Interview with Helen O

I can see that you have drawn some great pieces of art on your Instagram. How did you learn to draw so well?

I remember being about 7ish and copying pictures of Dennis the Menace from the Beano and loving it. That was really the start of constantly doodling and drawing things. I’ve got a degree in Animation from DoJ in Dundee, and I’ve been a graphic designer for 20+ years. Still, it has been a case of practice, practice, practice.

Lockdown gave me more time to spend on life drawing when online zoom classes got popular. My local class is once a month at a studio called D2 in Larbert (a marvellous place – I have a tattoo in honour of them!). Still, now I average about two online classes a week alongside that, so not only do I get plenty of extra practice in, I’ve connected with loads of artists and models across the world that I’d never have had the opportunity to otherwise!

Do you have a favourite subject that you like to draw?

At the moment I’m quite interested in drawing bodies with light and shade, but my favourites change all the time. I was looking back through some old work earlier today, and there were a lot of skulls involved. I am really interested in anatomy and the body as the human-machine, so that’s my favourite subject. I once did a ‘Death and the Maiden’ life drawing class at Bart’s Pathology Museum in London and was able to wander around and sketch some of the specimens there. I was actually losing my tiny mind at how cool it is in there. I also like to visit Surgeon’s Hall Museum in Edinburgh and sketch some of the pieces there. It satisfies my inner Goth.

QueenoftheOther – Model @_catarina_moita

Is drawing your first love?

I would say that apart from about ten minutes where I wanted to be a minibus driver because if they took a busload of kids to a panto, they got in for free, I only remember ever wanting to do something art-related in life. Art has always been in my life, and I can’t imagine not being creative at all, so it probably is.
Although my husband, my teenager, and my pets are pretty alright, too lol.

Given a choice to draw anything in the world, what would you draw?

This is such a difficult question to answer. There are so many things I’d like to see and draw. Continuing with the themes I’ve been working with most recently, I’d love to do an artist’s tour of the Body Worlds Museum in Amsterdam. There are a few Body Worlds, but I have a soft spot for Amsterdam because I got engaged there, and the museums are extraordinary.

Have you ever thought about going to the other side of the canvas and becoming a model?

I have actually painted myself before, but I’d be a useless model, to tell the truth. We reckon I’m part lizard in our house because I’m constantly freezing. I can’t imagine I’d be able to sit for more than five minutes without grabbing a massive blanket or putting a onesie on. I’m writing this from under a blanket with my cat (Steve from I.T.) cuddled in and keeping me warm.

Helen is the one on the right! In case you were wondering!

Are there artists dead or alive that inspire you?

So many artists! I’m a big fan of surrealism, and I love a bit of Dali, Magritte, and Delvaux – Delvaux’s ‘L’Appel de la Nuit’ is probably my favourite painting. The lush, fertile women painted against the deathly, dreamy landscape really draws you into the piece. Any time I’m at the Modern in Edinburgh I can be found staring at it for quite some time.
I’m also a fan of Warhol and Lichtenstein – I kinda like the ethos of pop art tbh. I really like David Lynch films and always feel inspired after watching one or rewatching Twin Peaks for the millionth time. The documentary ‘David Lynch: The Art Life’ is absolutely cracking. Big fan of Stuart Semple and his pigments/potions too. Such excellent products are inspiring on their own.

How long do you think it takes you to complete a piece of art?

It depends, really. I’ve done a lot of pet portraits in pencil, and they can take around six to ten hours. Some of the light/dark life drawings I’ve done recently have taken 2/3 hours, but I’ve done a couple of paintings I’ve been happy within 25 or 45 minutes. I’ve also got paintings that I started weeks ago, and I pick them back up and do a bit more as the need takes me or I get inspired. I usually have several pieces on the go at once that I can pick up and put down again at any given point.

If I said I was looking to take up art, what advice would you give me?

Practice, practice, practice! Some people think they can’t draw at all, but if you have the time and the willpower to keep at it, then you can do anything. And if you’re enjoying it, don’t worry about anyone else!

Ruth & Richard: @richard_ruth_art

How do you keep yourself motivated whilst working on a difficult piece of art?

If I’m finding something difficult, then I’ll step away from it and do something completely different, then come back to it later. Sometimes I find I’m actually overthinking, and when I return, the problem magically fixes itself. A wee horror movie, reading a book, or even watching some cartoons can just redirect my brain.

Do you have an art project in the pipeline you want to talk about (Give us a sneak peek?)

I’ve a few pieces in various different states of finish (I always do!). I’ve a couple of commissions on the horizon. Still, the next thing is submitting artwork to the Summer exhibition that will be coming up soon at my local studio. I need to sort through a mountain of stuff for that. I always post updates on my Instagram though (as well as many, MANY photos of Steve from I.T.), so you can generally find what I’m working on there.

How do people find out more about you?

I’m on Instagram and Twitter as @helen_of_horror (beware of multiple photos of Steve and mucho wittering on about horror movies tho – feel free to come and chat!), and my F.B. art page is Art Facebook Page
(Art by Helen of Horror). You can also mail me at

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