Techniques and Tutorials

Acrylic Palette Knife Painting Tutorial – Scarlet Tanager

I’ve recently been doing some experimentation with palette knife painting, though for now my forte is mainly just birds! (I tried an octopus recently with disasterous results 😉 ). As someone who was previously very skeptical about palette knifing, I wanted to share how much fun it really is! As someone who is very sharp detail oriented with art, I was worried about not having the control that I can get with a pencil or brush. In the end, I found the expressive process of smearing and marbling colors with the knife incredibly calming and meditative. This is beginner level, so anyone can try it even if you have no painting experience. Give it a go and let me know what you think!

What do you think I should try to palette knife next?

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Artist Bio

The Gift Of Anxiety

On My Mind

I have struggled with anxiety since I was a kid, and would usually be the first person to scoff if anyone ever called this trait a “gift”. I have begun managing it as an adult through counseling and learning new coping/rerouting skills, some go the medication path, different things work for different people. What I do know, however, is that those of us with anxiety tend to agree that it is not a positive thing. When uncontrolled, it can be exhausting and cause heightened emotional responses and added stress to situations that aren’t at all threatening. It can cause us to consider all the dire “what ifs” but none of the possible happy surprises. It can introduce a lot of doubts in both ourselves and in our relationships with the people around us. Lately though, I’ve been challenging myself to think about the positives of certain attributes within myself that I don’t always like. I’m a big proponent of neurodiversity and try to always see the positive attributes of others’ brains that sometimes work differently, so it would go to follow that I owe myself the same courtesy. Fellow anxiety peeps, though you have probably been told that your affliction is this horrible burden, I’d ask you to come with me and think through the ways your tendency towards anxiety has actually helped you.

I was looking for a notebook with some blank pages left recently so I could jot something down, and started reading an old journal I’d abandoned. In it was a set of columns listing positives and negatives about my life at the time. I noted as a positive that I was in a long term relationship with “no doubts or issues” and had “no bouts of anxiety, panic attacks, or mood regulation issues like I used to get”. Now, while not having panic attacks is all well and good, I am no longer in this relationship and looking back there were plenty of issues, and plenty of reasons I should have been doubting the long term success of our partnership based on some pretty significant differences and toxic behaviors. At the time I was also not getting the support I needed or deserved at work and was quite frankly being taken advantage of, albeit probably not intentionally. I came to the conclusion that when I thought I was “overcoming” or “doing better”, what I really was doing was turning my brain off and giving over control of my life just to feel more “normal”. Maintaining Zen and not letting life rattle you is one thing, but no one needs to smile and talk about how great it feels to have a bird flying overtop shitting on your head all the while not moving from the spot you are rooted in below.

I definitely deal with a hell of a lot more anxiety today than I did when I wrote that entry, but I also love my life infinitely more. I let situational anxiety take its course, because though my emotional responses may be more amplified than the average person, it acts sort of like the check engine light in a vehicle, letting me know that something isn’t working and I need to evaluate and figure out what needs to change for my mind and body to start running at their best again.

What other positive attributes does my anxiety bring out?

A drive to regularly set personal and professional goals, show up and work hard until they are achieved.

Dependability – I can’t comprehend of making promises not intending to see them through, and if I agree to assist I am going to be on time and prepared.

On that note, I have a planning oriented nature, and don’t leave important matters to the last minute (um, or unimportant ones … 😉 )

I am able to empathize more with others who are struggling emotionally, and I know the experience has made me better at my job leading a program whose participants have various disabilities, mental health issues, and general quirks.

Something I’ve been learning is though we can all grow and change and should be committed to continuous growth every day, certain parts of us aren’t going anywhere. We can deal with these parts of ourselves more beneficially and make them work for us and not against us, but they likely aren’t going completely away. So, rather than engaging in self hate let’s work through the parts that are toxic or causing us unhappiness, but appreciate the parts that help us be better humans … including our anxiety.

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Project Ideas, Techniques and Tutorials

Charley Harper: Creative Minds Art History Project

I was first drawn to Charley Harper‘s work in the gift shop of a local museum. One of my dad’s main hobbies is birding and wildlife photography, and Harper’s Mid-Century-Modern style illustrations just screamed the perfect birthday gift.

