Some Doodles from a Galaxy Far, Far Away

When  I first decided to try out brush pens, I got myself a set of six neutral shades. The first time I used them was as embellishment for a series of pen drawings of endangered animals I had worked on. Maybe I’ll put them up here later. Anyway, what with three months and a bit being about nothing but watercolors, it had been some time since I picked these up. So I did.

And this is what happened.

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Rey <insert last name that is NOT Skywalker>. She’s beauty, she’s grace, she’ll kick your ass in space. I’m liking the costume change. Rather Grey Jedi.
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Kylo Ren aka Ben Solo aka intergalactic human disaster. Honestly, he’s so Byronic, but given his backstory, it doesn’t surprise me too much. There’s a redemption arc to be had and I really can’t wait to see it.
luke
Exiled Jedi space hobo with majestic hair. Just look at that pose.
finn
Finn is better from his duel and is still wearing Poe’s jacket. Where my space-touched flyboy at?
leia
HERE COMES THE GENERAL! RIIIIIISE UP!
snoke
Supreme Leader Snoke. From the holograms in The Force Awakens, we all had an idea, but I’m honestly a tiny bit underwhelmed. Also, his eyes are blue. Not even Sith eyes. Still, I don’t want to say Plagueis, but my head is saying Plagueis.

And that’s it.

Whatcha Reading? (and stuff)

It’s Sunday and the past week feels a bit like a fever dream. Granted, a bit of did involve fever, but mostly on the dream bit because I spent a lot of that time asleep. The awake time went into Day Job, commissions (two illustrations and a tattoo), and a bit of writing. Well, editing. Editing a short story before sending it out to magazines. Let’s see if someone wants to pick it up.

It’s about a harried marriage counselor caught in a storm who just wants to go home, but gets caught up in the relationship politics of the Greek pantheon and accidentally introduces them to modern marriage law. It’s pretty funny and the style of humor has slight British leanings. Would you guys read that?

Other than that, it’s been a lot of dealing with the aftermath of the 100 Days Project. Just yesterday, I scanned all of the pieces, having already sprayed fixatives for preservation. Now, it’s just storage and prepping for printing. There will be prints available to order soon on my Facebook page.

Also, somewhere in between, I need to get some pajama pants. My Spiderman ones are almost completely worn out.

All that aside and getting to the topic on hand and the one in the title, books! Now that the project is over and I actually have time to do things again, I’ve gotten back to reading and catching up on my Goodreads Reading Challenge. The whole reading one book at a time thing doesn’t really work for me anymore, so I’m currently reading Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe and The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler, after taking a break from Hellblazer (I read three volumes. The artwork is really good and also kinda gave me nightmares). And yesterday, I took a break to reread Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye.

I’m generally freakishly organized, but in this, I kinda suck.

Anyhoo, enough about me. What are you all reading? What’s new? What’s interesting? What would you recommend?

*Jaqen H’ghar voice* A girl seeks to expand her reading list.

A Conclusion

I took up the 100 Day Project challenge to improve my skills on a medium that I adored, but didn’t get along with. I just put up my last piece and I know that having spent more than three months exclusively with this medium has helped me get better with it. There is still a lot of room for improvement, as is always the case, but I’ve come a long way and I know it.

And below is the proof.

 

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Done on March 24, 2017
batb 1
Done on July 11, 2017

Practice does make perfect, or gets you closer to it. A lot of people have stood by me through this whole thing, providing support, encouragement, and company as I tried not to lose my mind doing this. Thank you to all of you who helped, all of you who watched. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Now, onwards and forwards!

Day 100: Beauty and the Beast (+ the end!)

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As I stated at the beginning of this project, watercolors and I were a medium who didn’t get on. I test drove them before starting these 100 days with a little painting copied from the movie poster of Beauty and the Beast. Painting that didn’t hurt too much, so I figured, what’s a hundred more? Shouldn’t be too hard. (I was both right and very very wrong. My achy fingers, sprained neck, and the gray smudges under my eyes can attest to that.)

