I am entering a fourth decade of making art as a serious, dedicated pursuit. Though I’ve painted and drawn since childhood, I only began to think of myself as a professional painter when I was about thirty. I’ll celebrate my 70th birthday in December, 2010, and that adds up to four decades of making pictures. Time flies…
When I began painting, I used traditional materials in a conventional way. My work has evolved in a slow, fairly regular fashion, though the imagery has remained constant. The figurative work, typically solitary women in interior settings, continues to engage and intrigue me. Landscape and still life paintings complete the rest of the work I make.
While my imagery has not altered significantly, the materials and methods have changed. After working in soft pastels for years, I began painting with oils again while on a three week painting trip to Italy. That trip and using those old familiar paints changed everything. I suddenly had new energy for making work and found painting inspiration all around me. At about the same time, I began to incorporate gold leaf as a compositional element in some of the still life paintings.
My painting style is representational. I pay a great deal of attention to the compositional and value elements in a given piece. No matter the image, my working method is essentially the same. Using photographs and sketches done on site or during a modeling session, I lay out an idea in thumbnail with a rough notion of the composition. Once I’m satisfied that I have an idea worth pursuing, I begin the work.
The "Paintings" link will take you to a page of collections. Take a look at a new collection group, "Progression: One painting, start to finish." You’ll be linked to a page that shows the evolution of one of my paintings, from the drawing and initial layer of paint on the white canvas to the finished piece. These photos of a “painting in progress” will be a regular feature on the site. I’ll explain step by step how the painting is made.
As a painter, I am continually fascinated by the properties of color, light and shadow as they affect both the image and my own sense of time, place and inner harmony. While this fascination has to do with the visual elements and my needs as an artist, once they are done, the paintings either stand or fall on their own.
I hope you like them.
What others say about Helen Vaughn's work
"Highly realistic, Vaughn's figural works are models of technical virtuosity, a testament to her excellent and solid grasp of anatomy. But it is the artist's committment to delve into the psychological, into the cryptic realm of mental patterns, which produces compelling emotional connections between the work and the viewer.
Vaughn's stunningly beautiful works boast rich, velvety textures and vivid colors wrapped in carefully arranged compositions."
Carolyn Shafer, Curator
Wiregrass Museum of Art
"The figurative pastel paintings Helen Vaughn has created over the past eleven years are in part autobiographical, but in a larger sense they are celebrations of the many aspects of womanhood."
M. Stephen Doherty
American Artist Magazine
"It has been said about Vaughn's figurative work that it has a feminist slant. If this means not only a focus on images of women, but on the psychological truth of being female in today's society, that message has always been reflected in deceptively ordinary images in Vaughn's work."
David M. Robb, former Director
Huntsville Museum of Art