The (not so) secret life of a fanartist

I’m the girl in the office who does those weird Japanese cartoon drawings. I’m not a designer, I’m definitely not an ‘artist’. But I doodle a lot, and once or twice a year I dress up in a school uniform and go sell stuff at conventions.


So. I do anime/manga style drawings. Back when I was a kid, it wasn’t something I’d publicise. Now, it’s kind of (I say that loosely) acceptable and quite a few people know what you’re talking about. Some even find it cool (or at least, that’s what they say to your face).

A couple of years ago, I realised that this ability can buy me money* and fame* and so I ventured into the world of conventions. This means getting a table at a nerdy event (I share with a friend) and selling stationery with my fanart printed on it.

What does it involve?

  1. A lot of drawing
  2. Realising you haven’t drawn as much as you’d like
  3. More drawing (furiously)
  4. A short-lived break during the printing process
  5. Dragging everything to the convention centre
  6. Getting stared/laughed at on public transport
  7. Sitting behind a table for 12 hours and trying to smile
  8. Repeat (6) and (7) for 2-3 days
  9. Burn out

Sounds tiring, but there are benefits.

It’s an experience (of course). You meet other fanartists.

It can be entertaining. The best thing is when men want to buy prints of half-naked women. They have tactics.

A big one for me: you can get free food at the end (example: £40 worth of extortionate rice balls).

And last, but of course not least – it’s fulfilling! Who would have thought that people would pay REAL MONEY for something I’d drawn? I may not be an accomplished illustrator, and I definitely have a long way to go before I’m in any way satisfied with myself. Yet when someone wants to buy something, when someone gets excited about or admires your work, and even wants it on their wall, that’s really something.

I bet someone’s wondering this, so: yes, I do cosplay (dress in costume). But you try sitting behind a table for 12 hours in a wig and 5 layers. In summer. So we keep it simple (ie. sorry, no interesting photos, ask another time).


That’s it. My random hobby. I’d like to add that I never took art GCSE or beyond. Just did a lot of doodling! Don’t feel like you have to be ‘qualified’ to give something a go.

PS: if you want to check out my drawings, go here.


Helen Belben  |  Senior Account Executive



I must stop offering people pictures of my dogs

Dogs. A word which evokes a Marmite reaction from people – it’s rare that you will come across someone who just ‘thinks they’re ok’, or who could take them or leave them. More often than not, people will respond to say that they love them, or are terrified of/hate/are annoyed by them. I well and truly fall into the former camp and was delighted to follow the 3,730 tweets for #NationalDogDay earlier this week and all their associated pictures!


I’m currently writing this blog en route home from a long few days in Philadelphia, with jet lag, following a delayed 7-hour flight… I’m feeling all the normal things you would expect with this kind of exhausting schedule, but above all else I’m excited, because waiting for me at home are nine beautiful English Springer Spaniels – eight of which are 9-week-old puppies, the ninth being their mother, Bessie Bear (or Bess, if you’re generally anyone other than me). I promise if you keep reading (or just scrolling) there will be more adorable pictures and a little overview of my life with eleven puppies…


But first – a little about the science… We work in the healthcare industry; where medicine, Pharma, pills and potions dominate. These are all crucial for maintenance of our health and well-being – you would be hard-pressed to find someone who has never taken a medicine of some kind or another – but I would like to look beyond the pharmacological interventions and talk a bit about the psychological and physical benefits animals can bring to a person’s life (if you’re into them!).

I am personally always happier when around dogs, but don’t just take my highly subjective word for it – research can back me up. Studies are ongoing in many areas of medicine to quantify, objectively, the impact animals have on our physical and mental well-being, ranging from conditions such as dementia1 and depression2, through to the role they can play in rehabilitation following chronic conditions3 and in keeping older people active4. They can provide much-needed companionship following the loss of a loved one, and give a great excuse to become fitter or lose weight – there are few more motivating influences than the big, sad eyes of a spaniel looking up at the lead… (but unless you want to be tripped over, I suggest you train said dog to run off the lead, a long way away from you. Trust me on that). A recent article from Scientific American looked at the hormonal releases in the brain from interactions with dogs, ‘increases in β-endorphin (beta-endorphin), oxytocin and dopamine – neurochemicals associated with positive feelings and bonding – have been observed in both dogs and people after enjoyable interactions like petting, play and talking’.

