The Shadow

"The Shadow" 9 x 12, based off

“The Shadow” 9 x 12, based off a Kore Yamazaki cover

I’m practicing with ink more. This time I didn’t do the full drawing in pencil first. I laid down some loose figure lines and switched to pen. Drawing the shadow over it all was a scary moment, since I didn’t know if I would ruin everything. The original manga art used screentone, which is a film overlay of a particular pattern. First off, I don’t have screentone and I’ve never used it. Secondly, I wanted to do it entirely in pen. I considered switching to grey rather than black, but I thought that might ruin the effect. I wondered if I should use the same line pattern to place additional, standard shadows throughout the picture, but then decided to leave it as is for extra drama.

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Posted in Art Tagged , , ,

The Ancient Magus’ Bride

Ink

“Guidance” 9 x 11 ink based on the work of Kore Yamazaki. I definitely need more practice with pens, but the more I use them the more fun they are.

In Japan, book sellers’ top new manga pick for 2015 is The Ancient Magus’ Bride by Kore Yamazaki. The story is thematically based on “Beauty and the Beast,” with the young heroine purchased by the mysterious magus and whisked away to his home in England where she will ostensibly become his apprentice–and his bride. While the magus’ actions appear kind, his many secrets and his initial purchase of the gifted girl leave the truth hanging. Meanwhile, a parade of Celtic fae and eye-catching art spin adventures for the magus and his apprentice. The first volume in English will be released in May, with the next two volumes scheduled for later this year. It’s definitely on my wish list–I love the combination of Yamazaki’s artwork, fae lore, and Beauty and the Beast.

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Posted in Art, Book Review, Fairy Tale, Folklore Tagged , , , ,

Red-Haired Snow White

"Shirayukihime" 11.5" x 7" colored pencil and watercolor

“Shirayukihime” 11.5″ x 7″ colored pencil and watercolor

Red-Haired Snow White, Akagami no Shirayukihime, is a shojo manga written by Sorata Akidzuki. The story is based on the fairy tale in only the loosest sense. Shirayuki (Snow White) is approached repeatedly by villainous types due to her envious apple-red hair, which she quickly cuts short in hopes of avoiding further trouble. There is no evil stepmother or any conflict regarding an older woman unhappy with a younger woman’s beauty. Shirayuki’s first adventure leads to an encounter with a prince and his bodyguard, both of whom become her friends, but first the prince eats a poisoned apple intended for Shirayuki. The story rapidly realigns with Shirayuki’s desire to become a royal pharmacist in the prince’s kingdom. Red-Haired Snow White is a gentle romantic adventure, with Shirayuki playing an active role as a healer.

pencil sketch

my pencil sketch based on Akidzuki’s work

Sorata Akidzuki supplies a steady stream of interestingly designed fantasy/medieval clothing for her characters. The artwork, especially the clothing, really stood out to me in its detail and creativity. I also really liked that her heroine managed to look consistently fabulous without being scantily clad. Part of the interest created by her clothing, in fact, was the regular use of layering. In my finished drawing my husband mistook Shirayuki’s long-sleeved underlayer as her natural skin-tone–perhaps I should have chosen a different color–but the layers are very clear in Akidzuki’s drawings. In this case you can see trim on the top of the shirt’s neckline that matches the design on the ribbons. Of course, in the manga you see multiple drawings from multiple angles of the same clothing.

This one shows almost the actual size.

This one shows almost actual size.

Akagami no Shirayukihime is officially available in Japanese, French, and German. Twelve volumes have been completed. The latest installment, due this month in Lala, is supposed to contain an “important announcement.” English translations would be nice, but the Internet sounding board suggests most fans are hoping for an anime.

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Posted in Fairy Tale Tagged , ,

Oni Out! Happiness In!

