Helen Simms Fashion Illustrator
A while ago I had a long leisurely lunch with my good friend Helen Simms. I’ve known Helen for a long time so seeing her is always fun however today was even more fun since I was choosing one of her beautiful fashion illustrations to take home. Helen brought lots of my favourites with her to choose from ( It took ages as they are all so lovely ). Eventually I made a decision and then got down to the task of interviewing Helen for the blog.
So tell me Helen, how did you get into illustration?
Um, well that’s a very long story! I always knew deep down that I was an artist …. so I did the usual Art GCSE and A level and progressed onto an Art foundation course on which I specialised in Fine Art painting. Illustration wasn’t even an option and to be honest at this stage I didn’t really have a clue about the different kinds of jobs you could do with Art and Design. My Art foundation was very conceptual in its approach and seemed very much influenced by Damien Hirst and the YBAs – the lecturers seemed to want us to fill filing cabinets with sawdust or make bicycles into animals. I got the sense that painting was seen as somehow past it and for some reason I think I allowed this to influence me.
I ended up studying History of Art at Leicester and then did an MA in it at UCL and though I really enjoyed my degrees, I always felt like something was missing. After that I did an internship at the Arts Council Collection and finally settled on becoming an Art teacher. I was accepted onto Cambridge University’s teacher training program and enjoyed having a positive impact on students for a couple of years. While teaching art I became more and more interested in illustration and finally focused on my own practice again. I went part time in order to illustrate part time and teach part time and now, finally, I am a full time illustrator.
I do believe everyone has a path and it’s so important to follow your dreams, no matter what stage of life you are at. I feel like I am finally where I am supposed to be now.
Tell me about a typical day
I work for myself, from home, so it’s hugely important to have structure…. otherwise I’d end up sleeping in, gorging myself on food, watching the Kardashians and other such “quality” programmes and generally getting very little done!
So … I tend to get up early in order to take care of my dogs and am ready to start work by 9. I break for lunch and go for a walk in the fresh air (again with my dogs) and then settle back down to work until around 5 or 6. I wish I could say I spent all day, every day drawing and painting but the truth is quite a lot of time is also taken up responding to emails, placing orders at the printers, listing etsy items, writing to prospective clients and packaging up etsy sales/going to the post office. I also spend quite a lot of time researching and sourcing images in response to different briefs, manipulating images using Photoshop and yes, of course, drawing!
I think it’s really important to maintain a good work ethic. An illustrator friend of mine got her first editorial commission from a newspaper. They called her at 9am and wanted the work by 5pm that same day, so it definitely won’t do to be rusty! Even if I don’t have specific commissions and deadlines to meet I always continue to work on my personal illustrations in order to build my portfolio and keep getting my work seen.
What/who are your inspirations?
In terms of other illustrators I absolutely LOVE the work of Rene Gruau. His way of working had such an impact and still has such an impact on fashion illustration today. I also love David Downton, Garance Dore and Yoco Nagamiya ….. and too many more to mention! I constantly look at the work of others and am constantly discovering new artists. There’s nothing more inspiring than seeing a really great work of art. It’s also really important to have great source material – this could come from all around us – on the street, from a magazine and even online. Pinterest is my new best friend – but be warned, it’s VERY addictive!
What is your dream?
To be honest, my dream is to continue to make a living from doing what I love! I’m thankful every day that I am able to and still get excited when someone is pleased with a job or if I make a sale – even if it’s just one of my greeting cards!
Of course there are certain dreams such as illustrating for a major fashion magazine or working on a campaign/ designing illustrations for packaging for a big fashion house that I can’t even explain to you how excited I would be about!
And here are the photos of Helen’s stunning illustrations which I had the privilege to choose from. Each one was wrapped in a protective case.
This is the piece that captured my heart ❤