Harper grew up on a farm in the Midwest, and was inspired by the wildlife he experienced around him. He called his style “minimal realism”, taking in the world around him and distilling the imagery he observed down to the most essential details. He said, “When I look at a wildlife or nature subject, I don’t see the feathers in the wings, I just count the wings. I see exciting shapes, color combinations, patterns, textures, fascinating behavior and endless possibilities for making interesting pictures. I regard the picture as an ecosystem in which all the elements are interrelated, interdependent, perfectly balanced, without trimming or unutilized parts; and herein lies the lure of painting; in a world of chaos, the picture is one small rectangle in which the artist can create an ordered universe.”

Inspired by images from Harper’s body of work that capture his signature style, I encouraged my students this week to create their own minimal realist birds. Though Harper’s works were painted, they bare quite the resemblance to modern day digital art and graphic design. Instead of painting, we used a collage format to create our Charley Harper Birds. We used paint chip samples for our vibrantly colored creatures, colored cardstock for the background, and paint markers to add the linework details. From working on repainting the interior and exterior of a house over the last couple years, I had an accumulation of samples but never felt right throwing away even the colors I ended up not using. Upcycling to the rescue! At an arts non-profit, we love free materials ;). We outlined our geometric shapes onto the samples with a pencil, then cut them out and adhered them to a foam core board base (any heavier paper would work as well) with a standard glue stick. I’d suggest laying out the entire design before gluing in case you want to make some changes before the final masterpiece.

I teach adults with varying physical, psychological, and intellectual disabilities but this project is perfect for all ages and abilities. It is all inspired by simple geometric shapes and blocks of color, and can be done as simple or with as much detail as the artist desires. We created our works in an easy-to-frame 5×7″ size.

I hope you are inspired to try this at home (This would also be a fun project for bored kids, hint hint 😉 )! This is a simple, whimsical project that you don’t have to be an “artist” to enjoy. Unwind after work and get crafty with some basic, easy to access materials. As always, if you end up making one of these yourself I’d love to see pictures!

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Art Discussion

Creating Is Vital Yet $$$ : Let’s Make It Accessible

For those who don’t know, I am here to tell you today that art supplies are ridiculously expensive. Creative expression has so many mental health benefits; it can be a productive way to release negative emotions like stress and anger, a relaxation tool, a way to divert oneself from anxious thoughts, a way to inspire oneself about life again and provide something in the day to look forward to, and a tool for communication when one is feeling unheard. Sadly, the high cost of accessing the tools to pursue the arts limits who can participate. Oftentimes the people who could benefit most from creative expression also have the most significant barriers in accessing supplies and classes, such as low income individuals of all ages, those with disabilities, and older adults. Aside from the mental and emotional benefits, with enough practice creative pursuits can provide important side income for those who are struggling, but first they need to be able to get in the door to begin with. 

I direct an inclusive arts program for adults of all abilities at Creative 360 Studio and Gallery. It is open to everyone, geared towards being an accessible and comfortable environment for adults with physical, intellectual, and psychological disabilities. I love where I work because their mission is to open that door to allow all people to experience the creative process. With the Express Yourself Artshop program, we have a host of professional working artists offering classes with collegiate level instruction, broken down so that all different levels of experience and learning styles can follow along. We offer affordable costs of instruction, provide materials, and offer scholarships. We have a Student Of The Month program where we award a special gift in the form of specific supplies in that student’s area of interest to someone who has stood out as going above and beyond to learn, grow, and succeed. It isn’t always easy, but it’s the right thing to do. Think of how much untapped potential is out there, simply because someone didn’t have access to even get started.

What can arts organizations do to help everyone tap into their undiscovered potential?

  • Always have a scholarship fund through grants, sponsors, and donations, not only for classes, but for juried shows as well. I understand the need to charge entry fees to cover salary for employees prepping for a show, reception costs, and advertising. I also know many artists who never exhibit or enter competitions not because they are “lazy” or don’t want to bother, but because they can’t afford the $35-50 entry fee. 
  • Seek donations so supplies can be provided, even if just for certain special classes or programs. You have no idea how many artists have brand new or like new supplies mounted up in their studio just collecting dust, and artists love to de-stash especially to causes that are getting more people into the arts. Another idea is to start a personal needs pantry, but with a twist … instead of food and toiletries as is traditional, creative supplies!