dog on lead

So enough about the science – I think you get it. So why doesn’t everyone just rush out and get a pet?! The challenge, of course, is that living in London, or indeed rented/small/garden-less accommodation anywhere, can squash this; landlord restrictions, increasingly busy lifestyles, long working hours etc. etc. often stand in the way of owning our own animals. But with the advent of novel business ventures such as Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium (I’ve been it’s well worth a visit, there is a cat that you can walk on a harness, at his own request – that’s my friend, right, walking said cat), animals can be accessible to anyone, and I greatly advocate spending some time with them. There is nothing like the unconditional love that a dog, cat, guinea pig… can provide.

I love all animals, but this brings me back to my passion – dogs. A wise person once said ‘anyone that says diamonds are a girl’s best friend, never had a dog’ – not that I would turn down a diamond if offered, of course! I’m lucky enough that I live in the middle of the countryside, in a house with a garden, with a farmer for a husband – perfect conditions for raising little bundles of puppy joy. However, with introducing puppies into the world comes the inevitable heartbreak of seeing them go to new homes, and since last Thursday I’ve seen three of ‘my’ babies head off to their loving new owners (I know they are loving, because I’ve vetted and interviewed them all at length!), and the rest will follow them soon. That doesn’t mean to say that I’ve not become incredibly attached to each and every one of them, with their very individual characters and foibles (if you’re interested, my names for the original 11 of them are Tiggy, Stripey, Dipstick, Badger, Brian, Enid, Missy, Pippin, Tucker Trousers, Grace and Bobby). Unfortunately for my husband, this attachment means that we have to keep two of them (so far) – so Tiggy and Tucker Trousers (he looks like he is wearing a little pair of trousers, in case you were wondering) are going to be joining our family. And if you see me trying to sneak a little squeaky ball of fur into the building, it is as a result of the ongoing campaign from Louise Earley for the rest of the office to share my new pets! (Don’t tell security!).


Victoria Stanley, Group Account Director – PLBR Med Ed/PR


  1. Nordgren L, Engström G. Nurs Older People 2014;26(3):31–8
  2. Enmarker I, Hellzén O, Ekker K, Berg AG. Aging Ment Health 2015;19(4):347–52
  3. Vallet C, André N, Gentet JC, et al. Ecancermedicalscience 2015;28;9:558
  4. Raina P, Waltner-Toews D, Bonnett B, et al. J Am Geriatr Soc 1999;47(3):323–9

Kurt Cobain – A Montage of Heck

I am a biopic/documentary fanatic, especially when the subject in question involves death, murder, and/or conspiracy theories. We all know the mythological character that was Kurt Cobain, his life tale is one of those stories that will forever be steeped in romanticism, tragedy and judgement. So naturally ‘Kurt Cobain – A montage of Heck’ was a must watch for me.

It’s an eclectic multimedia mix of all the fragments of Kurt’s life strung together to give us an understanding of who he was. It shows him in many lights: the poet, painter, father and lost boy. It very much focuses on his artistry and methods of self expression. The style in which the documentary was made was a personification of him. It was like an art piece, the documentary was Kurt. It is one of the best documentaries I have seen that in its direction and execution fully embodies the spirit of the subject. It was incredibly intense and intimate, almost hard to watch at times.

When first introduced to the cartoon/graphic novel style, we hear a teenage Kurt telling us about when he went down to the train tracks in his hometown, he lay down and placed a slab of concrete on his chest, cementing himself in on the track waiting for the next train  – What happened next seems to be one of those ‘too good to be true’ moments that usually exist in the stories of extraordinary people, for me it creates an air that this is fate at play. He was destined to share his talent. All in all, he is a man of many contradictions, we all know how his story ends, this documentary made me think – Did he simply give up on seeking the nirvana he longed for, or in fact achieve it and found there was nothing to else live for. 

