Helen Hermann’s love of horses immersed her first in the world of competitive dressage before it found expression in her art. When the creative impulse struck, she began with small oil sketches of landscapes that caught her attention until her subject matter shifted to the animals she knew intimately. Both dressage and painting demand dedication to technique. Helen was early drawn to the French Impressionists’ fascinating way with plein air light, which inspired her quest to capture, if possible, similar effects through photography. Then she recognized the same values and principals in the unique styles of the Group of Seven during close encounters at the McMichael Gallery. The dynamic equestrian art of Rosa Bonheur and Valerie Hinz evoked the kind of storied atmosphere she sought to depict. Helen is an emerging artist whose paintings are in big demand at showings and have been featured on the cover of Tapestry and Clydesdale Speculator, and in Mosaic. Current works are on display in her own studio gallery.
The proceeds from sales of her paintings go directly to benefit animal welfare. Helen lives in King Township with her husband and three daughters, and an assortment of cherished dogs and horses.
Helen’s principal medium is oils on canvas or board. Her well-balanced equestrian compositions abstract aspects of the whole story. A line of ears on tossing heads. The rumps of a hitch moving away from the viewer. The hooves of polo ponies cutting into a snow-clad pitch. There are events, actions and gestures - the drama of horse life unfolding in jingling, thundering, snorting excitement. Another scene rests on the serene backs of grazing herds in a dewy glade. A third shows a knowing glance between mare and foal. We are offered happenstance and left to fill in the blanks with our own imaginations.
The artist makes her presence known in heroic proportion, the forms themselves expansive, large as life and lit up by colours intense and powerfully contrasting. But behind the free-flying brush strokes is also precision that ensures each scene is not only unusual in composition but believable. Strong and subtle in turn, the exposure of light renders a mood the artist wishes to share with us.
“After dressage, I still wanted horses to be part of my life. They say paint what you know well. Dressage at the international level was the pursuit of perfection. Art also has its rules, but it gives more space for personal expression. I learned the basics by copying the techniques of artists I admired until I found a kind of freedom that let me take chances, do what I thought was right and allowed me to change my mind when something didn’t work. I wanted to stretch reality and create something out-of-the-box. My process is slow. There is a lot of watching and waiting for what is right to occur to me. That is why it is rare for me to do commissioned work. The notion of having no limits, no boundaries, makes it more satisfying for me to do big. I want to draw the viewer into the mystery. Every painting has a story, which should unfold through contact with it. The viewer’s first impression should be free of provenance. The art I like and like to do has dimensions of feeling best revealed by direct experience. My aim is to heighten the viewers’ perceptions - light and dark, strong and muted, nuanced and intense - by offering the full spectrum of possibilities.
My art is evolving. Expanding into new subject matter, new dimensions. Where it goes depends on whatever strikes me in the moment. I like not knowing what lies ahead. And experimenting with subject and palette. What I find compelling is a unique point of view, an alternative perspective, a dramatic atmosphere.”