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Posts Tagged ‘artist’

[The following images are  © Ashley Lebedev, unless otherwise stated]

I have some health updates for you guys which I will tell you about soon (nothing too exciting, don’t worry) but I’ve been too busy doing the updated things that I’ve hardly had any time to write or edit or do anything creative.  I’m switching medications and weaning up to a therapeutic dose of the new one right now; I’m not quite midway through the transactions.  I feel pretty horrible; intense migraines all day and night, nausea, exhaustion (beyond normal levels even), pain flairs and insomnia.  But I don’t feel like I should be complaining about any of that after hearing what Ashley Lebedev, aka Bottle Bell Photography, has been going through.

æther.

© Ashley Lebedev | Bottle Bell ™

 

I knew that Ashley had some health problems, but that was about all I knew.  We both live inside the fine-art-conceptual-magical-ethereal-fantasy-fae-creating-characters-building-our-own-props-and-costumes-and-sometimes-self-portrait-taking-photographers-world, which as you can imagine, doesn’t have a HUGE number of members.  We’ve known each other online for several years and I’ve come to know Ashley as being endlessly creative, genuinely positive, extremely talented and an all-around lovely person.

But I didn’t know that she was dying.

The Guardian. | Faerieland Series

© Ashley Lebedev | Bottle Bell ™

It turns out that Ashley is far, far sicker than I realized.  Her doctors don’t even know exactly what the problem is, only that she is dangerously sick and will die without intervention.  But intervention is hard to get if you don’t know what you’re fighting.  Ashley recently launched a GoFundMe to help finance her journey toward health, which will likely include some very expensive stays at medical facilities, special tests and treatments, all not covered by insurance.

hallowed.

© Ashley Lebedev | Bottle Bell ™

This is going to be VERY expensive.  And Ashley needs our help.  I am asking you all to please help her, even if it’s a very small donation.  I know money is tight for most of us these days, I get that.  I wish I could have donated a much larger amount of money to her campaign.  But the thing is, even if we all only gave $5, it would make a difference.

New Faerieland | "The Great Hall"

© Ashley Lebedev | Bottle Bell ™

Ashley needs us.  And the world needs Ashley.  It would be a much darker, sadder place without her bright, beautiful soul.  So please, donate to her cause if you can.  And whether you can or can’t help with money, you can also help just by spreading the word about her fight!

The Weight of a Whistle Already Carved | New Faerieland~

© Ashley Lebedev | Bottle Bell ™

I know that she will also welcome any prayers, Reiki, good energy, lit candles, etc, sent her way.  I know that she can get through this, but she will need our help.  Let’s overwhelm her with our love and support!  Thank you all from the bottom of my heart!!

All images above are © Ashley Lebedev and are included to show what a beautifully talented artist she is.  I’ll round things off with my latest image here at the bottom.

The Living Sepulcher © Sarah Allegra, model - Dedeker Winston

The Living Sepulcher © Sarah Allegra, model – Dedeker Winston

 

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Some of you know that my birthday is quickly approaching; so quickly, in fact, that it hardly seems like it really is almost that time of year.  It’s been such a crazy, non-stop year with seemingly one crisis and difficulty after another.  I’m going to just ASSUME, universe, that the bad luck switch is getting reset on August 3rd and I will start the year fresh and free from more crisis.

I am just done with stress and poor health and putting out fires.  So this next year is going to be different.  I will it to be so.

Happy Day, © Sarah Allegra - a self portrait I took five years ago on my birthday, right after I'd started shooting.

Happy Day, © Sarah Allegra – a self portrait I took five years ago on my birthday, right after I’d started shooting.

I honestly don’t feel up to making a big fuss over my birthday, in any part of my life.  The day of will probably consist of my favorite type of dinner – having something delivered to the house so I don’t have to change out of my PJs!  (Well, I will put clothes on for my therapy appointment that morning, although my therapist is so great, I’m sure she wouldn’t care if I didn’t.  But then I can change back into jammies as soon as I’m home.)  No fancy dinners where you have to get dressed up with actual, nice clothes and make reservations and stay up past my bedtime… nope, just bring some food to my gate, toss it in and I’m a happy camper.  There’s one silver lining to chronic illness; it makes you a cheap and easy date!  😉  Though I’ve tended to prefer this kind of evening for a long time.

So yes, mellow birthday for me.  But I thought I could use the occasion to celebrate hobbit-style; instead of them giving me something, I’ll celebrate by giving gifts to my guests!  That’s you guys!!

Since this is all virtual (and I’m broke) I’m not giving you physical gifts, but instead, the gift of sales!  I don’t control the pricing and sales of every store I sell through, but the ones that allow me to, I’m giving you guys some codes to snatch up that pretty thing you’ve had your eye on at a discount 🙂

Vanity's Murder - © Sarah Allegra, a self portrait

Vanity’s Murder – © Sarah Allegra, a self portrait

I sell museum-quality fine art prints through my Etsy shop; right now, save 30% on ALL prints!

My Etsy shop also has a few pieces of “wearable art,” some of which is inspired by DreamWorld characters and some of which was inspired by The Last Unicorn!