What can working artist do to help their fellow creatives get off the ground?

  • Donate when you can! Donate money to scholarship funds for local arts programs, or directly pay for a class or sponsor an entry fee for an artist in your life who you know wants to participate in something but can’t afford it right now. If you can’t donate cash, but have some extra supplies you don’t use as much, share with someone who doesn’t have access to supplies right now. If you get an amazing BOGO deal on paint, brushes, canvases, etc. share the extra or donate it to an organization that provides arts education. 
  • Share skills! Get together with other artists you know, and commit to showing the group how to do one thing that is within your area of expertise for free in exchange for them doing the same for you. Trading knowledge is always a win-win. Volunteer together to host a free art event in your community.  What is daunting to try to do alone won’t even feel like work when you have a group of talented and passionate people pulling together.
  • Don’t be a supply snob. Don’t scoff at other creators or be judgey when you see them using dollar store or economy grade supplies. Starting somewhere is better than not bothering to try in the first place, and at the end of the day a non-skillful artist can have all the fancy, expensive supplies in the world, but their work is still going to fall flat.

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This portrait was created during downtime at Artshop by fellow artist, Artshop drawing and painting instructor, and frequent collaborator Emiliano Vega using 50-cent-per-bottle craft paints. Mic drop.

Due to Covid, many schools are eliminating “extras” such as art, music, and gym. This is the only place many kids can get free art instruction. Now more than ever, making art accessible is vital.

I love sharing demos of affordable projects I’ve done with my Artshop crew, especially those inspired by art history. Check out these lovely Matisse inspired bowls!

If you’d like to snag some of Emiliano’s work, he has prints for sale on his featured page in my ebay shop.

 

 

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Artists To Know

This Week’s Top 10 Happy And Creative Things

Because 2020’s got us all feeling a little poopy off and on, here are some things that made me happy amongst the ups and downs of this past weekend and beginning of this week …

#1 Molly Burgess Designs On Instagram

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Check this out … giant beautifully patterned fabric insects. I’m in love.

#2 Corinne Elyse On Society6 

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Vintage print aesthetic, lovely ladies, and lots of eyeballs, OH MY!

#3 Love On The Spectrum

Forming and maintaining romantic relationships is just freaking hard in general, but throw a neurological difference that can make one communicate in a way that is different from the “norm” into the mix…? That is what this show tackles as it follows adults on the autism spectrum as they start to date, and think about what they want in a lifelong partner. I laughed, I was moved emotionally, and I at times related closely to the protagonists of this series. I was impressed by how respectfully done this show was. As someone who works with adults with disabilities and considers myself an advocate, I was concerned the show would be another one of those “Unbelievable – people with disabilities/mental health issues can actually date and have sex!” sorts of shows where viewers are supposed to observe them like they are aliens or zoo animals. But, it is not voyeuristic at all, and is very sincere with much of the commentary being expressed directly by the individuals with autism.

#4 The Handler’s Wardrobe in The Umbrella Academy

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I’m not a big TV person usually, but as my little corner of the world has started to get a lot busier with classes and commissions I’ve been forcing myself to have downtime. So, #4 is another Netflix gem. Not only is this show fantastic in general with hands down the best character development I’ve seen in any superhero TV show or film, but this nefarious vixen’s costuming is simply to die for. I mean, it was good in season 1 but season 2 has taken it next level. I need that crystal spider brooch, and everything else.

#5 Beginning My Modeling Career

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Said a little tongue in cheek ;), but I have always enjoyed going out dressed unconventionally and taking fun photos with friends. This time my expedition was a bit more professionally done with fellow artist and excellent photographer Emiliano Vega. I express myself through fashion, and am in love with anything retro. This shoot was a bold expression of all my quirky style loves from 60s-80s throwback vibes to pigtails to metallics to a boycott of any footwear that’s not boots or tennis shoes. Technically this is from last week, but we’re not getting legalistic about it. If I could, I’d dress like this every day it was legitimately one of the most comfortable outfits I’d worn in a while – stretchy fabric and no pants, what’s not to like?

