A visit with Ann Blockley

One highlight (among many) of our recent trip to Holland and the UK, was to meet with the English watercolourist, Ann Blockley. We had arranged to stay in the Cotswolds for just one day, en route to North Wales. I recalled that Ann lived in the area and I contacted her to see if we could drop in for a brief chat. It turned out that Ann was in the midst of a heavy renovation of her cottage, but she graciously invited us for morning coffee in her garden. Her directions included: "We are opposite the church, the pub and an old phone box". That wasn't reflected in the GPS, but we found our way, along lovely Cotswold country lanes, which  are narrow, twisty and bordered by the ancient hedgerows that I remember so well from my youth. A little daunting to one struggling to remember to drive on the left, but we arrived unscathed if slightly shaken.

Ann's cottage is built of the beautiful soft, yellow Cotswold stone and has parts that date back centuries. Removal of furniture and fittings to enable a new floor, meant that her studio was temporarily crowded. However, I discovered what every artist must dream about, the ultimate studio. Built of the same stone, the studio was originally a barn. It has been extensively remodeled and now features large windows looking out on the country garden and fields beyond, a storage loft and fitted benches and drawers for her work.

Ann's latest DVD,  "Experimental Landscapes in Watercolour", which I bought, shows Ann at work in this superb studio.

I have long been an admirer of the late John Blockley, Ann's father, who started later in life as a professional artist at the age of 52 after a sold-out exhibition of his work. He settled his family in the Cotswolds. Oddly, he did not like to paint in this area, considering it "too pretty", preferring the wilds of the Pennines or Wales. However, he appreciated the central location. John never made a DVD and his books are out of print. Those that are available from online sellers command a hefty price. I was delighted when Ann produced several of his paintings and sketches for us to see.


This is one of my favourites.

[Update April 2018] Ann has recently announced that she is working on producing a book of her father's paintings to be available late 2018. A welcome addition. [The book will be available July 2018 and may be ordered from Ann's website.] A new website has also been developed: http://johnblockley.com/

As well, she has released a beautiful new book, Watercolour Workshop, which I promptly bought and am very glad I did, as it is excellent.

One can see his influence in Ann's work, which focuses on landscape and floral subjects, always with a wonderful sense of mystery, almost abstract and with unexpected dramatic colour.

Returning to Canada, I promptly played the DVD and was pleasantly surprised to discover that she uses many techniques that I have tried to follow, but to much better effect than I! I was fascinated to watch how she allows the paint to flow ("painting itself") and mingle, adding inks, watercolour pencils, pastels and granulation medium, not to mention salt and cling film. Gouache, gesso and other materials are incorporated when needed.
Her interpretation of the landscape around her home base is brilliant. I will certainly play this DVD again and again as I attempt to absorb her generous directions.  Her website: http://annblockley.com/