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?

dollsnew

 

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.

sephy56

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! 

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.

Starting at the Bottom

I still remember when I first put my art in an online gallery. I was fourteen years old and the whole “internet” thing wasn’t as big back then. Elfwood was already around though, and as a timid amateur artist, I posted the minimum amount of art that was required to actually be eligible for a gallery. I think it was four images. It was scary, and I never thought my art was good enough (I still don’t, but that’s another story!).

(Gah, even the scan is awful!)

I also remember how incredible it was when people started commenting on my art, and liked it. I wanted to draw more (I hadn’t really started painting back then), so I had more for my gallery. I wanted to get better, and with everyone’s encouragement I improved my art, until people started saying, “Hey, you should sell this!”. And I started thinking maybe I could.

I learned how to set up my own website with a store section, and I had just completed a series of goddess artworks that I thought were my best work yet. I put them online for sale and waited. The response wasn’t everything I had hoped for. I was crushed and wondered, what am I doing wrong? Looking back now, I can see SO MANY things I was doing wrong! I was still an amateur, and frankly, a bit clueless. I was on my way but I still had so much to learn. Over the next five years I put everything I had into working out what I was doing wrong, and finding out how to do it right, until I was selling enough to support myself on my art income alone.

It was a long journey, with steep learning curves and a lot of hard work. And now that I’ve started releasing my novels, I suddenly realised something.

I’m back at the bottom again.

Some people might argue that this time I’ve already got a lot of people interested in my work, and I’m lucky to some extent that is true, BUT… Most people are interested in my art, not my writing. And to be honest, being a visual artist making the switch to novel writing, I think a lot of people assume my writing isn’t going to be very good 😉 It’s not just my imagination. More than a few reviews for Memory’s Wake sound like this-

“I’ve known Selina online for a number of years (through our mutual arting), and was a bit hesitant to read the book… But I figured, hey, even if I don’t like the book, I can look at the pretty pictures :)”

“Have to admit was a bit biased as Selina is one of my favorite artists so I was excited to read her work but was also a hesitant but needn’t be.”

“I wanted to like it so much since the author is both a fabulous artist and a fabulous person so I was really glad it did not dissapoint.”

And, again, to be honest, I think people have every right to assume the book mightn’t be great. Because here I am, starting at the bottom again. I’ve got a lot to learn, and Memory’s Wake was my first novel (although I re-wrote it so many times it could almost be considered my 5th novel!).

In some ways it’s fun to be starting at the bottom again. I have become a little jaded in the art scene, but with my writing, I’m remembering the exhilaration of every reader who contacts me to let me know they liked my book. The joy of every single individual sale, knowing that is someone else who will read my story.

There is also terror. I have the same doubts I did when I started out with my artwork. I’m worried I’ve still got SO MUCH to learn. So much work to do ahead of me to get my stories out into the world. There’s a strange pressure when it comes to writing, as everyone is always talking about the next Big Thing (Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games, anything by Amanda Sold-A-Million-Books-Hocking). It’s almost as though if a book doesn’t break out and become famous, it’s considered a failure. That’s entirely untrue of course, but a writer still feels that pressure. And sure, don’t we all dream of being as rich and famous as JK Rowling?

But then I remember, that I didn’t publish my book to become rich and famous. I published it to share my story. And hundreds of people have now read Memory’s Wake, and enjoyed it. And some of them email me and let me know they enjoyed it and it makes me all happy and glowy inside.

I’ve got many more stories to share, so much more to learn, more to improve. I know my next books will be better and better. That’s the joy of being at the bottom.

So if you’re starting out in a new direction in your life, remember that being at the bottom has as much value as being at the top, or you know, somewhere in the middle, which is where I normally hang out 😉

 

An Admission about Emotionally Charged

I have something I have to come clean about with my young adult paranormal romance, Emotionally Charged.

The inspiration for it came from two sources.

The first was a vivid dream. I often have awesome dreams where I’m quite lucid. Many play out entire storylines like watching a movie, but only sometimes do I remember the whole thing, and rarer again are they actually a storyline that’s still cool when I’m awake*. This particular dream gave me the ideas for the empaths and their powers, although they worked a bit differently in the dream. The empaths absorbed the emotions of others to fuel their powers, but they could also teleport. When there was a natural disaster, the high level of emotions would sort of suck empaths through a wormhole to the location (in the dream they called it Torrenting, heh). I decided that was a bit beyond the level of “supernatural” that I wanted for the story, but the rest of the dream was cool and I got a lot of the storyline, and even some quotes, from it.

The second source of inspiration for my story was based on me being sick of seeing the same thing happen in young adult novels over and over.

I had just read so many stories where the following happens-

  • There’s an average high school girl
  • She meets OMIGODSOSMEXY guy who likes her right away
  • OMIGODSOSMEXY guy lives in super rich mansion-like luxury
  • OMIGODSOSMEXY guy has a whole group of OMIGODSOSMEXY friends who “adopt” little Miss average high school girl.
  • Guy and Friends often have some kind of supernatural secret or power which is all “ooh, dark and dangerous and our only possible flaw because we’re perfect in every other way.”
Sound familiar at all? Just off the top of my head, here are a few books where this, or very similar happens-
  • Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
  • City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments) by Cassandra Clare
  • Switched (The Trylle trilogy) by Amanda Hocking
  • Die for Me by Amy Plum
  • Deception by Lee Nichols

I bet you can probably name others, too. For the record, I still really enjoyed some of those books. And I can see why this trope is appealing, as a variation of the “rags to riches” story.** But after a while the feminist in me started getting grouchy. Why always with the rich guys saving a girl who really was living pretty comfortably anyway?

My admission here is that Emotionally Charged is pretty much a blatant attack against that storyline.

WARNING: Mild Spoiler Rating

My main character, Livvy, starts out in a very similar situation as above. Without giving too much away, the situation rears up and smacks her in the face for being a naive, selfish little twit and swanning off with a bunch of people she didn’t really know. The story is about her having to become the hero herself, and realising the outward appearances and riches of others don’t count for much. I tried not to make it too much of a heavy handed after school special, but it was fun to have a go at switching around that slightly overused storyline.

There it is. I’m glad I got that off my chest! Have you read Emotionally Charged yet? What did you think, was my attack on that sort of story obvious?

Emotionally Charged- paranormal romance by Selina Fenech
When emotions give superpowers, what does love mean?

* A whole total of TWO dreams I’ve remembered have been complete, awesome storylines that I plan to turn into books. This one (Emotionally Charged), and another that I plan too write in the future, about dream magic, Lovecraftian horror, and soul mates.

**Disclaimer- ok, so Memory’s Wake has a lot of attractive people and a variation of a rags to riches storyline, you got me.

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.

 

Finding Inspiration

Trivia- What is the number one most frequently asked question of artists, that most artists dislike being asked?

“Where do you get your inspiration?”

It’s so common, it’s like being asked, “Where did you get that dress?”, as though we’re expected to have some store address we can direct people to to stop in and pick up their inspiration.

When I’m busy, or not in the mood for a long conversation, my answer is normally “My imagination”.  Which is true, but also rather simplified.

Sometimes I’ll waffle on about nature or books or fairytales. Sometimes I’ll mention other artists. Sometime I’ll say I have to plan out an artwork and decide on each element in it as a conscious effort. Sometimes I say I just start working and the ideas come. Sometimes I say I get inspiration from my dreams.

And in reality, all of these things are true.

The question of where I get my inspiration baffles me. I mean, do we all not have ideas? Dreams? Do we all not have preferences and dislikes that form our personalities? That is really all inspiration is. A collection of our likes, dislikes, experiencing these things, saturating our subconscious with content and letting it work on ideas and dreams based on that content, and/or, making conscious decisions based on our likes and dislikes.

Many artists and authors will say that inspiration is highly overrated, and that one must simply do the work, which is also true. Getting the work done is the most important thing because it is continuing to exercise the part of your brain that churns through your likes, dislikes, and experiences and turns it into ideas for you.

There’s a certain narrow mindedness that comes with me and my career. I love fantasy stuff. If I read a book it will be a fantasy book. If I watch a movie it will be a fantasy movie. I only really look at other fantasy art. I play fantasy role playing games with friends. I surround myself with visual and mental stimulation on themes of fantasy ALL THE TIME because I love it. It all feeds into my brain, and that’s where I get my ideas from.

My husband chides me often for the other main thing that is always on my mind- food. I love food and I love cooking. I do all the cooking for us almost every day. Sometimes this seems daunting, thinking into the future- almost every day, ever meal for the rest of my life I have to create something. Well, no wonder I think about food so much. I need to keep my “food inspiration” thriving by exercising it, thinking about food, learning new recipes, trying new foods to keep excited about the whole process of cooking and feeding ourselves. There is that same sort of single-mindedness involved. To keep excited, keep working and keep inspired on any job or pastime it’s a necessity.

So how do you exercise your inspiration?

It is important to keep a  journal of some kind.

Our minds are reflection of our experiences and surroundings. But memory isn’t perfect of course, and to help along my imagination, I keep a journal of ideas. It’s certainly not pretty, in fact, it’s a dis-used accounts book with half of the cover ripped off, but it serves it’s purpose. In it, I scribble down tiny thumbnail designs that have come to mind, or titles and words that inspire me. I write things such as “Pirate Mermaid”, “Riddle Fishing”, “Dragonflies Skimming Water”. These are simply things to spark my memory and imagination again when I have time to paint them. Even if I don’t remember the exact idea, they can spark new ideas. I also keep another part of the journal where I scribble down single word ideas for elements of an artwork, or designs for jewellery or clothing. It’s a jumble of scribbles and what appear to be irrelevant words like “Stripes, Lockets, Waterfalls, Berries, Keys, Tatters”. These are simply things I like, that I can read over and inspire me, or if I’m stuck for some element or costume design for an artwork I skim through to find something good, that I might otherwise have forgotten. Keeping a journal like this, or a journal of any kind, purely sketches only, purely writing, personal or purely art, is I think very important in developing your ideas and keeping your inspiration alive.

What sort of things do you do to keep inspired? Are you single minded like me on a certain genre?

Or do you believe that inspiration comes from somewhere else, from a divine power or being granting it to us mortals?

Swearing in Young Adult Novels

“Young Adult” is my favourite genre to read, as well as what I like to write. I think of it not so much a genre as a style- normally fast paced, a bit angsty, with characters of a teenage range who are dealing with changing from a child to an adult. Young Adult spans many sub-genres, like fantasy, chick-lit, romance, sci-fi, mystery, etc, and is generally considered to be written for the ages of 12-18 (but myself and many others a lot older love reading it anyway!).