Anyway, what better way, I wondered, than to conclude my 100 Day Project with a new illustration on the same theme.

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I think I was three years old when I first watched Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and two when I got the hardbound book from Disney World in Orlando. Naturally, I was utterly enchanted. Belle was something of a childhood hero for me in the “Look Ma, she likes books too!” and “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere” ways. (Later, I was called Jasmine and Pocahontas because of the long hair and the brown skin, but as far as Disney princesses go, I started off as Belle.) I was and am a voracious reader and in retrospect, I can probably attribute a part of that to wanting to be like a character I saw in a movie who loved books, was unashamed of her intelligence, and didn’t change herself despite people considering her odd.

Also, that library scene. THAT LIBRARY SCENE.

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In addition to Belle herself, this was, in my opinion, one of Alan Menken’s finest scores (granted, that was before I heard his work on The Hunchback of Notre Dame). The piano arpeggios of the Prologue haunt me even today.

When I saw the live-action movie earlier this year, I went more than a bit insane as I relived the tale as old as time, now with the new stories, angles, plotlines, and details. (Thank you for getting rid of the Stockholm Syndrome thing.) I related to both Belle and the Beast, which is what we’re supposed to do as viewers. I think they took a decent bit of reference from the Broadway musical, where they had Belle and the Beast bond over being outcasts in their respective communities: her for being an oddball and him for being a seven-foot-tall furry monster with horns. Also, Shakespeare. (I’m on the Beast’s side on Romeo and Juliet). Despite the overall movie having some hiccups and moments where it fell flat, I would watch it over and over. Emma Watson was a wonder, Dan Stevens was utterly amazing, and Gaston was frightening in a way his animated counterpart was not. Kevin Kline’s Maurice was the most wonderful thing about the whole movie. Also, Alan Menken and his triumphant music. I was singing ‘Days in the Sun’ and ‘Evermore’ for months after, and examined the movie frame by frame to catch every bit of detail in the production and art direction.

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This finale piece was a labor of love and I tried to do it justice to the best of my abilities. With this, I conclude both the series of story windows as well as the 100 Day Project. It has been a whirlwind three months, with its highs and lows. I have spent days and nights on adrenaline rushes or barely conscious, have coped with the exhaustion and exhileration that came with it, and have loved every second. It’s been an experience, and I can’t wait to see what comes my way next.

Before I go, a few details about the piece:

  • The original story, La Belle et la Bête, was written and published by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in 1740. This period of time in France was the emergence of the Rococo style of art and architecture to replace the former Baroque style (”If it’s not Baroque, don’t fix it!”). I’ve employed both within this. The circular frame of the illustration ends in a crown molding at its top, which was borrowed from a Baroque window, while the decorative gilt linings for the inner windows (where Lumiere, Cogsworth, Gaston, etc are) are done in the French Rococo style, predominantly borrowed from furniture and wall panels in Versailles.
  • I liked the production and character designs in the new Beauty and the Beast movie, but for some details, I preferred to stick with the animated classic. Only some, not all. For example, I like the new Lumiere as well as the elaborate designs on the new Cogsworth, but I preferred to stick with Disney Cogsworth for the face alone (the new one is ridiculously difficult to emote with). Similarly, the white ceramic and gilt work for Mrs Potts and Chip are good and fine, but those faces kind of freak me out, so I stuck to the old one.
  • The face references for Maurice and Gaston are Kevin Kline and Luke Evans, both of whom were triumphs in the new movie.
  • The Beast is predominantly based off his new design, where he is halfway between man and animal and dressed up in French Rococo finery proper for an aristocrat. I did decide to keep the ears and the hair queue from the animated classic.
  • That gold dress is iconic and while I wasn’t enthusiastic about the one on Emma Watson, the poofy thing with the pearls that’s there in the animated movie is not ideal for twirling on a dance floor (I don’t care what the sweeping cameras of 1991 CGI tell me.) So, a bit of this and a bit of that.
  • Also, like I mentioned a few days ago, this is done on an 18cm diameter circle, meaning that Belle’s face is pretty small. I didn’t spent too much time trying to make her look like Emma Watson or her animated counterpart. She’s just Belle. You’ll recognize her by the dress. Although, there was a minor disaster with her face involving an inkblot and fraying paper, but I’ve covered it up the best I could. Consider it a beauty patch on a powdered face, or is that a stretch? It sounds like a stretch.
  • I found this font somewhere on Pinterest. I don’t know what it’s called, but the fact that its curlicues and little flourishes match with the Rococo gilt designs is completely coincidental and I am ridiculously proud of that.