#6 New Portrait Project

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In the beginning phases, but I am going to be working on a series that makes my heart so happy. It will celebrate disability pride and independence, involve some of my students, and I honestly can’t be more thrilled about how all the pieces are coming together in a way that can only be described as divine intervention. More on this as it unfolds! For now, here’s an in-progress preview.

#7 Rad Student Artwork

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Major props to Sarah for this beautiful cardinal watercolor painting! Sarah will be live painting in a Community Art Party my program is hosting this weekend. Check back for a recap early next week!

#8 Nikki McClure’s Collect Raindrops

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An old bestie from college I’d kind of lost contact with over the years recently commented on my Facebook share about a book exchange (one of those chain mail sorts of things but way more fun). We exchanged the required info, sent books out to the first name on our list, the usual drill. Then yesterday, I got a beautiful surprise art book in the mail from said old friend as well! The paper-cut art prints are absolutely gorgeous and uplifting – love discovering new artists!

#9 Peacock Party!

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I have been into including peacocks in my art for a couple years now, and tonight I got to share the love with some other creative souls. Always love encouraging people to throw some paint, especially for the first time! My favorite part of doing these workshops is seeing how different everyone’s looks at the end after taking in the same inspiration image and step-by-step demonstration. It is so fascinating and exciting to see beginning artists’ style start to emerge <3.

#10 In-Home Thai Restaurant

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I haven’t been eating out much this year with the whole Covid situation, so I’ve been experimenting with recreating my favorite eat-out recipes at home. I bring you, Thai Coconut Curry, made with veggies from the garden!

What’s been keeping your spirits up during this very odd year???

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Artist Bio

The Power Of Saying No

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I must start off by saying this is not one of those articles that was written because the author is an expert on the subject; I am actually writing because I am very bad at this thing myself.

I have always struggled with saying no both personally and professionally. Yet, at the same time I’ve always been pretty sure of who I am and what I want … talk about some pretty serious dissonance! Let me tell you a bit more about myself… at this point in my life, I eat mainly plant based (aside from the occasional raw fish in sushi maybe twice a month), I seldom drink, I have no interest in smoking or drugs of any type (I don’t even take an Excedrin when I get a migraine!), and though I like being social I am one of those people who needs more quiet time than the average person to recharge so I have to strategically plan the amount of ‘going out’ I want to do each week and who I want to give my time and energy to … Oh, and I also am not interested in birthing children. You see where I’m going with this? Though there are a whole lot more things I say yes to, I find myself constantly apologizing, “Oh, I don’t ___________, I’m so sorry!” as if I should feel guilty for crafting a way of living my life that I’ve found makes me feel the most happy and healthy. I recently started going to counseling again, and I’m discovering that a lot of struggles in my personal life have been caused by my feeling like I always have to be the hero, and tying my performance and how I can please others to my worth and value.

Unfortunately, this is a trap that creatives can fall into professionally as well. Especially when we maybe aren’t the wealthiest, it is easy to feel incredibly guilty for saying no to a project or opportunity no matter how poor a fit it may be. The perception is often that we should be grabbing onto every piece of money or exposure we can get our hands on, and be eternally grateful for every opportunity that comes our way regardless of whether it really makes sense to take it or not. This whole “beggars can’t be choosers” mentality is not the way to build a life worth living, because the power is always in our hands regardless of our current status.

So, here is your daily reminder that you actually are allowed to say no! Trust me, I am reminding myself just as much as I am reminding all of you!

