2016 review and onward into 2017

It’s that time of year. 2016 was a blur of, well let’s be honest, many terrible things. But amidst all that it’s easy to forget all we’ve achieved, so let’s have a look back at what I got done in 2016. Spoiler alert- it was a metric butt-tonne.

2016

My artwork was licensed onto 15 new figurines and hundreds of phone and device cases.

I traded at Supanova, St Ives Medieval Fair, Winter Fest, Glebe St Fair, and Central Coast Christmas Markets. Book Expo was cancelled in a very disappointing manner and won’t be one of my attended shows again.

I painted Eye of the Storm, Moon Boat, 78 Tarot Astral High Priestess (yet to be released), 78 Tarot Carnival- Strength and some mini paintings- Locked, Dipped in Stars and Rainbows, Silver Butterflies, and Together through the Storm.

I published and released two huge deluxe style 2017 calendars.

The French edition of Memory’s Wake book one was released, and books 2 and 3 of the series were released on Audio finishing the trilogy there.

Emotionally Charged was optioned for TV, and a script for the pilot episode was written by the studio I’m working with, and is being presented to TV networks.

I published 10 colouring books- Gothic, Goddess and Myth, Gothic Minis, Mermaid Minis, Festive Magic, Faedorables, Mythic Mermaids, Grayscale Mermaids, Grayscale Enchanted, and Night Magic. I sold over 50,000 colouring books (including Christmas of 2015), and have signed with a couple of publishers for a European release and Hong Kong release.

I released the new Easy Display Art Prints option, and am discontinuing many of my other product types from my Fairies and Fantasy business as I move away from doing manufacturing myself. I will continue making prints and books, but may stop selling all other products- planning there continues to evolve.

2017

I am cutting down on trading at in-person events, but I will attend Books by the Bridge, Mind Body Spirit, and Supanova.

I am, somewhat sadly, saying goodbye to my DIY Dolls range. They were super fun to create, and I might still occasionally do some designs for fun, but I want to dedicate my time more to artworks and fiction from now on.

Colouring Books will still be a thing. I have two more grayscale books planned, and two more outline books planned. I might also do another Faedorables book as well, but colouring book releases won’t be as frequent as in 2016.

I aim to write two more stories in the Empath Chronicles series to wrap that storyline up. They are all planned and ready to go, and I even started writing them at the Story Queens writing retreat.

In fiction writing I have plans for 5 other standalone novels I’d LOVE to write, plus a new series, but I’m not sure on the ifs and whens for these yet.

I have a couple ideas for non-fiction books I’d like to do as well, an art/creative business how-to style book mainly. It’s been on my list for a long time, and as with most things, just waiting for me to find time or make it a priority.

I’ve been working on finding ways to bring my art and my writing together more. With this in mind, there may be children’s books or other picture book style projects in the future.

I want to paint more. I feel as though, with the little mini experiments with new mediums I’ve been doing, that I’m starting to get a better feel for the mediums I like (oils, watercolours, graphite, and markers are interesting me most currently) and don’t like (canvas. Yep, finally worked out I really don’t like painting on canvas.) I feel as though I’m on the cusp of defining a method and style I can really own, that I really click with, but know it will take a lot more trial and error to really get there. I plan to make more time for this in 2017.

What would you like to see me do more of in 2017?

Help shape what direction my creations take in the future by filling in this 2 minute survey

Goodbye 2015. Oh, hi there 2016!

Well, that was quick, wasn’t it? Here we are, starting a new year again. This is the time that I like to look back at the previous year and everything it involved to remind myself that it didn’t all just pass by in the blink of a eye. I actually did things! Did I do the things I had planned to? Well, let’s have a look…

>> Check out my 2014 wrap up post

The Year of Colouring

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room first of all. This year, regardless of my other plans, became all about colouring books. I spent literally half the year, or more, just designing colouring books. I already had one out, my simple Fairy Art colouring book, and worked on and off through the beginning of the year on my Mermaids colouring book which was released in June. And then, things exploded. Mermaids started hitting bestseller lists on Amazon and selling like nay-nays. I have to admit I was, and am still, shocked at how much people loved it. And everyone was asking for more, so being the kind that wants to please, I dropped all other projects and the rest of the year became colouring book central. I published another two colouring books over the following months, Enchanted (forest themed) and Fairy Companions. And then I created a Mini pocket sized sampler book with samples from the other four. Enchanted also zoomed up the charts, and even now Mermaids and Enchanted fight each other over the number 1 place in their category on Amazon-

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But what else did I do?

