at the artist’s home – September 2006
SO, ANNE, WHY DO YOU PAINT?
Why does anybody do something they feel passionate about?
It’s always been there, I can’t imagine doing
anything else! Nothing else gives me that buzz – I start
to work then, at a certain point during the creative process,
there’s a change and the work begins to take on its
own identity, and that’s the moment when it starts to
teach me things. It’s an immensely satisfying feeling.
ARE YOU SATISFIED WITH EVERYTHING YOU DO?
Of course not! It’s a continuous process of judging
and adjusting. I’m often so critical of my work that
I stop, turn a picture to the wall or put a sheet over a sculpture
for a couple of weeks, and work on something else. Looking
at it later helps me see it objectively and I can identify
the bits I’m not happy with.
WHERE DO YOU THINK YOUR PASSION FOR PAINTING NATURE AND ANIMALS
Undoubtedly, growing up on a farm helped. As well as a farmer,
my father was also a keen naturalist and instilled in me a
deep respect for the animal and plant world and the natural
environment, teaching me to observe carefully and patiently
- a fundamental requisite for a career in figurative art.
In addition, my mother was a teacher and encouraged me to
draw what was around me from an early age.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST BECOME AWARE OF YOUR TALENT?
I must have been about six years old. I was at school and
we were told to copy a picture of an otter out of a book.
I remember looking across at the other children’s drawings
and wondering why they hadn’t copied it properly. Then
the teacher came round and gave a gasp of amazement as she
looked at my work. However, any childish conceit I may have
felt in that moment was swiftly crushed by her instructing
me to show all the others how to do it ‘properly’,
thereby making me the most unpopular girl in the class! However,
having a natural talent is only the beginning – as in
any vocational career, developing that talent requires constant
study and practice. Becoming a professional artist involves
no less hard work than becoming a professional scientist.
WHY DID YOU OPT FOR A SCIENCE DEGREE INSTEAD OF ART?
In the early seventies most of the art colleges were focused
on ‘abstract’ art. On the other hand, what I yearned
to know was how to draw accurately, represent solid forms
in tone and colour, and learn how to excel in the traditional
disciplines of the masters I loved so much: painting in oil
and watercolour, drawing in pastels, etching and other forms
of printmaking. So all my interviews with art colleges left
me feeling bewildered, as if we weren’t speaking the
same language. One professor even asked me how I would feel
about building a five-barred gate! As a farmer’s daughter,
you can imagine my reaction.
In desperation, I turned to professional artists for advice.
One of these was Keith Shackleton, then President of the Royal
Society of Wildlife Artists. He urged me to complete my academic
studies before concentrating on art. This advice proved invaluable.
My degree in Zoology not only gave me a thorough understanding
of anatomy and how animals ‘work’, but also the
habits of discipline and precision required for scientific
study- a sound basis for a future as a figurative artist.
WHAT MADE YOU GO TO ITALY?
I finally found a school that did speak the same language!
I was told of a school of classical drawing and painting in
Florence, run by Nerina Simi, a contemporary of Pietro Annigoni,
so I applied and was offered a place. As soon as I stepped
into the studio I knew it was what I’d been looking
for; the smell of wood smoke from the old stove, the film
of dust from the constant sharpening of charcoal sticks, and
the atmosphere of studious concentration, with everyone grouped
around a real, live model. It was serious stuff! The first
year was drawing, understanding what we were drawing and getting
to grips with the concept of chiaroscuro. Only then could
we move on to the wonders of colour. The ‘Signorina’
herself, already in her nineties, was a charming but formidable
mentor, demanding discipline and dedication from us but she
inspired all her students with love, respect and enormous
gratitude for what she taught us. And when the course finished,
there seemed no reason to move away – what better place
to launch into a career in art than the birthplace of the
AT WHAT POINT DID YOU START TO SUPPORT YOURSELF FINANCIALLY
THROUGH YOUR ART?
Apart from my childhood, I can’t remember a time when
I didn’t. Whilst other students supplemented their grants
by working in bars, I was working in my spare time to produce
etchings. In the holidays I painted commissioned portraits
of people and animals and I also earned a fair amount through
book illustration and jacket design. All this helped to finance
my subsequent studies in Italy.
My ‘big break’ came in 1983 when I was offered
a one-man show at the King Street Galleries in London’s
West End. Once my name was known, other doors began to open
and I eventually settled into a very successful working relationship
with the Jane Neville Gallery, with whom I have remained ever
WHERE DID YOU FIRST LEARN TO MAKE BRONZES?
From an old master-craftsman living near Florence. This ancient
process (see ‘How Bronzes are Made’) has always
fascinated me so I decided to have a go myself. I made a clay
model of my cat and when I was happy with it, took it along
to him to be cast in bronze. Instead of accepting the job
immediately, he gave me a lecture on form and materials and
technique and sent me home to do it again! He must have thought
it was worth taking pains with me as he bullied me relentlessly
for weeks until I had achieved his professional standards..
Only then did he agree to cast it, but that first attempt
ended up as a crash-course in classical sculpture and bronze-making.
DO YOU THINK OF YOURSELF AS A PAINTER OR A SCULPTOR?
Did anyone ever ask Degas that question? There are times when
I want to paint and times when I want to sculpt – one
doesn’t replace the other. Painting and drawing in two
dimensions is immensely satisfying but, for me, it was a natural
progression to take the next step and attempt to create in
three-dimensions. It’s a different way of looking at
something, a completely different way of working. I can express
movement and form in sculpture, atmosphere and light in painting.
WHICH ARTISTS HAVE HAD THE GREATEST INFLUENCE ON YOUR
My first love was Corot. His treatment of light and space
struck a chord in my adolescent soul but, of course, as my
art has evolved, so have my influences. On the whole, I’m
still drawn to the artists of the late 19th/early 20th century
– Corot’s still there, Sargent, Clausen, Liljefors,
and Monet spoke volumes to me with his use of colour. Edgar
Degas has always been a major influence for me, both in drawing
and sculpture. And then there are the anatomical drawings
of Leonardo da Vinci, the etchings of Rembrandt, Durer’s
meticulous studies of the natural world; they’ve all
taught me something. But in the end you have to be of your
own time and use what you learn to reflect what’s around
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO TEACH ART?
I don’t really ‘teach’ art in the conventional
sense. Basically, what I want to do is to share what I have
learnt over the past thirty years with people who want to
My courses concentrate on drawing and tone, light and colour,
but in the end, all any teacher can do is pass on what they
know and love to others who will hopefully be enriched by
it. Ultimately, the aim of my courses is not just that the
students will go home with a painting to be proud of, but
that they will go home with an improved perception and the
passion to become better painters in the future.