  • You are allowed to say no to projects that don’t align with your mission and values. 
    • Some projects are going to end up selling something you don’t support, whether that’s an idea or mindset or a person or product. You are not being judgmental or impolite by simply saying, “You know, this really just isn’t for me, I’d suggest you find another artist.” I found myself in a situation once where a longtime client asked me to create a small political piece. It wasn’t anything hateful, but it was celebrating a political figure that I really did not agree with. I was so concerned with offending a client that I’d developed a great rapport with that I accepted, even though inside my unease was through the roof. I told myself I do art to make people happy and if this was going to make someone happy, it was ok. Still, the discomfort just kept ramping up every time I sat down to get started. I ended up having to be honest and tell my client that because of my own personal opinions and beliefs I would not feel comfortable taking on this commission. It was a long, awkward conversation and they were a bit offended at first, but at the end of the day any tension blew over and we still were able to maintain a working relationship. Say a client wasn’t willing to work through something like this, do you really want to work with someone who treats you like a machine and is willing to force you to take on work that you don’t feel comfortable with? As a creative, you are your own brand and you do have to think about what your body of work, including commissions, says to the rest of the world.
  • You are allowed to say no if taking on a project would exceed your preferred workload.
    • No one else is allowed to tell you how to structure your life. You know how much you can handle at once in your business. Everyone functions at different capacities, and that’s ok. Just because you have the time, doesn’t mean you have to give it. I have had to reach the point of complete burnout to learn that I need to create margin in my life, which can be hard to do as someone who is partially or fully freelance. When you don’t have a “clock-in/clock-out” sort of job your life can easily become 24/7 work to the expense of your relationships, hobbies, and own mental health. Actively think about how many free hours you want to have each week, and make sure you get them. You are not lazy for wanting time to yourself to relax and enjoy life, and don’t need to play the comparison game. Some people need a bigger margin of downtime than others to function well, and you know your brain better than anyone else.
  • You are allowed to say no to projects that are outside of your preferred skill set or area of interest.
    • A lot of times people assume that when someone is an artist, they can do anything and everything related to art and creativity. While many creatives do dabble in a variety of artistic pursuits, no one is good at everything. It doesn’t do you or your potential client any good for you to force yourself to bumble through a project that is outside your area of interest and/or expertise. Trust me, I’ve tried. If you have a network of other creative friends or acquaintances with different skill sets than you, this is a great opportunity to throw them some work by recommending them to the client as an alternate option. Chances are, they’ll do the same for you in the future!
  • You are allowed to say no to projects or opportunities that put you in an environment you aren’t comfortable with. 
    • Toxic work environments are the worst, and unfortunately they can happen in any field including creative work. There is something to be said for pushing yourself out of your comfort zone every once in awhile, but if the people and environment a current project or opportunity requires you to be around is becoming soul crushing and making you hate doing something you once enjoyed, then it’s time to go. Any job that crushes your passion for your craft is not worth it; know when to say, “Well, I tried it!” and move on.
  • You are allowed to say no to projects that don’t have an equitable payout.
    • Art is very personal to me so I hate talking about money in relation to creating. However, if art is part of how you make a living then you have to view it through the lens of, every other field gets compensated for their time and expertise. Being compensated at all can’t be the only goal though, you also need to be compensated fairly. If you don’t really think about how you price out your work, you could end up working for less than minimum wage. I often will give friends and family a deal, and enjoy donating my time and skills to charitable efforts that enhance my community. However, I have had to sadly turn down potential clients whose amount they were willing to pay would not near cover the cost of my time and materials even with giving them a deal. I want art to be accessible to all, but I also have bills to pay like anyone else. I’ve gotten burned in the past accepting $50 for about 10-12 hours of work, and quite honestly that’s just not ok. Be generous, but also know your worth.

Closing doors can have such negative connotations, but by closing the doors that you weren’t meant to walk through you free up your time for the doors that are going to open up a vibrant new world. None of us can do it all, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Set boundaries, create how you want to create, and love yourself.

 

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Techniques and Tutorials

The Quirky Cats Of Louis Wain

For those new to the blog, my “day job” is running an inclusive arts and wellness program geared towards adults of all abilities, Express Yourself Artshop. Though we have a full staff of instructors, I love teaching so I always make sure I have the time to teach one or two classes each semester. One of my favorites is Creative Minds, an art history based class where students learn about a different artist each week and do a quick project based on their work. I especially like to focus on artists with disabilities or mental health struggles. Due to the whole Covid situation, I haven’t taught this class in awhile so I figured I’d share some of my fun ideas online! Cat lovers, today’s artist is for you :).

