Featured Artist Helen Parry
Watercolour artist Helen Parry captures the fine details and beauty of nature which are often overlooked in our fastpaced lifestyle with her paintings.
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Be sure to visit Helen’s artist website and follow her on social media. The links are located on the bottom of the interview.
Dave – Hello Helen, thank you for joining me today. Your story is like many artists. Life finds a way to get in the way of our dreams and put them on the backburner. Would you tell us your journey from when you first started creating art up until today, building a successful full-time art business?
Helen – I was a financial director of an engineering business, which I started with my husband. It was a 24/7 breakdown service worldwide. So I never had any spare time for pursuing art. For over 20 years I thought about art. The turning point was moving to the beautiful Shropshire countryside and having the opportunity to run an after-school painting club. I ran the club every week for two years. Almost the whole school attended and seeing the confidence the children had in me, really spurred me on, to pursue the one thing I have been passionate about all my life, art.
I wish I could say it has been an easy choice, but it takes a lot of hard work and discipline. I work long hours, seven days a week, but at least I am spending the time doing something I love. A lot of time is spent promoting my art and doing paperwork, besides actually painting.
Dave – Helen you could not have said it any better. Building an art business or any business takes a lot of hard work and discipline.
What advice would you give to artists who are having a difficult time finding time to create art?
Helen – Firstly I’d say find a space, to put all your creative tools and sketch pads and paper together. Secondly, create a workspace to place an easel or desk. It doesn’t have to be big, but no other items or paperwork must go on this desk. You need the area to be free, for painting, drawing and creating.
If you create the space and easy access to art equipment first, you reduce the time and hassle for creating, which means you’re more likely to create art. Once you’ve made it easy to create, then you need to commit time to it. In essence, you have to be selfish and have some ‘me’ time to create.
Dave – That is some great advice.
Not many artists create paintings with so much detail using watercolours. How did you learn your technique?
Helen – When I was young I painted with watercolours, more than any other medium. So it was natural for me, on returning to painting, to paint with watercolours. I used to mix my colours as a youngster, so again it felt right to continue mixing my own colours. The paintbrush is my pencil, so I find I automatically paint all the details that I see.
So basically my technique feels the most natural way for me to paint. Therefore I’m what you call a self-taught artist. I feel very lucky that even though I haven’t painted for over 20 years I can still draw and paint well.
I write regular blogs on my website https://www.helenparry.co.uk/watercolour-artist-blog/ where you can see more of my technique and the work in progress of my watercolour paintings.
Dave – Where do you get your inspiration from?
Helen – From nature first and foremost. I live rurally so I get to see nature and the wildlife up close. I find watching the seasons come and go fascinating. I try to get outdoors and sketch/ paint my first impressions such as new foliage unfurling and the changing of the landscape. I am extremely observant, so I’m never short of ideas. The difficulty comes in choosing which ideas to paint first.
Dave – You are lucky to have all the inspiration you need in your backyard and you share the beauty of nature to people who do not live in a rural region.
What makes your artwork unique and separates you from other artists?
Helen – I am a pure watercolour technique artist, producing highly technical, finely detailed watercolour paintings.
I push the boundaries of watercolour paints by mixing directly on the paper and building layers of watercolour pigment. I use only red, yellow and blue pigment and I don’t use white or black paint and no masking fluid.
This means my paintings have a depth of colour, with a distinct 3D effect of realism , which is rarely seen in watercolour paintings.
Dave – What message would you like your viewers to receive when they look at your artwork?
Helen – I’d like them to look at my artwork and appreciate the beauty in nature. Then I’d like them to look further into the paintings and notice all the details. By drawing their eye to the details, I hope they will start to look around their environment more and start to notice and appreciate more. Our planet is precious, it deserves our attention.
Dave – Helen that is a beautiful message and I would like to be the first to say that I believe you have achieved everything you were hoping with your paintings.
What supplies do you use for your artwork?
Helen – I use professional watercolour tubes, red, blue and yellow. I use professional sable brushes and also have large sable mix brushes for large washes. I have lots and lots of ceramic pots and palettes for mixing watercolour washes. Again I have lots and lot of jam jars for water. I have a range of hard and soft drawing pencils for outdoor sketching too.
I use heavy-weight 100% cotton rag papers, that I stretch on Kebas. I use various size sketchbooks and small loose sheets for plein air painting.
I have several watercolour easels, as I usually work on more than one painting at a time.
I have created my own backpack of art materials for plein air painting in the hills. It has to be lightweight and pack small.
Dave – What other mediums do you like to work with?
Helen – I have worked with charcoal, coloured pencils, pastels, acrylics and oils, but prefer watercolour. I find it the most challenging, so now I only use watercolour.
Dave – When did you start selling your artwork and how did you get started?
Helen – I started painting about 5 years ago and promoted my paintings on social media, google and various publications. Now I try different types of advertising and see which works best for me. Nothing stays the same, so I have to keep mixing it up and keep an eye on my budgets too.
Dave – What platforms do you use to showcase and sell your artwork?
Helen – I have tried various social media platforms over the years, but now use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. I use google, various publications and work with corporates. I prefer to have my own clients, rather than sell to third-party site clients. My website is my main selling site, which I maintain myself. I noticed you talk about having a WordPress site, which I think is a great idea for all artists.
