You don’t have to look hard for artistic talent at Chartwell Deerview Crossing Retirement Residence. In fact, walking through the front door, inspiring artwork is mere steps away. Four of resident Helen’s beautiful watercolour paintings decorate a dedicated wall on the ground floor, an honour given to her by the residence to celebrate her exceptional ability. But Helen is as prolific as she is talented, and these four pieces represent the tip of the iceberg.
“I couldn’t tell you how many I’ve finished,” laughs Helen, who has been painting for nearly 50 years. “I’ve lost count.”
With so much to showcase, her retirement residence opted to keep Helen’s wall running year-round, swapping out paintings every three months. Helen, who has been at the community since October of last year, was thrilled when she was asked about showcasing her work.
“I was stunned. It’s a wonderful opportunity. There’s only so much space on my walls, after all.”
Helen lived in Oshawa for most of her life, picking up a brush for the first time shortly after her son and daughter entered adolescence. With no formal training aside from a few workshops, she broadened her skills, experimenting with a variety of styles and mediums, eventually landing on her favourite: watercolour. She had great success, with several of her pieces appearing in art shows and being chosen for awards at juried exhibitions.
“I prefer watercolour,” says Helen, “but it can be tricky. The paint sometimes moves in ways you aren’t expecting, but that can often work to your advantage.”
One technique Helen has utilized is “negative” painting, which focuses on painting a darker background around lighter objects, creating more depth and dimension with each layer of colour. The result can imbue a piece with striking complexity and beauty.
“An American artist by the name of Sterling Edwards introduced me to the technique,” explains Helen. “I took a workshop with him, and his art was a real inspiration. He works very loosely, kind of semi-abstract. He taught me to focus on painting the spaces in between as opposed to the subject.”
Helen says there isn’t any secret to working with watercolour. Like anything, it takes time, patience and the courage to make mistakes.
“You have to be willing to waste a lot of paper!” Helen chuckles. “Mistakes are bound to happen, but don’t think of any attempt as a failure. Look at it as an opportunity to improve your technique. Happy accidents happen more often than you think.”
Since making the move to Chartwell Deerview Crossing, Helen has decided to pack up her brushes for good, opting to focus on other creative endeavours. And though she doesn’t plan to continue painting anytime soon, she’s certainly proud of her accomplishments.
“I donated my supplies to a good friend back in Oshawa. My creative interests have changed, I suppose. Knitting is my current obsession. Still, I’m so happy that my fellow residents can enjoy the art that I had so much fun creating.”
Helen lives life to its fullest, and she’s quite content to be a part of the lively community at Chartwell Deerview Crossing. Her personal motto is one that reminds us that life is fleeting, so it’s better to enjoy it while we’re here.
“Life’s short, so eat dessert first! That certainly applies to the way I live my life here at Chartwell Deerview Crossing. I can do what I want, when I want, and that’s the way I like it!”