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Posts Tagged ‘self care’

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 🙂

I Felt It Was Glory, detail. Model: Travis Weinand. © Sarah Allegra

I Felt It Was Glory, detail. Model: Travis Weinand. © Sarah Allegra

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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.

Silenced © Sarah Allegra - model: Travis Weinand

Silenced © Sarah Allegra – model: Travis Weinand

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.

Please save this graphic and send it to the email addresses above!

Please save this graphic and send it to the email addresses above!

I got to meet fan-turned-model-turned-friend Noemi Regalado and photograph her for DreamWorld.

Apprenticeship © Sarah Allegra, model Noemi Regalado

Apprenticeship © Sarah Allegra, model Noemi Regalado

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.

A Cry From The Darkness © Sarah Allegra - a self portrait

A Cry From The Darkness © Sarah Allegra – a self portrait

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 🙂

The Living Sepulcher © Sarah Allegra, model - Dedeker Winston

The Living Sepulcher © Sarah Allegra, model – Dedeker Winston

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!

Safely Through The Shadows © Sarah Allegra, model - Katie Johnson

Safely Through The Shadows © Sarah Allegra, model – Katie Johnson

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.

Wall 8- model: Travis Weinand. © Sarah Allegra

Wall 8- model: Travis Weinand. © Sarah Allegra

Alabaster 1 - model Dedeker Winston. © Sarah Allegra SarahAllegra.com

Alabaster 1 – model Dedeker Winston. © Sarah Allegra
SarahAllegra.com

I was accepted into the online art gallery A Gallery, and also participated in a group show over the summer at the Creative Arts Group.

The summer show at the Creative Arts Group Gallery in Sierra Madre. This is how I want my work to be displayed, finished works alongside actual props and costumes.

The summer show at the Creative Arts Group Gallery in Sierra Madre. This is how I want my work to be displayed, finished works alongside actual props and costumes.

I FINALLY finished editing an image I started in 2013.

A Poisoned Sleep Of Kissless Dreams © Sarah Allegra - model: Katie Johnson

A Poisoned Sleep Of Kissless Dreams © Sarah Allegra – model: Katie Johnson

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.

Taco purse available on Etsy :)

Taco purse available on Etsy 🙂

At the screening as Amalthea (with purse) and back at home.

At the screening as Amalthea (with purse) and back at home.

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!

The Weight of a Whistle Already Carved, @ Ashley Lebedev

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 🙂

Jessi’s shop, The Hopeful Spoon

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.  🙂

Go buy one of these titles! You'll thank me when you discover how magical Peter's writing is :)

Go buy one of these titles! You’ll thank me when you discover how magical Peter’s writing is 🙂

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!

Sarah Allegra 2016 Calendar

Sarah Allegra 2016 Calendar

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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.

 

I Felt It Was Glory, detail. Model: Travis Weinand. © Sarah Allegra

I Felt It Was Glory, model: Travis Weinand. © Sarah Allegra

 

I Felt It Was Glory, detail. Model: Travis Weinand. © Sarah Allegra

I Felt It Was Glory, detail. Model: Travis Weinand. © Sarah Allegra

 

I Felt It Was Glory, detail. Model: Travis Weinand. © Sarah Allegra

I Felt It Was Glory, detail. Model: Travis Weinand. © Sarah Allegra

That’s it!  Everyone have a happy and meaningful 2016!  🙂

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It has come to my attention that there is a new drug being tested in Norway that has shown great promise so far in treating ME/CFS.  To my knowledge, this is the first drug that has shown persistent, repeatable improvement in patients – even going so far as to sending some patients into full remission.  It seems like even the most successful cases eventually needed to have the drug re-administered, by my god, even if it were something we had to have injected a few times a year, to have anything that would help, even fractionally, let alone full remission, would be an absolute miracle.

There is a fundraiser going on to try and crowd-source funding for the next phase of drug trials.  If you can at all help, please do.  Even it’s a few years before the drug trickles down to actually reaching patients, just having that in our future would make such a difference.  I’ll have a bit more to say about this in the next few days, but for now, please join me in giving what you can.   And thank you so very much!

MEpress_image1

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I’ve noticed more and more flowers creeping into my work recently, and I’m not entirely sure why that is… or if it even matters.  Some of it certainly has a great deal to do with particular DreamWorld characters you will meet in the future, but they are cropping up in non-DreamWorld images too.  I could spend a long time analyzing why that is, but I’m not sure I need to.  Sometimes you just have to let things grow as they will.

