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  • About the Designer - Heleen van den Thillart

    April 25, 2023 3 min read

    Hi! I am Heleen, an illustrator and designer from the Netherlands. I design cheerful, cute and colorful patterns for fabric and paper. My designs are inspired by my kids, my garden and my love for picture books for children. I combine raising my three children with my work.

    I always liked to draw and even went to a drawing club when I was a child. After a Bachelor in Science (for industrial design engineering) I finished Art School for graphic design. After some graphic design jobs I picked up my love for drawing and started making my first pattern designs in 2015. For me this is the perfect combination of art and mathematics.

    When I am not drawing on paper or the computer, I love gardening, reading, board games and walking in the forest near our house. 

    Check out the many places Heleen's art has appeared using her LinkTree!

    What style of art do you feel most comfortable in?

    I like to use bright and bold colors and simple outlines for my illustrations and patterns. I am always searching for a look of simplicity without losing the character of my cute animals or flowers (the two things I love to use the most). I am most happy playing with shapes and spacing after all the design elements are drawn.

    What themes or topics spark (what you feel to be) your best work?

    My best work often comes from assignments. I love to dig into a new theme or topic that is a bit out of my comfort zone. When I am left to my own choices I often draw cute animals or graphic flowers. But I make better designs when I am pushed to something new. I love my Dinosaurs and Bones pattern, which made me study dinosaurs with my daughter who is absolutely fascinated by dinos and can remember all those difficult names that I can’t.

    When the pandemic started I wanted to do a bacteria/microbe design which turned out fantastic and a bestseller.

    Is there a project you are most proud of?

    I recently finished a fabric collection for RJR fabrics with a food theme. This will be available in 2024, so it’s not out yet. I loved working on a larger collection from the start. Often I design a main pattern and add a view coordinates later on with some design elements from the main pattern. But this was a fun new way of looking at the design process.

    I also designed the artwork for some baby gyms for Skip Hop and two of my designs ended up for sale in Walmart. I have never been so disappointed that I live so far from America. I would have loved to walk through the shop and find my own designs there.

    How do you work?

    I feel most comfortable using pencils and paper. I use a light box to trace my final sketches into outline drawings, so they are easier to trace in Illustrator, but a window will work just fine too. I love bright and bold colors. I often use markers to add color to my sketches.

    When I am feeling fanciful I use a variety of items when drawing—crayons, chalk, acrylic paint, watercolors, pen and ink and stamps. But when working on a pattern that needs to be digitized, I only need a pencil, paper, fineliner and a scanner.

    How much of your work actually makes it to publication?

    I never use the first idea or sketch that pops up in my head. I always try to sketch as many ideas as possible. So I can choose the best ideas for the finished design. I often send the best three designs to the client when working on an assignment. Then we finish with only one design.

    When I am working on my own ideas more than half never make it online. Sometimes I get stuck and I don’t know how to finish the design or I am not a hundred percent happy about the coloring. I am way more critical of my free work than clients are on the work I do for them. Participating in challenges with strict deadlines helps a lot. This way I have to finish and upload my designs. Sometimes, years later, I find some of my unfinished work and find some new inspiration to finish them. But I love creating new stuff more.

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