Parting the Veil ~ The art of Nene Thomas

A Chance Encounter

A Chance Encounter

Nene Thomas’ faeries have long been among my favourite among fantasy artists. I love their long, flowing locks and equally long, flowing frocks. Their wings are always beautiful and delicate and their facial expressions are often mysterious or wistful.

As her book, Parting the Veil: The Art of Nene Thomas suggests, you do very much get the impression, not just because of the faeries or dragons themselves, but  the haunted and atmospheric winter woodlands, that a filmy curtain has been pulled back. I love the otherworldly feel, especially in her wintry scenes, where you can retreat back into childhood longings, of wishing places like Narnia or Middle Earth really existed outside of bound pages.

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Always

I often put some music on, light some incense and settle myself down with Nene’s book. I love the detail in her faeries. They always look so lush and grand and courtly.

When I look at them, my mind starts wandering about what each character is like; what their story is, how they came to be wandering about in snowy forests….

Hope

Hope

I am fortunate enough to own several prints, including all of the pictures above. Unfortunately, I have only 3 of them framed at the moment. I’d love to further adorn my walls with her pictures, but I’m getting there slowly!

I have been a fan of Nene’s faeries for a few years now, and my love for these pictures hasn’t waned in the least. Every time I look at them, I marvel at the detail and feel a tug of longing that I could really disappear into worlds where faeries and dragons really existed.

www.nenethomas.com

Queen of Owls

I think the obvious appeal is also the rather gothic feel to a lot of Nene’s faeries and how a lot of them of them look they’re dressed up to attend a faery court or ball or masquerade. As far as the gothic side of things is concerned, they don’t come more dark than this lady:

Queen of Shadows

Queen of Shadows

As you can see, I’m very drawn to dark faeries, with long flowing locks and frocks, particularly in winter scenes, but it’s not like Nene restricts herself to these scenes, and one of my favourite pictures is set in a twisted and dark forest, and the character set in this scene looks even more striking with her red hair set against the dark green of the ivy around her:

Direwood

Direwood

There is one print that I own, that is the complete opposite to all of the pictures of the above, that you probably would not expect me to like very much. For one, the lady is blonde haired and wearing a gold dress. Usually, I favour dark haired faeries wearing dark or contrasting gowns, and I tend to favour them in autumn or winter scenes. The picture below is set in a lush and colourful field of flowers. However, there is just something about her pose that I find really striking:

Innoncence

Innocence

Perhaps I like it because it’s not a twee and unambiguous scene. The central character has a wistful look about her, and despite all the colour, there are ominous clouds behind her. I always get the sense that she’s not just wandering languorously, smelling the flowers and listening to the birds. I get the impression she’s walking somewhere, with a purpose, and has stopped momentarily to consider the bird perched on her hand.

Perhaps I’m just fanciful!

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“It sometimes seems to me that the only knowledge you gain as you get older is the extent of how little you know….”

As I mentioned in my Ode to Autumn post, it’s usually at this time of year that I break out the Tania Kindersley and disappear into a wistful and nostalgic world.

There’s just something about Kindersley’s novels that strike a chord with me. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I have read them, every year, they manage to touch me in a different way or reiterate a feeling I have felt myself.

I have a great admiration for the skill Kindersley has at presenting difficult experiences, like losing people you love, in such an atmospheric and eloquent way. I often find myself, all curled up and protected, nodding emphatically at the words before me, because someone has managed to put into such beautiful words, how I have felt about certain things in the past.

The first time that happened for me, was on reading Goodbye, Johnny Thunders

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This book is told in the first person, by Nancy. She’s instantly likeable because despite growing up with odd, cold parents, she’s quite a die-hard romantic. She strives for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Despite being very well travelled, she settles in London with a touching naivety and innocence.

She has a wonderful circle of friends, each having their own crosses to bear, and Nancy tells hers and their story in such a way that you feel close to these people too.