The beginning of the year was a big milestone for me, finishing my Memory’s Wake trilogy with the release of Providence Unveiled. Once the three books were out and complete, I also released an Omnibus edition, the audio book of Memory’s Wake, and the Companion Guide which was designed for people who read on ebook or listen to audio book, but still want a way to get all the illustrations.

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What I didn’t do in 2015 was much of any kind of writing. I had hoped to get the next Empath Chronicles story finished and released, but it got put aside for colouring book work. I did get some time to do a little brainstorming and plotting work (it’s easy to let my mind wander through ideas while outlining colouring pages!) that have helped my plans for the Empath Chronicles and other stories I want to write… but no actual writing done.

I did only a little bit of new art-

A lot of little or experimental artworks which I auctioned along with the Queen of Wands artwork for 78 Tarot and Gift of Starlight, the original of which is for sale now. And of course, my whole website here got a huge make over so I could have a shop here, especially for my original paintings!

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Back in April-

I did an April Fools joke as I usually do, which was a bit of a flop because…

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“I thought your name WAS Selena French!”

We also had some huge storms here which knocked out our power and phone for days, and straight after that I went into surgery to repair my umbilical hernia (being pregnant does all kinds of mess to your body!). The surgery was a quick and easy day surgery, but I didn’t count on requiring months after that to recover. Abdominal surgery, ouch.

I was recovered though just in time for my events for the year! I went to my usuals- Supanova, Winterfest, and Book Expo Australia, and added Sydney Comic-con to the list. Also in December I did a group market with my authors group which was fantastic!

Me, at Supanova, flipping out fangirl style at getting to meet Ed and Al!

Over all, I did manage to get a lot done in 2015, knocking off about half my list of projects I had planned before the tidal wave of colouring books hit. But I have to admit it’s been super fun riding that wave! My favourite part is seeing the finished coloured artworks everyone has been sending me, it’s amazing and inspiring to me seeing the colours people choose for my work. I love it!

How was your 2015? What do you have planned for 2016?

To be honest, I’m not sure of my plans for 2016. I plan to do some planning! So far, I’m partway through work on the next, yes, the next colouring book. It will be Gothic themed. I really do want to get back to some of my other passions that got neglected though, particularly writing and dollmaking. And of course, painting. I’ve been making more of an effort to do a little something creative every day, even if it’s just a 10 minute sketch or some story planning. And that’s felt good. I hope I can keep it up!

Planning ahead- 2015

The day to day work in my business can be very mixed. Filling online orders is regular, but after that I could be designing dolls, or painting new artworks, or business planning, or keeping up with emails and social media, or laying out new art books, or so many other things. I always have a few larger projects on the go at any one time as well, hopping between them.

Mid 2014, I was looking at the state of my projects, and one in particular- the Memory’s Wake trilogy. It was already 6 months after I had wanted the final book finished, and I knew there was probably another 6 months of work still to go to get it done. “But I have to get my online store updated, and there’s that new doll design I want to do, and I’ve got enough artworks together to do another Art Collection book” my brain kept saying.

I had to get my third novel finished, but there was just so much other stuff to do.

So I had to make a tough decision.

I put everything on hold until the book was done. EVERYTHING. I did not paint, I did not make dolls, I did not update sites or even GLANCE at my to-do lists. I kept up with orders and emails, but after that there was only one job for me. Finish. That. Book.

And I did.

