AN EXCITING NEW YEAR AND SOME RECENT(ISH) DABBLINGS WITH ABSTRACT WATERCOLOUR

Helen Simms dot watercolour painting

I think it’s acceptable on the 13th of January to still be saying Happy New Year to you – especially since I’m ashamed to say that my last blog post has not been since the end of May! With that in mind, it’s also a fair assumption what my new years resolution is going to be! I’m definitely aiming to create more work and share my process with you on here – warts and all.

2015 was an excellent year for me. I had some exciting clients – including L’oreal and TIME Inc and  am currently anxiously waiting to see my illustrations “come to life” for a project I did with Sanctuary Spa back in summer, that will be launching nationwide later this month ….. watch this space! Not only that, me and Mr Simms managed to buy our very own house together. We got to kiss goodbye to the perils of renting and set about making our house into a home, ripping out bathrooms, carpets and dated 70s style fireplace cladding and completely redecorating (aside from the kitchen – our budget didn’t quite stretch that far!)

With that in mind, I think it’s fair to say that my creative practice became a little sidelined since the move as I began to find more and more instagram accounts to follow – based purely on how their creators had styled their home, searched Pinterest to create mood boards for each of the rooms and quite a few hours on ebay trying to get the best price on vintage french furniture.

However, the projects that I did focus on got me thinking about my overall style. A few of my clients encouraged me to be looser with my technique. I LOVE working this way and certainly the works that I have considered most successful in the past have shown a really loose, confident technique that I would love to develop this year. Sometimes I feel like I need to give myself permission to work this way – it seems too easy, too enjoyable … but then I guess it takes a certain amount of confidence to give oneself that kind of permission and shut everything else out.

Helen Simms abstract watercolour

 

Helen Simms abstract watercolour 2

Helen Simms abstract watercolour 3

abstract watercolour helen simms 4

 

Above are a few abstract experiments trying to loosen up both my technique and my mind! Also, living in the country, I’m often inspired by botanicals and again I wanted to loosen up my response to them.

helen simms abstract watercolour 5

helen simms abstract watercolour 6

Hogwarts vintage box

 

 

I’m in love with the box that I recently bought to store all my watercolours and inks. I WILL keep my desk tidy! hogwarts instagram

Shutting Out The Negative Voices and Why I Wish I Was A Little More Like Adele

Being an illustrator is not like being an accountant or a lawyer. It’s not what you might call a secure career path. In fact, it’s not a straightforward career path. You’re not necessarily guaranteed a career in illustration just by doing a degree in that subject (mind you, you’re not guaranteed a career as a lawyer just by doing a law degree, but you catch my drift). You have to work HARD, be professional, grow a thick skin and learn to bounce back, move forward, be self motivated, keep going even when you’re at a real low point – because that’s usually when something really good happens.

But the hardest thing of all, I have found, is learning to shut out all the negative voices. It has taken me a while. Perhaps this is a British thing? Some of my lovely American friends, use words like “wonderful” when discussing my career path and say things like “you have a real gift. I’m so thrilled you’re capitalising on it”. A gift? …… Me? ……..Really?! Even the ones that don’t gush quite so much give off an air of support and understanding when we talk about my chosen career. Perhaps it’s just more a part of the American psyche to go after your dreams?!

Anyway, of course I have very supportive British friends, not to mention an incredibly supportive family and husband, but over the years I have heard a variety of comments from people who perhaps don’t know me so well. “When are you going to get a proper job?” Seems to be a bit of a classic and it usually comes from somebody who doesn’t love their own job. Another recent one stemmed from somebody who knows my husband (and also hates her well paying job) “but Helen just draws all day, that’s easy”. Hmmmm.

Then of course there are the negative voices you project onto others when they innocently ask “how are things going?”, “Are you busy?”, “sold any paintings recently?” Of course, these could just come from a well meaning friend or acquaintance trying to make conversation, but because you have heard the classic “when are you going to get a real job” a few too many times, you start to project this as sub text.

So the trick I have found is to learn to shut out all of the negative voices (whenever possible) and only focus on the good.

Another trick I have learned is to ask myself – “what would Adele do?” Sounds ridiculous I know but I just LOVE her. Her music kicks a$$. She is extremely talented and works very hard but more to the point you get the feeling that she wouldn’t take any nonsense. Cut her off mid acceptance speech and what does she do? Gives the middle finger to the fat cats while being shown live to the nation!

Now, I’m not saying I’m going to start being abrasive. Not even close. But with Adele, you get the sense that it’s all about the music. She doesn’t seem to give a stuff what anyone else thinks and if she does, she does a good job of hiding it. She knew what she wanted from a young age and she has gone out and gotten it. Perhaps us polite girls could all stand to be a little more like Adele.

 

What do you think? Anyone else encountered a similar scenario?

 

xx

 

*Seriously, if you ever need your ego boosted, just hang out with an American (a nice one that is) – it works wonders.

 

Count Your Blessings to Find What You Look For …

 

Brogue Lovin!

brogue lovin!

