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?




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


The Investment Coat?



As you might have read back in summer, I was in need of a new winter coat this year and having been inspired by all the beautifully fitted coats last year with belts to cinch the waist (including a rather glorious Burberry Prorsum number), I went in search of said coat. Now, my budget does not quite stretch to Burberry (whose does these days?), but I was prepared to spend a decent amount as an “investment”. I mean think about it, if you live in the UK or somewhere with a similar climate – where most of the year it’s, let’s face it, pretty cold and miserable, it makes sense to buy a decent coat because you’re going to be wearing it a lot!

But the trouble was, which one? I knew I needed something to keep me warm, something perfectly fitted (not easy, as I am tres petite) and something three quarter length that would look smart for “dressed” occasions. However, when searching through the shops I was confronted with:

  • Capes – beautifully cut and great for every now and then, but wouldn’t your arms get cold and wouldn’t you have to either; a) buy a pair of snazzy long leather gloves, or b) constantly consider what you are wearing under the cape to ensure your arms don’t clash (i.e. no Christmas jumpers)


  • Leather Biker Jackets - I have wanted one of these for years.* They are great for Spring and Autumn and look great either with jeans or skirts and dresses but wouldn’t quite battle a cold January morning. Nevertheless, let me just try on this beautiful Whistles leather jacket. Ahhhh, so soft, so beautifully cut, drool! But no, it will not keep me warm, and besides, if I am “investing” in a winter coat, I can’t afford it!


  • Faux Fur - would definitely keep me warm and would be great for Christmas parties…. but is it classic enough for day to day? …..Maybe.


  • Military – Ah so stylish! This could be it …. if only I could find one that didn’t dwarf me. I found one in Zara that fitted pretty well but the buttons looked cheap (sorry Zara, you have served me well, but not this time)


  • The Cocoon – Looks great with skinny jeans to balance out the lack of shape on top** but wear with anything else and you are at risk of looking like a blob


After all this, I found a perfect and affordable single breasted, three quarter length camel coat from Mango. (It looks a bit like something Del Boy would wear but I’m prepared to overlook that.) So affordable in fact that I decided to “invest” in that leather jacket after all!
What kind of coat will you be investing in this winter?
* The reason I have not bought one until now is because my friend Kate bought one a couple of years ago in the sale from All Saints. It is to die for and I have never found one to match it, until now.
** This is on most people but as I am petite and have very short legs, I look like someone who has dressed up as a Christmas bauble at the office party.


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?


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

50 Shades of Natural Darkest Brown

I found my first grey hair at the age of 19. I was on holiday in Greece and an old Greek man remarked that it was a sign of wisdom. Well, 10 years on and  I’ve been telling myself that ever since!

I started out with very dark hair. My Dad and brother were the same (though annoyingly my bro has only just found his first grey hairs despite the fact that he is 3 years my senior). Perhaps it’s linked to stress? Humph!

My point is, at what age (if at all) is it okay to accept the inevitable and stop pouring horrible chemicals on my head every 6 weeks? Meryl Streep looks so glamourous with her white hair. It’s almost empowering to see. But for a woman in her 20s (yes, I’m holding on to that title for as long as I can), wouldn’t it look a bit odd? Moreover, I don’t think I’m quite ready to go grey!


Grey Eyes

Helen Simms Illustration Grey Eyes