The reason why I have a deep interest and respect for characters like Kurt Cobain, weather they are drug addicts, serial killers or whatever, they live in truth. Whether your truth aligns with theirs or not is irrelevant. Someone like Kurt lived in honesty, did what he wanted and stuck by his guns (pun slightly intended), like all successful people they pursue their thoughts and turn them into actions. I admire that.

This documentary is a rummage through someone’s diary, it felt a bit wrong to be there but you couldn’t helped but become absorbed in the innermost thoughts of someone’s mind when they didn’t think anyone is listening. It made me wonder, if anyone picked up my notebooks and tried to ‘figure me out’ how would they interpret the endless list of client amends and sporadic CYMK codes dotted throughout. They might think I’m some kind of highly self critical mathematical genius.


TV STILL -- DO NOT PURGE -- HBO DOCUMENTARY STILL -- KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK: Previously unseen image of Cobain at home. photo: The End of Music, LLC/courtesy of HBO



KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK photo: Brett Morgen/courtesy of HBO



Rosie Mossey |Junior Designer

#KittenCamp – Part 2

#KittenCamp wasn’t just about the LOLs. Refresh your memory with #KittenCamp Part 1. There’s a deeper message about how to harness the power of social media within the marketing communications mix – @willcooke with his presentation on ‘How to win the internet’ (With a little help from Kevin Costner).

Untitled 2

Who are you talking to?

Conversation can be one-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-one, many-to-many. Identify which category your communication fits in first. Then stick to it.

Advertising in social isn’t about selling; it’s about conversation, not preaching. Fundamentally, people don’t like being sold to – so use social media to engage in the conversation in a natural way.

Why are you talking to them?

Know what you stand for and stick to it. For example, Red Bull’s positioning is that is vitalises the body and mind. So, they sponsor sports that are high energy and require a high level of alertness.

STEPPS – a useful acronym that sums up when (and why) you should talk to your audience:

STEPPS: Social currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Value, Stories

  • Exploit social currency; tap into trends in a relevant and genuine way (e.g. Marmite after Madonna’s fall at the Brits)
  • Respond to triggers (e.g. Bodyform response to Richard)
  • Draw an emotional response (e.g. Green Party & Sky TV 2015 General Election videos)
  • Get the ad discussed in public (e.g. the banned ad for premixed protein shake)
  • Add practical value (e.g. Smirnoff lemon and lime ‘ice’ cubes)
  • Tell a story (e.g. Paddy Power’s #RainbowLaces)

How are you talking to them?

The adage ‘If you build it, they will come’ does not apply that simply to online media. ‘Paid’ media (traditional advertising) desired to drive the general consumers to ‘owned’ media (brand collateral e.g. websites) can feel a bit self-centric, and therefore may not appeal to non-customers. Relying on ‘earned’ media (social interactions) to drive users to the ‘owned’ channels means you’re only talking to currently engaged customers. And using ‘paid’ media in the hope of creating ‘earned’ media can be topline, communicating a single message. Brands should balance ‘owned’, ‘paid’ and ‘earned’ media carefully.

Finally, show that you’re actually listening and acting on the conversations that are taking place. Adapt and re-share content on an on-going basis.

For more information on how to share ideas through social media, Will referenced a book called Contagious by Jonah Berger. (


His slides can be found here:

The presentations were over earlier than scheduled, which allowed for more schmoozing, nacho-eating and craft-beer drinking. Eventually, with the image of Kevin Costner burned into our retinas, we ascended from the depths of the underground bar into the warm embrace of a Monday night in Soho.

See you at the next one.


Dimuthu Jayawardana   Strategic Planner


I have a dream


I’ll keep this uncharacteristically brief, and characteristically incoherent.

I get weird dreams often. I don’t know if it’s something in the water or if my brain decides to be its most creative at night because it knows I’ll forget in the morning. Almost as if it is ashamed of what it did like a bad dog, or unsure like a nervous child offering a finger painting over with jaded trepidation to critical parents.

