Random Art Day!

I’ve gotten some more art done during the past few weeks! I’ve got to say, it’s been very relaxing when I can sit down and concentrate on drawing again. I’ve got a few more pages worth of drawings done and I figured why not show them off?

2015-08-08 (1)

I’ve been trying to doodle some more images from my Adventure Time: The Art of Ooo art book. This first page has Finn, Jake, and Marceline freaking out about something. Finn’s okay; he was a bit of a warm-up. Jake was okay, but I fooled around too much with my pens and markers and ended up making the outlines way too thick. Marceline came out the best, in my opinion. Between the weird face she’s making and her hair going all over the place (which was very fun to fill in), I think it’s the most interesting doodle of the three.

2015-08-08 (2)

I made a second page worth of Adventure Time characters, too. I tried drawing Bubblegum getting hit in the face with a slice of pizza, which turned out pretty eh. I drew Flame Princess (I think from the scene when she tried to hug Finn for the first time and realized it wasn’t going to work), which is a little better. The crackles of fire coming off her hair and dress help make it look more complex.

Then I tried a cool-looking Fiona. It was the most detailed, and I think it came out really nice. But the picture I was drawing from was shaded with really cool colors, so I thought why not try shading it myself? And not to toot my own horn, but I think it looks much better after shading it. I’m really proud of how this one came out. 🙂

2015-08-18

After several months of hearing how amazing Steven Universe is, I finally decided to sit down and give it some attention. I would have done it sooner, but Netflix once again didn’t offer something I wanted to watch and once again pushed me a little closer to trying out Hulu. However, after looking through our cable’s on demand features, I found a handful of episodes available to watch at my convenience. (Can you tell I don’t really use the cable in our house very much? :b )

AND I LOVE IT.

I’ve been trying to catch it on TV when it’s on, but it’s easier for me to just record it and watch when I can. Anyway, I’ve wanted to try drawing something Steven Universe related ever since. I wanted to find a picture that had more shading opportunities, but I couldn’t find a good one. So instead I went with a picture of Amethyst from the episode when she and Steven ran away, since that’s one of the episodes that’s been stuck in my head for a while.

I think it came out okay. I tried shading, but it was more like coloring it in black and white. I ended up making the picture take up the whole page, which makes the pencil coloring look more grainy. :/ But I still think it’s looks good. Not as good as my Fiona drawing, but still good.

Anyway, I hope everyone’s having a good week so far! Thanks for reading! 🙂

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Let’s Talk Books — Fangirl

Warning: Spoilers

Fangirl is the third book I’ve read by Rainbow Rowell. Her work seems to be very well-received, and I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read so far. The first book I read was Eleanor and Park, which I talked about a couple of months ago. The second was Landline, which I also enjoyed, although I’ll admit it didn’t stick quite as much as I would have liked. But I did enjoy both books a lot. They were about relationships, but it didn’t feel like the usual love story I expected them to be like. Both books had very real, flawed characters whose flaws were major antagonists. They felt like characters that mirrored real relationships, rather than characters in a love story.

From what I’ve read online, if Eleanor and Park wasn’t someone’s favorite Rainbow Rowell book, it was Fangirl. And I guess I can see why, but honestly it disappointed me more than anything else. It wasn’t a bad book, please don’t get me wrong. But I feel it had so much more potential with some of the subjects it was talking about. I’ll get to that in a little bit.

For those that haven’t read it, Fangirl is about a girl named Cath and her first year in college. She’s obsessed with Simon Snow, this book’s equivalent to the Harry Potter series. She writes fanfiction that ships Simon (who seems like a hybrid character of Harry and James Potter) and another character named Baz (who seems like a hybrid of Draco and Snape). It’s apparently a huge deal online; Cath has a ton of followers that anxiously wait for her to release the next chapter in one of her stories, and many of them like her stories more than the actual Simon Snow books.

This is Cath’s main thing. She prefers to keep to herself and do this, rather than try to meet new people or experience new things. So as you can imagine, starting college isn’t the most graceful transition for her. She was supposed to share a dorm room with her twin sister Wren, who’s been her best friend and even coauthor for most of their lives. However, Wren is really looking forward to college. She didn’t want to share a room with her sister, she wanted to reinvent herself, go out, meet new people, and totally immerse herself in the college experience.

