Ailene (long brown hair and glasses) is smiling. She's outside with hills behind her and an overcast sky above.

Greetings & well met! I’m Ailene.

I’m honoured that you’ve surfaced from the pages of the latest Stormlight Archive novel and popped in to see me! 👋 You’re definitely at the right virtual artist’s studio if, modern-day romantic that you are, you love art that makes your home feel as fantastic as your mind.

Stack of fantasy books on a shelf. There's some goodies: Robbin Hobb's Fool's Assassin, Jim Butcher's Skin Game, Terry Pratchett's Men at Arms, David Edding's Enchanter's End Game, Guy Gavriel Kay's Sailing to Sarantium and Mary Robinette Kowal's Shades of Milk and Honey.

You love escaping into stories

(Yes, I see the piles of books stashed around your home and I bet you’ve got the latest Witcher series queued up to watch later too).

But the BEST story of all is the one you’re creating for yourself. You’re living The Tale of Me—and that needs to be celebrated!

So you’re making your home (personal space, corner, castle, or wherever you call sanctuary) a timeless connection to your story and your magic.

From the good-luck, Stardust-inspired snowdrops in the garden to the paintings hanging on your walls.

You're looking between your horse's ears as you ride over a stony riverbed. In front of you is another horse and rider. Ahead loom bush-covered mountains and an expanse of blue sky.

You’ll definitely feel at home here if you know that:

  • You weren’t born to be chained behind a desk. You’d rather be squinting at a sun-washed beach between your horse’s ears, bathing in a cold mountain stream, kayaking through white-tipped waves, or boots sliding in scree down the side of a volcano.
  • Adventures should have dragons (or, at the very least, a unicorn).
  • Fantasy shouldn’t be all gritty and nothing-good-ever-happens (looking at you, Game of Thrones…) We want stand-up-and-cheer moments!
  • The only response to a creepy, stalky, sparkly vampire is to dust him, Buffy-style.
  • Outlander is obsession-worthy because of the awesome story, the drama, and the costumes. (Nothing at all to do with deep blue eyes and a Scottish accent).
  • It’s perfectly acceptable to stay up late when you’ve got a good book.
  • Magic is real.

My story so far…

(the prologue)

I was the girl who was the stereotypical nerd in high school. To escape the stereotypical bullies, I spent lunchtimes in my haven—the school library.

I went on quests with groups of adventurers à la Tolkien, David Eddings, and Raymond E. Fiest. I soared with Anne McCaffry’s and Melanie Rawn’s dragons. I hitchhiked around the galaxy with Douglas Adams. I danced cotillions with Georgette Heyer. I even wrote my own stories starring fantastic female heroines—all bearing a suspicious resemblance to a me. Because, quite frankly, reality sucked.

Fast forward a few years, and I figured I’d better grow up and get on with being a mundane, non-magical human. I spent four years at university doing a mathematics and computer science degree. And, what with study and work and all, I didn’t have the time for silly fiction!

What a pile of domesticated male cattle dung.

Let me pause here and say: if you’ve ever found yourself thinking similar thoughts, here is your permission slip to BE YOU! Be the fantasy-loving, wannabe spaceship captain, dragon rider, elven ranger that you are. Answer the call to adventure, pull the sword from the stone, cross the wall, storm the castle, and most of all…

LIVE YOUR OWN STORY!

It took me far too long to figure that out.

Ailene is dancing the waltz in a ballroom dancing competition. She came 3rd!

Meanwhile, I’d found an unexpected passion: dancing. It’s such a rush—stepping your suede-soled, heel-protected shoes onto the dance floor, skirt swishing around your legs, taking your partners hand, and before you know it, the beat of the music is making your feet fly. I loved it so much I just had to share it with others and taught modern jive and latin american for more than a decade.

And, I adored my nerdy job. I was cutting my coding teeth with some of the best—who also happened to be the sort you could go backpacking around Europe with.

Ailene is standing outside the entrance to the Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre during one of her trips around Europe.

