So excited to bring you this interview with artist, author and illustrator extraordinaire Claudine Hellmuth. Claudine combines photos, paint, paper and pen into quirky, whimsical-retro collages that she calls Poppets®. Claudine has appeared on The Martha Stewart Show and she has developed her own signature product line with Ranger Inc (how cool is that?).
Claudine has written 3 books and 3 DVDs about her techniques, and recently taught a techniques e-course ‘At Home with Claudine Hellmuth’ (which I took and loved) Originally from Orlando FL, Claudine lives in Washington DC with her husband Paul and their very spoiled pets. Today she talks to us about Martha, commissions and her creative business life.
You have a very unique and distinctive (and gorgeous!) style. How did you develop it? Thank you!! It developed over about a year and a half. I had just finished writing my first book in late 2001 and was feeling very burnt out. I knew it was time to explore new things but I didn’t know what they would be yet. I was looking through my old sketchbooks from college which included collage along with whimsical drawings and I felt like that might be a fun direction to try again. I took cheap paper and pens and crayons and just started playing around. After many months of experimenting I saw a theme that I was excited about developing and kept at it!
Having your own range of paint products (Claudine Hellmuth Studio with Ranger) must be any artist’s dream. How did that come about and what was involved in making it happen?
I am very excited about my line with Ranger too! It is such a thrill to have this product line and Ranger worked with me to make sure it would be something I would really be proud of and I am. My partnership with Ranger happened very organically. I was already attending the Craft and Hobby Association conventions to promote my books. I met with Ranger and started working in their booth demoing their products. Over time the relationship grew and we thought of making my own line of products with them. I have been a painter for 21 years and have always worked with good paint so paint was very important to me. Ranger promised me that I could work with their chemist to come up with a paint I would love, that would be high quality and just right. And they delivered!
You have so many things going on – a brilliant ecourse, teaching, commissions, books etc. How do you manage your time and juggle it all?
Good question! At times it gets really busy and stressful but mostly it works out because each avenue of my work has it own “season” the custom artworks I get really busy around the holidays during that time the workshops are slower etc. so for the most part there isn’t too much overlap, but there are lots of times when I have so much to do that I barely know what I should start on first!
I loved learning so many awesome new techniques from you in your ecourse At Home with Claudine Hellmuth. What is your favourite painting technique?
I have so many favorite techniques, they are all like magic tricks. I do love layering gesso and making texture with it, letting it dry and then painting over it. It adds so much depth to a background!
How do you go about creating your commissions?
I have a couple of different processes for creating commissions. When I am creating a custom artwork for a client, the client and I come up with a general idea, like a picnic or eating at a cafe or skiing and then I go from there. I work on the piece until it’s at a draft stage and then I email the client with a photo of the work. at this point we can make changes or they approve the direction and then I finish it up!
When I am not creating custom artworks for clients, I use my own family photos or friends’ family photos. When I run out of those or when they aren’t suitable, I “create” my own photo heads by combining 3 or 4 photo images together to “make” my own people. For example, I’ll purchase vintage photos from ebay and then combine a nose from one person with eyes of another and a hair style of another person until I arrive at the look I want. This has been a lot of fun and it’s very useful because then I can make sure the photo image fits with the context of the artwork. This is also great for when I do illustration work because I don’t have to worry about copyright issues.
How was your experience of appearing on The Martha Stewart Show? It was wonderful being on the show. I still can’t believe that it even happened!! it has been great or my business because when new clients come to my web site it’s like having an endorsement from Martha. You can’t beat that! (NB: you can see Claudine on the show here)
What exciting new things do you have in the pipeline for your creative business?
Right now I am playting with a personal project using a doll house and incorporating my drawings into the dollhouse and photographing them. It’s a project that’s just for fun and all about what I want to do. so I am excited about it! It’s reminding me of when I was little and I loved all things miniature!
[Interview first published on Do What You Love on October 21 2010]