Coca-Cola, bottoms, Toblerone tunnels, and art.


I wanted to share some of my recent artworks here and fill you in a bit on the themes and ideas behind them.

First up, here are two watercolours of vintage jumpers, which I painted in October 2016. I picked the jumpers out to paint from images found online, as I was attracted to their kitsch value, and also because in my work I like to think about ideas around fashion, consumerism and desire, and our aspirations (like being associated with big brand names). It’s always interested me that people feel reassured by brand name clothing, and that it makes you part of a club or gang somehow. Or that the signifiers of quality or luxury can somehow be transferred to the person by having a massive logo on their chest. I’m also interested in how hipster types and students appropriate these brand names ironically in a way to show that they are not part of the mainstream.

My drawings and paintings have been made on paper a lot more than canvas at the moment, out of practical reasons, as I am moving house very soon. I will be in a new studio for the start of 2017 with more space to create, which I’m very excited about. Working on paper is something I love just as much as working on canvas, so I’m really enjoying using paper at the moment, and I don’t feel like it’s a second-best option at all.

Kathleen Hanna, ink and mixed media on paper, Helen Dryden 2016

Currently I am working on pieces for an exhibition I’m planning with friend and fellow artist, Kat Archibald. We are in the planning/making stages at the moment, so no dates or venue to be announced yet, but the above drawing of Kathleen Hanna will be part of the show. We are making an exhibition of drawing and paintings of our heroes. It may be a “fan-art” exhibition, but we are hoping to get rid of the disparaging connotations of depicting your pop idols, and show that if it’s done with true admiration for the subject, it’s just as worthy as any other.

Above is a photo from Instagram of the ink drawing I made of Lorde, which will also be part of the exhibition. There is a link with these two drawings to the strong women and unconventional beauties that I have been painting in the last two years too.

Women’s bottoms are currently enjoying popularity as the erogenous zone of choice, and I wanted to share a couple of paintings I’ve made this year around that subject. My paintings are a tongue in cheek admiration of female beauty and also an enjoyment of the ridiculousness of focusing on the backside as the most worthy part of a woman.

Also on the subject of appraising women’s body parts is this:

Pas de Tobelrone, Acrylic on canvas, Helen Dryden 2016

The title of the painting is a tongue in cheek reference to the ‘Toblerone tunnel’, or thigh gap, that is notoriously aspired to by weight watching/eating disordered women. It is the triangular gap at the top of the legs, (where you could fit a Toblerone!). The shape is referenced in the stylised grass, and the apex shape of the legs. ‘Pas de Toblerone’ means ‘no Toblerone’ – a body positive statement, not meaning ‘no chocolate’ but ‘no unattainable body fascism’.

Attempting to find the balance between parenthood and being an artist informed this painting below, ‘Blue Floor Tiles’. One of several I made that feature my son, painted from family photos, I have been disclosing more of my personal life in my paintings than I had previously.


Blue Floor Tiles celebrates the geometric qualities of the floor tiles and the shapes of the shadows cast by my son and objects in the room, as he uses the hand dryer in the toilets at a museum. It’s about finding moments of beauty in the everyday, and the nostalgia a parent feels watching their child grow, and wanting to freeze the moment. Being unafraid to enjoy the sentimental, whilst also formally appraising the space in the room.

I’ve also painted my husband and my father this year in the portraits below.

I am finding myself more comfortable with making images of loved ones as part of my art, because I believe that these paintings can resonate with others’ experiences of personal and family relationships.

These are just a small sample of the art I have been making this year. If you want to see the art as soon as it’s made, I post on Instagram all the time! My Instagram name is @helen_dryden – I don’t just post pictures of my work there, but pictures of stuff I’m doing in general too. Follow me!

In November I began posting daily on Patreon, and I encourage you to sign up to be one of my Patrons as it’s a brilliant way to give to artists you want to support, that maybe you aren’t ready to buy an artwork from yet. $1 per month gets you access to videos, blog posts and photos and $10 a month gets you an exclusive downloadable artwork that you can print out for your own use at home, available nowhere else. As you know, many of us artists have unpredictable incomes, so if I could get 100 people to sign up at $1 each, that would help me with buying art supplies that I need each month.

My gallery at axisweb is updated regularly, and you can look through my available paintings there. The gallery has details of the materials used, the size of the artwork, and they take no commission from my sales, so totally get in touch if you want to buy something. For some reason, they don’t show the prices online, unless you enquire, but generally my prices are in the £80 – £400 range.

OK, well, thanks for reading my blog!

As I mentioned, if you want more frequent blog posts (every day!) then head over to Patreon for that, and there will be more from me on this blog in Jan 2017.






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