Meet Helen, a 24 year old artists working with illustration, murals, film and poetry. Helen comes from Yorkshire and studied Art and Design at Cumbria Institute of the Arts and Graphic design at Northumbria University and has been living in Edinburgh for last two years. We met at Under Dogs on Hanover Street.
You studied Graphic Design but currently work with illustration. When did you decide to make that move?
I originally wanted to do theatre design in my foundation year but during that time I moved away from that to graphic design. In my second year of university I realised I want to work with illustration a bit more and the course gave me a freedom to work with illustration projects.
What questions occupied you as a student and what influences your work at the moment?
There’s been a change in the way I was thinking when I was at university and the way I do now. When I was a student I was very political in my work and I was eager to make my mark by creating very bold, often quite contentious pieces. Since then I’ve seen more of a shift between my creative endeavours and my political stance. I’m happy to indulge in both, but separately and now my work tends to be a lot more light hearted, quirky and funny.
I recently read an article by Sarah Thornton in which she says that upon graduation from art school, many artists are hesitant to declare themselves an artist.
Yes, I would call myself an artist. I think, often, the consensus in the art world, and beyond, is that if you’re making money out of your work then you are an artist. In my opinion it’s completely the wrong way to think about it and because of that the art world can be quite elitist in a way.
Many of the commissions I’ve done in the past were free and that meant I could really enjoy my work and have the freedom to be creative. I think if art is something that occupies a lot of your time and its something you enjoy then there’s nothing wrong with openly declaring yourself an artist.
Tell us about your latest projects.
I’m currently working on a poetry/prose pamphlet cover for ReadThisPress, it’s going to be in honour of Adrienne Rich, a brilliant poet who recently passed away. It’ll be called Creatrix: Women Writers on Truth and it will feature the work of several female writers. It’s a great project and I’m over the moon to be involved.
In terms of bigger projects I’m currently working on an Beatles themed project, a book of illustrations of their ‘people songs’ e.g. Eleanor Rigby, Rocky Raccoon and Mean Mr Mustard. I’m loving this because I’m a huge Beatles fan and its really helping me to work on character design.
What was the most challenging project you were working to date?
I think the most challenging one so far has been the mural at the Glue Factory in Glasgow. I was working with my friend Laura Mossop to create a mural of Edinburgh, featuring the work of 100 poets. I’ve never done something that big before, it was really good fun but I think we could have done with a bit more planning.
Tell us a bit more about the way you work.
I tend to vary the mediums I work with, so sometimes I’ll just sketch and then take that onto the computer and work on it digitally, sometimes I go for more traditional methods like watercolour pencils and oil pastels, but often it’ll be a mix of some or all of the these.
You also experiment with film. Could you tell me a little bit more about that? When did it start?
I suppose I first started making films by creating little montages for my friends, and I found that I really enjoyed editing. While I was in uni I made a couple of films to mix things up a bit and my final major project was a film project. I mainly shoot landscapes, I especially like to film snow! I’ve done a couple of bits and pieces for an Edinburgh based film project over the past couple of years, which has been really interesting.
What keeps you going when illustration gets you down?
I have quite a few creative friends and generally talking to them helps. Sometimes you have these moments when you think you’re just gonna give up and work for a call centre for rest of your life, so it’s very good to have people around who reassure you and tell you it’ll be fine.
You’ve been living in Edinburgh for 2 years; what are your favourite spots in the city?
I like old town a lot. I absolutely loved The Forest Cafe and it’d be great to see it up and running again. I really love the Museum of Scotland, it’s a great place to go and draw or just to find inspiration. Edinburgh is so lucky in it’s galleries, there’s so much choice but I think my favourite is probably The City Art Centre. And there is obviously Analogue Books, which I love, its fantastic they sell so many zines and support independent publishing, I’m an Analogue addict.
Forest Cafe, you either love it or hate it. Tell me a bit more about what you enjoyed in that place.
The Forest was such a great space, and it was really impressive for a not-for-profit, volunteer run venue. There was the Total Kunst gallery which was brilliant, there were so many spoken word, music and film nights and the vibe was always really positive. Everyone who went there was just very friendly and up for meeting new people and sharing experience. Another great thing about the Forest was ForestPress which published all kinds of things from comics to poetry zines and its such a shame that its no longer there. There’s a very big void in Edinburgh where Forest used to be, but hopefully we’ll see Edinburgh’s creative minds coming together to fill the void with something just as wonderful!
Thank you Helen!
Check out Helen’s blog here
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