ARTIST RESEARCH: QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

I am lucky and honoured enough to get lots of questions from students so I thought I would try and answer these here for everyone.

Describe your work:

My artwork is intuitive and intricate and often features motifs from nature. I use expressive mark making to create abstract pieces which feature repetition and rhythm, layers of complexity and organic forms.

I’m fascinated by the interplay of colours, shapes and patterns. My paintings are rarely envisioned but develop over days as I respond to the materials and the marks on the page, creating complex illusionary landscapes.

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What are you inspired by?

I’m mesmerized by the beauty, colour and pattern in our natural world. I’ll frequently have a love affair with something where I become obsessed with it for a while; from snow flake structures, to patterns on shells, or the colours and patterns on fish scales, or antique Indian textiles, or bird feathers or butterfly wings, or the patterns on maps… I also have some magpie tendencies and am rather drawn to the glittering and glinting, iridescent or luminous… I try and seek inspiration everywhere - I will go out and walk in nature with my camera - seeking small details and interesting patterns and shapes.

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Tell us about the processes you use to create your pieces?

I experiment in my sketchbooks and will sometimes take a germ of an idea from these and use it as a springboard for a larger work. A lot of my work contains an element of watercolour paint. There is something about the unpredictability of this kind of paint which I find alluring and magical. I love the way the paint and colour mixes with the water on the page and creates unexpected patterns. I love the transparency of it, the ability to build up layer after layer of paint. There’s a slight wild-childness about watercolour, it doesn’t always do what you want it to do, and I love it all the more for that.

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When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

As a child, I was always drawing. I loved spending hours creating elaborate and intricate patterns from my imagination. I used to get through so much paper that my dad started to buy me large rolls of wallpaper lining-paper to keep up with my insatiable demand for more paper. I used to have a large box in which I collected shiny and patterned papers, from sweet wrappers, pages torn from magazines, bits of shiny wrapping paper. I loved my “special paper” box, I used to like tipping it on the floor and seeing how the different patterns and colours combined with each other. So, drawing and painting was something which came innately to me as a child. But I only became a full-time artist later in life. I took a rather circuitous route to get here as a profession and it is perhaps all the sweeter for it.

Tell us about your studio space - what do you love about it?

I am very lucky to have two rooms at the top of our house in Hastings. I’ve painted the walls and floor white to maximize the light. Having painted wooden floors also means I can roll back the rugs and make a real mess without any worries. I love rugs and have them everywhere, bright bursts of colour and pattern that sing to me. So, although the walls and floor of my space are white, the space is far from minimalist.

I love collecting weird and wonderful objects and picking up old or unusual objects in junk shops. My place is scattered with old tins, patterned ceramics, pebbles from the beach, old books and interesting textiles.

The house is half way up a hill, so one of the rooms has an amazing view of the town and sky. I just love this view and find the ever changing colours and patterns of the clouds a great inspiration. Having two rooms, means I can move around depending on the time of day – leave artworks to dry, whilst packing others.

Helen Wells
Helen Wells

Where do you seek inspiration?

Sometimes being an artist is like being a visual adventurer. I am always on the lookout for colours, patterns, tiny inspirations that I can collect, expand upon and use in my paintings. Sometimes these come through active searching, I might take a walk on the beach or in nature to actively seek-out some inspiration, looking at the details of plants and the shapes of the leaves, patterns on pebbles, or the way the water creates lines in the sand.

Tell us about the materials you use:

I love to mix art supplies and mix media. I like to experiment, explore and combine different art materials to create layers of interest and variety.

Watercolour paper

I mostly use watercolour gummed blocks. These are paper pads which are gummed on all four sides so that the paper remains taught and entirely wrinkle free. They tend to feature a little gap in the glue so that the painting can be sliced from the block with a pallet knife once completed. 

These types of pad allow me to use a large quantity of paint and water and for the paper to remain smooth and beautifully flat. They do not require pre stretching.  I use different types of paper finish depending on the type of painting. I will use 'hot pressed' paper when adding pen detail as the paper is super smooth and allows the pen or pencil to glide along, and I will use rough or cold pressed paper if I want the finished paintings surface to be textured. I mostly use Arches Aquarelle with is chlorine free and made of 100% cotton fibres for strength and stability. 

