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


About the ‘New Guy’

Well I have been asked to write a PLBR blog, which I graciously accepted without knowing what I wanted to talk about. So I hope the following ramblings and incoherent thoughts suffice.

As the ‘new guy’ I am often asked about what I did before winning the creative role from The Lab. So I suppose this blog post will not be dissimilar from a bio piece, but I will try to include some advice or talk about something of actual value along the way. Try not to get bored.

I suppose for want of a better word; I am an artist and always have been. From moulding foul smelling Play Doh into sculptures, to having more child-friendly anti-toxic paint over myself than the paper – I was always told I would make a great artist. I wanted to be one. Not the society hating, pretentious, rude and hard to work with ‘tormented genius’ role that looks down on other people (which seems to be the norm these days). Rather the kind that likes to create for beauty’s sake.


So with that in mind, I did a year towards a degree in Law. And even though I found criminal law to be interesting, I knew it wasn’t enough to hold my attention for the rest of my life, so I applied for art courses whilst working in a bank. Not in a branch, but in a ‘magic building’ where the real work happened. It was pretty dull. I eventually started my degree in Fine Art and it was 3 of the best years of my life. I drew, painted, sculpted and slept a lot. I had a particular affinity with lens work and branched off in the latter half of my second year to specialise in film and photography. My first film was awful. It’s 3 minutes long, involving me sharing a banana with myself. Black and white silent film where I stole some music from a Charlie Chaplin film and slowed it down to around 80%. Poorly edited…It went on to be showcased at the Whitstable film festival. A lot of people shook my hand saying how much they liked it. Damn.


I also love photography. Some of the shots I achieved with a really bad camera (included) I think are a testament to how I compose a shot. I’m really happy with them so I hope you think they are cool. I am now saving up for a 5d or a c300 or something similar.

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I have written a lot of screenplays, a few of which I was told to pursue by one of my lecturers – a film-maker who has had commissions with Film 4. So that’s a thing. Maybe if I plan it out well enough I can get a few short films done before I’m thirty. One of them I did in my final year at university. I was the producer, budget handler, head of casting, location scout, set designer, camera operator, director, runner, gaffer, cinematographer, editor, colour grader and I set up the screen for the ‘I AM art exhibition’ it was shown for. I will get funding and a crew next time. It was selected for a 6 week screening at the Turner Contemporary Gallery. An honour. I am not posting a link to the video as I don’t like it any more – sorry!

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I suppose I had better talk about something of value. A cutesy go-away-and-think-about-this type deal. Hopefully some of you are still reading, I know this is long. I wouldn’t read it. Anyway, I’ll call it ‘inspiration’. Here goes.

Aesthetic is important and wondrous. Not a day goes by where I don’t look up at the stars and get lost in the vastness (oh look he is a pretentious arsehole). I have seen Hubble space images projected at an IMAX, as well as footage of them installing the Hubble – all narrated by Tom Cruise. I highly recommend it. That’s what inspires me. Knowing how finite and insignificant we are against the vastness of what we don’t know. Seeing exploded stars in 12K resolution – dead, like they had stuck a pistol in their sun spot, with colourful matter like star brains that are smeared across the space wall – is awe inspiring. If I ever figure out how to transform that beauty outside of space photography and into a gallery I’d be a millionaire. It’s taken a horrible bad poetic turn, but I include a picture of a poetry ‘thing’ I won in school. See it? Great young minds. See, right there, credentials. I was a cocky kid in school, but least I had evidence to back it up. These are the ramblings I told you about at the beginning, remember?

If I had anything to say of worth, it’s to find your muse. Find something or someone that inspires you, and hold on to it. Look at it every day, even if it’s as stupid as looking up at the stars every night. Go and hold your head up high – walk out the door every morning knowing you’re going to kick arse that day. That’s what inspiration does; it’s the little spark that starts it all. Go get ’em you brilliant bastard, I believe in you.

Jonathan Webb – The New Guy.

He’s like Marmite…

I know we are given completely free rein in choosing what we would like to write about on here (minus expletives or obscenities) so it may seem a little sad that I am going to share a pharmaceutical-related post, but I think that there is much more behind the scenes of this particular article. Last weekend I sacrificed my much-anticipated Saturday morning lie in to go and visit the Damien Hirst exhibition at the Paul Stopler gallery. Art teamed with science is pretty much my idea of heaven, especially when it displays such an analytical platform – there’s always Sunday.


