Artist Helen Booth studied painting at Wimbledon School of Art in London in the late 80’s and since has gone on to win the Pollock Krasner Award for Painting and exhibited all over the world, including in cities such as New York, London, Hamburg and Edinburgh. SOON met with the artist to talk about how moving to rural West Wales effected the way she works and about the inspiration behind her paintings…
Introduce yourself and your work…
I’m a painter who lives in rural west Wales. I have a wonderful studio in an old woollen mill about 30 mins from Cardigan Bay. My work is always in oil. I buy more Titanium White than any other colour and I never clean my brushes (tut tut)
What made you move from London to rural West Wales?
We saw an advert in Artist’s Newsletter – It simply stated “Beautiful old woollen mill in South West Wales, Change Your Life!” And so we did!
Has moving effected your work/ the way you work?
Yes, so much. I moved from Peckham in London in 1996 and the transition from Urban to Rural effected my work. I love the flat light in Wales, the silvery sombre tones really suits my painting and the way it flattens the landscape. I find the grey damp days in the Winter so inspiring.. I’m not that good in the heat.
Do you find yourself getting more inspiration from people or places?
That’s a hard question. My work centres on the emotional connections that I have to people but it uses the landscape for inspiration in terms of palette. My recent work is all about Love and Loss and my relationships, but in the painterly tones that you can find walking or in the colours of the pebbles and stones on the beaches.
Where do you work best?
In my studio – alone – listening to audiobooks on my iPhone. I can’t work with other people around at all, I love the solitude. I miss my studio so much if I get bogged down in my office.
If you could only paint using one colour for the rest of your life what colour would you choose?
I know they are actually not colours but definitely black or possibly white. Actually, that would depend on what I’m painting on. However, if I get a pencil too then white.
It’s rare for people to fully commit to a career in the Arts. What’s the hardest thing about being a full-time artist today? What would be your advice to a young artist starting out in the industry?
Art is not a lucrative profession in terms of financial gains, but it is the most incredible way to spend your life. It has been incredibly challenging, especially now with Brexit; where lots of small galleries are closing because people are nervous and not buying original works of art. Making money out of something that you love to do is hard, but I wouldn’t change my life and I couldn’t if I am to remain true to myself. I’ve just always had to make things; my hands are never idle. Art is one of the most important parts of life, it feeds everything that is good. If you have a creative impulse, then you must trust it. My two pieces of advice to young artists would be to nurture your connections and to understand that rejection is not personal. I have had so many rejections in my career, but now I know it’s about taste and how your work sits alongside other work. Oh, and also make things happen for yourself. If you can’t get a gallery, then turn your house into a gallery space and invite people to come see.
What’s your favourite painting of all time?
One of the best exhibitions I have ever seen was the Cy Twombly retrospective at Tate Modern. I also saw a smaller exhibition of his in Edinburgh. Analysis of the Rose as Sentimental Despair Part I (1985) is probably one of my favourite paintings ever to have been created. I also love the paler works by Peter Doig, Blotter 1993 is just so beautiful. I would find it hard to choose between these two paintings if I were to be offered one as a present!
Which painting are you most proud of?
It’s difficult to say which of my works I am happiest with, but I suppose it would have to be “A Conversation With Myself”. Its one of my most recent paintings, very small and stripped back down to a very simple structure. It makes me feel peaceful and it will be one of the works that I would be very reluctant to part with.
What’s your Something Out Of Nothing? One of life’s simple pleasures you just can’t get enough of…
Spending time with my daughters, who are both now away at University.