When a landscape becomes meaningful to you, it gets under your skin to create vivid memories. My paintings and process capture that…

There’s a kind of wild light here in the Brecon Beacons – you see *all* the weather and the seasons feel extreme. This works on creativity in an inescapable way.

It’s as if the natural elements enter the materials, spilling over into the work

Celebrating the solace of place

Landscape painting is all about personal experience – those exceptional times when you’re alone outside and exposed to all the elements, discovering a wilderness. You’ll undoubtedly agree, it’s never just about what we physically see…

It’s ultimately about how we feel – and have always felt – in remote places… places that bring solace and awe

The main aim of the paintings is to communicate atmosphere above the reality of the scene. 

My special place is in the Brecon Beacons – you’ll find me in my stone-built studio in the remote Olchon Valley, under the shadow of Offa’s Dyke and Hatterall Hill. The Cat’s Back and Skirrid mountains bookend the ridge. What a privilege to live in this magical part of the world – perched on the border between England and Wales, UK (which sums up my mixed heritage perfectly). If you’re ever in the area, you’re welcome to visit any time.

Creating depth – drip, scratch and smudge

photograph of interior of Helen Arthur's studio

Every layer of paint and each bold brush stroke or detailed mark invites you to reconnect with how it feels when you’re fully immersed in the natural world

Instinct – the physical response to materials – primarily guides the painting process of these wild landscapes. Any conscious decision-making almost seems retrospective. The marks and passages of colour often happen before I realise I’ve made any decision at all…

The more obvious choices for any artist to make are around the materials they select to work with. These are varied for me. “Painting” began in 2020 using printmaker’s inks applied with rollers – there were precious few paints or brushes in the studio, set up only for printmaking, back then.

Developing a rich history

Still keen to use random tools – like brayers, scrapers, sticks and my own fingers – I work messily, allowing the piece to develop and change with rich layering.

  • Detail of a painting of a late summer meadow, including poppy red oil paint.
  • photograph of interior of Helen Arthur's studio
  • 4 mixed media paintings on one sheet of paper.
  • photograph of artist's brushes in a pot
  • Mixed media painting by Helen Arthur called The Leet
  • Photograph, artist's workspace including traditional etching press
  • black_mountains

You’ll see collage materials, layers of scratched and showered-off paint and final details in oil stick – it certainly creates a history

Always learning

There’s an inevitable tension between how expressive and abstract a landscape can become versus how recognisable you make the view. Personally, I will always see-saw between fully abstract (playing in sketchbooks) and more representative landscape paintings on board and canvas. Experimentation is key.

Luckily, discovery drives me on. The only way to grow is to make a lot of art. And – despite the need for aloneness in the landscape – I savour connecting with other artists and sharing my process and work. The art community hugely informs and enriches our creative development.