by Alison Houston
AT 84 years old, painter Helen Davies reckons she just wants to live the quiet life ... and paint.
But it seems she's just too darned talented to melt into the background as she desires.
Helen is part of the Artastic group at the Kincumber Living Choice Retirement Village, which exhibited the works of 18 local members over the weekend, including up to 50 of Helen's paintings, and her charity raffle piece worth $800.
"She's phenomenal; she just paints all day," said close friend and fellow Artastic member Beth Miller. "She's very prolific."
And while best known for her nature pieces of Monet-like serenity, Beth said Helen had recently begun incorporating figures, including children on a beach, into her work.
"She's always thinking outside the box," Beth said, adding that Helen had wonderful copies of Renoir and Degas' pieces in her home, "possibly better than the originals, because the mediums today are so much better quality".
Asked about her involvement in the Artastic exhibit, Helen said she had joined the art group "thinking I'd just sit in the background and go quietly about my work, but it didn't happen that way!"
"It's just a lovely hobby that you lose yourself in," Helen said. "You get away from all your troubles when you paint.
"It keeps me alive!"
Never a professional artist as such, Helen had always loved painting and became famous on the Coast as The Rose Lady, over 20 years of teaching China painting.
That too began almost by accident, when Helen displayed some pieces in the post office at Killarney Vale, someone admired them and came looking for classes, and word spread.
Helen's history on the Coast goes back a long way. She and her late husband Gordon moved up from Sydney and bought a caravan park at Gorokin on Tuggerah Lakes.
When they sold up there, they ran a motel at Toukley, from which Helen began running her China-painting classes in a top-floor "studio", and then The Fernery in Matcham Valley, where her classes became a five-day-a-week operation, with people coming from as far as Newcastle to learn the skill.
These days, she said, she's put the China painting aside in favour of acrylic paintings, but it's still the flowers that rule her heart.
"I love floral painting," Helen said. "When I look at a painting, I like to say 'I'd love to be there; it's so beautiful and quiet and peaceful."