Sardine head talismans divert evil from entering homes. Photo courtesy of Tonusamuel

Sardine head talismans divert evil from entering homes. Photo courtesy of Tonusamuel

Today is Setsubun, a Japanese festival that marks the end of winter and the start of spring. People rid their homes of bad spirits (Oni translates to quite a list of English words, such as evil spirits, demons, ogres, and devils.) by throwing roasted soybeans while shouting, “Oni out! Happiness in!” Spirit exorcism by bean toss sounds super appealing to me. After you’ve ushered out all those evil spirits, you’ve freed up space for happiness, which you should certainly call in. A home variation includes having a family member don a mask and play the oni while the rest of the family pelts him with beans–good times. Then you’re supposed to eat one roasted bean for every year you’ve lived–seems like that could be a daunting task for some people. An additional technique which doesn’t appear quite as popular as throwing beans involves hanging sardine heads by your door along with holly leaves, as shown in the image above. I suppose the stink of the fish heads should help keep the oni out, but I figure demons and the like would be somewhat immune to bad smells. Another method to keep luck coming your way is to silently eat an uncut maki roll while facing the lucky direction (which changes yearly). Apparently if the maki has been cut, which is the norm most of the year, it’s symbolic of cut happiness.

I’ve been learning a bit more about oni, and clicking around the internet I’ve had the delightful realization that I’ve been familiarized with oni ever since my husband had me watch his beloved Dragonball and Dragonball Z. Oni are either blue or red. They have one or two horns and they dress in leopard skin loincloths–demons are style icons. I’ve seen them appear in various anime and manga, as well as on product labeling. If you follow this link you will see photos of all sorts of Setsubun products complete with oni along with a lovely family story of celebrating Setsubun. Amongst the photos, please note Hello Kitty in leopard skin oni-guise! Of course, modest Kitty is wearing a bit more than a loincloth.

Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!

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Posted in Folklore Tagged ,

2014

Tengu, 8" x 7" watercolor and ink on artboard

Tengu, 8″ x 7″ watercolor and ink on art board

Another year is at a close. 2014 brought me an interest in and focus on Japanese culture, particularly the country’s myth and folklore. This month we even tried preparing some Japanese food at home. Cooking with kelp and bonito flakes makes me feel connected with mermaids. (Although if they’re cooking it must be over hydrothermal vents, which could distantly correlate with that tempura experience.) Also, this month I’ve started studying Japanese, which would be my first non-Indo-European language. Although I’m supplementing it with some resources from the library, Trombley and Takenaka’s Japanese from Zero 1 has proven a gentle and fun introduction to the language. Vocabulary, grammar, and syntax are taught along with the steady inclusion of hiragana–after specific hiragana have been taught, those characters replace the romaji (Roman letters meant to represent Japanese sounds) used elsewhere. If the book came with an audio feature I would be entirely satisfied. Still, the result of Trombley and Takenaka’s teaching methods is a continual feeling of accomplishment for the student. I definitely recommend the book for others looking to learn Japanese outside of a classroom.

At the end of 2013 I reflected collectively upon the old year by considering my most hit pages, and that list of links has, in turn, become one of my most popular pages. This year I’ll give a shorter list.

According to WP Statistics, my top ten most clicked pages include:

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.

 

According to Social Metrics, which tracks sharing via various social networks, my top three pages of interested created in 2014 are:

Mermaid with Fish
Tengu
Gold Mermaid

 

See which pages were of most interest in 2013.

Happy 2015!

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Posted in Uncategorized Tagged

Nyanta, the Swashbuckling Cat

Nyanta, 4"x 6" watercolor and ink

Nyanta, 4″x 6″ watercolor and ink

Doesn’t he look dapper? Nyanta is a swashbuckler with a subclass of chef in the light novel, anime, and manga Log Horizon by Mamare Touno. “Nya” is Japanese for “meow.” I’m not sure how serious a character name he has, as “Nyanta” must translate to something like “Meowser.” He’s also called “Chief,” which isn’t a proper name either. Nyanta is quite debonair, can wield those ridiculously long-handled rapiers in both hands while flipping through the air, smoothly takes care of the shopping and cooking, and is altogether awesome.

