Meet the Artist – An Interview with Helen Parry

Watercolour Artist Helen ParryIn our second blog article on Meet the Artist, we’ve spoken to watercolour artist, Helen Parry and found out some fascinating information on her painting technique and what has inspired Helen over the years and what a typical day looks like…

When did you first discover your passion for art and painting?

I think it is something I’ve always been able to do. When I was small, I think it was the reaction of others to anything I created, that made me realise I could do something others couldn’t. At junior school whenever we did art, the other children liked my work and asked me to paint one for them to take home. They would ask me to draw all sorts of things, sometimes I think just to see if I could do it. I think they spurred me on and as I went to senior school I realised I was the only one who was aware of drawing the reflections in objects and that objects had shade to create form.

Helen Parry
©Helen Parry

Furthermore, someone gave me a book when I was young on how to mix colours. I couldn’t understand how people didn’t instinctively know how to mix colours. Again this made me realise I had a natural ability.

I think it was realising how observant I was, that I developed a need to share this with others, who seemed to miss all the detail.

Where do you get your inspiration from and what inspires you?

Nature is very inspiring, but I’m so observant that anything can trigger an idea. Also when you work full-time at painting, there isn’t time to wait for inspiration you just have to get on and paint.

I think that’s when I know someone is serious about art. They don’t wait for inspiration to strike, they get on with painting, trusting their creativity to shine through in the end.

How would you describe your style? 

Highly technical watercolours with fine detail brushwork. They are close to being realistic, but I don’t want my paintings to look like photographs, so there is a softness to the brushwork. 

What makes you different from other watercolour artists?

Helen Parry_Stokesay Castle GateHouse
© Helen Parry – Stokesay Castle

Firstly my paintings are not loose washes of watercolour. My watercolours have more layers of paint and fine detail brushwork too. I don’t use ready mixed watercolours. I mix all my colours from three colours a blue, a yellow and a red. I don’t use masking fluid, so all areas that are to remain white have to be carefully painted around. Also I don’t use a white paint, so all fine white hairs on leaves, flowers and even animals have to be carefully painted around. So the paper is the white, left unpainted.

Also I paint layers upon layers of watercolour, which can be difficult, because with each new layer, the under layer could wash off. It’s a balancing act.

Also I mix colours on the paper rather than in a palette, especially for portraits. I like to paint the darker undertones to a face first, which is the opposite of how you normally use watercolours (should be from light to dark). 

My technique is known as pure watercolour, but I go further by not using masking fluid and mixing my own colours from three colours. 

What is the most challenging thing for you when it comes to painting?

Not to try to be a perfectionist and to know when to let a painting go. It can be hard letting go of some of the detail too.

What would be your career dream?

To sell more paintings and not have to do all the promotion of my work, but have more time to paint. For my paintings to inspire people to look more closely at nature and see the wonderful detail, they overlook.

What project would you love to be able to do/complete?

I have several ideas I’d like to complete, from large scale paintings to writing stories with illustrations. 

What were you doing previously to this?

I was the financial director of an engineering company I started with my husband. 

What inspired you to go full time as an artist?

Helen Parry_Barn Owl
© Helen Parry – Barn Owl

 When you run your own business it takes every hour of your life. We ran an engineering company with a 24/7 breakdown service for many years. You don’t have time for hobbies or holidays. So as time went on, I missed being able to draw or paint or write. I missed being creative.

I saw an opportunity to help with running an after school art club at my children’s primary school. It turned out they needed someone to run it, so I went in at the deep end, finishing early at work once a week to run the art club. I ran it for two-years and it was an absolute pleasure working with the children. We created some really big projects in the school and halfway through the first year we had nearly every child at the school attending. It seemed they enjoyed it just as much as me.

It made me realise how much I’d missed painting and creating and I decided that I would pursue it as a career. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but it was something I had to do to realise my own full potential.

Where would you like to see yourself in 10-15 years time?

I would like to have achieved more paintings, bigger projects and finally have a couple of books published. I would like to be spending more time in the hills with my backpack, painting and sketching and maybe doing talks about these painting adventures. 

What is your typical day like? 

An early morning run helps the start of my day. I run four mornings a week. It gets my mind focused for the day ahead and I always feel better for having time to myself, that no one can interrupt.

Then I start by going through emails and enquiries. I work seven days a week, so I still do this on a weekend. Next I check social media and respond to enquiries or comments. I’ll do this several times throughout the day. Then I’ll check or order art materials I need or running low on. There is a lot of paper work to sort and paintings have to be photographed and updated onto the website too.

Helen Parry_Stag in Winter
©Helen Parry – Stag in Winter

There are days when I will be out early on the hills sketching and painting composition ideas. I don’t spend a whole day out as time is precious. I tend to keep moving and sketching quickly. I will take a camera as well in case I see wildlife, they tend not to hang around long enough for me to draw.

I also have to find time in the day to do research on certain projects and identifying plants and flowers. Then I also need time for drawing out ideas for painting compositions too. I try to spend some time at the weekend writing blogs for my website as well.

The rest of my time or day is spent painting. Commission paintings take priority over other paintings, but I can have several paintings on easels at the same time. I can easily spend 8 or 9 hours a day painting, with a short break for lunch and a break for a late dinner. If I’m trying to finish a painting I will return to it, after dinner, so it could end up being a very late night. Regardless of a late night, I’m up early the next morning. 

What do you love the most about your job and what do you hate the most? 

I love the fact I get to be creative and make my ideas a reality. I hate having to spend time promoting and doing the paperwork. 

How do you relax after a long day? 

I might sit and watch a tv show on Netflix or Amazon. I don’t have time for terrestrial television. On lighter nights through the summer, I might go for a wander up the lane or sit in the garden and watch the last rays of the sun go down.


You can keep up to date with Helen Parry’s incredible work through her social media accounts; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

To purchase any of Helen’s work, please visit her website.