BECOMING an artist was perhaps the furthest thought from Ann Winder-Boyle's mind when she failed her GCSE art exam. But just over 30 years later, she not only holds a first-class degree in fine art, but her work has also been chosen for the second year running at the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition.

"One can only dream about these things," says the Cumbrian-born artist, who has lived in Bucks since 1994. "The first time I was selected was absolutely fantastic, especially as I was fresh out of college. But then to be chosen for the second year running is staggering. I feel incredibly lucky."

Ann, who graduated as a mature student from Amersham and Wycombe College, tells me she submitted two pieces to the prestigious exhibition. Despite more than 10,000 works submitted this year, both of Ann's works were accepted, although only one made it through to the final 1,000, currently on display at the Royal Academy of Art in London.

Her selected piece, The Expectation Of New Beginnings, was also one of only 14 selected to be made into a postcard. Of those, only four works are by non-Royal Academy members, including Ann.

As with many of her other works, The Expectation Of New Beginnings is a collage exploring the themes of childhood and nostalgia, and depicts a woman leading a child by the hand along a winding path.

She has used a range of materials in piecing the collage together, including beeswax, old books and bindings and driftwood.

Her work almost always includes inscriptions found inside old books, which add to the "nostalgic" feel of the piece.

Mother-of-two Ann, who currently lives in Beaconsfield with her second husband, Mike, explains: "I just wanted to put together something that would take people back to their childhood.

"I also love working with different materials and exploring art through collage.

"The idea for the book inscriptions came about after my mother died during my final year at college. While looking through her possessions, I found all these books with inscriptions inside them written by my dad.

"They were obviously very precious to my parents and I thought I could use them in my collage. Ever since then, I've always looked through old books to see if there are any other inscriptions I could use in my art."

Since graduating in 2006, Ann's work has appeared at the Sarah Wiseman Gallery in Oxford, the Byard Art Gallery in Cambridge and was selected for the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition at The Mall Galleries last November.

Now with a second Royal Academy exhibition under her belt, Ann says she feels "immensely proud" of her achievements in just two years.

She adds: "I never thought this could happen. But my husband, Mike, was really supportive and told me to go back to college and pursue this. I actually failed my GCSE in art, so to come out with first-class honours was wonderful - and now two Royal Academy exhibitions as well. It's just fantastic."

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition runs at the Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, London, until Sunday, August 17. Open daily 10am to 6pm, Fridays until 10pm. Details: