Archive | June, 2013

Francesca Lia Block’s Magical Creatures

28 Jun

flbSo I am a huge fan of Francesca Lia Block. I first read her classic YA novel Weetzie Bat in 1995, when I’d just moved to Los Angeles from New York to attend grad school at UCLA and wasn’t totally happy to be in that weird, glittery city. But those opening lines made that whole city come alive with magic and seem like some kind of wonderland, and from then on my heart burst with Angeleno love:

“The reason Weetzie Bat hated high school was because no one understood. They didn’t even realize where they were living. They didn’t care that Marilyn’s prints were practically in their backyard at Graumann’s; that you could buy tomahawks and plastic palm tree wallets at Farmer’s Market, and the wildest, cheapest cheese and bean and hot dog and pastrami burritos at Oki Dogs; that the waitresses wore skates at the Jetson-style Tiny Naylor’s; that there was a fountain that turned tropical soda-pop colors, and a canyon where Jim Morrison and Houdini used to live, and all-night potato knishes at Canter’s, and not too far away was Venice, with columns, and canals, even, like the real Venice but maybe cooler because of the surfers. There was no one who cared. Until Dirk.”

It’s not every writer who can make you see the world in a brand-new way and/or seek out hot dog/pastrami/cheese burritos on Pico Boulevard (which I totally did).

Francesca has written nearly three dozen books by now, full of all kinds of magical creatures (technical and otherwise) and the occasional mermaid. Here’s a random mermaidly quote from her novel Echo:

“Maybe I would become a mermaid… I would live in the swirling blue-green currents, doing exotic underwater dances for the fish, kissed by sea anemones, caressed by seaweed shawls. I would have a dolphin friend. He would have merry eyes and thick flesh of a god. My fingernails would be tiny shells and my skin would be like jade with light shining through it I would never have to come back up.”

And from Wasteland:

“You asked me who I thought I was before. I said maybe I was a fish because I love water and you said, you thought a mermaid, maybe. If you were a mermaid, you said, if you were a mermaid, I was the sea.”

Do you see what I mean?

Francesca also, by the way, contributed to the not-yet-published Mermaids magazine I’ve told you about, and which will come out soon I THINK (watch this space!), and one day recently she emailed me a link to these


which officially makes her the best author with the best taste in sunglasses ever.

Our illuminating Q and A follows:

So can you tell me about your fictional mermaids? When and where do they appear in your books? What do they do?
Weetzie grows up, goes to a pink hotel and rescues one here:


And I have an erotic mermaid tale here:


Are you yourself a mermaid?
No, I am a wood nymph. In my system, outlined in Wood Nymph Seeks Centaur, mermaids are beautiful, warm, maternal, challenging divas. Wood Nymphs are wild, loving, somewhat neurotic artists.

Why do people love mermaids so much, do you think?
What’s not to like? They are like us and yet completely foreign and inaccessible. They also echo our origins from the sea.



Do you have any future mermaid plans, in your books or outside of them (or both)?
I have one coming to visit me next weekend from Manhattan. She has red hair, does yoga and writes poetry and stories.

In my new book Love in the Time of Global Warming, there are some sirens. The book is based on The Odyssey by Homer with a female protagonist named Penelope (Pen) who has to help save the world after an apocalypse.

Do you have any favorite mermaid art/fashion statements/books/movies?

The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson.
The Odyssey by Homer
Aquamarine by Alice Hoffman [interviewed on this blog here]
The Secret of Roan Inish. (film)
As I think more about this, I would like to write one!


What do you think makes mermaids so cool?
I am fascinated with all half-human, half animal creatures but there is something especially enticing about the ability to live under water, to swim like a fish, to sing on the rocks, to charm the object of your desire into your hidden realm.

What are you working on now?
I’m currently writing a sequel to Love in the Time of Global Warming and a new adult book for St. Martin’s Press called Beyond the Pale Motel.

And finally,do you have any advice do you have for aspiring mermaids?
Wear sunglasses (I just had cataract surgery at an early age) while you bask on rocks. And wear sunscreen.

