As I watch and rewatch certain episodes of One Tree Hill, I never tire of seeing Peyton’s artwork. Even when you take out the connections it has to the storyline, the artistic talent there still just blows me away. I always wondered just who was responsible for it and so I did what all the Millenials do: I googled it.
Lo and behold, I came across the name Helen Ward and tracked her down via her Web site. Helen was kind enough to take some out of her busy schedule to give TDW the behind-the-scenes dish on creating art for One Tree Hill.
TeenDramaWhore: What was the process of joining One Tree Hill as an artist? Surely it’s not the same as casting an actress, right?
Helen Ward: Before joining OTH, I had already worked as a set designer, storyboard artist and illustrator for a number of films. But I still had to try out for the job. I think they asked a bunch of people to give their shot at a particular drawing. They were pretty specific about what they were looking for. I guess my work was closest. I got the job.
TDW: Did you try to get to know Hilarie Burton (Peyton) before drawing for her character? Or was it more important just to understand the character?
Ward: I did not try and get to know Hilarie. She is a talented actress and has done a great job with the character. But it was the character I was drawing for and I learned what I needed to from the show and the scripts.
TDW: What is the process of drawing for a particular episode? Does Burton, creator Mark Schwahn or anyone else give any input?
Ward: Mostly Robbie Beck, the props master for OTH, would contact me about drawings for the show. Mark Schwahn always knew exactly what he wanted and it would be described in the script. So Robbie would send me the info and I would initially do some quick sketches. Almost all of our communication was via e-mail. I wish I could say something more exciting, like Hilarie and I would chat about what Peyton would be drawing, but the only time I ever spoke with her was when they were filming at my house in Wilmington (which oddly enough was Peyton’s house on the show.) But I didn’t mention to her that I was her “ghost artist.”
TDW: In scenes that show Peyton drawing or painting, is she actually just going over your work?
Ward: When Peyton is shown drawing on camera, there would likely be very light lines for her to follow. Often I would give a finished version and an unfinished for this purpose. If I remember correctly, it was usually the words that I left undone.
TDW: How has Peyton’s art evolved over the years?
Ward: I look back at the first season and think the drawings are awful! I certainly became more comfortable working in her style, but I think her style also evolved to fit mine. Does that make sense? Initially I was trying to do something that just didn’t flow well from me. The drawings were too clean. A little forced and not at all the way I liked to work. But as the show progressed, I began to put more of my own style in them. I became more comfortable and the work got better.
TDW: Do you have a favorite drawing or episode?
Ward: So my least favorite are just about anything from the first season, and my favorites are the very last drawings I did for the show [Episode 6.19, Letting Go]. Peyton does the panels of certain scenes from her past with Lucas [Chad Michael Murray]. I really had fun with those. Each page had multiple panels and told a longer story than the single frame images that made up most of the previous work. Plus it was nice to come full circle. I think my first drawing for the show was “You don’t know me.” One of those last ones was a version of that as well. That was a fun five years. I’m a little sad that Peyton has moved on.
TDW: Most people don’t know you’re behind all the artwork, right?
Ward: And who am I going to tell that I am behind the artwork? I don’t think most people think about all the work that happens behind the scenes. And it should be that way. The viewers should be caught up in the show. Anyway, it doesn’t come up much. I do have a niece who thinks it’s pretty cool. And I impressed a bunch of third-graders at career day at my daughter’s school. But they were much more excited by the work I did for the Hannah Montana movie. Go figure.
TDW: Now that Burton has left the show, does it mean we won’t be seeing any more of your work?
Ward: I have been very busy with a variety of projects. I’ve done a number of portraits for movies, which is probably my favorite type of work. I just finished up work for “The Lottery Ticket,” [which is] currently being filmed in Atlanta. Some of that work was like what I have done for OTH. One of the characters is supposed to have created a whole bunch of sketches. I think they are hanging in his bedroom. I also did a huge religious painting that hangs in a church scene. (That was fun.) I will eventually post more of this current work to my Web site.
TDW: What other projects do you work on or will you be working on?
Ward: I feel supremely lucky to do what I do. I love drawing and couldn’t be happier than when I am working on a project, drawing away and listening to music. And drawing for OTH was exceptional. It wasn’t just a one-time gig for a movie that is out in theaters for a couple weeks. It was ongoing and evolving. Although I had nothing to do with the concepts behind Peyton’s art, and her drawings are a tiny part of the show, I have to admit I have loved hearing that people out there have connected with the artwork. I have received e-mails from OTH fans who say they love to draw and the artwork on the show is really important to them. How cool is that?!
Come back next week for another exclusive interview!