Friday, February 28, 2014

Good Fridays: The Message in Frozen

Good Fridays is a feature on the blog where I highlight a good thing (or things) I've discovered over the past week. This week it's Disney's movie Frozen, soon to be released on DVD.

Disney is changing. It's not a "You broke my childhood!" kind of change, but a "This is brilliant! Why didn't they do this before?" kind of change. (There may be a spoiler or two ahead.)

Disney 2013
This take on the Snow Queen tale turned the Disney princess franchise upside down. Frozen is a story of two sisters and how they both decide the fate of a kingdom. One has the power of ice and snow and the other has the power of optimism and determination. That said, I really like the older sister Elsa and how, through the troubles that come, she discovers her true self and the key to controlling her amazing power. (And there is no love interest for her! *gasp*)

Anna, the younger sister, is a princess similar to Rapunzel - hopeful, adventurous, and longing for a fuller life. She falls prey to the same pitfalls other Disney princesses do, seeking to climb out of her solitude into the world, but finding a man at the top of her ladder. That's usually where most princess stories end, but not this one. Anna's prince isn't the prize at the end of her quest, he's just a pit-stop on the way to it (and more later on, but I won't get into that).

What I loved most about Frozen is how Disney itself draws attention to the thoughtless notion of marrying someone you've only known a day (or in the case of Cinderella, only for one dance), and expecting that person to fulfill all your dreams. Between The Princess and the Frog in 2009 and Frozen in 2013, Disney has swung into the current millennium with more independent princesses than it's had before. One gem of these is Princess Merida from Brave who introduced young girls to a princess who didn't need a prince to be happy.

Frozen takes spunky princesses a step further by multiplying them. Two princesses (one who becomes queen in her own right), both understanding that true love isn't limited to romantic attraction. And that's the big lesson I took away from Frozen. Romantic love and infatuation doesn't guarantee happiness, but the greatest kind of love (self-sacrifice) does.

Have you seen Frozen? What did you think?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Sketch-Lock Monday

The past few days I was compelled to do more Sherlock fanart. It started out rough, but the more I drew him, the easier Benedict Cumberbatch's face was to draw. I got a kick out of Moffat saying he's "the thinking woman's crumpet". I would take tea with that!

I love the transformation from surly, arrogant consulting detective to giddy little boy. (In the last one I think he looks like Snape.)

I really like the drawings that include John because the characters have each other to play off of. Theirs is probably my favorite bromance of all time.

I drew the sleeping poses when I was pretty tired myself. It took a few drawings to get the scale between John and Sherlock right, but eventually I did. The sequence of these was just fun.

This set of sketches was on another day in a slightly different style. I hoped to top the sketches I'd drawn before. I don't think I did, but playing with expressions was fun - and I even captured a little Sherlock smolder! 

When I discovered how huge the Sherlock fandom is, I was amazed. This thing is far bigger than I thought. The show gets hold of you like a monster dog and won't let go. Since it's co-written by Steven Moffat, you get jerked around a lot too, but it's worth it.

I was equally surprised by all the pairings (ships) there are in this fandom. I ship canon pretty exclusively (except Doctor/River. I will NEVER ship that). For Sherlock, I go with John/Mary, Sherlock/Irene, though I can never imagine Sherlock married. I still prefer John, Mary, and Sherlock as a set. I love how supportive Mary is of John and Sherlock's friendship.

Here's one of my favorite Sherlock fanvids.

Do you watch Sherlock? How do you feel about it?

Friday, February 21, 2014

What You Can Learn From Oswald the Lucky Rabbit

Do you remember Oswald the Lucky Rabbit? Not everyone does. He was one of Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks' first successful cartoon characters when Disney first became an animator. Walt and Ub, along with a team of soon-to-be big animators, were creating Oswald's cartoon series, produced by Charles Mintz, for Universal Studios. Walt negotiated with Mintz for a better budget since Oswald was doing so well, but was instead threatened with a pay cut which he would not accept. Because Disney would not agree to the cut, rights to Oswald remained with Mintz and the studio. Disney also lost most of his team of animators, except for Ub Iwerks.

After suffering such a big loss, Disney could have given up, turned in his paintbrush and decided animation wasn't for him. But he didn't. To replace Oswald, Disney created what would become the most famous mouse in history.

What can we learn from the story of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit? When creative people face setbacks, they overcome with even more creativity. Disney continued to top himself, creating more and more outstanding work in his field throughout his life. What could've ended with a rabbit began with a Mouse.

Don't lose heart when setbacks happen. What looks like the worst could turn out to be the best thing that's ever happened to your career.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Why I Loved Seraphina

Friends have recommended I read Seraphina by Rachel Hartman for awhile. It also won the 2013 YALSA Morris Award for Best YA Debut Novel. I hadn't read it until now for two reasons and those two reasons were soon turned on their heads when I got hooked.

Seraphina is a YA fantasy set in a medieval universe with dragons that can transform into humans. That alone would've turned me off a few years ago, and made me balk at reading the book today. The fact that I did read, and thoroughly enjoyed, Seraphina speaks more to the writer's tremendous skill, than the genre itself.