Artist David Delamare and His Many Many Mermaids

28 Jun

So artist David Delamare is kind of a big deal, mermaid-painting-wise, and you’ve probably seen one of his mermaid masterpieces whether you know it or not. At least in your dreams or drunken wanderings (or here). I mean look:


He’s got tattooed mirror-holding mermaids hanging out on rocks, and steampunk Marie Antoinette mermaids sitting on metal horses


and streamy-haired mermaids hanging out around bathyspheres for possibly nefarious purposes


and poker-playing mermaids about to cheat pirates out of valuable loot


and well coiffed mermaids pressed against seahorses in questionable manners


and plenty more mermaids besides, many of which you can gaze upon in this glittering gallery.

Obviously, I had to ask David some questions at some point, lest I be remiss in my mermaid duties and leave this blog somehow eternally incomplete. Our enticing Q and A follows.

When did you start painting mermaids? What was the first inspiration?
The first mermaid I painted was for ready money, nothing more. She was part of a very fanciful wooden sign for a restaurant called Buttertoes. At the time I had no idea that this seemingly simple sea creature would ultimately provide so many interesting conceptual and compositional possibilities.

How has your mermaid art evolved over the years?
My mermaid art has changed dramatically because my approach to making paintings is so different. For many years I painted using an air brush for areas of continuous tone (both on the figures and in the backgrounds) then added details using a traditional brush with water-based paint. Several years ago, I switched to the most traditional of media—oil brush on canvas. Using a brush rather than a spray gives the areas of continuous tone a much more organic and less mechanical effect. With oil painting, I start with a layer of opaque paint which will become the shadows and continuous tone, then glaze over this with transparent washes. The result is that the light bounces off of lighter areas while being absorbed by darker ones. This creates a depth and luminosity that my earlier paintings couldn’t have. You can’t see this in the photographs of the art. It’s really only visible when looking at the originals. If you’re curious about how the individual elements of the paintings are added, you might view the progressive slideshow on You Tube of my Alice painting titled “Beware The Jabberwock.” There are also some progressive albums on my Facebook page.

Has your idea of them changed at all—over time and/or as a result of mermaids’ increasing popularity, etc.?
At first, my narratives were influenced by Greek mythology or the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Later, my interpretations become more personal, primarily driven by the desire to create more complex and interesting compositions, settings, and features. I experimented, of course, with different anatomical elements such as gills, fin shapes, and scale styles. Then, in the last ten or twelve years I began interpreting the writings of my partner and publisher Wendy Ice, who has written a field guide describing a mermaid world of her own invention. We occasionally have late night discussions about the symbolic or metaphorical significance of the mermaid, usually taking a fairly psychological approach having to do with the conflicted (divided) self or the division of the conscious and unconscious.

Can you talk about what continues to inspire you? How/why do mermaids continue to interest you?
Artistic genius never stops inspiring me. Painting, music, live theater, film, and literature are all favorites. If I find myself at a temporary impasse, certain artists never fail to jump-start me. Reliable touchstones include Mozart, Django Reinhardt, Orson Welles, Harold Pinter, Caravaggio and Monty Python. Mermaids continue to interest me because their conceptual elasticity is endlessly encouraging as a source of engagement.

What’s the most challenging part of painting them?
The challenging part is to keep reinventing them so that they remain vital.

Do you have an interest in or fascination with mermaids outside of your art? Are you, for example, interested at all in mermaid culture and/or have a particular love of the sea?
Wendy and I have both carefully avoided reading any contemporary writings about mermaids because we don’t want to be consciously or subconsciously influenced by the material. Also, we don’t want to feel as though we can’t use an interesting idea just because someone else happened to use it. The odd result is that we’ve been creatively immersed in the subject matter for many years but are almost completely ignorant about how it has been handled by others in the last century. For the same reason, we know next to nothing about contemporary mermaid imagery. Like anyone else, we occasionally stumble upon a mermaid painting online, but we don’t go looking for them. (The downside of this approach is we miss out on what is likely a wide variety of interesting literature and imagery.)

Can you share with us one of your favorite mermaid paintings you’ve done—and why?
My favorites are the most recent. I particularly like a newer series that we’re calling the “Victorian Mermaids.” It features Victorian carnival portraits that depict a caste of mermaids described in Wendy’s writing. In these images mermaids are posing as humans posing as mermaids. I like the fact that they have a psychological quality about them, akin to something found in traditional oil portraiture.

