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ANN’S BLOG


  • In the woods

    I have been visiting the woods recently in order to try and get ‘back to nature’. I feel as if I have got into a lazy habit of always painting in the studio without enough plein air work. It is easy to convince yourself that a photo and sketchy scribble will do and gradually find yourself feeling rather removed from the subject. So I have been loading my rucksack with inks and paper and visiting a local wood to do some painterly experiments in situ.

    colour sketches in the bluebell wood

    I made this a priority over everything else because the bluebells have been coming out thick and fast and for several years I have left it too late to visit them- always finding something else ‘ more important’ to do. This year is a bumper year for bluebells. Their colour is a true feast. It sounds silly but I was quite surprised to see that the flowers were not the colour that my brain had somehow told me they were. Not really blue at all- more purple- but varying according to the light. I experimented with using different blues- some painted to be true to nature and others a more ‘imaginative’ version. Some Cobalt Blue with a touch of Quinacrodine Magenta seemed to capture the ‘real’ colour but I also played with turquoises and French Ultramarine.

    I found myself lost in the moment. Absorbing the sounds and sights of bumble bees, the woodpecker, deer and pheasants.A pink crab apple tree was still in blossom and red campion and cowslips fought for space in the ocean of blues and fresh greens. Picking my way through brambles, branches and old tangled stems of old man’s beard and honeysuckle made me realise that the typical romantic notion of a bluebell wood is not necessarily accurate. There are thorns, stinging nettles and awkward undergrowth waiting to trip you up. You have to stoop under and scramble over branches and logs. It is not all sweet and pretty- It’s raw nature.

    I spent some blissful hours and was feeling very smug. However, when I looked at my paint sketches in the studio later I immediately reverted to my usual self critical ‘They are No Good’. But then I immediately reacted against this negativity. I realised that the exercise had not been about creating something ‘good’, ‘bad’ or anything in between – it had been about enjoying the day and gathering fuel for the soul.

    I had not intended that the pieces be ‘finished’ but I couldn’t resist working into some of them on a later occasion and decided that the woodland experience had injected them with a raw energy that I liked.

    Bluebell wood- This painting will be for sale at Ann’s dvd launch
    exhibition in June at Church View, Studio gallery, Todenham, GL56 9PF UK – June 8th-14th See events page for further information


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  • Experimental watercolour workshop- new dvd cover

    The cover of my latest dvd has been finalised- and here it is!

    The painting used for the cover is one of a series of river scenes that I have made based on a local river that I see on daily walks. I have enjoyed watching this scene change with the seasons as the surrounding trees and vegetation reveal or obscure the water. I especially love it in the evening when the sun always gathers its strength at a particular spot, tangled within the branches. Many rooks live in the canopy and as the sun sinks the noise rises. It is very atmospheric. I tried to capture some of this atmosphere in my cover demonstration whilst finding a range of techniques to show you that suit the subject. Other versions of this river are featured in my book ‘Watercolour workshop’ ( Batsford 2018) on pages 90-91.

    Experimental Watercolour workshop is available to pre-order from the shop Orders will be sent after publication date of May 1st .

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  • Experimental Watercolour Workshop- NEW DVD

    My new dvd is based on some of the contents of my ‘Watercolour Workshop’ book which was published last year. It reinforces the book and vice versa with new interpretations and techniques. It isn’t necessary to have both though in order to benefit from their ideas. They are independent of each other. I took subjects for the film that had not already been demonstrated as step by steps in the book and explain in the film how each interpretation can be unique and different depending on how you mix and choose the ‘ingredients’. It continues the theme of experimentation as a way to develop your artwork and loosen up your approach.

    I painted a new version of the Lavender field and Cowparsley used for the cover of the book – and was pleased with the way the watercolour formed ‘happy accidents’ and had a real energy. I had painted an interpretation as a kind of ‘dress rehearsal’ before I painted in front of the camera as I needed to loosen up before starting . Performing to camera is pretty scary stuff but my practise piece paid off because the demonstration version had an energy, that was perhaps lacking in my first , unfilmed attempt. I added collage to the watercolour beginning, explaining how this optional progression could change the direction of your watercolours.

    Other demonstrations include a frothy Spring hawthorn and an atmospheric evening river scene. There are lots of ideas and thoughts behind the pictures and I hope if you get to see it you will be inspired to get your paints out and explore!

    ‘Experimental Watercolour Workshop’ dvd is now available to pre-order from the shop. Publication date is May 1st 2019 and any ordered before that date will be sent after publication.

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  • RI annual exhibition

    I have just spent two days in London at the RI exhibition in the Mall Galleries. Day one was the private view and opening of the exhibition. The gallery was absolutely packed but I got there quite early so had plenty of time to look round at all the gorgeous paintings. So much variety and some lovely stuff from non members as well as members. Speaking of which-At the end of the opening speeches I was presented with a wonderful diploma to mark the fact that I had been elected as a member this time last year.

    My paintings are hung in two groups. The main group is a block of four hedgerow themed paintings featuring brambles and rosehips. My two other paintings of May blossom and wild rose in the hedgerow are hung within a collection of smaller work by other members.

    I feel very honoured to be in this position and it was great to be able to ‘give back’ a little and offer portfolio reviews for anyone that wanted me to do a free critique of their work, on the following day. It was really interesting to meet people and see their artwork. Some people brought in some fabulous sketchbooks full of ideas. Somebody specifically came to the gallery to thank me as I had inspired her to begin her own watercolour journey. Her paintings are now incredible after only a few years of starting. Lots of people were nervous about showing their work to me but after talking for a while I think they realised that I wasn’t too scary after all! At that point,pads and phones appeared out of their hiding places in bags and we were able to look at a large range of images and have some useful discussions. As I pointed out a few times. Art is not a competition ( or shouldn’t be). We are all in it together.

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  • Experimental Watercolour Workshop- new dvd

    I have finished filming my new dvd. I spent two days in my studio, painting several demonstrations for the camera and according to Townhouse films – it went really well. And actually- I agree! It’s always rather nerve wracking using a fractious medium like watercolour whilst being filmed- and I was nervous before the first day. But once we got started and I had my watercolour and inks to play with- Everything went according to plan. Even Maisie the terrier got to play a leading role. She is SO excited! The dvd will be released on May 1 but will be available soon to pre-order from my website shop www.annblockley.com . If you have signed up for my email newsletter you will be sent an email telling you when this is available.

    Detail of a demonstration half-way through filming it : ‘Cowparsley and lavender fields’

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  • Filming

    I have just realised how long it is since my last post. Sorry – I will start posting more regularly now that I am out of hibernation! So much has been happening. The highlights are that I have sent my paintings off to the Mall Galleries for the annual RI show in April ( see Events) – This is my first year as a member and it felt really strange not having to ‘submit’ my work. I still half expected some notification that they had not been accepted for the exhibition!

    I have also been painting for an exhibition that I will be having in my studio/gallery in Gloucestershire in May to celebrate a new dvd which I’m filming next week. I’m currently planning the content, choosing subjects and techniques and deciding what I am going to talk about! The exercise above is one of the little ‘experiments ‘ I have been playing with to help me make my decisions. I will post more news about the dvd after it has been filmed.

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  • 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!

     

     

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  • 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.

     

     

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  • 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.

     

     

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  •  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.

     

     

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