SCHIZOPHRENOGENESIS – yes I also wondered how Hirst managed to piece this term together, the melody of the syllables suddenly resonates a pleasant edge. After wandering around the life-size articles for the first 10 minutes I took it upon myself to ask an exhibitionist what they understood by that name in lights – it took a lot as it was a fairly small room with a deafening silence. So apparently Hirst wanted to try to portray the birth of schizophrenia through the way in which the pharmaceutical giants dress up their products. He feels as though it’s a two-way street in the development of such a disorder, and the prescription of medication – sort of a ‘chicken or egg’ dilemma.

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(Damien & Genesis’ Phil look separated at birth)

And as an unsuspecting member of the public it is easy to be drawn in by the pretty, clean and striking models that are laid out on such a stark white background. But what is missing is the dark side of which ironically Damien is notorious for, which is why I find this particular piece so tantalising. It’s not about the first impression, Hirst entices you into becoming infatuated by the portraits, the neon title and the pastel toy-like models, but what is really significant is the sobering reflection.


The pharmaceutical aspect of this exhibition is actually – excuse the cliché – the tip of the iceberg. Hirst even took it upon himself to plaster his own brand over the back of a pill packet to almost make a mockery of the giants of the industry, to fool you to believe that anyone could personalise and materialise their very own fairytale cure.

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I’m sure many are aware of the imprisoning nature of Schizophrenia however little is known about the effects that it induces upon sufferers and their loved ones. They too strive to create a façade, to disguise the differing personalities and states of mind. Governed by the diagnosis from a trusted professional and ultimately held hostage by the tiny capsules that greet them each day. In a way it is a pretty pill, a beaming beacon of hope that helps guide an individual towards a lifestyle that is worthy of a show – but the show must go on and in this case spiral into a vicious circle. As an audience you are confronted by stacks of medication piled on top of one another, possibly signifying the competitive nature of the industry; which I interpret as a reflection of the competing thoughts that a sufferer has to strive to referee.


Looking at the containers, the bottles and this syringe – they are all empty, why? It leaves you with such a hollow feeling, this outer shell portrays such a promise from a first glance, but the reality is lacking true substance. Interestingly I managed to discover that Hirst had toyed with the idea of including a completely transparent see-through pill model to bring the placebo to life, but I think the fact that he decided against this emphasises the very purpose. The placebo effect in this case is the one the audience feels viewing his spectacle.

Anyway, I could type on for pages analysing his every intension but I will leave you to take away what you will. From my perspective Hirst can do no wrong (mild bias) and work of this nature can only create a global platform for the education and positive press of a disorder like schizophrenia. If you do get the chance to visit, this free exhibition is on until the 15th November (Tuesday–Saturday). Unless you want to purchase a little memento, in which case all the best with selling your car.

Thanks for reading :-)

Abbie Warner – Junior Account Executive



This is an incredibly belated blog post, but hopefully its lack of presence in 2013 will make an entertaining start to 2014. Back in September, we were lucky enough to go along to the Royal Festival Hall for an afternoon of TEDx talks.

For those who haven’t heard of it, TED is a non-profit organisation devoted to ‘ideas worth spreading’. It started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from the worlds of technology, entertainment and design. TED is an absolutely brilliant resource and I would highly recommend checking it out.

Albertopolis was the first TEDx event (the x representing an independently organised form of TED) to be held at the Royal Albert Hall. The topic of discussion was how art and science fit together in the modern world.

The afternoon was as diverse as you can get, with presentations spanning live music, dance, and making clothes from kelp. The subject of this event was a fascinating one, and particularly relevant to healthcare communications, where it’s important for us to make this link between art and science to help people.

So, I’m sure you’re itching to know what happened on the day, so without further ado…

Nicholas McCarthy (click name to view video)
I read Malcolm Gladwell’s David & Goliath a couple of months ago and this really resonates with Nicholas McCarthy’s story. Born without a right hand, he wanted to become a concert pianist. Rather than conceding defeat, he played his weakness as a strength and is now performs his passion, recently playing piano at the London 2012 Paralympics closing ceremony.

