“make believe” – a portrait series of women in the arts who have impacted my life, accompanied by my stories – and stories other people have shared with me – in an effort to champion the arts, build a community, gain strength through vulnerability, and heal

The Story

Some weeks you have ALL the time and all of the motivation, and you give 110% and smash all of your goals and deadlines and love the results. Other weeks you have NO time and triple the work, and you give all you’ve got but barely meet your goals and deadlines (if you make them at all, and you only make them because you give up sleep – a lot of sleep).

This week has been the second kind of week, if you hadn’t already figured that out. But guess what. I’ve made the conscious decision to still be okay with the results. I even love some of them!

Part of this “make believe” series is being authentic and honest, with you and with myself. For me this week, that means accepting the fact that sometimes my best effort isn’t what I’d hoped it would be – because I’m not superhuman – but it is still good. Just because it’s not what I originally hoped does not automatically make it bad. I don’t have to beat myself up over things that don’t go as planned. As I type this up it sounds ridiculous that I would berate myself over things I honestly couldn’t control, but I’ve done it before, and I’m sure some of you can relate.

At any rate, that was all to say that I’m writing this blog post at 3 in the morning, three hours before it “needs” to be posted online because it’s been one of those weeks, and unfortunately it’s not going to be as long or as eloquent or as profound as some of my previous posts in this series. Because 3 in the morning. But like I said before, I’ve made the conscious decision to be okay with that, and for me that’s such a relief 😊

So, Helen. Besides the fact that she is a brilliant actress and has worked on the stage and screen (which seems to be a common theme amongst British actors, and I adore it), she has taught me two things:

  • I don’t have to always be so polite. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to go around being rude to people, but if I’m always “polite” then I’ll never say no. If I’m always “polite,” I won’t stand up for myself. If I’m always “polite,” then I won’t disrupt anything or anyone, and I’ll always do what’s expected, what’s conventional. I think somehow, somewhere, society decided that if you didn’t fit into its definition of politeness then you were automatically rude, disrespectful, etc. But there is nothing wrong with saying no when you’re overcommitted or when you’re being manipulated. There is nothing wrong with saying no when the status quo isn’t actually on the right side of history, just because it’s what has always been done. I don’t have to always be so polite, and learning to say no has been so freeing and empowering and, honestly, such a relief.
  • Warning, cliché ahead: age is just a number. (Remember how it’s 3 in the morning? I’m allowed some clichés) In my experience, based on what I’ve seen of the world, the older a woman gets the less society values her, pays attention to her, takes her seriously, etc. At least in America. And the shift is even more dramatic in the entertainment industry. Thankfully, a lot of people (mostly women) are working to change that, but in the meantime, I have women like Helen to look up to. Because of Helen, and other women like her, still going strong, kicking ass and taking names, I’m not worried about getting older. In fact, I’m actually enjoying it! It’s not always a picnic, sure, but I don’t need to fear it or resist it. And you’ll notice I never actually mentioned how old Helen is, because it doesn’t actually matter 😉

Now maybe it’s the exhaustion talking, but a voice in my head just said “get over yourself” – it sounded like Helen, obviously – and if that doesn’t sum up this blog post and a sort of trademark Helen Mirren attitude I don’t know what does 😉


The Art

“vagabond” – Vagabonds are always moving, from place to place, and they never settle for too long. Helen herself often lives like that, and has described actors as rogues and vagabonds. Also, there is a raw, gritty connotation to the word “vagabond” that I felt was illustrated in the reference image for this piece and was something I immediately knew I wanted to capture in my drawing, as well. Hopefully it translates! The reference image for this piece was a photo I was given permission to use taken by the brilliant Peter Lindbergh. I am selling prints of this picture,12 x 9 in on heavy paper, and you can buy them in my Shop!

“The Most Glorious Phase” – Calendar Girls is one of my favorite movies, and it is a wonderful example of the power of friendship, women who don’t let age define them, and doing what’s right instead of what’s expected or “polite” or conventional. It also just so happens to be a model for how my best friend Rachel and I are going to start living one of these days 😉 The title from this piece comes from a scene in the movie, but I can’t tell you more — spoilers! The reference image for this painting was taken from the movie Calendar Girls. 24 x 18 in, oil on stretched canvas, also for sale in my Shop.

Until Next Time…

If you would like to contribute a story about how one of the ladies in my series has impacted your life, shoot me an email at elizabeth@byelizabethhope.com with the subject line “story time.” Your story can be anything from how one of these women has impacted your life to how you relate to a fictional character one of these women portrayed or wrote about to a favorite memory you have of one of these ladies. There’s no word limit, just let me know if you’d like me to quote your story directly or paraphrase it and if you’d like to be kept anonymous or not. I’ll be sharing these stories in my Instagram posts and on my blog. And if you submit a story, I will give you the portrait print of your choice for free! All you have to pay is $10 for shipping! If you missed the post explaining this series, you can read it HERE 🙂

In my experience, if you know who Helen Mirren is, then chances are you LOVE her 😉 What is your favorite role that she’s played (TV, movies, or theatre!)? What’s something you’ve learned from her?