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A Q & A with Selina Fenech ~ October 2010
by Cindy Thorrington Haggerty & Dana M. Burns
Editor’s Note from Marie' Sakai: Selina Fenech's artwork is delightful as well as personal as she has struggled with illnesses. Her art has given her the key to find joyous moments and to share her love of fantasy, whim, and most importantly her tireless love of the fairy realm. Inspiring and beautifully rendered, her subject matter holds a magical and otherworldly presence. Perhaps it is in part of her magical and dream-like surroundings, that Australia and the natural world of enchantments continues to guide her in her magical quest of beauty, love and healing.
1. Please tell us your name, if you have a significant other and status, do you have pets, and where are you from?
My name is Selina Almira Fenech (although I generally skip the middle name), and I'm from the east coast of Australia, having hovered between Newcastle and Sydney through my lifetime. I now live on the Central Coast with my fiance, who works in the film and television industry, so we enjoy helping each other in our different creative pursuits. We also have two beautiful pets, a crazy cat from a shelter, and a rainbow lorikeet (bird). And yes, they do get along quite well actually!
2. How long have you been an artist? When did you start selling your art?
I think really I've always been an artist. Although, you wouldn't have caught me calling myself that until I was about 25! Before that, I preferred to just say I draw stuff, or I make stuff. I guess I didn't like the label, and it can be hard to explain to people what you do when you use the word artist! I'm better at that now though, having drawn stuff, and made stuff my whole life, I've been selling my artwork for almost 10 years now! I first started showing my artwork online when I was 16 on Elfwood, and then started selling my art in 2000, with RPG character portrait commissions, a few basic art prints, and copies of my short graphic novel "Fallen". It's all continued to grow from there.
3. Did your parents encourage you to be an artist? How did they support you or if not comment if you like?
It was always my mother's number one way to keep me and my older brother busy growing up- to sit us down with paper and pencils and leave us to draw. My mother went to art school herself, and taught me a lot growing up and always encouraged me to be creative in lots of different ways, from drawing to ceramics and writing. As for following an actual career in the arts, well, that is a different story. Of course, my parents were supportive, but I think like any parent would, they worried about the financial security of such a career path. We made a compromise and I did a university degree in Graphic Design- a career path with creativity AND hopefully a regular pay check! I worked for one single year employed in the graphic design industry, and then quit, and have been self employed ever since. What I learned during that degree though was of course invaluable for the work I do for myself now!
4. Do you use models for your fairies? If so whom. What gives you the inspiration to create a painting?
I almost always use models for my artworks. I love www.deviantart.com for their stock photo section, there are some amazing models on there, and you can read about some that I regularly use on my website.
I also love to use out of copyright photos of vintage models as well, there is something so classy about that style of pose and model! When I use photos, I still often try and vary the pose a fair bit, and often use Photoshop skills to Frankenstein a pose together from limbs of different models, to get just the pose I had in mind to start with. In the past, I used to take photos of myself to use as a model for my work- but that was back when I still had a teenagers body ;)
5. What mediums do you use? Why?
I really don't stick to just one medium anymore, my work has become a real mixed media mash up, and I'll use whatever medium fits the artwork I'm creating at the time. My most common media I use are to start a painting with a mix of layers of watercolour and acrylic paints. Normally one medium is more dominant than the other, eg, almost all watercolour with some highlights in acrylic, or all acrylic with some washes in watercolour. I'll then often also use pastels or coloured pencil over the top as well. It's very rare for me to ever do an artwork anymore in just ONE type of medium. I find over the years you become familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of each medium, and I prefer not to be restricted by a mediums weaknesses. I'll use all mediums in together when their strengths are called for- eg, the textural flow of watercolour, or the unsmudgability (I love making new words) of acrylics.
6. Selina can you tell me us what kind of materials you use for paintings. Please state the kind of canvas or papers, paints and/or pastels or colored pencils to help others.
I almost exclusively paint on Arches Smooth (hotpress) 300gsm paper. I'm not so fussed about brands otherwise, and use what I can get. As long as paints and pencils are Artists grade rather than Student grade, they are generally fine by my standards. When choosing acrylics, I always choose flow or liquid types rather than gel or texture types. I also have one box of pure, unmixed artists pigments from Kremer, which are fabulous- you can use them to mix your own paints with by adding mediums to them (watercolour, acrylic, oil, tempura, anything you want!). For watercolours, I used to be a big fan of pan style watercolours, but find I use a lot more paint these days and prefer my watercolour in tubes.
7. What is your educational background in art?
As I said above, my mother showed me a lot of art techniques growing up, and I also took visual art electives in high school at every given chance, I even took 3rd unit art for my final high school year (out of date Australian school term which basically meant I took art twice in my graduation year!). Then it was university and graphic design. It was more advertising and computer based work, but each semester we did have one drawing subject. My very first week into university, and our fabulous drawing teacher (who I learned so much from!) gave us a very interesting and difficult assignment. We had to produce 70 self portraits during the semester. That was 5 a week for 14 weeks, or something like that. It was an amazing way to force us into exploring different themes, styles, techniques, and ourselves at the same time. I'll never forget that assignment!