Then two things happened…


First, I visited my favourite cousin—the other pea in the pod. And I couldn’t help but compare our lives. She: living in the country, surrounded by animals, a home filled with paintings and rugs of wild mountain ranges and horses, a bookshelf full of fantasy. Me: living in suburbia, no pets, house with bare walls, books packed away in boxes. Yup, you guessed it—this is me indulging in a spot of foreshadowing. Some time later, my mundane life came to a sliding stop with the un-fairytale title of divorcée and feeling like my future had just been potted into a black hole.

Good thing I still had my job.

The second thing that happened was a monster. A giant, many-headed corporate machine that stormed in, bought out the company I worked for, and turned our jobs into a Dilbert cartoon. Not even kidding. It sucked, but I was too chicken to give them the middle finger and quit. In the end, the monster made the choice for us. We all got euphemistically right-sized (translation: made redundant), thus destroying what had once been a best-job-in-the-world.

Right. I know what you’re thinking: time for my character to drive the plot!

So, I did something I’d always dreamed of—I applied to art school.

Hi, I’m Ailene!

I’m an artist, creativity coach, software developer, and the founder of Old Mountain Art.

I live in the country with paddocks and bush stretching as far as the eye can see. I’m surrounded by cows, sheep, chickens, a cat, a dog, and 4 pet goats. My home is filled with paintings—wild landscapes, beautiful snapshots of nature, and my own art. My bookcases are overflowing with romantic fantasy, science fiction, historical romance, and a surprising amount of scented candles. And yes, I have the latest series of the Witcher queued up to watch—right after I finish re-re-watching Firefly.

To date, I’ve buried my nose in eleventy hundred and eight fantasy novels—certainly enough to have inspired my own stories, imaginary worlds, and muses. After art school (AKA learning how to use my creativity as a form of magic), I’m now setting them all free. My archetypal muses dance through light-filled, painterly images. They’re grounded in nature and the earth and play with fire, wind, and water. Although each painting might be a glimpse of a moment in time… there’s always a tale there.

And, if they remind you of your own magic and the importance of living your own story—well, that’s what Old Mountain Art is about.

So, come join me on the quest for magic in this mundane world and let’s keep you connected to your magic!

Start by subscribing to my new weekly newsletter—one of my new creative projects for 2022!

Allons-y! I’ll see you there.

Ailene

Add to your stash of romantic fantasy

If you’re reading this and itching for more magic in your life right now, subscribe to my newsletter, “The Weekly Compendium of Romantic Fantasy & Other Good Stories”—for free! Every Wednesday, you’ll get my best romantic fantasy tips landing in your inbox.

This is one of my new creative projects for 2022—coming soooon!!!

PS Guaranteed to be 100% sparkly vampire-free.

For the media: the official 3rd person bio

Ailene Cuthbertson is an artist, creativity coach, and founder of Old Mountain Art, creating romantic fantasy fine art for modern-day romantics who want their home to feel as fantastic as their mind.

A bookworm and escaper into stories from a young age, Ailene believes in the power of storytelling and exploring the wonder of imaginary worlds. Not only for entertainment, but as a timeless connection to culture, myths, and legends—because stories help people see themselves and their place in the world. In setting free her own imaginary stories, worlds, and muses in the form of light-filled, painterly images, Ailene hopes they inspire a similar timeless connection. And ultimately, remind the viewer of their own magic and the importance of living their own story.

Ailene was a finalist in the 2018 Emergent award at the New Zealand Art Show and twice, the recipient of the Oriel Hoskins Scholarship to complete her Diploma of Art and Creativity (Honours) through The Learning Connexion. Her art has won awards at the Light Space & Time Online Art Gallery and has been a finalist in the Cliftons Art Prize. She has shown her work at exhibitions and galleries throughout New Zealand and around the world, and is a regular at the local arts weekend open studio tour.

When not bringing to life images full of magic and wonder, you’ll find her weaving stormlight, crossing the wall, storming the castle, or working as a software developer because she also loves being a nerd.