Helen Barker Painting

Opening the mail


This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while, but just haven’t got around to. Lately it struck me that, although I spend as much time as possible on my painting business, I am for the most part (for the moment), an at-home Mum. And as such I spend a lot of time coming up with activities for my daughter to engage with. I thought it would be good to share them with you from now on! So, I’ll try to blog about them as much as I can and share with you any tips or ideas I have for entertaining toddlers!


My daughter is 14months and she loves to open things. Cans, boxes, packets, bottles… envelopes. So, taking advantage of this, and to help her fine motor skills along, I created an Opening the Mail activity with her toys.


I took a dozen small envelopes and put a toy or activity card in each one, folded them over and placed them in a small box with a lid. In the morning after breakfast, when she is happiest to concentrate on such things, I sat her in the lounge and let her explore.

She had a lot of fun ripping open the mail! She even examined the toys again as though they were new, and we talked about what they were called and looked like etc. She didn’t do these all at once but it was an activity she came back to throughout the day. As an extension to the activity I tried to encourage her to put the toys back in the envelopes/box afterwards. She wasn’t so keen on this part – maybe one for a future date!




P1020312September is here. And I am not ready! J, my little girl, has not been sleeping at all lately. Her back and top teeth are cutting through her tiny, tender gums and she has had her one year immunisations. She feels pretty rubbish. So she has needed me even more, and even more in the middle of and all through the nights. I have tried to drag myself up to my attic studio space to work when she has finally gone to sleep but I admit, I have not always tried very hard. I have crawled under a duvet and stolen a few precious hours sleep instead. This is the challenge of being a stay-at-home-work-at-home Mum. Two, three, four hours sleep to see me through the days and nights and my brain just cannot find the space to reach for colours, for shapes.

I painted two portraits this week and both went very badly. It’s hard to put your finger on what makes a painting work but I believe some of it has to do with a feeling of balance and a sense of space when approaching the page. Neither of which have been very available to me lately. So I sit here again, in front of a blank page, breathing deeply and trying to tell myself that things will happen. Trying to train myself to work in the gaps that present themselves to me – a half hour here, an hour there. Ignoring the low, heavy feeling of sleep beckoning me from my bedroom below.



IMG_4842About nine months into maternity leave with my daughter I quit my ‘office job’ to return to freelance work as a painter. Essentially I am starting a business. From scratch. On less than five hours sleep most nights. From home.

But it’s amazing. It’s exciting. It’s exhilarating.

And a bit mad.

Having a baby and then keeping her alive, healthy and happy is more than a full time job. So finding time to work, and working from home, can be a bit of a logistical nightmare. Today I ventured out to the local coffee shop and it has been a real treat. My new office is really wherever I am so finding a little spot by a window where I can drink tea uninterrupted without the Everest-like heights of my washing casting a shadow over me, is bliss. Oh and I get to order ‘Hipster toast’, which makes me feel a tiny bit (self-consciously) cool again for the first time in months.

Everything moves so fast with a baby. The days blur into one. Trying to slow time down to capture that one moment worth keeping in mind forever is a constant challenge. Looking through the images of babies and children that I am using to begin my portraits, I wonder what is happening in that exact moment; that exact moment the baby is caught on screen, in her rapidly changing world? There are too many moments to capture it feels impossible to pick one. So I am particularly excited about my portraiture business, because creating an artwork from these snapshots provides me – and more importantly you – with a unique interpretation of a little life in the here and now. It makes that moment a little more easy to stick – a little more memorable. And I don’t know about you, but my memory could use a little help these days!