Monday 18 December 2017


"Facing the Future" _ Sculpture in clay for bronze, height 175cm, wingtip to wingtip 175cmFIND


Being an artist, my language is through images. That is how I feel most comfortable communicating the passions/feelings that are deep inside me. When I have to find words for the title of a work I therefore have a difficult task. If what I want to say is not obviously conveyed by the piece itself I feel it is a failure. 

Most of my important works are deeply personal, and my spirit somehow melts in with that of the animal I portray. If I could put down the right words I would be a writer or poet.

Everyone makes their personal interpretations when confronted with an art work, so I don't like the title to sway or taint the viewer's experience.
However, artworks need to be identified and need to give the viewer some indication. 

So . . .  . for my monumental swan sculpture, which will be realised in bronze early next year, I have chosen the title FACING THE FUTURE for the following reasons:

Every day, birds have to preen their plumage to keep their feathers in good condition.
This routine ensures that the feathers are waterproof and correctly placed, and that damaged or moulting feathers are removed. If a bird is unable to do this every day, its chances of survival are limited.

When a swan reaches the end of its thorough preening session, it stretches high and extends its wings fully and gives them a few powerful flaps, almost raising itself off the ground in the process; seeming to say "Right, job done, I'm now ready for what the day brings!"

I have chosen this particularly powerful moment for my sculpture of a male mute swan, because I think in life's journey, we are all presented with challenges and only by courageously confronting and overcoming them do we gain strength to face the future.

Saturday 9 December 2017

CONTINUUM - A New Chapter in Art History.

CONTINUUM -  A New Chapter in Art History.

FACE: Figurative Art Convention and Expo, together with
TRAC: The Representational Art Conference,
Miami, November, 8-11, 2017

Organised by Peter Trippi and Eric Rhodes of the FINE ART CONNOISEUR, and Dr. Michael J.Pearce of TRAC, and Associate Professor California Lutheran University.

       All my life, the creative artist and logical scientist within me have spoken loudly and directed me against all odds to follow a figurative path with my artworks, whether painting or sculpture.  The art schools  and the contemporary art market dictated otherwise.  My road of discovery was made easier because I was fortunate to find the atelier of Nerina Simi in Florence still teaching the academic classical tradition in the early 1980s. That was more than 30 years ago.  

There is a movement to change all this.
The situation is changing from the ground up. That is, from the artists themselves, those  who have stuck with what they believe in and continued their careers despite difficulties in marketing their work.
Craftsmanship is now being appreciated and there are programs beginning again for teaching skill-based techniques in schools and colleges.

The Figurative Art Convention and Expo ( FACE)  together with The Representational Art Conference (TRAC) this November in Miami proved that the tide is turning, and that the movement is gaining force. Difficult to know what to call this but 'Continuum' seems to describe this classical tradition cast in a modern mould.

This was an exciting time and place to be, particularly since so many like-minded people were gathered together. The buzz was palpable!
There were some excellent artists strutting their capabilities for FACE. Demonstrations of painting portraits by Max Ginsberg, Sherrie A. McGraw, and David A. Leffel. Demonstrations of drawing the figure by Juliette Aristides ( author of many books on the figurative tradition) and the anatomy master Michael Mentler; a sculpture demo of 3 Indian heads by John Coleman and presentations by Jacob Collins, Steven Assael and Daniel Graves (founder of the Florence Academy of Art).
While all this was going on there were also presentations and talks organised by TRAC, on many topics: amongst others . . . the changing global markets, marketing for figurative artists, painting-best practices, and The Da Vinci Initiative by Amanda Theis. 

For those that attended the conference, (and that included 5 ex-Simi students in the photos below),  I think Gezien van de Riet's more detailed description of the event with images sums up the feelings we all experienced:

Here is a link to Gezien van de Riet's blog: Art history: A new chapter

With a contribution by Joke Frima about the Da Vinci Initiative

If you go to this link below you will find a short film on the whole convention:
Also you can sign up for next year's FACE at Miami!

Alessandra Marrucchi, Stella Ehrich, Charles Kapsner, Joke Frima and Anne Shingleton

The magnificient Biltmore Hotel, Miami.
Walk-about in Downtown Miami - Gezien, Joke and Alesandra.

The pool, Biltmore Hotel - we never had time for a dip!

One of the large conference halls

John Coleman, sculpting demo - just before the sculpture collapsed!!

Steven Assael's drawings . .

Daniel Gerhartz giving a portrait demo.

The screens allowed us to see his palette as he worked.

Michael Mentler - a wonderful life drawing demo.


Saturday 25 November 2017


For anyone visiting the Dead Sea for the first time they are in for a very special experience.

The Dead Sea lies at the lowest place on the planet, 430 meters below sea level.