Taco purse available on Etsy :)

Taco purse available on Etsy 🙂

A Fading Girl © Sarah Allegra, model: Brooke Shaden

A Fading Girl © Sarah Allegra, model: Brooke Shaden

And for something even more special, I also host a very unique online photography class,  INTROSPECTIVE: A Photographic Quest.  Enter code INTROBDAY50 to get 30% off the course!

INTROSPECTIVE is much more about self-discovery than it is about knowing what f-stops are or having fancy equipment.  You don’t even have to have an actual camera; your phone will do perfectly well!  The course emphasizes self portraits as a way to get to know yourself better, but the definition of “self portrait” here is quite loose.  You never have to appear in an image unless you really want to.  What I mean by “self portrait” in this case is simply any photograph which shows me something about who you are as a person!
The Blue Ribbon © Sarah Allegra, Model: Katie Johnson

The Blue Ribbon © Sarah Allegra, Model: Katie Johnson

Oh, I almost forgot, I’ve been waiting to share this new info with you guys!  I recently opened a shop on Fiverr!  Right now I don’t have all the gigs up I’m planning on, but there are a few up.  A couple Reiki-related and others involve me giving you original textures that you can use on your photos, even commercial ones!  If you’re new to Fiverr, get ready to fall in love.  Fiverr is a site where people post gigs which all cost… you guessed it, $5.  They may have additional features you can add on which might cost more, but the basic service they advertize always costs just $5.  I’ve found them extremely helpful and useful ever since I found out it existed a few months ago.  You can literally find ALMOST ANYTHING there for $5.  It’s pretty amazing.  So I figured I’d get in on the fun!

Aly Darling © Sarah Allegra, model: Aly Darling.  Before light textures have been added.

Aly Darling © Sarah Allegra, model: Aly Darling. Before light textures have been added.

Aly Darling © Sarah Allegra, model: Aly Darling.  After light textures have been added.

Aly Darling © Sarah Allegra, model: Aly Darling. After light textures have been added.

Then there’s also Red Bubble.  Through my Red Bubble shop I sell all of the following items with my images on them:

We Rise Again © Sarah Allegra - a self portrait

We Rise Again © Sarah Allegra – a self portrait

And I’ve got the prints I sell through my gallery representative.
Where Earth Meets The Sky © Sarah Allegra - model: Katie Johnson

Where Earth Meets The Sky © Sarah Allegra – model: Katie Johnson

Since I’m still fighting off a stupid summer cold, I’ll end this here.  I can tell you that any sales I can make would be hugely appreciated.  Not only is it just very expensive to living day to day with chronic illnesses (and Maynard has had to go the vet a lot recently) but I’d also like to start saving up for some really needed equipment and cool projects!  Please use and enjoy the coupons from now until September 1st!  Celebrate my birthday with presents for you all month long 😀

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As we approach Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, I have another post about my wares, this time with a big, fat, site-wide discount!

Now Has Come The Time For Silence - © Sarah Allegra - fine art print

Now Has Come The Time For Silence – © Sarah Allegra – fine art print

Enter code MYTHIC2014 to get a whopping 20% off any and all items from my Etsy shop!  This is a huge sale, the biggest I’ve ever created, so take advantage of it while it’s active!  It will be good until January 31st 2015; perfect for buying holiday gifts for yourself and others, as well as spending any Christmas money you might get 🙂

Let me tell you a little bit about my prints.  They are made at an extremely high-quality printer in downtown Los Angeles.  My printer is not at all easy to get to; there is always traffic and I manage to get lost and the entire experience of getting there is terrible, but I wouldn’t change printers for the world.  Even if I moved out of state, I’d keep using them and have them ship me my prints.  The incredible quality of the prints they deliver is just that high.

Aerie - © Sarah Allegra - fine art print

Aerie – © Sarah Allegra – fine art print

Each and every image is carefully calibrated to reveal even the tiniest details.  They somehow manage to keep the highlights high and the lowlights low without a single pixel’s worth of detail loss.  The colors are an exact match for how I intend the images to look.  These are NOT easy things!  I have been through many printers before I found POV Evolving.  And a special shout-out and thank you to Lauren, who always handles my orders!  She is a delightful person and makes sure each and every image created is perfect.

In addition to all that, they only use archival inks and paper, making prints that are museum-quality and which will last for a lifetime!  The paper they use is this thick, luscious paper, almost like watercolor paper; nothing cheap or flimsy.  Every single time I have an image printed, I’m impressed with how amazing it looks, even though I’ve been seeing how great they look for several years!

To The Lost - © Sarah Allegra - fine art print

To The Lost – © Sarah Allegra – fine art print

In addition to the incredible quality of every print, all my images come in limited edition runs.  There are a few exceptions, but generally it looks like this:

12 size small prints at 8″ x 12″

10 size medium prints at 10″ x 15″

7 size large prints at 16″ x 24

That means that there will only ever be 7 prints made of that particular image in that size, in the entire world, ever!

Occasionally, I also have props or wearable art available in my shop as well!  Right now, you can have your own Wind Goddess headdress, which also looks quite wintery, for not very much 🙂

Where Earth Meets The Sky - detail.

Where Earth Meets The Sky – detail.

The Wind Goddess Headdress available on Etsy now!!

The Wind Goddess Headdress available on Etsy now!