Nancy meets and falls in love with the mysterious and impenetrable Jack. He’s a drug dealer, and while Nancy pretends to enter into the relationship with her eyes wide open to his flaws, she ignores the “signs” and continues to strive for that happy ending that will surely be hers if she wishes for it hard enough.

I first read this book when I was only 13, so you could say that I have grown up with it. It helped get me through my own heartbreak when I was 18 and every reading since then, I’ve felt an unswerving love and gratitude to this book for helping to put into words, so many feelings that I experienced myself and made me realise that I wasn’t alone.

The next book I encountered by Kindersley, was the story of Iris in Elvis Has Left the Building

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This one probably resonated with me more than Goodbye, Johnny Thunders in that I was able to relate to the circumstances a lot more. Iris, had been in a relationship with Fred for 9 years when he suddenly and without explanation, declared to her that he “couldn’t see her any more”. It eventually transpires that Fred had been having an affair for the last 2 years.

Despite the often difficult to read passages relating to Iris’s heartbreak, this is a wonderful celebration of friendship and self discovery.

The sub-plot involving the fictional artist, Edgar Dime and Iris’s mission to discover one of his lost works, is intriguing and wonderful in that, by Iris throwing herself into the life of Edgar Dime, she actually ends up finding herself.

As in most of Kindersley’s novels, the central character is estranged from her mother. In almost all of Kindersley’s novels, the central character has a history of loneliness and isolation due to some form of family dysfunction, and the central character always seems to be battling against an innate sense of failure and disappointment and not being good enough.

This brings me on nicely to Don’t Ask Me Why. I first read this when I was about 19/20, and I finished it a few days ago as part of my annual Tania Kindersley homage.

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This is a fine celebration of friendship. We follow the story of Ash, from when she first meets her best friend Virge, through their days at Oxford and their exploits in the real world. It’s heartbreaking and tragic and bittersweet. Yet like all of Kindesley’s other novels, it is told with a sense of nostalgia and eloquence.

When I finished reading the last few pages a few days ago, my cheeks were soaked with tears, and despite having read this book several times before, it had never affected me to such an extent before.

It’s amazing, the talent Kindersley has, to make you almost feel nostalgic yourself, for places like Oxford. I suppose it’s because Ash is introduced to us when she is just about to embark on her university days and we follow her and Virge through those days, right up to their thirties and it’s difficult to not feel like you have connected with them. This book wouldn’t be what it is if you didn’t care about these people. You feel sad for them when they realise that the real world can’t live up to their expectations and why in particular, this is intolerable to someone like Virge, who has gone through life inventing mysteries and fantasies, when the world couldn’t offer them.

Unfortunately, my meagre words do not do any of Kindersley’s works justice, but I felt I had to put down, in my own fumbling way, why I love her books so much.

The last book I read by Kindersley was Nothing to Lose which follows the story of Maud who becomes almost like a phantom after self imposed isolation as punishment for the day, several years ago, that she accidentally knocked over and killed a young boy in the street.

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As you can imagine, from the subject matter, it is quite a difficult book to read at times, and the language Kindersley gives to Maude is jarring and unforgiving.

Yet, you feel pity and compassion for Maude, as she battles to keep people out of her life as self imposed punishment. She feels like she can’t possibly deserve any good things if her life, so she locks herself away and uses her guilt as a barrier to the outside world.

This barrier is slowly and determinedly broken down by a stranger who imposes herself upon the world and starts to bring Maude out of her shell and puts her on the path to self forgiveness and discovery.

It’s another beautifully written novel and like her others, it’s atmospheric and bittersweet.

One thing I cannot do, is read Kindersley’s books idly. There is no way I would be able to read these on a bus or train. They demand more attention than that. I prefer to close myself when I read them and curl up in the corner of the sofa or disappear upstairs and get warm under the covers of my bed.

I know I refer to these books with a certain degree of reverence, but they are very special to me.

Let the Victoriandustrial revolution begin….

