What are you all up to? by Alison C. Board

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So, what are you all up to?

I’m sitting in front of my computer today, procrastinating because I’ve got admin, paperwork and accounts to do and I’ll be honest, I don’t want to do any of it. The dilemma is that I love it when my business affairs are all up to date but it’s the doing of them that I’m not too keen on.

At the moment the sun is shining here in Dorset and my mob of chickens are outside the window sunbathing and generally scuffing about. I’d much rather be playing with them. They are all so funny and yes, maybe I do anthropomorphise them a little but there is no denying that they are have different characters that shine through when observing them.

Why am I babbling on about chickens when there is so much work to do? It’s because so many things that I’m working on can’t be shared at the moment and it’s slowly driving me mad. I’m so used to sharing with you all what I’m doing, the minute that I’m doing it that it is frustrating that I’m keeping it all to myself. There will be news soon however but in the meantime, what are you all up to? Post your comments below and save me from talking about chickens for the rest of the month…

E-learning and my studies by Alison C. Board


You may or may not know that I am currently studying for a Master's Degree in Online & Distance Education via the Open University. It is a great course and I'm really enjoying it, it's not going to be easily achieved, mainly due to juggling it with my workload but I will get there...eventually.

Over the next couple of months, I'm going to need your help, if it's not too much to ask? I'm working towards my end of year research paper and I need to gather quite a bit of information about how you lovely people out there see the future of e-learning or to put it another way, learning via a computer and the internet.

Now, I don't want it to become too dry and put you off taking part, so alongside some of this research, you will get the chance to shape how any future e-learning is delivered from me. For example, on my  OU course, we have been considering Personal Learning Environments (PLEs for short), in this context, they are the types of technology and ways of delivering learning that you interact with most often. Take me as an example. You may have found me via social media and now follow what I do via this blog, my website and YouTube - those types of environments.

So my question is this; if I was to construct an online course, how would you like to see it delivered? Would it be via downloadable instructions? A video? A forum to ask questions? Have you attended online courses before and if so, how have they worked for you? I am also keen to offer feedback at the end of every course by way of a participant sending me images of their finished work and me commenting on it. Do you think this would be useful?

Also, and perhaps more importantly, what issues and problems can you foresee happening with this style of learning?

Thanks in advance folks, if you have any thoughts, please comment below, much appreciated.

Where does inspiration come from? by Alison C. Board


Artists get their inspiration from many sources, I don’t think it’s possible to cite just one as we are sponges for information every single day. There are the traditional sources such as going to galleries to see the work of old masters and contemporaries plus whatever your muse might be in the form of the landscape, people, animals etc.

While I can’t deny that those elements are important to me, they are not my primary source of inspiration at all. Two things influence me more than anything else, the first is film – movies, box sets, old, modern, anything I can watch I will, and the second is music.

Many of you will know that my super talented husband plays in a band, so most of the time I don’t have far to go to hear live music being played but we try to go and see live music as often as we can. Sometimes it is at our local pub, sometimes it is a blast from the past on a revival tour and others it is what we did on Monday.

Pearl Jam is one of America’s biggest rock bands and if you haven’t heard of them, to date they have sold over 60 million records worldwide and I spent an hour on about three different websites back in October trying to secure a pair of tickets. They sold out in record time which meant that we had ‘restricted view’ seats but that was fine, all I wanted to do was hear them!

I have to say our seats were actually some of the best I’ve ever had at the O2 and I still don’t get tired of the excitement waiting for the band to come on stage. So why would this be inspirational as opposed to just immense fun? ‘Lyrics and Lights’ is what I’m going to call it, the narrative that is woven through the performance of stellar musicians giving their all to an appreciative audience. The conjuring of images when you hear a singer laying their heart and soul through the words they have written, and the technology of lighting them to bring a spellbinding moment for twenty thousand people all in the one room.

I always come away thinking about how my paintings make me feel or how I can encourage this feeling through my teaching and so I realise that sometimes it’s not about the mechanics – the paint, the brushes and how you do it, but about the emotional part of art and our responses to it.

Therefore now I’m intrigued – what do you find inspirational that others might see as ‘not the norm’? Answers on a postcard folks…or failing that, at the bottom of this blog.

Have a great week everyone.

Dorset Art Weeks 2018 by Alison C. Board

So Dorset Art Weeks is finally here and I am loving every minute of it. All the exhibitors put so much time and effort into it that when it arrives, it can seem like both the end and the beginning.

Downend Farm Studio has had lots of visitors so far, faces old and new and that is the part of the event that I love. People take time out of their very busy lives to seek out my studio are genuinely interested in what I do and I am always willing to chat about it! Some come for help with their own painting techniques or to see what materials the studio has to offer, and some come to see a little bit of Dorset hidden away from the usual views of the county. I often make a point of saying that I know how lucky I am to have my studio surrounded by beautiful countryside and that it’s also attached to my house so that I don’t have to fall too far in the mornings.

I have a few people to thank for helping me set up last week; Jasmine obviously as she also had the task of making sure the new website was working ready for the event, my parents for coming and bailing me out on the last day when it all seemed to still be on the uphill climb, and of course my amazing husband Beez. He ran about like a lunatic setting up the marquee, the screens, giving the studio a fresh coat of paint, finishing the picture framing and generally making soothing noises when we were still setting up at midnight.

