Back to the Real World

So it is with great sadness that I come to the end of my current stint of training, I have created 6 paintings at the Sarum Studio, 3 of which are destined for the bin, and 3 turned out surprisingly well, including the one below. They are all of the same model – I was surprised that my teacher let us work together after the first one as we were really quite chatty, in a mostly quiet room full of concentrating artists, I am already banned from working with another artist for the same reason, we had far too much fun! (Whilst working hard of course)


It has been hugely challenging , I feel as though I have learned so much from the tuition, and I am excited about putting my new skills into practice in future, I will definitely continue my studies when I have saved up again and already miss everyone there.

It is strange being back in Blandford again, and re-opening the gallery which was looking terribly neglected, but I return to many new exciting projects, alongside an attempt to get fit, oh and lots of paperwork.

I have had some interesting photoshoots over the years. I did an outdoor shoot for 2 good sized portraits alongside their dogs near London this February, brrrrr, frozen hands. One of the models – a huge Alsatian guard dog was definitely considering me for dinner. The people were lovely and welcoming and gave us a very tasty lunch, so a great day was had all round.


After celebrating Easter at The Sarum Studio with a pair of bunny ears, four furry guests turned up at the gallery in the shape of the most adorable rescue bunnies. I was only expecting two, and the challenge of getting bunnies to pose together took quite a while, as they happily hopped around.
It was so enjoyable, I would definitely consider a career as a professional bunny photographer; I am looking forward to painting them and will post a blog when they are finished.

I completed another military photoshoot too, neither chilly or fluffy, variety is the spice of life!

Time Flies

(edited as I initially wrote most of this in August…)
Summer has surprised me once again, by vanishing so quickly, I can’t believe how the time flies. I finished my training at The Sarum Studio for the time being, but have booked in to return in February to paint for 5 weeks. The aim this summer was to finish what I refer to as the “never-ending-renovation” of my house, and I have become a renovating hermit, traditionally lime plastering, wallpapering, putting up coving, sanding floors and decorating etc, as well as working on commissions in between. Needless to say that after 9 years, I still haven’t finished, and have had to scale back my rather optimistic finish date due to the 13 commissions currently on order, and 2 more on the horizon.
My father always used to say ‘work hard, play hard’ however he just worked – 80 or 90 hours a week. I do a fair bit of both.
I find that the busier life is, the faster time seems to pass, and the years zoom past at an unnerving rate. It is rare that I take time out just to chill out and relax, saying that, many of the renovating tasks, in a similar way to creating artwork feel like a meditation in one way or another.
As too many people have seen over the years, the house is a horrible chaotic building site.
The main part of the old and wonky listed building being completed will be a huge milestone, on a project which has already taken 9 years – I am sure most people would have been able to build a castle in that time…
Still, it is starting to look good, progress is a very satisfying thing and it was great to be able to move out of sleeping in the lounge recently. As I type this, I look forward to completing the lime washing of the hallways tomorrow and move the ladders which everyone has had to squeeze past all summer.
People ask what I will do when it is finished? I have it all planned – I am looking forward to dedicate more of my time to art, long walks, having friends round for coffee, yoga, reading books, watching films, I can’t wait for that to happen – next year…..
Happy equinox. Annabelle

Here is a charcoal of one of the models at The Sarum Studio.

Raised Eyebrows

The Old Masters training has been going well, I have graduated from working on cast drawings, and moved over to ‘the other side’ to work on live portraits. I have been greatly enthused by the Sargent exhibition in London, and recent visits to the National Portrait gallery, Tate Britain, the National Gallery and the unbelievable Wallace Collection which also hosted the Reynolds exhibition. Reynolds and Sargent both used the ‘sight size’ method for portraiture which I am learning, and it worked well for them!

The feeling of staring intensely at someone’s face, especially when they are looking straight at you is something that feels deeply uncomfortable at first. Like the life drawing though, it is amazing how quickly the model turns into a puzzle of shapes, angles and tones to be explored and translated onto the paper. The model pictured here was so lovely, I was teased by the group for making her look quite demonic after the first afternoons work… I always feel just a little vulnerable when models see my work in progress, which they invariably do with this technique. My teacher kept advising me to tweak her eyebrows up, to give the dramatic look which she emanates so well. I never knew quite how important the positioning of eyebrows can be for conveying expression and each portrait I have done has surprisingly benefited by raising them just a little.

I have made the difficult decision to pause my training for a month, partly due to an enormous amount of commission work – a particularly large order came in so I have been pretty much chained to the easel for some time now. I will go back for the last week of term, and then return for part of the autumn term, and of course next year again. The plan is to train on an ongoing basis as and when I can allow the time, I will progress more slowly than planned, but be able to rest at the end of each day and focus more when I am there. I was overly optimistic about my abilities to keep up with the commissions, and do the training at the same time…

I have demonstrated painting in public at the Harmony festival at the beautiful Larmer Tree Gardens, and also on my home territory in Blandford at the Crown Hotel for the Sudan Link charity event last weekend. This was quite busy and it was great seeing many of my friends who turned up.

There will be an Open Studio Evening where I train by Salisbury Cathedral on Saturday 20th June from 3.30pm. Enjoy croquet on the lawn, Pimms and nibbles as well as an exhibition of drawing and paintings, and an illustrated lecture on Sight-size Portraiture by Nicholas Beer, with dinner after.

Nick would like to know approximate numbers so please call him on 07793 135 963 if you are interested in attending. The website has more details. There are places available on his summer school, which is open to all abilities, I highly recommend that anyone interested should contact him.