Art Mum

Artist and art teacher Local Mum Helena Vaughan is blogging for us about all things artistic

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Creating art online - pixels and so much more

Don’t want to get the paints out? Shudder at the thought of glitter? Stuck without glue? Have you tried getting creative online!?

We’re all aware of the advice to steer away from screen time but if we use it the right way it can be very beneficial. There’s a wide range of apps that offer free ways to create but where do you start and how can it be worthwhile?

The following options are available free online, mostly with no need to register or download software. You just create online and download your artwork when you save it.

Now, bear with me as it might get a bit techy further down, but there’s help at hand! So, here are my suggestions to get you started.

For the little ones


If your kids love Minecraft, emojis or pixel based art then this is right up their street! 

Create fun and easy artwork by colouring in the pixels. The toolbar on the left is easy to navigate and then you either select colours from the palette on the right or choose your own.

Pixilart - Free online pixel art drawing tool


Pixilart screen

For the big kids (and you!)

This is where it gets a bit more daunting for those not familiar with this way of creating, but hang in there, it’s honestly not that scary if you start the right way!

If your kids are secondary or college age and they’re studying a creative subject, like art, design technology or media, then this could be a real boost for them working from home. I teach many teenagers who are severely limited without the access to educational facilities at home, mostly a lack access to Photoshop unless parents are willing or able to pay for it.

I’m also aware that many parents are increasingly looking for ways to move their business online and this can involve the need to upskill. If you’re creating marketing, branding or even a website then a few digital creative skills could help you go far.


I recently bought a new laptop and have been testing out Photopea to see how long I can live without paying for Photoshop. It’s been about a month of intensive professional testing now and I can honestly say that Photopea has passed the test! 

Ok, so it can’t cope with animation and it has less brush options but for pretty much everything else I’ve found it comparable to Photoshop. Its layout will be familiar to Photoshop users and it allows you to save your work as .psd files, Photoshop documents that include layers.

Basically, if you use Photoshop but don’t have it at home, you can’t go far wrong using Photopea.

Photopea | Online Photo Editor


Photopea screen

Want to learn how to use Photopea?

Apologies if that sounded a bit techy (I did warn at the start!) but here’s the help I promised.

If you’re not familiar with Photoshop and reading this wishing you were in order to understand it then don't worry. I runa workshops designed to introduce beginners to Photopea.

Find out more at about Helena’s work on her website:



Other alternatives for you to try


Pixlr-e is the more advanced version of Pixlr-x and more worth your time. It’s a pretty good alternative to Photoshop and has served my students well. So anyone familiar with the Photoshop layout will generally be fine navigating around the Pixlr-e functions.

Many of the Photoshop functions can be found in Pixlr-e, though many are in different dropdowns so just need a bit of looking around for. There are some clunky moments when it’s a bit simple but hey, it’s free!

Photo Editor : Pixlr E - free image editing tool

There are many tutorials online showing how to use Pixlr-e. Mostly hosted by clued up teens wanting subscribers, which might be fine for your teens, or there’s a wide range of videos to help you on the Pixlr YouTube channel Pixlr - YouTube

Canva- easy to use graphic templates good for beginners

Snapseed- photo editor phone app Snapseed App | Download Online Photo Editing App

Online or offline, it can be possible if you have a creative idea. Sometime it just depends on the best tools for the job...or what’s available to you at the time!

Home is where your art is

So we’re turning homes into classrooms again and filling it with educational inspiration, as long as the table is clear in time for dinner! Is it possible to cope with teaching our kids how to be creative without stressing out? After all, art is meant to be good for our mental welling isn’t it!?

Well, I can tell you now that even as a mum, professional artist and art teacher it can be hard!!! After trying to inspire my art students via online Zoom lessons and trying to keep my house in order I’ll admit that I then struggle to smile and say “come on kids, let’s get creative!”

