Helen Wilkinson was born in Yorkshire in 1964. She studied
art and design at both the Bradford School of art and the De
Montfort University, Leicester. On graduating she went on to
work as a designer first in London and then France.
“At the moment I would label myself perhaps as a figurative
landscape painter. I have drawn, painted, glued and made
things with my hands my whole life. Since 2019 I began
concentrating full time on painting.
I am lucky enough to live and work in a very beautiful corner
of the planet, close to the village of Valbonne on what is
known magically as both the Cote d’Azur and the Alpes
Maritimes. Spending time out in the forests, mountains and
open plateaus of this southern part of France there are
countless paintings to be painted.”
What inspires me, how I work:
I come originally from the North of England. Growing up on a
farm on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales the “Outside”,
inevitably played a huge part in my childhood. I have never
lost the pleasure of being out in nature. Sometimes I am
captured by its expanse and power, and at other times it is all
about the quiet stillness or the play of light and colour.
Inspiration comes from my physical experience of a place.
Looking is the beginning of everything, constant conscious
awareness of the world around me. The decision to paint one
vista rather than another is instinctual. Sometimes it is the
immediate recognition that what I am looking at is so
beautiful I want to try to recreate it in two dimensions. Other
times I can walk through the same forest, along the same
path many times and there will just be a kind of “knowing”
that a specific area holds a painting. It can be weeks or
months before I finally understand which angle or which time
of day has a special quality, something to try and capture.
Then I begin the sketching, thinking, photographing. I'm
trying to understand how to depict what I am looking at
before the painting process even starts. Back in the studio I
use my drawings, photographs and visceral memory to begin
work. I often return repeatedly to the location to check, draw
and refresh my memory. The painting usually begins as a
charcoal drawing onto the canvas, followed by underpainting
in acrylics before working in oil.
It is a continuous journey of learning, discovery and the
development of my own mark making and visual language.