Actress with a love of art

Source: Lowestoft Journal

AS a character in one of the most popular comedy series ever, you would never expect Helen Atkinson Wood to be sitting on the beach at Walberswick capturing the scene with a set of watercolours.

But for the former Blackadder actress, it is the inspiration of north Suffolk that has given her the drive to pick up the paintbrush again.

Dividing her times between her homes in London and Blythburgh, the stage and screen actress, who is probably best known for her portrayal of Mrs Miggins in Blackadder The Third, is currently seeing her work celebrated in a completely different way with six of her local watercolour scenes taking up residency in Southwold Gallery.

Helen, who studied fine art at Oxford University, saw her passion for art resurface after she took part in Celebrity Watercolour Challenge, which she went on to win.

“I began to love painting again and had forgotten how much I had enjoyed it. Around that time I met someone who was part of a painting group at the church I go to in Blythburgh, Chris Sinclair who is a brilliant inspiration and his wife Wendy. There is a small group of us who have a cup of coffee, a piece and cake and paint.

“They have some really inspiring ideas about painting and I really came back to it. I paint only for pleasure. I have a very good living from my other career and this is something that I decided to venture into, but I do take it very seriously,” she said.

Helen’s first exhibition was in the summer of last year at Walberswick Village Hall but she now plans to provide paintings depicting scenes of Walberswick Church, marshlands, seascapes and images of Blythburgh for as long as the gallery asks for them

She said: “I live and work in London, which is not particularly conducive for painting and drawing, there is no time and space to do it. My dad enjoyed painting and I picked that up from him. I started when I was at school but I knew I wanted to be an actress. I was accepted into the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, which was part of Oxford University and I knew I would get an opportunity to act.”

It was there as a teenager she met her friend and fellow comedian Rowan Atkinson, with whom she still spends her Christmas’ with.

And while starring in a number of productions, she used the theatres she was appearing at to sell some of her paintings.

It was her association with the comedy star that led her to meeting Ben Elton, who years later created the part of Mrs Miggins.

During her career Helen has worked on a variety of productions with Elton including The Young Ones, Happy Families and Silly Cow.

In more recent years she has turned her skills to TV presenting and travel writing as well as being a guest on shows such as Have I Got News For You.

She has joined forces with journalist John Simpson to host Radio Four show travel quiz and recently finished a pilot for a new situation comedy, which also stars actress Liza Goddard.

Aside from her life on the stage and screen and away from the hustle and bustle of her London life, Helen spends time riding her horse Adam, who she always takes to the animal services at Blythburgh Church. She also loves swimming in the sea as often as possible and taking a picnic to a local beauty spot and settling down with her paints.