Looking to the past to see the future
PUBLISHED: 15:14 23 January 2013 | UPDATED: 22:38 20 February 2013
Annie Fennymore's first brush with art was at 46 years of age after she was registered blind. Jonathan King reveals the St Osyth artist's talent that was almost lost.
Asa child, Annie Fennymore concentrated her passions on writing after being told by a school teacher that, artistically she did not have a creative bone in her body. Nevertheless, despite being visually impaired, Annie has proved that teacher and many other sceptics wrong.
Apart from night blindness, Annie had a normal childhood, leaving school and marrying John Dines, with whom she had three children. At the age of 28, Annie was told that she would have no vision by the age of 40, and as her sight declined she did as many things as possible for herself to maintain her independence. While retaining some peripheral vision in her left eye into her mid forties, it was the official diagnosis of blindness that was the catalyst for Annie to pick up a brush for the first time in her adult life and start painting.
Using large magnifying aids Annie completed four pieces, the last of these she entitled Acceptance, which was Annies way of acknowledging the loss of her sight or, as she describes it, of day turning to night. During this time her first granddaughter died and then Annie fell down some stairs, losing what little vision she had left, leaving her now completely blind.
As therapy, Annie turned to her art full time. Unable to use brushes anymore, Annie undertook tactile art, using her fingers to apply the paint and to feel, the picture. she also wrote her first novel called Daisies Are Our Silver.
Annie paints completely from memory. I have a vivid imagination and no fear of colour, she explains. This means I am actually seeing colours that others would only dream of. she paints everyday in her seven-foot square garden shed surrounded by various technologies that enable her to communicate with the world.
Annie says her paintings begin in her mind as she visualises the finished piece. Then, using strong canvass boards to take the pressure of her fingers, Annie lays the outline in place with blue tac. Next she applies lava gel (a volcanic lava acrylic) and then, working from the background, Annie applies acrylic paint in layer upon layer to get depth and perspective.
As Annie is unable to return to exact points on the canvass, she knows she has finished only after having gone through all the stages as planned in her mind in precise order. A finished piece is very personal to Annie and she keeps them all, only selling prints and greetings card prints of them. Nevertheless, she has received numerous accolades for her paintings and she is also thrilled to have the first solo exhibition of her work at the Heart Gallery located at the Walk-In Medical Centre on Turner Road in Colchester, which runs until the end of February 2013.
Annie, who now lives in St Osyth, volunteers with the Essex Blind Charity as a home visitor to those with recent sight loss and attends a monthly art group for the visually impaired. She also writes newsletters and short stories and every year designs a Christmas card with a short story inside for children. Annie also gives talks every month and visits the new intakes at primary schools in Essex her diary is already fully booked until April 2013.
Still happily married after 43 years, Annie and John now have five grandchildren and one great grandchild. Amber, Annies faithful guide dog, recently retired after seven years and Annie is looking forward to her replacement in the New Year. Every day of her life is a positive embodiment of her message to the world, that there is life after blindness and, she says, a good one at that.
Find out more
To keep up to date with Annie, her busy life and numerous awards, visit her website at www.blindalleyart.co.uk. Her solo exhibition is located at the Heart Gallery on the first floor of the Walk-In Medical Centre on Turner Road in Colchester. It runs from now until the end of February 2013. For more details, contact Annie Fennymore on 01255 822039 or visit www.blindalleyart.co.uk