But fear not! Sometimes we just might need reminding how easy it can be to have a little fun and learn some new things along the way. I mean, we all surely want to score brownie points by having fun with our kids while they enjoy learning.

So if you don’t know quite where to start or worried you don’t have the right art materials to hand, here are five inspiring websites that I’ve found to help you out...

Kate Marsden (Made by Mrs M) Art Blog

Kate is a Carshalton based artist and is always busy doing something inspiring. During the pandemic I’ve been following her creative journey with her son Tom as she’s introduced him to a world of new artists and techniques. Together they’ve marbled, block printed, sculpted, created window displays and even put together an exhibition for visiting lego folk to showcase their achievements.

As a regular blogger, Kate has an extensive list of posts covering everything from workshops, exhibitions, interior design and interviews with other local artists.

So whether you fancy trying some of Kate and Tom’s ideas or just looking for some creative life tips, I full recommend checking out this blog.



Happiness is Homemade

The tag line for this website is ’50+ Quick and Easy Kids Crafts that ANYONE Can Make!’ and scrolling down the page it certainly looks action packed with plenty of ideas. Raid your recycling bin for toilet roll tubes and tin cans, dig out the paper plates and stock up on glue sticks.



It’s Always Autumn

Another 50 ideas! This time it’s a mix of arts and crafts but with a mix of fun activities, engineering ideas and even a hint of Taskmaster!



Tate Kids

Art, kids and education combine beautifully in this collection of making ideas, games and quizzes, videos and gallery of kids art. Obviously not as good as a real life visit to the Tate but it could possibly be the next best thing!




We all know Hobbycraft stock a wide range of art and craft materials and luckily they’re only an online shopping basket way from equipping you with all sorts of goodies. But at the risk of sounding like I’m providing free advertising, I’m actually listing them as they have a load of great creative ideas on their website. Ok yes, some ideas might require you making some purchases but others certainly don’t so it’s worth taking a look.



So good luck and go for it! Making some of these ideas together could be just what you need this lockdown. 

Find out more at about Helena’s work on her website:

Art in the time of CAOS
Have you ever wandered into an artist’s studio and had a chance to talk to them about their artwork? If you have then you might be familiar with the concept of ‘artists open studios’. These events happen all over the country, usually each summer, but in this current situation of course these events are largely postponed or cancelled this year.

In recent years Carshalton Artists have been opening their studios and welcoming thousands of visitors on a trail of amazing locations. This year ‘CAOS’ will be a little different and renamed Carshalton Artists ONLINE Studios. Launching on Saturday 27th June it will run for one week up until the end of Sunday 5th July and the great thing is that you don’t event have to be local!

Initially the Open Studios event was cancelled this year, due to the current Covid19 crisis. However, after two months of some of their artists running hugely successful workshops and selling their work on-line during the lockdown, they thought why not do CAOS online? Neal Vaughan, founder of Carshalton Artists and organiser of the Open Studios event said “we just realised there must be a way to still deliver this event. Lots of people were saying how they were going to miss it and so we have worked hard to make it happen”.

This hugely popular open studios event is one of the biggest in London, attracting over 3000 visitors every year to artist’s studios and local heritage centres. There will continue to be the incredibly talented local artists that CAOS is known for, but with free and inclusive online workshops and demonstrations on the Carshalton Artists event website

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Highlights of CAOS this year will include, for the kids:

·       Exclusive Roald Dahl storytelling with Andy Copps reading ‘Billy & the Minpins’

·       Duck Story Time with Helena Vaughan reading ‘Duck’s Lucky Day’ and ‘Duck Gets Stuck’

·       Underwater painting with Jo Sharpe


For the mums (& other adults!):

·       Printmaking demos with Simon Burder

·       Drawing in the landscape Youtube live demo with Neal Vaughan

·       Art Club with Neal Vaughan

·       Textile Workshop with Kate Marsden

·       How to create your own digital art workshop with Helena Vaughan

·       Meet the Artist Q&A online with Helena Vaughan

·       Hearts for Heroes with Adrienne Roberts raising money for the NHS and to be displayed at the Royal Marsden

·       Open Streets art on the streets

·       Water Trail themed website quiz with a chance to enter our prize draw

Visit for full event details.


