How picking up a brush painted a new picture of lockdown life

Many people revisited old hobbies and picked up new ones during lockdown last year. After all, many of us suddenly had a lot of time on our hands; cameras were dug out of cupboards, TikTok accounts were created much to the chagrin of teen offspring, and suddenly everyone looked forward to the Daily Walk.

Helen Robinson, of Holmfirth, didn’t just have lockdown to cope with but was also dealing with a cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy.

“The breast cancer diagnosis came out of the blue in late December 2019”, says Helen, whose teenage children had moved to their father’s house just before lockdown meaning she was on her own.

To keep herself occupied, Helen first turned to good old snail mail, corresponding with friends far and wide by letter. She found this was a good method of supporting friends, and receiving support in return. Helen also shares her musings on social media, another way of keeping in touch with the outside world during lockdown.

Something that Helen has always enjoyed is going on long walks, taking her camera along to capture the local beauty and architecture. She soon realised that she would often capture photographs of kingfishers, and a friend sent her a painting of a kingfisher he had done. “I was in awe, and thought ‘I wish I could draw a kingfisher!’”. Another friend challenged Helen to do just that, and soon #kingfisheraday was born on Twitter. At the time she only had an old set of children’s watercolours to hand, so this was what she used.

Helen grew in confidence with her painting, and shared her work on social media. Friends raved about how good they were, and prompted her to try selling some of her work. One day she took the leap; photographed some paintings, said they were for sale, and sold 14 of them. “It’s always a thrill to sell my work, especially to people who I don’t know”, says Helen, who now sells paintings through an Etsy page.

As well as kingfishers, Helen paints the views and buildings she has photographs of, taken from her favourite place to walk. Because walking became so popular during lockdown, it was no longer safe for Helen to go to her usual haunts as they were so busy, and it was vital that she kept her distance from others due to her compromised immune system. So instead, she sat at home with her photographs and brought them to life on paper.

Helen then realised that, as well as cards and prints, her style would suit a colouring book. With her signature bold lines and attention to detail, she created a Holme Valley Colouring Book and to date has sold over 200. She is now working on a Huddersfield Colouring Book.

It is safe to say that Helen made the best of a bad situation, and the best part is she has had surgery, completed chemotherapy, and is now cancer free. To finish with her own words;

“I’m on the road to recovery and taking my paintbrush with me!”.

You can find Helen’s work on Etsy at

Huddersfield Times

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