of  something  shy and ephemeral, camouflaged amongst the leaves and  patterns of the hedge.   This year the blackberries  are just beginning to ripen and it will be a really bumper crop so I am hoping there will also be  lots more fluttery visitors .    This painting of a  butterfly  in the blackberry patch  is only little- but I   have   really enjoyed  creating its sumptuous tapestry of colours.

 

AB 1

‘ A butterfly in the blackberry patch’ will  be  exhibited at   The Gallery at the Guild in Chipping Campden.  My paintings will be shown from August   27th to  September 15th.  I will be at the gallery from noon to 4pm  on Saturday 27th. Please do come and say hello and enjoy a glass of wine with us at the Meet the Maker  afternoon.


 

 

Irish idyll

We have recently got back from a  family visit to  Ireland, staying in an idyllic  corner of Donegal.  It is a wonderful time of year to go because  the  fuschia hedges   are so  vibrant and lush,edging and towering above small lanes by up to  three metres in places.  Honeysuckle   and convolvulus wove their way through the  swathes of deep  crimson  flowers  and to add to the joy of it all , large clumps of rosa rugosa studded this glorious tapestry.

IMG_0046

Harebells and heather  entangled with  many types of grasses fringed the dunes and rocks that edged the  little beaches.

IMG_0066

Seaweeds, pebbles and barnacles   kept me entertained with their endless patterns.

IMG_0018

As the emphasis of the trip was  firmly on fishing for crabs and building sandcastles with grandchildren  on  a series of deserted sunny sandy beaches ( yes- sun- in Ireland!) I had to content myself with a few quick forays with my camera to sneak photos. You never quite switch off when you are an artist!


 

 

Artist magazine article

Well that was a surprise. My monthly Artist magazine  arrived today and there I was! Of course  I knew I had written an article for  the July edition – I just didn’t realise it would be out so soon!  In it I have discussed the idea that if we ‘think’ in a different  more descriptive way it encourages us to loosen up and create a more abstract, and personal interpretation.

I have included a practical element showing how  I developed a very abstract  experimental  exercise into this semi abstract interpretation of a  tangly tree and crumbly wall:

10

So look out for the July edition of the Artist magazine. My article is called ‘Loosen up your thinking’.


 

Back to nature

I am sorry I have   not been updating my blog recently . I have decided to have a  quiet year and replenish the batteries!   I feel a bit selfish not sharing my activities   but I am limiting  my time on the computer  just for the moment.

People have contacted me about the annual Patchings art festival to ask whether I will be demonstrating this year. The answer is that I  have decided to do this every other year- so my next time will be in 2017. I am also being asked about  workshops but I’m afraid that I don’t have any plans at the moment to do any.

My mission for the next few months is to  feed my painting and creativity by immersing myself in nature, taking lots of walks with camera and sketchbook and ‘playing’ quietly in my studio with no aim  other than to explore and see what happens. There are  exciting plans rumbling under the surface however with ideas for projects simmering away- but nothing  I can reveal just yet!

Last weekend we had  an utterly inspiring time in Cornwall walking  some of the coastal paths and visiting the fabulous  Lost Gardens of Heligan. Here is  a picture of me putting my head down and getting back to nature!:

 

DSC_1309-001

Sculpture: Lost Gardens of Heligan.

The gardens were  gorgeously beautiful  and I found every square inch interesting so I was probably a nightmare to be with.  Low walls were full of primroses and moneywort whilst  richly coloured rhododendrons jostled for space with jungle like trees.

DSC_1341

DSC_1381 The coastal paths are so rich with plants and I love the three dimensional quality of looking up  or down at  subjects.  Birds flying above and below, gorse growing out of the tops of high banks and walls, seapinks nestled in rocks  and grasses on the clifftops.

 

DSC_1254

This gorse bush is just a bit too perfect- needs roughing up with a few watercoloury splatters!

 

DSC_1233

The sea was so blue that day – with patches of turquoise.

 

 

DSC_1250

I’m sorry but it gets on my nerves when people show pictures of their pets on their blog- MAISIE!! Get out of my shot!

I am back in my studio today and a chaffinch  has spent hours flying in and out of the plum tree blossom, tapping on my window with its beak. From another window I have  a close up, full view of our huge magnolia tree . It is  extravagantly covered in flowers this year and it has been  strange to see  the petals illuminated in sunlight one minute and  shimmering with hailstones the next. Blue tits  flit through the branches sometimes  sharing the space with a fat grey pigeon.  Birdsong is tempting me back outside again and back to nature.


 

Exhibition in France

 

france exhibition flyer

I have just packed up  a collection of paintings that I have prepared for an exciting exhibition in Normandy  in France.   I was invited  to exhibit as the UK representative  with a  group of other European watercolour artists who have a range of styles.  It looks like it will be  a fantastic show and there will be a wide range of workshops,  demonstrations and music. I am sending about twenty paintings  in different sizes. Aquarellences is a non profit  organization whose mission is the promotion of watercolour.  For more information about this exhibition please visit www.aquarellences.fr. or email:  contact@aquarellences.fr

 

DSC_9461


 

 

 

Subscribe to Ann’s Newsletter

If you wish to receive Ann's occasional Newsletters by email please enter your details below. Ann will only ever send Newsletters, will hold your information securely and will never share it. You may instruct us to remove your details at any time.

Site Information

COOKIES – We use cookies to make your visit to the site smoother. If you continue to use the site you will be deemed to have consented to receiving these cookies. Don’t worry – they don’t do anything nasty!

 

Terms and Conditions

Shipping Original Paintings

PLEASE NOTE: Original paintings cannot be sent in the same shipment as books and DVDs. Please place a separate order for these.

Shopping Cart