Helena Grimes: the Longford artist behind this year's Aisling Festival poster

Keva Dukee, Mean Scoil Mhuire

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Keva Dukee, Mean Scoil Mhuire

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newsroom@longfordleader.ie

Helena Grimes: the Longford artist behind this year's Aisling Festival poster

Longford artist, Helena Grimes next to one of her drawings.

The Aisling Children's Arts Festival kicks off in Longford this week and, to celebrate 20 years of Aisling, the Longford Leader is publishing a number of articles from the Aisling Festival Supplement, which were written by Transition Year Students from a number of local schools.

Longford woman Helena Grimes is really making a name for herself with her spectacular works of art, which include the cover image of this supplement.

Keva Duke caught up with the woman behind the image that defines this year's Aisling Festival.

How long have you been drawing?

I have been drawing since I can remember. I always remember having a vivid imagination and was always outdoors as much as I could.

When I had to be inside, the imaginary worlds I made up when I was running through the trees or climbing under ditches, I would scribble on paper with my dad's biros.

I would use the back of my older sister and brothers maths copies or on a blank space in an old encyclopaedia.

It was a means of relaxation for me and escapism that I always used straight through school.

Many summer holidays from school were spent drawing until 6am, I was and am the happiest drawing at night. The world is less distracting at that time, it's just me and the pen.

You have an upcoming exhibition called ‘Anthology’ in the Belltable in Limerick. How do these types of exhibitions make you feel?

I am always so grateful for any opportunity to show my work to another. Everyone looks through their screens these days at amazing photography and paintings, and while you may be impressed by what you see, there is absolutely nothing like seeing it in person.

To take in the scale of the work, the tiny details, the texture of the paper, depth of tone/colour etc is a wonderful thing. It gives you a great appreciation for the craft.

I have spoken to viewers besides my work and they tend to see details they didn't notice when they first saw it online.

My first solo exhibition 'A Fine Line' was last November and it was a huge moment for me. It was the most real and honest I felt I have ever been in my work and when it went really well and received such a positive response, it was surreal.

The Anthology exhibition will be a selection of work from the last four years so it's a very reflective exhibition.

It shows how my work has developed and different and/or common motifs being used or favoured.

The important thing is to appreciate what you have done otherwise you are just chasing nothing.

I remember at my solo exhibition last year standing in a room with all my family, friends and the public around me thinking how lucky I felt to have this much support around me and how will I be able to give back to them.

What were your inspirations for this year’s Aisling Festival poster?

The team at Aisling were pretty amazing. Their brief was fairly open, they wanted it to be inclusive and creative.

In Celtic Mythology a bear symbolises a courageous character and a protector.

Creative gifts in the arts, be it theatre, dance, art, literature, poetry; they are a fragile thing.

The arts need to be encouraged and protected, so I see the bear as the symbol of that.

The Aisling Festival strives towards bonding of communities, what are your thoughts on this?

The arts can be relatable to people from different walks of life.

You don't have be from a certain place, go to a certain school or have certain abilities to engage in the arts.

Aisling Festival has a huge reputation of doing just that and brings people together - there is something for everyone at this festival.

Do you have any personal anecdotes relating to the Festival?

I remember when I was seven years of age asking my teacher who is Aisling and why is she so good at Art? Haha.

From a young age, I understood it to be an achievement to have your work showcased at the Aisling Festival and a great boost to the self-esteem.

As a kid, The Aisling Festival was to me a big deal - all the children in the Midlands all coming together.

To be 20 years later creating the poster for this festival feels pretty special.

I am so grateful as always to people from my home county standing behind their creatives and showing so much support.