Here’s a video I made for my novel release party talking about finishing the trilogy-

Now here I am, with that project finished and a whole world of to-do list possibilities opened up to me again! It feels like I’m starting fresh in so many ways. And in a lot of ways it’s a bit scary.

Another video from my release party, talking about some of the things I might do next!

What’s Next for my Art?

While I did do a fair bit of painting to get the illustrations for Providence Unveiled done, they are in a slightly different style to the majority of my art. I feel as though I haven’t really painted in forever. And I look at my body of work and to be honest, I don’t know if I like it. It’s as though there is some conflict between the kind of art I like, and the kind of art that naturally comes out when I create. I’m having an inner conflict about what my “style” is or if I even have one. I want to re-examine my art style and work harder to improve the look of my paintings, take it in a direction towards a look I really like. I have already started experimenting with different looks and mediums (oil paints, yikes!), and I think experimenting is the best thing to do in this situation, so expect to see a lot of that happening.

I’m also working on getting a new online store together as part of this site here, focusing just on my original paintings and auctions of my smaller works I’ve been creating.

What’s Next for my fiction?

I want to finish the Empath Chronicles story, that’s a priority for me. I have two more short novellas planned to tie it up, and that will be that series done. I’ve roughly mapped in to try and get the next one released around August.

I have a few other story ideas I’m really keen to write as well as I mentioned in the video above. Those probably won’t get a look in until 2016 at this point though. I really have to focus more on my art again for a while than my writing, but I’m trying to work out a schedule for myself where I get at least a couple of hours every week for writing.

What about other books and projects?

There are LOTS of those. Here’s a short list of what you can expect for 2015-

  • More Art Collection books (fingers crossed there will be a new one by April!)
  • The Memory’s Wake hardcover Omnibus
  • The Memory’s Wake audio books and the Memory’s Wake illustrated guidebook.
  • More colouring books!
  • A “how to” art book with art tips
  • A “how to” book about art business
  • I’ve even got half a children’s book planned out that popped into my head while falling asleep (as all the best ideas do!)

As usual, I think I’ve planned out far more for myself than I will actually be able to fit into the year (especially considering I’m still only working part time, 3 days a week, until my daughter is in school!).

What do you think I should be working on next? What project are you waiting on for me to finish?

Have you read the Memory’s Wake trilogy yet? If not, you can now get the whole set of three books in one ebook omnibus. Order your copy and help make my art ban worth it!

Available at Amazon on sale for $7.99!

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End of Year Wrap Up 2014

Although it’s a busy time of year and I’m often “on holidays” at this time, I find it useful to look back at the year that has passed and look forward to the next year. Here’s a little wrap up, in no particular order, of the things that happened in 2014 in my life and business. This will be quite short and brief because I’m writing in mini-breaks during toddler duty!

Mini Originals


At the end of last year through the start of this year I painted a bunch of mini original paintings. It was my first foray back into traditional painting since moving to digital when my daughter was born. I enjoyed them immensely and auctioned a number of them on this site. I’m planning on doing a lot more in the new year when my current project is out of the way.

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Finished writing the third novel in a trilogy


Speaking of the current project, this was a big one for me, and well overdue. After the mid year goal of having my last book published flew by, I made it my mission to get my trilogy done once and for all! This meant putting a hold on ALL other work until it was done. No new paintings, dolls, anything that isn’t related to the book until the book is published (except vital business tasks like emails and shipping orders!). It’s been my focus for months now and will be finished very soon. The manuscript is done, edited, and I just want to give one final read through myself before it’s ready. I’ve done a stack of illustrations and just have 6 left to paint before they are done too. I’m aiming for a mid-late January release date!

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DIY Darlings


My DIY Darlings dolls range was a joy this year, and I worked on them a lot, refining existing patterns and creating new ones. I also made some really fun videos about them.

 

New Logo


After many years with my old logo, I worked with one of my favourite designers, Sarah Dixon, to create a new, updated, more readable logo (because really, my name is hard enough to spell and pronounce already!). I love this new design so much!

