Shoreham illustrator on capturing those magic family moments

The saying goes that a ‘picture is worth a thousand words’.

Tuesday, 14th May 2019, 4:15 pm
Hampshire walk

That is certainly true of Helen Murphy’s work, capturing those beautiful moments of family walks, a child enjoying a book or a Jay perched in a garden.

When Helen became a mother she says it had a massive impact on her artistic practice.“I felt a strong desire to communicate the overpowering emotions that parenthood can bring with it.“I aim for the art work to be quite loose and colour is very important to me.“I hope for the work to capture movement and feeling, the sensations of childhood as opposed to physical likeness, they are not intended to be portraits. “When I am drawing the children, I think about what they are doing, for example climbing a tree, how they might be feeling when they are doing it. “With my current work, I hope that it captures something about how I feel about them through the marks I am making.”

Helen, who lives in Shoreham, describes her style as spontaneous.

In the library

Carrying her sketchbook with her wherever she goes as she tries to draw every single day.“Like many mothers, it is difficult to find the time and space for your own creativity but I decided to use these constraints to get better,” she reveals.“I try and draw every day no matter what and to draw what is relevant and interesting to my life at that moment.”

Be that a man on the bus or her daughters and nieces climbing trees.For her work Helen uses brush pens, ink and watercolour.“I often work in a sketchbook so that I can grab moments,” she says.“I tend to build the image up in layers, trying to see the shape of the positive and negative space first. “I often put the final lines in last with black ink. “This comes from my print making background I think.”

Since she was a child Helen says she has always drawn and made things, knowing from a young age it was something she wanted to do as a living.“Somehow along the way, I became a teacher,” she reveals.“However, I soon realised that drawing was a part of me and returned to art school; I was fortunate enough to be taught by two inspirational women, Jane Sampson for screen printing and Sue Tribe, an illustration tutor. “During this time, I wrote and illustrated a children’s picture book called Chesney’s New Friend, which was produced as a limited edition and sold in independent bookshops.“I then went to study for a masters degree in illustration and sequential design at Brighton University.”

Helen is keen to take on commissions.“I take private commissions. How long these take depends on the brief and what has been commissioned; what the subject matter is and how the work is to be rendered (whether it is a drawing, painting or print). “I also take editorial commissions, which has a much faster turnaround. “I produce limited editions of screen prints and giclee art prints, these are available to buy from my Etsy shop.”


It is clear looking at her work that her family inspire much of what she does.“Currently, I am inspired by the experience and emotions of parenthood and watching my girls grow, how they strive physically, climbing, running, scooting, interacting and their ability to just be who they are,” she smiles“I am also inspired by nature, I love to draw animals and trees. “So I often try and combine these elements.”

To view more of Helen’s work, visit


Leaping at Petworth