In terms of content, YA books vary greatly. Some are good, clean, wholesome, whimsical fun. Some are as dark as can be, dealing with drug use, abuse, torture, suicide, politics, sex, death, incest, you name it. While book descriptions sometimes will note “For older teens”, I’ve never seen any real content warnings. Personally, I like it this way. You can generally tell from a book cover and blurb if a book is going to be light or dark, and believe both ends of the spectrum and all greys in between have their place. I’ve never been one for censorship, nor did I grow up being censored (Thanks Mum and Dad!). I didn’t grow up desensitised to violence. I don’t swear. I didn’t have an accidental teenage pregnancy or eating disorder and I’ve never done drugs. Yet these are all the things that those who want to censor YA books say will happen if children and teens are exposed to these darker issues in their reading. Just look at THIS Wall Street Journal article, an article which sparked off a massive campaign on twitter by readers and writers of YA books defending the darkness in them (Look up #YASaves), where people shared stories of how reading about the darker parts of life in YA books helped them survive the dark moments in their own lives. I watched YASaves happen on twitter. It was so moving I spent most of the day crying and still tear up thinking about it. YA does save, and for that, I don’t think it should be censored.

YA can be dark and depraved, but I’ve never seen it be so gratuitously. It’s probably why I read it compared to Adult books, which are happy to be gratuitous with swearing, violence and sex. All have their place, but should be there for a reason, not just for shock value. In YA, good YA, nothing happens without a reason, and characters learn, grow and lessons are taught by these sometimes horrible elements.

I also believe children and teenagers will read what they want. If a parent tries to stop them, it will no doubt only make them want to read it more. Lots of teenagers admit to sneakily reading things their parents don’t want them to. Some people argue that it’s a wonderful thing that teenagers WANT to read so badly, does it matter what they are reading? Others argue that it should be a parent’s choice in how their child is raised.

All that being said, this rant is about me censoring Memory’s Wake.

You see, Memory’s Wake contained the F-word. Even up to and after it’s release. My character Memory is the type of teenager who would swear, a lot. I kept it out of the story mostly, because it wasn’t necessary, there was no reason to be spelling it out beyond saying that “Memory swore”. But at a couple of extreme moments, the words came out in Memory’s dialogue. They were there because it was true to what Memory would have said in those high emotions.

I’ve read a lot of books from major publishers in the YA genre which contain the F-word. While I was looking for traditional publishing, I figured an editor or publisher would have final say in whether the word got through, based on their own companies policies. Then I self published and just left it in. But I started thinking about it more and more. Even to the extent of almost feeling guilty about this one single four letter word amongst 80,000 other words.

The reason why? I might not care about swearing, but other people do. A word is a word to me, but to some people, the F-word is to be avoided at all costs. I don’t want to make those people angry, or dislike my book, just for one single word. If I felt the word was absolutely crucial to my story I would have left it in, but I don’t think it suffers from it’s removal. It’s not like I have Memory running around saying “Oh my goodness”, or “Gosh!” or “Leaping lizards batman!”. She still speaks and reacts true to her character, which is the most important part for me.

So, I went through and edited out the F-word from my novel. Those who bought the novel during release, well, you’ve got a collectors item now, the first, short edition which contains the controversial few letters. Some paperback stock I’m selling still has it since it was all printed before the change, and I’m working on changing the hardcover, but ebook versions are now F-word free.

It was a decision that gave me a little peace of mind, but what was right for my novel isn’t right for every novel. I still don’t believe in censorship.

What do you think?  Should books for Young Adults be censored? Should they at least have content warnings, like there are on computer games, so that parents can decide what their kids see in books? If you’re between the 12-18 age range, what’s your opinion?

7 Random Things About Me

Some completely random and miscellaneous facts about me, just for fun!

1.”No sir, that’s the umbilical cord.”

There was no doctor present at my birth. The small country town hospital I was born at didn’t have resident doctors, and while a doctor was called, he never showed up. There was a nurse or two present, who apparently tried to lighten the stress of the “no doctor” situation by telling dirty jokes during the labour. I blame some of my personality on this. I’ve also been told that I was very close to being called Gabrielle, but because my mother could see the moon through the window while I was born, they chose Selina instead (which means Moon).

2. Stick ’em up and hand over the pastry goodness!

Me and my friends were once mugged for leftover donuts. No joke. So we were wandering down a closed strip mall late after a movie. We were about 15 years old at the time, waiting for parents to pick us up. This gang of feral girls around our age started harassing us for the bag of half finished donuts we were carrying. One of my friends (god love her!) smart mouthed back, which caused the gang of girls to come over, start a fist fight and steal our bags and wallets. The funny part was the policeman who took down my report was SO occa. My speech has always been somewhat formal, and he wrote my police report in his own words, complete with “aint’s” and “scrubbers” and “fair dinkum’s”.

3. But why was he so Putrid? Or was that just his name?

As a kid, I obsessively made books. Give me some texta’s, paper and a stapler, and I’d make a book. My earliest book still on record was a picture book titled “Putrid Puffin” from about age six. It had classic lines in it like “This is Putrid Puffin, he eats peas and muffins.” and “His house is made with sticks and straw. I don’t know with what or how he made the door.”

4. Always be prepared

I used to be a Scout. You know, the whole dib dib dib dob dob dob, Always be Prepared deal? Not some pansy girl guide or brownie. I was the only girl in the “boy scouts” group (yes I always was a tomboy). It was awesome. We played all sorts of crazy violent games, and I don’t think there was a time we went on an excursion (even bush walking) that didn’t end up with someone needing stitches or breaking a limb. Heck people ended up with stitches and broken limbs just playing in the scout hall. I gave a boy a black eye once in a “capture the flag in the dark” game. And you know the best part? I totally only went to hang out with all the guys. Oh yeah.

5. I once staked a vamp with a real estate agent “Sold” sign.

I used to be able to lucid dream. I nurtured the art form back when I was a lazy sleep-in-till-midday teenager and didn’t even know what “lucid dreaming” was. I used to have complete control over my dreams if I wanted too. It was fantastic. These days, I’ve lost a fair bit of that control, but I am still always conscious that I AM dreaming. If a dream goes down a dark or scary path, I can very easily either change the direction or wake myself out of it. But mostly, I’m happy to just be a bystander these days, because honestly, I have the most awesome dreams. They play like movies, and are very regularly on fantasy themes (and zombies, I dream about zombies A LOT). I once dreamt that Tom Hanks was making a sequel to both “Castaway” and “Joe VS the Volcano” in the same movie. And another where a kid in a primary school class was classified narcoleptic, but only because his mother was drugging him to stop him becoming a werewolf. And yes, once staked a vamp in my dreams with a real estate agent sign. Or one, where in magic class, I had to learn to drink magic from fairies, but my fairy was shaped like a teapot which actually made it MORE difficult to drink from… well, you get the idea. Want to be able to lucid dream? Look it up online, there are ways to teach yourself!

6. Don’t pass it my way.

I’ve never done any illegal drugs. Seriously. Alcohol is as far as I’ve ever gone. Never even smoked a cigarette (because really, why the hell would you?!). This is quite a feat coming from a town where marijuana smoking was considered standard pastime for ages 13 up. For some reason it never interested me. Sure, I’m still slightly curious, but not enough to make me want to do anything. I guess part of me is scared, I’m a control freak to some extent, which includes keeping control of my consciousness. And honestly, I think my consciousness has done just fine without them. See Random Fact number 5. As for medical drugs… I have semi-hallucinated both from heavy pain killers and another time from chemotherapy cocktails. One was mildly amusing, the other slightly scary.

A Look Back at Cancer

I think it must be the time of year. It was around this time, two years ago, that I was coming out of my cancer treatments. Since then I think I’ve gone through a number of emotional/mental stages, particularly denial. I’ve revelled in denial for a while now. I just didn’t want to think about it or remember a single thing about the whole “C” thing I had to deal with. I treated it mostly like a bad dream, letting the memories of it all fade away (which hasn’t been to hard what with the brain fuzz chemo induces and other anti-anxiety slight-amnesia-causing pills I was prescribed). Denial has been a nice phase to go through, certainly a whole lot easier than the severe medical anxiety I had for a while when I thought I was going to up and die at every little ache or twinge my body had (It’s a heart attack! A blood clot! Another cancer!).

But now, I think now I’m almost ready to look back and remember. Look back and say I did that, it wasn’t just some vague dream or tv show I watched.

One of my first steps in looking back, was re-reading for the first time the journal entries I made on my LiveJournal page, both public and private, that I made during that year.

Good news- It was interesting to read and I really had forgotten so much! Bad news- that very night after reading through my posts I had a horrible chemo drip hospital nightmare. Ugh.

But it was an interesting read. I wanted to put together my favourite “moments” into one place, here, that tells my whole treatment story, as a little momento, for myself and also others who have gone through anything similar.

This is going to be long and be filled with Too Much Information 😉 So here we go…

20th Feb 2008- From Private Post– About a month ago I found a lump in my breast, I noticed cos it was hurting. I waited for about a week to see if it would change or go away, and it didn’t, so I saw my doctor. She basically said it was probably just a cyst which is no problem and pretty common, and said if it hasn’t gone away within a couple of weeks to go get an ultrasound.
Anyway, it didn’t go away, so I went in yesterday for the ultrasound.
It turned out that the ultrasound doctor was pretty sure it’s not a simple cyst, so he sent me for a mammogram, and also did a biopsy (which was all in all a very horrible painful experience).
Anyway, it’s EXTREMELY unlikely to be anything really bad at my age, and no family history of it… but I won’t know until Monday what it is, and what it will mean. If it’s not a cyst it probably won’t just go away on it’s own. It’s likely it’s a benign legion or whatever, but might still need surgery.

Anyway, the whole thing has had me pretty stressed out, and regardless of what it actually is, it’s uncomfortable and aches on and off every day. I’m used to being pretty healthy most of the time too, so it’s a bit much for me going into a clinic and having half a dozen people prodding and poking and cutting and scanning me. And I’m not really worried about the outcome being bad, but it just sucks that it’s come up at all while I should be working on moving house and planning my wedding and other projects for this year.

25th Feb- From Private Post- Well… results are in, and it looks like the cells are abnormal/cancerous. Got another appointment on wednesday to specialists…. Gotta call my mum now and tell her. I haven’t even told her about the lump yet… I was waiting until I got the results so I could have said “hey everything is ok” and not worry her… 🙁

27th Feb- Private Post- I just had my big meeting today. I swear I met so many doctors and had so many appointments made and so much information overload!!!
I’m booked in for surgery in two weeks, which is great, get it done nice and quick. It will be the pathology of the lump after surgery that decides the ongoing treatment, but the most likely outcome is they will give me everything they’ve got.
They tend to do this for younger women with BC, for two reasons… one, we are healthy enough to take the harshness of the treatments, and two, to make sure it’s 100% gone and done with so the rest of our hopefully long lives will be cancer free. So it is likely it will be chemo, then radiotherapy, and then maybe more chemo…. And probably IVF thrown in before that in case the Chemo kills my ovaries…
And also checkups every quarter for the first few years, then every year after that for the rest of my life. And a scar. And a hair cut. All going well, that’s it. Which strangely enough doesn’t feel all too daunting at the moment, but I might just be numb from all the information attack.
David and my mum both came along with me today. Everyone’s been so wonderful, so I’m feeling very positive.
So yeah… life changing, but dealable.

