There’s a lot of different moving pieces that go into an image-heavy book like this that I never even thought about before I began work on The Art of the Occult. Obviously you must obtain permission from the artists whose work you wish to include… but it turns out that is not at all a straightforward process.
Between tracking down contact information for the artist (if they are still traversing this mortal plane, that is–otherwise, you might be dealing with galleries, estates, etc.) and actually finding them and receiving those permissions, you then have the concern of whether or not the artist can provide a high-enough resolution of the work, whether it fits with the layout of the book, and to backtrack a bit–whether or not the publisher even agrees that the images you’ve suggested will be appropriate for the overall project.
In the course of this process of research and reaching out, which was never tedious, believe it or not–I live to track down elusive art and artists!– I got a lot of email bounce backs, and oftentimes even if the email appeared to go through, there were a handful of artists I never heard back from. Sometimes I did get a response and received a “no” right off the bat. Sometimes, too, this occurred after some back and forth between myself and the artist, and we arrived at the determination that maybe my book wasn’t a good fit for their artistic vision. And that’s OK! It really is. It’s not all going to work out, and you can’t always get everything you want, and after getting over a bit of initial disappointment, I frequently came to the conclusion that it was probably for the best.
With regard to those artists who are no longer with us, sometimes I couldn’t track down an estate contact, and when I did I never heard back from them. If it was the publisher reaching out, sometimes they either couldn’t come to an agreement or they were perhaps unable to acquire a high enough resolution image that would work for this particular print medium.
Sadly, such was the case with Rosaleen Norton, a fascinating artist and human I’ve long been enchanted with, and who was one of the very first individuals I had on my list for The Art Of The Occult.
Norton, an Australian artist who became widely known in the 1950’s as The Witch Of King’s Cross, was a natural trance artist who experimented with self-hypnosis and whose visionary explorations resulted in supernatural beings cavorting across the canvas; “pagan” art, which earned her continuous criticism and controversy. Occult writer Neville Drury wrote a detailed and thoroughly compelling account of the artist’s life in his book Pan’s Daughter: The Magical World Of Rosaleen Norton; I read it a great many years ago and was heartbroken when I lost it in hurricane-related flooding. I repurchased a copy early last year to pore through again when I began initial image research for this book, and even though in the end I’m unable to include any of Norton’s wildly evocative work, I am glad that I’ve got a copy of this book in my possession again. It’s quite a treasure.
It’s quite frustrating to imagine (and I’ve got a good, catastrophizing imagination) that once the book is released there are going to be readers or critics who say “oh, I can’t believe she didn’t include X/Y/Z artist!” Well, the thing is, nine times out of ten, I probably tried to! And when you’re that reader, I get that you might be frustrated or disappointed to see a lack of representation when it comes to your favorite art and artists– so I just wanted to share a glimpse into why that might not always be possible.
At any rate, I like to think that there are a great many fabulous, fantastical artists who are illuminated betwixt and between the shadowy nooks and crannies of this forthcoming tome…and if you are one of those lovely and brilliant artists whom I directly interacted with, you have my sincere and profound thanks. In future posts I hope to give some sneak peeks into the art that will actually be in the book, as I realize it’s pretty unfair to show the stuff that didn’t make it!
I am told that despite the unstable, unsettling state of the world right now, we are still on target for a September 2020 publishing date and that is such a thrilling thing to look forward to right now. Thanks for coming along with me on this weird, wild ride.