Helen Wells Expressive Sketchbooks

Sketchbook

I have used lots of different types of sketchbook over the years. I often have a small moleskine notebook in my pocket or bag. My favourite larger sketchbook though is a Fabriano Venezia, it has thick 200gsm paper which handles wet paint and ink really well. They come in a variety of sizes, I often use the 23cm x 30cm one.

Ink pens

I use black ink pens regularly in my work. I most frequently use a Rotring Isograph pen which has a metal nib and and a refillable ink reservoir. They come in different thicknesses and deliver a high definition and precise line which allows for fine detail work.  

WHEN AND WHERE WERE YOU BORN

I was born in London in 1975.







THE POWER OF CREATIVITY

We are all beautifully creative humans. I believe that the more creativity we can incorporate into our day-to-day lives the more fulfilling, interesting and meaningful our lives become. Here, I share a few thoughts on why it’s important and some ways to think about everyday creativity.

The WALL in my studio is a place to keep interesting things I have created, collected and curated. ARTIST HELEN WELLS

The WALL in my studio is a place to keep interesting things I have created, collected and curated. ARTIST HELEN WELLS

What is Creativity?

The dictionary defines creativity as ‘the use of imagination or original ideas to create something’. Edward de Bono says ‘Creativity involves breaking out of expected patterns in order to look at things in a different way’. 

Creativity is making things. Creativity is breaking out of a rut. Creativity is doing things differently. Seeing things from a different perspective. It’s inventiveness, playfulness and experimentation. My idea of what constitutes creativity and your idea will be completely different and that is part of the magic. Creativity is personal and is an expression of self.

Creativity is an expression of who you are

Creativity is an expression of who you are

Why is creativity important?

For many years I didn’t do anything creative at all – and that makes me sad. I now know that being creative brings pleasure, fulfilment and meaning. Creativity carries with it a sense of possibility and optimism. Creativity is a form of self-expression; it allows us to have a conversation with ourselves about our interests and desires. Utilising our innate creativity can be a way to understand ourselves better, to question who we are, where we are within the world around us. It is a way to better understand what lights us up, what makes us curious and excited. Creating things allows our head, heart and hands to work in unison. 

Creating things allows our head, heart and hands to work in unison.

Creating things allows our head, heart and hands to work in unison.

Being creative can bring joy, delight and light. But if you’re not using your innate creativity it’s not just a missed opportunity, it has consequences. Brene Brown writes powerfully about what happens to our untapped creativity: 

Unused creativity is not benign. It metastasizes. It turns in to grief, rage, judgment, sorrow, and shame.  
— Brene Brown
UNUSED CREATIVITY IS NOT BENIGN

UNUSED CREATIVITY IS NOT BENIGN

How to be more creative

I like to challenge myself to be creative in small ways. I like to think about how I can do things differently, or in a new way to disrupt the hum-drum a little. So, whether its walking a different way, putting an outfit together differently, cooking a new recipe, seeking an unusual ingredient, going to places I’ve never been to before, reading up about a subject which I know very little about, listening to a new podcast…I try to disrupt my habitual patterns just a little.

I go out looking for inspiration, actively seeking new or interesting sights, people and places, finding and consciously absorbing details more closely than before.

SEEK BEAUTY AND WONDER IN THE EVERY DA

SEEK BEAUTY AND WONDER IN THE EVERY DA

I love the idea from Julia Cameron of an artist’s date. This is where you set a creativity date with yourself and you do something nourishing, a stolen window of time to spend on your own, doing something ‘enchanting’ and creative.

SET ASIDE TIME TO HAVE A DATE WITH YOUR OWN CREATIvity

SET ASIDE TIME TO HAVE A DATE WITH YOUR OWN CREATIvity

It can be useful to think about the joys and passions you had as a child, what did you love to do but haven’t done for ages?

Documenting ideas, capturing and curating them can be powerful. I like to write down all of the ways in which I could challenge myself, do things differently, things I’d like to try, things I enjoy, a running list to remind me and nudge me. I also like to photograph things which surprise and delight me, things which I find beautiful or intriguing.

Helen Wells

 

CREATIVITY AND NURTURING A SENSE OF WONDER AND AWE

Creating art is a process of unpacking the things in life which fascinate; a wonderful way to explore obsessions and better understand curiosities.

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Creativity is a process of discovery and exploration. A process of trial and error. A process which can sometimes feel vulnerable, like leaping into the unknown. A process of failures, mishaps and mistakes, but hopefully ones which hold beautiful lessons. A process of discovery and adventure.

