What’s your scariest experience?
My scariest moment was when I lived in Delhi and our driver veered off the road into a mosquito-infested lake. He had spent the petrol money on whisky, so not only were we stranded but he was incapable. We waded out and were rescued by some villagers who pulled the car out with the help of an elephant.
What jobs have you done other than being an artist?
I started my career as a fashion designer and illustrator working firstly in couture and later for big multiples. I specialised in colour, was elected member of The British Textile colour group and worked on fashion palettes and trend. I travelled the world with my work, from India to Hong Kong, New York to Italy, France to Japan developing fabrics and colourways for textiles. I also opened my own design-led shops which I ran for 18 years selling artisan products and selling my paintings in my own small gallery.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
I recently painted a large mural of two Red Crowned cranes for Hanwell Zoo in West London. Starting very early in the morning I was watched by meerkats and llamas while I painted.. nothing like a diverse audience!
Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
For a long time my disability [an immune response to malaria] meant that I had to paint from my bed, not allowed to touch the floor for months following surgery. Yes, it was lonely but I have a lively imagination and painted fabric designs for a design studio and wore big necklaces to cheer myself up. I found peace in mindfully meditating every day. We can overcome anything with the right frame of mind.
What research do you do?
I visit museums, galleries and shows with my sketchbook in hand. I sit by the Grand Union Canal, which is on my doorstep, in any weather – a place I love. I love the hustle and bustle of central London, alongside Osterley which gives me a sense of wellbeing. I like connecting with water, wildlife and nature.
What superpower would you have and why?
I would love to be able to fly like a bird and regularly dream that I’m swooping around the globe visiting beautiful places at high speed.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Onwards and upwards. This is my motto.
Helen has a number of shows coming up this year where you can also catch her work:
Jan: Affordable Art exhibition. W3 Gallery, London.
1-16 Feb: Cancer Art Auction. W3 Gallery.
1 Feb-1 Mar: Swirling seas, Stormy Skies. Joint show, Clocktower Cafe. London W7.
23 Apr-28 May: Portray. Illustration. W3 Gallery.
Sept: BEAT (Borough of Ealing Art Trail)