Dave – How do you promote your art online?
Helen – I use the four social media sites mentioned previously, Google AdWords and online publications. I promote my original paintings, watercolour sketches, fine art Giclée prints, and greeting cards. I also do commissions and find it interesting the commission requests I get. I also show images of work in progress paintings. I hope to start filming my painting process to share with others too, which will become available on my youtube channel.
Dave – What was the biggest lesson you learned about starting your art business?
Helen – Be careful of what galleries you work with. They may have wall space, but do they actively encourage and promote the sale of your art or do they make their money from you? Meaning you pay for all the framing, printing and exhibiting costs, so they make their money up front.
I started using galleries and discovered they framed my artwork badly and also produced very poor and inconsistent prints. I had issues with several fine art printing companies too. I wasted a lot of money and was given poor advice about the art industry. The upside is I made the effort to research and understand the art industry for myself.
Also, check gallery commission charges, if they’re low they probably won’t do any promoting of your artworks. Also, get a signed inventory of any of your artworks they have, so if they go bankrupt you can still collect your artworks.
There are good galleries out there, who want to promote an artist, but do your research before you spend your hard earned money.
Dave – What tips could you give to new artists who are interested in selling their artwork?
Helen – Paint what you like, because you can never predict what people will buy. If you like what you paint then you’ll be inclined to produce more work.
Make sure you know your prices before promoting your artwork for sale. Also, make sure your prices cover all your costs, otherwise you’ll be supplementing your art from another job.
Let all your family and friends know you do art and are looking to sell it. It’s fine to offer a discount to family and friends, but remember you want to make money from your art.
Promote your art on social media platforms, see which platforms work best for you.
Do your research before approaching galleries, are they a good fit?
There is no easy answer to selling art, it takes a lot of work and promoting.
Well, Dave, you’ve asked me to choose 3 of my paintings that mean a lot to me and it has been difficult choosing, as each painting I create is special to me. You can see the progression of each watercolour painting, by searching in my blog section on my website.
I’m really pleased with this painting of the Iron Bridge, it is part of the UNESCO Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site.
It is the first major bridge in the world, that was built with cast iron and was completed in 1781. I live near the Iron Bridge, so have visited it many times since I was a child. It is an iconic landmark within Shropshire. I think it is beautifully constructed and wanted to paint its beauty, sitting within its landscape. I spent many hours visiting the bridge and sketching its construction. I wanted to understand how they designed and built the Iron Bridge.
I also wanted to show the whole Iron Bridge, so chose to paint it from a difficult angle. By the time I started to paint the Iron Bridge I knew every inch of it. It took hours to paint, especially as I had to paint everything, but the Iron Bridge. The white of the Iron Bridge is the paper.
I really appreciate the construction of the Iron Bridge and have an affinity with it, as I grew up surrounded by cast iron as my father has an iron foundry. I understand the processes involved in creating cast iron. The Iron Bridge demonstrates how a man-made construction can be designed to live in harmony with its natural surroundings.
The Barn Owl is one of my favourite birds and I’m lucky enough to see them at night. while on moonlit walks. They sit on the field gates, studying the fields for movement, then with a flash of white they’re flying low across the fields. They are very serene in flight. When you see them close, they have gorgeous white downy feathers, surrounded by graduating golden wings with flecks of white, grey and black patterns. Each feather has very tiny markings, that make a stunning pattern. I love their markings and have tried to show every little detail on the feathers in the watercolour painting. I use very tiny brushes and lots of brushstrokes so that I don’t lose the white of the paper. I need a very steady hand and lots of concentration. I cannot afford to let the brush slip.
In this watercolour painting, I’ve tried to show this beautiful Barn Owl in all its glory and shine a light on their intricate markings. I’ve painted the Barn Owl against an oak barn background, to remind us of their natural habitat, which is sadly in decline.
Arley in Autumn
This is one of the earliest landscapes I painted and I have a fine art Giclée print of it on my wall. I still enjoy looking at it, for me, it represents everything about Autumn, all the warm, golden colours. I love to paint trees, there is something calming and peaceful about walking through a woodland. I’d advise anyone having a bad day, to go for a walk in a woodland, you’ll soon feel better.
In this painting, I’m showing the twisting tree trunks and how the wind has caused them to lean back. I’ve also painted all the moss on the bark and the dappled shade from the leaves above. I’ve tried to show how the branches and leaves seem to sway outwards as if dancing on a breeze. I’ve also painted the remaining green leaves, yet to turn orange and yellow.
Then I have the trees in a rustling carpet of brown, rusty red leaves, with tufts of grass breaking through. I think the beauty of nature is there for us to see, if only we take the time to stand and observe. I hope when you and others are out walking you’ll stop to see the shape of the trees, how their branches twist, the patchwork of colours on the bark and how the multi-coloured leaves seem to sway, merge and droop around the branches.
Dave – What social media sites can people follow you on?
Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/helenparryartist/
Twitter : https://twitter.com/helenparryart
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/HelenParryArtist
LinkedIn : https://www.linkedin.com/in/helenparrywatercolourartist/
Youtube : https://www.youtube.com/user/helenparryartist
Dave – Where can people purchase your art?
Dave – From my website : https://www.helenparry.co.uk
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