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China- ‘When wenzhou meets London’

I am back from an incredible visit to China where I was invited to participate in a cultural and art exchange with a group of 8 UK and 8 Chinese artists.We were based mainly at The Nanxi Academy which is situated in a dramatic landscape in the Yandang mountains in South East China. The Chinese people we met were immensely welcoming and generous and we were treated like royalty. At the opening ceremony it was red carpet, entertainments, speeches and ceremonial robes all round.

We were taken to a series of stunning locations; steep mountains, waterfalls, rivers, lakes, bamboo groves, temples and pagodas. Everywhere, the clouds of golden dragonflies flew to greet us and butterflies the size of bats wafted past.

It was challenging painting in the heat, being eaten alive by insects, working on location rather than in my comfortable studio, in unfamiliar territory and sometimes working on massive sheets of paper, twice the size of my normal work. I even tried painting in acrylic on canvas. It was exhilarating however to be completely stretched out of my comfort zone and I tackled it full on as a huge, probably life-changing personal challenge.

It was an exercise in practising being immersed in the moment and enjoying the process instead of worrying about how the end result would turn out. Working alongside the Chinese was fascinating- noting their Zen approach to the way they work, treating the experience from start to finish as a series of calm and mindful treasured moments.

It was a fortnight of laughter, friendship, art,culture,wonderful food and amazing natural landscapes. I am now going to look through my hundreds of photographs, the piles of sketchy artwork and try and make sense of it all. I feel inspired to paint and paint again like never before.

#plastic-free 3

Here are the findings for my research into finding more eco- friendly alternatives to cling- film for creating texture in watercolour . Clearly these are only single samples and as we all know these kind of experiments can vary widely each time according to how the paint is applied, consistency, temperature, luck and so on. So my research is not very scientific- but it is a start. I shall continue to experiment and if anyone has any bright ideas -do let me know and I will pass it on…  

 Tracing paper :  I crumpled tracing paper and placed it on top of the wet wash. It lay uncomfortably with no ‘clinginess’ so I weighted it down under some books until almost dry. It looked interesting under the crumpled tracing paper but once this was peeled off the resulting textures were slightly disappointing. Nb try baking/parchment paper? Other papers too?

Crumpled tracing paper on top of a wet wash
A disappointing result- but will try it a few more times.

 Wax paper : (plastic-free type) I tried crumpling it to replicate cling- film crumples. The finished texture is ‘bitty’ but has potential. I also tried a version leaving the wax paper on flat over the   paint and again, weighting it down until dry. The wax paper ripples leaving an effect like water -exciting!!

Crumpled wax paper removed when dry-the result is quite promising- similar to cling-film
Sample with wax paper laid flat and removed when dry-

 Plastic wrapper/bag : The texture from this was similar to that produced by cling film- but although this is re-used ‘waste’ material it is still non -recyclable  plastic so only a small advantage over cling film.

Re-used plastic bag- not ideal but better than buying new cling film

 Tissue paper : I tried this with watercolour and ink in various ways and each was very promising.  The very thin paper ‘clings’ to the surface like cling-film creating similar marks.  When I trickled ink under the edges of the tissue paper into the watercolour- it seemed almost more successful than when done under cling film- hurrah!   I also found I could concertina it slightly to achieve a linear effect as well as the usual crumples. I took the tissue paper off when the paint was still damp to avoid it sticking.

Tissue paper crumpled on wet wash-before
Textures made by crumpled tissue paper – after
Crumpled tissue paper on wet watercolour wash – with ink introduced-Before
Crumpled tissue paper on wet watercolour wash – with ink introduced- After
Tissue paper pulled into concertina patterns on wet watercolour-Before
Tissue paper pulled into concertina patterns on wet watercolour- After

Conclusion– I shall continue to explore but at the moment the tissue paper is looking very promising- no more cling – film for me! Project was inspired by Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall’s excellent tv documentary on plastic.


#plastic-free 2

 Following on from my previous post I am looking at how we can cut down or replace cling-film as a paint texture-making technique. Clearly, any ‘single use’ material that we use instead is not ideal. Even if it is supposedly recyclable – the recycling plants cannot cope with the quantities of ‘stuff’.  However, if we re-use rather than buying new material (plastic/paper/other) that cuts down the waste a bit. Ideally, we wouldn’t use plastic at all, but currently most supermarkets and shops make it difficult to escape from. For the time being I am suggesting that we re-use these materials as far as possible if we cannot avoid them.  So instead of throwing away – I now look at our bins with an eye to what can be used in my studio.  When (shock horror) I discovered some plastic-wrapped apples in our fridge that someone had bought I collected the wrapping for the studio and will trial  these along with other ‘baddies’ as I  rescue them.

The re-using plastic option is clearly only a minimal improvement over actually buying a roll of it so I have been looking at whether different kinds of papers could be used as an alternative instead.  I researched whether greaseproof or parchment paper has plastic in it: some do and some do not.  If it is called baking paper, as far as I can gather, it may be coated with silicon. I also wondered about tracing paper which I don’t believe has plastic in it but need to find out for sure.  I have some wax paper that I bought online that I already know makes interesting patterns – but different to the patterns we are used to with cling film.

 In my recent dvd  ‘Experimental watercolour workshop’ I have touched on this  subject  and in the dvd I suggest using tissue paper instead of cling film – the  potentially crunchy kind used for craft- not  the soft variety. It needs to be peeled off before the paint is completely dry to avoid it sticking.Eventually, I also want to explore whether different painting surfaces affect the ‘stickability of the applied texture- making material.

I began each sample with a wet in wash of watercolours before placing the different materials on top – in different ways.

To keep a certain degree of control in all the samples I used the same paper and paint colours. I used Saunders Waterford Not paper as this is a surface that I have often applied cling film to in the past. The colours are French Ultramarine with Quinacrodine Gold watercolour painted in random ‘wet in wet’ splodges.  The paper does slightly vary in size between samples because I used small random ‘offcuts’ of paper to avoid waste. The texture-making materials were all applied immediately whilst the paint was still wet. Some of them did not cling to the surface at all so had to be weighted down flat with books until dry and so these were mostly not photographed until finished.

To be continued- Read #plastic-free 3 for the findings!


 

#Plastic -free (1)

 I am getting increasingly anxious about all the news regarding climate change and plastic. I am also feeling guilty because over many years I have not only used but promoted the use of cling -film (plastic, shrink or glad wrap) as a way of creating texture in my watercolour paintings. As recently as last year, in my book ‘Watercolour Workshop’, I demonstrated ways of using it to create abstract marks in paint.

 So where do we go from here?  I have become addicted to the stuff. I need to find alternatives and I feel that I have a responsibility to the planet to pass on any useful discoveries. It would be easy to say ‘what’s the point’ because the tidal wave of plastic and waste is so immense that our individual endeavours can only form a droplet. But I strongly feel that I have to do something, in my own tiny way, and that if we all do the same- perhaps it will help.  And so I have made a start with some experiments but will continue to explore and share my findings . I will do this over a number of blog posts – otherwise each post would become far too big to publish- so please watch this space!

‘Tree textures’ patterns was created with the help of clingfilm- I am searching for new ways to make marks in paintings without buying rolls of plastic. #plastic-free

To be continued…….


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…

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.

Foxglove meadow

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


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.

paint 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.

work in progress

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.

‘Bluebells and tangles’

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

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 .

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.

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.

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’

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.

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!

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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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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

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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

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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)

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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.

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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

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