I also have a section of my shop dedicated to ME/CFS/fibro-inspired prints from my Enchanted Sleep series!

Each and every print will come signed and numbered along the white border.  If you’d like a short, special message included, I’m happy to add that for you, free of charge!

One more word about my prints; the quality of them was high enough that Peter S. Beagle himself took them along legs of his The Last Unicorn screening tour.

Five of my prints along the left side of this photo (photo not taken by me)

Five of my prints along the left side of this photo (photo not taken by me)

This was extra special because not only was Peter S. Beagle, one of the biggest sources of inspiration to me and one of my two favorite authors (the other being Robin McKinley) had this adorable moment with Game Of Thrones author George RR Martin right in front of my prints:

Peter S. Beagle and George RR Martin with plushies, in front of my prints!

Peter S. Beagle and George RR Martin with plushies, in front of my prints!

I’d like to say quickly that the above photo went a bit viral and I have been credited as the photographer, but I did not take this photo.  I wasn’t even in the same state as they were at the time!  I tweeted about the photo since it’s adorable and also in front of my prints, and then it really took off, but I did not snap the image, and though I have tried to correct news sources, they continue listing me as the photographer.  So, I’m sorry to whoever did take this photo; I have tried to set the record straight!

This Dying Body - © Sarah Allegra

This Dying Body – © Sarah Allegra – fine art print

Take a look around my Etsy shop and don’t forget to use your discount code MYTHIC2014 to get 20% your entire order!  Let me restate that this is the biggest, farthest-reaching sale I have ever had on my prints, so be sure to take advantage of it while it lasts!

If there is a certain image you’d like a print of, or you see an image you like but want it in a different size, just let me know!  Some of my images are under contract and I am unable to sell prints of them for that reason, but the majority of the time, I will be able to accommodate you very easily!

Remember, the discount code is only good until January 31st 2015, so get ready, get set… go!!  Happy shopping!

Katie Jonson being silly and posing with a framed print she modeled in

Katie Jonson being silly and posing with a framed print she modeled in

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As we approach the Holiday Season, I’m dedicating the next few days to promoting my artwork-related items, which would make wonderful gifts for anyone!  Whether you’re looking for straight artwork you can hang on the walls, some inexpensive stocking-stuffer/Secret Santa gifts, or something with a more practical application, I’ve got you covered 🙂

Today I’m focusing on items which can be found in my Red Bubble shop!  I talked about this some in my last post, but I can go into it a little more in its own post.  What do I sell in my Red Bubble shop?  A LOT.  All of the following can be found with my artwork on it!

I started buying Red Bubble calendars before I ever started selling any of my own and I’ve been constantly impressed with the incredibly high quality year after year!  The paper is thick and lush, the inks print vividly and the design maximizes the room for artwork!  I truly love having one of these in my house each year (and I get frequent requests for these as gifts for friends and family).  It’s such a simple way to get 12 unique pieces of art to hang on your wall, adding beauty and magic every single day and it comes at a great price!

My 2015 Calendar!

My 2015 Calendar!

And if that’s not enough for you, you can also shop by series!  Want to see everything DreamWorld-relatedEnchanted Sleep, for those who chronic illness has touched?  Orphans of the Mother Road for vintage-lovers?  Glass Walls for the animal-lovers in your life?  Pop Culture-inspired?  How about Music- and Literary-Inspired images?  Or are you a fan of a good old self portrait?

I have never had any issues with any of the items I’ve ordered from them myself, nor have I heard anything negative from others.  Red Bubble really makes buying fun and easy!  You can visit one site and take care of many people on your to-buy-for list and get your shopping done quickly!  And if you’re looking for any image in particular on any item in particular, just let me know!  I can very likely accommodate any requests!

As always, I sincerely thank anyone who helps support independent artists with their buying power!  You guys help make what I do possible 🙂  Keep an eye on the blog for the next couple days as we approach Black Friday and Cyber Saturday/Monday!  New items will be showcased and some really fantastic savings will be revealed as well!

Happy shopping to all!

Lady Death, by Sarah Allegra

Lady Death, by Sarah Allegra

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******* NEW! *******

Red Bubble is holding a 15% of Stocking Stuffers Sale!  Use promo code STOCKING15 to get 15% off all stocking stuffers until 11:59pm PST on Friday, November 21 2014

I have also released my 2015 calendar, featuring 12 of my most popular images from the previous year!  I put out a new calendar every year making each one different and unique, as well as being a great value in getting 12 images to display.  Snap up this collector’s item and add a little magic and beauty to every day of 2015!

My 2015 Calendar!

My 2015 calendar!

The calendar features the beautiful models, actors and actresses Katie Johnson, Dedeker Winston, Dan Donohue, Travis Weinand and Aly Darling.  Images span many of my series’ such as DreamWorld, Enchanted Sleep, Glass Walls, Orphans Of The Mother Road and self portraits!

