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Helen Oh

Work / Illustration

Helen Oh hilariously illustrates the pain of a stomach crunch and intrepid mice

“It would be great if I could be a person who gives joy to other people through my work”, says the illustrator Helen Oh. Working at It’s Nice That, we see many illustrators passing our way, and it is a rarity to connect instantaneously with what we see. But for anyone that’s ever tried to work out when their body isn’t used to it, feeling a harsh burn in the abs from attempted stomach crunches, Helen Oh’s humorous illustration of exactly this scene will not fail to delight and is nothing short of amazing.

Helen’s illustrations have the brightly coloured familiarity of The Simpsons and her characters are full of animated expression. Her unique sense of visual communication has garnered commissions from several editorial articles for the likes of Nylon, Desigual and Osso magazine. And for every commission, Helen’s work lifts the story into the visual realm with her quirky sense of image-making that draws from her personal experiences.

“There have been so many changes in my creative practice since last year”, Helen tells It’s Nice That. “I used to focus on creating distinctively prominent compositions rather than telling a story with meaning.” However this process led to a creative rift in the illustrator’s process and she endured “a difficult time in creating something.” As a result, Helen started to use her own emotional and physical experiences from the last year as a creative starting point. She goes on to say, “I started to share my personal story through scenes that myself and other people can relate to.”

Though her works are still based around everyday life, she also adds elements of humour through exaggerated expression; “I want people to smile or laugh when they see my illustrations.” On the particularly funny piece titled the At-Home Workout, Helen depicts an autobiographical scene of executing “leg raising” exercises at home. Through the wobbly acrylic painting, Helen’s attempt at exercise is comically conveyed. With hair sticking up as if she’s just been electrified and a gaping O-shaped expression, Helen jokingly relays, “I wanted to express how hard these exercises are. I am always so surprised when I lift my legs for the exercise because my stomach really hurts and I can feel my huge belly.” The illustration’s background is also Helen’s real room and even features a little mouse in the back “because a little mouse came to [her] house a fews ago.”

In other works, Helen illustrates the misfortunes of someone that has accidentally shaved off their eyebrow, and in another, there are two personified bananas, trying to push each other into the depths of a blender. Always hilarious, the New-York based illustrator is working towards being “a person who is not afraid to move forward onto another step.” Not to mention she also wants to “remind [herself] that creating artwork is a special and thankful place, whatever other difficulties [Helen] will encounter.”

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