Louis Wain was a late 19th century artist who made playful illustrations of cats, oftentimes dressed and behaving as humans. Though his art was whimsical and light hearted, he had a very difficult life. He was born with a cleft lip, and doctors at that time advised his parents that he should not go to school with other children because of this. He received no education until age 10. His father passed away when he was 20 and he then became fully responsible for supporting his mother and sisters. He fell in love and got married, but shortly thereafter his wife became ill and passed. His illustrations, most of which he had done for his wife to lift her spirits while she was ill, became wildly popular and were being published in magazines all over the US. However, he did not have a strong business sense and was often taken advantage of. By the early 20th century he was destitute.

As his mental health began to decline, his cats became far more psychedelic, surreal, colorful, geometric, and fragmented. The fact that his art so viscerally reflected what was going on inside has made him an interesting artist to study. Though there is no way to know for sure, it is believed he probably had schizophrenia.

Were Wain “normal”, would his art have looked the same? The answer is undoubtedly no. Our differences give us insight and ideas that others don’t have. Sadly, back then mental health was very much a mystery. Today, help is available so that people can maintain their unique way of thinking, but for the most part not unduly suffer. Until the end of his life, art was an anchor for Wain when all else was instability, as it is for many.

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Techniques and Tutorials

Make A DIY Bib Necklace

I’ve shared my fun mixed media necklaces I’ve been creating in the past, inspired by a class project the week my Creative Minds students learned about artist Sonia Dealunay. Today I wanted to show you the creative process firsthand!

I use a lot of castoffs and odds and ends like scraps of jewelry chain and fabric, discontinued upholstery samples, and pieces from broken jewelry. Antique stores, thrift shops, garage sales, and ebay are all great resources!

I love how fun and unique you can make these necklaces, collaging in any shape you want though I’ve stuck with the classic bib collar design for now. Most of mine are very nature inspired but again, you could take something like this in a whole different direction. The possibilities are endless! I hope some of you are inspired to play around, but for those who’d rather just buy one I do sell the necklaces I make in my ebay shop.

As always, if you have any questions shoot them my way. Happy creating!

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Artist Bio

Guess Who’s Finally On YouTube?

Ok, so I must apologize for going MIA for the last couple months. Quarantine had a weird way of giving me more time than ever yet making me simultaneously less motivated and productive than ever as time went on. Also, the weather was beautiful especially in the last part throughout June, and I was spending a lot of time outside either at the beach or playing sports badly.

I did continue to work from home and part of my duties for the arts program I direct was creating virtual lessons. I’d been talking about starting my own YouTube channel for over a year, but was overwhelmed by the process of learning filming and video editing. Choosing to dive into this for work and help my teachers I work with do the same was the push I needed to get going, and once in-person worked resumed there was no reason I shouldn’t just start my own channel. It won’t be perfect off the bat, and I am operating off of a phone for the time being – no camcorder, no microphone, using a free editing app. I definitely plan to upgrade at some point, but I’m starting simple and seeing how things go before I invest in new equipment. This first video is an introduction to myself, my art, and what you can expect to see from my channel. I will also be collaborating with an artist I work with often, Emiliano Vega, for content.

Be sure to subscribe to see more! I have some more demos already filmed and am excited to post throughout the coming weeks. What do you want to see? Let me know! I love suggestions :).

 

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Books, Music and Film

Escape the Mundane: Supernatural Reading List

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As we’re on day ??? of quarantine and a big day out consists of going to the grocery store, there has never been a better time to let a book take you on a journey to fantastical realms. I have subsequently been streaming a lot of scary movies lately ;). Why I love taking a break from Netflix and enjoying a good book is because it allows me to engage the creative part of my brain even while relaxing to imagine what is being described in my own way. If reading just doesn’t work for you, remember there are always audiobooks too! Below are some of my all time favorite supernatural stories to get you started.

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

Speaking of Netflix, I was excited to learn this book had been made into a series earlier this year, and will definitely be checking it out soon. A young girl with no inclinations of settling down (definitely a pretty strong feminist before feminism was a thing) has a chance to save herself and her struggling father who was cheated in business from crippling poverty when a strange proposition is made … That she marry a wealthy family’s dead son to placate his restless spirit after he dies of questionable circumstances. She is pulled into a series of surreal adventures in the parallel world of the afterlife that are rich with history and Chinese lore. The vivid descriptions of ghost cities and the spirits she meets along the way are absolutely fascinating. This is one of my favorite books that I’ve read within the last year.