Day 99: Hades and Persephone

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The oldest stories are ones that were never written down until years and years after they began to be told. These were passed down through word of mouth, tales told by hearth fires and homes and tavern corners. Stories are living things. They pass through minds and memories and tongues, and change their shape and meaning based on the storyteller and the values of their world. The Ancient Greek tale of Hades and Persephone is no different.

(Disclaimer: I am not an expert in Greek mythology. I have not read the original texts, only various versions of stories, which are effectively SparkNotes versions of the real thing. I just read a lot.)

In the most popular version – and possibly the most recent – the story is more one of a mother and her daughter. In this, Persephone is known as Kore and is a beautiful goddess of grain and vegetation, daughter of Demeter, goddess of the harvest and one of the Twelve Olympians. Demeter always kept her daughter far away from the other gods, and Kore grew up in Nature, planting seeds and playing in fields. In this, Hades, god of the Underworld, was in love with the young goddess and with permission from Zeus, decided to abduct her because Demeter, being extremely protective of her child would never allow Hades to marry her. Thus, when Persephone was gathering flowers with the Nereids in a field, Hades burst through a cleft in the earth in a great chariot drawn by black horses, grabbed Persephone, and dragged her into the Underworld. Demeter searched all over the earth with Hecate’s torches and without her attentions, the harvests failed and the earth starved. Zeus thus intervened and told Hades to send Persephone back. She came back to the earth, but because she had eaten some pomegranate seeds down in the underworld, she was bound to the place and had to return there for six months every year. Some say Hades tricked her into this. And thus, the seasons were created. During the Spring and Summer, Demeter rejoices with her daughter, and in the Autumn and Winter, Persephone returns to the underworld where she reigns queen with her husband.

Personally, I don’t completely buy this version of the story.

I mean, it makes sense if you’re looking at it strictly as Demeter’s tale and celebrating Spring and the way a mother’s love can literally change the face of the earth and rescue someone from hell, though you can’t really refer to the underworld as hell. That’s more a thing in Christian theology. From my understanding, the underworld had everything ranging from Tartarus to Elysium, so it was pretty much the place to go to for a final resting location after death.

I digress.

Also, myths tend to be allegorical and this is a pretty decent explanation for how seasons are formed. It wasn’t uncommon for young maidens in Ancient Greek stories to be little more than props and have no agency, so it’s not strange that the story would have an abduction, but I really don’t think Hades, who kept to himself so much that he nearly never visits Olympus and is thus barely referred to as an Olympian, would turn to Zeus for permission. Sure, Zeus was technically Persephone’s father and Hades didn’t really get out enough to understand the concepts of wooing. He’s no Apollo, but it still looks a bit dicey to me.

Then, there are the two titular characters of this.

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Let’s look at Hades first. In this version of the story, he is represented as the evil old man who takes the beautiful young virgin by force. Some regard this as a metaphor for a girl moving to womanhood and Hades representing the archetypal male energy that facilitates this. This, in my opinion, is complete bullshit. It also goes against nearly every other story about him. If you’re looking at Olympians who abduct maidens on a regular basis, take a look at Zeus. Even Poseidon was known for his multiple relations outside his marriage to Amphitrite, though she wasn’t even a fraction as vengeful as Hera. Both of them were also known for their anger (Zeus has thunderbolts at his disposal and Poseidon is the god of earthquakes AND the sea; do NOT piss them off.).

