Playing Catch Up

Written By: AnneBH - Oct• 01•17

Well well well, you learn something new everyday or every second as I found out recently following a brief sojourn to the Lake District for some plein air painting fun.

I was blessed… the weather was fab and I had no complaints at all. Armed with my trusty pochade box and customised shopping  trolley, we made our way to Wasdale Head; my target, the magnificent and imposing Yebarrow with a view of Wastwater in the foreground.

I’ve painted this view before from photographs and in the studio but I wanted to feel and breathe in the grandeur of the fell.

The clouds hung low when I started my outline drawing but I had it on authority from every single weather app I had consulted that the day would brighten up so I wasn’t too concerned.

Grey and imposing as the clouds were, I knew they would add some drama to my painting and if the fluffy white clouds drifted by later, well that would be good too.

I am new-ish to all this plein air painting having found my comfort zone in the confines of my studio and I have to admit I am having a blast! I wish I could do it everyday… ok not sure I would enjoy rainy days. I tried that once during a plein air day at Windsor Castle and was reminded of my chemistry lessons concerning oil and water; not only do they not mix but my paints seem to have turned into some kind of chromatic chewing gum and just would not stick to my support.

I am sure there is so much one could write about painting outdoors; the peace and tranquility (unless you are painting in the city or a crowded market place), painting at speed, making decisions about what to include and what to leave out, your equipment and so much more. The one big lesson I learned from my day at Wasdale Head was simply to keep up with the changing light! After a while I learned to anticipate what might happen next with Yewbarrow transforming from silhouette to sunny detail in the space of a glance at my palette to mix enough paint to capture the shadow that had been there only a second before.

There is something to be said for memorising and retaining information when you paint, especially if you paint outdoors frequently. You may be working in Mother Nature’s studio but it’s useful to remember, you are the artist!

In Practice of Perfection

Written By: AnneBH - Oct• 30•16


On the basis that if I try to do something (within my own realms of possibility of course) and I find it difficult then I have nothing but the utmost admiration for those who do so and do it with such apparent ease.

For the last 18 months or so I have been trying to be more spontaneous in my approach to drawing and painting by spending a little less time in the studio and more time outside learning to observe the world around me.

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    Man asleep on train (c) Anne Blankson-Hemans 2016

This approach has taken me slightly out of my comfort zone and whilst I find safety in numbers when I go out plein air painting or urban sketching I decided to venture a little further by going solo on the underground.
So, inspired by my friend, the self confessed addictive sketcher Adebanji Alade, I decided to sketch people as I traveled on the London underground.

It took some doing I have to say! A couple of years ago I had a chat with Adebanji and was pleased to find he had had reservations (he’s a mere mortal like us after all ha ha) as well but had managed to get over his inhibitions and doesn’t even think twice about going out now.



Man asleep on train (c) Anne Blankson-Hemans 2016

So… I asked myself, what exactly is it I am worried about? Shyness? I am a little but that’s never been a problem? Worried about what observers might think? Who cares? They don’t even know me ha ha! Might my sitters turn aggressive because I am trying to draw them? Apparently they are flattered… who knew?
So armed with all the courage I could muster I picked out a couple of people during my last trip to London and gave myself 5 minutes per person.

I did say as much courage as I could muster didn’t I? Both my subjects in of two of the three sketches I managed were fast asleep and the third was engrossed in a book but hey I did it didn’t I?


The Girl on the Train (c) Anne Blankson-Hemans 2016

I am looking forward to the day I know won’t be that far off when I can whip out my sketch book without thinking twice about it and until then I will just keep sketching.
Who knows, one day I might inspire someone too!

Fine Art en plein air and then some

Written By: AnneBH - Sep• 30•16

So it’s taken a TV appearance and a whole heap of thinking to realise how very different plein air painting is  from studio painting. I am amazed at how much of it I took for granted but it has been one serious lesson and one I appreciate tremendously.

Of course I entered the Big Painting Challenge to win it… who didn’t? With it I had imaginings of laurels and visions of an ever expanding career as a very fine professional artist, my boat having finally landed!

Instead I found myself embarking on a voyage of self discovery. I am still travelling this road and am thoroughly enjoying the process.

This weekend past, I joined up with my fellow contestant and now great pal Anthea Lay along with a group of like minded artists on the Norfolk Broads  for  A Brush With The Broads, 4 days of ‘plein air’ painting bliss. This is becoming an annual habit and Anthea and I are ready to book our places for next year.

