I work primarily with watercolors, though I also use casein, and acrylic paints. Making art is, for me, a deeply spiritual practice, which requires a visceral connection to all living things. It is a communication of temperaments, a sort of thesaurus of moods. Deciding what to paint doesn’t often seem like it’s up to me at all. Something will catch my attention, a sound, an image, or even the wind, and I’m off.
I feel compelled to paint a subject countless times until the impulse stops…as mysteriously as it started. Though many of my landscape paintings are entirely imagined, I study a subject intensely before it manifests itself. Creating art makes me feel good, and hopefully that generosity spills onto those I interact with. My work instills calm and joy, which is exactly my goal. The world has enough ugliness and suffering, and my purpose is to soothe rather than provoke.
We met up with Helene in her NDG apartment/studio to talk about life, NDG and her work.
(Photography by Thomas Bock – Thomas Bock Creative)
Find out more about Helene Mayer (Water Tiger Art) at the following locations on the web:
Would you like to introduce yourself?
I am retired from McGill University after 35 years where I worked as:
• graphics photography technician in the Faculty of Medicine
• Manager of student publications
• Communications officer and web editor in the Faculty of Engineering
I started creating art when I was about 12 years old, but didn’t really get going until the 1990s. My job was stressful, I had just come out of a long depression, and watercolor classes took me out of my tendencies for self-pity. I was blessed with fabulous and patient teachers at the Visual Arts Center in Westmount where I continue to take classes at least once a year.
What do you want people to know about you in 2017?
That was then… and now…this
Upcoming/ongoing projects you have at the moment:
I recently participated in a curated show of 20 artists at the Gallerie Meteque in NDG and have an upcoming exhibition in Nov-Dec at the Rose Café in Rosemont (2216 boul. Rosemont). I recently opened an Etsy shop and hope to build that up in the coming year.
Creative routines or rituals do you have?
I am a member of the Women’s Art Studio of Montreal and we meet once a week to paint together. The group consists of many kinds of visual artists of varying experience and I find this keeps me on a productive track that might otherwise meander away from me. I also meet with a less experienced watercolor painter twice a month for a day of painting. I like the fact that we are at different levels of experience, as this allows me to preserve “Beginners Mind” as well as a more skillful and critical eye.
Another important creative process for me is “sound”. Surf and wind calms me down and slows my heart rate to a point where creativity can escape freely, but I can achieve that just as readily with all kinds of music.
I have a bit of everything in my music library including: Aimee Mann, Bill Frisell, Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan, Bruce Cockburn, Brian Ferry, The Cars, Coldplay, Daniel Lanois, Dexter Gordon, Dire Straits, Holy Cole, Jesse Cook, Johnny Cleg, Joshua Bell, LP, Lyle Lovett, Mark Knopfler, Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd (who DOESN’T have that), Rick Ocasek, Scala, Steely Dan, The The, U2, Van Morrison, and Wah…to name but a few…
Definitely Mark Knopfler, and Bruce Cockburn. I admire wit, intelligence and humor in people and these guys have it all.
My idea of earthly happiness
As long as I have a clean and decent place to live, food and most of all, good friends, I’m the happiest woman in the world! Is there really anything else?
Qualities I admire in people
I admire wit, intelligence, humor, and honesty in people. Give me that, and I am forever loyal.
Blue of course, but I also love green and turquoise, and purple, and yellow, and orange, and red and all those in between.
I used to know what it was but now I can’t remember it.
My life as a teenager and how those years influenced me.
I was a rebellious teenager who smoked pot and kissed boys. This caused my parents to send me to a convent school miles away from home and where I wanted to die every single day. The fact that I didn’t is a testament to my strength of will and character. I believe that school has gotten better over the years, but I still have trouble with the idea of that place.
Description of my living situation in 20 years
God only knows! I’m an “open to whatever happens” kind of person. This is definitely reflected in my art as I paint all sorts of subjects without rhyme or reason. My life has been a series of accidental twists and turns that I never could have predicted or planned for, so, I’m not going to start that now. The current of this river takes me where it takes me and I deal with where I land…always.
Where am I? What am I doing? What does my environment look like?
My apartment in NDG is my paradise! The light is awesome, it’s warm in winter and cool in summer and I have a lovely little dog who makes me take him out for walks even when I don’t feel like it. Almost every piece of furniture in my house was once someone’s (or McGill’s) garbage. My 8 dining room chairs were trashed from a lab at McGill and I carried each one home on the bus…one by one. I really like the idea of giving new life to unwanted things. In fact, my Etsy greeting cards are all original abstract paintings because they come from all my “failed” paintings that have been transformed into a better work of art.
When you think of NDG, what comes to mind?
I just LOVE my neighborhood.
(click on images to enlarge)