Just last month, right before I turned 48, I opened up an IRA. For you see, in all my years of working, earning a paycheck, and yes, sometimes even saving a bit of it–I had absolutely nothing set aside for retirement.

I am not going to beat myself up about that; for the entirety of my working life, I have been employed with very small businesses that did not offer a 401K, and up until a decade ago, I was mostly living paycheck to paycheck. Luckily, I did not have student loans to contend with (if anyone is curious, not that you need my credentials–I barely have an associate degree from a community college, and even that took me ten years!), and I did not have a car payment, because back in 2010 I bought a used little 2005 Toyota Matrix that I have driven into the ground. It’s still in our driveway today! And speaking of “us,” many years later, I am in a partnership where both of us have solid employment, and we were able to buy a house outright. Which I realize is a massive privilege. That major purchase, however, mostly drained our savings, and so we basically had to start from scratch two years ago.

And so last month, I was finally in a position to start putting some money aside for retirement. And that is when I realized that I know nothing about managing my finances. Especially when I read an article that said by 50 years of age, we should have a cool 600K in our retirement funds.

W H A T.

I don’t have 600K in that account! I don’t even have the tiniest fraction of that! I went to Facebook to consult the masses, and while some of you are doing great (yay!), most of you don’t have that kind of savings, either! Which was, on the one hand, nice to learn I am not alone, but on the other… I feel pretty anxious for all of us!

Enter my friend Hayley.

The TLDR; story is that Hayley makes soap and sells it on the internet (Ývan’s favorites from amongst her offerings are The Hermit and Heima, and I love her sugar scrubs for my feets!) But that doesn’t even begin to give you a glimpse into what a canny, creative, compassionate human she is. And a wise dispenser of advice! Hayley has a way of taking the practical sort of subject that it might pain you to think about otherwise, and she makes it not only palatable, but inspirational, and most importantly–she makes it seem doable.

Who better, then, to gently talk to us about …money? And you have to imagine I am saying the word “money” as an incensed John Mulaney does in that bit where his college is calling and wants MONEY. It won’t let me link to it but look it up because that tone is the way thinking about money makes me feel sometimes!

Even thinking about money is scary as hell and talking about it can be immensely awkward, so Hayley, I am incredibly grateful to you for writing the following for our Ten Things series. Especially as we are talking about money, and I didn’t even pay you to do this! You are a generous soul and I am so appreciative of all you do.


Ten Things About Money From Hayley Jay Croom

Confession: I am a fifty-something micro business owner, with a house & a car & all the trappings of adulthood. And I am, at this moment, fucking broke. I say this not out of some compulsion to overshare, but to make it super clear that I am just three raccoons in a greying meatsuit, and not some financial whiz with all the answers and none of the worries. I’m wading through this capitalist hellscape right alongside you. I have been broker than this before, and fully expect to be so again, and in between there will be some more money, and then it will be gone.

Unless we have incredibly good fortune, we’ll all struggle with money at some point in our lives. Money is fluid, capricious, and subject to all manner of unforeseen circumstances. But just because we’re struggling, it doesn’t follow that we have to panic.

There are lots of spooky scary things slinking in the shadows, but our money health doesn’t have to be one of them. If the thought of even thinking about your financial nuts & bolts is terrifying, here are ten things that might help. Let it be known that I am in no way a qualified financial advisor, nor should anything I write here be taken as financial advice. I’m just a weirdo who found some ways to make money less awful for myself. A LOT of the following assumes certain levels of stability and access to intangible resources that I know are not common to everyone. These are not answers to everyone’s money problems, just some tools that might help some of us.

All images from This Might Hurt Tarot © Isabella Rotman 2019


1. We carry our families’ stories about money, but we don’t have to accept those inheritances.

How our parents & other adults treated & talked about money as we were growing up has a huge influence on our own ideas and habits surrounding our finances. We can mirror our family’s patterns, because it’s all we know & it’s comfortable (even when it isn’t), or we can chase the polar opposite and find ourselves foundering in totally unfamiliar and sometimes just as dangerous financial waters. Our lives as GenXers, Millennials, and Gen Z are completely different from what our parents & grandparents experienced, and our available tools are as well. What worked for our families in the past is likely impossible now for us, & their advice, while maybe well-intentioned, can often get us into even more trouble. It’s up to us to do the work & find our own financial path through this modern wilderness.



