Featured Freelance Illustrator

Helen Oh

July 2019

Meet Helen Oh, a freelance illustrator based in New York. Helen tells us about her dream to start her own fashion brand, we discuss being easily influenced by local culture, and she shares some tips for developing your personal style and your self-confidence.

Whats the worst design job you’ve ever had and how does that make you a better designer?

A year ago, a travel magazine asked me to make three different Hawaiian pattern designs. So I researched tropical image reference and google about Hawaii. And I sketched so many different kinds of Hawaiian illustrations, like Hawaiian Lei flowers, Hula, palms, coconut and etc. When I sent them final works, they asked me to revise it to more graphic style. But when I edited it, I tried to keep my style as well, so I just kept the style and edited it more simply.

And I thought that I made super and perfect pattern designs for the client myself. But they were kind of unsatisfied with my work, I didn’t understand why they didn’t like them.

Now I am working at a textile company and have seen diverse kinds of textile design. So now look at it, I can understand why they didn’t like my designs. At that time, I just too excited to show my works to people than to understand their needs well, and I realized that good illustrator has to be a good listener too.

Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.

I illustrate my inside feeling and thought using diverse colors and texture.

How does the local culture of where you live affect your design work and getting clients?

I am the person who easily gets influenced by the local culture or where I live.

I had lived in Laos which is one of Southeastern Asia country. At that time, I got inspired by their culture, delicate pattern which you can see from their architecture, diverse and warm colors, and especially beautiful nature a lot. I mostly created very settled and calm images with very soft medium, like color pencils and ball-pointed pens.

And now I live in New York City which is the very busy and trendy city. Also, there are so many people who came from different cultures. I now love to use very rich and more various kinds of color and medium to make very funky and colorful images as like what I see in New York City.

There are so many talented and sentient artists, and it is easy to get the opportunity to meet and talk with these artists in New York City. Especially, when you are in the Art Community. So this opportunity brings more chance to promote my works to the clients.

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Stars shine in the dark. To be a really really bright star, don’t be afraid to stay in the dark.

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Any passion projects/collabs you would like to share?

My passion projects are filling a wall of a huge room with my drawing and painting. So, I want to draw whatever and whenever I want, on the wall. (And hope to keep this room forever…)

Also, it’s kind of my childhood dream... When I was a child, I wanted to make a fashion brand, and this dream has been kept in my mind for a long time. I started to make fashion accessories like scarf, earring and pin with my illustration, and I am planning to make a dress with my pattern design for the next project.

How did you develop your style as an illustrator and what tips would you have for others?

I try to make a good moment for myself every day. I treat myself with tasty food and visit an exciting place. To keep happiness in my life is kind of hard, especially when I live such a busy life. So whenever I am not happy, I think worse and worse things, and this affects my creative activity badly. So I just do whatever I want.

Also, I try to not compare with the others. When I didn’t realize that comparing is nothing, I lost self-confidence and passion to do and make something. I now know that everyone has the opportunity to shine in life but at different times. Stars shine in the dark. To be a really really bright star, don’t be afraid to stay in the dark.

2019 for you in a sentence.

2019 is after 2018.

Website: helenoh.work

Instagram: @helen_illust

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