The 30 kilometer descent from Jerusalem down to the Dead Sea creates a drop of over one kilometer. Just this fact kick-starts the imagination to wonder if this is the road down to some sort of hell.

On first sight the vastness of the valley is majestic. The high mountain sides,  glow in opalescent colours in the weak sunlight. The sea, a silver mirror, lies still and silent in its desert bed. The atmosphere is somehow thick and heavy with the extra weight of air above. All around the sea's edge is a white salty crust marking the most recent deposits of the receding sea level. The clear water feels thick and oily to the touch, and not a single living organism lives in it.

Taking a bathe in the salty waters gives another unique experience. The extraordinary buoyancy is hard to believe. In fact it renders swimming rather difficult because your arms and legs are constantly pushed back to the surface. Gentle floating is recommended and no splashing since a drop of that very salty water in the eye stings like hell!

Perched high above the valley on the West Bank that afternoon last March 2017, with my other artist colleagues scattered around working, I sat and contemplated this special valley, the product of the movement of two vast tectonic plates over hundreds of millions of years. I am filled with awe. I feel very small, in time and space, and ever so humbled.  How do I to convey these emotions and show this majesty in my work?
There is nothing to do but start and work to the best of my ability and see what happens.

I have my soft pastels and coloured sheets of paper.
Colours convey emotion and so I decide to capture the special delicate warm harmonies that the sunshine creates on these near and far desert mountains contrasted against the sky's blue reflected in the sea.
There is limited time, and a wind is blowing from behind, so I hunker down shielded by little ridge.
I work out the main proportions of the drawing first, using the figure of a fellow artist to provide a sense of scale. The sun is going down, the changing of the light accelerating by the minute. I work on the foreground first because I figured it would be in cast shadow from the mountains on which I was sitting. Sure enough it turned dark and the vast shadow started to move over the coast road, stretching out to the shore's sink holes and to the sea.
Suddenly I am rewarded by a sublime set of colour harmonies as the peach tinted sun's rays bathe the golden Moam Mountains of Jordan opposite, creating a reflection of such colours that makes me wish I was working with my oil paints.  Why are the most beautiful visions always so transitory? I despair!
The sun goes down. The last touches have to rely on memory.  . . . .  .

View across to Jordan at sunset. Pastel on paper 32 x 44cm

When I returned home and while the impressions were still fresh in my mind I worked on a new view in oils, using my study as reference.

Sunset on Jordan  - oil on panel 40 x 40cm
A similar vista, this time from the Jordan side but at dawn, based on colour notes taken at the time.
Sunrise on the West Bank - oil on panel  40 x 40 cm
This work is part of the exhilarating Artists For Nature Project called BRINGING THE DEAD SEA TO LIFE THROUGH ART AND MUSIC.

Link to a film by Yval Dax showing me working, taken by a drone.

Also here:

Saturday 21 October 2017


I call a thumb-nail sketch a mini-bozzetto.

When it is not possible to work from life,  a mini-bozzetto is a very useful trick to achieve a harmonious final painting.
Dawn at the Dump, oil on canvas - 60 x 48cm
The only way I could paint this scene was to use my photographic references and my emotive and visual memory of the experience there.
Having decided on the composition and prepared the drawing on the canvas,  I made a small sketch of the general tonal scheme and tonal balance, keeping the same final canvas proportions. This mini-bozzetto  is painted in oils on whatever small bits of prepared wooden panel I can lay my hands on in the studio.

Mini-bozzetto 13  x 9 cm
I select which colours I am going to limit myself to. In this case: Ultramarine Blue, Viridian Green, a little Cadmium Yellow medium, Cadmium Red and my old favourite Pozzuoli Earth..A limited palette is a fine way to create a unity within a painting. There is no black colour in either painting, only white added, in this case Titanium.

Since the sketch is so small I can see immediately if it looks right, and tweak it accordingly. Whilst working on the bigger canvas I frequently refer to the colour and tone of various areas to make sure I'm keeping to the overall plan. It is so easy to get led astray, especially with the tones.

My teacher, Signorina Nera Simi called this final balance of tone and colour within a painting "l'insieme del quadro" roughly translated as "the unity of the painting".
As a struggling student, I remember her saying to me that this was one of the most difficult aspects to achieve in the finished painting.

So any trick or prop is most welcome!

To learn more about the Dead Sea project go to
To see photos of the dump :

Wednesday 27 September 2017

Reindeer, Finland

Reindeer, Finland.