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By making art, I have discovered more about my self and the world I inhabit.

It has encouraged me to meet myself on the page, to become clearer on what moves me, motivates me, interests me and lights me up. To follow the threads of my curiosity and weave them together.

The process of creating art has ignited multiple and diverse love affairs for me; my love has burned bright for ancient textiles, feathers, pine cones, seaweed, fossils, found patterns, painted ceramics, fish scales, pigeons, old maps, insects, snow flake structures, leaf shapes, trees, roots, sacred geometry, weeds, patterned rugs, reflections on water, hand embroidery, the moon, tidal patterns, folk art, iridescence....

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I try and not wait for inspiration to find me. Instead I like to go out and find it. And through seeking and hunting, I have indeed found it. The process of making art has helped me to see more wonder and experience more awe. It has helped me to view the world through a lens of enquiry and discovery; to see things anew and with fresh eyes; to be delighted and charmed by the magic of the natural world; to find beauty in the mundane and see the extra ordinary in the ordinary.

I believe that through creating we are able create for ourselves understanding and meaning.

I hope that in some tiny way, that by sharing the joy that art has brought to my life, I may encourage you to think about how you could create a little more space for creativity in your life.


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THE JOY OF MAKING ART

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Sensory pleasure of making art

There is something about the physicality of creating art which I love. I relish the sensory and tactile nature of mixing the paint, touching the materials, the smoothness of the paper, the physical connection to what is on the page.

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I delight in taking something from my head, my heart and making it manifest through my hands.

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Inspired by the process

I try to let my art unfurl. To respond to what is on the page, to follow an impulse, embrace the accidental. I use lots of different types of art materials, watercolour paint, pencils, felt tip pens, collaged papers, acrylic paint, graphite pencils, tracing paper, coloured inks. I enjoy the contrast, the juxtapositions, the interplay of colour and shapes, the unusual and the unexpected. The alchemy cabinet of art materials.

Helen Wells Artist

I consciously try and enjoy the process and not be too attached to the outcome. I remind myself that the magical element is often what is happening in my brain rather than what is happening on the page. The beauty can come from what I have learnt, what I have discovered, what I have experienced, not necessarily what I have created.

LAYERS OF MEANING

Part of the joy of creating art is that it helps me to reflect upon the things in life which I am fascinated and curious about.

Creating is a way to follow and explore my fascinations and bring them together on one page.

I’m obsessed by colour, lines, drips, dots, layers, shapes, and the mind blowing awe and wonder of the natural world. I’m fascinated by textiles, fabric, colour and what different colours represent and why we are drawn to certain colours.

Helen Wells Art drawing

In my art, I’m layering both materials and meaning. I’m exploring the patterns of life and how we make a mark in the world by actually making patterns and marks.

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THOUGHTS ON CREATIVITY: SEEKING PLAYFULNESS NOT PERFECTIONISM

EXPECTATION IS THE THIEF OF JOY

For about ten years in my 20s I avoided drawing or painting because I always wanted the outcome to be perfect. The weight of my expectation was too heavy. It’s a sadness to me that I allowed fear of failure, fear of not being good enough to stop me even starting: that I allowed my high expectations to steal so much joy, so much experimentation, so much development.

Helen Wells Artist

NOTHING TO LOSE AND EVERYTHING TO GAIN

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Now that I’m in my 40s and working as a professional artist I want to share some wisdom with my younger self. I want to tell her that she has absolutely nothing to lose from starting and a whole wonderful world to gain.

DANCE WITH FEAR

I want her to know that the pain of not creating is so much more crippling than the pain of creating something she doesn’t like. That she needs to create despite the fear, that she must work with the fear and let it dance along beside her.

Helen Wells Artist

BE KIND TO YOUR CREATIVITY

I want to tell my younger self that mistakes are how you learn. That being kind and gentle with her self when she is creating helps her to develop and grow and be braver and bolder.

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PERFECTIONISM GETS YOU STUCK, PLAY GETS YOU UNSTUCK

I want her to know that pressured perfectionism gets her stuck and that half the fun is the journey to the end result not the end result itself. I want to tell her to be playful.

PLAY IS PART OF MY PROCESS

Play, experimentation and childlike curiosity is part of making things manifest, is part of creating art, an important part. So I thought I’d share some of the ways I play and incorporate it into my artistic practice.

