We're always in search of new artists to work with and especially those whose style we really is a perfect fit for FTLOTN. Northumberland based Helen Braid was most certainly one of those artists.
Tell us about yourself and a fun fact...
I've worked freelance for the last 11 years, as an artist, illustrator and graphic designer. We relocated to the area 8 years ago and moved to our cottage in Craster just before Christmas last year. It's honestly the perfect location for me - I have the wild coastline and castles right on my doorstep, no matter the season it never fails to be beautiful. I grew up on the west coast of Scotland and spent my childhood telling my parents I wanted to live in 'a wee fishing village by the sea' - I feel very lucky to have found the perfect one!
What made you get into the world of artwork and creativity?
I always loved art as a child and throughout school, but it was a work placement during the 3rd year of my media studies degree that introduced me to graphic design and led to a career of 15 years, before I took the big step of going freelance. It turned out to be a great decision, I've worked for hundreds of clients over the last decade and it has enabled me to balance my creative work with family life while the children were young. The majority of my initial freelance work was in blog design, I was in the right place at the right time - blogging was immensely popular and I routinely had a waiting list of 3 months for my blog header illustrations. Many of those early clients went on to start up their own businesses, some wrote books and it's been a pleasure to work with them on subsequent ventures over the years. I gradually became increasingly involved with book illustration and cover design which remains a big part of my work to this day.
Painting is a new venture for me and is one that I'm really enjoying! It's a complete change from my computer based artwork. Half of my studio is now turned over to easel, brushes and pots of paint and I love it!
Where do you get your inspiration from when creating new artwork?
I'm definitely interested in our relationships with each other, as well as animals and the natural environment. I like to focus on the small simple moments in an ordinary day. I've always been inspired by the patterns and colour contrasts we see around us in nature every day. Autumn and winter are such fabulous seasons with their rich and stark colour contrasts. My love of natural fabrics also makes it hard to resist adding a pop of colour to a painting in the form of a vibrant scarf or a knitted beret!
How does the North East influence your work?
I've fallen in love with the natural colour palette of the North East. The chalky muted colours of our breathtaking beaches and rugged coastline, contrasted with the rich tones of the changing countryside... not to mention the ocean which is a different colour every day and the wide open blue skies... I could go on!
What has been your favourite project to work on?
In a painting sense it has definitely been a study of my vintage printers' tray which I completed a painting of earlier this year. My children and I filled the tray with seaside treasures when they were still very young. It was inspired by a similar tray I admired in a holiday cottage years ago in St Monans in the beautiful East Neuk of Fife. Some of my fondest memories are holidays spent at the coast and this definitely seems to filter through into my best loved artwork. It was a challenging painting to complete because of the detail of the shells and other small items in the sections of the tray. The creative additions of a pearl earring and raven egg made it extra special to me.
What's your favourite place in the region to visit?
It's honestly difficult to name one! I adore all our stunning National Trust and English Heritage properties and I think my current favourite is the one I have on the doorstep. The walk from Craster Village to Dunstanburgh Castle is my perfect combination of rugged coast and open country. With a castle and a coffee at the end of it!
Small indie business shout out - name your top 3 small indie businesses...
The Stable Yard Cafe at Craster Tower is a 10 minute walk from my house and is my favourite coffee and scone in Northumberland, it also has a beautiful collection of cards and gifts, not to mention a welcome log burner for these cooler autumn days.
The Old School Gallery in Alnmouth is another great place to visit at any time of the year, but especially during the spring and summer months when you can enjoy the beautiful artwork in their light and airy gallery space, then enjoy a coffee and cake in their spacious courtyard.
Finally, The Fenwick Gallery is another of my favourites, it primarily features the gorgeous artwork of mother and daughter Dorien and Nicole Fenwick, but my favourite aspect is their beautiful curated collection of handmade jewellery sourced from some fabulous UK designers. It's hard to visit their tiny gallery in Warkworth without finding something to be enchanted by.