I gave an interview recently and stated that I never shoot an image simply for the sake of taking a pretty picture.  They always have meaning to me.  This last photo was the closest I have ever come to taking a photo simply for the sake of beauty, although I knew there was some underlying meaning… I just had to figure out what my subconscious was trying to tell me.  Artists need to have faith in themselves and their visions; if they don’t, who will?

I’d had a vision of a girl holding an umbrella filled with flowers pouring down on her, so I set out to make such an umbrella.  As usual, I had no idea how I was going to do it, but I got started.  I had a good umbrella, and I had flowers left over from a few other projects, including this one.  Even though I almost always manage to buy them on some kind of sale, fake flowers are one of the most expensive props I buy, so I try and mitigate the cost by using them as many times and ways as possible.

In my vision, I very, very clearly saw wisteria hanging down, perhaps because I had recently been to the garden center where I lusted after a very expensive wisteria plant.  But I did not have any fake wisteria.  It seems to grow quite rampantly around here, and I toyed with the idea of simply asking an owner of an overly enthusiastic plant if I could cut some off… but ugh.  Talking to strangers.  Talking to strangers and asking them immediately for favors.  No.  I couldn’t do it.  Have I mentioned recently how shy and introverted I am in real life?  So I buckled down and found some reasonably-priced, realistic looking fake wisteria online and ordered it.

I’d had a shoot planned already with a model who would be new to me, although I knew her a bit through other photographers she’s worked with, Katie Johnson.  (Katie is amazing, by the way.  A charming, fascinating person, an absolutely natural and dedicated model… I would highly recommend her to anyone.)   Katie had recently approached me about shooting together sometime, which I was very keen to do!  I planned a number of concepts for her, including the wisteria umbrella, we picked a day and all was set… until somehow the wisteria was delayed, and it didn’t arrive until the day after our shoot.  Oops.  We still had a great time at that first shoot, and since it had gone so well, we decided to plan another shoot soon after, and bring the umbrella concept to life then.

The cats help the only way they know how; by sleeping on things.

The cats help the only way they know how; by sleeping on things.

After my wisteria arrived, I set about attaching it to the umbrella.  I ended up sewing some directly to either the frame of he umbrella or he fabric itself, and broke out my trusty glue gun to attach the flowers along the edge.

Hanging bunches of hydrangea from he umbrella to help fill it out.

Hanging bunches of hydrangea from the umbrella to help fill it out.

Starting To Hang

Note the balancing-on-the-laundry basket move.  The damn umbrella was so awkward and lopsidedly heavy, poised on a curved handle, plus it kept shifting slightly as I moved around…. language was used.  More than once.

More Hung

More wisteria is hung, and the first bit glued to he edge is on.

Just about done!

Just about done!

Since I was working with a limited amount of flowers, I concentrated them on one side.  I knew Katie’s head would be blocking part of he umbrella, so I didn’t want to waste any flowers there.  And filling it out a little in post is fairly easy to do, if you need to.

The day of our reshoot came, and it was a gorgeously overcast morning, which was absolutely perfect for what I wanted.  Katie was, of course, a dream and we were able to shoot several different concepts before calling it a day.  But not before Katie twirled around with the flower-ful umbrella, flinging shoots of wisteria into every direction, which made both of us laugh pretty hard.

umbrella outtake 4 small

umbrella laugh 2 small

The umbrella took it all in stride, not seeming to mind being spun about.  🙂

After the whole thing was said and done, I finally realized what my subconscious was saying with these photos.  They portray a girl who is carrying hope and life, symbolized by the flowers, with her wherever she goes.  While the umbrella protects her physically from the sun and rain, its bigger role is to protect her soul by keeping these positive qualities with her.   There’s an implied symbiosis between her and the flowers; that each of them needs each other for its life, in a way that can be read both literally and metaphorically.

And as I edited these during a week when I was feeling particularly depressed and had been advised to exercise “self care,” this seemed like a perfect visual metaphor.  Keeping the gray world off my back with a layer of protection, under which heady armfulls of my own, beautiful flowers grow.  Not only was it a lovely metaphor, but working on the photo was cathartic in and of itself, so it worked for me on many levels.

Finished photos and detail shots below!

Perennial Parasol

Perennial Parasol

Perennial Parasol

Perennial Parasol -detail

Perennial Parasol

Perennial Parasol -detail

Perennial Parasol

Perennial Parasol -detail

Perennial Parasol -detail

Perennial Parasol -detail. Katie’s extensive dance background often shows itself in little details like this, which she did all on her own.

Efflorescence

Efflorescence

sarahallegra.com

Efflorescence – detail

sarahallegra.com

Efflorescence – detail

Efflorescence - detail

Efflorescence – detail

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