Tuesday, 11th June, 2019
By Michael Murphy
You’ve got know when to put down your brush, says award-winning artist Ann Mitchell, whose dog sometimes has to remind her it’s time to go to bed.
Known for her exquisite attention to detail, Ann Mitchell has won the champion watercolourist award at the Magenta Art and Photography Show in Mildura for the second year in a row.
She also won the people’s choice award for her artwork of her friend’s Blue Heeler, Abbey.
The Magenta Art show has been growing steadily over the years, attracting more than 300 entries this year from across three states.
Another Broken Hill artist - Ann Walsh - was also highly commended in the watercolour section. It was the first time she had entered a competition.
Ann Mitchell, a former Broken Hill Base Hospital Nurse, has been painting since she was a child.
Ann was actually born in England, her mother a Broken Hillite, her father an English spitfire pilot who was stationed in Darwin during World War Two.
Ann’s parents met in Mildura, and they returned to England after the war because her father was still in the air force. After starting a family, they returned to Broken Hill, and she has spent most of her 73 years here ever since.
Ann took more delight in winning the people’s choice award, rather than the champion trophy.
“It means a lot more to me than the judges’ award,” she said.
“It’s ordinary people seeing things - judges often go for contemporary art - just having ordinary people appreciating it means a lot.
Anne says she loves watercolour, although admits it can be a difficult medium.
“I love it because of the details you can get with it - and I am addicted to details.
“Unfortunately, I can’t stop myself most of the time.”
Ann has had plenty of support and encouragement from friend and local artist Clark Barratt, but she says the artist who’s had the most influence on her work is a “young fella” called Garry Fleming.
Garry is an international artist best known for his wildlife work. He has two exhibitions a year, and his paintings tend to sell quickly, often people put stickers on them as they walk in the door.
Ann sought the tutelage of Garry in Sydney during the 1990s.
“He’s a brilliant watercolourist,” Ann said.
“He often says ‘make the eyes talk to you ... because until you get them right, the rest won’t work’.
“I learnt a lot from him.”
Ann mainly paints at home, but she enjoys the company of fellow artists every week at the St Johns’ Hall, a group called the ‘dibbly dabblers’.
“We had a few suggestions for names but that one won.
“We meet every Wednesday, sometimes we have got a dozen to 14, mainly women, but a couple of fellas have got the courage to turn up.”
At home, she says it not unusual for her to paint until 1.30 to 2 o’clock in the morning ...
“Until the dog comes in and says ‘Hey. Bedtime’.
“Mind you, she’s already been asleep for about six hours.
“You come to a stage where perfection is the enemy of all good.
“With me, I could keep going but by doing that sometimes you take away from the appearance of the thing that you are doing.”
Ann paints all sorts of things - mainly animals and landscapes - but birds have been a main interest for a long time.
She says her sister-in-law tells her she should branch out and paint what people want, and Ann has had a few commissions, the most recent from a chap in Melbourne.
Ann usually starts off with a photograph of her subject, and a thick piece of paper, so it doesn’t buckle when paint is applied. She starts off with a “light wash”.
“Then I focus on the eyes, once you have those right, the rest sort of just fits in,” she said.
“With watercolour, you can have a light wash and then build your colour up from there.
“You just build your colour up until you get the colour that you want, and then you meld into the white.
Ann has had two exhibitions at the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery, and is hoping for a third.
She is currently working on a series of paintings of endangered or extinct animals.
“That’s something that concerns me a lot because Australia has got the worst reputation of destroying species - 80 species a year are extinct in Australia.”
She’ has already painted a polar bear, and a black rhino, and she intends to do a lemur and a “magnificent tarantula in South America that’s got every conceivable colour in it”.
“I want to do that because they’ve been killing them by the millions.”
She has almost finished the dodo, a difficult bird to resurrect in watercolour.
“So I’m looking at this thing and thinking how the heck am I going to get the colour of the feathers, you know.
“And you experiment with colours, and eventually it suddenly starts to come together, and that’s when I love it, because it’s coming alive, and I can spend hours at it.
“But getting over that hill of not being able to do it, and then suddenly finding it coming together and things are working, that’s when I love it.
“Because it comes alive.”