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I’ve been a follower of Emilie Autumn for a few years now. I first became aware of her when someone on Live Journal posted a track from her album Enchant. I fell in love with her voice, violin and harpsichord playing instantly. To this day, What If? remains one of my favourite tracks by Autumn.

Her striking appearance, jarring violin and bold voice demand attention.

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Autumn describes her music as “Victoriandustrial” and it’s not difficult to understand why. Her songs are filled with tales of insane asylums, suicides and stifled women.

She delivers these themes in a disturbing flurry of of vitriol, more than adequately backed up by her electric violin and hammering harpsichord. At other times, she approaches them with a sing-song voice and droll harpsichord accompaniments. This is demonstrated to perfection in Marry Me:

Marry me, he said, through his rotten teeth, bad breath, and then
Marry me instead of that strapping young goatherd, but when
I was in his bed, and my father had sold me
I knew I hadn’t any choice, hushed my voice, did what any girl would do and
When I’m beheaded at least I was wedded
And when I am buried at least I was married
I’ll hide my behavior with wine as my savior

But, oh, what beautiful things I’ll wear
What beautiful dresses and hair
I’m lucky to share his bed
Especially since I’ll soon be dead

Marry me, he said, god, he’s ugly, but fortune is ours
Running in the gardens enjoying men, women, and flowers
Then I break a glass and I slit my own innermost thigh
So that I can pretend that I’m menstru…well, unavailable
My life is arranged but this union’s deranged
So I’ll fuck who I choose for I’ve nothing to lose
And when master’s displeased I’ll be down on my knees again

Oh, what beautiful things I’ll wear
What beautiful dresses and hair
I’m lucky to share his bed
Especially since I’ll soon be dead

When dining on peacock I know I won’t swallow
Through balls, births, and bridge games I know what will follow
We’re coupled together through hell, hurt, and hunger
Or at least until husband finds someone younger
Yes, fertilization is part of my station
I laugh as he drabs me in anticipation
Of sons who will run things when I’m under covers
But whose children are they? Why, mine and my lover’s!

But, oh, what beautiful things I’ll wear
What beautiful dresses and hair
I’m lucky to share his bed
Especially since I’ll soon be dead
What beautiful things I’ll wear
What beautiful dresses and hair
I’m lucky to share his bed
So why do I wish I was…

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I love Emilie Autumn’s sense of the theatrical. I’ve not had the pleasure of seeing her perform live, but from what I’ve seen online, her gigs are pure Vaudeville.

This extends to her albums and EPs. The designs are always lavish and decorated with her pictures of leeches are scribbled down lyrics. Buying any Emilie Autumn merchandise always feels like a treat.

In fact, I currently have a pre-order down for the delicious deluxe edition of her album, Opheliac:

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I really am looking forward to learning a bit more about Emilie Autumn. From what I have read, despite her considerable gifts, she was often singled out and bullied for the way she dressed and for daring to experiment with her music and seek her own style. The fact that she rose above all this and is having considerable success now, is probably the best revenge she could ever dish out!

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“The falling leaves drift by my window….”

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Autumn has to be my favourite season. For me, it’s filled with so much romance and promise. I love the cold, crisp days. Something about seeing roads carpeted in crackling leaves filled with so many hues of orange, brown and red make me feel so content. I often marvel about the beauty I see in Autumn.

I love being able to bundle up in woolly hats and scarves. I get so much satisfaction in just being outside on an bright, cold Autumn day.

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I felt like I had to do some sort of personal ode to Autumn, with it being Autumn now. I try my best not to take things for granted and enjoy the things I love “in the moment”, to avoid as many regrets as possible. I don’t think there is anything sadder than lamenting missed opportunities or for not seeing something for being as special as it was.

Yesterday, my partner and I went for a pub lunch. Nothing out of the ordinary or particularly spectacular, but it was a lovely day and we really enjoyed our walk to and from the pub. We walked hand in hand and used the moment to smile and be happy and talk about our shared interests.

