A conversation with Helen Gibson, also known as The Perky Painter, about her artwork and how mental health informs her creativity. Helen recently had her artwork featured in the Arts & Minds exhibition, part of Love Arts Mini-Festival 2020. Listen to the conversation below or scroll down to read some edited highlights of what Helen said.
My painting is called Beautiful Chaos. It’s an acrylic painting that ties back to a previous collection I did when I was first starting my art career. A few years ago I took the big leap to quit my full-time job and took the dive into an art career. I thought, “if I don’t do this now I’m never going to do it.” At that time there were a lot of different emotions to process so I did some paintings then to express those. With lockdown, and all the changes in our world, I thought back to those paintings and how I processed those feelings by getting them out on the canvas.
I use acrylic paint. It’s really thick and heavy bodied. It’s a bit like buttercream. It dries really quickly so I apply loads to the canvas. I’ve got to work really quickly because I’ve got to keep it wet. Applying all those feelings and emotions. Getting it all down with really expressive paint on to the canvas. Really energetically – it’s a very physical thing. Then I use tools to carve a way through the painting, through the chaos I’m feeling or the chaos in the world.
I always think it’s my arm that paints, not me. It’s such a natural thing. I almost don’t know what I’m doing, in the strangest way. A very spontaneous way of painting. My arm decides. It’s not really my head, it’s my heart and my body. The most amazing kind of painting you can do is if it’s bigger than you. If you can just express your full arm’s length. That’s the most magical feeling in the world.
I essentially use art to paint myself happy. Expressing those emotions on the canvas. An outlet for negative emotions. I suffer with chronic pain so I was off work for quite a while. It’s awful, you’re way from anyone, you’re isolated – it’s a bit like lockdown. But you do feel like you’re in it alone. In that time I got back into painting. I painted a little ginger pixie – just to cheer myself up. And it all evolved from there.
I love talking to people, genuinely cheering people up. (At arts markets, before Coronavirus) some days you don’t take that much money. But you do have some conversations. There was this one woman, she said it was the first time she’d been out since her husband had passed away. She’d been a full-time carer for him. It was a really big step for her. I spent ages talking to her, gave her a really big hug. She was just a stranger on the street but I really felt like I’d brightened her day. That feeling is the best feeling. It’s a bit tricky to do it online!