As for being brave, well it’s not really that bad once you’re on this side of the fence. As a healthy person “cancer” is the big bad scary that you wonder how people go through. but once it’s with you, well you still feel just like a healthy person, you just have to get some stuff done… It doesn’t really seem that big of a deal at all. The system really helps with that though, they’ve got so much support and make everything so clear and easy to follow.

As for hair, hehe… Well most of you know I’ve been growing and strictly caring for my hair for 5 or so years now, trying to reach hip length (it’s currently waist length)! But even before I found out about this I was starting to get sick of it and the constant hassle of it. I have always wanted to try out a Pixie cut but never had the courage to get it done

2nd March- Public Post on LJ- It was with some consideration that I’ve decided to make this public. While it feels as though this is a fairly private thing to be dealing with, I have never been good at keeping secrets, so I’ve decided to just let it out and make this announcement, both for myself, and for raising awareness that could potentially save lives.
During the last week of February, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
The good news is that because it was found early it is small, treatable, and is being handled by some wonderful specialists with all care and haste. A full recovery is expected within as little as a few months. I will be in surgery in week to have the lump removed, and further treatment (chemo, radiotherapy) will be decided when post surgery pathology results are in. Everything from here on is taken one step at a time, with many possible outcomes along the way. But because I am young and healthy I have the best prognosis for a quick and positive outcome for the whole treatment.

7th march- Public on LJ- I had a nice message from one of my childhood friends today. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year and went through treatment (and is 100% cancer free now, yay!). We were born on exactly the same day, and were best friends through primary and high school. We still find it funny how much we have in common 😉

12th March- Publich post on LJ – Hey guys, just a quick note to say surgery went really well. Can only type one handed still so will say more later. Big happies is an axillery clearance of lymph nodes wasn’t needed according to the prelim. test, so no bad side effects from that. Fingers crossed post surgerty pathology all comes back negative too so no re-surgery is needed. Stayed in hospital last night cos i was all pukey from the anasthesia but am home now feeling much better. Couch potato duties for a week then next Drs appointment on 19th for decisions on further treatment.

13th March- Private post- I’m feeling exponentially better this morning. Even the slight pain of the wound is barely comparable to the aching it was doing before, and just the peace of mind knowing it’s OUT is so wonderful. And there’s probably a little swelling that will go down, and some more changes to come, but my, ahem, profile, hasn’t changed too much either, I doubt you’d even notice with a bra on, so yay!
The funniest thing, I had to share, is my nipple is bright turquoise :shock: They inject some dye in during surgery for tracking, and you can see it through the skin, particularly the nipple, lol. It’s going to be that way for a fwe more days :lol: Along with the purple marker drawings from the sentinal node scan, I kinda just look like I passed out at a party :P
Oh, and I’m radioactive! At least maybe for a few more hours… They inject radioactive stuff in as well for tracking. It’s only got a 6 hour half life, so doesn’t last more than a few days, but I thought it was pretty funny too.

19th March- Private Post- An interesting side point. Did you know that what Chemo actually does is inhibits only fast-dividing cells from growing? That’s why it kills off cancer, because it is fast dividing, and not very good/stable at it either. But that’s why you’re hair also falls out, because it’s made of fast dividing cells.
As for natural remedies, did you also know that at least one of the drugs in the TAC formula I’m getting is based on a chemical found in the roots of a certain tree? Pretty cool I thought.

20th March- LJ Public- Thought I’d better do a bit of an update. I’ve recovered suprisingly quickly from the surgery. It’s still rather sore, apparently will be for weeks due to the cutting of some nerves or some medical whatsit I don’t really understand. But all the dressings are off and the cut line is very clean and neat, no sign of infection, and any stitches are internal and of the dissolving type. I can move my arm fairly freely now, with care.
The even better news, is that I got all my pathology results and there is no re-surgery needed. Due to the kind of cancer it is (Grade 3 = nasty aggressive type, which was the only bad news), we’re really super super lucky that there was no sign of it in my lymph nodes. For this type of cancer, remission rates are normally fairly high, but the lack of cancer in the lymph nodes is a really good sign there. For all the Doctors know, it might all be gone just from the surgery, but because any tiny little cell left somewhere that they can’t find could end up causing problems, I’m going to be doing chemotherapy.
It will start in roughly 6 weeks, and go for 4-5 months. Yes, I’ll lose my hair, which is the most advertised side affect of chemo. I’m going to have some fun with it while I still have it though, going to go to the hair dressers and try out some really funky hair styles and colours over the next few weeks, will post photos!
The only other notable side affects are fatigue (whole body fatigue, like you’ve run a marathon apparently, muscle aches and all). This only lasts a few days though generally, for each of the three week cycles. It’s basically in for one day of chemo, out for three weeks, repeat 6 times. So I’ll probably feel like crap for one week out of every three for the next 6 months, but that’s all. We’ll see how it goes anyway.

30th March- Lj Public- I’m kinda grossed out by my surgery wound at the moment… (read no further if you’re squeamish!)
So, it looked great at first, no stitches, so neat and clean. All the stitches were under the skin, disolving type. Yay right? I thought so… I was so wrong! It’s so gross! As they dissolve and the flesh is healing, it sort of… rejects the stitches… I’ve got a little line of pimple like bumps coming out of my skin along the cut line with plastic stitching wanting to burst out like a white head pimple, ugh!
There are only about three bad ones that are noticable little lumps, and the one at the very end of the line has gone all red and icky and the stitch is fully out and on the surface now. I’m going to get my GP to check them out on monday morning. Apparently it’s fairly normal, but really uncomfortable! And they are all on the high end of the cut, being the most visible end too. So I’ll probably end up with the low end barely visable, and chunky ugly scariness sticking out the top of all my clothes at the top end of the cut. I don’t care all that much about the scar, but it’s just… so… TYPICAL.

11 April- LJ Public- Thunderbirds are go! It all begins today… I’ve been enjoying a few weeks of normalcy (apart from my wound going a bit icky and worrying me), but my time is up.
Without going into too much detail, I’m doing a round of IVF to protect fertility from the chemo, before chemo starts.
I was told becuase I’m doing chemo that I get special emergency treatment. no booking and waiting, except for on my own body when it’s ready. So as soon as it is, I give them a call and IVF begins. IVF will go for about 2-3 weeks, after which chemo will begin the very next day. Chemo will go for about 4-5 months, after which radiotherapy starts straight away. I don’t even know yet how long radiotherapy lasts….
Anyway, Today was THE DAY and I’m just waiting on a call back from the doctors then it’s all go go go on the rollercoaster of meds that will be my life for the next year. I am feeling pretty shaky about the whole thing all of a sudden, now it’s actually here.
I wanted to make it clear, the general opinion of all the doctors, is as far as they know I’m probably already cured. The entire cancer was removed in surgery as far as they know, and there were no signs it had travelled anywhere else… The only thing is with medicine these days they have no idea where it came from, why, whether it will be back, and no way to test for any tiny little cells of cancer anywhere else. Hence the chemo. “The worst preventitive medicine imaginable”TM.
Anyway, I guess I’ve been sort of cruising along like everything was normal for the last few weeks. And everything IS normal… really, in the scheme of things. And I’m sure the treatments won’t actually be that bad when they are happening. I think I feel today like I felt when I was very first told I had cancer…. but once you’re in there and dealing with it and going through the process it only becomes easier.
Sorry if this falls into the realm of Too Much Information. :S
Wish me luck. Apparently i’m about to become a ball of raging homocidal crazy hormones for the next couple of weeks. Prepare for Teh Rantage.

16th April- Private Post- Yep, only been on all the weird hormone meds for a few days now and I’ve turned into angry GRR type Selina. I kinda feel like the Hulk or something, I’m going to turn all green and… Selina… SMASH!!! And I had to give myself a needle today! I’ve never had to do that before and it sucks. it didn’t hurt at all or anything but my brain just can’t handle it! And I have to keep giving myself needles for like another two weeks, every day. GrrRH!!!
And I have to do my accounts, but I don’t wanna, I don’t feel like doing anything, but when I do nothing I just sit and FUME and feel BORED and get ANGRY at being BORED, and get ANGRY at my to-do list not getting SHORTER. *pant pant pant*

23rd April- Private post- I just want to say, OW, my ovaries!
I’m half way through my IVF cycle to save some embryos in case chemo damages my ovaries, which isn’t a huge risk considering my age, but not a risk I wanted to take at all.
Anyway, it’s nasty! All the injections and blood tests and ultrasounds (which are more unpleasant than they sound), and the hormones making me crazy. It’s working well though, which is good cos I only get one shot at it. The ultrasound yesterday showed I’ve probably got 10 good eggs going on one side and 7 going in the other… which to me was like “no wonder my ovaries feel like they are ten times bigger than they should be”. I’m also stimulating higher than they’d like, but with cases like mine they push through to finish anyway since there’s only one chance to do it. I’m all achey and vaguely nauseaus all the time. It’s a really odd sensation to be able to sit there and actually sense your ovaries inside you, feeling all swollen and sore :shock:

Lj Post- I just did a quick tally today, and I’ve had at least 17 needles since finding out about my breast cancer (well, two were before hand during the diagnosing tests).  I just had three in the same spot within the last day which prompted me to make the list. That’s not all too many I guess for a 3 ish month period, but considering before that I was complaining at having to have three needles within 5 months for my gardasil vaccine I’m doing pretty well with my needles.
I just had a heart test today to make sure my hearts in tip top shape for chemo. Chemo has the potential to do bad things if you all your organs aren’t 100% to start with, so they check your heart, liver, a few other things before hand to make sure you’ll get through chemo ok. So a quick injection of radioactive material later and my heart is all good (STILL no super powers though, how much radation do I need?!)
Chemo should start next week, except the nurses got my timetable screwed up. They first made the appointment for this week, which I couldn’t do cos I’m doing another treatment first, I told them this about 5 times and they still called me today to see why I didn’t show up… sigh…. Anyway hopefully they will get it sorted and get me in for next week instead like they were asked to from the beginning…

6th May- Private Post- IVF was bloody hard, not to mention the fact I WOKE UP during the egg pick up procedure. Hello anaesthitist what the heck am I paying you for?! It was pretty bloody painful, but it was literally seconds before they finished then they pumped me full of pain killers again. I fell asleep again but I remember crying.
Apart from that my operation site in my left breast is still giving me pain pangs and aches on and off. I wouldn’t mind so much except it freaks me out cos it sometimes feels like the same pain the cancer caused. Normally they try and get patients into chemo within 6 weeks of their op. I’ll be pushing 9-10 weeks, and it scares me, even though I know realistically it’s probably all gone already. I had a nightmare the other night that I had found another lump, in a different place, and it was in both breasts. It was so vivid. And it was the kind of dream where you dream that you wake up and check again and it’s still there, repeat X 5 before you really do wake up and can check properly, and keep checking for days after cos it freaks you out so much.
My last blood test on monday, in my poor right arm that was still bruised from the previous one, the nurse couldn’t get ay blood out of the vein without jiggling the needle all round. It’s still aching today. I’m sick of needles. And I’m sick of everyone saying how inspirational I’m being, cos I’m not. Any fuzzy optimism I was hit with in the beginning has all worn off and I’m already sick of it and I haven’t even started chemo yet.