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New Art


Some of my favourite new paintings I did this year were Bonded, Autumn Slumber, and Dreamlike.

PSP Tubes released


This year I’ve started doing some more digital products, including PSP Tubes which have been fun to create.

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Events


I missed out on my beloved Winterfest this year, but got to attend Sydney Supanova, and Book Expo Australia, which were both fantastic! At Supanova I went dressed as Sarah from Labyrinth, and my daughter visited briefly as Toby.

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Gardening


On the more personal side, I’ve done a lot more gardening this year. Both because I enjoy it and my daughter is loving it, and for the greater environment as well, we are trying to grow a lot more edible plants and turn out little yard into a mini farm. Our veggie garden is doing well, and we just got some backyard chickens a few days ago as well!

Here’s a photo from a month or two ago showing the before and after. A veggie garden is a bit nicer use of that space than spider infested rose bushes, yeah?

And in 2015?


January should see the wrap up of my Memory’s Wake trilogy and then I can focus on other things again. I don’t have much more in the way of fiction books planned (well I do have lots of stories in my head still, but not the time to do them yet!), but am hoping to release more colouring books and some art technique and business how-to books. For Memory’s Wake I will also release boxed sets and a guide book after the trilogy is finished as well.

I can’t wait to start doing some non-book paintings and more doll designs again too. I’ve been so focused on getting Memory’s Wake finished that I haven’t even looked at all my other to-do lists for ages!

Happy new year everyone! How was your 2014 and what do you have planned in 2015.

An Artists Life- Expressed in funny GIFs

When you first tell your family you want to try and make a living as an artist-

And most days you have to work this hard-

Finally you make your first sale, and it’s only a little one, but you made it-

And then you reach a point when you can tell people you really are a professional artist, that earns a living and all-

When you tell your non-arty friends about the INCREDIBLE new teeny tiny sable brush you just bought for a weeks worth of income and you’re so excited to start painting with, their reaction is-

When you wanting be painting, but know you have to knuckle down and do your accounts, and instead you end up doing this-

Because being a self employed artist, you’ve got to keep a close eye on your income-

When you accidentally hand-stamp paint onto places on your artwork that paint shouldn’t be-

But even when you don’t make a mistake, artworks rarely turn out the way you first imagined-

And the days when you just have no inspiration or motivation, and feel like you never produce anything good-

And you turn to your Work In Progress collection to see if there’s something there you could use-

And people seem to like your rough sketches better than the finished work you slave hours on-

But then, normally when you’re trying to fall asleep, inspiration strikes-

But you look at your your huge to-do list and realise you don’t have time to paint again for a week-

But then you finally get to paint, and TOTALLY NAIL IT!

And you have to get online right away and SHOW EVERYBODY!

And how you feel when other people liked what you created-

And how all the people who follow your work are so awesome, but you’re an introverted shut in with poor social skills-


And the number one reason as an artist I love what I do-

Got any more fun GIFs that relate to being an artist? Post them in the comments!

5 Years After Cancer

As of this month, I am 5 years out from the end of my cancer treatments. I’m not going to go too much into that time, you can already read a lot of my thoughts about it here (and I mean a LOT. It goes for pages and pages and pages!).

I’m really feeling like it’s all behind me now, and so many of the last little annoyances of that time have also past. On my last checkup, my oncologist asked if I was still getting jabs of pain in my surgery site, which made me realise I WASN’T getting pains in my surgery site anymore! I had for years after the treatment, but it too is now gone. All the nausea associations I had built up during chemo have also passed. For a long time I wasn’t able to wear hats, or eat ice, or smell buckwheat heat packs without feeling nausated because they reminded me of chemo. But that’s all out of my head now, and it feels good. It took years, but we humans can heal from just about anything given enough time, right?

I also feel braver about it all now. I went into a stage of denial for a while after treatment where I didn’t even want to remember that time or anything about it. But I’m more willing to embrace it now and say, yeah, I went through that!

And in the spirit of that emotion, I’m here today to share photos of me during treatment.

