Helen Borg’s illustrations prove that a little bit of cheek goes a long way

Using a handful of quirk and a pinch of cheek, Helen Borg’s illustrations question and mock the pleasures and emotions surrounding desire in our society.

Nibbling on some chocolate and listening to music, Helen Borg doodles distinctly playful work illustrations, which speak to the emotions behind desire. “I turn what’s in my head into visuals. Whatever tickles my fancy – thoughts, desires and fantasies,” says Helen Borg.

The method to her whimsy is simple enough: a doodle or side note on a piece of paper. What’s strange is that the first draft usually makes the cut. “I find that my best work is always the very first attempt; so, I've created a style out of it,” says Borg.

Raised reading the “Little Golden Book” collection by Disney Classics and pouring over the illustrations, Borg found her calling as a child. Today, she’s far from the Disney characters and her illustrations include blue nipples, the bottom of a man’s body with a caption reading “beef” and lots of toes every now and then. “My work has some bite and my concepts are often cheeky. It's not what people expect to see, so some may react to it as if it's funny,” says Borg.

Inspired by “the queen of colour” Jesicca Walsh, Borg uses bold black line work combined with clusters of primary colours to create her humorous illustrations. Simple and clean, the illustration style conveys a playful and naïve feeling that Borg says she’s “only recently been confident enough to embrace.”

“From intense games of pool between locals at a taxi rank to the vibrant display of fruit and vegetables sold on the pavement,” the visual feast provided by street culture in the coastal city fascinates the Durban-based artist. The diverse culture and visual languages emerging from spaces such as Durban’s streets provide Borg with a stream of inspiration.

“Going forward, I’d love to incorporate and conceptualise more of the local feel into my work,” says Borg.

While her experience of creative spaces in South Africa is that audiences often don’t want to pay for an illustrator's “art project”, Borg is confident that the creative scene in the country is growing – “It's going to take some investing from a local and international standpoint to fuel this creativity even further,” she says.

In a move to put her illustration out there in public and spread the delight that comes with them, Borg has designed a collection of tote bags with her illustrations emblazoned onto them.