Through Fine Art school it was Fine to ‘do’ creativity any way you saw fit, but every week there were group critique sessions, where everyone would rip apart your work and tell you it was shit. And how it was shit. It’s debilitating and heart-wrenching seeing something you created, born and moulded by your beautiful brain, get beaten around the ring and you’re unable to throw in the towel; left standing to nod with perfect pertinent politeness as appropriate before the Fine Art Critic bunch. The kind who sip expensive wine while they look at art – murmuring “I will break you”. The kind who call anyone who doesn’t like Rothko paintings a philistine, who don’t even deserve to look upon art.


So maybe because of art school my brain has become the beaten dog, preconditioned Pavlovianly to fear creative thoughts unless they were thoughts good enough to keep their defences up enough to last a few rounds of critique. Adrian!

So basically I now keep a dream journal so I don’t forget any creative thoughts. I lied about this being brief, so I’ll wrap it up. I had a dream I wrote a children’s book about a boy who invents a biological shrink ray gun. He uses it to shrink his dog Bessy (notably a Great Dane) to fit in his pocket. Before long he does this to more and more animals before he creates world peace and is elected President of the World. What kind of world wouldn’t have global peace if people could have dog sized elephants for pets? Or a Shoulder Tiger. Those would be a thing. So I’m going to actually start to write and illustrate this and get it in the ring. Ding! Drool.


Jonathan Webb   Junior Art Director

Britain’s Lost Women

It was with a light heart on a sunny summer’s evening that I stepped out into SoHo for the VivaWomen’s event at Razorfish. To be honest, my main motivation for attendance was to see what a “business transformation” agency looks like. And I wasn’t disappointed. With a grand off-street, wooden paneled entrance we were led up to a glass walled reception. Fallon and Heineken are also in the building. In fact a keg of beer joined us in the lift. I was disappointed when it exited onto level 2 and we progressed up to level 5. But not for long. We were greeted with a table of sophisticated snacks with beer and wine prior to the event kicking off – very inviting – also an opportunity to check out the interior of the premises. It was a big open space with wooden floors, white walls and loads of big windows letting in the evening sun. Razorfish has a really cool contemporary feel going on, which was exactly in line with my expectations. After a bit of snooping around, I started to get to the heart of why (mostly women) had assembled for this event. VivaWomen is “a network for women, created by women” we were told. Fact: 55% of employees at Publicis are women but the numbers diminish with more senior ranking. Not surprising really. So VivaWomen is about developing and advancing women within the network. This evening’s session wasn’t directly relevant to the overall objective of the movement but the theme was linked into empowering women in the community.


Karma Nivana was the charity that was addressing the audience tonight, in particular Jasvinder Sanghera, the CEO and founder. Karma Nivana was set up in 1993 to support victims and survivors of forced marriage and honour-based abuse. Jasvinder told us about her personal story that led to her family disowning her and founding the charity. What I found amazing was the number of young women who go missing from UK schools every year with no alarm bells being rung. This is because the people abducting these children are their own family members. Just think about it: if you are a girl and had gone missing at the age of 15 it would be your parents calling the police! Usually nothing is done. These girls simply vanish from society either carted off to India or held prisoner in their own home. If the disappearance is reported it’s generally the school teachers who have raised the alarm. This evening was of particular significance because on this day, 10 June 2015, the first person had been criminally convicted for honour-based violence in Cardiff. About a year ago this law been passed, due to significant campaigning from Karma Nivana, to make this type of violence and forced marriage illegal in the UK. Despite hundreds of cases being investigated, only one conviction. A huge milestone but still small steps. One of the problems is lack of awareness, and this includes within the police force. Hence on 14 July this year the first-ever annual memorial day to remember victims of honour killings will be held. This day marks the birthday of Shafilea Ahmed who sadly lost her life in 2003 aged 17. After suffering years of honour-based violence, including an attempted forced marriage, Shafilea’s parents suffocated her to death in front of her siblings. An estimated 5,000 women across the world are killed each year for bringing “shame” upon their families; at least 12 of these victims are British, but the true number is thought to be far higher. Consequently why they are called Britian’s Lost Women.


My heart wasn’t feeling quite as light as I walked out of Razorfish after the event into the evening’s sunlight. I had been exposed to a shocking violence affecting women I had no idea about – a silence crime going on behind closed doors. To find out more or how you can help, please visit

Karma Nivana

Bridget Christie   Group Account Director