8. What other things have influenced the way you paint? (like seminars, watching others, artists, etc)
Comic books mainly! Growing up anyway, I was obsessed with comic books as a teenager and was always drawing characters from them and making up my own. I learned so much about drawing during that time. Since I went from comic books back to fantasy again (my first true love!) and became more serious about my art, I try and get my hands on as many art technique books and tutorials as I can, as often as I can. There's always more to learn.
9. You have had a life threatening illness and yet your paintings have reflected such positive light in them. Did you paint for therapy? Is there a reason you chose to paint accentuating the positive?
I don't think I consciously thought of painting as therapy as such, painting is always just something I do and have always done, but of course it still was a sort of therapy- just by being a joyous and normal part of my life that was always there with me. I feel like over the year I was having chemotherapy and radiotherapy, my art stepped up to a new level. I was painting a set of artworks for a fairy oracle deck at the time, and it was a very positive and healing experience, and I've heard a lot of feedback from people who have bought the Wild Wisdom of the Faery Oracle deck saying they can feel that in the deck.
I generally paint more positive themes, but also just paint what I'm feeling or driven to paint at the time and still also have my darker moments. There are two artworks I created which were directly related to my cancer treatments, which are in some ways very personal. They are Catch Me and I knew him well.
10. A life changing event, such as an illness, teaches many lessons. Will you share a lesson you learned about your art during challenging time?
I learned not to sweat the details too much. To just have fun with an artwork, and not fret about messing it up- you can always start again, or not, just move onto something else! To just have at it with whatever medium I feel like and throw the paint on until it comes together. It's a lot more fun now!
11. Do you have a favorite painting that you have done? Do you have one that was difficult to finish?
Favourite painting is always a hard question! I have a few sort-of-favourites, for different reasons-
Rose for the warm romance- and one of my first successful acrylic paintings.
Love me Not for the personal emotion behind it.
Riddle Fisher for the mystery of it.
And I love Barnubus and the Prince cuz the frog is cute and the Prince turned out yummy ;)
Almost all of my paintings are difficult to finish! I often reach a point about 3/4s of the way into an artwork where I feel like it is not going right and I don't know how to finish it! They normally come together in the end though.
12. With the Go Green campaign would you share your thoughts on this? Does your fairies world have any wisdom to share with us on this subject?
I try and live a green life myself, and run my business as green as possible. I like to think my fairies simply remind people of the beauty and magic of nature, and how valuable it is.
"Barnabus and the Prince"
13. If you could have one dream come true, what would you ask for?
I always remember as a little girl, reading about wishes from genies and wondering what I'd wish for. I always had this insane craving, yearning within me for fantasy and fairytale and magic and adventure! I decided that if I had one wish to come true I would wish that magic was real within the world! Of course, even as a young child I knew this was rather ironic Magic would already need to exist for the wish to come true ;)
14. Have you ever wanted to live and paint in a different place? Where and why?
Somewhere that has castles. I think the answer to why is obvious! Australia is so raw and magical and powerful in its own ancient, wild way but there are no castles!
15. What makes Australia a great place to inspire fairy painting?
I've done a fair bit of traveling around the world, and have come to learn that Australia really has a magic all of its own. It's very hard to describe something about the quality of light here, a sense of timelessness and age of the land itself.
16. Do you have a favorite phrase? What is it?
There are so many brilliant quotes I love, it's very hard to pick a favourite. I guess the one I could share here is that I used to be indecisive, but now I'm not so sure!
Selina's Studio of Creations
17. Could you share some words of wisdom to the new and upcoming artists?
To just enjoy yourself no matter what. I see some artists get frustrated that they aren't making it and feel there's some sort of financial aspect or benchmark they need to achieve for their art to be successful. I think as long as you are enjoying what you do, then your art is successful.
18. Do you have any awards or recognitions that you are particularly proud of and why?
Not really! I don't really have any awards. I've never really been one to enter competitions or exhibitions, and haven't particularly been recognized by any person or authority that gives awards. I don't mind though, I much prefer to be recognized by every other person who enjoys my art in their own personal way.
19. You obviously believe in community, such as sponsoring other artists on your site, giving away free fun, having competitions, etc. Can you tell us the benefits you feel you receive for being community minded?
Community is wonderful, and necessary for artists. It can be a very solitary job, and inspiration doesn't exist in a vacuum. Art is something to be shared, or I don't really see the point of it. I'd prefer to see more people making art rather than less, so I am happy to do what I can to encourage that!
20. Does your heritage being of Australian and Maltese decent influence your craft in any way?
For anyone who knows someone of Maltese origin, I think you'll agree, I think it's fair to say my entrepreneurial nature has come from there!
Selina, Your art is so elegant. Each print makes you feel like you could just step right in and know that you are in the world of the fae. Thank you for the opportunity to interview you. Mystic and Cindy of Peaceful Art Jewelry/Design LLC
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About the Author
Cindy Thorrington Haggerty is owner/CEO at Peaceful Art Jewelry Design LLC and They Whisper Art. She lives in Logansport, Indiana.
Visit her Jewelry Site: www.peacefulartjewelrydesignllc.com.
Her Art Site: www.theywhisperart.com.
Her Cafe Store: www.cafepress.com/stargazerartist.
Her Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/Cindy.Thorr.Haggerty.