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DESTIG Interview with our Top 20 Artist of 2018, Clinton Helms.
Read this interview in DESTIG Magazine
Tell us about yourself and background.
I was born in southern Virginia in 1959, the youngest of twelve children. My father now deceased was a farmer, World War II Army Veteran, and Automotive technician. My mother was a house maker and later a factory worker now retired. I started drawing and painting at an early age. After high school I attended Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts and left to go into the military. I graduated twenty years later in 1999 with a BFA degree in Illustration.
In 2001, I retired from the United States Army Reserves with over twenty years of service to become a full time artist. In 2007, I received my MFA degree in Fine Art from Marywood University.
Tell us about your work.
I create what some people in the art world would call a realistic/ classical representational style of paintings exploring mostly contemporary themes of today’s society, the world, and the events that shape our history. My goal as an artist is to create a memorable moment in time using oils or acrylic paint while trying to master light, and shadows like the Old Masters’ and various Artists from the Golden Age of Illustration. I am able to achieve this by using the technique of starting with a good foundational drawing as the bases for my paintings.
What makes your work and approach unique?
I like to create a scene that draws people in and move them around making them feel like they are a part of the painting. I always start with a detailed pencil drawing working from the darkest value tone to the lightest tone. This technique allows me to create a visual tonal effect that helps in the painting process to follow. The drawing is sealed with fixative spay and covered with orange acrylic paint. When completely dry, I start the painting by working from background to foreground. I work primarily in Oils on gessoed mdf panels or canvas.
Why is your work a good investment?
I believe that classical representational paintings are a unique genre that has a timeless value and is a recording of history in our times. People are always drawn to well-painted landscapes, urban cityscapes, and portraits because they are more than paintings; they are recordings of our history that engages the viewer by providing a psychological insight into the beauty of the world. I try to create paintings that speak a universal language and communicate feelings and ideals that will last a life-time. I care a lot about the longevity of my works and use only premium quality archival materials and time-tested techniques.
Tell us about some of your achievements.
Like most visual artists, I would like to hope that my major achievements are yet to come, but I’ve had a few moments that made me and my family proud. One happened in 2015 when I was awarded 1st Place Winner of the Landscape with Life Category in the American Art Awards Competition in California USA., placing my work in the same league with many great artists from around the world that I have admired for years. Another memorable moment was in 2012 when five of my paintings were placed in pertinent collection of the United States Air Force Art Collections.
What are your sources of inspiration?
I draw inspiration primarily from some of the great artists and artworks of the past. I am fascinated by the works of Norman Rockwell, N.C.Wyeth, Edward Hopper, John Singer Sargent, Thomas S. Buechner, and Burton Silverman. I love how these artists are able to capture the viewers’ attention in a painting by carefully orchestrating lights and shadows in their work to tell the story. I am inspired by their masterful brushwork, graceful lines, subtle color harmonies and exquisite detail that sometimes contain hidden messages. When I’m in the classroom or working in the studio, I talk about what makes me stop to look at certain paintings, and I try to create works that can potentially capture similar emotions in the viewer.
What you are passionate about?
I am very passionate about how artists are viewed in today’s society. When I was a young child my dream was to someday become an artist. I am fortunate to have had very good art teachers and the support from family and friends to follow my dreams. I am often told by some of my students that their parents or someone else in the family did not think they should choose art as a career because most artists never make a decent living and that most will never gain recognition or fame until after death.
Tell us the back-story of some of your projects.
One of the most fascinating projects came during my senior year in college at Virginia Commonwealth School of the Arts, when one of my professors and mentors selected me for a paid commission to paint a large historical painting for pertinent display in the Army Transportation Corps Museum in Hampton, Virginia depicting a scene from Americas’ First Foreign War. In 2009 I joined the LA Society of Illustrators and was selected the following year as one of six east coast artists to document the British Prime Minister; David Cameron visit to Washington DC., to attend a March Madness college basketball game with President Barack Obama.
Share with us your upcoming projects.
I am currently in a group exhibition Art Show with the Colonial Beach Artists’ Guild in Virginia, where I have received an Honorable Mention Art Award for one of two painting in the show. Four months ago, I had a solo exhibition of twenty-six paintings at the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville, Virginia. I am currently working on paintings for an upcoming solo exhibition in May of 2019 at Dockside Reality in Colonial Beach, Virginia. I would love to someday do commissioned paintings, shows, and painting workshops worldwide.
Tell us about where you are based.
I live in the western tip of Goochland County, Virginia which was founded in 1728 and named for Lieutenant-Governor, Sir William Gooch, 1st Baronet of England. It is stepped in Colonial history and nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlottesville, and Richmond Virginia. The history of the area is amazing and a beautiful place to live and Plain-Air paint. I have been a resident of the county for the past nine years since my marriage to Ella B. Helms, who was born and grew up in the county.