11th May 2008- Public Post- Thank you for everyone who’s been thinking about me during my treatment and following my progress here. I had my first chemo treatment on friday, and now it’s sunday it’s going ok so far. I guess I feel in a way like I’ve just got an icky flu or cold to some extent*. Tired mostly, a bit absent minded and listless. The nausea is the main thing so far. I feel like I should be rattling with all the anti nausea tablets I’m taking, and even with them all, they just sort of keep it at bay. If I let my mind dwell on it or don’t keep focused on other things it can start feeling really gross, but normally is fine. The other related chemo side affects are ehanced sense of smell, dry mouth and changed taste bud sensations, which all add up to making food a bit icky at the moment too. I haven’t really lost my apetite though which is good, it’s just a bit confused with all the other sensations at the moment!
The actual day in the chemo clinic was, honestly, rather bad. For those people who say “it’s just like a big lounge room”, well, I think the only thing they have in common with lounge rooms is a few reclining chairs. It all says hospital ward to me, with all of us hooked up to our beeping machines.
Unfortunately my day didn’t run as smooth as could be hoped. I had a nasty reaction to one of my chemo drugs. It flared up really quick and was a bit scary, but is a relatively common, if unwanted, side affect. Anyway after giving everyone a bit of a scare, as soon as they stopped the drip I went back to normal, and they gave me even more pre-med drugs and antihystamines, and “re-challenged” me with the drug and it went smoothly the second time, so shouldn’t be a problem again. But I did get a private bed out of the experience, yay.
As for hair… I’m considering biting the bullet and gettting a buzz cut ASAP. I was running my fingers through my already short hair today and, already feeling a bit fragile, realised it’d probably rather freak me out to actually feel it come out. As scary as going the buzz cut is, I think falling out hair will be worse… so we’ll see how brave I am over the next week (hair loss is expected anywhere between 10-21 days in the ol’ textbook). Also, with my frequent napping at the moment, at least I wouldn’t have to worry about crazy messy sticking out every which way hair if I crop it all off!
As for the old text book and dr’s advice and so on, it appears I will probably feel a few different forms of “icky” for the next few days, and then should feel ok for the following two weeks leading up to the next dosage, which would be nice!
Oh, and the buggers snuck this one up on me, I am STILL going to have to give myself needles for each cycle as well! Only one per 3 weeks now, but still, more ick. I got David to give me the one last night, wasn’t feeling up to it. They are still only tiny ones, but still feeling like a big ol’ pincushion. Also they decided in the chemo ward to put the canula into the side of my wrist, directly under the bottom of the thumb on the side… OW. Not a good spot. I must produce better veins to get through this!
All in all, certainly not a pleasant experience, but tolerable. anyway that’s about all the ins and outs of my chemo a whole 2 days in. Only 4-5 months to go!

* And yes I’m making sure I don’t actually have a cold or flu at all, it’s the most important side affect to watch out for with this chemo. With dropping white blood cell count infections can hit hard and fast. Although telling a chemo patient to watch for symptoms of feeling “unwell” is rather laughable really! What, unwell, as in different to nauseas, fatigued, and generally drugged out? RIIIIIGHT. That’s what the thermometre comes in handy for. I’m just keeping an eye on my body temp as the main indicator there on Dr’s orders.

13th May- Public Post- So far so good. A few more days in now and I’m feeling much better. I’ve finished my supply of “compulsory” anti nausea tablets, and have a decent supply left of the “voluntary” ones if I need them, and haven’t actually been sick, which is actually quite good.
I think the actualy day in treatment and the shock of the reaction I had really shook me up a bit, and for the weekend I was just thinking I COULDN’T go through this every three weeks. But I’m doing much better now, practically no nausea already, the only thing that’s bugging me is my right arm is aching and aching, which is annoying being right handed and all. I guess it’s those dozen or so blood tests/canulas/needles that have gone in there over the last few months catching up on me. The follow up needle after chemo I had is also I think causing mose of the aches now too, apparently it forces immature white blood cells out of your bone marrow to stop your cell count dropping too much… which causes the bone/muscle/head aches.
And I figure my next in ward treatment days should be much easier and smoother, and I’ll know what to expect, so fingers crossed. The doctors like to make you feel like you can quite at any time if you really can’t take it. But I’m sure they would do their best to convince you otherwise if you tried quitting, lol. But it’s still a good way to feel like you’re not just locked into all this without a choice. It makes you feel stronger and more in power of the whole thing. Which is another reason I want to shave my head soon. David mentioned a quote from a book he’d read once, something about GOING bald, is ugly, cos it’s something that happens TO you. BEING bald, is a choice, so it’s sexy and powerful. And I can uinderstand that. It’s also, if I leave it until the hair loss actually begins, then i’m just a cancer patient, but if I do it myself now, I’m someone who decided on that hair style, in a way… We’ll see anyway, it’s a big step!

17th May- I’ve learned my first chemo lesson this week. While you may feel well and good, it is another thing entirely to try and ACT like you are well and good. Feeling like I was almost back to normal after the initial ickiness, I tried for a med free day at the same time as going out with a friend and eating far too much far too rich food like I would if I were at the top of my game….
And oh have I suffered for it. So. At least I know now even if I am feeling “normal” I have to remember I am not “normal” and must still be careful. A bit of a sad lesson, but better to feel normal and act careful rather than sleep curled up on the bathroom tiles. Hopefully a few more days and I will at least feel normal again, and that is to be treasured at the moment.

23rd May- My hair has started coming out today. I got it cut short last week, about 1 inch long little boy/pixie cut so it’s not so noticable yet, it’s just if you give it a bit of a tug a bunch comes out. I think I’ll shave it off tomorrow evening, depending on how the rate of loss is going. I also noticed today that my leg hair, which I shaved last probably a week ago, haven’t grown back at all… BONUS!

28th May- Well, that’s it, I’m bald!
I got sick of leaving a trail of hair everywhere I went, and it had begun thinning to the point of seeing scalp anyway, so me and David shaved my head last night.
It’s quite a strange sensation, feels pretty cool in some ways. My head feels SMALLER, and it’s so warm to touch (which is weird because anything that touches it feels COLD!). It’s so smoooooooth. I don’t hate it actually, not that I’ll be wandering around in public hatless though…

3rd June- That’s about how I’m feeling… Schbllaeughh…
My second chemo cycle feels like it’s sort of better but sort of worse. I just thought I was feeling BETTER by this stage last time, but actually probably I wasn’t. I think last time just seemed more intense at first so the recovery felt faster, whereas I’m lingering on this one too much. I don’t want to take my pills… thinking about taking them makes me feel sick, and they are supposed to be anti-nausea tablets, sheesh.
I just feel drugged to the eyeballs. It makes it hard to think straight on even one thing at once sometimes.
I’m actually trying to get motivated. I have orders to do, and I KNOW if I get moving and get to work I’ll feel better, get my mind off the ickiness, but it’s already almost midday and I’ve only just got invoices sorted and printed.
I didn’t get any painting done last month either… the random joint and bone aches aren’t friendly with the sitting and painting. And I’m particularly feeling them in my right arm lately too, with all the jabs it’s been getting for the vampires.
I know I’ll be feeling better again in a week or so, I was feeling just great by the time it came around to getting dosed again last week, but it’s also hard thinking I’ve got to do it all four more times again, and then there’s radiotherapy as well after that. I can’t imagine what it would be like for people who have to get Chemo every day, or week long doses, or all the other forms and cycles they run. Six three week cycles isn’t so bad in comparison. And I guess I’m 1/3rd through already. One more and I’ll be half way done.
It’s just like being sick of any kind, a flu, cold, whatever, for a few days that hangs around and makes you feel icky and down. I’m looking forward to feeling better because I like the rush of motivation you get after that when you go into “gotta catch up!” mode. Just wish I’d get better quicker!

6th June- Yay. Still not 100%, but I can do things with effort now, rather than trying to make an effort and feeling crap and giving up, hehe.
For the “too much information” theme, a quick run down of the side affects that get processed through the system with the form of chemo cycle I’m on-
Days 1-2 after chemo- Just generally out of it. Can walk and talk but not really functioning otherwise. I haven’t thrown up yet, which is apparently excellent! On many drugs to keep it that way.
Days 3-4- Run out of “compulsary” anti nausea drugs, go onto Maxelon. Mouth starts turning into a bizarre fuzzy numb state that can’t taste anything much (I’ve been having three tablespoons of brown sugar on my weetbix in the morning to taste them). Sense of smell starts becoming SUPER sensetive at the same time. Heart races in my chest from just standing up. Nausea still being held back by drugs. I also stink… which I feel is a combination of my own sense of smell, and chemicals leaching out of my skin, or maybe my imagination or not showering enough 😉 Feel generally woozy, but not needing to nap or sleep it off as much.
Days 5-7- Sense of smell and taste start returning to normal. Tummy starts cramping and bloating. This happened last cycle to the extreme, we even tried the ER for some relief at 2 in the morning (ended up going home unhelped after 2 hours waiting, sheesh). Apparently it’s part of the side affects, but I’ve watched my diet this time and it’s been much better. Burping is my joy at the moment (oh the releif!). Start having med-free days, yay! Head is clearing up but still have trouble focusing and stringing sentences without stumbling some words. Nausea is all but gone, unless I think about drugs/medicine/hospital which makes my stomach turn.

Now, I’m having issues with my head. I tried to be with the strong, independant, just be bald thing, but I’m not up to it. Even with hats and beanies and whatever. I went out to the shops breifly with a friend yesterday, and everyone stared and did double takes and stuff as I was walking around, and this was with a beanie on, but of course they don’t really hide the fact you’re all bald underneath completely. Even though I was in pretty good spirits otherwise it was still too much. Temperature regulation is a pain too, my head and neck get so cold, I have to rug up so much and feel all constricted. So I think I’m going to get a wig. Something kinda fun, but simple, that won’t attract too much attention to it. I had a look online and it looks like it’s going to be at least a few hundred dollars to buy a decent one, but if it will keep me feeling good for the next three months I think that’s worth it. I’ve got this bright blue wig I bought ages ago for the fun of it. Even though it’s bright blue, it’s actually decent quality, and feels nice. I put it on last night for a change from beannies, and it felt so nice to feel hair on my head!

