Helen Utsal’s colourful landscape paintings express Nature’s exuberant and vital spirit.
Gesture, expression and emotion weave into colour, texture and light. Helen spends a lot of time in Nature, sometimes painting outside with acrylics to study and capture dynamic impressions. In the studio she uses oil paint mixed with cold wax medium to bring texture and depth to the painting. Often stapling canvas to the wall, Helen likes to work with big palette knives and lots of motion. She makes many of her own canvas stretchers, which allows her to work in unique sizes. Creating the whole object from raw canvas to finished painting imprints it with an energy of its own.
Born in Montreal, Helen obtained her BFA at Concordia University and apprenticed under painter Tom Hopkins. Helen comes from an artistic family; her grandmother Salme Utsal, a Montreal artist and her sister Kate Taylor, based in Toronto.
‘I developed a deep connection to wild places as a child, with my family, camping and canoeing. On Vancouver Island, inspiration is on my doorstep, where I explore trails, kayak and study the ever-changing moods of the light. The energy and dramatic light on the water or in the trees move me to paint.’
Group of seven painter Tom Thomsons work is a strong influence. His gutsy dynamic gestures of thick oil paint and the expressive quality of his marks shaped her own approach to painting. Some of these same qualities of energetic mark-making can be seen in the work of another influence, abstract painter Karl Appel. The strong colours of the Fauvists and the emotion communicated by the Expressionists also informs Helens creative awareness.
Now based on Vancouver Island, Helen runs Art Alchemy Studio, a shared artists studio space and gallery in Courtenay, BC. The vibrant atmosphere in the company of other artists has supported her artistic evolution and continues to enrich her life.
Helen exhibits her paintings in Canada and the US and in private collections around the world.