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I always tend to feel nostalgic and wistful at this time of year. It is usually at this time of year that I dig out the Tania Kindersley books and listen to artist’s like Eva Cassidy. Her version of Autumn Leaves holds a very special place in my heart:

The falling leaves drift by my window
The falling leaves of red and gold
I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sunburned hands I used to hold

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all, my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall


Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all, my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

I miss you most of all, my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

I’ve always held a child-like delight where Hallowe’en is concerned. I know most people see it as a terribly commercial event, but I sort of love that. I love walking past shops and seeing the windows filled with bats, pumpkins and black cats. I love the drama and mystery that I still attach to Hallowe’en. I have fond memories of making ghost masks with my younger brother, or reading my Worst Witch books.

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I tend to feel over-excited in the run up to Hallowe’en, even if I don’t have any plans. I do love buying Hallowe’en decorations, buying themed cakes and snacks, playing atmospheric music, watching spooky films, curling up on a dark, cold night, in the corner of the sofa with a gothic novel, like Dracula.

I suppose a part of me will never quite grow up, and I cling to that. I want to still be wanting to have Hallowe’en themed parties and buying trinkets and decorations.

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Haunted Paintings and Mirrors

Perhaps it is because it is becoming increasingly dark and cold and Hallowe’en is fast approaching that has got me to thinking about the use of haunted paintings or mirrors in fiction and art. It’s a subject that I have always found captivating.

Especially at this time of year, despite being a jumpy and often rather sensitive individual, you would expect that the last thing I would enjoy is a story about a haunted painting. Yet, there’s something so spooky and fascinating about a painting or a mirror with a will and force of its own.

All you need to do is Google “haunted painting” and the internet is rife with images and stories.

I remember watching The Witches when I was very young and my favourite scene in that film, and it remains so today, is the story of a little girl called Erica, who “goes missing”, only for her father to discover her image in a painting on the wall. Just the thought of it now is enough to make me shiver, and this is a book/film aimed at children! I remember the film going on to explain how Erica moved and aged in the painting, until one day, she vanished.

I must have seen that film when I was about 10 years old, and that story of Erica and the painting has always stayed with me.

My next encounter with a haunted painting, was a few years later when I watched Ghostbusters II. I’ve always loved these films and yes, they’re a comedy, but there were spooky moments concerning the painting of Vigo the Carpathian.

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I remember a moment in that film, when Dana is working in the gallery and she turns to look at the painting a couple of times because she feels like she is being watched. There are a couple of seconds, when her back is turned, that the face in the painting actually smiles and I remember that it really spooked me at the time. I still think it is wonderfully done now.

Perhaps another reason why the idea of haunted paintings and mirrors is fresh in my mind, is due to the fact that I went to see Dorian Gray a couple of weeks ago and have also recently been reading Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. My first encounter with Dorian Gray in film, was a few years ago when I saw The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

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The story of Dorian Gray is so delicious and fascinating. The idea of a portrait ageing in place of the sitter who can go on to live a life of debauchery and decadence, throws up so many questions of whether or not we might accept such a bargain ourselves and really makes us think about our own mortality. It might sound wonderful and exhilarating, but Dorian becomes extremely tormented and obsessed and troubled by his secret in the attic and you have to wonder whether certain sacrifices are worth eternal youth and beauty.

I imagine it would be very much like a novelty at first, but would soon wear off as loneliness started to grip me. Imagine the isolation and bitterness of remaining young and beautiful while the people you loved grew old and died around you….

I have also become increasingly attracted to art by Cris Ortega, as she has a really ethereal and spooky quality to her art. She has two illustrated storybooks published called Forgotten I: The Unnamed Realm and Forgotten II: The Portal of Destiny. Her stories and images are filled with beautiful women rambling about haunted houses or forests, and there is one story, about a girl called Mary Beth, who happens upon an abandoned old house in New Orleans and becomes enthralled by a painting and old letters between two lovers.

