It’s time for all those end-of-the-year blog posts! I admit, I kind of like this tradition. It’s a nice way to look back on things from a larger perspective. And I have a brand new DreamWorld image featuring Travis Weinand for those who want to just scroll to the bottom 🙂
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2015 was a… challenging year, to say the least. And it turns out I’m starting it with a fresh, new cold and fever. It has been the worst year I’ve had, ME-wise, so far. It didn’t help that the year began with a crunched-for-time move of houses which literally took me several months to recover from. Medication changes gave me months of terrible headaches and migraines, which also meant that this year was the least photographically productive year I’ve had yet also. Between feeling terrible physically and not having nearly as much access to my art therapy as I wanted, it was a very depressing, frustrating and emotionally trying year as well. All said, I’m happy to leave 2015 behind me and have set my intentions to have a much more fulfilling 2016.
I made a short video about my experience living with ME for last year’s May 12th (ME Awareness Day). I generally really dislike making videos, so you can see that this was important to me 😉
There was some drama in the larger world of ME as well. The US officially changed its name from the very belittling “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” to the vague and incredibly widely-defined “Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease.” Most patients and advocates were very unhappy about this and there was a big backlash, which the powers-that-be mostly ignored, as is their usual method of dealing with us. I’m still calling it ME, which is what most of us wanted it to be changed to.
Then the Senate rubbed salt in the wound by proposing they slash ME’s funding to absolutely $0 per year. The paltry amount we currently get is the same amount given to research hayfever, despite ME being as deadly and serious as congestive heart failure and HIV/AIDS. I extolled people to write to their representatives in protest of this; we’ll see what comes of it.
I officially started a series dealing with mental health issues; Eternal Storms. It seeks to help break down the stigma associated with these illnesses and show sufferers how they are not alone.
One of the first models I ever worked with, Dedeker Winston, who has continued modeling for me over the five years we’ve known each other, despite me forcing her to wake up early, pose laying in cold, slimy, creeks, regularly get naked in forests and once helping me discover what stinging nettles look like when I accidentally had her pose nude in a patch of them, left for an extended time abroad. She is having a wonderful, life-expanding time and I’m able to keep in touch and follow her journey online and through social media and texts. I was sad to see her leave, but glad that we’d gotten in as much shooting as we did before she left, such as the Pink Mother for DreamWorld. Speaking unselfishly though, I’m really happy she had this chance to do so much traveling and is having such an incredible time! But I won’t be sad when I have the chance to photograph her again 🙂
My dear friend Danica gave me a priceless chance to work with an incredible, stunning, cream-colored Gypsy Vanner stallion named Booger. As soon as I discovered she was horse-sitting him, I began planning a shoot with Katie Johnson and him together, utilizing him in every way I could think of. I have a LOT of his shots still on my hard drive waiting to be edited, but I did at least complete one image from that magical shoot!
I tried my hand at a more editorial style, which is fun, but not going to be the main thing I do any time soon.
I FINALLY finished editing an image I started in 2013.
I was able to attend another screening of The Last Unicorn, which was absolutely delightful! I dressed up as Amalthea and made a taco purse (get your own here!), which I think was the secret behind me winning the nightly costume contest. I was also able to introduce my dear friends and ex-neighbors Donna and John to the movie for the first time (though I’d already made them fans of Peter’s writing) and they were appropriately impressed.
Sadly, shortly after this screening it became clear that Peter Beagle is not nearly as well as everyone had thought. This is leading to a number of problems for him and his manager/publisher Conlan Press, which I’ll leave to them to discuss. Regardless, it is sad to see him unwell and it makes the conversation I had with him at the screening last January all the more precious.
Speaking of illness, one of my favorite photographers, Ashley Lebedev, let us all know that she has struggled with a chronic illness for a long time. It was beautiful to see people’s support and desire to help her gather funds for treatment. I wish her a much better, healthier 2016 also!
I helped my husband (he helps me SO much with my shooting and projects, I more than owe him!) with a project that he’s been working on for a long time, which ended in his creating the dystopian, sci fi, 8-minute short film A Secret War. You really should watch it!
