Helena Pallarés Illustrator Interview

Helena Pallarés

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Can you recall the first time you realized you were going to be an illustrator? What were your earliest impressions?
I never realized I was going to be an illustrator in a precise moment. I guess it has come with time, little by little. I remember, when I was a child, I loved drawing, singing and writing but always from a very natural and innocent point of view. I didn’t realize that it was actually possible to make a living making art.

Who or what influenced your art when you were young?
Probably cinema and music were the greatest influences because my parents encouraged me to know and appreciate many movies, illustrators, and styles of music. I realize now, it has had a huge influence on my work. Music and classic cinema are always present, in my mind, when I conceive of an image.
It was later, when I began university, that I discovered graphic design. I started to take into account things like composition, symmetry, and color.
Do you remember what your first artwork looked like? Do you still have it?
No, I don’t remember my first artwork, but I guess it was some kind of craft for school; or maybe a comic. I loved to draw comics about my family or my friends when I was little.

Why did you choose illustration as your life’s work instead of, for example, filmmaking, law, or even medicine?
I think that illustration chose me since it was really hard for me to make a decision about what I wanted to do. The only thing that was clear to me was that I wanted to make art. I also wanted to study cinema and become a film director or to make music and sing. I was too shy though, to become a singer. Working as an illustrator allows me to express myself in a more personal and intimate way.

Did you study art in school?
Yes, I first earned a degree in graphic design, and after that, I studied fine arts. I graduated from the Universidad de Castilla la Mancha. I also studied one year in Prague. Being in Prague was an amazing experience.

Where does your inspiration come from; your impulse to make art? Do you have a source for your ideas?
I find inspiration in a song, an idea, a quote, a sentence in a book, a feeling, etc. Inspiration can be anywhere.

How would you describe the process of creating art?
The creative process starts before picking up scissors or a digital pad. First, I contemplate the subject. I search and read any information that allows me to understand and become familiar with the topic. I create a list of concepts and related terms. Usually, some ideas emerge from this process.

Once I know what I want to do, I start gathering pictures and resources and I test them. Sometimes it only takes me a few tests to be sure of what I want to do and how I want to do it; which colors I’m going to use, the main elements of the composition. Other times, I get exasperated until the right idea appears.

Do you have a favorite illustrator?
I have too many favorite illustrators: René Magritte, Man Ray, Joan Miró. I love illustrators from the avant-garde: surrealism, constructivism and other disciplines, as well. I’m also inspired by contemporary illustrators like the Spanish photographer, Chema Madoz, and also, lately, by Saul Bass and the visual jazz culture from the 50s and the 60s.

If you could do something else, other than creating art, what would it be?
I would love to be a musician or to teach language.

Do you remember your first set of paints, pens, or markers?
I don’t remember. I guess I was too small, but I’m quite sure it was a box of markers.

Do you have a favorite illustrator supply, a favorite method, or favorite location, where you like to create artwork?
My studio is my favorite place. When I work on a handmade collage, it’s impossible to do it anywhere else because I need an assortment of papers, resources, and mostly, space. When I work in a digital mode, I can work wherever I like, however, I need to be quiet and alone, and to always have music playing nearby.

If you could give a viewer clues to understanding your art, what would you say?
I’ve never liked to explain my work. I prefer to see how people look at an image image from their own point of view. I like hearing others’ interpretations. Some people see my work exactly as I do and others make me think about my own work. That’s probably the thing I enjoy most about making art.

Why does art matter to you?
I need to surround myself with art and beauty but I start from the premise that art can be anywhere; even beyond painting, music, or architecture. I find art every day in many different ways and in everyday details, whether or not it’s connected to beauty.

If you could look back or forward a hundred years, do you think the life of an illustrator was or will be better than today?
I really don’t know. I’m not really sure that being an illustrator now is any easier than it was. We have so many ways to share our work and reach people on the internet. That, of course, is undeniable, but today, we have other difficulties.

It’s harder to stand out, to create something original and there are times when market interests prevail over quality.

However, I believe illustrators can find their place in the industry of art and make a living in a more respectable and comfortable way than in the past. And luckily, I think it will just get better with time. Creative jobs are becoming more usual, more required, and also more valued.