Other open studios in SW London and Surrey
Open studios events happen all over the country but locally it’s worth checking out the links below. Although not happening this summer, you can check out details of events happening later this year and get to know some of the artists working near to you.








Open your windows to the world
Windows have seen a few trends in recent weeks, from rainbows and teddies to NHS hearts and VE Day bunting. So, what else is trendy? How about ‘Open Windows’?

Open Windows is an on-going concept that has already been a social media phenomenon in recent years and now taken on a new significance during the current lockdown, giving people access to artwork they could not have seen otherwise.

Check out #Openwindows2020 on social media using these links to see what it’s all about:



So whilst Carshalton Artists didn’t invent this idea it’s been incorporated into CAOS20 in order to bring it to a wider audience and allow everyone to display their artwork in their community. So why not join in by displaying your artwork in your windows too?

Take a photo and tell a story


What day is it? What month is it? We’re all still in the middle of this strange situation and the kids still need entertaining and educating. Fun, creative stuff is good for scoring points so here are my latest ideas to hopefully inspire you.

 The other day we had great fun being inspired by German photographer Jan von Holleben. He creates photographic portraits of magical and humorous scenes using every day objects that you can find around your house. Get your camera up high and take photos of characters laying on the ground with props arranged around them and bingo! The results can be imaginative and highly effective.

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 Credit- Jan von Holleben

Check out more of Holleben’s work for ideas at

So, it was a sunny day in the garden, daddy was up the step ladder and the kids had raided the house for props. We took it in turns to come up with ideas and help each other to film them. We created animations but photos can but just as much fun.




This is a great way to be silly together but it’s great for several reasons:

·      Working as a team to instruct each other

·      Thinking about how to compose and arrange an image

·      Creative use of everyday objects

·      Creating narrative (you can tell a story in a single photo or an animation)

·      Thinking about how images look from a different viewpoint (kids can instruct what they want the camera to see)


Here are my creative tips:

·      We did it in full sun but try to do it in shade or indoors to avoid getting blinded!

·      Think about telling a story or creating a character

·      Look at objects around your house creatively

·      Use paper cut outs for letters or shapes

·      What can you use as a background?

·      If you don’t have much space then take close up head shots

·      Think about how and where you position your props (take test photos)

·      Make sure your camera is directly above, avoiding angles


Now you might be thinking that you've seen all this somewhere before. Well, Aardman Animation were doing it way before Wallace and Gromit. Check out the Peter Gabriel Sledgehammer video for some more ideas…and maybe a little boogie around the living room!

Credit- Aardman Animation


Online Art Club
If you’re itching to try your hand at a bit of sketching or painting whilst chatting with artists in the comfort of your home then why not join Neal Vaughan’s Art Club.

Don’t think you have to be highly skilled, as long as you’re willing to give it a go and see what happens it’s all really relaxed. Each week several local artists, from areas including Carshalton, Cheam, Wimbledon and Banstead, attend along with a mix of others who either wish to get back into art or enjoy it as a hobby and fancy trying a new approach.

Artist and art teacher Neal Vaughan hosts these themed sessions live online most Sunday’s 10am-12pm. All details of how to join in are posted on his ‘Neal Vaughan Artwork’ facebook page and in the ‘Carshalton Artists’ facebook group. Take a look and you can see artwork from the sessions run so far.

Each week prompts are posted in advance so you know what you’ll need and what the exercises will be. Themes so far have been portrait and still life and more are planned in upcoming weeks. 

So get your pencils and paper ready, put the kettle on, get comfortable and see what happens. Kids are welcome to join in and if you don’t follow all the prompts it’s fine, just have fun!

