Helen Vine is an illustrator living and working in the UK. Her work is mainly done in black ink, with some accents of color & gold. Her style conjures up the mystic properties of life, and things that fascinate her; death, life, decay, beauty, power, & want. Each of these themes are sprinkled throughout her illustrations; at once comfortable, & terrifying – sometimes in the same moment. Geisha’s stand or sit in deep thought, turned inward, or calmly taking in the scenes around them. Others look like they’re spewing rivers of the blackest blood from their mouths. This young illustrator is well on her way, already with many out-of-this-world cosmic illustrations… and each one is a treat.
Each image leaves you with something to ponder; whether you’re getting lost in the intricate details of her work, or imagining what the characters are thinking or feeling. Each illustration takes you to another place, where the principles of Japanese aesthetics — in the vein of Yugen — are held in the highest regard. We also get a glimpse into her own personal outlook on the world – like when her soul sinks. She’d hope that some could think of her work in this way: “a profound mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe… and the sad beauty of human suffering.” Filled with:
“A stillness, a subtle elegance and grace of a higher power in the realm of black and white, those of godlike status – The deification of stoic geisha. Japanese gardens, night skies and severed limbs.”
This looking for meaning in black and white illustrations is refreshing. Some people can’t help but create in color, often without rhyme or reason. Or over clutter their work by trying to make things too hectic. In Helen’s illustrations, you can see that there’s plenty of pondering and thought put into every piece. Even the names of her illustrations illicit a feeling, even though she mentions in her interview (below) that that isn’t always the goal. She also talks about spending a bit of time on each illustration, pouring herself into every detail, sometimes to the point of ruining the piece if she doesn’t just put the pen down.
“Drawing is my dialogue; I’ve never been good with words. All that I am is in my work – beautiful execution in visuals; it takes me to another place.”
Helen was kind enough to do a small interview to explain more about her work. Which you are sure to enjoy, and learn something new – whether its about the artist, or Japanese aesthetics. Below is a glimpse into her Modus Operandi. Check out some prints and buy something from her on Society6, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, & Tumblr.
The names of your illustrations are fascinating, what is the story behind them?
“Really the pictures are ineffable to me, so the titles aren’t so much a verbal interpretation. They are just words that sound euphonious to me. Words which have stuck with me, things I’ve heard or learnt about subjects which fascinate me; death, life, decay, beauty, power, want. It’s not really about a meaning, more of an atmosphere, and the combination and arrangement of things to form a feeling; the balance of slight asymmetries and irregularities, getting involved in the details to the point where I have to leave it alone before the page turns black.. Drawing is my dialogue; I’ve never been good with words. All that I am is in my work – beautiful execution in visuals; it takes me to another place.”
What’s your favourite piece you’ve worked on so far? Why?
“I pretty much just went for it with Yayo Epoch. Usually each new piece becomes my favourite and I’m still finding new depths of myself, but Yayo was a transition from where I was and epitomised where I wanted to be with drawing. That doesn’t happen often, a point where you want to disregard all that was before, it’s rare. I learned a lot doing that one, and got a lot of darkness out of me on paper. I looked at those lines for weeks. I buried myself in it.”
Your imagery is filled with cosmic dreamscapes and Japanese influences. What’s the inspiration behind these themes?
“It’s all subconscious to me. I just surround myself with those I admire and learn about subjects that interest me, and it feeds into my work. I’m influenced by traditional Japanese aesthetics and Ukiyo-e, but I wouldn’t say I am entirely inspired by those aspects alone.
For me, the greats nailed it a long time ago, those of Durer’s’ time, also Mucha, Klimt. I take massive inspiration from the different periods of historic art rather than anything too modern. My favourite artists of all time have to include Vania and Chris Odgers, and lately I’m in awe of Anton Vill and Joao Ruas. I like the iconography of black and white and recurring elements which make an artist instantly identifiable.”
“The principles of yugen are what I find in the things I love. When my soul sinks. I’d hope some could think of my work that way..”a profound mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe.. and the sad beauty of human suffering.”
A stillness, a subtle elegance and grace of a higher power in the realm of black and white, those of godlike status – The deification of stoic geisha. Japanese gardens, night skies and severed limbs.”
-Your girl H
Via Helen Vine
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