Friday, April 25, 2014

Black Is The Color

I've always wished that more people considered graphic novels to be real literature.  Not every one of them is going to be a masterpiece, of course.  (Take, for example, the extravagantly designed and inexplicably award-festooned "Return of the Dapper Men":  lovely art....terrible, muddled, underdeveloped story.)  But you can say the same for any type of literature.  A lot of graphic novels provide transcendent reading experiences, because they do focus so much on the visual.  One of my recent favorites has been "Black Is The Color", by Julia Gfrorer.

I find myself returning to this book over and over.  It's a quick little read unless you linger over the images, which reveal something new every time you look at them.  The tone is beautifully melancholy and dark.  The mermaids are nothing like the Disney type everyone's gotten used to;  They're much more....real, I guess.  Much more like actual sea creatures, with black eyes and sharp teeth.  They are like modern versions of the sirens of ancient myth, concerning themselves mostly with music and the making of it.  They talk like hipsters, and humans are an amusing curiosity to them.  Even when one of them discovers a shipwrecked sailor alone in a dinghy, waiting for death, she passes time with him like a cat would with a new toy.  She seems to genuinely care for him in some way, but her overall detachment is always at the forefront.

The dialogue throughout is simple and to the point, and the ending is poignant and sad, as the endings of all good graphic novels should be.  Highly recommended, especially if you're new to the genre and want to start off with one of the better, more artistic offerings.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ouch, My Heart

For the last bunch of days I've been attempting to organize my books.  My many books. very many books.  This has, of course, led to the rediscovery of a lot of stuff I haven't looked at in years, in particular, the hard copies of my old blogs and webjournals.  I blogged nearly every day from the time I was pregnant for my son until he was 6 or 7, and printed all.  that.  shit.  out.  All of it.  I have stacks of folders.  Most of it is not worth re-posting.  I realize, looking through it now, that I was mostly writing for my own sense of prosperity, because there's an awful lot of rambling stream of consciousness stuff that would really interest no one but me.  But here and there, through all those years of writing, pops out tidbits of the real deal.  Here's an old MySpace entry from the days when I was actively doing the young artist thing, churning out prints and having shows and whatnot.  This is from when I was first starting, and couldn't even draw that well yet.  (I was self-taught.)  The medium is cut paper.


That visit to the gallery yesterday had a profound effect on me.  When I came home, I was re-energized with the ambition to carry on the high school series, but hit a wall trying to figure out Eleventh Grade.  Ninth Grade was the easiest.  I spent the majority of the year doing things related to drama club, and it was easy to bring forth memories of all the time I spent backstage, poring over scripts, working on sets, having heated "discussions" with my drama coach about one thing or another that we violently disagreed on.

Tenth Grade was much harder.  Ideas certainly came rushing into my head, but I couldn't use any of them.  I'm still sort of disappointed that I chose such a benign scene:  myself stranded in class, any stupid, boring, pointless class, always in the back of the room to avoid being called on so I could read or draw or write a letter.  (I got most of my leisure reading done in class that year.  I always had a Paul Zindel book in my lap.)  I'd originally had visions of all kinds of brutally honest scenes, but realized that RedHeaded Girl couldn't be a part of any of them.

RedHeaded Girl has come to represent a lot of things to me.  She's really become, I don't know...the ideal me.  She's come to embody the things I wish I could be.  One day recently, I was blindsided unexpectedly with the reason why I've never given RedHeaded Girl a face.  Or more specifically and much more importantly, a mouth.  Nothing ever comes barreling out of her mouth that could make her look like a bitch, or a jerk, or an idiot.  And I don't mean that in the sense that I'm silencing her on purpose.  I mean...she just doesn't ever say anything unless it's...interesting, or kind, or really devastatingly hip.  She's the kind of girl that everyone wants to be friends with, everyone wants to date...  She is, first and foremost, eternally serene, a state of being that I've never in my life been able to achieve, and probably never will.  She's certainly not always in control of the situation, but she'll always be entirely calm in the face of it.  She's almost always melancholy, sometimes even very, very sad, but she's never shrill, never bossy...  She's full of flaws:  she hides from things, contemplates taking scary actions...but because she's so killer cool, she's never annoying.  I gave her my flaws, and took it a step further.  RedHeaded Girl can deal with them in a way I've never been able to:

She can keep her big mouth shut.

Eleventh Grade.  It was really hard to come up with a piece for that year, because to be 100% honest, I don't remember very much of it.  I spent the school year in a haze of apathy and medical problems, and as a result, my memories of that time period are very cloudy.  But this afternoon, it suddenly hit me.

Niagara Falls.

