It might seem strange for a fantasy, sci-fi and horror writer like myself to be inspired by a nineteenth century botanical artist, but (Marian) Ellis Rowan is just that kind of woman. Her art is beautiful, never ever forget that, but it's Ellis herself who has had, and continues to have, such an impact on me.
Ellis was passionate about her subject matter -- wildflowers, birds, and butterflies -- and went to great lengths to find them, and then painted them in exquisite detail. Even though much of the artistic establishment looked down their nose at her 'inferior' or 'vulgar' art, she held exhibitions all over the world, won medals and sold paintings -- Queen Victoria took three! After her husband's death she went on great adventures and risked her very wellbeing to follow her passion, trekking through Australia, New Zealand, the US and even New Guinea, discovering and painting new species as she went. She travelled rough, and I have always loved to imagine her in her Victorian get-up cutting a swathe through exotic forests, ever determined, always focused on her goal. And keep in mind she was in her 60s when she visited New Guinea!
For me, Ellis is a beacon. Her passion in the face of criticism, the adventurous spirit that took her outside of the notions of how we expect women, particularly older women, to behave. She was strong and she was brave. She also had a supportive husband, and suffered tragedies in his death, and the death of her son. That's the kind of strength I mean, to live through stuff like that, then pick up your paintbrush and go exploring.
The sad fact is that I've only come to know about Ellis Rowan relatively recently. I wish I could have learned about her when I studied art in high school. What an amazing role model for young, artistic women Ellis and her 'mere' wildflower paintings could be.
So she might not be a writer, but I have tried to take on Ellis Rowan's approach to creating art into my own writing. Create what you want to create, and be damned fearless about it. Don't sit still too long. And live your life, too.
Joanne Anderton lives in Sydney with her husband and too many pets. By day she is a mild-mannered marketing coordinator for an Australian book distributor. By night, weekends and lunchtimes she writes dark fantasy, science fiction and horror. Her short fiction has most recently appeared in Midnight Echo #6 and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. Her debut novel, Debris (Book One the Veiled Worlds Series) was published by Angry Robot Books in 2011, and will be followed by Suited in 2012. Visit her online at: http://joanneanderton.com and on Twitter @joanneanderton