2. Money is neutral, just one tool in our arsenal. So is credit.

Being rich isn’t an automatic win at life, & struggling with money doesn’t make us bad people. Wanting more money isn’t a moral failing; money is a necessary tool in modern western society, and we need to learn how to use it to create the life we want. If you’ve grown up in a household where money was a point of friction, it can be hard to see it as a neutral mechanism. Being broke can be frightening, but having money can be just as triggering when we don’t trust ourselves to make “good” decisions with it, or when we’ve seen money make monsters out of people. A lot of us with money trauma are set against using credit cards, or taking out loans, because the prospect of instant access to money we don’t have feels too tempting, or because we saw our parents abuse credit cards and pay the literal price. Credit can be tricky to manage, but can also give us breathing room, especially in the beginning of our money journey while we set up better systems for ourselves. (I want to take a sec to acknowledge that our current system of credit ratings is biased and deliberately manipulated to keep people playing the credit game for fear of losing access to the loan industry. But this is our market-driven dystopia, and we have to live in it for the moment, so let’s use the system in ways that lift us up without grinding other people down.)

3. Focusing on our own values & priorities makes managing our money more rewarding.

It doesn’t matter what we should be planning for & focusing on; if those things aren’t important to us, we won’t care enough to make them happen. The old model of buying a college education, buying a new car, buying a house, going on big vacations, is laughably far from reach for most of us, even when we’re making “grown-up” money, and not something we all categorically even want anymore, so it’s time we let ourselves stop chasing it. Instead, we need to focus our spending on the things that really matter to us, both the practical (safe housing, our preferred foods, transportation that gets us where we need to go) and the philosophical (supporting nonprofits, buying local, taking classes). Obviously, some things are nonnegotiables; we can’t just decide to stop paying off our student loans because they no longer speak to our hearts. But we can take stock of where our money goes and what we can change about that to make our expenditures less soul-crushing and more satisfying.






4. We have to look at everything before we can make it better.

Avoidance gets us in more trouble than anything; we have to be honest with ourselves about our habits & situation. Taking stock & laying out all of our expenses & debts is the first step to finding a way to make things work better. Here are two tools that I’ve used for the past few years, that have made a huge difference in my money awareness:

  • This dirt-basic Google sheet. Save a copy for yourself, and edit the categories to reflect what your own spending & income looks like. I have two of these sheets, one for my business & one for my personal expenses, and every dime I spend gets logged. It’s very analog, and yeah, there are plenty of shinier apps and programs out there that will auto import your bank information. But doing it manually, once a week, with a nice cup of coffee and a little treat, means I’m up close & very personal with my finances. It’s impossible to pretend that I’m not spending too much on restaurants & putting too little towards my savings goals. It makes me look at all of my bank and credit card accounts every week, so I’m rarely caught by surprise with overdrafts or late fees.
  • The free dashboard at Undebt.it. Before Oh My Dollar turned me on to Undebt.it, I would throw haphazard amounts of money at my debts, like handfuls of mud at the barn door. It worked about as well as mud to get my debts paid off; I’d pay down a bunch, leave myself short on cash, and have to put charges right back on my cards to cover expenses. So setting up a plan where I could see how steady, planned progress could eat the proverbial mountain was amazing. It’s so much less appealing to just charge something or miss a payment when I can see how many more months that would add to my debt-free goal.


5. Your budget isn’t my budget.

Once we’re tracking all of our expenses & income, we can start figuring out a budget for ourselves; we can see our spending patterns, and start planning for them ahead of time, instead of scrambling to cover bills. If I know I typically always spend $50 a week on gas, it becomes easier to make sure I have that cash on hand. If we’ve decided that $400 a month is too much to be spending on going out, we can set ourselves a goal of only spending $300. A budget isn’t set in stone, even one we make for ourselves, and we’re inevitably going to have unexpected expenses. But having a framework for what we’re aiming to spend where helps us find room for things like bigger goals, savings, and retirement.



6. Make your money make sense for you, for now.

We don’t have to fix all of our financial puzzles right now. Chances are, there’s something in your current budget that isn’t ideal, or that you’re unable to do at the scale you want. Maybe your car payment is higher than you really feel comfortable with, or you’re not contributing to your 401k yet, or you can’t seem to save for a rainy day. Anything we do is better than doing nothing, so take $5 a week and stash it in a savings account. Set up a 1% withdrawal to your 401k. See if you can refinance your car loan to a lower rate. Starting with small steps and getting comfortable with those makes taking larger steps later more possible. We don’t need to have thousands of dollars in our hand to start changing our financial lives for the better.