I didn’t realise when I applied to the program how very little I remembered if any about painting outdoors from my student days. Yes we were encouraged to paint outside and yes we went out on field trips and all that but mostly we stayed in our studios and as we developed we discovered the joys of photographic technology and painting became something of a breeze because unwittingly we were becoming adept at copying photographs and learning less about observation. Now this might not be important to some artists who have very specific and distinctive styles but it does help to make you a wholly rounded artist especially if you want to take part in TV programs that require that level of experience.

Fairhaven Watergardens, South Walsham (c) Anne Blankson-Hemans

My outdoor technique is improving and I am pleased with the results. The light outdoors is extremely different from the light indoors and my eyes are learning to adjust. My paintings aren’t as chalky as when I first begun and for a start  my canvases are now a lot smaller than my studio ones so I can complete a painting in two hours max before the light changes altogether.

Camber Boathouse, Stokesby (c) Anne Blankson-Hemans

I am also learning to be more observant and these days I sketch whenever I can. I always carry a sketch book, pens, markers and a compact travel water colour set.

Hunter’s Yard, Ludham. (c) Anne Blankson-Hemans

I am not planning to give up studio painting in favour of plein air painting but I do want to train myself to be less reliant on photography by letting my eyes do the bulk of the camera work. I know there aren’t any rules and the art police aren’t going to come and arrest me for using photographs but I see a certain freshness in my outdoor paintings which I’d like to transfer into some of my studio painting and in a sense travel towards a happy medium from both ends of that particular spectrum.

Currently on my easel is a studio version of Fairhaven Watergardens inspired by the outdoor sketch (for this is what I call them now). More about this in my next blog.

I am sure many artists will agree we are happiest when we are learning and that is why we spend so much time together. For me it all really started when I set off to win a competition and discovered I had won so much more.

With Hilary Franzen, owner of the boathouse. Thanks for the tea!


Written By: AnneBH - Aug• 06•16

Or should I be a little bit more positive and title this post ‘A journey of a thousand miles…’?

The truth is I am frustrated and I am not ashamed to say this because whatever our hopes and aspirations, life does have to happen first and much as I would love to paint full time I know I just can’t do that at the moment.

Fruit Sellers - Ghana (c) Anne Blankson-Hemans

Fruit Sellers – Ghana (c) Anne Blankson-Hemans

Now I am not for one moment under any grand illusions; painting full time isn’t going to solve all my problems I know, I mean I still need to sell the damn things to make a living. I know that!

I need to make the time, and whenever I am doing something else like that evil necessity called the day job I think of all the things I could be painting and when I am not doing that I am too knackered to paint and if truth must be added to season this… I waste an awful lot of time. I mean this morning I had a long lie in ’til 10am and then watched some TV and dilly dallied with my phone and Facebook and Twitter. Like the woman on Gogglebox often says ‘You get mi?’

Yep, now I am on a guilt trip. I don’t have an awful lot of time and so I worry about how much of it I waste.

Oh I forgot to mention, I spend quite a lot of time dreaming about winning the lottery and how much more time that would buy me. ‘You get mi?’ Would it though?

So recently I have been given a reason to lose some weight and I am taking it seriously because it is for a very good cause. I have approached this with a renewed mind and a very positive attitude. Perhaps I could approach my attitude to time keeping in exactly the same way? After all a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…

Now where’s that lottery ticket?

Mad About The Art?

Written By: AnneBH - Feb• 26•15

The morning after week before… and my random comments on The Big Painting Challenge BBC One 6pm Sundays…


So you’ve seen us do the landscape challenge in the first episode and are starting to get a feel for what we are like under pressure.

Here’s a couple of my favourite landscape paintings and a quick sketch of a flower I did soon after we filmed the series last summer.


How very different our creative flow can be when we are faced with challenging circumstance and how spontaneously we work when we are not under scrutiny. Lol, I think I had to do that sketch really quickly to remind myself I am still capable.

The Big Painting Challenge was indeed a challenge but it was a whole heap of fun as well. We were mere guinea pigs in the whole set up and whilst I am not looking to make excuses I think unless you are a super genius artist it’s not often you get it right first time. There was an element of self discovery in the process and this I enjoyed tremendously.

Next week it’s portraiture. Why don’t you have a little go? A quick sketch of a friend or loved one? And you know what? Send it in to the little painting challenge. They’d love to hear from you I sm sure. These days I carry my sketch bag with me wherever I go. Here I am during a recent holiday to Cyprus.