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If this gets you in the mood for more, here are some other artist run online events that are worth a look:

·      DOUG SHAW ‘CHALK & TALK’: Mondays and Wednesdays at 1pm. Enjoy a mix of good conversation and drawing skills


·      JUDIT MATTHEWS: Wednesdays 7-8pm and Saturdays 10-11am, sessions are £5


·      MARIA LEE ‘ARTY HEARTY LIFE’: Paint along sessions, tickets are £5

Stay safe and well. I’ll be back with more ideas very soon!



Somewhere Over The Rainbow

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Just like many of you right now, I’m at home with my husband and kids. Working from home while home schooling the kids and making the most of family time. Our rainbow shines out from our front window and we’ve so far generated five weeks of artwork…and still going...

I appreciate that I’m really lucky. As both myself and my husband are artists and art teachers we don’t often struggle for ideas or art materials and we have the space to create. Everyone will have different amounts of these so I know we can’t all realistically whip up masterpieces every day. 

The aim of this blog will be to inspire ideas and creative ways of thinking for all ages. I’ll also share as many activities and events as I can. So to start with let’s look at the current situation and see what you could maybe make from it…

Inspiring ideas
To avoid staring at a blank piece of paper waiting for a light bulb moment, think about these as starting points and then see where they take you:

Use what you know - Artists are often inspired by their everyday lives, personal objects, views of their home environment, portraits of family and memories

Mix things up - Still life artists arrange objects (food, flowers etc) on tables so look at what’s around your house, surrealist artists combine random objects with sometimes humorous results (check out Salvador Dali’s ‘Lobster Telephone’), cutting out magazine images and mixing them with drawing can be fun

Childish thoughts - So often in life we have to guide our kids. Here’s a chance to listen to your kids and if they’re anything like mine they’ll come up with some pretty crazy ideas! Have fun, join in and find your inner child!

Look at what you like - Look at artwork you like online. Stop and think about why you like it- theme, colours, technique etc. Don’t worry about trying to recreate the image. How can you recreate what you like about it? Explore the theme, use the same colours or try the technique.  Take what you like and make it your own.

Art materials
So you could order a load of materials online but you most likely have some useful things around the house to help that might otherwise just go in the bin!

Here are some things I use:

Magazines/newspapers- for collage or paper weaving

Cardboard food boxes- you can open them up and use the card surface inside

Plastic food tub lids- these make good paint pallets

Sticks, stones, leaves etc- arranged to make temporary art indoors or outdoors

Windows can help with tracing images if you hold paper up to them

Below are some photos of some of the creations we’ve come up so far since staying at home, including some of the materials listed.

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Mixed media rainbow- paint, food boxes mosaic and felt pen doodles

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Patterns traced on a window- draw a ‘swatch’ section then keep moving it around and tracing it to create a repeat pattern.

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Paper animal shapes decorated with coloured stones.

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We took a dragon for a walk and he ended up in a tree! He made it home safe.

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A delivery box is now a cinema. There’s lots of films to watch on the interchangeable screen and film posters on all the walls.

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Sock bunnies came to visit at Easter and have now moved in! 

Art can keep us going, it can connect family and friends, it can bring joy, make us think and see. Even if you don’t create it, perhaps just take time to look at it... 

Check out these links to view my artwork and other local artists:


About Helena
"Drawing is my first passion but I use a mix of hand and digital techniques to achieve a variety of effects. I find that combining pencil drawings with digital colour in Photoshop allows me to express myself and produce work efficiently. My designs are inspired from wherever I find shape, structure and colour.  

"In the last two years I’ve also written and printed two children’s picture books (one self published) and have further books in the pipeline.

"I studied fine art, graphics and animation to degree level before working in the media industry for ten years. I now teach Art and Design part time as well as producing and selling my work. I also run craft market stalls and workshops alongside school visits and professional practice talks.”

Find out more at about Helena’s work on her website:

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