My story

A 25-year gap in art-making brought a sudden urgency in finding my artistic voice. As did having children. Love them to bits, but I needed some ME-time…

What started back in 2016 as kitchen table art – sound familiar? – led to a full-blown passion for mixed-media painting with printmaking mixed in for good measure. It’s been quite a ride so far….

  • photo of an etching tool on a drypoint plate

Late starter

My family like to tell this anecdote (of which I have no memory) – when I was 11 years old someone asked what I wanted to do when I grew up? My unswerving response – “become a local artist” (not just an “artist”, note, a *local* artist). What a little oddball I was. Instead, I went to Cambridge Uni’ to study literature then began my decades-long career after graduation.

Looking back, I realise the art was there right from the beginning…

Visual creativity only kicked off when I moved with my family out of London back to my childhood home of Wales. I was just married, in my early 40s, with a 4 year old and a 1 year old in tow – a late starter in more ways than one. The day job was busy too. I ran a business as a content designer for hire in the natural resources management sector. But something was troubling me – an unidentified need – and that’s when I began to make exploratory art.

It seems I’m driven and inspired by the “local”, after all – specifically the gloriously moody Welsh Marches landscape. Don’t you think it’s incredible how the clues to living our “best life” are in place from early childhood?

No pain, no art?

The trigger was an abandoned etching press, rusting in a garage. For two years, I nagged a relative to pass this on and finally got my wish. But could I even draw and design after such a big gap?

I was *really* out of my perfectionist comfort zone

I booked myself in to life-drawing classes once my kids were full-time at school. This was the first teaching I’d had since GCSE art. It was challenging and often made me grit my teeth, but I persevered and learned to really look in a way I never had before. Then I taught myself printmaking, like you do! The distraction was particularly invaluable when we discovered that our 6-year-old son had a hole in the heart and we nervously awaited his open-heart surgery.

  • Skirrid Print Studio A lino print of golden moths in moonlight
  • Artwork showing Helen Arthur's lifedrawing
  • Photograph of framed original painting "Summer Morning, Hay Bluff" by Helen Arthur
  • Skirrid Print Studio A photo of lino plate with tools

A dedicated studio space

My art practice helped me through that and began verging on obsessive, so I organised a small home studio. This did the job for two years before I moved with the family to a larger home here in Longtown (thanks to my previous business). The two-storey annexe attached to the main living area was crying out to be renovated.

My awe and raw energy is infectious, I’ve been told

With so much dedicated space, I felt I should open to the public and share my knowledge of linocut and etching. The take-up was good (despite living in the styx): over 60 people joined me for bespoke workshops in the first eight months of opening the studio.

Then Covid hit…

The first lockdown led to a shift in mindset for me (and many of you, I’m sure). Suddenly, I was exploring mixed media and taking risks to access a much more personal and expressive way of working.

Finding solace in place, I began working outside… then the sketches developed into abstracted, gestural landscapes back in the studio

Then in September 2020 I set up and opened a gallery room in our home.

It’s been a joy to welcome visitors here, starting with viewings by appointment and a whole 10 days of open studio viewings with Herefordshire Art Week (h.Art) in September 2021.

It doesn’t feel like I’ve stopped to draw breath since! There’s been a LOT of learning into the last few years. Still is. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

You’re welcome to share this continuing journey. I write about my stash of knowledge – garnered through graft, learning on the job, while still making *all* the mistakes. If in doubt, just do it!

The key is to continue learning and evolving – stretching your art practice and taking risks – stay curious, whatever you do

  • waterland photographed artwork
  • helen-arthur-elkies-wood

I hope you find a piece of wilderness-inspired art to reflect your own love of landscape

So what’s next?

I’m constantly challenging myself and discovering new methods, which really drives me forwards. Plus there’s such joy to be found in the changing light over this wild landscape. Find out more on my Events page about exhibitions and workshops.

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