If you’re not able to make it or are simply too far away, I’ve posted a few photos here to give you a flavour of what the display looks like and for daily updates, you are welcome to follow my Facebook feed Ali Board Artist.

Downend Farm Studio
Downend Farm Studio

Painting on location during a 'proper' bank holiday by Alison C. Board

Hey everyone, after my last two posts which were very academic and heavy, I promised you that I would write a more technique driven piece and here it is!

This weekend I have been lucky to share it with a lovely group who have come to the studio to improve their ‘en plein air’ or outdoor painting on location. We have been truly blessed with the weather, Dorset has delivered a wonderful bank holiday of wall-to-wall sunshine which isn’t necessarily easy when staring at a white piece of paper but makes sitting outside very pleasant indeed.

So many things have been discussed including how to tackle the vast expanse of information that is in front of you, how to use artistic licence to interpret shapes and colours and sometimes, how to rid yourself of your painting demons in order to progress further up your own artistic ladder.

Here is the first demonstration that I did for the group while we were outside:



It’s not everything that I want it to be but it was done in about 30 minutes and provided me with a subject to explore further, namely the trees that were in the distance and led to this piece:



…which I am really pleased with and has lots of room for development. I used to really struggle with painting trees and it took me a long time to get to the bottom of how I like them to look. If you look closely at my scrawlings in the bottom right-hand corner you can see that I had a great time flicking the water at the paper to get my Daniel Smith colours to run and merge. I used probably more colours than I would have done normally – Cerulean, Cobalt Violet Deep, Rich Green Gold, Green Apatite Genuine and Hematite Genuine but I was caught up in the moment and did it in about ten minutes flat.

Have any of you had a chance to get out and paint this weekend?

Learning about learners, and then learning about art! by Alison C. Board

Earlier in the year, I successfully enrolled on an Open University course with a view to gaining my Master’s Degree in Online and Distance Education. Yes, I can hear you asking ‘Why not art?’ but there are many facets to that question, the main answer being that I was eager to become a better educator and to do that, I needed to really push myself beyond my specialist subject.

I’m currently ten weeks into the course and finding it challenging on numerous levels, mostly concerning fitting it into a life that is already packed up to the eyeballs, but I am LOVING it. It has already made me think very differently about what I do and how I do it, plus I am studying in a community of such diverse knowledge that I’m struggling to see any negative points about it.

Yes, it’s incredibly hard work and I’ve already had to pull a couple of ‘all-nighters’ to get things achieved, but somebody once said that nothing worth doing ever comes easy and I remind myself of this every time it’s a challenge.

So, why am I blogging about it? Simply because we have got to the part of my course that I was desperate to get to – understanding how blogging can work in online education and how I can make mine work more effectively. Therefore, I’m going to ask you all a huge favour, would you be kind enough to comment below on one or more of the following questions:
1. What makes you visit a blog? Not necessarily an art related site, what attracts you to blogs and entices you in?
2. What would you like to see here?
3. What ideas do you have for making this blog more interactive? In other words, I’d love for it to become a space where we share ideas and experiences, how would you like to see that happen?

Thanks in advance for your time and I look forward to reading your comments and chatting with you further, Ali.

A Weekend of Owls by Alison C. Board

Welcome to my new blog and a new space for talking about new things. My social media and website both mainly discuss what my experiences are as a tutor, but in setting up this new blog, it seemed like a good opportunity to discuss what it’s like to be a professional working artist.

People generally have their own idea of what being an artist entails and like anything, some it will be false and some of it will be spot on. As I didn’t exactly ever have this career on my radar when I sat and chatted with my careers advisor at school, (I wanted to either be a ballerina or a speech therapist) all I can equate it to now are the standard chats at dinner parties, barbeques, in the pub etc.

Very often people get excited hearing about what I get to do for a job and I’m very grateful for that, there are plenty of unfortunately perceived ‘dull’ professions, and I get to talk about a more interesting one. The one thing that is difficult to get across to those who have no experience of painting for a living, is the CONSTANT questioning of what you do and how you do it. I’m not talking about confidence here, we all have moments where we ask ourselves if we are doing our job to the best of ability, I’m talking about the following scenario.

I held a lovely owl painting workshop at my studio this weekend, we had visiting owls (yes, really) and in a room of like-minded individuals, shared techniques and materials to satisfy all our artistic endeavours. I had conducted a full demonstration on Friday, produced a painting that was technically very passable, spent Saturday honing my new found photography skills and then was left with a little time on Sunday while others worked on their pieces. Why is this relevant? It’s relevant because I looked down at my piece of paper, mentally pushed aside every technique I had discovered in the last two years and went back to basics. One piece of watercolour paper, one brush and few colours. No fanfare of special materials, no specific techniques, no magic reveal, just good old-fashioned painting and producing something that comes from deep inside you that you can’t really explain.

Even if, by some miracle, a careers advisor helped you towards a creative path (don’t get me started on this topic), what they would never, ever be able to tell you would be that sometimes being an artist means that you have to tell yourself to forget what is at the front of your head and ask yourself the following question:

‘What happens if I don’t?’

I’ll leave that one with you…