Mum-of-three Helen Robinson discovered a new talent in lockdown. She turned to art and created a best-selling colouring book which went down a storm on social media.
Helen’s love of nature in and around her Holmfirth home caught the imagination of followers on Twitter.
But few who followed her journey on social media will realise just what a journey Helen has had.
Helen, who runs workshops on the environment and sustainability through her company fairandfunky, was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2019, just weeks before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As people were ordered to stay home during the first national lockdown, Helen was preparing for surgery. In April she underwent a mastectomy.
“It was all a bit surreal,” said Helen. “Everyone was dealing with the start of the pandemic I was dealing with something very different.”
Helen had surgery at Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax and described her care as “amazing.”
Normally patients who had a mastectomy would have had reconstruction at the same time but the reconstruction was put off due to the pandemic.
Helen has had eight rounds of chemotherapy followed by 18 rounds of hormone therapy. Her final dose is on Wednesday.
Her health is good and finding a talent in art has sustained her recovery.
“My story of the pandemic isn’t ‘woe is me I had breast cancer.’ My experience is a positive one. I did a colouring book!”
As her treatment started Helen began shielding and it was decided her daughters Maya, 18, and Eve, 15, should go and stay with their dad.
To occupy her time, Helen started painting pebbles and would leave them on her wall for people to collect.
“Then I moved from pebbles to paper and I discovered I could draw!” said Helen. “I found some watercolour paints and shared what I’d done on social media and there was a great reaction.
“I walk a lot with a camera and I take pictures of what makes me smile. I couldn’t leave home so I started drawing what I saw on my doorstep.
“I live near a mill pond and I love kingfishers and I would see one every day. But after the lockdown my usual walk became like the M62 so I couldn’t go and see my kingfisher. Instead I would draw a kingfisher every day.
“I was stuck on my doorstep but I had all this loveliness on my doorstep.”
Helen shared a picture of Digley reservoir in just a black line outline and then coloured in and people said they preferred it before it was coloured in. The idea of a colouring book was sown.
Helen, who also has a son Isaac, 20, put her pictures together and published the Holme Valley Colouring Book. She created an Etsy page and sold 250 copies.
“People said it was a bit Holmfirth-centric but I couldn’t help that because that’s where I lived!” said Helen. “So now I’ve managed to escape into Huddersfield a couple of times and I’m working on a Huddersfield colouring book.
“Our buildings are amazing in Huddersfield. People just don’t look up. We have some amazing architecture.”
The new colouring book should be out by the end of March and for Helen finding her hidden talent in art has been a therapy in itself.
“It’s been a real joy and good mindfulness and it has given me something to focus on,” she said. “I lived alone from February to September but you have to stay positive. The alternative was to be miserable and that’s not me.”
The Holme Valley Colouring Book is available here and costs £10.