And yes, that will include a photo of me, bald.

It’s as much of a hair diary as it is a treatment diary!

When I was told I’d be doing chemo and losing my hair, I decided that was a good time for me to do all the weird and whacky things I had often thought about doing to my hair but hadn’t done because I didn’t want to ruin my long, healthy, natural locks with the chemicals.

 

The Journey of Selina’s Hair!


This is me pre-treatment. I had already had my lumpectomy surgery at this point, and had just had it confirmed that I would definitely be doing chemotherapy and losing my hair.

Here I am, looking completely au naturale, running out the door to the hairdressers to go crazy on my hair. That’s about the longest my hair ever got, which reached down to the base of my back when straightened. I had actively been trying to grow it as long as possible for years, and was even part of some “Long hair” communities that share tips on how to make your hair grow really long!

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About five hours later, I came home from the hairdressers looking like this-

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That’s just straight bleached out, and the ends that got destroyed in the process cut off. I let that settle in for a few days. I went into some kind of weird identity shock because I just didn’t associate myself with being blond, so it was very strange to see myself that way! I just didn’t feel like ME anymore. Still, I wanted to continue the hair experiments. Not long after, I went back and got a nicer style cut and some toning done that ended up like this-

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I had some time between surgery and the start of chemo while all the treatment plan and so on were worked out, and some other pre-treatment tasks were taken care of, so when regrowth started showing, I dyed it all pink with a bottle at home.

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I’ve always wanted to be a red-head, so I decided for my next stage I wanted a more natural but bright red color, and shorten the length again. Somehow the hairdresser interpreted it like this-

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I didn’t mind though, because it made me look like Freefall from Gen 13 ^_^

It also felt really nice to have dark hair again! I think I’m truly a brunette deep down in my psyche.

When it finally came time for my first chemo treatment, I got my hair cut down again, all the way to this-

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It took 3 weeks after my first treatment for the hair to fall out, and it pretty much went all at once when it did. You could literally pinch a bit of hair in your fingers and pull, and it would just slide right out of my head. I maybe had a week after that before I was completely bald (I did shave it as well myself once so much had gone it was patchy).

How did I look bald? *Big deep breath* Okay, I said I’d share a photo, so I’ll to share a photo. Eep!

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I spent maybe 6 months like that. This photo was right at the beginning of my treatment. I’m not going to share a photo of me bald at the end of my treatment. :p Both are bald, but at the end I was also looking a lot less healthy and that was my lowest “bleh” time mentally as well.

I never did get a good quality wig because they are so expensive and I couldn’t afford one at the time. It was winter so I mostly just wore beanies and hats. I did get one cheapy wig which I sometimes wore with a hat as well to make it look better. By the end of treatment I was SO SICK of wearing hats I couldn’t wait to have some hair back. I was so eager to get hat free, I started doing so when my hair was still very, very short growing back. I look at photos from that time and am a little shocked that I was gutsy enough to go out in public with such short, short hair :p

After three months after treatment, I had about this much hair back. It started out really colourless, greyish, and thin.

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About two years after treatment, my hair had thickened up again, and had the most glorious curls! The red colour is from dying with henna, not natural (still continuing my desire to be a red-head!). It felt like it was taking a long time to get anywhere, but I think it was a bit like planting a tree in the garden- it takes a while for the roots to establish themselves (or the hair to thicken up), before they shoot upwards with growth (or downwards for hair!).

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Five years on, my hair feels much the same it did before chemo. It’s only just reached about mid-back length, and is thinner than before (but I blame that one on childbirth!). Most of the curls are gone, straightened out with the weight of the hair. I’ve gone back to my pre-treatment hair care regime, using only natural products (like Henna), not much heat styling, and only occasional trims. I wonder how long I can get it to grow this time?

But the very best part of all, is that  I feel like ME again. I loved having pink hair, or pixie cut hair, or curls, but this is me, and something I realised is it that I like being me!