7. Make your money work for you, for the future.

Despite what we grouchy GenXers have always espoused, working forever isn’t really an option or a goal for anyone. Refusing to save for our later years only makes them guaranteed shitshows, and foists stress and financial crises onto our families. Think about what later life might look like for you, & what you might have to account for, & work backwards. Use retirement calculators to figure out what you might already have in play, like Social Security & existing retirement accounts, and how much more per month you’d likely need. Utilize any & all 401k options offered through your employer (ESPECIALLY employer matching), or if you’re self employed, start a Roth or SEP IRA, the sooner the better. Again, we don’t have to throw thousands of dollars into these plans right away; every dollar we invest is a dollar more than we had.

8. Chase the dopamine.

This was the really transformative part for me – realizing that I LOVE crossing things off on lists & spreadsheets. So setting up my financial tracking with lots of boxes to check and visible, quantifiable progress reporting like Undebt.it made it super fizzy and something I now actively look forward to doing every week. Figure out what gets you excited & motivates you – stickers, pie charts, spreadsheets, body doubling with a friend; and automate what doesn’t – bill pay, automatic distributions, retirement contributions.

9. Don’t be afraid of the taxman.

Given the ever changing and arcane nonsense that is our tax code, messing up your taxes at some point is inevitable. But putting off filing only ends in tears & penalties, so we have to put our big people pants on once a year and do the proverbial thing. Take time every January to set yourself up for success by collecting W2s and tax forms as they come in the mail, look over the new 1040s before you start filing, & file for free online. Looking at last year’s tax return can show you what you need to have ready for this year. And if you really don’t want to manage it yourself, hire a qualified CPA who will take care of federal, state, & local returns, & help you make adjustments to ensure you don’t owe or overpay the following year. Unless you are actively trying to defraud the IRS, no one will come to arrest you if you make a mistake.

10. It’s okay if you hit a rough patch, just keep going.

Have I mentioned that I’m broke right now? Even with all my planning & utilizing all these great tips, I’ve had to put some things on credit cards and cut back on my savings for the past month or two. It happens. Inevitably we miss a payment, have an unexpected expense, lose hours, change jobs, & set ourselves back. That’s life, babes, not a moral failing on our part. But that also doesn’t mean what we were doing wasn’t working & we should just chuck it all. Take a deep breath, touch grass, and try again. Go back to #4, make some adjustments, and get back on your plan. It’s just money, & with a little effort, we can make it work for us. We won’t get rich, but we just might get by.

Find Hayley: Paintbox Soapworks website // Here Be Hedgewitches Substack

BONUS: Hayley mentioned some great financial podcasts to me in some of our chats, so I wanted to be sure to share them with you all as well! Meadowsweet Money // Oh My Dollar! // Planet Money

BONUS BONUS! Did you know that some of our favorite people have interviewed Hayley? Learn more about this savvy saponatrix at Allison Felus’ I’ll Follow You and Nuri McBride’s Aromatica De Profundis.

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For years, I have been weaving these dark narratives, not through words, but through threads and textures. Long before this blog took root, hundreds of these shadowy ensembles emerged from my imagination. Now, I unveil a haunting selection, my favorites from a bygone era.

Time, however, has taken its toll. Many were born in a bygone era, crafted on a digital loom that now lies dormant (RIP Polyvore). The details may be lost, the textures a faded memory, but their essence remains–a testament to the enduring power and mystery of darkness. These are not simply “how to wear” guides. Each is an ode to a muse – a film noir heroine, a gothic poem, an eerie melody (or a blog post or a playlist, in which case those are all linked!) They compelled me to translate their whispers into the glamour and grandeur of fabric and form, an elusive language I do not pretend to understand but which I have forever been under its thrall.

So, step into this spectral showcase, and please enjoy these spooky lewks from yesterday. A love for the little black dress, or perhaps its grander, more dramatic evil queen ballgown cousin, is a must!


Miss Vampire 1970
It has always been winter
The nodes of the moon are mystical points
The Mystery of the Mysterious Headdress Lady (the mystery is actually solved a decade later)
Countess Wolfenbach is expecting you for tea…
Forever…and ever…


Business As Usual
It’s nothing, just a hanged man.


Your head wound will seem insignificant… when I am draining your blood into my bath!
An awkward moment in evolution
Had I known eternal life was so crappy, I would’ve opted out.


The Tragedy of Belladonna


The Unveiling
The sound of a thousand souls slipping under
Summoning the gloom
It always gives me a shiver when I see a cat seeing what I can’t see.
Almost nobody dances sober, unless they happen to be insane


Ritratto di Valentina
repents in thorns


And THAT’S for eating the last Hot Pocket!


