Works paint a picture of the Gascoyne

Works paint a picture of the Gascoyne

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Carnarvon artist Sue Helmot is most inspired when she is immersed in the cultivated and natural landscapes around her. She is pictured taking in the colours and details of a cornfield which will provide information for her painting Sunset Over Cornfield. Photo: supplied.

Carnarvon artist Sue Helmot is most inspired when she is immersed in the cultivated and natural landscapes around her. She is pictured taking in the colours and details of a cornfield which will provide information for her painting Sunset Over Cornfield. Photo: supplied.

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Taking time to deeply immerse herself in her surroundings is the first step in artist Sue Helmot's creative process.

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TAKING time to deeply immerse herself in her surroundings is the first step in artist Sue Helmot's creative process.

Having lived in Carnarvon for more than a decade, Ms Helmot is always keen to explore the landscapes around her, which are varied with both cultivated and natural areas.

The diversity of the Gascoyne's landscape and how people interact with land and use it to produce food was the theme of her recent successful exhibition, Frontier of Food, which formed part of the Gascoyne Food Festival.

Ms Helmot became involved with the Gascoyne Food Council (GFC) two years ago, as the artist in residence.

While her pieces provided a fresh medium to engage a new audience and showcase the region's diversity of quality produce, productivity and the growers, the project also encouraged her to talk with the producers and to see the work that they do.

"I really enjoy field trips to see what producers are doing and I think that these experiences bring a lot more depth and authenticity to my work," Ms Helmot said.

With paints and brushes in hand, she ventures out into the landscape to observe and gather ideas for her work.

"I rarely have a preconceived idea of what I'm going to paint when I head out on a field trip," she said.

"I have learnt to relax and be open to what I might discover.

"Once I'm there, I'm totally immersed in the subject and I see so many beautiful things that inspire me and that I want to capture.

"It sends my mind into overdrive and that's when I start to paint."

A colour study of a mango tree in bloom. Photo: supplied.

A colour study of a mango tree in bloom. Photo: supplied.

Recently Ms Helmot was in a corn field surrounded by rows of lush leafy green crops.

"The sun started to set, casting a stunning warm golden glow on the tassels at the top of the corn plant," Ms Helmot said.

"It was so beautiful.

"I just knew that I had to capture that scene with paint.

"I whipped my paints out and started making small colour studies to record an impression of what I was seeing.

"I guess painting is my way of sharing beauty with others."

A painting from her recent exhibition, The Beekeeper, was one that particularly resonated with Ms Helmot and also proved to be a focal point for attendees of the exhibition.

"This piece was inspired by how the beekeeper tends to his bees," she said.

"It also recognises the significance of this relationship in agriculture."

As per her usual information gathering process, Ms Helmot immersed herself into the environment that a beekeeper works in.

"During spring I suited up and spent time with a local beekeeper, observing how he cares for his bees," she said.

"The atmosphere was electric as the bees flew in and out of the hive boxes.

Ms Helmot's studio. Even her paint palettes are works of art in their own right. Photo: Nic Duncan.

Ms Helmot's studio. Even her paint palettes are works of art in their own right. Photo: Nic Duncan.

"Taking in the pungent earthy smell of the bees and the texture and warm colours of the honeycomb, helped me to build a mental picture that I later responded to in my painting, The Beekeeper."

Once she has finished her field studies, Ms Helmot will then return to her studio where she begins to compile her compositions and stories around her work.

"That's when the final painting starts to be built up over a number of weeks," she said.

Time spent on a piece varies for Ms Helmot and she tends to work on a number of pieces at once for a longer period of time.

One of her favourite parts about using oils is the beautiful layers of colour that can be created, but each layer has to dry before a new one can be added, so the technical side of her work means they require more time.

"The way in which I work with oils demands that extra bit of time," Ms Helmot said.

"Often I'll start to get a painting down and then the next day I will look at it again or a week later, and see something more that it needs.

"It's a gentle journey."

Looking at Ms Helmot's paintings, her use of texture and colour is fascinating, creating layers which convey emotion and help tell a story.

"Colour is really important to my work" she said.

Going bananas with so much inspiration. Photo: supplied.

Going bananas with so much inspiration. Photo: supplied.

"As a painter I am fascinated by how colour can trigger our emotions.

"I see so many colours in everything - the rich soil of the North West is not just red - there are a lot of subtle colours in there when you look deeply into it.

While to some, being an artist might seem laid back, for Ms Helmot that isn't always the case, but her busy art practice is balanced with the quiet country life that Carnarvon offers.

She generally works six days a week and leading up to the exhibition, was doing long hours, seven days a week.

"It's been quite a contribution preparing for the exhibition, but I have just loved it," Ms Helmot said.

Given the amount of time, energy and thought that goes into her paintings, it's no surprise that the artist sometimes finds it difficult to part with them once they are sold.

"It can be difficult to part with my paintings," she said.

"But I am thrilled when one of my paintings really resonates with someone and I believe that they all go to the right places, which is a really nice thing."

Ms Helmot suited up to gain a deep insight into the work of beekeeping. Photo: supplied.

Ms Helmot suited up to gain a deep insight into the work of beekeeping. Photo: supplied.

Painting The Beekeeper, oil on linen. Photo: supplied.

Painting The Beekeeper, oil on linen. Photo: supplied.

Asking an artist if they have a favourite piece is almost like asking a parent which child is their favourite.

"They all mean something to me individually because I do get so involved in them and they all hold a story and memory for me," she said.

Like any small business, Ms Helmot said she has encountered many challenges throughout her career as an artist, but they are far outweighed by the benefits of being able to follow her passion.

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