I forgot about the aches! 24 hours after the chemo I have to give myself a needle (or get David to do it at the moment since I’m not feeling so good at that stage) to boost my white blood cells. Chemo drops white blood cells, so the needle forces immature white blood cells out of your bone marrow to compensate (which can ruin your bones a bit too if you’re not careful or already at risk). So you get those long bone aches, mostly my thigh bones I’ve noticed aching most the few days after the injection, and then for pretty much the entire rest of the cycle all your joints ache randomly… the third nuckle on my left hand for ten minutes, then my right hip for the next five, then my ankle… like a little roving spot of pain that comes and goes but always reminds you of it’s presence when you start to forget.

19th June- Ah man. The doctors decided they wanted me to start taking my seriuous anti nausea meds the day BEFORE my chemo treatments now as well, and a douvble dose at that… So now I have proof that it IS the meds that make me feel nauseus and brain foggy as well even without the chmeo!! I’m, trying not to focus on it though… I’m building up a serious mental aversion to taking my tablets… I’m trying to pretend that they are mints, lol. Pretending I’m sticking some mints in my mouth while taking them kinda helps. I’m going to buy some actual mints tomorrow as well to suck on just after taking each lot of meds too to add to the brain tricks! And with the fuzziness of my brain at the moment I’m hoping it will be easy to trick. The doctors have also expressed concern about the way that nausea can really get into your mind and become more of a mental thing than physical thing, it’s just the nature of it I guess. I totally believe it too… I can’t watch ANYTHING medical on tv anymore (even Scrubs!!) cos seeing people on drips or getting blood tests makes me feel sick, even during my good weeks.
Bugger, and I just reminded myself that I forgot to get my blood test done today. bugger bugger bugger. I blame the meds! Oh well I can get it done tomorrow morning before chemo… yay two jabs in one day.

9th July- I’m bummed cos this is my third week of my chemo cycle when I’m supposed to be feeling my best, and I’ve been feeling crap, and I think it’s pretty much all from in my head but I can’t shake it anyway. I just can’t stop thinking about my next chemo, this friday, and even thinking about it brings back all the nausea and grossness before I’ve even done it again. I’m back on meds again tomorrow, even before chemo starts I’m on three different meds. I’ve got meds FOR my meds FOR my meds. Pills to stop the side affects of the chemo and more pills to stop the side affects of those pills and more pills to ease the side affects of those, it’s insane.
Over all, the Dr’s say I’m holding up really well. No vomitting so far, blood cell counts have been perfectly on track, weight gain has been normal(mostly fluid retention apparently, phew! I’m putting on a kilo per cycle at the moment!), nose bleeds only slight, everything is running smooth and by the books physically, but emotionally I’m struggling a little. I know there’s not much more to go, but the nausea particularly, and all the jabs, they just do weird horrible things to your brain. And of course the more you try to stop thinking of it the more you do think about it.
And I’m also bummed that my journal shipment was slow, and while I was hoping they’d be here with me by now while I’m in a good week, they probably won’t be delivered until next week when I’m not going to be in much of a state to be hauling them (all 40 cartons worth) into my storage area. Sigh… oh well, after friday it’s only two more cycles, one more after that and it’s only one to go, then I’ll be finished, then radiotherapy, then by hrm… mid october? By then I should be all done and hopefully go without visiting the hospital for more than 2 weeks.
My whole life lately has been dictated by chemo cycles and hospital visits.
Can this year be over already?

10th July- I’ve got my next chemo tomorrow, and now that David’s doing full time work, and won’t be around to look after me during my zombie days, I’m heading off up the coast to my parents for 4-5 days of recovery time! I’m hoping it’s going to make me feel a load better than last cycle too, just being in different surroundings, fresher air, wood fire…. mmm. Not to mention, a nastiness of chemo is your sense of smell becomes SUPER POWERED (NOT a good super power to have by the way). And for the last three cycles I’ve been smelling my home, and not enjoying it. The smells of our household have become linked into the nausea… so not smelling those smells will also hopefully make me feel better as well!
I remembered my blood test today, and my veins are still coping well, yay! I’m trying to regain a positive outlook on it all, but it’s hard to stay positive with nausea, it’s like it feeds on my mental power and turns happy thoughts into wanna-throw-up-now thoughts.

The first few days after chemo are hard. It’s like you simply don’t have any physical or mental ability to do ANYTHING. Even watching TV is hard… Even reading. And at the same time, napping all day, which is the easiest way to get through the tough days as quick as possible, is also hard, and makes me not sleep well at night because I don’t really NEED the sleep, it’s just I can’t do anything else but sleep… So frustrating. Hopefully being somewhere different will also help break up the tedium.

17th July- From private post- I’m having a big fat WAH moment. I hate having my beautiful fairy tale wedding dress and no hair, trying it on was the worst thing ever.
I feel like a big fat hairless useless featureless blob. I’m putting on at least a kilo and a half per cycle at the moment cos of the chemo drugs and starting to lose my eyelashes and eye brows now too.
Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

18th July- I feel like I’ve found a bit more strength to get through the rest of my chemo… It was something my mum said that made me think this… I was telling her about yet another one of my new strategies to combat negative thoughts and nausea (currently by trying to recite the words to Modern Major General in my head as a distraction). She said something about how with repetitive treatments like this it’s important to keep trying new things, different tactics each time to deal with it. It made me realise that it’s not just about trying to be strong and get through one big tough time, it’s like repetitive torture and it builds up, and you can’t face it the same way twice…. you have to find a new way to deal with it every single time. As soon as you use one tactic to deal with it, it’s used up and useless and you can’t use it again, because it does more harm than good because it’s become assosciated with the hardship. I’ll probably never want to hear Modern Major General again, or do crosswords, or any of the things I’ve done so far when I’ve needed something to focus on when my mind just keeps reliving the nausea and dwelling on the chemo drugs running up my veins. It is sort of harder, and easier, realising this. Not only do you have to stay positive, and strong, you’ve got to keep coming up with new and innovative ways to do it!! But I also FEEL stronger now for having realised I’ve been doing ok so far. I haven’t given in, I do keep looking for new ways to keep a step ahead, even if it’s with Gilbert and Sutherland…

29th July- You know, I’m even looking forward to other things coming back that chemo has forced away. Like my period, which I haven’t had since I started chemo. I’m HOPING it will come back anyway, it’s a risk of chemo that it can force some women into early menapause. At my age it’s really unlikely… but we’ve prepared just in case by doing a round of IVF before chemo began, which I think was worth it, because as the doctors said my “ovaries will never be the same again” even if I do go back to normal cycles right away. But it’s strange how you miss these things. I guess it all comes down to feeling like yourself, and feeling like a woman. We might complain about our hair and our cycles and our body hair maintanence, but you miss it when it’s gone!

31st July- I’m killing some time while I try and over heat my body and fill myself up with water before I go and get my day-before-chemo blood test. My poor veins have taken such a beating I’m trying to take care of them and make it easy for people to find them… I’m not really supposed to use my left arm for anything like blood tests, blood pressure, injections, etc, anymore since the surgery, so everything’s been in my right arm/hand, which is not the best for my drawing/painting… particularly this one nurse who gives the WORST canulas, they hurt so much! Most of the others are fine though, only hurt for a moment, but this one nurse…. ugh, hurts ALL DAY. I hope I don’t get her again… I like my blood test people though at the pathology place here in town, they give awesome blood tests, if there is such a thing…. barely feel them at all, they are so good.

Three random, weird, somewhat funny side affects I’ve noticed since starting chemo (haven’t heard if these are normal, or what causes them, but they are definately noticable!)-
1. Clear skin- no zits at all, no blackheads, perfect pores, silky smooth… Man if they could sell “chemo in a cream” that did face care and armpits/leg hair removal like mine is now but without all the other icky side affects they’d make a fortune.
2. Flatulance. Ok, too much information, but it’s seriously funny how bad it is… Also lots of burping.
3. Foot cramps! You know sometimes when you curl your toes in your foot cramps up painfully? I’m getting that ALL THE TIME. My arms also go numb a lot, supposed to be something to do with all the fluid retention…

Had a funny moment this morning. Someone knocked on my door while I was on the phone, so I went to see who it was, hopefully quickly and get back to the phone conversation. It was a nice looking old man, who promptly went into his spiel about collecting donations for kids with cancer. I just looked at him and took my beanie off.
He just sort of said, “oh, ok, hope you’re doing well, bye!” and left quite quickly.
It was kinda funny. But now I feel bad since he was doing a good thing and all, but still I don’t particularly like any door to door sellers/collectors/converters. If only I could deal with them all so efficiently…

7th August- Hrmm… I’m back home again, feeling better but still in the not-really-sure-what-I’m-feeling-sometimes-fine-sometimes-need-to-sit-down-suddenly-can’t-do-much-but-feel-like-I-should stage. This chemo cycle has been fairly easy relatively but still more levels of ick than I’d like.
Only put on half a kilo this three week cycle… yay I guess. Better than a full kilo or more. Steroids+comfort eating+lying around like a zombie blob = major weight gain. I can’t even look at mirrors anymore. I’m all big and bloated and hairless. Not even when brushing my teeth or something… I avoid them.  And I have to admit, I used to be a bit vain. Of my hair, anyway. I loved my hair, maybe a bit too much, leaves me thinking this all smacks a bit too much of a typical old testament style smiting. Surely there are worse people to smite than vain hair owners…
I don’t feel like myself, don’t look like myself, and with all the brain fuzzies I barely think like myself. I don’t know where I’ve gone, but I figure if I just rug up and curl up and sleep as much of it through as I can, I might come back soon. Go into stasis or cocoon and come out again when it’s all over… which at least will be soon now.
The nurse told me last week that coming off the steroid based drugs leaves you all emotional… It could also be looking and feeling like crap that does it too…

10th August- This chemo cycle, like all the others, has been unique in it’s own ways. Every one has been a bit different. This one felt sort of easier at first but a lower level of unpleasantness is lingering for longer. The brain fog has been extreme, and a few other symptoms that I hadn’t noticed yet are starting to set in I think. Nothing serious, just… unpleasant… Bad gums/mouth, dry skin, sad and sore digestive system.
Tomorrow I have my radiotherapy planning day, which means I get a CAT scan and some tattoos. The scan is so they can work out exactly where to zap me with their super powered x-rays, and the tattoos will be a few little freckle like dots around the place so they can line me up with their zapping machine every day when I go in, and yes, it is every day (well every “working” day, excludes weekends and holidays at least) for 6 weeks. That will all begin a few weeks after my last chemo, but they have to get planning now. It’s all extremely scientific and involves medical physicists and stuff. I can barely get through a whole sentence at the moment without stuttering or completely forgetting what I was talking about. It’s going to be interesting trekking into hospital almost every single day for 6 weeks. The actual treatment only takes 10-20 mins, but between getting there, the inevitble waiting time, getting home, it’s going to be taking about 3 hours of every day. I’m sure it’s going to be a lot easier tham chemo, but seriously time consuming!