Hanging with my cronies


Beetle Queen (feat. doll by Marina Bychkova)
Dream a little dream… (of nocturnal attacks and sleep paralysis)


Edwardian Beatdown


Echoes of Hearts Long Silenced (pt1) (feat. photo by |DbrDbr| on flicker)


Fairy godmother (feat. art by Virgil Finlay)




Let go of the past
I saw the moonlight shadows go creeping slow (featuring photo by Rocky Schenck)


May, Queen of Blossoms (feat. art by Ellen Rogers)


Margaret grew weary of cryptic complaints from the other side


Neither reflection nor shadow


O you who are illumined…!
Sins? I thought they were just bad habits!


So fast asleep they were, they were not able to wake up for a hundred years.


Some things, Millicent decided, were better left unseen.


The horror of life and the ecstasy of life


The shadows that stride from world to world (feat. art by Virgil Finlay)


this, that, and the other thing (v)
To what devil shall I pray? (feat. photo by Azzurra Piccardi)
Weird Tales- Portrait of a FL Showgirl
Will you come into my parlour? (featuring art by Kurt Komoda)


Yesterday I ate an angel.


You, too, can feel the joy and happiness of hating.

If you enjoy posts like these or if you have ever enjoyed or been inspired by something I have written, and you would like to support this blog, consider buying the author a coffee?

…or support me on Patreon!


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Esao Andrews, Thumb Owl Soul

Unfurl your optic nerves and stretch out your retinas because this installation of Eyeball Fodder explodes with vibrant hues, captivating shapes, and transcendent visions. Prepare for sights that map the path of your dreams, a visual feast that will expand the horizons of your perception.

Alexis Trice, Family Curse


Marcela Bolívar, Puella Aeterna


Terra Keck, Hologram Angel


Kristin Kwan, Incarnation


Laurie Kaplowitz, Gossamer Wings


Sibylle Peretti, Hase II


Polina Washington, Glass Doll


Colete Martin, from The Unicorn series


Welderwings, The Eyes With Which I Observe The World


If you enjoy posts like these or if you have ever enjoyed or been inspired by something I have written, and you would like to support this blog, consider buying the author a coffee?

…or support me on Patreon!



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16 May

When I was younger, from childhood through young adulthood, I was told I was slow, lazy, aimless, and lackadaisical. I often flaked out and had no follow-through. But I wasn’t any of those things. I was scared and anxious all the time, and didn’t know how to express that, so I would often procrastinate, drag my heels, and I agree to things I didn’t want to do (and then be a no-show or ghost people) because I was afraid to say no at the onset.

In reality, as an adult, I am a very hard worker, tireless, ceaseless, a perfectionist. But sometimes I wonder if that’s because I’m trying to prove something to people who thought otherwise? That I’m not lazy and worthless? And when have I proven myself enough? To people who are quite literally dead and gone?

I am still scared of everything. Everything. Even though I have almost reached the half-century mark. But if there is one thing I have learned, it is that the fear of actually doing a thing is outweighed by the dread of thinking about doing the thing. So I just pick the lesser of the fears and get on with it. And since no one is around anymore to see these small victories, I’ve continually gotta prove myself to myself.

This is how I have written three books. Thank you for coming to my TED talk 🤣


If you enjoy these ramblings, or if you have ever enjoyed or been inspired by something I have written, and you would like to support this blog, consider buying the author a coffee?

…or support me on Patreon!


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sleep mask tableaux; photo by me
Even though I’d be the first to encourage you to practice the soft, sweet rituals that elevate the quotidian day-to-day, the little beauties and tiny marvels that make life more special, I always forget to do things that make life less of a struggle.
Mornings are coming earlier and earlier this time of year, and I am one of those people who wakes with the sun. As soon as I feel daylight on my eyelids, I am done with dreams. And that is fine, because most days, I am definitely a morning person! But there are some mornings that, despite the evil day star’s glaring insistence, I want to snuggle back under the quilts and snooze all cozy a little longer…and it never actually occurs to me that there are things that I can do to facilitate that.
sleep mask tableaux; photo by me
I’ve been loving this gorgeous sleep mask from Altar + Orb for this very reason! It’s a silky swaddle of darkness for my eyeballs and a beautiful “oh fuck off!” to that blazingly brazen sun. And what’s more—I have been remembering to use it, reminding myself “you do not have to suffer—you can fix this!” And what an eerily charming fix it is!
I’ve adored every bit of everything I’ve gotten from this decadent shop—from their darkly whimsical blank notebooks that I use to record my weird internal conversations, to my “creatures of the night” tee, to the World’s Most Perfect goth sweatshirt. Well done, Altar and Orb! You are an enchantingly, brilliantly rich slice of darkness in a world that is often too blandly sunny and tiresomely humdrum.

