Beautiful illustrations where you will lose yourself in fantasy for a moment when you see them, is how I would describe my interaction with the work of talented illustrator Helena Grimes. She is what I could only describe as a lady. A creator of beautiful pieces that I would love to have hanging in my home to look at when I want to escape from the real world. She is an artist through and through. We chat to Helena at the Fusion HQ to get to know about her life, work and inspirations.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I am 22 and hail from a small farm in the countryside of Dromard, Co. Longford. I moved down to Limerick when I started studying printmaking and Fine Art in Limerick School of Art and Design and I am now practicing art here full time. Limerick is very different from where I come from but I always feel there is something exciting bubbling under the surface. When I go home to Longford I tend to switch off, which is easy when you are surrounded by nothing but fields.
Can you tell me about your art?
My drawings aredistinctivelyhairy and furry! I am addicted to drawing and making lines and marks. It always feels like something I need to be doing. My work comes from my inner thoughts on society mixed in heavily with my imagination. I always come backto the same themes of anxiety, power, greed, love, vanity, and degeneration.I like to think of my work as individual fables.
When did you first start to draw?
I can’t remember when I wasn’t drawing. I used to draw everywhere, in my siblings copybooks, encyclopaedias or any piece of paper I could find in the house. I mainly used my Dad’s biros – that might be why he always complainedabout never being able to find a pen. When I was small I used to draw “stories” that were going round in my head and things from my imagination. I always describe drawing as my sport. I was always happiest inside drawing in school when it rained rather than playing footballoutside with everyone else. Thankfully my friends, teachers and family were always encouraging of my art and still are.
What or who are your inspirations?
I am inspired by people, society and life and how everything is represented. That is generally where my concepts stem from. Visually my inspiration comes from fairytales, video games, photography, and anything that tells stories with pictures. I’m obsessed with the work of Gabriel Moreno, Christina Mrozik, Pat Perry, Marco Mazzoni, AdonnaKhare, Beth CavenerStichter’s and fellow Irish artist Denise Nester. My everyday inspiration would have to be my other half. Barry is the one that gets me up off my ass on the days where I just can’t. He believes in me more than I do myself. As cheesy as it sounds…
What is your style?
Lines and scratches. I tend to use the animalfrequently in my drawings, even though the work is nearly always about people. To me the animal is pure and innocent; less threatening and is also more universal. I tend to use them to tell stories about people and society; they are like my shields or secret language that allows me to say what I want without the fear. My work used to be very monochromatic but colour is something I am getting back in touch with. It’s funny, ever since finishing Art College I feel freer, like no one is watching and I am less afraid of making mistakes and can do what I want. I also love titling my work; it’s like another side to the canvas. I tend to always look to idioms or old sayings to aid this. I like when my work can have many meanings depending on who is looking at it.
What is your process in creating a piece?
I first ask myself what I want to say and how I feel about that. I then spend hours and hourscollecting and looking through imagery. I then make digital or mental collages. This is then followed by a small bit of sketchbook work-not too much though- as once I have an idea I just want to start the final piece.I am trying to practice slowing down a bit more these days though. Finally, a pen, paper, green tea, music and inner battles arewhat comes into play. I get lost in my own world at this stage. It is my favourite place. Depending on if I am going to be making the work into prints I bring the piece into the Photoshop where I can add colour or do light editing.
What areas are most successful in your line of work?
My artwork has thankfully gotten a great response in exhibitions nationally and internationally. I really enjoy getting involved in exhibitions. It opens up opportunities to meet new people and discover new work from other artists. I was delighted to be selected to exhibit one of my large degree show drawings ‘Outcast’ at an Emerging Artist Exhibition up in Dublin last September where it was bought by the curator. The idea of it taking place in someone’s home is very satisfying as it was the longest I ever spent on a piece. One of the nicest stories I heard about someone who bought one of my pieces was during the Visual Arts Open Exhibition in the Higher Bridges Gallery in Enniskillen last year. A little girl went to the exhibition with her school and spotted one of my pieces. She went home that evening to her Mam and asked if she would go with her the next day and help her buy my drawing. She used all the money she saved over the last number of years to buy it all by herself. I nearly felt guilty at first but it meant so much to me that my work could have had such an effect on such a young person.
My freelance illustration work is probably the most successful to date and my bread and butter. I do a lot of artwork for Rye River Brewery Co. in Kilcock in particular with their craft beer McGargles. I also have done editorial and book illustrations. I have a micro business in wedding stationery which is something I have been doing for over three years and it is what got me through college. I love illustration. I love when someone comes to you with an idea and you can bring it to life.
What are the difficulties in your field?
One of the biggest difficulties like all artists is getting recognition. I am not the most outspoken or outgoing person. I enjoy it more when I’m in smaller groups and havingone-on-one meaningfulinteractions. Everyday motivation is also a tricky one. When artist block hits it’s a very dark place!
And finally, where can we see your beautiful work?
You can visit my website www.helenagrimes.com. You can also follow and interact with my adventures through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Behance, Etsy and Pinterest.
Interview by: Michelle Costello
Image collaboration by Tarmo Tulit – www.tarmotulit.com & Helena Grimes – www.helenagrimes.com