27th August- Back home again after my chemo zombie hiatus at my parents place. Still a day or two away from feeling better as such, but definately past the worst now and keep reminding myself that there are no more chemo treatments left, all finished! It’s weird after what seems like so long, I feel like I can’t really remember what it’s like to be “normal”…
I’m still feeling a bit crappy so I’m giving myself a list of things to be thankful for… when they eventually fade away over the coming days and weeks….

1. For the first time since about february, I can’t tell you when my next needle will be!
2. No more meds, meds, meds. Yes, still going on a few of the ‘voluntary’ anti nausea tablets at the moment, but all the “compulsary” ones are finished!
3. No more need for my Medicine Bag rattling round with me where ever I go with a dozen different tablets in it.
4. No more need to own a sharps container for needles.
5. Not having to GIVE myself needles!
6. No more having my mouth feel like it’s dead from the inside out.
7. No more super sense of smell (that seems to prefer to pick up the most nauseating smells the most).
8. No more crampy achey belly
9. No more achey puffy arms that go numb just by bending them at the elbows (ok, so the tingliness could last for ages apparently, but the puffiness should go!)
10. Fluid retention from hell, bubye!
11. Putting on almost a kilogram every three weeks from the fluids and steriods cranking up my appetite like crazy.
12. No more hot flushes and crazy uncomfortable temperature fluctuations.
13. Good bye to that roving lump of pain that creeps around my various joints.
14. Being able to move my hips without feeling like I’m 80.
15. Flatulance. Enough said.
16. Brain fog… it’s a wonder I’ve gotten anything done straight these last few months.
17. Steroid, hormone, and general crappiness based emotional rollercoastering.
18. Dry skin, sore eyes, fuzzy eyesight.
19. No more visits to the vampires.
20. Relatively less time spent half naked with strangers poking at me*
21. Not having to obsess over whether my veins will stand up to another chemo treatment
22. Not having to hear the drip machine pumping away, and feeling the icey cold drugs running up my arm.
23. Not feeling the need to sleep 24 hours a day for most of a week out of every three.
24. Not feeling on the verge of being sick almost all the time.

AND

HAIR!!! I can’t wait to just have ANY HAIR again… *sighs*
Hair is such a luxury to have, you’ve no idea. I think when it starts growing back I’ll be in a bad way just to not spend all day running my hands in it. Probably a few weeks away yet, but I’m so looking forward to it, and curious to see what it will be like. I can’t even imagine myself with hair anymore, I can’t remember what it was like, it feels so foreign to me now thinking about it I don’t know what it will be like to have hair again… But I know it will be good!

* Eh, actually the being half naked around strangers will probably happen a lot for radiotherapy. My planning day basically involved me lying on the machine bed, top off, while not one, not two, not three, but FOUR Dr’s of mixed sex, who I’d never seen before that day, poked and prodded and shifted and planned. We’ll see how it goes for the every day visits I guess… It’s strange how you’re prudities (me make new word?) can shift in these situations…

17th September- I just had my first radiotherpahy treatment this morning. It was pretty interesting, and more importantly, fast, easy and painless! Unless you count a stiff neck from lying in position for 10 minutes, which is really not bad at all compared to chemo, lol. It feels so sci-fi! With this huge awesome looking machine that moves around and laser beams marking up a grid on your chest and a team of people reading off measurements and using funky little handheld devices (gigercounters? measurers? I don’t know what they were!) that look like gadgets from low budget sci fi series, heh. They have a machine maintanence day this friday, which means a two day week for me this week, so a nice easy start to the process. I’m feeling like this will be over in no time, and keeping fingers crossed on the severity of the side affects that will come up as treatment progresses!

30th September- Radiotherapy is making me tired, sure enough, but I’m otherwise feeling SO GOOD now compared to a few weeks ago. I’ve been sulking and moping a little bit, I think because, well, I’ve had a chance too. Since February when I was first diagnosed, everything has been so full on, and you just have to focus on the few days or few weeks ahead and get through that, but now things are easier and slowed down with treatment I think the emotional side of things have caught up to me a bit.
But as I said, feeling so much better as the chemo side affects are leaving me! Still a few reminders of it left, my skin’s still gross, digestion still not quite settled, and of course the very slow path to getting my hair grown back, but I’m starting to really feel like myself again and it feels good!

22nd October- Wow, I can’t believe it’s only a week and a half left to go and I’m all finished my treatments!!! The radiotherapy is going well. My skin is starting to react to it now, it’s pretty interesting because the treated area is SO precise, I have this big red square “sunburn” area. It’s also making a birthmark I’d almost forgotten about show up really well! Only 2 more normal zaps, then 5 “super” zaps, and I’m all done. Then it’s just doctor check ups every three months from then on for the foreseeable future, lol.
My hair is all coming back now all over. It’s SLOW, but there is steady improvement. The hair on my head is about the stage of… hrm… bad leg hair at the moment, in thickness and length. It’s very fuzzy and soft! I can now JUST see a shade of hair line from a distance, like a weird 4 o’clock shadow, hehe. The bad news is almost all my eye lashes and brows have decided it’s kamakaze time… nothing has grown since I started the chemo, but they just stubbornly held on. But now the new lashes and brow hairs are growing in again, all the ones that had managed to hold on are popping out, lol. Still, not long till I’ll be all normal and hairy again, which I can tell you doesn’t feel normal at all to me anymore, I got used to being hairless!

2nd November- Well friday was my very last treatment day. Much celebration! I’m already looking at tomorrow and the following week very happily to not be having to get to hospital at 7am every single morning. In fact, I’ve got two follow up appointments booked for early December, but will probably be completely hospital free after that until February or so!!! No treatments, no tests, no tablets, no being topless in front of strangers! It’s unheard of! I won’t know myself!
The radiotherapy itself went very well. I seem to have been remarkably resiliant through my treatments in general (the chemotherapy doctor use this term as well, that I “tollerated the treatment remarkably well”!). My skin is all sorts of red and brown and blotchy from the radiation “burning”, but no blisters, no peeling or broken skin at all yet. It’s a delayed reaction, so it will get worse for a week still from now, but then it’s all improvement and healing and getting back to a better kind of normal. Even some of the chemo side affects are still hanging around a little, dr’s say for maybe a few months more, but also improving rapidly.
My hair is growing at an almost visible speed now, every day I can see more. I didn’t realise how much I’d lost, or how hairy I was before, lol! Arm hair, leg hair, eyebrows, all becoming hairy again, it’s a very strange sensation. I’ve got a stack of these tiny, cute, 1mm long eyelashes popping back in now (which is good, because I have LITERALLY two proper long eye lashes left on one side! Even mascara can’t do much with two eyelashes, lol!).
The hair on my head feels like fur, really soft and velvety. Another month maybe and I might be game to start being hat-free. It’s currently this long-

Still hard to tell what colour/texture it’s going to be yet, but I think it’s looking pretty normal actually, if maybe a bit finer and blonder, but it should get thicker and back to normal pretty quickly.  You can actually see my radiotherapy burn in this photo too, and my tattoo dot in the top of the burn corner. I hope no one minds me going on about this stuff, personally I just find it fascinating myself, how all the medical stuff works. Like how precise the radiation treatment is, that it comes up as an almost perfect square (it looks triangular there, but when I lift my arm into my treatment position it is a square shape). I hope other people find it interesting as well! Many people know a friend of a friend with cancer or seen stuff on tv, but all the little details of treatment are never really talked about. Having never really had anything medical in my life before, I find it all quite interesting, how it all works. I’m always bugging my doctors with questions about how this machine works or why this treatment has that side affect and so on.

December- I feel so institutionalised, hospital kinda became my second home, and as much as I DON’T miss it, I do miss it, you know? Like prisoners not knowing what to do with themselves when they leave prison… I need to go build a boat with Morgan Freeman or something…

An onwards-

It was strange recovering from it all. I kept thinking, “Yes, I’m back to normal!” and then I’d feel even better again, and think “Oh RIGHT, THIS is what normal feels like, I’m not supposed to still have those aches every day!”. Emotionally was a longer road to recovery (see back at the beginning about denial and medical anxiety issues!), but these days, it’s almost like nothing happened. My hair is already down to shoulder length after just 2 years and is lovely and healthy. My scar is a constant reminder, as are the twinges of pain cause by surgery/radiation cooking/lymphodema that I will know for the rest of my life. And yes, the lymphodema in my left arm (from cooked and removed lymph nodes) was a nice added bonus at the end that I will have to manage for my whole life, but in the greater scheme of things, it’s not so bad. After all, I’m still here, and still happy 🙂

High Fantasy Illustration- Its history, evolution, and place in society

Introduction

“The fantasy illustrator takes the pictorial conventions of realistic portrayal and then manipulates and inverts them to create marvellous worlds for which there can be no earthly analogy.”[1]

Fantasy art has been a part of all human societies throughout history. It is found in abundant forms, fairytales, folklore, mythology, science fiction and religion. High fantasy though is a genre that has evolved and come into its own in the past century, different from general fantasy, and yet intertwined as will be explored.

As fantasy has existed throughout time, so has fantasy art and illustration. All the ideas and stories of fantasy have found their place in art, illustrated into reality. Indeed fantasy art and fantasy literature have always been, and still are, inextricably linked. With the recent rise of “new age” themes, and a vast range of new mediums and areas to explore, fantasy illustration is now one of the most profitable areas in art, and yet still estranged from other artistic genres. Great modern fantasy artists enjoy huge fame in their field, yet are often unknown outside it.

Yet fantasy art may well be one of the most challenging genres to depict successfully. To create fantasy, untrue elements, and yet convince the viewer of their reality, to mix fantasy and reality in a way to give plausibility to one, and enchantment to the other, is no easy task. And often fantasy illustrators are restricted more by their commerciality, to achieve all this within the confines of a paperback cover.

The way in which fantasy illustrators accomplish these feats will be investigated, as well as the artists who have surpassed simply reaching these goals to creating truly spectacular work.

What high fantasy is defined as, and how the genre came into existence are the first issues in need of exploration.

The High Fantasy Genre Defined

“I mean by a picture a beautiful romantic dream of something that never was, never will be- in a light better than any light that ever shone- in a land no one can define or remember, only desire.”[2]

The Importance of Secondary Worlds to Fantasy Art,

and Defining High Fantasy

Defining what is fantasy is a difficult and broad task, indeed, “Fantasy may be almost all things to all men.”[3] But for high fantasy, the definition becomes more refined. Generally high fantasy, in terms of illustration and literature, is one of other worlds and other worldly creatures.

Tolkien, both a great fantasy writer and expert, defined the difference in terms of primary and secondary worlds, primary being our own world, secondary being any other imagined world. “High fantasy is, in fact, distinguished from low fantasy largely on the basis of setting. Low fantasy (low is a descriptive, not evaluative, term here) is set…in our primary world.”[4]

Hence low fantasy includes all mythology, fairytales, and fiction that includes fanciful and non-rational phenomena, but exists within our world, offering no explanation to their existence in our otherwise rational world. High fantasy on the other hand includes all these fantastic elements, but they occur in a world different to ours, secondary worlds. They gain more credibility in that these other worlds don’t need to adhere to the science and rules of the primary world. Fantastic events and creatures may be every day occurrence.