If you enjoy these ramblings, or if you have ever enjoyed or been inspired by something I have written, and you would like to support this blog, consider buying the author a coffee?

…or support me on Patreon!


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Hello friends! Just a little update video from my birthday weekend to catch you up on various things and to share some favorite things! This video was pretty spontaneous and not very well edited, so please excuse that random photo of skincare stuff that pops up in the perfume segment (or screencap it if you need the details!)

Anyway, grab a cup of tea or a fancy c/m-ocktail and come along with me while I show you my messy house and some favorite things. And you should definitely leave me comments on the video because I don’t ask for much in this world, but it’s my birthday, dangit!

Mentioned in this video…

🌼 Fermentation kit 
🌼 Snoop Dogg cookbook
🌼 candle warmer from Target
🌼 Elizabeth W. Té Eau de Parfum
🌼 Thief & Bandit moth tee
🌼 I’m From Mugwort Essence
🌼 Pyunkang Yul Calming Moisture Serum
🌼 Indeed Labs Under Eye Patches (forgot to mention these but they are great!)
🌼 Mob Beauty sheer black lip balm 
🌼 MAKE Beauty serum baum intense in Dark Energy
🌼 Ecclesia Endless Hallway necklace
🌼 Charmco lapis heart (maybe sold out?)
🌼 Under the Pyramids key talisman
🌼 Eris Perfumes Green Spell
🌼 Zoologist Perfumes Moth
🌼 LUSH Good Karma bath gel
🌼 The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair 
🌼 GORE-GEOUS by Alex West
🌼 Scent & Subversion by Barbara Herman


If you enjoy these ramblings, or if you have ever enjoyed or been inspired by something I have written, and you would like to support this blog, consider buying the author a coffee?

…or support me on Patreon!


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9 May

I spend a lot of time reviewing and recommending and celebrating the creations of others– and I love to do it! – but for the next few days leading up to my birthday, I am going to spend some time honoring and giving lots of love to my own work.

From the sheer number of people who say to me “I didn’t know it was you who did that!” it’s obvious that I need to toot my own horn a little more. I would say, “I hope you’ll indulge me” but that’s weenie-Sarah speaking.

Instead, I will step up and say WITNESS AND REJOICE IN MY TOOTLING FRIENDS! Because you wouldn’t be here if you were not my friends and you are happy to drink my own Kool-Aid with me for a little while! I think!

Anyway, going way back, in case you didn’t know…

-Did you know I began life, more or less, as akissofshadows on LiveJournal? Did we know each other back then? I changed usernames several dozen times, but that pilfered Laurell K. Hamilton title was the one that began it all.

-Did you know I have been blogging for 20+ years now, in some form or another? And I still do! I have written for myself in all my blog’s incarnations, and I have been a guest blogger and a staff blogger for: Coilhouse, bloodmilk, Death & the Maiden, Dirge, Haute Macabre, and Thespiai.

-Did you know I was the creator responsible for Skeletor Is Love?

-Did you know I was the co-creator of the Occult Activity Book Vol. 1&2?

-Did you know I successfully ran Death Cafe events for a couple of years?

-Did you know I have a YouTube channel, a Patreon, and a newsletter?

-Did you know I spearheaded the solving of a decades-long art mystery involving the cover art for a beloved book?

-Did you know I have written and published and put my heart and soul into three books of mystical, magical, fantastical art?

I am happy to chat and share more about any of these experiences!


Art in the Margins trio photographed by Maika

Calling all darklings, mystics, and fantasists!

Ever get lost in a book that speaks to your deepest curiosities? The Art of the Occult, The Art of Darkness, and The Art of Fantasy are back in stock at Unquiet Things and are ready to ignite your imagination and quench your thirst for the extraordinary!

These visual sourcebooks are brimming with inspiration, whether you crave a guide to the occult, a glimpse into the beauty of darkness, or an escape into fabulous, fantastical realms.

Before they all disappear, grab a signed copy and add a personal touch to your exploration of the unseen! **Shipping within US only.**

Art in the Margins trio photographed by Maika


Whether you’re a budding mystic, a connoisseur of the macabre, or an escape artist into fantastical worlds, these visual sourcebooks have something for you.
𖤓 Craving a visual guide to the occult? The Art of the Occult is a treasure trove for the enthusiasts of the esoteric and arcane.

𖤓 Want to delve into the beauty of darkness? The Art of Darkness is a visual feast for those who find solace in shadows.

𖤓 Yearning to escape into fantastical realms? The Art of Fantasy is your portal to worlds unseen.

