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There’s a lot of different moving pieces that go into an image-heavy books 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.

“Medusa,” Rosaleen Norton

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.

"Black Magic." Rosaleen Norton
“Black Magic.” Rosaleen Norton

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. after getting over a bit of initial disappointment, I frequently came to the conclusion that it was probably for the best.

“Demonic presence,” Rosaleen Norton

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.

"Lucifer," Rosaleen Norton
“Lucifer,” Rosaleen Norton

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 1950s 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.

"Lilith," Rosaleen Norton
“Lilith,” Rosaleen Norton

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.

“Self Portrait with Accomplices of Evil,” Rosaleen Norton

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 with whom I directly interacted, 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.

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Loren Rhoads says

Thank you for this! There are so many more things that go into a book beyond what the author wishes, so many limitations we can do nothing about. I'm very much looking forward to this book!

S. Elizabeth says

I am glad (or perhaps sorry!) that this resonated with you! It's been such a weird process, and though it's been fun, and I wouldn't trade it for the world, there were naturally a few instances where visions didn't entirely align and expectations had to be readjusted. And OF COURSE there's always gonna be that guy who's like "well I can't believe she forgot so-n-so!" And I don't mind saying I am getting preemptively mad at this imaginary person because sir, I can assure you, I DID think of so-n-so! I just wasn't able to to make it work!

Anouk says

Can you elaborate a little on why you were unable to use her artwork for the book? I had an idea and wanted to find contact information for including her work in a project and found your article. Thanks

S. Elizabeth says

With regard to the artwork in The Art of the Occult, there were several contemporary artists that I reached out to personally, and the publisher reached out to the various galleries and artists' estates. If I recall correctly, the image that they were finally able to obtain was too low-res to work in a print medium. What a shame! But that means that they were at least able to contact someone about it? Unfortunately, I don't know who that might have been. Best of luck on your project!

Christy says

How do I obtain a copy of this book? I am so intrigued by this woman and her life. She was a pioneer.

S. Elizabeth says

Hi Christy, just to clarify--as I mentioned in this post, I was unable to include Rosaleen Norton's art in my own book, so I assume that is not the book you are referring to? Otherwise, are you looking for the other book that I metioned in the post, Pan's Daughter by Neville Drury? It is linked to within the post, but just so it is handy for you:

kurt betournay says


S. Elizabeth says

I honestly do not know, but I suspect not. I think the closest you may come is a book which contains some photos of them.

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