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Perhaps I’m just a fanciful and easily spooked person, but I think I will always find the idea of haunted paintings and houses to be a source of fascination and mystery, and perhaps there’s a paradoxical side to me, to perhaps everyone, that delights in being scared.

The Enchanted Art of Jessica Galbreth

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I have been a follower of Jessica Galbreth‘s for a number of years.  Her paintings consist of gothic and fantasy, faeries, myths and legends. Jessica’s paintings don’t usually have elaborate backgrounds as the main focus is always the figure she is portraying.

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I love Jessica’s paintings because there’s always a sense of mystery, that we’re just getting a sneak peek.

Jessica also has a wonderful book; The Enchanted World of Jessica Galbreth which contains a collection of her paintings along with commentary by Jessica. It’s a must have for followers of the genre.

After perusing Jessica’s website today,I discovered that she’s working on a wonderful sounding series called The Gothic Masquerade. It sounds right up my street and I can’t wait to see more!

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I love masquerade masks and I’ve always had a yearning to have been able to attend a masquerade ball in Venice. Perhaps it’s superficial but I adore elaborate ball gowns and masquerade masks. I’m not much for dancing. Not for lack of desire, but lack of talent, so I’d definitely be a wall flower on such an occasion!

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Jessica is also obviously a lover of Autumn. Lots of her paintings have an autumnal feel, which is definitely appealing to me and my favourite has to be Mask Of Autumn which is not only a celebration of Autumn, but also incorporates a masquerade mask. This painting was also used as the front cover for Jessica’s book.

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Strangeling: The art of Jasmine Becket-Griffith

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I have been a fan of the gothic fantasy art of Jasmine Becket-Griffith for several years now. In fact, it seems like such a long time ago since I first stumbled across her art that I can’t even remember how her art came to my notice.

I think what initially struck me about her paintings, was how they could be so dark, but so vibrant at the same time. Her paintings have a lacquered effect that really makes the images pop off the page. It’s also impossible not to notice her big-eyed beauties who are always imbued with such attitude, either by their pose or almost brattish facial expressions!

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Jasmine models her faeries, pixies, nymphs and mermaids on herself. You can see why!

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You can tell she didn’t need to root around for inspiration for those big eyes in her paintings!

I think what I probably find most appealing about Jasmine’s paintings, is that they are dark, but they’re also colourful and fun. You can’t help but look at her paintings of her whimsical characters and smile. They’re so endearing and charming.

I absolutely adore Autumn, and her Hallowe’en themed paintings have a special place in my heart:

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I love collecting fantasy art prints, figurines and books. Books, I particularly love. I have so many prints that I haven’t managed to get framed yet, so it’s lovely to be able to collect fantasy art in book form and Jasmine does tend to spoil her fans as she has 3 books containing her art so far.

Her first book, Fairy was published back in 2005.

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I got it soon after it was published and it’s wonderful to flick through. Of course, this book was published a few years ago now and Jasmine is an extremely prolific painter, so I was extremely happy when she announced she was planning to release three “Portfolio” books of her favourite paintings in a gallery-style. I bought her Portfolio Volume I last year and it really is lovely. It contains artwork from 2005-2008.

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Jasmine was advertising that she could sign and personalise copies of her book, so I requested mine to be signed “For Moomin Lou”. I really love this book and have been eagerly anticipating the release of Portfolio Volume II. I was browsing Jasmine’s website a few days ago and was really excited to find out that it had been released. Unfortunately, this time, she is unable to sign and personalise this book due to the book shipping directly from the publishers. That is a shame because it is nice to have books signed by the artist, but I’ll still be buying it.

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This book contains 64 colour pages of her art between 2008-2009. Unfortunately, I have to wait before I order this book, but once pay day arrives, it will be purchased and I can’t wait to see it sat alongside my other books by Jasmine.