Creative Gippslanders: Helen Timbury – Linocut Printmaker & Graphic Designer
A teenage outing to an art exhibition left Helen Timbury with a love of art and design. Today, Helen’s work is instantly recognisable across Gippsland and beyond. Raised in the Melbourne suburb of Strathmore, Helen moved to Gippsland in 1997 with her husband Andrew, and the first of their three children.
At the time, the family lived in the north central Victorian town of Wedderburn. Tired of the hot, dry summers, Andrew, a geography teacher, produced a topographical map of Victoria. One of the towns with a decent average rainfall was the West Gippsland town of Drouin. When Andrew successfully applied for a teaching position in the area, the Timbury-Grants decided to move to the region.
When she was fifteen, Helen and her mother went to an exhibition of linocut prints by Australian artist Margaret Preston (1875 – 1963). Helen instantly fell in love with the mediums of linocut design and illustrating. Enrolling at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Helen obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Visual Communication in the analogue graphic design class.
Today, for Helen, linocut is the only medium that is still hands on, rather than computer generated. For Helen, using different inks, cutters and papers, provides her with the sense of having created something tactile and real, as opposed to simply moving a mouse and pushing keys, as is the case with graphic design.
An avid bushwalker, Helen’s eclectic range of designs come predominantly from the immediate natural environment. During her childhood in Melbourne, bushwalking and family camping trips around the state were the norm. A favourite memory is of being taken on a pack carrying trip around rugged Cape Barren Island at the age of fourteen. Her family also provide inspiration. Helen has her own childfree dress up box, where she keeps colours, fabrics, and patterns, which also play a part in her designs.
In March 2013, Helen released a book, A bird-loving man, with internationally published Gippsland haiku and tanka writer, Rodney Williams. Helen’s illustrations have received wide acclaim. Internationally revered Australian tanka and haiku figures Beverley George and Amelia Fielden, have praised Helen’s artwork as, “quite simply be the best she has ever seen for a book of haiku or tanka.” A bird-loving man is not Helen’s first foray into the world of books. While living in the East Gippsland hamlet of Genoa, Helen worked with Friends of Mallacoota to contribute to Stepping Stones – Plants & Animals of Croajingolong National Park, a book on the indigenous flora and fauna of the area.
In 2010, Helen was approached by then President of Baw Baw Writers’ Network (BBWN), Jeannie Haughton to design the cover for BBWN’s anthology Pre-Scribe 2. Helen had recently won an art prize, and Ms Haughton felt that Helen’s work – incorporating iconic Gippsland themes – would be the ideal accompaniment to the work of the writers.
Appreciative of the support and recognition that she has received, Helen Timbury also works to promote other Gippsland artists. Founded by Helen with Andrea Tindle, Open Studios West Gippsland aims to give artists the chance to show and sell work from their respective studios without the stress of holding exhibitions. Traditional art shows can have too high a cost for artists, by the time they pay entry fees, commissions, and so on.
In 2013, Helen was a joint winner of the ArchiBawBaw Portrait Prize. It is rare for a linocut work to compete in an art competition against oil painting. Winning against oil paintings is even more so. Helen’s entry, The Frog Man, the largest linocut piece she has produced to date, took twenty hours to cut.
Helen is currently busy organising the next Open Studios West Gippsland event.