My Red Bubble store carries calendars, tshirts, hoodies, stickers, blank greeting cards, post cards, phone and tablet cases, laptop skin, throw pillows, tote bags, mugs (travel and regular) and even a few duvet covers, all covered in my images!  Every item they produce is extremely high quality and will last forever.  You can knock out all your holiday shopping in one stop, so come on by!  🙂

*******

It’s been a very crazy couple of weeks since my last post!  My sinus surgery is over, including an odd complication I had which caused an artery near the back of my sinuses to burst unexpectedly.  This led to me losing 2-3 pints of blood and having to have an emergency surgery last Tuesday to correct it.  I’m happy to say I seem to be all done bleeding and nothing else strange has happened since then!  I’ll tell you more about my adventure in another post; it’s a rather long story.  I’ve regained most of my strength but I’m still recovering a bit.  So let me tell you about today’s self portrait for now!

This image has been in my mind for a long time, ever since I this post.  I had discovered, in the course of looking through my blog’s stats, that someone had found my blog by searching “I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and I want to give up.”  My heart still breaks for this person.  I wrote a post at the time replying to them but I’ll probably never know if they saw it or what happened to them.

I’d wanted to create an image for my Enchanted Sleep series based on the idea of being beaten down by chronic illness yet getting up, but it took a while.  My first attempt was unsuccessful and I had to think for quite a while about what wasn’t working and then find time to reshoot it.  Eventually though, I had created the image I wanted to make.

While I had physical, chronic illness in mind when I was creating this, the image is certainly not limited to being interpreted just in that light.  Mental illness, for example, is another example of something you have to rise from again and again.  And it happens that I’m in a bout of depression myself right now.  The reasons are long and complicated so I won’t get into them now, but every day recently, I’ve felt like this just trying to get out of bed… never mind how I might feel physically.

Chronic illness, mental illness… they are not something you can beat in a day.  You’ll have good days and bad days.  You may have entire days, or even weeks or months where you don’t struggle with whatever it is that knocks you down.  But when it comes, you have to get back up.

Every time.

Every time.

Every time.

It can be exhausting, and you might not have anyone in your life who knows that you’re even battling like this.  Those who have a strong support system in place are fortunate; it helps, a lot.  But whether it’s something others know about or not, it’s a demon which must be faced and conquered every time it arises.

I hope that everyone reading this has their own support system to keep them going.  Friends and family, online or off, who can cheer them on.  Who can give them the push or pull they need.  We all need help from each other; there’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for or receiving help.

Asking for help can seem more daunting than fighting the beast holding you down.  But do it.  No matter who is reading this, you have people in your life who love you, who care about you, who want you to succeed, who will extend the hand you need to get you through this.

Whether it’s an internal struggle no one else will ever see or you have countless loving people help guide you through your troubles, we must rise every time we get knocked down.

Every time.

We Rise Again - © Sarah Allegra

We Rise Again – © Sarah Allegra

If you need help and you don’t feel comfortable approaching anyone you know, you can always talk to The Samaritans.  You can call them, email them or even text them.  They have people around 24/7 to help you through whatever you’re facing and it’s completely confidential.  They are well trained and caring.  Give them a try if you’re in need of someone to talk to!  I can personally vouch for how much they help.

 

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“I assess the power of a will by how much resistance, pain, torture it endures and knows how to turn to its advantage.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

 

Vanity's Murder

Vanity’s Murder, a self portrait

 

May 12th is called “Invisible Illness Day.”

You probably don’t know that…and that’s part of the problem.

Years ago, May 12th was chosen to be the international awareness day for chronic immunological and neurological diseases, which include everything from Gulf War Syndrome and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities to fibromyalgia (fibro), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME).  Yet more money is spent each year trying to cure male pattern baldness than these diseases.

I’m all for a luxurious head of hair.  But, diseases like ME are taking lives.

A Fading Girl - model: Brooke Shaden.

A Fading Girl – model: Brooke Shaden

To be sure, “Invisible Illness Day” rolls off the tongue much more easily than “Myalgic Encephalomyelitis Day.”  But the name highlights one of the sources of great frustration for most of us — we often do not APPEAR outwardly sick, thus many people refuse to believe our illness is real.

Unfortunately, some of those “many people” include doctors, policy makers and insurance companies.

How do we fight an illness with no end, no cure, no treatment, no recognition?  How many people must die before the world pays attention?  How many sufferers must commit suicide from the hopelessness and misery they’re dragged through every day before change comes?  We fight it by bringing awareness of the problem, one person at a time.  Every tweet, Facebook post, blog entry, text and conversation you and I have about ME helps fight it.  Every petition we sign, documentary we watch and donation we give is a punch in ME’s face.  And here’s the latest way I’m balling up my tiny little fists.

For the month of May, I am donating 50 percent of profits from all my sales to The Microbe Discovery Project, a group working to solve the mystery of ME and find a cure for those afflicted.  And what do I sell?  Well, what do you want?  Because my images come from the frameable to the wearable and in every price range.
museum-quality, fine art prints
iPad/iPhone/iPod covers
stickers
blank greeting cards
post cards
shirts and hoodies
wearable art
throw pillows
INTROSPECTIVE: my eight-week, on-line, course of self-discovery through photography

Also, in honor of this day of raising awareness, I’m holding a contest to win a beautiful, 10″ x 15″, museum-quality print of my latest image, The Blue Ribbon; an underwater representation of the struggle that living with ME can be.  Your print will come on beautiful, shimmering, pearlized, archival paper.  And all you have to do is tweet!