LOOKING AND SEEKING

Helen Wells Artist

I frequently go wandering outside with my camera, looking for inspiration. I try and really look with fresh eyes and notice what makes me curious, what stands out. I look for patterns and shapes, colours and textures. I find that the more I actively seek on these meanders the more interesting things I find.

The shots in this blog post are from a wander in my local park just before sunset. It took me a little while to look up and see lots of striking silhouettes of trees and twigs, lines and patterns on the water, reflections and outlines.

USING PHOTOGRAPHS AS A SPRINGBOARD

I might then print out a few of the photographs and use then as a starting point, as a springboard, as reference material, as an entry point to something. As the start of something.

STARTING SMALL

Helen Wells Artist

I often like to cut up a large piece of thick heavy paper into many small pieces. I find that playing about on a small piece of paper is liberating, less daunting. I will paint and splash, daub or draw on more that one piece at a time. Just playing. Just experimenting. Just responding to what’s on the page. Just having fun.

I often might get out lots of different materials, watercolour, ink and experiment, see what works, what doesn’t. Because I might have a pile of 15 pieces of paper on the go at once, there is no preciousness, there is expansiveness and abundance.

These playful bursts often result in something interesting, a seed of an artwork, a happy accident, something that I will develop into a larger, more significant art work. I find this playful approach leads to a much better end result than trying to create something of significance from the get go, this exploration and experiment leads to discovery, that I can work through the mistakes to unearth something more valuable and beautiful.

Helen Wells Artist
Helen Wells Artist

THOUGHTS ON CREATIVITY: THE HIGHS AND LOWS

I own this beautiful 800 page book called The Book of Symbols from Taschen which explores and reflects of the archetypal meaning of different images. I find it fascinating and intriguing how different images and motifs hold meaning and I find this book so helpful in unpicking some of these meanings and sparking my curiosity.

In the preface the book’s Editor, Ami Ronnberg, quotes the words of Meister Eckhart, a German philosopher who died in the 1300 hundreds:

“When the soul wants to experience something she throws out an image infront of her and then steps into it.”

I love the thought that images can help us to reach new understanding, new meanings, perhaps provide illumination for things which can not be easily articulated, light houses for our soul.

When I am looking for inspiration I often open a page of this lovely book and see where it leads me.

Yesterday I randomly opened the book on page 110 which explored the symbolism of 'valleys’. Now, when I think of valleys, I instinctively think or ruts or troughs, the low to the high, the opposite of peak. I found the book’s description of valleys to be so much more nuanced and enlightening, so much more considered than my own:

“It is often an area of plentitude, amassing rainfall and providing rich earth for vegetation, a longed for destination after rugged treks. The valley is associated with the earthy, the humble…linking us with the way and oneness…”

I just thought this was such a lovely sentiment, that it can be the valley or low ground that leads us on our way to the higher ground, the valley where we collect the rain which helps new growth burst into life.

It chimed with me because I’ve been thinking about the pattern of my own creativity, the peaks of achievement and valleys of uncertainty where I am not so productive.

I mostly like to strive, to reach higher, to look for the peaks and feel uncomfortable when I’m not climbing.

Perhaps opening the book on this page was a reminder that the space between peaks, the lower times of quiet observation, the restorative times where I’m collecting my rainwater are a valid part of mine and everyone’s creative journey.

WHY I MAKE ART + WHAT MY ART IS ABOUT

I’ve always found January to be a reflective month. And this month I’ve found myself thinking about why I make art and what my art is about. You may think these questions would have quite obvious answers, that as an artist I would be able to answer them simply and straightforwardly. Well, it turns out I can’t, but I am enjoying trying. The answers come in fragments and partial pieces, which I have tried to patchwork together for you here.

Helen Wells colourful and patterned art

I share these thoughts in the hope that they might help you to think about your own creativity and why you make what you make. That perhaps in unravelling my own areas of inquisitiveness it may prompt you to question what makes you curious, intrigued and fascinated. Because, once you’ve thought about and identified those threads of curiosity, it is so much easier to follow them…

WHY I MAKE ART

In making art I feel I am better able to understand myself. I believe that in making art I meet myself. Creating something from nothing is a way of unlocking something within me which I may not have the ability to articulate or understand on a purely intellectual plane. In creating art I am better able to understand my place in the world. It allows me to perhaps see the world through a more considered lens and to understand the things that captivate me, expand me and give me pleasure.