My friend Jessi started an Etsy shop which has beautiful jewelry in it! But it’s not simply pretty, much of it helps raise awareness about various invisible, chronic illnesses, such as ME. As a spoonie herself, purchasing her jewelry is helping her support herself as well as getting something pretty 🙂
I discovered the wonder that is the film Unbroken, which is now one of my go-to stories to tell myself when I need some extra motivation to get through anything difficult.
Speaking of Peter S Beagle, Amazon released an exclusive Kindle offering of 13 of his most beloved titles for the first time in e-editions… and 6 of those titles were released with my images on their covers! To say I was elated would be a huge understatement. There may have been joyful tears when I first saw them in my browser window. 🙂
And, as always, I put out a calendar with a year’s worth of beautiful images to brighten up your walls every day! Red Bubble does an excellent job at making beautiful, high-quality items and its calendars don’t disappoint. Feel free to grab your own; I can promise that you’ll love it!
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Since 2015 was so heavy with ME, migraines, frequent colds, injuries, deep ruts of depression and stress in ways I have seldom experienced it, an incredibly huge percentage of my physical energy was devoted to simply existing and not giving up. It really underscored how precious my time and energy is and how I need to devote it to things that are worthwhile. No, not just worthwhile, but things which I cannot live life without. The things are dearest and most deeply important to me.
This has given me a lot to think about as I ponder how I’ll change my management of time and energy in 2016. I will try and devote myself to not just ideas I like, but the ideas which I think are the best. The most important. I simply don’t have time to pursue anything less. This is helping to bring my artistic goals into much sharper focus. The dross will be burned away; the leftover gold burnished until it gleams.
I’m also making an effort to set aside more time for self-care activities, like short walks with Calantha or yoga when my body allows, meditation and reading for pleasure. Few things enrich my life (both my actual and imaginary worlds) as much as reading does and I need to make sure I don’t let that slip away from me by being “too busy” for it.
But of course the most important things are the relationships I have with friends and loved ones. Those will always be tended to, nurtured and cultivated as best as I can manage! I am blessed to have many, wonderful friends in my life, online and off, who get me, support me and my art and are incredibly gracious about my health problem. That’s something I should never forget to be grateful for or take for granted.
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Now, as promised, here is my new DreamWorld image!
When I first met model and friend Travis Weinand, I was struck by how truly ethereal he looks. Not simply in pictures or when in costume, he always looks like he stepped out of a comic book, collection of mythology or possibly Middle Earth. With a quick stop-off for a dose of Viking and tattoos. Anyway, I immediately wanted him to have wings. I wasn’t sure how, but I knew he’d get them before we were done working together.
So at our next shoot, I asked him to sit in front of a dark backdrop and pose angelically. He made looking strong, gentle, loving and bad-ass all at the same time look effortless. Editing did take a while since I painted the wings myself and had to figure out exactly how I wanted these “wings made out of light” to look, but it was very worth the effort!
This character lives in DreamWorld, as you would probably guess, a centurion of sorts to DreamWorld’s Queen (whom you have not met yet, but hopefully you will soon). He leads the Queen’s army, the Glorious Guard, but he’s more than just a devoted servant. Part bodyguard, part lieutenant, part enforcer, part adviser, he is a dazzling embodiment of good.
The title of this image comes from one of my favorite poems of George Gordon Lord Byron, All For Love. In it, Byron discusses love being the greatest glory one can receive, far greater than wreaths, trophies or other symbols of glory:
O Fame! if I e’er took delight in thy praises,
‘Twas less for the sake of thy high-sounding phrases,
Than to see the bright eyes of the dear one discover
She thought that I was not unworthy to love her.
There chiefly I sought thee, there only I found thee;
Her glance was the best of the rays that surround thee;
When it sparkled o’er aught that was bright in my story,
I knew it was love, and I felt it was glory.
That last line kept repeating and repeating through my head as I edited… thinking about the love he has for his Queen, those he protects and his glorious vestige, so I finally gave in and just used it as the title.
That’s it! Everyone have a happy and meaningful 2016! 🙂