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Blessed with a fabulous job called ‘art’

May 25th, 2022Blessed with a fabulous job called ‘art’

TRENTHAM artist Helen Cottle grew up in the western suburbs of Melbourne and began drawing from a very early age. Even though she was obsessed with art she was also an animal lover and intended to become a vet, not an artist. During her later high school years her art teachers strongly convinced Helen to continue her passion for art and she took their advice and studied art. The venture lasted all of three days before she realised it was not for her. She said in those days it was more about commercial art, graphic design or teaching and not fine art which she believed was her direction. Helen left art school and pursued her passion in "my own way", self-educating by absorbing all the information she could through visiting art galleries, exhibitions and art books. She chatted with Donna Kelly.

TRENTHAM artist Helen Cottle grew up in the western suburbs of Melbourne and began drawing from a very early age. Even though she was obsessed with art she was also an animal lover and intended to become a vet, not an artist. During her later high school years her art teachers strongly convinced Helen to continue her passion for art and she took their advice and studied art. The venture lasted all of three days before she realised it was not for her. She said in those days it was more about commercial art, graphic design or teaching and not fine art which she believed was her direction. Helen left art school and pursued her passion in “my own way”, self-educating by absorbing all the information she could through visiting art galleries, exhibitions and art books. She chatted with Donna Kelly.

Donna: So your journey started as a teenager?
Helen: It all began around 16-17 years of age and after running away from art school I became a dental assistant. My parents gave me a set of oil paints for my 18th birthday which I experimented with and totally fell in love with. I realised l needed to learn more about the paint, materials and equipment so I joined a local art group to gain more knowledge. During this time I was a part of a group exhibition and was very blessed as I sold my first oil painting at the age of 18. Everything escalated from there as this event then inspired me to enter more art shows and competitions and I began selling well and winning many awards and prizes.

Donna: What brought you to the Central Highlands?
Helen: I had previously lived in Gisborne in the Macedon Ranges for 32 years, thankfully it was a very supportive “arty” environment and I had my first solo exhibition back in 1991. This was a great success with many sales and commissions and as a result I was often asked if I would teach and continually I said “no” but I was then asked if I could just show people what I do and I said “oh yes”. This became the beginning of my art teaching and tutoring career in adult education and it has continued on now for over 30 years.

Donna: What medium do you most enjoy?
Helen: I paint mainly in watercolour, acrylic and occasionally in oil. I am totally in love with watercolour however I equally enjoy the variety of painting in acrylic and adding interesting textures to create depth. I do like to paint in oil but have to limit its use as I am quite sensitive to turps and chemicals so I mostly use water-based mediums. I am also very passionate about drawing so I love to use any medium to express my creative vision.

Donna: You do some amazing Australian scenes – is that your thing?
Helen: I enjoy painting everything but I am particularly passionate about our Aussie landscape. Whatever I choose to work on I am always looking for the play of light on the subject and the stories that are told through connecting shapes and lines. Mood and atmosphere are a big influence and this helps me emotionally connect with the viewer. No matter what I choose whether it is wildlife, floral, landscape or a figurative focus my approach usually involves the above important elements. Following on tone and colour tie it all together.

Donna: You tutor and teach art – do you think anyone can be an artist?
Helen: Yes I do tutor or teach art or as I like to call it I “guide” people to discover art and creativity. I have taught workshops and classes throughout Australia in many art venues, galleries and private or public art institutions. I have conducted workshops for the National Gallery of Victoria, and regional galleries in many states.
I am blessed with this fabulous “job” as I do what I love and love to share my passion and gift with others and with no so-called formal qualifications. I teach intuitively, tuning into and connecting with my students’ needs by observation and insight. With the recent challenging and changing pandemic times everything has slowed down, all travel and teaching, but I do intend to conduct more workshops in the near future, although the short break has been most welcome.

Donna: When and why did you get involved in the Little Gallery in Trentham?
Helen: I joined the Little Gallery in 2015. I was invited to participate in the annual winter exhibition and after the show ended I was asked by one of the members if I would like to temporarily take her place for 10 weeks while she travelled. After this time she had decided not to continue on as a member of the gallery and offered her position to me, I most gratefully accepted. The Little Gallery has been a huge part of my life for the past seven years. I absolutely love the gallery and all it represents. This is a very special hamlet, so much so that I have recently moved here and now reside in this beautiful region.

Donna: I saw you on Escape to the City recently. How did you get that gig?
Helen: I accepted the offer to feature on the TV show a few years ago. The film crew visited my studio and we conducted an on-site lesson with a potential client wishing to move to the Macedon Ranges. She was an avid art lover and collector. It seemed only fitting that she would find her deep passion for art may be met in the area she would choose to potentially live. It was an interesting experience. I do not like being on camera but I did enjoyed this challenge. I have also been involved in another media production called Colour in your life, an Australian production featuring artists in their own home environment and studios highlighting their craft. This show is now seen internationally.

Donna: It’s been a great journey so far. Anything else you would like to add?
Helen: In the near future I will be building a new home studio which will be open for visits by appointment and select open studio times. Future workshops are in the pipeline. And the Little Gallery is preparing for its annual Winter Show from July 15 to 22 – so stay tuned for that!
Image: Kyle Barnes



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