The fantasy genre (especially medieval) is awash with dragons, some of whom can transform into humans. That concept is also used in fantasy roleplay and gaming - sometimes overused. I've always been a little squicked out by it, and thought it seemed like an excuse to have a character be both a huge, powerful monster and a sexy, handsome two-legger who can mate with humans. (So, in other words, a kind of Marty Stu for fantasy.) In fantasy roleplay, if you don't know what kind of character to create, make it a shape-shifter. Then you can be as "OP" (overpowered) as you like! In my Rp circle we called it God-moding, and it was frowned upon. This concept, used in Seraphina was not OP, nor was it an excuse to have huge, powerful monsters on two legs getting frisky with humans. ...Well, actually it was a little bit, but it was handled in a different way than I expected.

Seraphina's dragons are what I'd imagine a logical, mathematical reptilian mind would be trapped in the squishy, hyper-sensitive, but limited body of a human. They have difficulties with emotion and senses. They don't always know how to adapt to human society or how to use human etiquette. They have to undergo tutelage from another dragon with experience, and even then have watchers on both sides breathing down their necks. It's very unpleasant, which is how it would be. 

Humans aren't very keen to have dragons walking among them, and in the world of Seraphina, the temptation of war whispers at the minds of dragon and humankind, waiting for a catalyst. Enter, Seraphina Dombegh, a girl caught in the middle, making a valiant effort to hide though circumstances keep training the spotlight on her.

It was her voice that hooked me on the first page. Reading as Seraphina, I often forgot her age, what color her hair was, because I was too focused on her mind and how she saw the world. It wrapped around her, rankled her, sometimes embraced her. It was proof the author had fleshed out both the character and the world she placed her in. You couldn't have one without the other.

I didn't see Seraphina as a teenager, because she wasn't a contemporary teen. She held a high position, she had responsibilities outside herself, she was very self-aware. Her youth bled through in her self-consciousness, her shortcomings, and her feelings of inadequacy. But those were also traits she could've had in her twenties.

I loved her fire, her bravery, the way she managed to turn her own awkwardness around. She had developed a habit of suppressing her strongest traits to keep from drawing attention, but even so, they sometimes shone through. And there was at least one who saw them from the very first day. Enter, the love interest, a young man whose perspicacity rivaled Seraphina's intelligence. The way these two played off each other was entertaining and charming.

The romance in Seraphina was so organic and genuine, never overshadowing the plot of the book, but providing a very compelling undercurrent. It felt real and sincere, complete with misunderstandings and conclusions jumped to. Both partners had failings that frustrated and strengths that overcame.

The characters, the plot, the relationships driving the story forward, all made me rather sad when the book came to an end. I know there will be a sequel, but the waiting is the hardest part.

When I read about the author Rachel Hartman, I was even more impressed with this book. "She's normal!" I thought (within reason, because what fantasy author is really 'normal'?") She doesn't boast a handful of degrees or an extensive resume in the publication industry. She isn't breaking out her first book on luck and youth, stumbling into a best-seller. She isn't related to a superstar writer with a legacy of fantasy novels under his belt. She's a layperson who's lived many places, gotten the education she wanted, and patiently sharpened her skills developing one of the most outstanding fantasy novels I've read in a long time. Knowing it took her nine years to build and write this book was an inspiration. If the outcome is a book like Seraphina, any amount of time is worth it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Snow-day Goodies: Art, Free Books, and Updates

Since I've been away for almost a month, I'll start with an update.

Snow, snow, and more snow! Southern Ohio usually gets its big snowfalls in January and February. (White Christmas? Pffffft!) And, boy, did we ever get it! So did most of the nation. I saw pics of the mess in Atlanta where people who weren't used to snow suddenly received an unexpected winter gift.

What I Did on My Snow Day:
Snow isn't encouraging for my creative motivation at all. I end up stuck indoors, feeling guilty about the work I'm not doing as I sit on the couch watching Sherlock. I've also been experiencing incredible cabin fever - you know the kind where you don't just want to leave the house, you want to leave the state, maybe even the country? I got a massive urge to go to Europe, go to Florida, go to New York. And, for some reason, it was better weather in all the places I imagined.

When the snow came, I did what any spontaneous child-at-heart does. I went outside to play in it. I took Silvan with me. Silvan is my Korean ball-jointed doll. He makes a pretty decent model too. After I'd snapped some photos of him in the snow, and my fingers were sufficiently frozen, I felt satisfied. I'd gotten out and done something creative!

What snow-day would be complete without a good book? I'm talking about Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. Have you read it? To be honest, I've had so many recommendations from friends online and off to read this book, that I finally did. It's great! It's everything I could want in a YA fantasy, and I love the author's take on dragons. The best part is it's written in first person perspective, but past tense, so it doesn't make me feel rushed. I like the female MC's voice, and the plot and creatures in her world are so interesting I have to keep reading. One word of caution: this book has a sequel that isn't out yet.

While I was battling weather and motivational issues, I missed my blog, but I had a happy surprise waiting for me when I came back. My blog has reached 100 followers! Yaaaaay! In celebration of this, I plan to hold a giveaway. My first thought is to do a sketch as a prize for a lucky reader. It would be an original pencil sketch. Is that something you'd be interested in?

Since I can't give them to you myself, is giving away free books and totes and gift cards to readers who answer their online survey. It only takes a few minutes and doesn't require you to buy anything. The site says there will be at least 12 winners.

Lastly, to make you more excited about an original sketch from me, I've started digitally coloring the sketches I did last November during novsketch. Here's my current WIP.

Those are my updates. How've you been coping with the copious weather we've had?

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