And finally, do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?
Beware of the undertow and always bathe in moonlight.

Joy de Vivre’s la Vie Sirene magazine

6 Jun

So I’ve been aware of Joy de Vivre and her Siren School for a while, and was even set to visit one of her San-Diego-area camps last year that involved irresistible swan maidens and a whole lot of white feathers. Siren School hosts fantasy-based camps, parties, tours and even cruises centered around romantic, magical creatures (including, of course, mermaids) that every woman might want to be for a day—or longer. You can see a list of upcoming events here. More recently, she’s launched a cool online magazine called la Vie Sirene and this month its focus is mermaids. Check out the cover and click around to read, among other things, Joy’s awesome interview with one of my favorite mermaids, Weeki Wachee’s Barbara Wynns:

from Joy de Vivre June Mermaid issue cover la Vie Sirene2

I ask Joy for further gorgeous illumination below.

Can you tell us something about yourself?
I am a confessed siren! I don’t use my gifts or talents to lure men to their doom; but I do appreciate being a woman and all that it entails.

I have always known I was cursed with the entrepreneurial bug, but before I struck out on my own I worked in film production and marketing in the performing arts. I’ve owned a few small businesses I absolutely loved, including a tea room, fine dining garden restaurant and a theater company. But my latest venture, Siren School, looks to be the most fulfilling as it inspires and buoys women to find and express their true selves.

How did you become interested in mermaids?
My favorite story as a child was Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, which, as readers know, has a different sensibility than the Disneyfied version. My mom forbade me reading it cuz I would be late to dinner, crying in my room while pouring over the especially heart-wrenching parts

Have you long been involved in mermaid culture, etc?
I flirted with the culture from the fringes for ages. When the movie Splash came out I was nicknamed Madison because of my long blonde hair. And as a SoCal beach girl I have always had a very personal, passionate and altogether primal relationship with the sea. In fact, I am convinced I have salt water coursing through my veins. I am most alive and at peace and ‘myself’ when I am in the ocean.

What is La Vie Sirene?
It is a grass-rootsy online magazine “of the sirens, by the sirens, for the sirens.” In my dealings with members of the mer community I have run into scores of talented artists, authors (you may have been my first!), jewelry & tail designers, rabid enthusiasts, etc., who deserved to be showcased for their dedication and artistry. Unfortunately, many of them feel they have nothing to offer. La Vie Sirene is the place where they can not only be in the spotlight, but share their thoughts and expertise.

The magazine's logo is made from photos of all its contributors.

The magazine’s logo is made from photos of all its contributors.

I relish and encourage contributions from those who are terrified at the thought of writing anything for the public, but who secretly yearn to. While the magazine will feature topics of interest to its primary demographic, women with a penchant for fantasy, dance and esteem-building, it will do so by focusing on a single theme per month to the extent that readers will be so deluged by the theme they will beg to move onto the next issue.

June’s premier issue is about Mermaids, and every single article and ad involves something mermaidy, from mermaid artists, authors, performers and shop owners, to recipes, bath products and even mermaid-specific hotels and pubs. Instead of providing the month’s content in one chunk, the information is rolled out and posted daily, with at least one article and one attendant ad, chosen to complement said article. I wanted to make both the main content as well as the hand-picked ads stand out and give readers the chance to savour each morsel proffered. At month’s end, the issue’s contents will be compiled into one publication available in PDF, Epub, Mobi and possibly even print formats.

It just launched a few days ago and already we are getting incredibly heartening feedback. People are finding it not only entertaining, but highly informative! It’s what I worked for, but dared not expect. So I am thankful, to say the least.

While it’s exciting to get involved in new projects, and try formats that reside just beyond the envelope, by far the best part about the entire enterprise has been the connections I’ve made with some incredibly soulful and talented people. It is such a gift to see them work their magic, and to get to showcase it.

What inspired you and what can we expect in the future?
I actually just posted an article about the mermaid/belly dancer who inspired Siren School to begin with, if any of your readers are brave enough to take a gander.

As for what the future holds, specifically as it applies to the magazine, we have a list of themes in the offing through 2014, though we’re open to requests.