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In a previous blog post I’ve talked about the importance of creativity in my life and the joy it has brought to it.

Now I will endeavour to unpick the threads of that creativity and explore a few of the things that light me up and intrigue me. The things that my art is about:

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THE NATURAL WORLD

Ever since I was small I have had love affairs and obsessions with some of the magical occurrences in the natural world. From snow flake structures, to the colour and shapes of fossils or shells, the iridescence of feathers and fish scales to the patterns the sea makes in the sand. The architecture of an individual leaf to the magnitude and majesty of the night sky on a clear evening. I’ve always found these wonderful details inexplicable and fascinating. I find that the closer I look at these details the more unbelievable and beautiful they became. The complexity and beauty in the natural world is something I strive to celebrate and honour in my work.

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PATTERNS

When I was a child, we moved house when I was about four, I can very clearly recall the pattern of my bedroom wallpaper, the pattern on the curtains, the pattern on the stairs carpet, the pattern on our then neighbour’s biscuit tin, the patterns on my little skirts and dresses. it seems to me that I have always been obsessed with patterns, natural or engineered. When I was young I always wanted to be a textile designer, I just loved going to the haberdashery shop and seeing all the patterned fabrics nestled next to each other, somehow I loved the way the patterns clashed and danced with each other, a maximalist cacophony of pattern which made my heart sing. I’m still in love with pattern and frequently use patterns in my artwork. My living space is full of coloured carpets, embroidered cushions and painted jugs, it is not minimalist, but exuberant, cheerful and celebratory. My artwork is often the same.

THE DECORATIVE

I once had a rather bruising and humiliating entry-interview for a famous art college in London. They wanted me to justify the thought process behind my artwork to move it away from being ‘merely decorative.’ The interview was a disaster, but the dismissal of the decorative as meaningless and worthless made me curious. Why was it that decorative motifs are found in every society in history but are not considered fine art. It led me to do a lot of reading on folk art, outsider art, art forms which have historically been associated with women and therefore labelled craft and not high art. Now I am unapologetic about the decorative nature of my art work. I revel in it. I believe that the way we decorate our living spaces can affect how we feel and that a burst of colour, pattern and the ‘merely- decorative’ can bring joy, energy and contentment.

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I obviously have many more curiosities; colour and how different colours bring out different aspects in each other, the physicality of paint, the tactile nature of hand made art, how using multiple layers and mixing different mediums together create unusual and intriguing effects that make you want to look longer and see more. Perhaps I can expand on those areas on another occasion.

I hope in some small way these meandering words may make you ponder on what fascinates you and on what fires you up…

CREATING WHEN YOU DON'T FEEL LIKE CREATING

This blog is about the power of starting. Taking the tiniest of steps, of just doing something even when you don’t want to do anything. It is about this, because yesterday was one of those days when I didn’t want to do anything at all. It was one of those days when you have no idea what to do, even if you could be bothered to do it.

Helen Wells Studio

I had planned on a morning in my studio, some dedicated time to paint and experiment. The morning should have felt expansive, like a luxury and a joy. Instead I woke up on, what could politely be described as, ‘the wrong side of the bed’. Definitely the wrong side. More accurately I was in a terrible, fractious and unnecessarily bad mood. I was grumpy, tired, cross and uninspired.

I usually have a very sunny disposition, but I’m like the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead, when she is good, she is very very good and when she is bad she is horrid. It was an out-of-the-blue black mood for no discernible reason.

I sat at my desk with not a clue what to do. I am usually brimming with ideas, raring to start, yesterday it all felt a bit pointless. I stared at my paint and didn’t know where to start. So I filled-in the blank colour chart on the lid of my watercolour paints. Next to the name of each of the colours I put a little blob of that colour. It was probably the least imaginative thing I could possibly have done. But with this tiny unimaginative act, I had set the ball rolling. I had started.

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I actually liked how those little blobs of intense colour looked. I got out some paper and started making little random coloured blobs, appreciating how the colours vibrated and danced when they sat next to each other.

And then I thought about how these little jewels of colour could be the starting point for a painting,.. perhaps they could represent pebbles on a beach, which got me thinking about a shocking pink sunset I had recently seen on the beach, which gave me an idea, which gathered its own momentum.

