I came across Helen Musselwhite's work about a year ago, her use of paper, layers, pattern and colour really appealed to me - although her way of working is unfamiliar to my own I took inspiration from her use of pattern and texture when creating my own pieces. When I emailed her to request if she had the time available to answer some questions she kindly sent me an faq page she had created and a PDF explaining her working methods. I've posted them below.
Who/what are your influences?
My influences are many and varied:
The British countryside and its flora and fauna
William Morris and The Arts and Crafts Movement
The pen and ink drawings of Andy Warhol
Traditional Japanese decoration/pattern
1970's textile design
Indian Minature paintings
The list goes on and on..........
Can I buy a piece of artwork?
Yes you can!
You can get in touch with me here firstname.lastname@example.org let me know the artworks you like and I'll tell you the various sizes and prices or visit my Etsy shop.
Where do you create your art?
I work from a studio in my home. It was a dining room but now is filled to the brim with work related things (much to the disgust of my gent as he has just a couple of shelves and is allowed on the Mac occasionally!!) Our dog is definitely NOT allowed in as he likes the taste of paper a bit too much......
What is your favourite paper stock?
I love all paper!
Watercolour paper is a favourite because of its many textures and weights and I've recently started to paint it in a solid colour with a dry brush to add texture and variety. I love an art shop and am always on the lookout for new paper stocks.
What is the process you use to start yout work, do you sketch? Or just use the paper?
My pieces usually start with some words and a really quick thumbnail sketch which I enlarge as I find the first sketch captures some spontaneity which is hard to replicate again.
I use tracing paper to work out the layers and to transfer the line drawing onto the reverse of the paper. I usually know how I want a piece to look in my head before I start so the process is quite controlled, although the piece will sometimes change and evolve as I work on it.
I have a bank of characters which crop up fairly often in my self initiated work.
How long does an artwork take to make?
The truth is I don't really know I don't sit down and time myself to the minute! I get very carried away when I'm working and quite often lose track of time.....
But the smallest size of framed artwork takes around an hour if it's a repeat design, a larger piece could take up to 40hrs or more!
Process of work
From concept drawings to final artwork around 40 – 50 hrs
I never really time myself as I’m usually working on at least 2 projects at the same time.
The cutting and then placement/gluing takes time as the client will have seen a photo of the
final artwork before I glue so I have to replicate that precisely.
There are lots of layers in my work so before its glued down sudden movement or an unexpected sneeze can be catastrophic!
I start each piece with a rough thumbnail sketch which I enlarge to around 150% of the print
Then I trace the layout and draw the elements in more detail. Next is working out the number of layers which I then trace separately.
Then I trace each layer in reverse and onto
the reverse of the paper so the pencil lines wont be seen.
Then comes the cutting which is done mostly with a scalpel, sometimes a small pair of embroidery scissors, needless to say I get through an awful amount of scalpel blades!
Then I add height to the layers using mount board and foam board which I glue to the reverse of the elements, then finally I glue all the layers elements together.
When designing the illustration for the Stylist cover I looked back at some of my self initiated artworks from the last couple of years that were based around the story of Sleeping Beauty and took some of the colours and feel of these, after discussions with Clare/Adriano I added a pop of red colour and some key characters/elements of other fairytales that were relevant to the brief.
Brambles/thorns also played a big part in the design becoming the frame for the piece and growing up through the Stylist logo.
I was really very excited to read Clares' initial email inviting my to illustrate the cover of Stylist and it was a bit of a no brainer what my answer would be!
As I worked I emailed photos of my progress to the design team and we worked together making minor adjustments until we were happy with the outcome. They were really clear from the outset what they were looking for from me so it was a great project to work on. not to mention the fact that Stylist is such a well read and distributed magazine.
It makes my heart skip a beat thinking that my illustration will be on the cover and I can't wait to see it in print.