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  • Emily Jarvie

The Inspiration Behind Hells Belles Art

Updated: Jun 25

Originally from Chelmsford, Essex, Helen Zwerdling is an artist now happily living in Crail with her cat assistant and muse, Luna. Alongside anything magical and whimsial, her passions are cats, books, Paris and all things witchy, and these are all themes that pervade her intricate artwork.



My drawings are all created in pen and ink, after an initial pencil sketch that can take many hours - or even days! - in itself. I prefer working in fine line pen, as it lends itself well to all the intricate details I like to add into my artwork. People tend to say they can look at my work for a long time, or indeed come to it, and discover new things within.


I have always loved art and drawing since I was a child, and I imagined studying it at degree level and pursuing a career involving art in some way. However, due to an awful art teacher at GCSE level, I never studied art any further. My path took a different turn; my degree was in Philosophy, Religion and Ethics and my MA in Healthcare Ethics and Law. Now, I like to draw and write in my spare time, and my dream is to write and illustrate a book.


My artworks tend to centre on all the things I love and am interested in. So, there are many, many cats, books, literary quotes and witches adorning the pages of my sketchpad. I've always loved, and had an affinity with, cats and have had the pleasure of knowing many wonderful cat souls in my life. I lost my beloved soulmate cat, Ambrose, last year. He was my muse, cat assistant extraordinaire and company keeper whilst I drew. The process of creating won't be the same without him, but now when I'm drawing, I feel that I'm keeping him close by. I now have my beautiful black cat Luna, my familiar, to oversee and quality control my work.


Maybe because I was born on Halloween, I've always been interested in witches, paganism and magic too. I like my artworks to be light-hearted, to make you smile, but also with a touch of whimsy. I've always loved the art of silhouette, especially the fairy-tale silhouettes of Jan Pienkowski, who also illustrated Meg and Mog - again, cats and witches appear!


I'm also fascinated by patron saints and their lives and history, and making their stories come alive in a picture. Naturally, I had to draw St Gertrude of Nivelles - Patron Saint of Cats and Gardens, and I most recently drew Hildegard of Bingen, who I found fascinating to research - what an incredibly gifted woman. I studied Philosophy, Religion and Ethics for my undergrad degree and my halls were on the grounds of a convent. I will always smile when I remember seeing a nun riding a bike around the grounds with a bunny rabbit in the basket! I'm happy to continue my fascination with philosophy and different beliefs within my artwork.


Another love of mine is Paris - I'm sure in another life I was an artist there! And now, of course, I'm very lucky to live in beautiful Crail, so Scotland is increasingly becoming an inspiration for my artwork. I hope to compelte more Fife related artworks this year, including the Witches of Fife and, of course, Fife Felines!


You can find a selection of Helen's prints at Peggy's Emporium, 141 South Street (in-store only).

The complete Hells Belles collection is available to browse and buy on Helen's Etsy storefront: etsy.com/uk/shop/HellsBellesArt

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