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Sometimes we feel inspired to create. Sometimes we feel energised and excited. Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes our creative brains feel blank. I’ve learnt along the way that I can’t let inspiration dictate when and if I start something. Inspiration can be illusive, now I just turn up and start, even when I don’t feel like starting and I don’t know what I’m starting.

There is always a place for thinking... and planning...and pondering... and ...considering. However, sometimes I am guilty of using thinking and planning as an excuse for not starting. So rather than thinking about starting, I just take a deep breath and I start. And then I respond to that starting point and then I take another small action and then I carry on and see where it takes me.

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WHY I MAKE STUFF + WHAT CREATIVITY MEANS IN MY LIFE

I’ve been reflecting recently on why I make stuff. Why I paint, why I draw and why I experiment in my sketchbook and I thought it may be useful to share some of these thoughts with you.

Perhaps my musings might help you to reflect on your own creativity and motivations. Perhaps they might act as an invitation for you to consider your own ‘why’ or perhaps these words might even be a tiny rallying call for you to start something, to take the smallest of steps or the biggest of leaps.

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CREATIVITY IS INTERPRETING THE WORLD

When I was a kid I just loved drawing from life or playing about with colour and pattern. I was always drawing. Then I became an adult and some of that colour and pattern left me. I didn’t pursue art as a career. I put it away in a box marked ‘childish’ and did more studious things. I lost a lot of my playfulness. I tried to be serious and sensible. During my twenties I didn’t make anything at all, I just stopped. And in this stopping, I lost a lovely and important part of who I am and it took me nearly a decade to find it and reopen the box.

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I was 29 (I am now 43) and feeling a little bruised after a breakup with a boyfriend, not sure how to use my holiday as a single person, feeling a bit lost and lonely, a little uncertain and stuck. On a a whim I signed up for a two week painting course at the Slade Art School in London. It was the most magical fortnight. I felt alive and excited. Curious and contented. Playing with colour and paint all day, every day felt like a home-coming for me. I felt energised and alive. Like I was learning a new language. The act of drawing from life, literally meant that I had to look at things in a new way. See things in a new light, under a new microscope. I remember that one of the first small activities was drawing an office chair. I looked at that chair and I saw the beauty in its lines. I began to actually appreciate the curve of the arm rest and the shadows it made on the wall. That course re-ignited my love affair with drawing and painting and set me off on a path of re-discovery. Importantly for me, it also helped me to see the beauty in every day objects, to reconnect with the physical world with a child-like sense of wonder and awe.

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CREATIVITY IS MAKING MISTAKES

After those first tentative steps, there were some road blocks along the way. Looking back, most of the road blocks were entirely of my own making. I was hugely self critical of anything I created. I was the opposite of kind and nurturing to my newly found creative ember. I was mean and critical. I would stamp on it with wild abandon and large heavy boots. I hated everything I made. Everything I painted or drew was rubbish.

My internal radio was tuned to Critical Witch FM and the volume was turned up to the max. I nearly let this internal negative dialogue dictate my actions and stop me from creating, but I knew I had to carry on and nurture my curiosity. I knew I had to keep taking small steps, to keep on exploring, even if the radio was still on.

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I’m not sure if you can ever turn this radio station off, but I’ve certainly learned to turn it down, tune it out, to create and experiment even though it might be playing away in the background.

Now, I do not believe everything it broadcasts. And I no longer let it stop me, because I know that it is through creating, that I understand myself, feel energised and express myself.

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I also now know that I don’t have to love everything I’ve created. It is totally fine for some of my creations to be completely rubbish. By making stuff I don’t like, I might move to the next stage of making stuff I do love. I have realised that it is through making, good or bad, that I develop, learn and make better work. There is no such thing as perfection, there are things that have worked and things that haven’t.

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CREATIVITY IS CURIOSITY

Since attending that first art course as an adult 15 years ago, I have followed my curiosity and it has taken me on an amazing and circuitous journey. I had no idea how the film of my life was going to play out, no idea that attending that one class would be a turning point, an important moment, pivotal to my story.

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But what I do know is that in following the thread of my own curiosity, I have patched together a different kind of life and a different way of seeing the world. I now take more seriously the small things which fascinate me, interest me and enliven me, that pique my curiosity and I feel more ‘me’ as a result.








