Women in Music 2019

David Bowie GIF Artist Helen Green Explains Why the Legend Was Her Greatest Muse

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Helen Green
David Bowie Gif created by Helen Green

There's been no shortage of David Bowie photos to pore through since his death on Jan. 10. From Aladdin Sane to the Thin White Duke, '60s mod to '90s shag, the artist's ever-shifting looks and personas made even Bob Dylan look predictable. (Okay, maybe that's a stretch, but not by much.) 

Amongst the incredible outpouring of Bowie art and photos following his passing, one image in particular has stood out from the crowd as best embodying the spirit of the consummate chameleon, and that's a GIF drawing by U.K. illustrator Helen Green.

Green made the GIF, which is comprised of 29 drawings of Bowie in different looks, one year ago in honor Bowie's 68th birthday (he died just days after turning 69). She spoke to Billboard about how Bowie became such a fountain of inspiration in her work, how Gaga fits into Bowie's legacy, and which is her favorite of the many Bowies the world is mourning today.

How many David Bowies are represented in the GIF?
Twenty-nine, including personas such as Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke.

How did you choose them? Did you have to do a lot of research?
I chose the most memorable ones first, like the Aladdin Sane album cover look, Bowie's Pierrot the Clown-esque look from the "Ashes to Ashes" video, the makeup and suit from "Life on Mars," etc. Then I worked in other looks from different "eras" of his career. Research was vital in making sure everything was in the right order (even though the "Life on Mars" look ended up a little bit out of sequence).

Did you draw them from real images of Bowie?
Most of the time I drew from a combination of images of Bowie. It was a challenge to find images of Bowie looking in a very specific direction in a specific era. So most of the time, I found the perfect angled image to work from, but from the wrong era, so I had to do a bit of improvising. 

When did you become a fan of his?
His music has been part of my family's collection so my interest started early on. It was in recent years that I became a big fan of his, especially after visiting the 'David Bowie is...' exhibition at the V&A in London in 2013. I've been captivated ever since.

How did Bowie inspire you as an artist? Why was he such a muse for you?
He was courageous, fearless, curious, and ever evolving. Qualities that I can learn from to become a better artist. He was/is an incredible role model for me and so many others. Hearing him in interviews, talking about his career and how he works, how he collects ideas and characters, are all things that fascinate me as an artist of a different kind. 

You draw Lady Gaga a lot as well. She, of course, was heavily inspired by Bowie in her career. What do you think the two had in common?
I think they both have very artistic, fascinating minds. They both demonstrate versatility in their talents, musically and in acting roles. And they both have had exciting changes in their music career. Gaga demonstrated this when she paired up with jazz legend Tony Bennett on their album Cheek to Cheek -- a pairing most people would've found extremely unlikely, yet after hearing them sing together, it made complete sense. Gaga and Bowie both have their own distinct sense of fearlessness, courage and, of course, style. Which is why they are both very important role models to me.

Out of all the Bowie looks, which is your favorite?
My favorite is still the same - his red boots and Freddie Burretti jumpsuit from July 1972 when he performed on Top of the Pops. This also ties in with one of my favorite songs of his - "Starman."

Favorite Bowie album?
This, however, changes regularly. Lately I've been listening a lot to LowHunky Dory will always be a top favorite though. 

Did you ever have a chance to meet Bowie before he died? If not, what would you have said to him?
Sadly, no. And even if I did have the chance, I would've probably crumbled in his presence and hardly said a thing...But if I was thinking straight, I would simply thank him for his music, and that it will always be a special part of my life.  
 

 


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