I know you also run mermaid camps (and other fantasy-based camps) and have mermaid-themed cruises in the works. Can you tell me about all that?
from joy de vivre - siren school logoSiren School grew out of my desire to stop swimming just to train for a triathlon, and to get back to doing “water ballet” as I had in my youth… only this time, with a tail! I searched the net for a “mermaid camp”—not knowing if there actually was such a thing—and found the grandmama of them all, wonderful Weeki Wachee. But I lived in California and they are across the country. Additionally, I wanted to delve into the lore and mythology of the legends in something of a roleplay environment. Next thing I knew, I was creating my own camp experience, which is not surprising given that I’ve been involved in theatrical interactive event creation since I was a tyke.

Once I got started with the idea for mermaid events, my inner genie, flapper, geisha, naiad, Venetian courtesan, Parisian showgirl and so on began complaining that they were being neglected. That is when I realized that I wanted to offer a variety of ‘siren’ archetype activities and experiences.

I sat down and created a slew of events all based in coastal Long Beach, CA, and thought I was done. But immediately, I started receiving messages saying, “I love your events but they’re too far away. Let me know if you ever do one in my area.” What to do, what to do… That is when the idea for a tour first germinated and the result is l’Experience Sirene, i.e. Siren School’s 2013 tour with events in cities all over America—each city chosen specifically to best fit the theme. Our Vampire Hunt will be in New Orleans, Pirates Caribbean Cruise & Treasure Hunt in Cozumel, Dryad (wood nymph) event at a Treehouse resort in Oregon, the 1920’s Speakeasy Die Hard gangster melee in Chicago, etc.

The aquatic events include two mermaid cruises with optional dolphin swims in the Bahamas, a Pacific Paradise mermaid getaway with dolphin encounter in San Diego, CA, and our naiad retreat which includes a manatee swim in Florida’s fresh water springs.

Do you yourself slip on a mermaid tail and/or identify as a mermaid at all?
I was over the moon when I got my first tail!!!! Being a major introvert and not liking to attract attention, I do most of my mermaid swimming and water dancing in secret, far from ogling eyes. I am in the throes of designing my first custom tail, which is fortuitous since I gave my original tail away to someone who was unable to get one for herself.

Joy's alter ego: "mermaid's perch" by dashinvaine on deviantart

Joy’s alter ego: “mermaid’s perch” by dashinvaine on deviantart

Why do you think so many people are so drawn to mermaids?
Oh gosh, I could write about that for pages and ages. I think this topic is best left to experts like.. well… you! But I will say, that to me mermaids represent confidence, freedom, grace… a lack of hangups and inhibitions… all qualities that are incredibly attractive in a woman. If the movie Splash imprinted you as it did me, then you may equate being a mermaid to being genuine, beautiful, sweet, loyal, loving, bright… so many qualities I would love to foster in myself!

And finally, do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?
I feel it is absolutely vital to be one’s self without in any way comparing to other mers, their accomplishments, or their tails! Like any budding subculture, mer-dom has its own set of growing pains to contend with, and will find its balance, I have no doubt. While it does so, I feel it is imperative that mers act in a cooperative effort to embrace and promote this unique activity and lifestyle they adore. Like the Little Mermaid’s sisters, we too must twine our arms around each other and rise up out of the water, singing our siren song, not to induce others to wreck on the rocks, but to praise and share our gratitude and love for the mermaids we are—and more important, for one another.

Artist Caroline Waloski’s “Flights of Fancy”

5 Jun

So this Friday evening you might want to transport yourself to Greenport, New York, to attend the opening reception for artist Caroline Waloski‘s brand-new mermaid-themed exhibit “Flights of Fancy,” which will be showing at at The Siren’s Song Gallery until the end of July. Here is the sparkling invitation and relevant info:

Flights of Fancy

Flights of Fancy.Back

I talk to Caroline below, about fishy ladies and Siren’s Song (which she also runs and directs, and which features mermaid art from a variety of sea-loving artists), but first, check out her own magical creations:

1. Sirena turquiose neon

2.Blue Sirena Neon

3.Magenta Sirena Neon

4.Yield Mermaid

5. Mug shots

6.A Light At Sea

7.Mermaid School FanTasy

8.Transformed by Love

9.Too Deep To Fathom

10.el Buccinerro

11.Fishy Story

12.Catch of the Day

13.Goddess of the Tides

13.Lorelie's Leap

14.Liar, Liar


So what is the Siren’s Song Gallery?
I created the Sirens’ Song Gallery to lure folks into discovering the arts. The gallery is located in a historic maritime village. One can’t ignore the sea, bays, rivers and streams surrounding the area. It is natural for an artist to record what is seen, but there is more than meets the eye. Many local galleries feature paintings of the sea, but I thought I’d feature what was less obvious: the mysteries of the depth in spirit and psyche. After thousand of years evolving we humans are still connected to the sea. The waters of the earth can be benevolent or malevolent. The tides and the moon have a strong pull on our lives, and emotions, and the Mermaid Goddess is still there as intermediary. From ancient Mesopotamia until today she is our protectress. The mission of the Sirens’ Song Gallery is to focus on the beauty and power of this ancient deity, and her relevance in sustaining and preserving our world.

What kinds of artists have you featured?
The gallery has exhibited mid-career and established artists from the around the world, all of them focusing on water and sea themes. Water, the sea, and our natural environment has been the major focus of all art exhibited at the Sirens’ Song. The very first exhibit in 2006 was titled “Creatures of the Deep & the Shallows.” Artists from the Manhattan Graphics Center exhibited both fact and fantasy images with mermaids and other sea life bestiary. “Water Works,” a solo exhibit in 2008, featured limited-edition reduction linocuts, etchings, and collages by Cynthia Back focusing on the beauty, magic, patterns, and texture of our waterways and how they stay recorded in our memory. “Ebb & Flow” in 2011 featuring Shelly Haven and Cynthia Back dealt with large and small waterways and what possibly lies under the surface, and remains forever in our memory and fixed in time.

As artist in residence I have begun to focus on exhibiting my own work. The women’s issues that have always been the focus of my art have taken on a mythological approach using the Mermaid as Muse, the giver and protector of all life on earth, the ancient Goddess presiding over an “Amniotic Sea.” It is from prehistoric primeval seas that all life emerged. We are the evolved creation of those primeval cells. We are made up of water, depend upon it to sustain life, and the pull of the tides still moves and controls us. Our children in embryonic fish-like state are carried in a salty pool inside our female bodies until birth.

After thousands of years this Goddess of the sea is still very much an intermediary between us and the ocean’s force. Spirits and demons have always been present in my work, but since moving to this historic maritime village the Sea Goddess or Mermaid has insinuated herself as the dominate spirit. My new work in “Flights of Fancy” contains some book arts in the form of Ditty Boxes. Sailors in their long sea voyages during the whaling era often worked on art projects to pass the hours, and sometimes years on board ship. Mermaids were a favorite subject. These scrimshaw inspired objet d’art focus on the sirens of mythology, and life givers. “The Odyssey” a carved surface of the egg shaped box shows a Siren perched on a rock while 2 other Sirens float in the air. Upon opening the box a small imperiled boat is revealed. “The Beginning” is a doll shaped stacking box. The outer box is a Mermaid in her element. The inner box reveals a human swimmer with flippers, the final inner 3rd box reveals a tiny MerBaby. I am happy with where this series is going. As an etcher I have always worked in 2 dimensional layered work, now I am working in 3D. This gives me the opportunity to reveal only one layer at a time. Just like the mystery of the sea.

Can you tell me about your own background? Have mermaids always inspired you?
After years of living in New York City, born in Brooklyn near the waterfront, I moved to Long Island in 2005. But I was always surrounded by water, wherever I lived. Prior to moving to Greenport I lived and had my art studio in Harlem’s Hamilton Heights area. Situated between the Hudson and Harlem Rivers in a house built above underground streams I always felt the protection of water spirits. I was familiar with Long Island’s East End because my parents, and extended family always vacationed there. My parents were first generation Americans, their parents immigrating from Warsaw. The symbol of Warsaw just happens to be a mermaid. Greenport was a natural choice because it is a historic maritime village with a deep water harbor. Whaling and rum running are part of the local history, as is aquaculture and agriculture. My best days as a child were at the beach, swimming, fishing, collecting sea shells and sea glass, boating, or day dreaming about Mermaids. I haven’t changed much; the sea still preoccupies my thoughts and mesmerizes me.

To quote Anais Nin: “I must be a mermaid…I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living”.