Realism and Fantasy

This use of secondary worlds is just one element of high fantasy for it to achieve the effect of creating something which is both completely fantastic in theme, but credible enough to not only not be dismissed, but to be embraced by it’s audience.

“Realism and naturalism, for example, are defined by those elements of the real world they retain; fantasy, on the other hand, is defined by those aspects of reality it denies, by representations that are not merely improbable or untrue… but patently false.”[5]

For fantasy illustration, depicting subjects that are completely unreal is only half of the effect, the full effect is achieved by depicting these unreal subjects in a way in which they appear to be in fact real. There must be some elements of reality in fantasy, so that the viewer can relate to the image on common grounds, that they may, without denial, be completely immersed in a reality that is obviously false.

“The base line of reality, therefore, is always implicit in even the most errant fantasy, and in the tension between these solid, familiar unalterable givens of experience and the particular denials of the that constitute the fiction is generates the special delight that fantasy affords us.”[6]

Illustrators take on this task in a variety of ways, but the most common tie in to reality is the depiction of humans. It is rare to find a fantasy artwork which does not contain at least one recognisably human form. While this human form is often altered to create creatures of high fantasy realms, fairies, mermaids, centaurs, anamorphic beings, there is always enough human within these creatures to relate to from our experience.

The relatively new occurance of the “secondary worlds” has given artists vast freedom to create within the theme of fantasy. Elements from their imagination, from myth, from stereotypical fantasy merge and grow to create vivid new worlds on canvas, on paper, and now digitally. If all artists had to create within but one world, whether it be the primary, or but one secondary world, then they would, in part, have to conform always to the rules of that world. For example, if all fantasy existed only within Tolkiens secondary world, and probably most famous secondary world, Middle Earth, then an artist could never create a being that did not conform to it’s vivid and strict descriptions. All hobbits painted must have hairy feet, all elves are tall with slightly pointed ears. Because of the limitless supply of secondary worlds, and imagination, an artist may create freely. In their worlds, hobbits may still be small, but their feet may be hairless. Elves might still have pointed ears, but might be smaller than even the hobbits. Secondary worlds, thus, are enormously important to fantasy art. It enables an artist to justify their creations, and while they still must adhere enough to reality to be credible, all false elements can be explained simple by the statement “In that world, that is the way they are.”

The Evolution and Origins of High Fantasy Art

“The concepts and turns of mind inherent in “religion”, “myth”, “romance”, “chronicle”, “epic”, and “mysticism”, among so many other systems, have frequently been rationalisations for the impossible, facades behind which fantasy has brooded unnoticed and unexplored.”[7]

Mythology as the Origin of Fantasy

In the past, the ability to create within secondary worlds was not always permitted. Fantasy art did not evolve through the creation of secondary worlds, but through the depiction of low fantasy, those fantasies that exist in our primary world. Fairy tales, mythology, folklore and legend have always been, and still are, popular themes of fantasy art, and have now been adopted in the new worlds of high fantasy.

In past European art, the only themes deemed worthy of art were portraiture, Christian mythology or classical mythology. Artistic imagination was not as free. When depicting these myths and tales, they had to hold true to the story. Myth, while now defined as fiction, was at one time fact to some people. Art had to be created in context with the beliefs that were looked up to. If not believed in by society at large, the myths were at least respected and revered.

The history of mythology in fantasy art goes right back to cave drawings of imagined beasts, gods and mythical creatures. Mythology arose from a need to explain the unexplainable in the world around us, and the use of art gave the myths a permanence and credence that often only a visual aid can.

The need to explain, explore and somehow capture the unknown is seen well in medieval art and tapestry, and the apparent popularity of dragon and unicorn images of the time.

A lack of knowledge may have meant that stories of large lizards are taken to be dragons. Tales of horses with horns (a popular headdress for horses of the ancient nomadic warrior tribes of the Altai region, among others) become unicorns. Thus linking the unknown with knowledge from mythology to explain the phenomena, to tie it in to their reality and give it firmness through the use of art.

The fearful unknown is captured and subdued through the use of art.

“Such was the pride and ferocity of unicorns that they could not be taken alive. Yet mortals- more prideful still- liked to think they might hold the beautiful beast captive, and so they wove tapestry prisons to contain the unicorns image.”[8]

Mythological characters, creatures and themes have been depicted in art throughout history, and even now, the creatures of myth, the harpies, Cyclops, sirens and nymphs, the gods of the pantheon, the Asgard, the Tuatha de Dannan, of all mythology, have been taken from their original contexts and cultural homes, and given a new home under the broad umbrella of the fantasy genre. Because of this adoption of myth into fantasy, it is almost impossible to define where myth ends and fantasy begins.

It is not the link to only mythology that is important to recognise, but the link to all stories. Fantasy art has evolved all over the world through the depiction of stories, whether they were at the time believed to be real, or simply were fairy tales. Even now, fantasy art and fantasy literature are inextricably tied together. The fact though that so much of mythology still exists in high fantasy is only testament to the fact that this is where what is now high fantasy has evolved from.

Hieronymous Bosch- (c 1450-1516).

For some, though, the depiction of myth and stories governed strictly by their given descriptions was not enough. The turning point in which elements from myth and stories were taken, but rethought and changed to suit an artists own imagination is often characterized by the work of Hieronymous Bosch.

Bosch is often seen as the earliest of modern fantasy artists. His artwork juxtaposed strange scenes and hellish images. Often, as with his “Garden of Earthly delights” the themes were linked with religion and myth, while his interpretation was both unique at the time and the precision and detail of the hallucinatory images noteworthy. While his work does not contain the stereotypical images and creatures of modern fantasy, it is his imagination and will to adopt, yet convert stories to his own design that marks his work as a turning point in fantasy art.

Victorian Fairyland Phenomenon

While fairytales and folklore were popular throughout Europe throughout the middle ages, they experienced a huge vogue in the 19th century. Previously, in Britain particularly, the strict Puritan society made depiction of folk or fairy tale themes unacceptable.

“Folk tales were deemed to be crude, perverse, frivolous, and uncomfortably pagan.”[9]

Fantasy, but most of all fairy art, had become the focus of a new trend. Its popularity is often seen as a rebellion against the social values of the time.

“The acceptance and rapid growth of fairyland as a fit subject matter for literature, painting, and the stage from the 1820s to the 1840s and its survival until at least the First World War is one of the most remarkable phenomena of 19th-century culture.”[10]

Where fantasy beings had once only been a part of already existing stories, fairies, and fairyland had broken out and become a genre unto it’s own. The illustrations still often were linked to literature, with the work of Shakespeare and other authors being a major influence of the time, but artists also created new worlds for fairies entirely of their own imagination.

Richard Dadd, Richard Doyle, Frances Danby, Joseph Noël Paton, John Anster Fitzgerald, Daniel Maclise, Thomas Heatherly, and Eleanor Fortesque-Brickdale were just a few of the numerous artists who created an entire genre of “Victorian Fairy Art”, a genre which was not marginalized, as fantasy art tends to be today, but found in prestigious galleries and at the Royal Academy exhibitions.

While fairies were enjoying a boom in popularity, the boom in technology was countering the magical era with its blight of factories and buildings on the English countryside. Artist of fantasy themes painted works rich in nostalgia, in particular, the art of the pre-raphaelites. Their work was based in romance, legend and myth, with a beautiful and dreamy aesthetic and fine craftsmanship to counter the ugly side of the industrial age.

“For every locomotive they build,” vowed Edward Burne-Jones, “I shall paint another angel.”[11]

The more functional side of the Art Nouveau style embraced folklore to such a degree that by the end of the 19th century, fairies and popular fairy tales scenes were commonly found in middle class homes in every form of decorative arts: wallpaper, draperies, ceramics, stained glass, metalwork, etc. Lavish new fairy tale volumes were produced that turned illustration into a fine art by the likes of Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Kay Nielsen, Jessie M. King, Warwick Goble, Eleanor Vera Boyle, and the Robinson brothers.

One of the most notable occurrences of the Victorian fairy phenomena was the most publicised event of the Cottingley fairy photographs.  In 1917, Elsie Wright, and Frances Griffith, contrived to take photographs of fairies in their garden at Cottingley. These photos, crude and unconvincing by todays standards, caused an absolute sensation at the time when promoted and championed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Even before being proven to be no more than the talented artwork of the two girls, cut out fairies held in place with hatpins, the photos are actually pin pointed as the factors that marked the end of the fairy art era. Despite briefly reviving interest in fairies, the photos, the ostensible proof of the actual existence of the fairies, deprived them of the grandeur and magic.

Tolkien’s World

The fairy vogue soon died down, but the mark it left on the fantasy world is considerable.

Fantasy in literature and art continued to make it’s own niche as a new genre in it’s own right, breaking it’s ties from mythology and folklore. The rise in new technologies saw the advent of science fiction, technically another form of high fantasy, depiction other worlds and times. At the same time that science fiction was gaining ground, there was a movement back to medieval legends.

The work of Tolkien is one of the most notable events in fantasy evolution. His stories inspired a whole generation of fantasy artists who illustrated for literature. He created a whole fantasy world including fantasy races, mythologies, religions, languages and landscapes, that now are often taken as the standard descriptions for fantasy elements.

Tolkien did a great deal more for fantasy than just provide inspiration for artists. In the literary field, his work was consided worthy of the title of literature, and being so closely linked, the new found regard of fantasy literature was also enjoyed by fantasy art.

“A great many, indeed, appear to owe little or nothing directly to Tolkien, and some writers may be said to surpass him in imaginative power or philosophical conception. The point is, rather, that Tolkien made fantasy “respectable”.[12]

Tolkien had an enormous impact on fantasy art by inspiring others, not only by his own secondary world, but to also create their own realms of fantasy.

Fantasy Art Now

“Because it skirts between high art and pulp fiction, because it emerged and flourishes without the significant benefits of academic commentary, and because its efflorescence has been so wild and gorgeous”[13]

Fantasy Illustration in a Commercial Age

Throughout history Fantasy art emerged from depictions of myth and stories, and now, modern fantasy art takes its place on the book covers of modern fantasy authors. It seems that fantasy in words and fantasy in image are impossible to separate.

Fantasy art is a popular force in modern commercial society. It is still not seen hanging in fine art galleries, but instead it permeates all aspects of modern commercial culture. Found all over the internet, with huge fantasy galleries such as Elfwood (now with more than 10 000 artists)[14], it fills travelling fantasy and science fiction conventions, it is found in commercial art as calendars, pin ups and greeting cards. Fine art prints of fantasy images are sold, not in galleries, but on websites. With the advent of “New Age” products, a boom in the Wiccan Faith, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter motion pictures, comics, computer games, role playing games, collectable trading card games and more, fantasy art is found in more mediums, under more themes and in more places of society than ever before.