Bonus content! I’m too much of a shy weirdo to ever do any book tours or public book signings or anything like that, so public appearances were not part of my marketing plan for my books. (“Plan.” Ha!) Do you know what I did instead? I made little fantasy outfits for each title. Yep.


Beauty Will Save The World, Tino Rodriguez

When I was writing The Art of Fantasy, the final chapter presented a bit of a problem for me. It was becoming a real pain, to tell you the truth.

I’d covered art inspired by fantastical beasts and mythical creatures, powerful witches, wizards and incredible feats of magic, alternate histories, parallel dimensions, and otherworldly realms—but it begged the question as to who’s out there doing the heavy lifting of saving these worlds and their inhabitants from all the things they need saving from?

From realms at risk from wicked usurpers and maniacal overlords to worlds overrun by extraterrestrial aliens, ancient prophecies, and evil plots–cataclysms, calamities, and catastrophes abound, and it’s do-or-die against overwhelming odds! And, of course, artists in every culture have been capturing the essence of the idealized humans performing extraordinary feats…so I obviously needed a hero! A whole chapter of them!

But not a bunch of joyless, muscle-bound idiots swinging swords. Come on!


A Melody of Silence and Joy, Tino Rodriguez

Enter Tino Rodriguez. Tino’s art wasn’t about the steely-eyed warriors or the brooding ironclad crusaders and grizzled berserkers. Instead, it brimmed with tenderness and offered an expansive glimmer of something hopeful, a reminder that even the gentlest souls can rise to the challenge in a world teetering on the edge. It was exactly the kind of inspiration–and hero–that I needed for my final chapter.

Up until this realization, this had been a project wherein I questioned just about every word I’d struggled to get on paper, but once I experienced the artwork below, it became one of the easiest things I’d ever written.


The Wounded Healer’s Blood Nourishes the Earth That Gives Birth to Radiant Flowers, Tino Rodriguez

Infused with the captivating allure of celestial beings and Catholic saints, the whimsical charm of European fairytales, the otherworldly magic of Celtic fables, the vibrant energy of Mexican myths, and the timeless wisdom of Native American legends, and inspired by the wonder and magic of music, dreams, and childhood stories, Tino’s canvases are jubilant celebrations of ecstatic divinity, colorful butterfly-fluttered paradises, and brilliant floral explosions – sanctuaries for explorations of creative consciousness that transcend borders and language.

Personal transformation and universal connectedness are themes that tumble throughout Tino’s work, like so many spring blossoms on a sweet, laughing breeze: reminders that a hero’s work – this whole business of saving the world – often starts small, internally even, one precious human petal at a time.

The humble work of healing oneself is quiet and invisible, and it frequently doesn’t look – or feel – very good. Sometimes, it feels like ripping an arrow right out of your heart and fertilizing the ground with your blood. But you know what we call that? It’s an origin story. And it’s a great place to start.

Daydream Murmurations, Tino Rodriguez


The First Breath of Spring, Tino Rodriguez

But Tino’s art isn’t just a technicolor feast of kaleidoscopic opulence and psychedelic blooms; they are spaces of quiet revolution for creative spirits and gentle warriors of the heart, boundless realms where dreams take flight, transformation takes place, and where the questions that we carry with us are a beautiful, integral part of our complex and multilayered existence.

With regard to questions and answers and logic and reasoning, Tino says the following, and I love this sentiment so much:

“My work does not offer concrete answers. Instead, the poetic essence of my paintings questions literal and rational meanings. I am not interested in answers because I do not think there are absolute ones. Most questions are enigmas that we carry within ourselves, and they are part of our multilayered, complex existence. Novalis said: “Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason.” I think the same of my paintings, which I consider visual poetry.”

Below is a gallery of my favorite visual poetics from this extraordinary artist, a testament to the idea that beauty can indeed save the world, one tender hero at a time.

Find Tino Rodriguez: Instagram // Facebook


The Sybil, Tino Rodriguez


Moonlit Lullaby, Tino Rodriguez


Autumnal Gathering, Tino Rodriguez


Stella Mundis, Tino Rodriguez


Stella Solaris, Tino Rodriguez


Persephone, Tino Rodriguez


Spring Ritual, Tino Rodriguez


Calaquichix Faerie, Tino Rodriguez

If you enjoy these art-related writings, or if you have ever enjoyed or been inspired by something I have written, and you would like to support this blog, consider buying the author a coffee?

…or support me on Patreon!