Isn’t art fun?


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Mama Used To Say…

Written By: AnneBH - Nov• 14•14

I am facing some fresh challenges. Since the clocks changed for all that daylight saving malarkey , painting at the crack of dawn has been difficult as I have no natural light in my studio.


Painting only at the weekends just frustrates me as I have my usual chores, family visits and other distractions and of course painting during natural daylight hours is out of the question as my day job takes precedence.


So what to do? My mom always used to say “…If you can’t get through it, you must get around it…”
So get more studio lights? This obvious solution isn’t as simple as it sounds as that does take some getting used to. I do have a daylight bulb above my easel and now have to look into getting some more stand lamps to flood my studio area with natural daylight. This will be a bit of a challenge but I am sure we will triumph.


Meanwhile this is where we are with the veg stall at the souk in Marrakesh. Suggestions for finding a suitable title which isn’t so much of a mouthful will be most welcome.


Have a super day my friends. Stay blessed, stay focused!

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Those Necessary Evils

Written By: AnneBH - Nov• 03•14

The temptation whenever I start a new painting is to delve straight into it with the paintbrush and paint making all the necessary corrections as I go along. I am a colourist, I love colour and I want to expel all that colour information that makes up my painting as soon as possible.


I know however from bitter experience that this does not always yield the results I want; that somehow the information that passes from my head through my hand and onto the canvas gets lost in translation somewhere along the way. So it is a useful thing sometimes probably most times to take a step back and plan a little.


I have started my latest painting; a fruit and veg stall from a sketch taken on a visit to Marrakesh in 2011. Preparation is everything and so after laying on the coloured acrylic ground – a mixture of cadmium red light hue and yellow ochre to set the warm tones I am now sketching out the details in charcoal. I look forward to laying on the colour but not before I am satisfied that the drawing is complete.

I spent the best part of Sunday morning washing my brushes as in properly rinsing them out in white spirit and then lathering up some brush cleaner and rubbing the brushes in my palms to get all the oil residue out of the ferrules. This is an onerous task especially if you don’t do it as often as you should but to make sure you get good clean colours it us like everything else a necessary evil.

Have a blessed day my friends. Stay focused.

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At The Last Stroke…

Written By: AnneBH - Oct• 25•14

There comes a time with every painting when you know you are done ie that’s it, I am finished and for those of us nutty artists who speak with our paintings and wait for instructions you know your time is up when the painting speaks up loud and clear ‘enough already!’

So it is with great pleasure that I present to you ‘The Circle, Accra’


There is an element of poignancy in  this picture as whilst I was painting it, I was reminded more than once that  the area which I had last visited almost eight years ago had changed beyond recognition with major development to the road network this is being developed into a concrete jungle of flyovers and overheads.


Looking at the bigger picture I am glad to have been able to preserve a small part of Ghana ‘ s history. The concrete jungle in time will tell it’s own story.


Stay blessed my friends. Stay focused and have a fruitful weekend.

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The Finish Line

Written By: AnneBH - Oct• 20•14

Well I crossed the finish line in the wee small hours of  this morning only to discover (as if I didn’t know) that I still have to do the lap of honour by dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.


Would you believe I still haven’t worked out what to paint in that bottom right hand corner? I am not too worried truth to tell as I know something will pop up in my mind as I continue to mull it about in my mind as I go about my day’s tasks. I also have to work in the details of some of the faces so I guess it will be done when it’s done.

Being so close to putting my signature on it and declaring it finished, I am already thinking of the next painting which is a toss up between a vegetable store in Marrakesh and some Senegalese women; a painting I started in July which really needs to be finished cos I quite like it.

Have a super day my friends. Stay blessed, stay focused. 

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Written By: AnneBH - Oct• 17•14

Lol I am still here! I had a minor wobble earlier this week when I felt I was losing momentum but I was determined to press on amidst a chorus of encouragement and support from friends, family and well wishers.


Sometimes it really does feel like I am running a race when I start off with heaps of energy and enthusiasm and then fall into a steady rhythm. If the course is a long one its not unusual to lose momentum but with the finish line in sight I am making a break for it.


This week I have been dealing with what I can only describe as an outbreak; as 2 out the 5 members of my household have succumbed to the winter vomiting bug so here I am playing nurse maid and home cleaner extraordinaire. The bug must be halted in its tracks as I have no time to be ill. I am a girl with a mission!

So here’s where we are so far. This weekend should see us comfortably over the finish line.

As usual stay blessed and stay focused!

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