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Meeting Rye artist Ronald Hellen

PUBLISHED: 13:03 31 March 2015 | UPDATED: 13:03 31 March 2015


Ronald Hellen was born in Radcliffe, a suburb of Manchester, and moved southwards with his family in the 1960s. “I have lived in Sussex since the early 1970s, firstly in Hastings before settling in Rye,” he says.

Warehouses, RyeWarehouses, Rye

“I always wanted to enjoy the pleasure and atmosphere of living by the coast and Sussex has much to offer artistically in terms of its seaside architecture and the landscape of the downs. I like Rye because it is a satisfying size, it is not overwhelming and the setting is always inspiring.”

Having studied for a Diploma in Art and Design at Maidstone Art College, Ronald gained entry to the Royal Academy Schools where the renowned artist Edward Bawden RA was one of his tutors. Since leaving art college, Ronald has held various part-time art teaching posts and has worked as an environmentalist. He is now retired and devotes himself to painting full-time, dividing his time between painting in Suffolk and Sussex.

“I always knew that I wanted to do something associated with art,” says Ronald of his path to becoming an artist. 
“I began studying art at the age of 15 and from that time onwards, art excluded everything else.”

A piece he particularly treasures is his oil painting showing the view of the summer house in Gildredge Park, Eastbourne. “The painting encapsulates all that I find of interest in a subject – there is a mystery to the building and it seems at odds with its environment. I also like the juxtaposition between the summer house and the tennis court in the background, which seems to highlight the contrast between the dark and surreal elements of the building with the movement and light of the tennis players. The timeless quality of the Regency summer house also contrasts with the modern activity of the tennis match. Discovering the summer house in Gildredge Park was a delightful surprise and I always enjoying revisiting it.”

Good materials, Ronald says, are of utmost importance when creating art. “Secondly,” he adds, “be very selective in influences to avoid a confusion of styles. And paint things that you know something about and that mean something to you.”

He also cites that the key is practice, and not being too influenced by any one tutor. “And finally, if you have a spark of imagination or genius, then you are fortunate indeed.”

Summer House, Gildredge Park, EastbourneSummer House, Gildredge Park, Eastbourne

Being based in Sussex has helped Ronald’s work enormously. “It features regularly in my work and is a continuing source of inspiration – the county has 
a lot to offer on many different levels. 
I have drawn inspiration from its seaside architecture, the downs, its history and the general colour and atmosphere of the landscape.”

He very much enjoys taking commissions, as he says “I gain a lot of pleasure from fulfilling a client’s brief. It is often easier to be given a subject to depict rather than an unstructured request for a picture when the number of subjects is so infinite.”

Ronald’s work has been exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, the East Sussex Open at the Towner in Eastbourne and the Llewellyn Alexander Gallery in London, among many others. This year he hopes to exhibit at the Little Chelsea Gallery and the Towner, both in Eastbourne, and in private commercial galleries in Brighton.

For commissions, please email



National showcase of wood engraving to be held in Sussex for first time - From 25 April - 20 May 2015, the Society of Wood Engravers 77th Annual Exhibition will be held at the Kevis House Gallery in Petworth.

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