HOW I WORK: THEMES, PROCESS AND STIMULUS

THEMES AND INFLUENCES

WATERCOLOUR AND ACRYLIC PAINT AND INK COLLAGED SAMPLE

WATERCOLOUR AND ACRYLIC PAINT AND INK COLLAGED SAMPLE

I use expressive mark making to create abstract, decorative pieces which feature repetition and rhythm, layers of complexity and organic forms. I’m fascinated by the interplay of colours, shapes and patterns. My paintings are rarely envisioned but develop over days as I respond to the materials and the marks on the page, creating complex illusionary landscapes.

My artworks have been described as having a magical or other worldly quality, although I am very much fascinated by the magic and wonder in this world. I’m mesmerized by the beauty, colour and pattern in our natural world. I’ll frequently have a love affair with something where I become obsessed with it for a while; from snow flake structures, to patterns on shells, or the colours and patterns on fish scales, or antique Indian textiles, or bird feathers or butterfly wings, or the patterns on maps… I also have some magpie tendencies and am rather drawn to the glittering and glinting, iridescent or luminous… 

PILES OF PAPER IN MY STUDIO

PILES OF PAPER IN MY STUDIO

PROCESS

I experiment in my sketchbooks and will sometimes take a germ of an idea from these and use it as a springboard for a larger work. Most of my work features watercolour. There is something about the unpredictability of this kind of paint which I find alluring and magical. I love the way the paint and colour mixes with the water on the page and creates unexpected patterns. I love the transparency of it, the ability to build up layer after layer of paint. There’s a slight wild-childness about watercolour, it doesn’t always do what you want it to do, and I love it all the more for that. I also love mixing mediums, experimenting with combinations of different types of paint, pen or materials creating layers and different textures, and effects.

INSIDE MY SKETCHBOOK

INSIDE MY SKETCHBOOK

INSPIRATION

Sometimes being an artist is like being a visual adventurer. I am always on the lookout for colours, patterns, tiny inspirations that I can collect, expand upon and use in my paintings. Sometimes these come through active searching, I might take a walk on the beach or in nature to actively seek-out some inspiration, looking at the details of plants and the shapes of the leaves, patterns on pebbles, or the way the water creates lines in the sand.

HELEN WELLS WATERCOLOUR PAINT

HELEN WELLS WATERCOLOUR PAINT

Patterned paper on my desk

Patterned paper on my desk

PATTERNED SAMPLE PAGES IN A PILE IN THE STUDIO

PATTERNED SAMPLE PAGES IN A PILE IN THE STUDIO

INSIDE MY SKETCHBOOK

INSIDE MY SKETCHBOOK

INSIDE MY SKETCHBOOK

INSIDE MY SKETCHBOOK

IN my sketchbook

IN my sketchbook

INSPIRED BY THE LIGHT DANCING THROUGH TREES

Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.
— KAHLIL GEBRAN

I’ve recently been working on this series of small paintings on paper. They are somewhat other-worldly landscapes which celebrate my love and fascination with trees. Inspired by an early morning walk where the sunlight danced through the tree canopies and created pinpoints and orbs of shimmering light.

The four paintings are made by adding layer upon layer of watercolour and acrylic paint and are all finished with white ink detailing which adds a slightly surreal and ethereal effect to the images. They are all painted 100% cotton paper and are available to purchase in my shop.

LIGHT DANCING IN THE TREES BY HELEN WELLS
Light Dancing in the Trees series by Helen Wells
Light Dancing in the Trees Series by Helen Wells
Light Dancing in the Trees Series by Helen Wells

FINDING INSPIRATION

My artistic practice is informed by the colours and patterns of nature. I’m obsessed by the mind-blowing magic and wonder of the natural world. So when I am feeling stuck, uninspired or blocked I always try and get myself outside.

I live near a beautiful park in Hastings, Alexandra Park. Even though I go there really regularly, I’m still amazed at the new details I discover, the shapes, textures, patterns, silhouettes, colours and layers I find when I take the time to really look. The changing seasons playing out on the flora and foliage. As with most things in life, the more mindful and curious I am, the more I see and discover.

I often take my camera. I then use the photographs I’ve taken as colour inspiration, or reference for shapes and patterns, for experiments in my sketchbook or new art works. Here is a selection of photos from a walk this week. It was a beautiful Autumn morning and the oranges, purples and yellows attracted my attention, the layers on layers, the organic forms and shapes. Watch this space and I’ll share the work I’ll create which is inspired by this Autumnal wonderland.