Introducing myself and my art

Ephemera: objects that, when they were produced, were not intended to last a long time or were specially produced for one occasion [Cambridge Dictionary Online]

Below: The first artwork I sold (on 20cm x 20cm paper)

(c) Helen Kitson, 2021

The blank page, like the blank canvas, can be a terrifying thing. So many possibilities, but also the potential for getting it wrong, for spoiling the pristine blankness.

The kind of art I make is forgiving: if I get it wrong, I simply paint over it , slap on another layer of papers, start again. ‘Getting it wrong’ is almost a prerequisite for getting it right. What seems like the perfect composition in my head can look sterile, dead, when stuck down on paper or canvas.

There’s a fine line between a messy failure and a beautiful mess and sometimes no line at all.

Below: One of my early pieces (on 20cm x 20cm paper)

(c) Helen Kitson, 2021

For the past 40-odd years I’ve considered myself a writer first and foremost. I’ve published poetry and a couple of novels, but my desire to write has all but disappeared over the past couple of years. Making visual art is something I find much more appealing – it can make an immediate connection with the viewer, for a start; it’s not necessary to plough through 300 pages of a book to find the story.

Although I dabbled with mixed media collage many years ago, when my children were young, it’s something I took up again only during the first Covid lockdown. Everything was so strange and uncertain, I found it impossible to concentrate on reading, and being busy with my hands seemed to be the way to go.

Over the past couple of years I’ve learnt so much from other artists, and now I would like to share some of the things I’ve learnt, and some of the things I’m passionate about.

I’m going to begin this blog with a bit of background info about me.

I live in Worcester (UK) and I’m the mother of two adult children. I work four days a week as a legal secretary. In 2020 I was awarded a Distinction for my MA in Art History, which I studied with the OU. I’ll talk more about that amazing and enriching experience in a future post, but it definitely played a big part in my subsequent switch from writing to making visual art, as did – in a more obvious way – discovering the work of Kurt Schwitters. What can I say? It was love at first sight!

Below: Merz Picture 32A (The Cherry Picture) by Kurt Schwitters (now in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York)

I’ve had my problems with Instagram (not least the unpleasant experience of having my account hacked), but it too has played a huge rule in my exploration of mixed media collage and helped with the learning curve as I gradually found the courage to embrace a more abstract kind of art and learned about myself and the kind of art I wanted to create.

Even more courage was required to set up my own Etsy shop, but again there are parallels with writing. The key difference is that I’m cutting out the agents and publishers, all those hoops writers have to jump through if they want to be traditionally published. There is a vulnerability in putting your work out there hoping someone will buy it, but it’s lovely to be in control of the process, and of course wonderful whenever someone buys my work!

Being a part-time artist has its limitations, but I think the balance suits me. Having a ‘proper’ job means I don’t need to rely on selling my art to eat or pay the bills, so I can work on my art at my own (often slow) pace. Naturally I would love nothing more than to be a full time artist, but if that never happens – and it probably won’t – I’m content. To have the means and the time to make art is the main thing and it really is a huge privilege, and for that I’m very grateful!

I hope to post fairly regularly here (by which I mean once a month or so). I have a few topics in mind for future posts, including book recommendations and how to source materials for mixed media collage without breaking the bank, but do let me know if there’s anything you’d particularly like me to talk about and I’ll do my best to oblige!

Thanks for reading!


4 responses to “Introducing myself and my art

  1. You have a wonderfully inventive mind, Helen, and a raucous imagination. Your books are not plough-through–they are excellent as is your art. I hope your kids have learned from you to express their own lives through whatever media brings them joy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Marcy! I think the problem is that the market is saturated with shiny new books and unless you’ve got a big publisher behind you it’s hard to be noticed, particularly if like me you write quiet books. What I like about making art is the fact that you don’t have to sell the idea/premise – the viewer knows immediately whether or not they like it! (Which isn’t to say that our responses to art can’t be gradual and nuanced, but it is very different from asking someone to give up several hours to read a book they might not like!).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Helen! I just love your art. I have a lot of ephemera gathered over the years from family and would like to try to preserve it by making something similar. I’m only afraid to use the original papers. Would you make art with your family papers? Can’t wait to see more of your creations.


    1. Hello, and thank you! When it comes to family papers, I would err on the side of caution, as they’re too precious to make mistakes with (and I make a LOT of mistakes!!). I think my advice would be to make photocopies of the papers and experiment with the copies. You could, for example, use image transfer techniques, or distress the copies, to make them look less pristine and more vintage. You could even make mock-ups using the copies before using the originals in a finished piece. I have used some family papers in my work, but generally only the less precious things such as book inscriptions on book covers, which can be removed from the artwork if it doesn’t turn out as I’d like. In fact you’ve got me thinking that I should perhaps make a whole blog post on the topic, so thank you for the inspiration!!


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