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Irons in the Fire

I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately. There’s so much going on in my life right now, that something is going to have to give. My to-do list is growing rather than shrinking, and I’m both excited and daunted by it.

It’s my own fault. Too many projects, too many ideas and different things I want to do. So what’s keeping me so busy? What am I working on, and what have I got coming up? Here’s a run down of my life, currently.

The Fairies and Fantasy Business


This is my main bread and butter. The majority of my income is from sales from my store www.fairiesandfantasy.com so it’s a major part of my life. Things slowed down back when the whole global financial crisis first hit, but have been really picking up again and it feels great that so many people are enjoying the products I make! I’m still heavily involved with all parts of the work for F&F, making products and shipping orders.

Unfortunately, I lost my assistant a while ago who used to do the product updates on the site. So I’m sitting on all this new art from myself and my other artists, and just haven’t been able to find the time to get it online and available as products. It’s high on my priorities right now though, so expect to see some new releases soon.

I’m also working with programmers to make some changes to the store to allow more digital download products, which will be a whole new adventure to get started in.

And I’ve started running an Etsy store as well for the dolls and other one of a kind items and close outs, and also been poking around with Zazzle lately too.

And talking about new art, what about painting?


I have both real life and digital folders overflowing with unfinished works that I want to complete. I counted over 200 unfinished works. I was all keen to get stuck into finishing some when my Cinitq up and died on me unexpectedly (my Cintiq is the pressure sensitive screen that I draw on). It’s been off getting repaired and I’m expecting it back any moment now. Once it’s back, I’ll be trying to fit in some more digital painting, and need to do some concept art for an animation project my husband and I are planning to collaborate on. On top of that, I also bought some cute little canvases to do some traditional painting on again, and also have a bug in me to try a bit of photomanipulation art as well. Muse, give me a break!

I also want to paint more dolls.


My DIY Darlings have been so much fun to create. I’ve got a huge list of more designs I want to create for these patterns. More minis sets, more fairies, more mixed race
dolls, more fantasy creatures. I really think that if given the time and energy to promote them, they could be really big! But where do I find the time?

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And then on the other end of the creative wheel I’ve got my writing.


It’s like a whole second (or third?) job in terms of time. Even my longest artworks take only a week or two to finish. To write a novel takes months and months, or even years. I have mixed feelings about my writing. I love it and love telling a story, but I worry that exploring a writing career is taking too much time away from my art. But I’m committed now to at the very least complete the Memory’s Wake trilogy. I’ve got one last novel to write for it, then illustrate it too, and that trilogy will be finished. I also have plans to continue the Empath Chronicles series after that is done, but it will be much easier to write for a number of reasons (shorter, not illustrated, simpler storylines, modern world so less world building required, etc).  After those series are complete… I don’t know. I might call it quits and focus on my art again, but I’ve got a few other really cool story concepts that I’d love to write as well. It just takes SO MUCH TIME.

And I only have three days a week.


Thanks to this cheeky little monkey.

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Persephone is my main project and where most of my time goes. She’s in daycare three days a week now. And on those three days a week I scramble like crazy to get work done, but it’s hardly enough time for everything. Sephy loves daycare, but I’m not ready to send her for more days yet. She sleeps well, but I barely get through emails in her daytime nap, and in the evenings I try and spend time with my husband since we’re both workaholics and need to just stop and be together sometimes.

Three days a week, and so much to do. No wonder I’m feeling scattered! 

Selina’s Studio

Want a little peak into my world? Here is where I spend most of my time, writing, painting, messing around online 🙂