The Blue Ribbon

The Blue Ribbon, model: Katie Johnson – enter the giveaway to win a print of this image!

Ready to tweet?  Use any of the following!

Curing baldness gets 4x more funding than ME/CFS, but no one ever died of baldness    

*****

ME/CFS knows no social or economic boundaries; it affects all equally w/out mercy.    
*****
ME/CFS in not in our heads & cannot be cured with exercise & a better attitude.    
*****
ME/CFS is not a “female” disease; 20% of sufferers are male.    
*****
ME/CFS isn’t just about being “tired,” it ravages every single part of the body.    
*****

ME/CFS can be just as deadly as MS, HIV and AIDS, yet it is largely ignored.    

*****

More exercise and a better attitude will not cure ME/CFS.    

*****

We’re not chronically fatigued, @CDCgov. We have myalgic encephalomyelitis.    

The Blue Ribbon - detail

The Blue Ribbon – detail

Tweeting multiple statements will count as extra entries, so enter as many times as you like.  However, tweeting the same statement multiple times will not count.  And that will probably just annoy the people reading your feed, so don’t do it. 😉  I will choose a random winner from all entries on May 20th and announce the winner here!

Thank you to everyone for reading and participating!

Curious how ME became an invisible disease?  Stay tuned to find out more for Invisible Illness Week!

If you have had your own experiences with ME, CFS, fibro or any other chronic illness and you’d like to share your story, please leave it in a comment!

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My dear friend and frequent collaborator Katie Johnson has recently started a new video series which profiles the artists she works with frequently.  I was honored to be featured in the first of her videos!  She put a great piece together which includes an interview with me and lots of behind-the-scenes peeks into how we work.

Take a look!

I often think of lines from the song the princess sings in Peter S. Beagle’s legendary work The Last Unicorn:

Oh, I am a king’s daughter
And I grow old within
The prison of my person
The shackles of my skin

And I would run away
And beg from door to door
Just to see your shadow
Just once and nevermore

The prison of my person, the shackles of my skin” perfectly describes how I feel about my physical body most days.  Though I doubt Mr. Beagle had ME in mind when he wrote it, it resonates so strongly with me.  And I’m sure people with other chronic illnesses will be able to identify with it; it’s a pretty universal problem across the chronically ill spectrum.

Feeling so trapped has always made me instantly know something of what Amalthea felt at finding herself in human form.  I imagine it was even harder for her though.  The disharmony we chronically ill feel with our body was something I’d wanted to express in my Enchanted Sleep series for quite a while and I was glad to finally bring the image to life!

There’s something more visceral about images than you often can’t replicate with words.  Words are powerful, they can build and tear down mountains, but the visual world offers the same information in a different form.  One that, if used well, can strike like a snake and bring instantaneous understanding.  That’s my hope with this series; to illustrate the life of a person with myalgic encephalomyelitis in a way that reaches where words cannot.

I will admit… I’d beg from door to door just to catch a glimpse of a unicorn’s shadow too 🙂

Here’s a look at the final image from our shoot:

Inside Looking Out

Inside Looking Out

And a detail shot:

Inside Looking Out - detail

Inside Looking Out – detail

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First of all, happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrated it!  I had planned on a Thanksgiving post, listing what I’m grateful for and whatnot, but I woke up yesterday with a swollen, very unhappy wrist on my dominant hand.  I’m being ginger with it today, and trying to really limit my computer use, but I did want to get this timely post out.

So, the holiday shopping season has officially begun!  I, for one, despise the idea of shopping on Thanksgiving or Black Friday.  Crowds are not my thing in the best situation.  Even a gentle trip to the grocery store on an average day can be too much for me.  This is my hiding out period where I really try to leave the house as little as possible.

A less stressful approach to holiday shopping, in my opinion, is in Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.  Now, I may or may not technically qualify as a “small business,” but I think I fit the spirit of it if not the letter 🙂  You don’t get much smaller than buying from a single person!  And Cyber Monday?  Heck yeah, I’ve got that covered!  Everything of mine is available online.

And what, pray tell, are these wondrous wares?  Well, let me give you a little run-down!
I have blank greeting cards available at my Red Bubble shop!

One of the many blank greeting cards I offer.

Personally, I love having a stash of blank greeting cards in a drawer, ready to go at a moment’s notice!  You never know when you might need them.  And I’ll confess, I sometimes buy cards for their sheer beauty, with no intention of giving them away.  Those ones usually end up on my wall somewhere.  Either way, they’re very well-made, handy and inexpensive!  And if there’s an image you’d like but don’t see in my shop, let me know; in almost every case I can add it for you!  Stocking stuffers, anyone?
I also sell 2014 collectable calendars!

Sarah Allegra 2014 Calendar

Sarah Allegra 2014 Calendar

Each year I put out a new calendar with 12 of my most popular recent works.  This year’s batch includes images from my DreamWorld and actor portraits series as well as my CFS/fibro/ME series Enchanted Sleep.  I genuinely love the quality Red Bubble puts into their calendars; they’re printed on gorgeous, thick, heavy paper which is perfect for jotting down as many notes and reminders as you’d like!  Plus, I love the extra magic the calendars sprinkle into every day.  And need I tell you they make excellent gifts?  🙂

On a side note, I keep my Red Bubble prices low so that they’re available to as many people as possible.  I don’t make much from these sales, but it’s important to me that as many people as possible have access to my images.