I started spending at least 50% of my time in Niagara Falls near the end of eighth grade, and that percentage steadily increased as high school progressed until I was 18 and living there.  Niagara University theatre, Artpark, Clifton Hill, Maple Leaf Village (while it was still around), Shaw Festival, The Rainbow Mall...  There was one spot in particular that stuck with me, even after I moved away to Central New York and stopped going to the Falls:  The exact middle of the Rainbow Bridge footpath.  The spot where they have that little plaque that tells you you're straddling the line between The U.S. and Canada.  Every time I walked across that bridge (and that was a LOT of times), I had to stop on that line and look at the Falls for awhile.  Night or day, sunny or cloudy...  I would stand on that line and grip the rail and stare.  Not intensely or purposefully or anything.  I just... I would stand there and feel like there was something that was supposed to be happening inside me that wasn't.  Like I should be having a powerful, cathartic revelation that would change my life in some way.  The deafening roar of the Falls, the violent churning at the bottom, the insane rush of the river before it fell over the edge, the heavy mist that obscured the view and hovered over everything...  all that power....I felt like I should be having some kind of mystical, soul-stirring experience that would re-set my brain and my heart and I could walk away from there feeling 100% better about...well, everything.  It never happened.  But I always had this sort of grim, quiet kind of hope that next time it would.  It was enough, at the time, you know, when I was 16, 17 years old.  It felt good to know that it might be out there, that it might end up happening for me.  And it did, years and years later.  Something clicked over inside me and I found my even keel, but it wasn't the Falls that flicked that switch.

I only get to go there once in a great while now, but I still have a squishy, gooey, mushy, bloppy soft spot for Niagara Falls.  Even with those horrifying casinos. (Maple Leaf Mall!!!  Where have you gone???)  At least Clifton Hill is still there.  Ahh, Clifton Hill...  may your gloriously cheesy neon shine on forever.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Can I Offer Anyone A Lemon Scone?

My mom has subscribed to Victoria Magazine for ages.  It is all things quaint, lovely, and sophisticated....the kind of magazine that requires a slow flip-through with a cup of raspberry tea near a picture window that looks out on bird feeders and flower pots.  Through one of their back issues online, I discovered one of my favorite things:  paper house templates.  And of course, this being Victoria, the templates are sweet and old-fashioned.  Here's a link to the page where you can download them:

And here's the final result of my experiment with one of the templates:


I didn't come up with the idea to make it into a decorative box; I saw that on a blog, but all the design stuff is my own.  I don't know what I'd do without super glue gel, seriously.  A minuscule dab on each hoof and you can even get a 2-dimensional deer to stand up straight as a board.

It helps tremendously to print the template out right onto printed paper, if you want to be able to skip the painting steps.  There are no helpful tabs for assembly on this one, so be prepared to do a lot of glue dab-dab-dabbing on some very thin surfaces.  How worth it, though!  This project turned into one of the nicest-looking things I've ever made.  I'd also recommend, if you want to embellish with jewels and such, to glue them on before assembling the house.  Getting those stars up there near the top was an exercise in frustration.

For anyone that would like to try this:  send me photos and I will post them on the blog!

Send to:


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Giving The Scissors A Workout

Libraries can be perfect places to find books full of craft patterns.  As long as you've got a scanner and a printer, you're golden.  The craft section at my local library led me to discover this great book called "Paper Cuts" by Taylor Hagerty:

The book

Here's the link:

When I used to be a for-real artist (gallery showings, selling prints, all that biz), my main medium was paper, so any time I see something paper-related, I'm on it.  This book does not disappoint.  The style of almost every project in it is whimsical in the best way possible.  I decided to try my hand at the princess and the frog scene, and the fairy ornament.  Here are my results:

It's hard to see in the picture, but the fairy ornament is actually four-sided and hanging from the ceiling.

You're most definitely going to have to own an X-Acto knife to even begin to attempt these projects, and if you go in as a beginner, be sure to buy a self-healing mat to do the cutting on.  I'm considerably more deft with scissors, so my knife cuts are, well, you don't want to look too closely.  But I think the end results are pretty cool, one way or the other.  I got all the little circles done by using a spring-loaded punch.  It makes an ungodly amount of noise, and I didn't have enough of a variety of sizes to do the canopy justice on the princess and the frog, but cutting decent circles with an X-Acto knife is a skill I gave up on long ago.

I'd highly recommend trying this book out, even if you've never cut paper in your life.  It includes projects that go from simple things like paper tea aprons to complicated shadowbox scenes.  You don't even need to worry about having printed paper.  I did the princess and the frog on plain white cardstock.  Give it a shot.  A lot of the projects in this book would make lovely and impressive gifts.


Saturday, April 05, 2014

The Mysterious Cottage

Here's another papercraft house for you to print out and build.  No people, birds, or gardens on this one.  The inhabitants of this cottage keep their curtains tightly shut at all times.  There are endless local legends about what goes on inside.....


Here's the pattern:

Click to embiggen!

Thank you to Just Something I Made for the house template!

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