Nya!

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Posted in Art Tagged , , ,

Book Review: A Silent Voice

A Silent Voice

A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima

A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi, also translated The Shape of Voice) is not the type of story I normally write about, but I found it so powerful that I’m going to make an exception. A Silent Voice is a manga by Ooima Yoshitoki. If you don’t read manga or have never read manga, you might be surprised by this story. Note that a major part of manga is visual, and you read the images and text from the right to left. The visual nature of the storytelling allows for a lot of information to be received through images, which works particularly well in A Silent Voice, since a primary character is deaf. But the story isn’t really about being deaf. It’s not even about being either a bully or bullied, which is a primary plot focus. The story is about being a person on the outside–someone who is not part of the group. As the story develops and changes, it becomes more and more of a question as to whether someone can ever be forgiven or redeemed for the bad things they’ve done in their past.

Minor spoilers in the next paragraph as I give a basic plot picture.

A Silent Voice begins in late grade school upon the arrival of a new student, Shoko Nishimiya, who is deaf. The protagonist, Shoya Ishida, is a very unhappy boy who commits a continual series of risky behavior because “life is a war against boredom.” He immediately begins bullying Nishimiya, demonstrating truly repulsive behavior and gathering bullying accomplices. However, the tables turn after Nishimiya transfers and Ishida becomes the object of bullying. He is marked as a bad egg, even worse for having picked on Nishimiya, and none of his personal complaints are believed by those in authority. Time passes and Ishida tracks down Nishimiya again, searching for absolution of a sort, but perhaps simply seeking out someone else who was always separate like him. Slowly a group is gathered representative of individuals on both sides of the bullying line. Some hurt and feel they’ve made up for it, while some feel they never can or that they never did anything wrong. Others were hurt and feel they should now hurt in return or that it was somehow their fault all along for being hurt. Others rewrite their memories, insisting they never did anything wrong to begin with. Taken together these individuals allow for a thematic exploration of whether someone can ever truly be forgiven for or move past the shadows of their past.

A Silent Voice began as a one-shot release in Bessatsu Shoonen Magazine and then was written out into seven volumes of manga (in non-manga terms, consider that a short story transformed into a novel). Crunchyroll has the North American release rights; you can follow that link for access to the translated manga. The 2015 Kono Manga ga Sugoi! guidebook, which is created by hundreds of manga publishing professionals, has ranked A Silent Voice as the top pick for male readers. The final volume of A Silent Voice was released last month and within the cover announced that A Silent Voice will be made into a feature anime film–more details about when the feature film will be available have not yet been announced.

Individual isolation and bullying are certainly major issues today. While Nishimiya may be the central character of appeal for many readers, I was particularly drawn in by Ishida’s faceted nature and growth. Between the characters and the themes, I think readers will find something to capture their interest. I strongly recommend this story. I believe it’s one I will remember for the rest of my life.

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Book Review: Cruel Beauty

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge; This cover is terrific. The rose suggests Beauty and the Beast, while the entwined staircase suggests a mystery and its modern styling suggests a spin off the Gothic tale

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge; This cover is terrific. The rose suggests “Beauty and the Beast,” while the entwined staircase indicates a mystery and its modern styling hints at something new.

Cruel Beauty combines old tales with new twists. The heart of the story is “Beauty and the Beast,” with Nyx (Beauty) being surprisingly and perhaps refreshingly mean. From childhood Nyx has known that she must marry a monster and intends to kill him. Her world is built upon Hermetic magic, and the puzzle of the monster and Nyx revolves around this magic as much as it circles Pandora’s jar (so delightfully remaining a wax-stoppered jar rather than the now widely known and mistranslated “box”). It also revolves around a melange of classic myth and fairy tales. “Bluebeard,” “Rumplestiltskin,” and “Fitcher’s Bird” all play primary roles. Pandora and Persephone are perhaps the leading names in an absolute parade of Greek myth name dropping and story layering. The entire book felt like a game of “I Spy.” Mixed with story references are ideologies–a daemon here, a medieval magic system there–revealing an author with a firm background in medieval studies and occidental myth. From one perspective Cruel Beauty can be seen as a fairy-tail themed fantasy aimed at young adults (melodrama alert), but from another it’s an absolute treasure chest of mythical, fairy tale, and medieval references.