Jessica Thom
Jessica Thom’s talk was fascinating. Suffering from severe Tourette’s syndrome, Jess set up a charity called Tourettes Hero which celebrates the creativity and humour of Tourettes. Her talk was about utilising the powers you have to make change happen, as there are things we can control, and those we cannot. Rather than giving up, Jess turned what many would see as a disadvantage into a massive advantage.

David Braben and John Halpern
The popular games creator, David Braben, absorbed us in a talk about how rules can be beautiful, and John Halpern’s talk about cryptic crosswords was equally as engaging. It was a fascinating insight to how the human mind works. To paraphrase John, “Suppose you put your hand up in class and get the question wrong. You are far less likely to put your hand up again, in case you fail again. Crosswords allow you to fail again and again, until you succeed.”

This is crucial to creative output. Without risk-taking and failure, ideas will never rise above the mundane. John also talked about success, and how much better success tastes when you’re not expecting it. “The moment someone works out a cryptic crossword, there is joy!” It’s something I can really relate to.

Andrew Shoben
Andrew Shoben’s vanishing music box was incredible. Using the space within the Royal Albert Hall, he created a beautiful piece of music out of seemingly random questions, applying this assumed randomness to a music box style system. I’d recommend watching the video above reading this crappy explanation!

Sally Davies
I think if I was to take anything out of the afternoon it was Sally Davies’ talk, ‘the drugs don’t work.’ Sally is the Chief Medical Officer for England. She spoke about antibiotic resistance and the fear she has about it. Around 25,000 people die in Europe every year because of antibiotic resistance, which makes it a massive cause for concern. Considering the last major antibiotic find was in 1987, there is currently a ‘discovery void’ and we cannot continue the casual use of antibiotics. In my faux-naïf ignorance, I’d always believed I was safe, purely by limiting my antibiotic intake. I was both surprised and disturbed to discover that the antibiotic resistance can come from anywhere and can be out of your control. The way meat is treated (to plump it up) for consumption, often involves the use of antibiotics. Sally ended by saying the world needs to reacquaint itself with the simple concept of bathroom hygiene. I for one will give an earful to the next bloke I see leaving the bathroom without washing their hands.

Ryan Francois
Ryan Francois (great name!) described the evolution of the Lindy Hop and how four styles of the dance have amalgamated into one main style, purely thanks to the internet. I found his final comment relatively profound, about not letting creativity die. If things are just copied, original variants will die a death.

Roland Lamb
Roland Lamb ended by demonstrating an instrument he’d designed. His talk included a taster of the Royal Albert Hall’s monumental organ, followed by piano, keyboard and his instrument, the Seaboard.

All of the talks are available online so all is not lost if you could not make it to the event.

Light reading

In an attempt to source some Vitamin D after a long and cold winter, and always keen to absorb a few rays of culture, a handful of PLBR-ers recently attended the Light Show at London’s Hayward Gallery. To say it was an illuminating experience would be an understatement; I found myself wide-eyed and open-mouthed at the must-see, sold-out exhibition (apparently it’s Hayward’s most popular show yet), which successfully reminds us how light has the power to effect our state of mind just as much as how we perceive and respond to sights surrounding us.

The light show explores how 22 artists, ranging from the 1960s to the present day, use actual light as their medium, as well as the interplay of science, technology and industry using immersive environments, free-standing light sculptures and projections.

The Light Show explores the experiential and phenomenal aspects of light by bringing together atmospheric installations to intangible sculptures that you can move around. Each piece of art offers something different to the viewer, demonstrating different aspects of light such as colour, duration, intensity and projection, as well as perceptual phenomena to shape space in different ways.

Below are some of our favorite pieces:

Leo Villareal’s breath-taking ‘Cylinder II’ greets visitors to the Hayward Gallery. Simply a beautiful piece that anyone can appreciate purely on aesthetic levels, the bubbles of light travel up and down the cone, creating a mesmerising twinkle.

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Stepping into series of rooms dedicated to Carlos Cruz Diez confuses and tricks the brain, to the point that you begin the wonder which colour you are really seeing. The Blue Room felt almost cold and clinical, whilst the Red Room left us feeling warm and relaxed.