Kujala Reindeer Farm, Nissinvaaran, Finland - charcoal and chalk on grey paper. 31 x 48cm
Being a farmer's daughter I am quite familiar with ungulates ( cows and sheep) at close quarters. These domesticated and semi-tamed reindeer were very friendly, and so long as there were oats and lichen on hand they remained in the same area so we could observe them. They were very fidgety due to the midges that pester them incessantly, and often broke into a trot to get away from them, circling back to the food again. This made drawing them quite challenging, especially since the midges were attracted to us humans as well!
Always there was this clicking noise as they moved, especially noticeable in the heavier males.
Wikipedia informs me: "The sounds originate in the tendons of the knees and may be audible from ten meters away. The frequency of the knee-clicks is one of a range of signals that establish relative positions on a dominance scale among reindeer. "Specifically, loud knee-clicking is discovered to be an honest signal of body size, providing an exceptional example of the potential for non-vocal acoustic communication in mammals."
The farmed reindeer ( there are very few wild ones now) range free in the woods for over 50ks from the farm and are all tagged. Their horns, meat and skins are all used, and some animals are trained for pulling skis, a popular race.

When they all walk away - memory helps!

These animals were quite used to humans and knew which bag contained the lichen -  their "chocolate"!

This male had already shed the velvet which covers and nourishes the antlers as they regrow them each year.

That evening I had fun cobbling together a small model using red wax and no tools, just my fingers!

Monday 25 September 2017

Brown Bears

A quick soft pastel sketch on coloured paper - 24 x 30cm

Brown Bears - Kuntvaara, Northern Finland, near the Russian Border. 

The brown bears were impressive - enormous animals, fat and shaggy ready for hibernation.
Unfortunately the day in mid September when we visited the hide the light was terrible, so I just did a colour sketch in soft pastels on coloured paper to pin down tones, and colours, and the general atmosphere. The animals were really too far away to make detailed drawings without using a scope.
Ravens, gulls and magnificent sea eagles competed for the salmon bait laid out just before our visit.

It was a privilege and an emotional experience to see Europe's largest terrestrial carnivore in the wild.
Absolutely wonderful!

It was clear from their behaviour as they cautiously came out of the woods that they were more afraid of the other bears - and some were huge - than us humans in the hide trying to keep our excitement quiet.

For details for Bear Watching:
 For some better bear photographs click here.

A large male

A female anxious as she had her cub nearby

The female leaving with her cub following, as soon as the big males appeared - note the salmon bait on the pine trunk.            

Tuesday 29 August 2017

Notes from an exhibition. Sarteano, Italy. August 24th - 27th, 2017

Janet Harris - Ed.

2017. The time of the internet and virtual reality, why bother to have an exhibition?

For the past 6 years Anne has been coming to Sarteano to exhibit her work in a small gallery in  the heart of the ancient town.  The event lasts from 4 to 6 days and entails physical and mental effort - worry that no-one will come, and no-one will buy.  But ... and there is a big but, she returns every year and loves it.

Her wish is to sell a bronze, just one, but in monetary terms that will cover her costs for expenses and her stay and the cost of its manufacture. 

The exhibition opening 

The paintings are hung,  the bronzes are in place and we wait for the masses to arrive.

The gallery is owned by John and Umberto who live in Sarteano and many of the people who come to the opening are from their extensive network of friends, people who have holiday homes here, friends who have businesses in Sarteano, and locals.  There are also those who know Anne's work from other exhibitions. 

Later. . .  . .

The art appreciation has moved out of the gallery and into the street...

A good evening with chat, wine, talk and some art bought.

Why does Anne do this?

For Anne the event is not about money.  One reason is obviously PR, more people can see her art, but it is the opportunity where those who are interested can meet the artist.  Anne hopes that by talking to her others can understand more about art.  The personal rapport between herself and her interlocuter can be transferred to the art work, where they can know the story behind the work, and recognise the creative process that leads to it, which in turn leads to a better appreciation of the work.

She reassures me that she does not talk about herself all the time.  The exhibition is not about her ego, but it is about doing something valuable, partly a desire to let others know what drives an artist to create, but also to try and foster an appreciation of the art itself.  For Anne being an artist can be many things, and the meeting at the exhibition allows people to find a point of contact between themselves, the art work and the person who created it.  She can communicate her fascination of what she does in words as well as by the image that she has created, and she gets a kick out of the social process when she realises that a connection has been made. 

'Everything has my heart in it, and I am passionate about it.  If my heart is not in it, it does not come out right'.

Day 1

           Friends of friends  from Australia ....

" Irene with Elisa's cat, Stazzema)"
("Irene con la gatta di Elisa, Stazzema")
Pastel on paper.

Cats inside the gallery ...
Cats outside the gallery that arouse more interest from the locals.



Monte Altissimo September 2019   Oil on panel 15 x 27cm English:      Since my last blog with lockdown  finally terminated in Italy, I have...