• Rainy days

    I had a lovely time last week meeting lots of visitors to my studio, chatting about art, life , gardening and inevitably the rainy weather! And of course selling paintings! Now I am sitting in my studio deciding what to do next.. It has been a very busy couple of years with my two new books: ‘Watercolour Workshop’ and ‘John Blockley: A Retrospective; exhibitions following these publications; my new dvd recently and the studio open week to celebrate that. Plus all the activities with the RI and Arborealist groups.

    Mountain Stream was featured in my book ‘Watercolour Workshop’ and- will be included in an online exhibition – at the end of June.

    Being in the studio, looking at finished paintings on the wall for lengths of time makes me want to start all over again. I have made a start by going through my plan chest and throwing some unfinished work out that is not going to make the grade- even as collage pieces. Although I encourage students not to be too hasty in throwing their art away I think we sometimes have to be brutal and honest with ourselves and only keep the ‘best’ pieces. It is good for the soul- and it makes room for new work.

    Later this month I shall be putting some paintings online so that those of you who couldn’t get to the exhibition will get a chance to look – or buy! I am going to have a short holiday and then I shall be getting my sketchbook out and doing some soul searching work , experiments, writing and playing. Plus I have an exciting project to start planning…

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  • Spring Exhibition

    It’s getting close to the start of my Spring Exhibition so I am frantically finishing off paintings, putting them in frames and mounts and sorting out my prints . I have had a few new card designs printed too, and I am constantly checking supplies of my new dvd as orders are still coming in thick and fast.

    All the paintings that I did for the dvd will be in the show alongside alternative interpretations of similar subjects: rivers, meadows, hawthorn trees through the seasons.It is all looking rather colourful- foxglove meadows, lavender fields, teasels, bluebell woods, woodlands, cowparsley, and hedgerow subjects.

    The courtyard outside my studio is looking fantastic at the moment. I just hope it lasts until the exhibition! There are foxgloves, columbines and a kind of vetch that has simply appeared from nowhere,all growing out of the gravel. There are alliums and lupins and the hollyhocks and ‘love in a mist’ are still to come.

    Outside my studio.

    By the way the pub over the road is now closed unfortunately so you will have to get a coffee/lunch/tea in Moreton in Marsh or Shipston on Stour before you come ( or afterwards- depending on your priorities!) You can park in the pub car park however or down the road at the village hall. There will be some yellow signs up on the main roads around Todenham. Please don’t rely on the google map directions on my Ann Blockley RI Facebook page as it is not accurate for some weird reason. Church View is (surprisingly) opposite the church and ‘library phone box’ in Todenham. (NOT Toddington – as someone once went to!)
    Hope to see you soon!

    The Spring exhibition is at Church View, Ann’s Studio gallery, Todenham, GL56 9PF, UK – June 8th-14th See events page for further information

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  • 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.

    The Spring exhibition is 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 . 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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