Today we’d like to introduce you to Helen Boggess.
Helen, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
There are so many parts of my life that I never saw coming and would have laughed in your face if you had told me about them five or ten years ago, art is one of them. I grew up in a very creative family, surrounded by music, and loved to doodle and make patterns, but never saw myself as an artist. I couldn’t (and truly still cannot) draw people that don’t stick people, I haven’t taken many art classes, and majored in education while in college, so I am clearly still working on deconstructing my self-made wall of caveats as to why I could never be a “real artist.”
I graduated college in the spring of 2013, and was all set to teach – I had passed all the state tests and turned everything in, and the school I student taught at was interested in having me talk with them about potential open positions once my license was good to go. Due to circumstances out of my control and ones that are still murky even 5+ years later, there was a piece of my teaching portfolio that had gone missing and I wasn’t notified. Through the always fun trickle-down effect, my school hadn’t submitted any of my materials, and I wouldn’t get my teaching license until later that fall after school had started. I had wanted to be a teacher my whole life, and this felt like the rug was pulled out from under me and everything crashed down.
I continued to nanny and do some odd jobs to make money while I was waiting, but I was crushed to not be doing what I had always wanted to do. Add in some other life stressors (tricky roommate things, boy problems, etc.), and that first year after college was ROUGH, to say the least. I felt like everything was spinning out of control, and I didn’t even know where to find the reins to try and take charge of my life again. In an effort to create more structure for my days, I began a daily project. I’ve always collected quotes, I’ve always had good handwriting, and had been sending a lot of homemade cards to friends while navigating that season, so I piggybacked off those things I already had. Starting January 1, 2014, I chose a quote for every day of the year, lettered it by hand, and posted it on Instagram, mostly to keep myself accountable. Say what you will about social media, but my Instagram turned into a lovely community of people around the world, some of whom have become dear friends, on and off the web.
After a few months of this project, a friend asked me if I could help with some signs for her wedding. That led to making some custom pieces for a nursery, then to wedding invitations, and by January of 2015, I had an Etsy shop and a name for my work. Since then, I’ve made cards and prints and make a calendar each year, as well as many projects for customers throughout the year, from custom handmade prints to invitations and signage.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
I am a hand letterer, which at times feels like I’m making up my own title. I’m not a graphic designer, I’m not a calligrapher, and I’m working through plenty of Imposter Syndrome to call myself an artist. I make prints and cards and pieces that incorporate different fonts and illustrations to reflect the words I’m writing. I have toyed around with various mediums, but the one I am most comfortable with is pen and paper. I’m learning more about the digital side of lettering, as well as other types of art (watercolor, paints, gouache, etc.), and illustration work. I’m also learning a lot about what my style is as an artist, and to be more okay with that style, even if it’s different from the styles of artists I love and look up to.
For products I make, I usually incorporate quotes that are meaningful to me, and that is from a wide variety of people. I only use quotes in the public domain (basically published before 1923), so it can be tricky at times to find quotes that aren’t only from old white men, but one that is important to me, and especially in 2018. There are often themes of hope and light in the quotes I choose, which is something that I try to consciously do. I’ve had the constant shadows of anxiety and depression for most of my life, but they’ve been especially present the last three or so years. Once I started talking about my own experience, it was like a veil had been lifted – I learned about family history with mental illness I hadn’t ever known, friends and family started talking about their own ordeals, and it felt so much less alienating. We’ve come a long way in how we discuss mental health, but we still have a long way to go, and I want to make sure I do my part in encouraging those conversations.
What do you know now that you wished you had learned earlier?
Make things that you are proud of making. It might not be cool or it might not be what other people are doing, but if you make it and you’re proud of it, that’s the best! Find people who give you constructive feedback and encourage you in all parts of your process. Drink more water. Always have snacks ready. Saying no and saying yes are both incredibly powerful options. Listen to your gut. If you’re like me and you don’t know how to listen to your gut, practice listening. Be open to trying new things. Use what you have.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
My website is currently under construction, but my Etsy shop is open! (www.etsy.com/shop/lightandpine). You can find cards and prints and calendars there, as well as listings for custom pieces, and I’m always up for talking about an idea you have and want to bring to life.
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/lightandpine
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/lightandpine
Kelsey Stevens, Ro Birkey