Helen Bellany

Helen Bellany

About the Artist

b. 1943


Artist and writer. Author of The Restless Wave: My Two Lives with John Bellany (Sandstone Press, 2018)

Image:  Barga, Italy, Helen Bellany  2020  watercolour on paper  30 x 40 cm  Image courtesy the artist  (Private Collection)

Portrait of the artist by Caroline Trotter Photography


Artist’s statement:  Returning to Painting

Fifty years is a long time but that’s how long the gap had been before I started to draw again. More than fifty years.

I left Edinburgh College of Art in 1965 graduating at the age of 22 and John and I moved to London for him to attend the Royal College of Art. I was already pregnant with our first child. Accommodation, money, and circumstances were not conducive to my continuing to paint.

Well, of course, that might probably be a good enough excuse for many people but in reality it is complete nonsense!

If you want to do something strongly enough there are no circumstances in the world that can stop you doing it. This I believe wholeheartedly. Where there’s a will.

I just didn’t want to do any work at that time. And the urge did not return until all those years had passed and I was alone again. John died in 2013 and a few years later at the age of 74 the need to draw took hold of me in the most dramatic way.

Had I been intimidated by the power of John’s work? Most definitely.

Did I resent this? Most definitely not.

For some reason I felt no need or wish to draw or paint. Throughout those years, along with the enjoyment I derived from being with my children and watching them grow up, I was fully immersed in the creative flow of John’s imagination and this nourished and inspired me. It was a rich and extraordinarily fulfilling time of my life.

I am something of a late developer, ‘the oldest promising newcomer’ as a friend used to describe himself.

When our youngest child began school I completed a teacher training year after which I worked as an art therapist subsequently deciding to study for a Psychology degree at London University at the age of 35.

At 55 I began to learn to play the clarinet and saxophone and also returned to the piano. I proceeded to pass the exams for piano and clarinet and theory of music up to stage 5.

At the age of 75 I published ‘The Restless Wave’, my memoir of the eventful lives John and I had shared.

And now, at the ripe old age of 77, well into my third age, I am flattered and thrilled by being kindly invited by Beth Junor to have my very first exhibition of modest watercolour landscapes. It is a huge honour and I am full of gratitude to her.

Helen Bellany

May 2020