We got an inside look into the inspiration behind the young and talented Helen Robinson, Sugarlift's newest painter! She regales us with life hacks like the best way to keep a tangible road map and how to get as many sprinkles on your ice cream as possible. The Vanderbilt graduate gives us a hint of country with a stunning dash of city, as she explores the visual elements of the human experience through her work. Read Helen's musings and be sure to check out her latest collection, here!
LIVES & WORKS IN Williamsburg and Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn
ON THE CLOCK Wake up, make coffee and a smoothie and do computer stuff for an hour (emails, admin stuff, research, guilty pleasure blogs, etc). Then I bike to my studio and paint from 10-6, with a few breaks in between. My favorite micro-break is doing the New York Times Mini Crossword Puzzle online, which helps my brain switch gears for a bit. If I skip the studio and work from home, I get to dog sit and hang out with my neighbor's mini schnauzer Kivu, who I LOVE.
YOUR ART WEEKEND I used to work for an artist in Chelsea on 25th street, so I like to go back and visit the galleries over there, then end up at the Whitney.
ALBUM Brothers, The Black Keys
FILM Best in Show
ARTIST Right now I'm obsessed with Jenny Morgan
BOOK Just Kids by Patti Smith
LATEST PURCHASE A new watercolor set to do a few illustrations for my sister's wedding
GUILTY PLEASURE Currently (because I have a lot) vanilla soft serve in a cone with rainbow sprinkles, and when the first layer of sprinkles runs out, I dip my cone into a cup with more sprinkles. One can never have too many sprinkles.
GRADE IN ART CLASS A for sure.
36 HOURS A fall weekend with friends and family at our house in Pawlet, Vermont.
Favorite subject to paint? My friends.
How do you decide which perspective to paint your subjects from?
I'm inspired by what I see on a daily basis...My friends looking down at their phones while we are out to dinner, fellow artists looking out at Walter de Maria's The Lightning Field, my roommate watching TV in her robe, anything. I'm so fascinated with capturing people off guard when they are just doing something ordinary and unposed. All of these ephemeral moments pass and go, and I want to capture them and try to make time stand still for a moment.
What inspires the colors and gradients that you use?
My recent series was inspired by a residency I did in the Southwest. We did a road trip and camped at National Parks as well as various Land Art installations all over Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico. The colors I used in my paintings were inspired by color palettes of various places we camped at. For example, my painting "Charles Bonneville Salt Flats" has various shades of light blue to represent the pale blue tone of the salt flats. The sunsets were exceptionally spectacular every single night, so I wanted to use a gradient to allude to a sunset, without painting it as is. Because, honestly, I can't really capture a breath-taking sunset on a canvas. I like to use color to hint at a bigger picture without giving away all the details.
This jacket — Is it yours and, if so, where did all the patches come from?
This jacket is most definitely mine. I hand sewed all the patches on and continue to add more as I collect them. The majority come from the road trip I did and feature many National Parks and other miscellaneous museums and places I visited. I like to think of it as a sort of road map to the places I've been and adventures I've had. It's so easy to go on Instagram and track someone's journey or pull up google maps to locate a destination, but what's the fun in that? Taking the time to sew on the patches and then hand paint each one in a painting is a way to reflect on the places I've been and people I've met along the way. A sort of reminder to look up, travel, and enjoy the amazing places around you.
Having studied in Nashville, are you a country girl at heart?
I wouldn't say I'm a country girl at heart, but I definitely absorbed a bit of "country" over the years. I grew up in Connecticut and now live in Brooklyn, but my mom's family is from Virginia and my dad's whole family is in Nashville. I love having a country side and a city side. I love country music, camping, and cheap beer just as much as I love dinner with friends at a fancy NYC restaurant with a good bottle of wine. My happy medium is a dead empty dive bar with a few of my closest friends.