For those looking for a unique gift, either for themselves or someone they love, my on-line, self-discovery-through-photography course Introspective is an excellent choice!

Introspective

Introspective

Introspective is a fun and truly unique, eight-week experience.  Each week I will guide you through a new concept to explore with photography, such as love, fear, secrets and joy.  What do those subjects mean to you?  And how would you portray them in a photograph?  Let’s find out!  Self portraiture is encouraged (as I think it’s an invaluable way to know yourself better), but by no means is it required.  At the end of the eight weeks, you’ll have gotten to experience yourself in a new way and learned things you never knew before.

This would be perfect for your artsy sibling, the person who has everything or anyone with a desire to have an adventure and come out knowing themselves better!
And of course there are always prints available!

Sarah Allegra Etsy Shop

I sell prints through my Etsy shop, which are printed by an amazing local printer.  They are printed on museum-quality, archival, thick, luscious paper which is not unlike watercolor paper.  All the images are printed in very small, limited edition runs and come individually signed and numbered.  They come in three different sizes and are truly stunning.  These really have to be seen to appreciate how beautiful they are.  The level of detail captured in these prints is spectacular.  And as with the cards, if you would like a print of something and you don’t see it in my shop, just let me know!  In almost every occasion, I can accommodate your request.

Thank you to everyone for supporting my art through your kind comments, well wishes and purchases.  I so appreciate all of them and I hope everyone has an excellent holiday season!  Here’s a lovely DreamWorld image, featuring the gorgeous Katie Johnson!

Faerie Dust

Faerie Dust

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Yesterday, the 27h of May, marked my five-year anniversary with ME… which leads me to talking about why I call it ME verses the multitude of other names given to it, in addition to introducing my latest photo on the subject which you can WIN a print of!  Make sure you read all the way to the end to find out how to enter 🙂

Vanity's Murder

A detail shot from my new photo

I’ve been wanting to address this for some time and it just keeps getting pushed down to the bottom of my blog to-do list.  But my anniversary seemed like a good time to bring it up.   In the United States, we call ME by a whole host of other names; Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia (fibro), chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS), post-viral fatigue syndrome (PVFS), Chronic Epstein-Barr virus (CEBV), and most insultingly, the “yuppie flu.”  Luckily we seem to have mostly left the “yuppie flu” label behind us, but many of the other names are not much better.  Calling it Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has been likened to calling tuberculosis “Chronic Coughing Syndrome,” or stomach cancer “Chronic Upset Tummy.”  The names are not indicative of what’s really happening in our bodies.  They are trivializing and patronizing.

I like myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), which is what most of the rest of the world calls it.  It literally means “inflammation of the brain and spinal cord with muscle pain.”  This at least hints more accurately at what may be going on.  Muscle pain is one of the defining characteristics of reaching that diagnosis (as I can personally attest to; I woke up nearly weeping from muscle pain after a strenuous shoot yesterday) and the evidence is suggesting more and more that this is ultimately a neurological condition.  ME at least doesn’t carry the negative connotations of the other names; people are generally under the assumption that they are not “real” diseases.

In Between Awake And Asleep

In Between Awake And Asleep

I should be perfectly clear that there is still a tremendous amount of controversy over what name to give us, and if they really are all more or less the same disease.  I genuinely believe they are the same disease from everything I’ve seen and read, but there will be many who do not agree with me.  However, since the entire reason the US broke off from the rest of the world’s name in the 1980’s was to create an insurance loophole so companies could deny coverage to patients… I am reluctant to believe what anyone on that side of the table claims.

So I call it ME, though since it is a lesser-known name here in the US, I’ll often consent to referring to it as ME/CFS.  Meeting the names halfway, so to speak.

As I said, yesterday was my five-year anniversary with ME, although the signs were certainly starting to form years before that.  I was unnaturally tired all the time, I got sick and injured easily and seemed to have a little more trouble healing.  But since I barely knew ME existed, and I was young, in my late teens and early twenties, I figured it would pass.  You think horses, not zebras; you don’t automatically jump to the conclusion that you have a strange, little-known disease.

A Fading Girl

A Fading Girl

Some of you have heard the story of how I became acutely sick with ME before, so I will try and just hit the high points.  Five years ago Geoff and I went out to lunch.  We’d been dating for exactly a month.  After lunch, I felt tired so I laid down and took a nap.  When I woke up, my stomach was very upset and I thought I had food poisoning.  Though it wasn’t pleasant, I figured it would pass quickly.  Several days later I still felt nauseous, so I saw a doctor who was very unconcerned about me and suggested I take some Pepto Bismol.  How helpful.  Over the next several days the pain in my stomach gradually changed from an all-encompassing gripping, nauseous pain to an extremely sharp and localized pain in my right flank.  Appendicitis? I wondered.  The pain was higher than would be classic, but it was so sharp, extreme and had come on so suddenly, I worried nonetheless.

