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ANN’S BLOG


  • 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!

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  • 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.

     

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