'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 31 May 2018

Meet the Illustrator: Helene Magisson

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Evocative, atmospheric, dreamy, whimsical and calming.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
Obviously all the materials I need to draw and paint (pencils, brushes, paper, paint etc) and my books. They are my window to the world to keep me inspired.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
I have previously used a few different traditional mediums, but I have a clear preference for watercolour, due to its luminosity and softness. I often combine this with gouache, for its colour intensity.  I stick to these mediums, as I believe working all day and every day will give me a good command of this technique.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Rebecca Dautremer and Shaun Tan.
Jane Ray inspires me a lot for the project I am currently working on.

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
I would love to visit the fabulous period from Late Gothic to Renaissance, when they were building incomparable cathedrals and painting magnificent frescoes. It was a prolific and pivotal period, during which art evolved a great deal. I would like to learn the very special and unique relationship artists of this era had with their materials, and I would travel all over Europe discovering new techniques and pigments and experimenting with new mediums.  I would have so many questions to ask painters like Giotto and, later, Leonardo da Vinci, whose work is just fascinating.

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator?
I think I always wanted to become an illustrator, but it struck me when reading incredible stories to my children and realising how much a picture book could inspire them. I think we should consider, very seriously, the impact illustrations can have on kids. They are so much more than drawings to decorate a text, or to repeat the words. I understood this when I discovered Rebecca Dautremer's work for the first time. Her illustrations complement the text in such an interesting way.  They tell what the words cannot say. I wanted to bring my voice to this field too and it was when I started a new life in Australia that I had the opportunity to illustrate my first book.

Can you share a photo of your creative work space or part of the area where you work most often? Talk us through it.
It might look kind of messy but it isn't. There are brushes, paint tubes, paint buckets and little dishes to mix colours. Everything needs to be at arm's reach. I'm surrounded by books from different artistic periods and painters, as well as picture books. I have inspiring quotes hanging on the walls all around, including one of my favourites by Mark Twain: 'They didn't know it was impossible so they did it'. There's also an interesting collection of gifts from my garden - shells, feathers, herbs and dried flowers. I have one window to follow the changes of the light through the day. When it's open I can hear the birds, the rain, and the wind. This keeps me nicely connected to the world.

What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
I love each part of the work, but my very favourite part is the first step, when I develop the story board. Finding ideas, researching, seeking inspiration everywhere. Drawing, sketching, doodling, and scribbling everything that comes to mind. Exchanging ideas with the art director, the publisher and the author. This really inhabits my mind. I also love the colouring process. There is a lot of satisfaction there.

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
Find your very own style, focus on it, develop and enrich it as far as you can, look all around you, be curious, see the work of artists from all over the world and keep your integrity. In one sentence, be passionate about what you do.

Helene started her artistic career as a painting restorer in Paris, she was also trained in the art of medieval illumination. In 2013, she started a new career in children’s book illustration and has illustrated several books including ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’. She is now working on her tenth book for Walker Books.
You can find out more about Helene by visiting her website.