Helena McConochie Painter - Dubbo, NSW. Australia

What has your painting taught you – have you developed new techniques?

I don’t believe my style has changed as such, I am amazed at how much more detail I see in a flower now.  This might be a combination of consistent painting and generally growing; which goes hand in hand with this amount of work I do. I have developed a stronger interest in light and shadow not wanting to over work the flower.

canberra poppies

Canberra Poppies

I paint almost every day. My work hours are 10-4.30 seven days a week…

I continue to give my paintings female names as I came from a family of girls and had four daughters.

Patricia and Millie

Patricia and Millie

Are you seeing flowers in a different way?

Absolutely – the detail of a flower intrigues me.

Margaret Olley proclaimed, “Flowers can be appreciated by the viewer as just a flower
or can be explored deeper almost as a Landscape”

I am obsessed by my love of flowers and colour. My limited palette system consisting of white and three prime colours that I to mix to natural hues, shades and tones. I create light, shade and dimension in colours that appear remarkably real. I place waterdrops on my paintings as an encouragement to people to conserve water.

Katrina for Melbourne

Katrina for Melbourne 

Expand on the relationship/s you have built up with your galleries. 

My Galleries are all amazing. They are so supportive of my art and I am continually getting work.

I am represented by Art 2 Muse, Double Bay where I have an annual Solo exhibition – this year’s Exhibition is from 2nd – 15th October 2018.

I am represented by Aarwun Gallery Canberra. Riley Gallery in Manhattan Beach and McsartofLiving in Montreal and Memphis.

I have another Exhibition in Colorado this year – the 100th Anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, June 22nd – July 13th 2018.  The theme of the show is based around avian and botanical related imagery in a celebration of this year being the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a piece of legislation that protects countless aviary species each year. With this special commemoration, The National Audubon Society has teamed up with National Geographic, Birdlife International, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, to make 2018, “The Year of the Bird”.  Our aim is to acknowledge this observance with an exhibition of contemporary works focusing on birds, the flora and fauna found in their natural habitats.

What have been two highlights over the past four years.

  • Being approached by three Galleries in the USA
  • Editorial in both Belle Magazine and House and Garden.House and Gardon
  • I also had a small preview in The Wentworth Courier leading up to my Exhibition.
  • Donating Paintings in the new Dubbo Base Hospital Maternity Ward- not all women receive flowers and not all results in the Maternity ward are great.Hospital Donation Maternity Ward Dubbo Base Hospital Maternity Ward
  • Starting my Soft Furnishing Line.

What have you learnt not to do?   

I have learnt to say NO. I have been extremely busy since our last interview with exhibitions and commissions. Buyers certainly know what they want, I am such a worrier if it’s not exactly what they ask of me.  I use a Limited Palette – which means I mix all my own colours. It is impossible to get exact.

Some of 2017 Paintings

A Collection of 2017 paintings

Why does your art still give you such great daily joy?

The great daily joy for me is at the end of the day relaxing and critiquing my achievement. I set my painting in the family room, with a glass of champagne and enjoy what I have achieved for the day. My family help me critique it and that is such fun- particularly the Grandchildren who are sooo honest.

If you have enjoyed reading this update please re read the interview Zoneone Arts had with Helena McConchie in March 2014.  It is so interesting to see the development of Helena’s work and how she now has solid representation in Australia and the USA.

Katrina - Shayne

Katrina and Shayne

Contact details:

Website: http://helenam.com/art.html

Email: ‘helenamay@bigpond.com’

Helena McConochie, Dubbo, NSW. Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, June 2018


March 2014

You have been a mature aged student. Can you expand on how you came to take up painting after your children left home for University?

I was a mother of four daughters which left me absolutely no spare time until they left for University. I was a statistic of “empty nest syndrome” I soon realized that my children had to fly and explore the world and I had to develop some interests of my own. I was very fortunate to have a connection and love of beautiful flowers and art..

I started art lessons with a local artist I soon realised that I wanted to learn a lot more so I enrolled in a Fine Arts Course. This was a whole new world opening up to me. Painting Drawing, Art History, and Photoshop. I was completely absorbed in the course and achieved Distinctions at Diploma Level.

You have always been interested in design. How has this influenced your work?

In the past designing to me consisted of guttering a whole house, rebuilding it, painting and decorating it. I have done this seven times. The excitement I feel when the paint is applied to the walls and the house is transformed into a beautiful masterpiece.

Transforming these old wrecks of houses back to a beautiful, liveable home came very naturally to me.

The work was extremely hard and I can compare the creative side to my canvas, preparing the canvas, drawing and then applying the paint.