Click to see it BIG!
  1. Two of my most favourite and personal original artworks, Motherhood and Love Me Not. Also around the house I have framed- Dark Waters Bright Skies, Greenman’s Door, Along the Forest Path, Warm my Heart, and Rose.
  2. Weapons at hand for defending myself come the zombocalypse.
  3. To-Do lists. I have many to-do lists of different priorities and types. I need to write down everything I have to do, and find it’s the best way to stay motivated and get work done as a self employed type. You write a list of goals for the day (taken from a master list elsewhere), and you tick off as many as you can. My lists are a bit full and messy right now! I have them on my phone, on paper, on post-its, on white boards. In fact, re-organising my to-do lists is on one of my to-do lists.
  4. The Spooky Door. What is behind it? No one knows!!! Or it could be a storeroom. I’m not even sure why I thought that required a number on this list?
  5. Just some of my key collection. I love keys! Keys, doorknobs, locks, anything to do with doorways, there is just something magical about them.
  6. My gorgeous office chair. Not very ergonomic but you will have to prise it from my cold dead fingers to make me change!
  7. My Wacom Cintiq 24HD, oh let me count the ways I love you. For those who don’t know what a Cintiq is, it’s a screen that you draw directly onto with a pressure sensitive digital pen in order to paint brush strokes for digital painting. In this photo it’s upright, but see those super arms on the side? It adjusts to all kinds of angles, like a drafting table, even right down over the edge of the desk so it’s practically in my lap. My baby girl sometimes sits on my lap with me while I’m digi-painting and licks the screen, which makes me glad I can digi-paint instead of with traditional mediums now! And yes, it’s growing mushrooms. My desktop wallpaper cycles through my and my husbands photos (currently showing photos from a zoo visit).
  8. My computer mouse looks like a lady bug. How old am I again?
  9. My Ball Jointed Doll, Dollzone model “Celine”. She was my lavish gift-to-self for completing all my cancer treatments. She stands on her own and is really posable. I pretend I use her as an artists model but really I just like getting her pretty new clothes and dressing her up. Wait… how old am I again?!
  10. A shoe stand that made the prefect art supplies stand. Top shelf has paint mediums and masking fluids, down from there is a box of Kremer pure pigments and other tube paints in boxes and my masking tape, then the bottom three shelves are colour pencils and pastel pencils arranged in colour order. It isn’t there anymore, I had to hide everything gooey, toxic or otherwise chewable away from the baby thing. I’m doing all my painting now on the Cintiq.
  11. No I don’t have a secret stash of junk food in my desk draw. SHUT UP WHO TOLD YOU?!?

Where are all the printers and stuff? All the production side of my business lives in a separate building. My office is just for creating art now and I love it 🙂

What’s at the other end of the room? The Library! My husband and I hit up Ikea to create a whole wall of bookshelves for our collection, and we’re still double stacked on most shelves. You can zoom in on the picture and see what a fair few of the titles are, but I can tell you right now that at least 70% of the collection is sci-fi and fantasy! There’s also our light sabre on the top. And my cat on a fluffy cushion. There’s a shelf dedicated to all figurines based on my art, and another shelf of other fun treasures (a Sailor Moon alarm clock!).

Why I love Yohio

If you’re not familiar with Yohio, he’s an awesomely talented, teenage, Swedish musician, who taught himself fluent Japanese to rock out J-Pop style.

Oh, and he does it all dressed up like a pretty doll.

Check out his music vid and tell me this isn’t hot…

Now I’ve introduced Yohio, let’s backtrack a little to a couple of events that have stuck with me. The first is a personal experience from a local fair I was at this year. I was selling off some of my “seconds” products cheap at a community market, and this gorgeous boy, probably about 4 years old and dressed as Superman, was fishing through the “treasures” (his word), the basket full of my art pendants that had slight flaws. He’d picked out one of Bloddeuwedd, who he called the Pretty Lady, and was admiring it when his mum came up. She sighed, and reluctantly agreed to get one for him and pick one for his brother, seeing how attached the boy was to the Treasure. But she said he couldn’t have Bloddeuwedd, his dad wouldn’t like him to have that one, they had to find something better for a little boy. They spent 20 minutes negotiating to try and find a compromise, something he liked but that wasn’t too girly. He kept asking if he could have the one with the pretty lady.

When they finally decided, the mum paid and left, and the boy lingered, looking back at the first one he picked, the one he really wanted. I gave it to him for free. And he gave me a massive hug in return.

