I've been an admirer of the work of Helen Lang from Wetpaint ever since I saw one of her gorgeous colourful prints in a lovely design shop in Nottingham a few years ago. I then saw her designs on some books in Waterstones and was really drawn to the colours and subject matter. As you know I'm a huge fan of birds and trees so another reason I love Helen's work. Helen is based in London and has worked with an impressive array of clients, including John Lewis and Harper Collins Publishing.
I feel honoured to have Helen's delightful sketchbooks on the blog this week. I asked her about her sketchbooks and her creative processes and this is what she had to say....
Before we start, tell us a little about yourself/how did you get into art/craft/design career and how it all started and where you are now
Hullooo.. okay, well I now describe myself as a freelance illustrator, 3 years into my fulltime freelancing career. I’ve always drawn and created work for family and friends and was also previously employed in creative roles. My first being that of a product designer in a greeting card and cracker manufacturing company. I also worked for over 5 years as an illustration agent and in my more recent past I worked in the creative design team at an art and card publishing company
However, in late 2010 I started to realise that I wanted to explore the talent I felt I had and I day dreamt of going freelance. I started to draw up a list of things I wanted to achieve and had some very strong goals in my mind. Slowly through a series of happenings, (meeting my current partner who was extremely supportive about my ideas, the company that I then worked for going into insolvency and the death of my grandmother) and working on new ideas and taking part in exhibitions, my work started to evolve and I began to explore a new style and approach to my work. I became more dedicated to finding out what I could achieve in my own artwork after years of supporting, promoting and researching other artists and designers.
How long have you been using sketchbooks?Essentially I've been using sketchbooks from when I was a kid. When I was really little it was sheets of wallpaper stapled together to make a book and then when I was older I used to thread together sheets of folded coloured and flouro paper from my dads work (he was a printer so I used all the off cuts) and made sketchbooks out of that. More recently though its A4 in shape and is usually a Pukka pad or a little A5 moleskine one I keep in my bag with me.
How often do you sketch?
I have to hold my hands up and say I don’t sketch enough. I have spurts of ideas on themes that I want to explore so my pukka pads and notebooks are usually stuffed with old bits of paper or invoices I’ve drawn on the back of in a hurry. Its all just stuffed into the cover of the sketchpad and kept
How do you feel about the prospect of starting a new sketchbook?Love the feel of a new sketchbook but I think I have a tendency to get a bit precious about the first page so I usually get one or some of the kids in the family to draw on the first couple of pages to break it in !!
When/where do you get your inspiration for your sketchbook pages?I'm a massive fan of pinterest at present. Its a great resource of ideas and knowledge of artists old & new. Work and artwork inspiration can also come from absolutely anywhere! I get inspired by lettering on old packaging, graffiti, music flyers, interior and music magazines, album covers, engravings, adverts etc; inspiration and influence really comes from everywhere.
How would you describe your creative process?
Lots of thinking, tea drinking and procrastinating…and then a big flurry of ideas and trying to get things down on paper !! …And a steady hand when creating the final artwork
Have your sketchbooks evolved over the years and if so, how?I think my sketchbooks have remained relatively constant -‐ I’m not sure if that's a good or bad thing? I think I can be a little formulaic in my approach and that is something I hope to change with some new line markers and pens. I used to draw a lot in biro initially which leaves no room for correction or editing and more recently in a very fine pencil which allows more control over the line and small mark making detail.
What is your favourite medium to work with?I work initially in pencil and then artwork final pieces in gouache and a very thin sable brush.I love the flow of a line with a brush and ink. However saying that more recently I’ve become aware of some amazing looking calligraphic marker pens which I’m going to purchase and test over the next few months.
Do you have a favourite sketchbook?Not really if I’m honest. But I do like to look back and see the development of work and ideas and will often return to pages or characters that I’ve previously created and develop them into something more detailed and finished.
Well, I'm sure you will all agree it's been fascinating to hear all about Helen's work. If you want to find out more about her you can check out her website here