Artist Interview: Clinton Helms

Posted by Jenni Kirby - November 17 2020

For Clinton Helms, artistic work has always been driven by capturing life's everyday moments through what he calls “classical representation”. Fondly laughing, Clinton recalls that “it started at age 8 when my father purchased my first set of oil paints. They noticed I had this passion for painting and that started the whole thing.”


​A United States Army Reserve Veteran turned Adjunct Professor at VCUarts, Helms uses his background to inspire and encourage students in the arts. The creative process for Helms, and his students, begins with simple observations of everyday life. “I try to pay close attention to how things change day in and day out. I tell my students to record life as they see it today, which I’ve started doing myself through sketches and recordings.” Drawing inspiration from Norman Rockwell, his aim is to focus on historical imagery.


When not working on commissions, Helms is busy developing ideas and for his next series. Still in the works, the projects will aim to focus on ephemeral moments through varied subject matter. Noting the Blue Ridge Parkway and recent trips as the source for inspiration, the projects will range from plein air to studies of everyday life (similar to his “Beach Life” series). Helms is also considering work suitable for corporate collections and public spaces - like his piece “Carousel II”, recently part of a collection at VCU Children’s Hospital. “I want people to relate to what’s going on now and I want to leave a legacy. I’m thinking about lasting and fleeting moments that people can relate to.”


Ever stoking the artistic flame, Helms’ advice to his students and anyone wanting to pursue art is to “keep doing what you’re doing and believe in yourself.  We’re now at a time when art helps us cope and we should share this creative process with everyone.”  Helms says that in time he hopes that people will reflect on his work and smile, enjoying what he created and recalling days past.