I have always been passionate about painting and while I pursued a career in finance and entered the realms of motherhood, this creative need has never left me. So over the years I have continued to draw, waiting for the opportunity to go back to painting full-time. Part of the catalyst was moving to a lovely home, with fantastic views of the rolling landscape of Shropshire and then having the opportunity to run a school art club. Seeing the confidence the pupils had in me, gave me the confidence to finally pursue the one thing I am passionate about, art.
I am a self-taught artist, which has been the best way for me to learn my own style and technique, as there are no boundaries. I love the luminosity and the subtle layers of colour I can achieve with watercolour and prefer to use this medium.
IDEAS AND INSPIRATIONS
Ideas can come when I least expect them, while washing up or doing the weeding and I have to quickly jot them down or do a quick sketch. I have been known to halt a family walk, while I sketch a scene, take photos and just generally breathe in a location. Whatever first grabs my attention, I try to re-create that same feeling when I paint it, such as the depth of colour in a sunset with the orange and purple hues. I love the technical challenges that watercolour painting offers me.
Whenever I view a painting, I analyse it technically, to see not only what the artist has to say but also how they went about saying it. I love to see the brushwork of any painting, it has its own story.
Painters whose work I admire include the American watercolour artist Andrew Wyeth, I love the sense of mood he captures and the simple compositions. Albrecht Durer not only was he technically good, but I like the subtle tones, creating movement. Then for overall landscape ability I enjoy Allan Ingham and Helen Attingham’s work. For a good sense of light and dark I enjoy Turner’s and Caravaggio’s work. There are so many artists in different media I could mention that I find informative and inspiring.
FROM SKETCH TO PAINTING
All the preliminary sketches and layout ideas will have been done before I paint, but generally I hate to waste time analysing too much and am always keen to just get painting, though with watercolour you cannot afford to make mistakes, you cannot just paint over it or scrape it off, as with oils.
Depending on what I am painting, there are some watercolour painting techniques I have to consider before I put paint to paper. Firstly I have a light, rough sketch of the overall painting on the paper I’m using, then I’ll have decided which tone of primary pigments I’m using to create all my colours from. Then I start to paint the undertones of colour. I don’t use white or black pigment paint, so painting lace in watercolour can be technically challenging, because I am basically painting everything but the lace (the paper is my white).
Also painting in watercolours means I paint from light to dark, building up the tones of colour and getting the consistency and depth of watercolour pigment just right. I love the transparent flow of watercolours, where the layers of different watercolour pigments combine to create a new hue.
Every painting whether it’s a landscape or a portrait is a technical watercolour challenge that I thrive on. I generally work on a painting as a whole and will keep stepping back to see if I’m achieving what I’m trying to communicate. Usually when I think I’ve finished a watercolour, I will leave it for a day and only sign my artwork when I’m happy with the watercolour painting.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF
As a family we are all early risers, probably due to the cuckoo making it’s morning call. After breakfast I run around getting the household chores done, before the children get the school bus, so there are no distractions in the day. I make my way to my studio, which luckily for me is in the garden, so no commuting, bliss.
Not every day is the same, it all depends on whether I am painting a commission, having to meet customers or sketch and paint outdoors on location. I usually do my research, planning, ordering and final sketches during the evening and will have stretched my paper at least the day before. So at about 9 (earlier if I can ignore the chores) when I go into my studio I already know what I am painting and can just get on and paint. I prefer to make the most of painting in the natural light.
I will normally play music from my own playlists, or the radio or even listen to podcasts while I paint. I have a curious mind and a thirst for knowledge, which means my tastes are wide and varied and not shared by the rest of the family (so I’ve been told). I become completely absorbed in painting that the time just flies by. Generally between 4 and 5 the children are home, so we discuss their day and I organise the evening meal. During the lighter nights, I cannot resist going back to the studio and continue to paint till the light fades or I am persuaded out by a dessert or a glass of wine.
Helen’s work has been sold across the UK. She is available for private commissions. Check my availability