When I try on a dress in a store I always go up on my tippy toes to imagine what it would look like with heels. My husband always makes fun of me for this but I can’t help it, it’s instinct! Heels are flattering and give confidence – especially if, like myself, you are only 5 foot 2.

But, let’s face it, they’re not the most comfortable thing to wear and I only tend to wear them if I’m going on a night out or to an important meeting etc. If I know I’m going to have to walk any kind of distance or will have to be on my feet for a long time, it’s always flats for me and my flats of choice recently seem to be my brogues. I love the look of masculine wear on a woman and, unlike ballet pumps, you can get away with wearing socks with them, which is great for winter.

What’s your flat of choice? Or do you grin and bear it in six inch heels?

xx

The iPhone Addict

When the iPhone first came out, our friend Q*, who is madly into his gadgets, was the first person I knew to have one. We’d go to the cinema and while we were waiting on the film to start, he’d sit there checking the football scores while the rest of us gabbed about our week…… I put it down to novelty.

 

Then, a little while later, Chris (my husband) got an iPhone. He works for himself so it’s really useful for him in terms of checking his diary and keeping up with emails and phone calls while out and about. But then he grew slightly obsessed (and annoying), laying in bed at night looking at his phone and watching youtube videos while I was trying to sleep …. “seriously, I am going to throw that phone out of the bloody window!!”

 

But then, once I started out as an illustrator, I could also see how useful it would be to have an iPhone. I was chatting with my sister in law about it and she very casually offered to give (yes, give!) me her iPhone when she upgraded to the newest model. Wow, so generous – I was thrilled! and yes, I too am now slightly obsessed. First thing in the morning and last thing at night, what do I do? you’ve guessed it! Etsy, Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter …. not to mention email, the occasional ( or not so occasional) online mooch in my favourite store.

 

The result of all this is RSI in my right thumb (seriously!). I’m sure it’s not good for my brain either as I find I can’t sleep if I check my phone too late at night and I definitely didn’t feel like I missed anything when I only looked at my phone every couple of days to see if I had any calls when we were on holiday in Italy this summer. If anything, not using my phone helped me to de-stress a lot quicker.

 

It has to stop!

 

Anyone else got a similar addiction? Or at least some advice on how to use an iPhone in moderation? Please!

 

*Obviously not his real name. I went to see Skyfall last night and it seemed a suitably techie name. I’m not feeling very inventive today…. great film though.

 

 

 

Chanel No 5 and that Brad Ad!

In the lead up to Christmas we were hit with the inevitable barrage of perfume adverts during our favourite programs. Seems reasonable, given that perfume is a “relatively” inexpensive gift. I’m sure the festive season helps many fashion houses’ profits tremendously in this respect and Chanel No.5 is one of my favourite perfumes of all time. Classic, classy and elegant. Like a Chanel suit, it will never go out of style, but unlike a Chanel suit, most people can afford the perfume, even if it is a bit of a treat.

I also (usually) love Chanel’s perfume adverts. In the past they usually have a narrative of some kind and a romance! They just seem so…..well, so French! One of my faves of the past was the previous no 5 ad featuring Audrey Tatou searching for her mystery love, with Billie Holiday’s melodic tones in the background. Like I said, French, romantic and with a narrative. Perfect.

But then the first time I saw the new No.5 advert, the one in which Brad Pitt is shot in black and white and recites a monologue directly to the camera, well, I wasn’t sure what to think?

I like Brad Pitt a lot. He’s a brilliant actor and if you think about it, I guess it was really quite innovative of Chanel to choose a man as the face of a woman’s perfume. It’s never been done before. But I think it’s the fact that there’s no real narrative and a lot of the romance and ALL of the Frenchness has gone. Maybe all the budget went on Brad’s fee (dare I say it?!), or perhaps, more likely, the director felt Brad’s monologue would have more impact if it was stripped back and direct to camera?

Perhaps I just don’t like change?!

What do you think about it?

 

 

 

I’d be Patient if I had the Time

Grey Eyes

Helen Simms Illustration Grey Eyes

The Power of Positive Thought, Will Smith and Faking it!

fake it till you make it

 

 

 

I recently came across a video on youtube which featured a montage of Will Smith interviews. As much as I love the Fresh Prince/find him charming,funny etc. I hadn’t exactly expected to find him quite so inspiring. Yet, this video and the message within it seem to have stayed with me…

Will describes the power of positive thinking – suggesting that, through hard work, we can achieve our goals….IF we take the first crucial step and choose to believe they are possible. To paraphrase Confucius – he who says he can and he who says he cannot is usually right.

Smith also suggests that we are who we choose to be and that there’s no reason to have a plan B because it distracts from plan A. Now, he’s not claiming that we can achieve our goals simply by believing in them. He emphasises the importance of hard graft and on that note, I’m about to return to my drawing board.

But in the mean time, while I’m grafting away, and before I’m the absolute best illustrator I can be, I like to remember my own motto – and thats - Fake it Till You Make it Baby!