The same themes of Fantasy that made it popular throughout history are still evident today, with artists still “Combining romantic adventure, innocent eroticism, and a sense of wonder.”[15]

Because of its links to literature, because it is often commercial, because it is often created with no more intention than to please the eye, fantasy art is still seen as a form of illustration rather than art. Fantasy artists, like fine artists, create what they enjoy and what they are interested in. It is the popularity of the genre among the general public, which fine art often detaches itself from, that makes the art so commercial. Indeed, great modern fantasy artists work, even when not of a fantasy theme, are often classified fantasy as it is seen as being more saleable to the general public.

“The artist must walk a fine line between commercial necessities and aesthetic responsibilities.”[16]

Almost all modern fantasy artists, even those whose majority of work is from their own imagination, still work commercially illustrating the ideas and stories of fantasy authors. It is not so much their desire to create another persons ideas, but the other persons desire for their ideas to be created by the artist.

This desire could well be seen to mirror the need in the past to define myth through image, as modern authors create their own myths, they wish to see them defined by modern artists.

“If fantasy is powerfully presented or realised, it can produce an imprint on our imaginations deep enough to give it a measure of truth or reality.”[17]

With new mediums being explored and new styles and trends in art emerging, the Fantasy genre is one which an artists imagination has never been more free to create.

Unlike fine art, modern fantasy artists benefit from huge success and fame, with infatuated fans and rich earnings.

Modern Artists and their influences

When the term fantasy art is used now, often a clear image appears in the mind. A handful of modern artists have been so fundamentally important to the genre, so remarkable in their style, vision and success in the depiction of fantasy, that fantasy art and illustration is now defined in terms of their work. Below, a number of these artists will be examined in terms of their style, their influences and their effect on the world of fantasy art and illustration.

Boris and Julie

Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell, the husband and wife team with a style so similar, and so amazing that the pair have become synonymous both with each other and with the fantasy genre.

In style, their work is dramatic in its imagination and stark in its photorealism. They can depict a woman in all blue metallic flesh, in an alien landscape with bizarre creatures, and have it appear to be reality. Where most fantasy art often incorporates human figures, for them it is the main focus. The perfect, sensual human form displays in all their work.

One of the main criticisms of modern fantasy is its tendency towards the depiction of scantily clad women, often in compromising positions. Fantasy art has been branded as exploitative, sexist and cheap. The rise in fame of artist Julie Bell has been a great blow for these stereotypes, as now these sumptuous female forms are being depicted not by men, but by a woman. This somewhat trivial fact of the sex of the artist has allowed the art to be seen for it’s worth in celebrating the beauty and strength of the female form.

The realism of their images is stark and shocking. Strong colours, strong women, sharp details and sharp weapons, their subjects aren’t those of fanciful myth or folklore, but the gritty, yet gorgeous heroines and heroes of a new and radiant era in fantasy illustration.

Their style and technical skill can be compared to that of the great masters, who were inspirations for them both. “Vermeer, Rembrandt, Leonardo — during my early years I used to study the works of such masters again and again.”[18] Their art has the same realism, the same rich, smooth quality, the same attention to detail, but unlike those styles, the work of Boris and Julie has an austere strength unlike any throughout history.

Brian Froud

In terms of creating secondary worlds that have left a mark in the fantasy genre, few have been as successful as Tolkien. The modern master for creating mystical realms though has to be Froud. His style and vision has set him apart amongst artists and designers, and set a new standard of imagination and creativity. His work is so distinctive, so in depth, that his worlds have been as influential to modern fantasy as Tolkien was to its evolution. His work on designing worlds for the feature films The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth is celebrated throughout the fantasy art and design areas.

Frouds work, like that of Boris and Julie, has become synonymous with fantasy as we now know it.

While he also deals in high fantasy, his other worlds are differ starkly to those of Boris and Julies. His style is not one of photorealism. His art contains a sense of vagueness and mystery. It has a style decorative and whimsical like that of Arthur Rackham’s work, who indeed was the artist who triggered Frouds interest in folklore and fantasy.

Fantasy Arts Place in Society

“Some critics and academics condemn the whole genre with a passion which seems to have its roots in emotion rather than objective critical standards.”[20]

Fantasy Arts Importance and Its Perceived Value

The fantasy genre, including all forms of its expression, has often been undervalued for its role in society. The worlds of fantasy are one of the oldest genres in human society, yet even now are dismissed by almost all of their thematic and stylistic counterparts who to often “relegate contrary modes to escapism and rebellion.”[21]

However, fantasy is essential to human life, its imagination and creativity. It gives the human mind a place to explore and grow. Using elements of our real world, combined with pure fantasy gives humans a place where they can create and examine aspects of life in general.

“The human mind, that is, in its ability to imagine an existence other than the one which it experiences, is permitted to perceive, as if from the outside, the existence in which it is actually immersed.”[22]

So fantasy as a theme isn’t simply pure escapism, although it is a definite factor, but also a tool for analysing our real world. In depictions of other worlds and other worldly beings, whether utopian or dystopian, it gives humans an opportunity to compare our existence to another, to see both its flaws and value.

“Fantasy… always exists in a symbiotic relationship with reality and its conventionalised representation, depending on it for its existence and at the same time commenting upon it, criticizing it, and illumination it.”[23]

There have been many great reviewers on the importance of myth and fantasy, among which Joseph Campbell stands out. He also notes the importance of artists calling them the “shamans and myth-makers”[24] of our modern world. The modern artists of fantasy now have a great task to bear, they must keep alive the themes and magic inherent in the old myths that helped form society as we know it.

Conclusion

Fantasy art is only now starting to be seen as an area worth analysis, debate and academic value. Courses in fantasy literature are now found in many colleges and universities, and while fantasy art is still often seen as purely commercial, in this way it enjoys great success. It is more widespread and has a larger fan base than other forms of art. The very fact that modern fine art purposefully detaches itself from the general public, whereas the general public embrace, and are embraced by fantasy art, is evident of its history and close ties to civilisation, and hopefully, it’s continued importance and growth as an artistic genre to society.

Bibliography

(Images once included in this essay no longer available)

The Faeryland Companion, Beatrice Phillpotts, 1999 Random House, Australia PTY LTD

Yesterday’s Lily, Jeffrey Jones, Dragons Dream LTD, Netherlands, 1980

The Enchanted World, Magical Beasts, The editors of Time Life Books, Amsterdam

The Enchanted World, Wizards and Witches, The editors of Time Life Books, Amsterdam

The Aesthetics of Fantasy Literature and Art, edited by Roger C. Schlobin, University of Notre Dame Press and The Harvester Press, Indiana, 1982

Beyond Time and Place, Non-Realist Painting in the Nineteenth Century, Philippe Roberts-Jones, Oxford University Press, 1978

Wonderworks- science fiction and fantasy art, Michael Whelan, Starblaze editions, USA, 1979

Where Mythological Art ends and Fantasy Art begins… http://members.tripod.com/~nettski/info.html

“Victorian Fantasies” by Terri Windling http://www.endicott-studio.com/forvctf.html

The Elfwood Project http://elfwood.lysator.liu.se/elfwood.html

In Defence of Fantasy, Ann Swinfen, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1984

Boris Vallejo www.suicide.couk.com/gallery/boris/borisbio.htm

Brom www.bromart.com


[1] The Aesthetics of Fantasy Literature and Art, edited by Roger C. Schlobin, University of Notre Dame Press and The Harvester Press, Indiana, 1982

[2] Beyond Time and Place, Non-Realist Painting in the Nineteenth Century, Philippe Roberts-Jones, Oxford University Press, 1978 Page 85

[3] On the Nature of Fantasy, C.N. Manlove, The Aesthetics of Fantasy Literature and Art, edited by Roger C. Schlobin, University of Notre Dame Press and The Harvester Press, Indiana, 1982

[4] The Secondary Worlds of High Fantasy, Kenneth J. Zahorski and Robert H. Boyer, The Aesthetics of Fantasy Literature and Art, edited by Roger C. Schlobin, University of Notre Dame Press and The Harvester Press, Indiana, 1982

[5] Heroic Fantasy and Social Reality, Jules Zanger, The Aesthetics of Fantasy Literature and Art, edited by Roger C. Schlobin, University of Notre Dame Press and The Harvester Press, Indiana, 1982

[6] Heroic Fantasy and Social Reality, Jules Zanger, The Aesthetics of Fantasy Literature and Art, edited by Roger C. Schlobin, University of Notre Dame Press and The Harvester Press, Indiana, 1982

[7] The Aesthetics of Fantasy Literature and Art, edited by Roger C. Schlobin, University of Notre Dame Press and The Harvester Press, Indiana, 1982

[8] The Enchanted World, Magical Beasts, The editors of Time Life Books, Amsterdam

[9] “Victorian Fantasies” by Terri Windling http://www.endicott-studio.com/forvctf.html

[10] “Victorian Fantasies” by Terri Windling http://www.endicott-studio.com/forvctf.html

[11] Beyond Time and Place, Non-Realist Painting in the Nineteenth Century, Philippe Roberts-Jones, Oxford University Press, 1978

[12] In Defence of Fantasy, Ann Swinfen, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1984

[13] Heroic Fantasy and Social Reality, Jules Zanger, The Aesthetics of Fantasy Literature and Art, edited by Roger C. Schlobin, University of Notre Dame Press and The Harvester Press, Indiana, 1982

[14] Elfwood Amatuer Fantasy Art Gallery elfwood.lysator.liu.se

[15] Heroic Fantasy and Social Reality, Jules Zanger, The Aesthetics of Fantasy Literature and Art, edited by Roger C. Schlobin, University of Notre Dame Press and The Harvester Press, Indiana, 1982

[16] Wonderworks- science fiction and fantasy art, Michael Whelan, Starblaze editions, USA, 1979

[17] On the Nature of Fantasy, C.N. Manlove, The Aesthetics of Fantasy Literature and Art, edited by Roger C. Schlobin, University of Notre Dame Press and The Harvester Press, Indiana, 1982

[18] www.suicide.couk.com/gallery/boris/borisbio.htm

[19] www.bromart.com

[20] The Aesthetics of Fantasy Literature and Art, edited by Roger C. Schlobin, University of Notre Dame Press and The Harvester Press, Indiana, 1982

[21] The Aesthetics of Fantasy Literature and Art, edited by Roger C. Schlobin, University of Notre Dame Press and The Harvester Press, Indiana, 1982

[22] Heroic Fantasy and Social Reality, Jules Zanger, The Aesthetics of Fantasy Literature and Art, edited by Roger C. Schlobin, University of Notre Dame Press and The Harvester Press, Indiana, 1982

[23] Heroic Fantasy and Social Reality, Jules Zanger, The Aesthetics of Fantasy Literature and Art, edited by Roger C. Schlobin, University of Notre Dame Press and The Harvester Press, Indiana, 1982

[24] www.endicott-studio.com/intbftw.html