Award-winning filmmaker, artist, author and coach Lou Hamilton has just released her first book, offering a kick-ass message for all women. Karen Campbell caught up with her to find out more.
Lou Hamilton’s gorgeous debut Brave New Girl: How to be Fearless offers a series of hand-drawn adventures featuring lead character Brave New Girl (BNG).
What was the inspiration behind Brave New Girl?
When my youngest was finishing her A-levels and heading off travelling, I have to say I felt a bit fearful. But I didn’t want my fears to hold her back so decided I needed a distraction. For the first time in years I picked up a pencil and started doodling. Abstract patterns to start with, then suddenly out popped this little character; part girl, part woman, part animal, part ninja.
She wasn’t a size double D in a leotard, six-inch heels and fully bouffanted hairdo; she had stick legs, a triangle dress, sometimes no arms and always no face. And yet this unprepossessing female was capable of anything. And if she couldn’t do something, she’d invent a way round it.
She’d swim with jellyfish and fight dragons, turn lemons into lemonade and distribute books to the world in a self-built Unicopter. I kept drawing her and she became known as Brave New Girl.
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
Generally I’m not brave at all. I certainly wouldn’t go skydiving or bungee jumping. But trying to live life as a freelancer is possibly the bravest thing I do, and probably the most challenging.
I frequently run headlong into brick walls and fall off cliffs in the pursuit of ‘creative entrepreneurship’, which means juggling 10 different things in pursuit of an income. Sometimes it’s a windfall, sometimes it’s a tumbleweed; it’s always a rollercoaster. It scares me but I do it anyway. I guess that’s the definition of brave.
What’s been an almighty fuck-up of yours that you got through?
I don’t call them fuck-ups. I re-frame them as ‘learning’ and I’m learning a lot most of the time. That’s creativity. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.
What – if anything – still scares you? Any lost ambition still out there?
I still get scared about lots of things, but now if I’m dithering over doing something, my friends and family simply say, “Brave New Girl would do it, so you’ve got to.” I’ve literally ‘drawn’ a rod for my own back.
“In my paintings, when I start a canvas, I fail on purpose. I paint the first few layers in hideous colours so that I have something to work against.”
So I’m out there fighting fear with my pencil, and in turn BNG is challenging me to take on more and more scary things, like public speaking and going on telly. I’m still a frustrated filmmaker. It’s still stupidly hard for women in the film business. I’d like to change that. Or get BNG to.
Where would you like BNG to go?
BNG is already off on her adventures in book form both here and the US. I’d love her to travel all across the world, I’d love her to be a cuddly toy, I’d love to see little girls dress up as BNG in the same way that boys dress up as Superman. I’d like women to say “I’m BNG, I can do this,” and then go do it.
Who would play her in a film?
The filmmaker in me would love to see BNG the movie. She’ll probably play herself but I’d love her to feature alongside other fearless actors like Helen Mirren and Kristen Wiig in an adventure action movie that leaves Wonder Woman with her big boobs, and James Bond with his big biceps, biting dust.
BNG will show girls and women out there how to be anything they want to be, how to beat back their inner bully and how to raise merry hell in the pursuit of a better life for all.
History is full of stories where women get a bum deal. Film is full of rubbish roles for women, shot in the main by men. BNG the movie won’t be any of that.
Fear of failing is only a good thing, right?
Fear of failing holds you back. The most effective people fail a lot. So I reckon I must be doing OK because I fail all the time. But I use it as a way of getting better at things.
In my paintings, when I start a canvas, I fail on purpose. I paint the first few layers in hideous colours so that I have something to work against. It creates a tension and I use that to push myself to make it better.
Whenever I fail at anything, I always ask myself, what have I learned and how can I do it better or differently. Failing makes you really flexible!
I was so happy when two 70-year-old women said to me, “Make sure you do BNG drawings for us too.” And I’ve had mums saying they are going to buy a BNG book for their baby girls before they can even read.
I want BNG to be a mascot for girls and women everywhere. She gives out the message that we don’t have to be ‘strong’ or ‘sexy’ or ‘successful’ or whatever the pressure is that we all have on us; we can be ourselves in whichever way supports us to live the lives we want to live.
On 11 October, Lou is running a workshop at The School of Life in London on Becoming Fearless. Her paintings are being exhibited at The Other Art Fair during London Art Week, 6-9 October.
For more from Lou, check out her website: www.bravenewgirl.co.uk
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Karen Campbell is a life coach at www.your-dreamcatcher.com. She likes gin, James McAvoy and pretending she's not from Scunthorpe.