When or how did you decide to crop the floral image?

It was not deliberate decision to crop my flowers. I would use my viewing frame and rotate the flower until I achieved the image I wanted. Also with my photographic skills I have been able to take macro shots while the flowers are in season. Georgia O’Keeffe was very fortunate that her partner Albert Stieglitz, was a photographer and took macro shots of her flowers. Georgia was also influenced by Paul Strands cropping method.

How large are your works?

My works vary in size. I try to vary the sizes to accommodate galleries and homes but the largest painting I have done is a Tryptich of Poppies which are 110 x 110 but placed together 330 x 110 cm

Your recent solo exhibition was close to a sell-out. Can you explain how this has propelled your art?

MI have actually had three exhibitions in six months. I spent twelve months completing a body of work that consisted of approximately 14 paintings and proceeded to go on a roadshow with my art. Whenever I had a sale, the art had to be replaced for the next exhibition. Whist it was exhausting the feedback has been amazing.

You are a gardener. How do you prepare for a work, by photographing the flower or painting from life?

Both, my problem is that my flowers are seasonal and not available when I need them . I do like to take macro shots of the flowers and seeing them up close. This is not always the result I want. I do have silk flowers and take photos of them and from memory place the veins and marks on the flowers.

I have a huge collection of photographed flowers. The anticipation of spring and painting a flower that has just opened is certainly the better way for me to paint.

Discuss nature and her amazing palette in relationship to your work?

Flowers bloom in almost every colour of the spectrum and appeal not only to the visual sense, but to the olfactory too. The fine texture and lines of a flower can easily be obtained by careful brushstrokes forming the shape, modelling them, introducing the colour and creating transparency in the flower. One of my favourite artists, Georgia O’Keeffe, her abstract pieces demonstrate beautiful work of rhythm, movement, colour, depth and form and that is what I am trying I am bringing into my work.

You take commissions. How flexible are you with these?

I don’t have any problems with commissions, I do set a deadline to have them finished so the customer is not waiting. .I am fortunate that I can get the painting very close to the original painting and quiet often it is better than the last. I send an image off to the client or arrange for them to be viewed.

Does living in rural Australia affect your work?

Not at all. We have an apartment in Sydney that we stay in regularly. We are an hours flight to Sydney. A lot of artists are living in rural areas as is Tim Storrier who lived in Bathurst and now Bowral.

Can you expand on the influence Tim Maguire has had on your work?

Growing up I have always been surrounded by amazing gardens. The families favourite flower is a Poppy which was grown every year. When I was introduced to Tim Maguire’s poppies I was amazed. I studied Tim Maguire and Georgia O’Keeffe in my Fine Arts Course.

I am extremely impressed with the scale of Tim Maguire’s flowers and it has encouraged me to get out of my own comfort zone.

Tim’s poppies are quite loose where mine are tight, I also place water drops on my flowers and when people tell me how lovely they are I let them know there is actually a strong message behind them. The message is that water is the essence of life and we should all be looking after it (we are in a drought at the moment).

Can you explain your interpretation of the term and your technique of abstraction?

My interpretation of abstraction is a concept which the subject is represented by shapes and patterns and can be slightly unrealistic.

My paintings are a mixture of the above and are slightly cropped and presented in a way that the viewer can still recognise the subject.

How do you fit both gardening and painting into your life?

We have three acres of garden and over the years I have designed my garden to have very little maintenance. I mostly have large trees, flowering trees, a rose garden and an awful lot of lawn. We have a sprinkler system and a lawn contractor. Before spring arrives I mulch the entire garden to lower maintenance and encourage growth.

Flowers give so many, so much joy. Is that a major inspiration for your work?

Absolutely, you should witness me after a long cold winter and then spring has sprung. I am like a child in a lolly shop. The excitement of watching the deciduous trees get new leaves, poppies ready to bloom and not knowing what colour you will be presented with. Looking out my window I can see the Red Canna Lilly flowering next to my White Crepe Myrtle tree. My stayed in a villa in Tuscany and was amazing with red and white flowers all through it. I came home with some great ideas.

Where to now?

I am presently working on 3 paintings for the Archibald , Wynn and Sulman Prize. I have entered before with 600 other hopefuls, and it is a great experience. I will enter in the Paddington Art Prize and The Mount Eyre Art Prize. I intend to exhibition in Melbourne and when I visit New York City this coming April I will endeavour to research exhibitions in Hampton.

Contact details:

Website: http://helenam.com/art.html

Email: ‘helenamay@bigpond.com’

Helena McConochie, Dubbo, NSW. Australia

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, March 2014