One of my personal favourite pieces was by Anthony McCall, entitled ‘You and I, Horizontal’. This exhibit referred to a “solid light installation” and, using subtle smoke effects, teases the viewer into thinking the beam of the projection is in fact a three-dimensional shape. You truly feel immersed.

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Another highlight was Conrad Shawcross’ ‘Slow Arc Inside a Cube IV’, ostensibly a giant mesh cage with a moving light inside that projects through its walls. This, in turn, distorts the space inside the room to an unnerving degree. It should come with a warning, “not designed for the claustrophobic”.


One of the last pieces you see is Olafur Eliasson’s transfixing ‘Model For A Timeless Garden’. Through the constant disruption of strobe lights you see water escape from a shelf in a series of shapes, arcs and fountains. Talk about saving the best until last!


– Kate Brown

Most pictures from the Telegraph, though photos don’t do justice to the experience.

Mac exhibits at PLBR

Currently dotted around our studio are some cartoons by my grandad, Mac. He has worked for the Daily Mail for around 30 years where he produces political cartoons. The work in the room is a selection from 2013 covering everything newsworthy, from adverse weather conditions in Britain, to prison closures, and of course, the horse meat scandal.

Don't push your luck Sharon

Don’t push your luck Sharon


I thought this is what you wanted to see – Les Miserables

His cartoons, which appear in the paper from Tuesday through to Friday, are all started and finished within a day. After coming up with a number of ideas and sketching them out, one is chosen and inked up. It then gets handed over to be scanned, running the following day. The idea of having to do an entire cartoon in one day from scratch seems almost impossible, but the variety of witty outcomes is staggering.

Mini-Competition: In each picture he hides a face of his wife Lizzie. If you’re in the office have a look to see if you can find her. Alternatively you can see all of his cartoons online. There is no reward but you might get a pat on the back.

FREEZE : Can you tell what it is yet?

Earlier this year I went to lively Liverpool. While there I was fortunate enough to visit the ‘Rolf Harris: Can You Tell What it is Yet?’ retrospective exhibition, showing at the Walker Art Gallery. While my personal memories of Rolf are vague, nobody could completely forget the chap with animated features, didgeridoo and charming Australian accent who kept us guessing for most of our youth. Or at the very least a few hours of our life.

The scope of work was immense! Immense! From TV snippets of his cartoon drawing to recreations of Klimt, Monet and Van Gogh, all via his own work full of brash and colourful marks. The gallery was packed and, from what I saw, a huge success!

Rolf has become something of an artistic magician, making a few brush strokes on a canvas morph into a masterpiece. While the final piece may not an exact replica of the original, the way they are formed provides entertainment and a reason to stop and see.

On the subject of entertainment, the Frieze Art Fair at Regents Park this year was equally spectacular. The array of galleries and artist work was brilliant, and the addition of the Frieze Masters provided the wonderful experience of bringing historic art to the new from around the world.

Some of the most memorable pieces had that air of “Can you tell what it is yet?”.  Not because Rolf was painting in the Middle of the Frieze Masters with a clear canvas and bucket of house paint, but

Because they all had something a little bit different about them, something that made you glance a second time. Whether it was a painting of a man that looked like he was made of fruit, images made of beads, gigantic organic forms made of rubber or abstracts that looked like they were made of googly eyes (on closer inspection, the latter were black and white circles pasted on each other). There’s certainly something to say for images which keeps us guessing, and which mysteries stop us in our tracks so we can find out that bit more.

The same can be said for some of the photographers that Publicis Life Brands Resolute have had the pleasure of meeting, and whose work has been exhibited around the Kensington Village offices. At the end of last year Jim Naughten astounded us with his historic images of Army vehicles which were, in fact, miniatures. Liz McBurney, from Alyson Jones,  provided some still life photographs that kept us intrigued while we found what she was really knitting. The lovely Carl Warner from Metcalfe Lancaster kept us entertained with some of his fruity photography, while currently, Lucid Representation’s two fabulous photographers are being exhibited. Alistair Hood provides us with the perfect escape to an unknown land with his landscapes, and Mark Harrison’s detailed portraits leave us wanting to know more about the sitter.

Sarah Leader
Project Manager