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Complicated Shadows from 4160 Tuesdays is a perfume for the insomniac hours, late-night strolls wandering through the deserted streets of your hometown, familiar landmarks strangely distorted by the play of moonlight and shadow. The warm, velvety sandalwood whispers in contrast to the chilling “shade” note, evoking the breathless hush of liminal, in-between spaces. The iris and narcissus here are shrouded in mystery, their earthy floral murmurations laced with a tang of acrid irony, simmering existential angst below the surface of introspective ponderings. Veiled in a bitter vanilla mist, it’s the uncanny reverie, nocturnal glooms, and haunting landscapes of the dreamless, lost in the dark.

I don’t like comparing perfumes to each other, especially comparisons of something a niche or indie creator has made to something from one of the big houses…and I hear artists of all ilks, all the time, bemoaning how they hate being compared to other artists. So apologies in advance to my beloved artists amongst us here, but I know that sometimes comparisons to something you are already familiar with can be helpful in evaluating something new.

That said, my first impression of Complicated Shadows was one of cool, dusky elegance… and there’s a definite kinship with Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue, that melancholic masterpiece shrouded in powdery twilight. However, Complicated Shadows sheds the heavy cloak of powder, revealing a more approachable, contemporary feel. L’Heure Bleue, as much as I want to love it, has never been my cup of tea. But Complicated Shadows? I could drink it by the bucketful. In the dark. In the middle of a deserted road. At the stroke of midnight.

I know better than this, but I purchased a bottle of Fantomas from Nasomatto without having sampled it first, and I’m surprised to say…I actually rather enjoy it? It reminds me of ELdO’s Ghost In The Shell, that bit of speculative lactonic peach, but I then realized what I was smelling in Fantomas was more along the lines of those Japanese milky honeydew melon hard candies. There’s also a bit of sterile, plastic-y musk and digitally-rendered powdery porcelain heliotrope, and the more I sniff my wrist, the more I am convinced that this creamy floral/vinyl musk is what the uncanny valley of a really expensive sex doll smells like. I’ve not smelled any sex dolls, either of the budget or the big-spender variety, but I have got a big imagination, and I’m pretty sure I know what I know. Anyway, I like it!

Parfums de Marly’s Pegasus Exclusif, and maybe I am extrapolating a bit from the brand’s copy, promises a ride on the back of a flying stallion, a journey into a realm of “masculine virility” and “exhilarating power.” But I think we need to temper our expectations; the description would have us believe this is the fragrant equivalent of a noble winged steed, all myth and muscle, soaring through the heavens, presumably being the fantastical equine embodiment of toxic masculinity. I’m not saying that I actually wanted any of that, but instead, what we are presented with is a pastel carousel pony, all heliotrope powdered sugar, and cracked porcelain. Now, there are some things I am not up to speed on here, which is to say that Pegasus Exclusif implies the existence of a Pegasus not-so-Exclusif, and if that is the case, I haven’t smelled that yet, and maybe that one is a dusty plastic marzipan macaron as well… so I am not sure how this one differs. And unlike other reviewers, I don’t get anything complex or dark or rich out of this perfume; the promised depth and complexity and woods and spices never materialize, leaving a one-dimensional sweetness and a sense of artificial whimsy that smells more like a My Little Pony collection than the epic journey of a majestic beast.

Citron Boboli from Le Jardin Retrouvé was a lovely, unexpected surprise. It’s such a light, refreshing, palliative scent; there’s hardly anything to it at all, and then the longer you sit with it, the more mellow marvels it conjures. On the hottest day of the summer, when the sun bakes the earth, and the air hangs humid, heavy, and shimmering, find a mason jar, glass smooth and etchings worn, passed down from your mother’s mother, to cradle a spell for a sweltering day. Beneath the skeletal shade of a midday tree, into this vessel layer lemon balm and blossom, a sprig of geranium, and a frilled citronella leaf–a soothing strata, herbal, citrusy, and green, a counterpoint to the relentless heat. Stream in a shiver of rainwater that has caught the reflection of the moon, and, finally, drop in as many cloves and peppercorns as loves you have lost, and smell their spiced warmth transmute into a strange, fizzing chill. Anoint your pulse, your throat, and your heart with the verdant brew, peer into its swirling emerald shadows, and let echo the words that cool the air and summon the soft, secret summer rain. This is what Citron Boboli is for me. And as a Floridian, I think this fragrance will be my go-to scorching summertime incantation of relief.

