Why Ann Blockley was always destined to follow in the footsteps of her famous father
Despite her best efforts, Ann Blockley was always destined to follow in the footsteps of her father, the celebrated artist G John Blockley RI PPPS, RWA
Itried really hard not to follow in my father’s footsteps – it was the last thing I wanted as I was determined to make my own mark. He was an internationally renowned landscape artist in watercolours and pastels, living in the Cotswolds. However, when my headmaster instructed me to go to university rather than art college if I wanted to ever have a ‘proper’ job, I naturally opted for art college!
I started at Cheltenham, then focussed on illustration at Brighton in order to escape the family influence. Raymond Briggs (The Snowman) was one of my tutors but my interest was in natural history and I always incorporated botanical detail and nature in my illustrations. When I returned home to the Cotswolds in the holidays I explored the local meadows and hedgerows to gather inspiration and one day felt drawn to try painting a watercolour. I had never watched my father paint but somehow - I seemed to be able to do it instinctively and, like a lemming, I soon found myself exhibiting in his Stow-on-the-wold gallery.
Over 30 years later the gallery has changed hands, my father has died, there has been a lot of ‘watercolour under the bridge’, and I now I am also an ‘internationally renowned artist’. My dad wrote nine books about painting and I have just finished my ninth book so against my better judgement, a pattern is forming. In fact, my list is ‘I am a member of a group called the Arborealists whose diverse work is centred around the unifying subject of the tree’ about to grow to ten titles because I have also just completed a retrospective book about my father’s work.
The two books are being published by Pavilion books (Batsford). One of them is called ‘Ann Blockley’s watercolour workshop’. The publishers decided to include my name within the title as I have some quite unusual idiosyncratic techniques but the book encourages people to look at the world of nature with fresh eyes and develop an experimental style of their own. The second book, ‘G John Blockley: A Retrospective’ is about my father’s story as well as his paintings. His parents made him leave school at 13 to become an engineering draughtsman apprentice. Although he wanted to do something more creative they felt he needed to do something that would lead to ‘a proper job’. He hated it and eventually became a full time painter at the age of 52. In spite of having no formal art training his early watercolours were ground breaking. He was one of the first watercolour artists to challenge the boundaries of this medium in the 1960s. However, by 2002, his landscape paintings had progressed even further into a dramatically different style using mixed mediums in a vibrant contemporary way.
My paintings have also evolved and changed over the years- moving away from detail to an increasingly impressionistic approach but still focussing on the details within my local Gloucestershire landscape- the trees, wildflowers, birds, bees and hedgerows . My studio is in a 16th-century Cotswold barn adjacent to our house which is the oldest in the village of Todenham. It overlooks a magical garden where I gather most of my ideas and my husband keeps his bees.
I am a member of a group called the Arborealists whose diverse work is centred around the unifying subject of the tree. This group of professional artists have exhibited throughout UK including the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol and next year at the John Davies gallery in Moretonin-marsh. I am also a member of the Society of Women Artists who show at the Mall galleries in London. My father was a member of the Royal Institute of Watercolour Painters (RI) and was also president of the Pastel Society (PS) who also have their annual exhibitions at the Mall.
So it appears that I ended up ‘being under the influence’ after all.
Teasels by the Pond, by Ann Blockley
Welsh Cottage, by G John Blockley
Stow-on-the-wold, by G John Blockley