After 10 days of pain and nausea, I finally saw a good doctor.  They determined pretty quickly that it wasn’t my appendix, ordered an ultrasound and a LOT of bloodwork (the only reason I didn’t faint was because I was sitting down, but I felt bad enough to wish I’d fainted.)  Everything came back normal.  They thought it must be a kidney infection, so I took the antibiotics, glad that we had figured out what was wrong and that I’d be over it soon.  But the treatment didn’t do anything; I still felt terrible.

That same story repeated and repeated over the next few years.  For a long time it was thought that my crazy flank pain and my fatigue were two separate problems; at this point, I believe the evidence indicates they both stem from the same cause.  I have undergone more tests and procedures than I care to remember, I have tried every food and supplement imaginable; every Western and alternative approach.  Occasionally I find something that helps even fractionally, and I cling to it like a drowning girl.

When I think back on this time, I feel like what was happening in my body is best expressed by this scene from Akira, near the end of the movie.

Tetsuo's grim end.

Tetsuo’s grim end.

My body seemed to completely fall apart and spiral out of control, with me stuck in the middle of i.  Up until then, I had been quite consistent with doing Pilates and yoga, and enjoyed their effects on my body.  I ate pretty well, I didn’t smoke, drink or do any drugs.  I felt like I was doing things right.  But when ME finally hit, none of that mattered any more.  My body became a disgusting, horrible prison with a mind of its own, seemingly bent against me in every way.  And the fact that almost none of this showed outwardly made it even worse.  One of the things I hear from other ME people as being the most frustrating thing is having people say to them, “You don’t look sick.”  It’s true, often we don’t (until you get into the very dire, extreme cases of ME) but inwardly, that movie clip is what I felt was happening to me.

Thankfully, the flank pain has been reigned in somewhat over the years through arduous nerve-blocking injections, although it never truly goes away.  And we still have absolutely no idea what’s actually causing the pain in the first place.  But since it used to feel like I had a shard of glass trapped inside my abdomen, I’m very grateful for every bit of pain chipped away from it.  The fatigue and muscle/tendon/anything-but-my-flank pains have all gotten steadily worse over the past five years.

The Fog Rolls In

The Fog Rolls In

My life has become smaller and quieter each year in response to the unreasonable demands of my body, only to have it ask for even more.  To a degree, it’s generally agreed that staying as active as possible is best; that “if you don’t use it, you lose it.”  This is tempered with one of the few things known with absolute certainty about ME: if you continually push yourself past what you can handle, you WILL get worse.  And it can get much, much worse than what I experience.

The UK documentary Voices From The Shadows paints an uncomfortably vivid picture of how bad ME can really get.  It shows people completely bed-bound, in constant, wracking pain, despite morphine drips, eyes continually covered as they are unable to endure even sunlight filtered through curtains.  Ears always protected with earplugs because they are so sensitive to sound.  From my end of things, going to the grocery store is only barely tolerable.  All the light and noise, oh the cacophony of noise… people talking, carts wheeling, plastic crinkling, children crying, music playing, announcements made… I genuinely dread the necessary trip each week.  And if I feel that way about it when my case of ME is one of the mildest diagnosable forms, I can hardly imagine the miserable existence the poor souls with severe ME endure.

Unjust

Unjust

I don’t want to have to know what severe ME feels like first-hand.  So I keep trying treatments and supplements.  I modify my bedtime, my sleep habits and try to rest as much as possible, without giving up any of the physical ability I still have.  I try to do gentle yoga and do more walking, which I can also use as time to scout locations.  My family and friends all know that any plans made are subject to the whims of my body and I may have to cancel at the last minute.  Very, very thankfully, they have all been extremely understanding and supportive.  It’s a hard enough battle to fight your body every day; I am sorry for those who also have to fight with their loved ones too.

People not understanding is at the core of our problems.  The medical community that doesn’t understand what our disease is or how to help us.  The public, who have been led to believe our disease is not valid.  And we ourselves who are trapped in these confusing, maddening bodies that seem to be actively working against us.

Breakable

Breakable

Luckily, I do believe the tide is finally starting to turn.  More and more noise is being made about ME, and we are starting to get even a little bit of recognition and validation.  More research is being dedicated to finding out what’s really going on in our bodies.  I try to maintain a balance between being open to changes coming and breakthroughs being made without actually hoping for them.  The disappointment is too great when they don’t pan out.

Through it all, the highs and lows, the dinners I can attend and the ones I have to stay home from, the times I weep from pain and frustration and the days I walk easily through meadows, I have my art.  I’m sure you’ve all heard me talk about my Enchanted Sleep series, photos from which are scattered through this post, and how I use my photos to portray what living with ME is like.  Art has helped me keep my sanity through these last five years.  It’s something I can do, not just in a metaphoric sense and raising awareness, but it’s physically something I can do.  Walking through the woods scouting locations is good for me, body and soul.  I can still edit even when I need to lay down (which is frequent) since I work on a laptop.  Sometimes muscle or tendon pain in my right arm or wrist will force me to stop for a few days or weeks, and those are always agitating times.  I want to be creating.  That is where my soul finds meaning and pleasure.