Hades, on the other hand, got a bad name with most people because he was king of the underworld. Note that this isn’t to be confused with the god of death – or personification of death – Thanatos (who has good reason to hate humans if you’re looking at Sisyphus as an example). Still, Hades was not a god whom the commonfolk would build temples or make sacrifices to. He represented death to people, but was more concerned with the balance between life and death. The souls of the dead came to him, he judged them, and sent them to their resting places, good or bad. The only time his anger ever sprang forth was whenever someone tried to cheat death after dying, like Sisyphus, or did something really, truly stupid (looking at you, Pirithous). Considering Zeus’s penchant for destruction, Ares’s passion for war, and Poseidon’s storms, Hades seems to be the person who’s often on the receiving end of their shenanigans. Abduction doesn’t really seem his style (I wouldn’t discount it altogether considering the times, but I imagine the circumstances might have been different.). Also, I wonder when he would have left the underworld at all to have been able to glimpse Persephone (who was jealously guarded by her mother and never once visited Olympus), let alone fall in love with her.

And then, there’s Persephone herself.

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The older versions of her story describe her very differently from the innocent, virginal child that she is shown as in the popular tale. In these, she is more a young woman than a young girl, which makes sense, considering that she was born of Zeus and Demeter, and I can assume that this took place very shortly after the Titanomachy and before Zeus took Hera to consort to rule as king and queen of Olympus. This effectively means that Persephone is technically older than most of the other children of Zeus, including Athena and Artemis, who are always known as grown women. In these versions of the tale, she finds the Underworld on her own, or is lured, when she goes adventuring. This also makes sense if you consider how Demeter raised her in effective isolation from all the other gods, keeping her among the nymphs and vestal goddesses and raising her as a child even when goddesses much older than her held positions at Olympus. Note that this does not take away from her relationship with her mother. The strength she learned from Demeter gives her the courage to wander away in the first place, as well as the ability to survive in the realm of the dead.

In even older stories, Persephone ventures into the Underworld when she hears the despairing cries of the dead, and Hades stops her from trying to rescue them as it would upset the balance he reigns sovereign over. Not that she doesn’t influence this later on. Fellows like Sisyphus and Orpheus (for Eurydice, not himself) were given free passes on Persephone’s insistence.

If you look at the most ancient layers of myth, Persephone’s name has a different translation altogether. The more common and recent meaning is “She Who Shines in Darkness”, which shows her as a bringer of spring. In the oldest references to her, she is described as both a chthonic and a vegetation goddess, “She Who Destroys The Light”, showing her as a Goddess of Death as well as a Goddess of Vegetation. This equates her with her husband, who like mentioned before, maintained the balance of life and death, and also shows her as something of a partner to her mother, who brings life and the harvests that sustain it.

Either way, this story emphasizes the cycles of life, death, and rebirth, and when it comes to love stories among the gods of Ancient Greece, I like these two the best, though Eros and Psyche have a pretty good story too. Say what you want about Hades, but he had no mistresses or a thousand and one demigod children. (Do not bring up Rick Riordan.) And Persephone, frankly, could be pretty darn terrifying when she wanted to be. I like the idea of her ending up in the Underworld as a result of her own wanderings, effectively stealing Hades’s dog (You named your dog Spot, Hades; are you kidding me?), becoming Queen of the Underworld, and keeping the balance of life and death above and below by working things out with both her husband and her mother.

A few notes:

  • Those flowers on the right are asphodels. Real asphodel flowers grow in bunches and are pale with deep red streaks. However, writings have described them as ghostly white and more similar to narcissi than actual asphodels, and considering that one of the symbols of Hades is the narcissus, I tried for a middle ground of sorts.
  • The location for this is the Elysian Fields, or Elysium, the highest place of honor for a soul in the Underworld, where dwell great heroes, demigods, and the like who are judged worthy. It was ruled over by Rhadamanthus, who was originally a king of Crete and a son of Zeus, and later became one of the judges of the dead. Also, it has flowers.
  • I’ve depicted Persephone holding the pomegranate in her hand to suggest the idea that she may have decided to eat the fruit on her own terms. Also, in this, Cerberus is a giant ferocious puppy that Persephone has wrapped around her little finger.