The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea

This is another interesting story that though fantastical is rooted in real history and spiritual beliefs. It is based on the real life person Teresa Urrea, who was the great aunt of the author and allegedly got sick and passed away temporarily, then came back to life, after which she obtained the power to heal. Urrea spent 20 years writing this novel and researching the life of this Teresa, who was and is revered as the “Saint of Cabora” but was never recognized by the church, who instead referred to her as “the most dangerous woman in Mexico”. Taking place in the late 19th century during the beginnings of Mexico’s civil war, there is a lot of history woven throughout the supernatural facets that add to the realism and make you question what actually happened back then …

Eleanor by Jason Gurley

This novel meditates on a lot of heavy themes: familial dysfunction, mental health, guilt, loss, grief … All through the connection between female family members, and parallel worlds and time travel. This is one of the most unique books I’ve ever read and really defies a specific genre. When I found this novel at a used book sale, the teaser synopsis didn’t really tell me much about what the story was actually going to be about. I ended up giving it a try due to being sucked into the cover art, a gorgeous, bleeding watercolor and ink illustration of crying eyes on a stark white background. I guess sometimes you can judge a book by its cover ;).

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

This is another book that really defies description and you just have to check it out for yourself. It is an experience. I will be honest, you will probably either love it or hate it. The pages sometimes look like this …

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There are stories on top of stories in a way, but the main story focuses on a family living in an ever shifting house that seems to be impossibly larger on the inside, the text often shifting visually with us as we read. Love it or hate it, it definitely will leave you feeling odd and maybe questioning reality a bit.

The Book Of Strange New Things by Michael Faber

This book is quite literally about an outer space missionary. A man of faith is called by a mysterious corporation to minister to an alien race looking for answers. As he is celebrated and thrives among them, he finds things are crumbling at home as his wife and he communicate back and forth. Natural and governmental disasters abound on earth, and his sense of responsibility is understandably torn. Both an odd sci-fi tale and a drama, I found this novel itself to be quite strange, but also incredibly moving and thought provoking. The focus really isn’t so much on purely religious faith, but the idea of how we determine the hierarchy between our passions and the people who depend on us.

The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington

First off, this novel was penned by a well known artist that was a part of the surrealist movement, even more remarkable that she was a woman in a time when people still thought women couldn’t possibly be good painters. Insert eye-roll here. Her work shown above was used as the cover for this story. The main character of this tale is a hilarious nonagenarian with a good bit of attitude who is about to be sent to an institution for the elderly. She is understandably displeased, but all is not as it seems … Her new home has apartments shaped like cupcakes and igloos, and some lively leaders. It’s like Alice In Wonderland but in a nursing home, and is one wild ride with some interesting occult spiritualism thrown in at the end.

The Golem and The Jinni By Helene Wecker

This book is based in Middle Eastern and Jewish mythology and features two mythical creatures that form an unlikely bond. A golem, made of clay and brought to life through occult magic, is created to be the devoted and unquestioning wife of a lonely (and let’s face it, lazy) man who ends up dying on the oversea voyage they take together to their new life. Golems traditionally have a master whom they are bound to forever obey, and without she is quite adrift. A fire-born Jinni, created and encased in a flask in Syria and released in the middle of New York city, crosses her path and these now unbound entities form a strong bond as they try to navigate together a life in which they do not belong. Similar to many of these other stories, history and myth are pivotal which makes this book all the more interesting.

The King In Yellow and Other Horror Stories by Robert W. Chambers

This book of short stories stuck with me long after finishing. They aren’t really scary in the traditional sense, just very odd leaving the reader with both a sense of subtle discontent but also fantastical inspiration. Though less well known perhaps, I actually enjoy this author far more than H.P. Lovecraft.

Are there any supernatural books you love? Please please please leave a comment! I am in desperate need of new suggestions. Happy adventuring (in your mind)!

 

 

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