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A passion for sketching

Posted by Leslie Anderson  August 18, 2011 09:03 AM

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1 Sketchbooks.JPG
Photos by Perry Norton

If you are riding on the train one day, or perhaps sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, don’t be surprised to look up and find someone with a big fat notebook sketching you. That will be Helen Cohen who likes nothing better than sketching what she sees, who she sees, what she does. “It’s such fun,” she says, “and there’s always something to do.”

Helen, a graduate of Massachusetts College of Art, draws and paints in a variety of mediums including graphite (pencil), Chinese ink, colored pencils, pastels, pen and ink, and watercolors. She believes most strongly that in order to paint you must be able to draw, and many of her works, even some of her favorite pieces, are essentially drawings, her principal focus being floral arrangements.

She talks modestly about several exhibits of her work that have been shown at various venues around the area; also a one-artist program on Newton’s New TV Channel. This, however, is not what it’s about for Helen. Her personal reward appears to come from doing what she enjoys and being able to produce what pleases her.

Helen remembers that as a youngster, her favorite thing to do was to draw and make paper dolls. She also remembers, with much delight, the years she spent with her grandchildren when they were growing up and introduced the fun of drawing not only to them but also to their friends. During that time, Helen held a small play group at her home, and she still recalls happily all the kids spread out with their sketch pads on her kitchen floor.

2 Alphabet book (1).JPGEven today, she says, she sees those kids, attends their weddings and important “events,” feels like part of their families. It pleases her no end that her grandson, who has his own apartment for the first time, has asked for several of her pieces (including one of her favorite watercolors) to hang in his own home. Even though her 2 ½ year old great grandson now lives in Seattle, Helen feels very much of a part his life. When he was born, she created a personally drawn alphabet book that was just for him. No other one like it!

In the years since her grandchildren have grown and taken off pursuing their own lives, Helen has spent more time than ever with her drawings and paintings. As mentioned earlier, she works in a variety of mediums and sometimes even combines several mediums in an unusual way. In this primarily watercolor scene for instance, she has added pen and ink to highlight the nuances she hopes to capture:

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Here she shows a comparison between red beets drawn in colored pencil in one instance and watercolor in another:

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Another unusual choice – watercolor for food! Seductive enough to eat?

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Pastels – perfect for capturing and retaining the beauty of a special occasion bouquet:

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Graphite (pencil), as in this piece which she calls “Tools of the Trade”:

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Helen and her family are life-long residents of the Boston area. Her son is David Cohen who recently completed his third term as mayor of Newton. Helen now lives in Lasell Village, the on-campus retirement community at Lasell College in Auburndale.

Myril Axelrod has been a writer for newspapers, magazine and professional journals for many years. She was a reporter for the New York newspaper PM and a vice president of Young and Rubicam advertising agency. She was a pioneer in adapting focus groups and in-depth interviewing for the marketing community. For the past four years she has lived at Lasell Village in Newton.

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