I felt crushed that such a sweet, sensitive little boy was going to be brought up to think he can’t express any feelings or desires that might seem too girly.

It reminded me of this amazing blog from Nerdy Apple about her 5 year old boy who wanted to dress up as Daphne from Scooby-Doo for Halloween, and the response that it got- http://nerdyapple.com/my-son-is-gay/

People don’t think twice when women dress as men, either in day to day life (women in pants is so normal now it’s stranger to see them in skirts) or for costumes. But for a man or boy to dress like a girl? Society still seems to think there’s something wrong with that.

As a writer, a woman, and a feminist, I’m always interested in the concept of Strong Female Characters, but too often in stories, this is boiled down to a female character being “kick ass”- she’s violent, tough, and displays characteristics of a stereotypical Male character. I don’t like this concept that women have to be like “men” (I’m using the cultural stereotype of “men” when I say “men”) in order to be strong. I also don’t like the reverse implication that having characteristics considered to be womanly is somehow weak.

And there’s the horrible underbelly of it all- That it’s seen as good for women to aspire to being more like men, but it’s not OK for men to want to be more like women. It reeks of the notion that women are inferior to men.

This is such an antiquated view it makes my head hurt, and I know that I’m just as culturally brainwashed. I’ll dress my little girl up in blue and go out with her, but I know if I had a little boy, I’d be much less likely to dress him in pink and go out. But at least I’ve realised it, and can try and change, and hope that the next generation have a better view of gender equality.

And so, this is why I love Yohio. This guy does what he wants to do, dresses how he wants to dress, is brave with his style and committed to his art- now THAT is a strong character.

The Shy Ones

One of my favourite parts of my trip to Vietnam in 2009 was visiting the hill tribes near the northern border to China. It was a beautiful area with beautiful people. My husband and I, armed with our Canon 5D’s, took hundreds of photos, and a lot of them were of the children from the villages. They were used to tourists coming through, and when they saw us with cameras, they ran over to us like this-

And posed for photos like this-

But not all of them did. There were kids who for whatever reason couldn’t join in the fun. Some of them were working. Some of them were looking after younger siblings. There were also the shy ones.

I saw it happen a couple of times. All the kids would run over for a photo, but one hesitates-

I watched the little girl in the blue top stop and think while all the other kids raced over right away. There was some internal struggle there, but then she came to join the others.

But she was too slow. Her hesitation meant she missed the group photo. I watched as my husband showed the kids the photo he took (their favourite part of the process!), and the little girl in the blue top, man, she broke my heart.

She hesitated, she made excuses, she was too shy to join the group, and she missed out. I know, because I do all the same things, all the time. I was doing the same thing right then. I could have gone to her, taken her photo, included her. But I’m a shy one as well. It’s stupid how crippling shyness can be, that hesitation to make contact with other people, the inability to include yourself in a group. The way we just stand at the side and watch, wanting to be part of the fun but too busy making excuses not to- The photo’s already taken, I’m too late, they probably don’t want me to talk to them, I wouldn’t know what to say…

While walking from this village to the next I thought about it more. I felt bad for not making an effort.

So when I saw it happening again, a little girl in purple, watching from the sidelines…

What did I do? I could say I stepped up and included her, but I’d be lying. I totally copped out. I told my husband to take her photo, while I stood at the side and watched.

Isn’t she a beauty? She wasn’t sure what was happening. She stayed suspicious of us, who had gone to her to include her when she had probably come to accept that she simply wouldn’t be included. She kept this little frown on her face until we showed her the photo on the camera screen and she finally cracked a smile. Then the other girls wanted to see her photo too, and laughed and talked to her about it. And when we left, she kept smiling, laughing and talking to the other girls.

You probably see it a lot yourself, in schools, parties, or workplaces. The person who stands back, hesitates, stays on the side. It doesn’t mean they don’t want to join in. It’s the first step, joining in, being included, which can be so paralysing. But if someone can just make the effort to include the shy ones, it really does mean worlds to us.