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Mad Happy (from Fairy Tail)

"Mad Happy," watercolor & ink

“Mad Happy,” 4″ x 6″ watercolor & ink

I was utterly delighted when I saw Happy from Fairy Tail strike this pose. If you’re familiar with this scene, you may notice that Charle is missing. Yup. Not an accident.

sketch

Happy sketch

I began with a fairly quick sketch. I set a single vanishing point right in the middle of Happy’s bared teeth, and that worked to pull together the background. Yes, I see that the railing is incomplete. I was sketching one day and painting another and I guess I decided on the painting day that the sketch was done when it really wasn’t.

In color, I really liked the dramatic and incredibly rounded face shadow on Happy that suggested a downturned head with lighting from above and behind. The weird part was that the lighting was coming from the right, through the arches. I decided what-the-hell and went for the cartoon mix. In the screen capture, all of Happy’s shading suggested the same lighting from above and behind. I kept it except for the big shadow on the tail where it should be getting the most light. I just couldn’t do it. That was pretty much the extent of my compromise.

This one is cropped like the screen capture.

This one is cropped like the screen capture.

The screen shot has more drama with Happy overflowing the boundaries. I like his little feet, though, so I’m not sure if I’ll crop my painting.

Sad Happy
Happy Happy

 

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Posted in Art Tagged , ,

Sad Happy (from Fairy Tail)

"Sad Happy," mixed media

“Sad Happy,” mixed media

Here’s Happy from Fairy Tail looking sad. I worked from a screen shot of the image, dropping the background. I have no excuses this round about my blue being less than ideal. (Click for a happy Happy and excuses.) I know watercolor blue lifts very easily. For the non-painters, I just mean you can take the color back off easily by brushing it with water. I wanted a bold cerulean blue, so I intended to paint several layers, but subsequent layers tended to lift previous layers. My round brushes were particularly streaky, so I switched to a flat, which, of course, wouldn’t work in the nooks and crannies. I used Cotman’s blue, which is a student grade paint made by Windsor & Newton. I only have a couple tubes of Cotman’s and the Payne’s gray is so separated and awful that I vowed to evade Cotman’s forevermore. I don’t know if I can blame Cotman’s for this, though–seems like user error. I have another cerulean by a brand named Soho, which is so cheap I’m a little afraid of it. My Soho blacks are chalky and clumpy, but after vigorous mixing they seem alright. Maybe I could try Happy in another blue.

Blue aside, I received an early birthday present of Faber-Castell pens. (Hurray!) It’s a set of eight Pitt pens, the wallet set. I used the smallest size (XS) for my outlining. I need to get better at speed lines to keep the widths the same. When I wobbled too much, I tried to hide it with a thicker line, which might be worse than leaving the wobble. I’ll just have to keep practicing. I used the widest round-tip pen in the set for the eyes, and by the end there was a piece of marker string trailing like a loose hair on a paintbrush. I don’t know if that was a fluke or a sign that the pens aren’t so super after all. I really liked the idea of avoiding the need to deal with cleaning and changing ink cartridges, which just might be the only way of having and using true art pens.

After the outlining, some of the shading looked even paler than before, and the blush lines on Happy’s cheeks and nose had pretty much disappeared. I had painted over the blue with a fine brush using predominantly alizarin crimson, but it wasn’t nearly bold enough. Using watercolor pencils, I added lines, but I didn’t add water to them, so they’re really just pencil lines. I also traced a shadow line around the interior of the eye outline because the starkness was just wrong and the shading I had used before, again, had become too pale against the contrast of the black ink.

There you have it–sad Happy, runny nose and all.

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Posted in Art Tagged , ,