Spoon Theory

Spoon Theory

It’s been a rough five years.  But it’s also brought some incomparable joys to my life; my discovery of photography, for example.  And most importantly, Geoff.  Geoff who stuck by me when I became very ill after we’d only known each other for two months, and been dating one month.  Lesser men would have run.  He has supported and loved me every step on this tricky road, and is always there in the dark moments when I want to give up.  He gently pulls me up and sets my feet going again.  I am so incredibly grateful for him.

To be honest, I have been depressed with this anniversary looming ahead of me.  I have heard that if you don’t go into remission within the first five years, you’re never going to.  And while intellectually I realize that’s a pretty ridiculous, sweeping statement to make (how could anyone possibly know that when we don’t even know what it is we have?) it’s made this date feel even gloomier.  I am choosing to not believe that I will automatically never go into remission, simply because it hasn’t happened yet… but it’s also ok for me to feel sad.  It’s ok for me to mourn the things I have lost.  It’s ok for me to have bad days when I just cry and burrow under the covers all day.  It’s ok to be human and have emotions.

Mourning For Things Lost

Mourning For Things Lost

I work hard at my art, not only because it’s so deeply satisfying, but because it’s something I hope to make a career out of.  Means of employment get fewer and fewer for me every year, but I can do art.  It’s a way for me to earn money and contribute to my family’s income, things very important to my sense of identity.

I think this is going to be a good year for my art.  Not only with my recent good news, but other things are starting to happen too.  I think this is going to work.  But please feel free to support my work and pick up some blank greeting cards, limited edition prints or sign up for my online self-discovery-through-photography course.  🙂

Each journey through ME is different.  This is just my story.  I can only hope that by telling it, it adds another drop to the sea of change coming and will bring us a tiny bit closer to recognition and a cure.

Longing For Better Days

Longing For Better Days

I’ll just say a few words about my latest Enchanted Sleep photo, Vanity’s Murder.   My hair has always been quite fine and refused to grow any longer than my shoulders.  No matter what I did, how often I did or didn’t cut it, nothing changed that.  While it’s always annoyed me, since I would love to grow it romantically long, it was a fact of my life that it never would.  A few months ago, I thought my hair seemed a little shorter, but I dismissed the thought.  It kept nagging at the back of my mind though, even though I hadn’t gotten it cut in months.  Finally, I looked at a photo of me from about six months ago and I was shocked by the proof of how much shorter my hair was; nearly down to chin-length.

I went in to my doctor, since hair thinning and loss is a possible side effect of almost every medication I take, but he suspected it was a response to stress, not medication.  I finally made an appointment to see my fantastic hair guy (Hurley, at The Hair Pyrates).  He agreed that the loss was probably stress-related too, but importantly mentioned that the hair I’m seeing now first started growing four to five years ago… and I think we can all agree that I started undergoing a great deal of new stress five years ago.

After everything ME has taken from my life, all the things it’s made me give up, my hair just felt like the absolute last straw.  I had no idea how much of my feminine identity was tied into my hair until its existence felt threatened.

The good thing about stress-induced hair loss is that it’s usually pretty reversible, at least in theory.   At Hurley and my doctor’s suggestions, I started taking a hair, skin and nails supplement and I was startled by how quickly I saw a difference.  It still has a ways to go, but I’m so grateful that it is coming back.  Worrying about my hair may seem like a very superficial, frivolous thing, but it wasn’t to me.  It was about having one more thing taken away from me, it was about losing control over another big factor of how I appear to the world, and the things that contribute to my identity.  There is so much about ME that is outside of my control.  I am very thankful that this time, I could fight back, and actually win a little.  Let’s hope this is a sign of things to come.

Vanity's Murder

Vanity’s Murder

Vanity's Murder - detail

Vanity’s Murder – detail

Vanity's Murder

Vanity’s Murder – detail

Vanity's Murder

Vanity’s Murder – detail

Vanity's Murder

Vanity’s Murder – detail

Lastly, let me tell you about how you can win a signed and numbered limited-edition print of Vanity’s Murder!  The very kind people heading up the ME and You fundraiser were very receptive when I wrote them and offered to donate a print to their cause if it would help them.  And while I’m sure they have more than enough on their plates, they quickly came up with a way to do this!  Want a chance to win the print?  Follow the directions below!

  • Click on the ME and You button below and donate whatever amount you can through the big yellow “Donate” button on their site.
  • Leave a comment on this post saying that you donated and mention that you’re entering to win Vanity’s Murder, as several artists are doing similar giveaways.  Make sure that the name you leave in your comment matches your Paypal name!
  • Leave a message for the ME and You people during your Paypal  checkout, again stating that you’re entering to win Vanity’s Murder.
  • A winner will be randomly selected on June 6th and I will announce the winner here!

Click here to donate!!

That’s it!   This is such a win-win situation; the cause is so worthy and someone will get a beautiful print as well.  🙂  For anyone who missed it, the amazing people at ME and You are trying to raise funds to do further testing of a new drug that has shown real promise in helping to cure ME.  This is something we absolutely must study more, and hopefully, within a few years it will be approved and people all over the world will be able to try it.  And just maybe, some of them will go into total remission like some of the people who it’s been tested on.

Remission.  I can hardly imagine what that would feel like.  But I would love to find out.  If you can, please consider donating to this great cause.  And thank you very much!

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