Remembering Rachel

This is a tribute to a good friend who I never met face to face. She would have been 45 on November 12 and we lost her suddenly five years ago today.

© Rachel Anne Lisi

When I was first fumbling around on the internet, circa 1998-2001 I spent a lot of time on a group of forums mostly devoted to Tori Amos. In fact that’s where I made some of my best online friends, many of whom I’m still in touch with. Rachel was also on there, on the Tori forum as well as a related one where people shared their creative work and thoughts, and she also was instrumental in putting together and managing a Kate Bush-related forum. So there was this whole community of us sharing art and creative musings online, it was a lot of fun and we were all very supportive of one another, it was very much the forerunner of the current Facebook community. Rachel was a great organizer of activities through there, I remember a couple of times she put together a music exchange in which the people in the group would each make a CD or tape of their favorite music and we would snail mail them to one another in a chain, so that everyone would eventually hear all of the mixes, and we’d talk about them in the forum. She also put together a package of goodies from all of us to send to Kate Bush, I had a bunch of prints of my pictures and other people had other things. She was also the first person I knew who would mail out an annual holiday music mix with her Christmas cards every year. I still have those too!

© Rachel Anne Lisi

She was a talented writer, poet and photographer, just an all around creative person and a great supporter of other artists. One of those individuals who really has a positive and memorable effect on the people around her. It was also nice that I got to talk to her on the phone at least once, my whole family did in fact.

At one point she asked if I would be interested in doing some paintings inspired by her poetry, here is one of that series of paintings, called Divinity Ascending.

Divinity Ascending All photos © Herb Leonhard


Related to this, I also did a sort of triptych with two of these poetry-inspired images, Gravity and Peachblood, bookending a song by Kate Bush called Eat the Music.

Rachel's Triptych © Herb Leonhard

There was a space of time in which we’d kind of lost touch, somewhere in between when I stopped frequenting the forums and when MySpace & Facebook came up. But when I did eventually get a MySpace account and then a Facebook one, she was in both cases the first or second person who friended and welcomed me in.

© Rachel Anne Lisi

As many of you know, I have done several coloring books featuring many of my friends as models in various ways. When I was putting the original Fae Nouveau Coloring Book together and asking friends if they wanted to appear in it, one of the first people I thought about was Rachel. Ironically she was the last person whose portrait I included in that book, and as a tribute to her, the first of those images that I did in full color.
Seahorse © Herb Leonhard
That was really what started the ball rolling on the big project of “coloring” all of the drawings in that coloring book. By the time I created the second book, Faerie Nouveau, the full-color versions of the images had become a part of the overall process and were done roughly simultaneously with the drawn versions. Initially, they were done at least a year later.

© Rachel Anne Lisi

When she passed away in her sleep two days before her 40th birthday, obviously it was a shock and a surprise to all of us who knew her but her family was very supportive and in fact because she had so many online friends they actually did a web feed simulcast of her funeral, which was a first for me. It was a great means of closure though. Her Facebook page is still up too and people still post on it fairly often, which I think is a wonderful way of keeping her memory alive. It’s so her.

So here’s to the moments that we had with our Kunda Vega.

“Leading a quiet life with my feline companion Sitka is what I do best. I work modestly, but with passion at a local bookstore while trying to fight the despair of being a mediocre writer who dreams of being published one day. Alas, such a blessed life to make money while drinking well from creative rivers. I tend to get quite emotional at the strangest things like old men sitting on park benches and dead pigeons. Day and night continue to offer me inspiration. I appreciate the beauty of life including the pins and needles. Some of my main interests lie in an eclectic mix of books, writing, film, photography and music. I adore art and mythology, hanging out with good friends. I am a big fan of red wine. I love animals and children. I believe shared learning to be a beautiful thing.” 

— Rachel Anne Lisi
Sitka © Rachel Anne Lisi
All photos © Rachel Anne Lisi
Illustrations © Herb Leonhard