Helena Pérez Garcia is a designer and illustrator who originates from Spain, but now lives and works here in the UK. Her work explores fantastical settings, characters and concepts, but remains rooted and relevant through its profoundly philosophical undertones. The detachment from any specific era or place that her flamboyant style creates means that her work has a truly universal feeling, speaking of the human experience as a whole, across time and space, and not only of our current climate.

You originally planned to move into graphic design. What pulled you towards illustration? 

I loved art and drawing since I was a child, so for me studying Fine Arts was something natural. I decided to be a designer because I wanted to work in the creative industry, and to me graphic design seemed the best choice, as I didn’t see myself as an artist or a teacher.

After I graduated, I studied a Masters in Design and Illustration, where I discovered that I could make a living out of something I was passionate about, and decided to combine my work as a designer with my freelance job as an illustrator.

What inspiration do you take from other art forms?

Regarding cinema, I admire the work by Jean Cocteau. I watched La Belle et La Bête at the BFI in London a few years ago and I was struck by the inventiveness, the beauty and the surrealism of the film. I’ve been a great admirer of his work since then. I also love the films of Jean-Luc Godard and how he cleverly uses composition and colour in his films, which is something I take greatly into consideration when creating my work.

As for literature, I’ve always been inspired by writers like Albert Camus, Virginia Woolf and Gabriel García Márquez. I created some illustrations based on philosophical ideas explained in The Myth of Sisyphus by Camus, which really made me think. The Waves by Woolf also inspired many sketches that are waiting to become illustrations.

Amongst your commissioned work are a number of book illustrations. Is the interplay between words and images something you enjoy exploring in your art?

I began to draw even before I learnt to read, but once I was able to read books, I really enjoyed the combination of both. Even when I was reading books with no illustrations I loved creating my own, as I almost felt the need to put on paper those worlds that I was imagining inside my head. I love the new meanings that an illustration can give to a text, and it’s always a challenge to create something that’s in sync but also that gives an extra level of meaning.

Your work is often fantastical, even philosophical at times. What draws you to the concepts you choose to portray?

I’m always asking questions of myself and creating illustrations as a way to try to find answers. It’s also a way to try to understand a bit better the world that we live in, trying to make sense out of it. I’ve been quite interested in the past few years in the idea of identity and how we perceive ourselves. I think it’s been a way to try to understand myself a bit better, how I have changed, and how I keep changing every day. It’s almost like therapy.

What’s next for you? Anything interesting on the horizon?

I’ve just finished working on a new book that will be published by Tate Publishing in October. The title is Meet The Pre-Raphaelites and it’s an activity book for children, an engaging introduction to the work of the artists that were members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. It’s been a dream project, as the work of the Pre-Raphaelites has been very inspiring for me since I was a teenager.

At the moment I’m working on a new illustrated book for kids that will be published in Spain. I also have a few ideas for some books and exhibitions that I’d love to create as soon as I have some free time.

helenaperezgarcia.co.uk 
@helena.perezgarcia

Liam Casey