Ask the artist: Tyga Helme on landscapes

Abbey Art asked Tyga Helme, who's tutoring the Landscape Course - Draw & Paint in Wordsworth’s Garden 21st-22nd April 2019), about the approach she takes to drawing and painting landscapes. Read her engrossing answers below.  And Abbey Art is obsessed with her images of horses. She explains more about them as well.

Abbey Art: What's your favourite season to paint landscapes in, and why?

Tyga: I love working outside at all times of year.  I love the abundance of foliage in summer and being able to spend the whole day outside.

The winter months bring the difficulties of the cold and wind and rain, but this can give a sense of urgency to the work which can be really helpful, especially when drawing. You are forced to work quicker, and take risks which can lead to unexpected and exciting results.

Abbey Art: Who is your favourite landscape artist, and what is it about their work that speaks to you?

Tyga: It was Constable's small oil sketches at the V&A that first made me want to paint.  They have the most wonderful intimacy, like you could have been there with him, making quick observations of the changing skies.  

They were personal notations and investigations into nature and for me are more powerful than his large 'finished' pictures.

More recently I have been looking at Degas' landscapes a lot. I am really drawn to his economy of line and colour - they are full of feeling, saying so much with so little.

Abbey Art: How do you choose a landscape to paint - is it an organic process or a more conscious decision?

Tyga: I look for a hook to hold the rest of the picture to. It could be anything: a shape, a colour, the way the light hits something and once I find the subject I want, I like to return to the same spot again and again.  I like building up on memories, it helps me bring the personal into my work.

Abbey Art: What's been your favourite/best landscape drawing/painting experience?

Tyga: I have been lucky enough to do two artist residencies at Borgo Pignano in Tuscany.  It was time away working on my practice, exploring and experimenting without the pressures of needing results.  I find having time to play with new ideas and challenging myself is invaluable for tapping into my personal approach in looking and making. 

Abbey Art: What are your aims when drawing or painting landscapes?

Tyga: I am striving for that exhilarating space where my hand, my eyes and my materials are all one. I want their connections to be so close and unencumbered that their only business is feeling.

Abbey Art: What's your favourite medium to use?

Tyga: I particularly love drawing with ink because of the intensity of working where you are unable to make changes once you have made a mark. I also enjoy using chalk pastels as they allow me to draw with colour, in a quick spontaneous way. It feels like a hybrid of drawing and painting.

Abbey Art: What one tip would you give other artists for composing a successful landscape image?

Tyga: I would stop worrying about success and to make investigation your primary aim.

Abbey Art: Tyga, we LOVE your horse drawings. Although not technically landscapes, they evoke a real feeling of the land. Can you tell us more about the creation of these images?

Tyga: I made these at Pignano where there are a few horses on the hill.  I drew them everyday in my sketchbook.  I drew them in different positions and at different times of day, building up lots of intense observations of them. 

I then made the chalk pastel drawings back in the studio. I used my sketchbook to bring my observations together with my memories. I had built up a muscle memory from drawing them so much, that they sort of spilled out onto the page fully formed.