Calming the Heart

Cherries in oils by Helen Harper

Cherries in oils by Helen Harper

“If you have any thoughts on creativity, let me know would you?” she once said to her daughter on the phone. Spoken from her hearts desire to get on with it, to get on with being creative, because that is her hearts desire. Come one then, solve this colour problem for that painting, start a new still life arrangement, oh there is a new artist magazine that I should get and I need to order some more brushes, oh and pick some hydrangeas from the garden.

How do you explain, plead and convince your parents that you don’t want to study science but art? How do you gain permission to accept a scholarship for art college while only 17 years old, still under parental authority, the very authority that forbade any study of art? From the age of 12 Helen knew she could draw and paint. This, she felt, was her calling however listening to this calling meant negotiating some longstanding challenges.

From one set of circumstances that prevented her pursuit of art to another, this time marriage, kids, isolation on a farm and then a surprised career change for her husband, kept her full time at home and not out studying as she had longed. Despite these obstacles, Helen never gave up on her art but continued to teach herself; her self-motivation being rewarded with offers for representation in Sydney galleries.

The career change that led her husband from farming to ministry meant moving from church to church, packing and unpacking, making and leaving friends. Grass roots were abandoned and a new responsibility ‘in the church’ required her time and focus. Nevertheless, an easel, some paints, lots of brushes and a still life arrangement were always set up in a carefully selected area in every church house she lived in. Whether it was in the bedroom with the best light or a corner of the lounge room she would lay out thick drop sheets to make a sanctuary for her to paint and calm her heart.

Many people, from all walks of life, went through Helens doors for either a cup of tea, lunch or dinner; on either church matters or personal and on these visits Helen was either the pastor’s wife, a friend or a teacher of art. Many visitors would leave with a newly acquired painting after Helen would not ‘accept one cent for it’. Helen always proclaimed, ‘I’m not much of a business woman, I just want to paint’.

Today, at age 76, Helen ‘isn’t painting as well as she used to’ so talking about art and brainstorming creative pursuits has taken precedence.  She is very experienced in both and as her daughter I have personally witnessed the transformation in people just from talking art with Helen. ‘This painting just fell off the brush because I stuck to what I know ’…’Art is like anything else, you’ve got to know the rules first’ … ‘Now I’m only speaking in art terms because that is what I know, but what if you try this’ … ‘Art is just like learning a language’…

So mum, at 12 you knew you could draw and paint and draw and paint you did. What I don’t think you knew at that age or even now is that your talent was not only calming your own heart, but by relating art to life, calming the hearts of others too.

Happy Birthday Mum!

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6 thoughts on “Calming the Heart

  1. Yes, happy birthday mum. The need to create something from nothing is in all of your kids…its in our DNA…art, craft, sewing, music…all thanks to you.
    Row (your favourite daughter)

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