Helen Barker Painting

Tag Archives: Gift

Happy New Year! Blogs, vlogs and extra togs.


Hello creative soul, welcome back to my blog. I’m launching my new year – and a happy new year to you – with plans to take my blog to the next level. I was thinking over Christmas how much I’ve missed writing, and how much writing helps me through good and bad times. So I’m going to be brave and share more with you.


Illustration from The Big Alfie Out of Doors Storybook © Shirley Hughes, 1992

I was reading a Shirley Hughes book to my daughter at bedtime the other night (I LOVE SHIRLEY), and I felt so alive just reliving the childhood experiences she captures so well. Playing in the mud, watching people in the streets, colourful foods and plants and boots and hats, chasing around outdoors and hiding indoors – her work really spoke to me of my own childhood. As I sat with J on my knee reading to her I felt this amazing sense of being given a second chance. I get to relive these moments with my own little girl now. And I also felt super inspired to do my own watercolours of childhood moments. So I’m going to take J out and we’re going to record a few little moments of childhood joy and use them to make some artwork/play/explore. Which leads me to the next thought…


This will be me. 

VLOGS. I’m going to be extra brave and start a vlog. I am really super excited about being able to talk directly to you, share some film and capture some of my processes so that you can use them too – little tips and tricks and ways to paint, draw and doodle. I’d love to share what I love about creativity, and I truly believe everyone is creative and that YOU CAN PAINT. I’ve even ordered a couple of nice lights and microphone so you can actually see and hear me. LUCKY YOU.


My new bed shall look JUST LIKE THIS. Yes. 

Thirdly, TOGS. Isn’t it cold?! I just feel so cold all the time. Don’t you? So I’ve made the most of the boxing day sales and – for the first time ever – done an online sale shop on boxing day for a new duvet. I’m super excited about this – THAT’S RIGHT – I’M TALKING ABOUT A DUVET – because it’s a feather down one and I’ve got some linen coming too. SO basically my new years resolution is to make my bed look and feel like a hotel bed. So that despite constantly being dragged out of it by a toddler, I can truly feel I am gaining some sort of luxurious comfort time at night. TOG IT UP. Cosy cosy cosy winter time is here – time to snuggle up under your duvet and do some doodling and watch some vlogs – join me!


Tinfoil toys


IMG_6058My daughter loves unwrapping presents, so for a fun independent activity I wrapped her toys in tinfoil! I chose toys that were easy to wrap and small enough to fit in her little box. She loves taking the lid off the box and discovering what’s in there.


I found that she even turned the familiar toys over in her hands, exploring them anew. This was a great activity for when I needed a few minutes to clear the kitchen after breakfast! She did get a bit obsessed with the tinfoil and we ended up scrunching it into balls to play catch with too!

P..P..P..P..Play Dough + recipe!


IMG_6117Confession. I LOVE PLAY DOUGH!  So on a recent haul round local craft shops I made sure to pick some up. Actually, I made some last week – recipe at the bottom – but I have to admit, it wasn’t as luminous as the stuff I bought today and that won out for me. I like things bright and shiny. Like a magpie. But the home made stuff is really fine too! And cheaper 🙂

Ok so this stuff wasn’t for me it was for my 14 month old daughter, but I think I had the most fun with it! In the end though, she got into the swing of pressing down cookie cutters and rolling the squidgy substance around her palm. (Mostly she wanted to pick bits off and flick them onto the rug…)

It’s definitely an activity I’ll be returning to and which we’ll both be getting more out of as she grows. Try it out – great on a rainy day and really helps little ones to focus, use fine motor skills and experiment with touch. Just watch out for their experimentation with taste – not an activity they can do unsupervised!

img_6026.jpgHome Made Play Dough

Little ones can help you make this soft, fun play dough. Here’s what you need:

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1/4 cup of salt
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • a few drops of food colouring

Here’s what you do:

  1. Mix the flour and salt
  2. Slowly pour in the water, stirring as you do. Knead until the mixture is combined and the dough is soft but not sticky (add more flour if it is).
  3. Make a well in the centre of the dough with your thumb, add a few drops of food colouring and knead until thoroughly combined and the colour is even.
  4. Add more colouring if required!

As you can see my play dough was a bit pale – I ran out of time to add more colour, but adding more blue would really brighten it up!

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!