I got a sample of Flamingo from Blackcliff because thought this was for sure going to be my manic pixie pink pepper of demented glee that I have long been searching for. It’s a mangrove swamp’s heart of kaleidoscopic funhouse mirrors, twisted cypress knees splashed in the lurid, tart effervescent guava-grapefruit hues of technicolor twilight. Prickly pink pepper like a shard of shattered glass, like a frenzied clutch of little claws skitters and dissolves, and  a melancholic violet peeks through, its bruised purple mascara streaking through the murky water. Damp earthy tendrils of vetiver, musky ambrette, and loamy tobacco loom faintly but unsettlingly close to the surface. Flamingo is a warped sour bittersweetness unseen creatures chirping and croaking in the twilight–and I like it– but it’s more of a pink pepper whisper than the deranged fever dream intensity of pink pepper delirium I was hoping for.

Stéphane Humbert Lucas Soleil de Jeddah is a last-gasp sour and tang of sun-shriveled citrus, fusty desiccated green herbs and mummified mosses, ashy, arid leather, and the most spectral iris wilting in a disappearing patch of shade whose earthy roots are already giving up the ghost, crumbling away in the sandy dirt. The radiant aurora of an eclipse made pale, parched apparition via a dusty, occluded lens.

SYZYGY from bloodmilk x BPAL Syzygy is the undying dream of a dusky poppy in full bloom, not vibrant and fleeting, but perfectly preserved within a gilded tesserae of amber, its vivid essence suspended in slow, honeyed time. Crumble these petrified petals into a steaming glass of milk, the creamy warmth coaxing out their hidden secrets. The first breath of Syzygy is this: a haunting sweetness, both familiar and strange. It’s the memory of summer captured in a single, perfectly candied posy, not swaying in a sun-scattered field but tucked between the shadows amongst sun-baked stones. The rich, resinous beauty of the blossom endures, a timeless lure to the dark hum of ghostly bees forever adrift, doomed to perpetual yearning. This will be available later today (4/30) on the bloodmilk website.

Zoologist Moth is the cool glooms and musty melancholy of antique lace and silks tucked away with camphoraceus mothballs; there’s a smoky rose musk aspect, the spectral embers of a rose that lit itself on fire for love, or vengeance, or maybe both, and a bittersweet powdery element, like dried honey mixed with grave dust from a tomb. But the longer this wears, the more familiar it begins to smell, and I realize I am actually just wearing the musky vanilla and dusty florals of Hypnotic Poison, or alternately, the Bewitching Yasmine from Penhaligon, or Fleur Cachée from Anatol Lebreton, which to my nose, all smell like kindred spirits. And do I really need another perfume in that vein? And then I remember that I actually only own one bottle of those three scents, and that one doesn’t have the thing going for it that Moth does: ultimately, Moth smells like a twilight shadowplay of austere embraces, a haunting chorus of forgotten languages, and basically what you wear to convince the ghosts that you are in fact a ghost.

Koala from Zoologist is an aromatic-green-soapy incense-balsamic black tea-geranium sandalwood cologne with eucalyptus and pine. It’s dapper somehow, but the ironic dapper of a 25-year-old in 2013 with a handlebar mustache and a pork pie hat. It’s the refreshing, relaxing scent of a spa, but these dapper, ironic hipsters run the entire spa. And I don’t even know if I want to call it irony or absurdity or even farcical, but after a while, it doubles back on itself, and it’s almost painfully earnest, it’s got a genuine “love is real, and I was pounded in the butt by my sentient spa experience” Chuck Tingle title vibe. I don’t know what that means. I’m all over the place for what is probably a very approachable and wearable perfume. That’s kind of wild, that I have no problem describing the weirdies, but the normies are the ones that give me pause. Anyway, I think this is both a sincere and sardonic eucalyptus scent. That’s my final word on it.

Ôponé from Diptyque (I think this one is hard to find, but you can find overpriced bottles on resale sites) is a fragrance so revolting you’d think someone was joking that it couldn’t possibly be real. But it is real, and I have a sample of it. It’s a vile cocktail of the following: a freshly-opened bottle of goopy, boozy-but-not-nearly-enough booze bitter berry Robitussin Maximum Strength Cough and Chest Congestion (possibly the one with Dextromethorphan and Guaifenesin), the most repellent, unpalatable artificial fruity-sour energy drink on the shelf with the most outrageously obnoxious packaging, the one so disgusting and foul that even the people you think might be into it would never buy, and the saddest long-stemmed fake rose wrapped in dusty crinkly plastic at the gas station. Nobody wants any part of this. Throw it in the trash immediately.

Bonus material! I can’t believe I have never shared this, but the closest I have ever come to hearing/seeing the perfume reviews I want to see in the world is this SNL sketch with Benedict Cumberbatch. They are not talking about perfume, but I think you will get what I mean…

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