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Sunday, 26 October 2014

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From London to Lowes Court – via the Caribbean rainforest

A PASSION for drawing led a local artist to a Caribbean rainforest and a Master of Arts in Natural History Illustration at The Royal College of Art.

By Julie Morgan

Former Wyndham School pupil, Helen Greenop, 47, was originally considering becoming a hairdresser before teacher, Mike Ollerton, and her parents encouraged her to apply to Carlisle Art College. “Without them I’m not sure if I would have been an artist,’’ she said.

Currently exhibiting some of her charcoal life-drawings at Egremont’s Lowes Court Gallery, Helen has designed for famous brands as well as working on scientific illustrations.

After leaving Carlisle, where she gained a BTec in General Art and Design, she went on to complete an HND in Textile Design from Chelsea School of Art and then began work at Romo Fabrics in Nottingham.

However, in the early 1990s she became “disillusioned’’ with the industry and found herself applying to take part in an expedition to the Commonwealth of Dominica in the West Indies working on a conservation project as a botanical illustrator.

“I had the best time ever,’’ she said. “We were in the rainforest and I was helping with a field guide. I was working with a group from Oxford University who were undertaking research on sustainability of the country’s eco-system.’’

In fact, she enjoyed the experience so much she completed four expeditions back to the island culminating in a published field guide whilst also studying her MA at the Royal College of Art, all of which developed her talent for fine art. Subsequently, Helen’s drawings were used in the science publication, Curtis’s Botanical Magazine.

Her work featured on an array of home furnishings from wallpapers and fabrics to ceramics, giftware and packaging for high-street brands, John Lewis, Laura Ashley, Marks and Spencer and Kew Enterprises.

As a freelance botanical illustrator, Helen has also worked on scientific illustrations for the Natural History Museum and Kew Gardens. She was a visiting lecturer at Leeds University and Chelsea School of Art – whose former pupils include film director, Steve McQueen, and sculptor, Anish Kapoor – and in the past she has been selected to exhibit at the Royal Academy of Art’s Summer Exhibition.

She now lives in Bigrigg with her husband, Glyn James, and their children Georgia, seven, and 13-year-old Jake. Her parents, Jean and Ron, still live in Thornhill.

Helen remains “most passionate” about being a botanical illustrator, travelling to London several times a year for inspiration and to visit galleries “hoping they will accept my work!

“I do love drawing,’’ she added. “I try to draw and paint every day.’’

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