Day 98: Harry Potter

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I was thirteen when I first picked up Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone. (Yes, Sorceror, not Philosopher. I had the American version of the first book published by Scholastic, and got the Bloomsbury version for the rest of them.) It’s a bit late by general standards, especially because I had technically had the book since I was eight, and just never read it. I’m glad in retrospect though. By the time I started reading Harry Potter, three books were already out and it was only a matter of months before Goblet of Fire was out. Thus, when I finished The Sorceror’s Stone in one night and started clamoring to know what happened next, there was something for me to read. The rest, as they say, was history.

I was and am a proud member of the Potter generation and was utterly insane about it. This series was a cornerstone of my adolescent years. I pre-ordered the novels whenever they came out and lined up in front of the bookstore in the early morning hours. I watched every movie within the first week. I cried over Sirius Black, over Remus Lupin, and I will never be over Fred Weasley. I quoted in regular conversations and made friends with everyone who got the references. I drew art in my sketchbooks, in the margins of my school textbooks and notebooks. My friends and I used to write fanfiction and had an unofficial (and short-lived) newsletter in our class, sort of like The Daily Prophet. I read nearly every meta theory out there, discussed plotlines and possibilities before and after the series was complete, speculated over ideas of war and racism and cultural divides in the way that they are portrayed in this series and how they reflect in our world.

I waited for years for my Hogwarts letter, which never came.

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With the last ten days of this 100 Day Project being based off stories, I couldn’t possibly not make something for this very beloved series.

Oh, and to add before I get to the details about the illustration, according to Pottermore:

1. My Hogwarts house is Gryffindor, where dwell the brave of heart. I’m nearly always sorted into Gryffindor, though it’s often a very close call between that and Ravenclaw. Personally, I’d be happy with either, so I let the Sorting Hat decide.

2. My Patronus is a beagle, which confuses me, but it does well to keep the Dementors away. Also, I believe in Remus Lupin’s sage advice to keep chocolate on oneself as often as possible, if not always.

3. My wand is made of sycamore wood with a unicorn hair core, 14 1/2”, with surprising swishy flexibility. It’s something of a questing wand, always eager for new experiences and turning dull if it is forced to remain stuck in mundane activities. It may even spontaneously combust if it gets too bored. Sounds like me, so it’s rather ideal.

4. My Ilvermorny House is Pukwudgie, which is considered to represent the heart of a witch or wizard, and often favors healers. I don’t know what that says.

(I love doing this so much.)

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Anyhoo, a few details about the illustration:

  • All the characters are based of their book descriptions. Thus, Voldemort’s red eyes, Harry’s thin face, and everything about Ron. I adored Rupert Grint as Ron, really, but I decided to go with the original physical description, though I did try to stick to the costume color schemes used in the movie.
  • I wanted to show the three main characters with props that defined them, set them apart. Harry has his mokeskin pouch around his neck and the golden snitch in his hand, the latter representing his Quidditch position as Seeker as well as his possession of the Resurrection Stone. (I thought of the Invisibility Cloak, but that would require a whole other illustration with a different aesthetic.) Hermione – wonderful Hermione – has her books. As for Ron, I was stumped for some time before deciding that his important thing would be his friendship with Harry, which I always felt was undermined in the movies. Weasley is our King. (Wheezy. Heh.)
  • That flappy thing on the top left corner is supposed to be a Dementor. I don’t know if it looks like one. It started out looking like one and then it turned into vague flappy thing. But, FYI, it’s a Dementor. So, yeah.
  • I wanted to make a reference to the Marauders (I love stories about them and the First Wizarding War more than anything). Thus, on the left side, we have the stag Patronus near the Whomping Willow for James, Sirius, Remus, and Peter the rat; the place that bound them as boys and the place where three of them met again after years of lies, betrayal, and blood spilled.
  • I wanted to make a reference to Snape as well. On the right, we have the doe Patronus for Severus Snape near the boathouse out on the Great Lake, where he died. (I’m so sorry.)