Interview: Heleena Mistry

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Heleena Mistry is an illustrator and designer. She is currently training to be a tattoo artist in Leicester. I was lucky enough to interview Heleena about her work and career plans. 

Hello! Thank you so much for letting me interview you. How are you?

I'm great thank you!

Tell us a little bit about your background.

I've grown up a British Asian, traditionally in our culture Women must be well educated and have serious corporate jobs or we'll never succeed in life, we'll never find a husband or have a family. But I was lucky enough to have more understanding parents. 

Describe your style.

My mother taught me how to draw and paint as a child, she would illustrate little Indian village women and I'd colour them in. I strongly believe that is what has fuelled my need for a creative lifestyle. From then I've always drawn and painted and thought I could make a living for myself by doing so.

How has your creative process changed since the start?

At first I want to be a fashion designer, I would make clothes for my Barbie dolls and always styled and colour coordinated their outfits. I loved to draw fashion illustrations (well an 8 year olds version of fashion illustrations) and loved designing clothes for the characters I'd draw. As I got older I wanted to go into fashion buying and merchandising, but at college I hated being in education and decided not to go to university. I realised the only thing I loved doing at college was fine art and decided to continue my love of art and go into tattooing. Growing up I'd always loved tattoos and I was fascinated by traditional South Asian tribal tattoos, and I thought it might be something that I'd be successful in.

How did you manage to learn and hone your craft?

I still don't think I've learned to hone my craft, yes I've definitely improved over the years but I'll always to improve further, experiment with different styles and techniques and expand my abilities as an artist.

Do you have any favourite pieces of work that you adore at the moment from your shop?

My favourite pieces are a mini series of four pink A5 illustrations of adorned Indian women. I was so please with the quality of the prints and they are what started off a whole range of illustrations and my colour pallet, which I now see as my signature as an artist.

What equipment do you use for your work?

I use an app called Procreate on the IPad Pro

What tools or materials could you not live without?

I couldn't live without a pencil, biro pen and an eraser. I ultimately believe my soul purpose in life to to be an artist and as long as I have drawing utensils I can continue my purpose.

If there were no resource restraints, what would be your dream project?

My dream project would be to do a huge mural somewhere in the world, I've always loved decorating and painting and I painted a huge mural in my bedroom and it's one of my greatest achievements. It'd be a dream to paint something like that for the world to see.

Why has social media been an important platform for you to use?

I'm not really on many social media platforms, but Instagram has definitely been the main contributor of my success. It's allowed me to meet other artists, connect with people all around the world that share the same love for South Asian art and given me the support of an entire generation that grew up the same way I did.

Who inspires your work?

My work is inspired by traditional Mughal paintings and a collection of different tattooing styles.

What are you currently working on?

I'm currently working on building a portfolio of tattoo flash that I'd love to do.

What’s your typical working day?

I work as a tattoo apprentice in a studio in Leicester. My typical day is designing tattoos for clients or working on designs that I'd love to tattoo onto people. I'm so grateful to be a full time artist, my job is to create pieces that people will wear on their skin forever. To me there's nothing more rewarding as an artist.

What’s been the biggest struggle in getting your business off the ground?

My biggest struggle has been trying to get into the tattoo industry, I've been rejected by so many studios across the country and it's taken me two years and a lot of hard work and sleepless nights but I've finally found a studio I feel at home with and I can now tattoo people and practice my art.

Do you have any favourite pieces of design work or illustrations that you adore at the moment?

I've always adored the work of Claudia de Sabe, she's an incredible tattoo artist and painter and she is everything I aspire to be.

What do we hope to see in this up and coming year for your Instagram and your work?

You can hope to see more merchandise and prints for the rest of the year and hopefully some larger and non digital pieces of work.

What are your career plans?

My career plans are to become a well known tattoo artist, the goal is for my style to be recognised as mine. I may consider moving back to London in the future to tattoo, but for now I'm more than happy with my job as it stands.

Do you have any advice for anyone who would like to start drawing or creating illustrations?

My advice would be to not wait. Being an artist has no time limit but the sooner you free your creativity the more you'll see yourself transform, as an artist and as a person

Do you have any advice for designers?

My advice for designers would be to unleash themselves, don't be afraid to use references, don't be afraid to involve your own personality in your work and never design for others. Art should reflect you, not what you think reflects others.

What's the best piece of creative advice you've ever been given?

It sounds really simple, but the best creative advice I've been given is "Don't be naive."

You can follow Heleena on her Instagram '@heleena96'. You will be able to find products she is selling from her shop, commissions and tattoo enquiries. 

Rhiannon BrittenComment