My Artwork Has Brought Me Hope and Positivity – Helen Warren

Fiona Miller

At school, drawing was the one thing that I was good at! As a small girl I would make my own paper dolls with a whole wardrobe of dresses, and when older I designed clothes and drew illustrations for the stories I wrote. My dream was to teach art, so once I had done my A levels, I enrolled at Loughborough College Art. This meant moving away from my rather strict parents, making life both exciting and scary but I loved it. After doing a foundation course I went on to complete my degree in textiles followed by moving to North London to study for a teaching certificate at Hornsey College of Art.

As soon as I finished my teaching degree, I married John, who I had met at college, and started teaching at Redditch County High School, Worcestershire. A few years later with two small sons, husband John took a teaching job becoming Head of Ceramics at Eastbourne College of Art in St Anne’s Road.

Then followed busy years as we went on to have two more boys. It was only when the youngest was at school that I started school teaching again although I had always continued to create some artwork, which included sewing projects, an illustration type painting of nursery rhymes, posters for local charities, designing and making costumes for school plays, drawing humorous greetings cards for friends and most importantly the annual Warren Christmas card!

When our boys had all grown up and flown the nest, and I had officially retired after a lifetime of teaching, I was able to truly pursue my own interest in art. I started by making acrylic paintings of plump, dancing girls, Sussex landscapes and flower subjects, just paintings to make me feel happy!

With the Downs and local beauty spots as my inspiration, I tried out new techniques, including adding montage to my paintings. Silk painting was another medium I explored, painting silk pictures together with decorating silk scarves. While at college I had done quite a bit of plant drawing with Bryan Organ (famous later for his portrait of Princess Di!) this helped a great deal when drawing plant life and as a new challenge I took up painting with brightly coloured inks which I enjoy enormously.

Then along came Covid. ‘The Big House’, our Eastbourne Artists Open House all arranged for March 2020 was cancelled along with much else in our lives. I stepped down from my part-time job as Publicity Officer of the Sussex Guild, a group of over 100 designer makers, and the other local, voluntary groups that I am part of ceased their actual meetings. I quickly learnt how to use Zoom and realised that for once in my busy life I had lots of free time. Thankfully, the weather last spring was good, and we were able to spend much time in our garden sometimes with friends and sometimes just enjoying the birdsong, plants and trees. To quote David Hockney: “Spring cannot be cancelled”!

Under our May tree the purple bearded iris’s flowered profusely. Now Iris is the goddess of the rainbow and last spring the rainbow was adopted as a symbol of thanks to the NHS and hope for an end to the dreadful virus. I drew and painted our iris’s, the purple heads against a bright yellow background. The first iris ink painting was snapped up immediately after being posted on social media. More orders quickly followed, each one different but all with glorious bright colours speaking of hope and happier times ahead.

Following from the iris ink pictures I have painted other subjects, including my version of Eastbourne pier which has gone off to New Zealand! Together with painting I have had time to sew, making quilted cushion covers and Suffolk puff scarves. In fact I have lots of work ready for when we do manage to take part in the “Artists Open Houses” again.

During this time of pandemic I have been so fortunate to be able to create my artwork, it has certainly helped me to stay positive and keep busy. My paintings are not “great art”, they are just my take on what I see around me. I hope that my work helps to brighten your day and remind you that there is hope and we will get through this difficult time. Maybe you might have a go at being creative too.

Helen Warren                                           

19 April 2021