Which is fine, except Wren starts acting like a jerk. She gradually starts distancing herself from Cath to the point of not even talking. Cath feels hurt and betrayed by her only friend, although she makes do. Her roommate, Reagan, although at first very intimidating eventually becomes her new best friend. There’s also Levi, this guy that hangs around Cath and Reagan’s room more than Reagan does, that also becomes her friend. Cath thinks he’s Reagan’s boyfriend (or at least one of them), but doesn’t find out until later that their romantic relationship ended a couple of years ago.

Cath is in a fiction-writing class, one of the only things she really enjoys about college. Her instructor, Prof. Piper, is very nice and encouraging, providing a decent adult role model in Cath’s life. There’s also a boy named Nick in their class that she writes with in the library, which is the most fun she has in college. It reminds her of when she and Wren used to write together, which fulfills something that she’s wanted to rekindle for some time.

Her first semester eventually starts falling apart, though. Wren gets really drunk and accidentally texts Cath 9-1-1 and a place to meet. Levi drives her to the place only to find out Wren meant to text her roommate, and the 9-1-1 meant she should totally be out with her right now. Cath gives up on her sister, and their relationship gets even more distant when Wren decides to take their mother’s invitation to meet up after 10 years. Their mother left them on 9/11 (I’m honestly not sure why it needed to be this day in particular, but whatever), and it left Cath with some trust issues. Cath can’t believe Wren can forgive their mother, let alone start meeting with her, and now feels threatened her mother is going to disrupt her life as well.

Prof. Piper fails one of Cath’s assignments because she thinks she plagiarized. Cath turned in one of her fanfictions, and Prof. Piper found it on the site Cath posts on. Cath explains the work on the site is hers, but Prof. Piper says that writing fanfiction is still plagiarizing because she’s using another author’s characters and worlds. They debate about this for a while, and despite Prof. Piper saying Cath has the most potential out of any of her students, Cath says she doesn’t have it in her to be a real writer. All she wants to do is write Simon Snow fanfiction. The entire experience discourages her and she ends up skipping the final assignment in the class.

Her writing friend Nick, who she started developing feelings for, also breaks her heart by saying he wants to hand in the story they’ve been working on all semester as his final project. He tries to convince Cath that she had been right when she said it’s mostly his story, and that she merely edits it, but it hurts nonetheless. She feels very used and stops seeing Nick.

She’s also started developing feelings for Levi, who has also seemingly been trying to charm her as well. She ends up reading an entire book to him because he has too much trouble concentrating on the actual reading part, and they end up kissing and falling asleep on top of each other. Reagan catches them and explains how she knew Levi liked her and it’s “fine” because Reagan and him have been over for a while, but she sets some ground rules to follow if Cath and him are to start dating. Cath is invited to go to a party Levi is throwing, which she initially says she isn’t going to. But at the last minute she goes with Reagan, only to find Levi making out with another girl. Cath leaves, with Reagan following close behind.

Cath ignores Levi for the rest of the semester, and Levi has no idea why she’s upset. Eventually, though, she’s forced to speak to him again. Her dad was sent to the hospital and Levi was the only person available to take her. While waiting, Cath eventually tells Levi she’s mad because she saw him at the party. Levi says it was just a kiss, and that he didn’t know where he and Cath were at, but Cath says there is no “just” with her. She tells him to leave, she goes home with her dad, and she says she doesn’t want to go back to college next semester.

I loved the first half of this book. I didn’t realize it before I started reading, but I don’t think I’ve read a fiction book that talks about so much of the college experience. It started touching bases on a lot of things I was really interested in seeing more of. The life-long friends that suddenly become different people and almost snub you, the weird gray area between friends and lovers, questioning what makes a relationship, thinking you know what you want to do in school but then finding out it’s not right for you, adjusting to a new place away from home for the first time, having intense semester-long friends, even something as simple as getting lost around campus — these are all great topics to showcase. I’ve read plenty of books that feature the high school setting, but after reading Fangirl, I found out how much I really wanted to read more books with this type of college setting.

And yes, there’s some personal bias there. As some of you may know, I’ve been missing college lately. Well, specific parts of college, like my creative writing workshops. Reading the first half of this book really struck a personal chord with me to the point where it actually hurt (although I’d like to think it’s a good kind of hurt). I wanted that to keep going. I wanted this book to be more than just Cath’s first year broken into two semesters. I wanted to see more, with more people coming and going, with more ups and downs. I wanted to keep reading about the confusing journey that is college.

Well unfortunately, the book didn’t do that. All those different areas of Cath’s life completely fade away; the second semester is almost exclusively about Cath and Levi’s relationship. She comes back to school. Levi… I don’t know. Grows up? Sees he did something to make Cath upset? I don’t know. Levi more or less begs for a second chance and Cath decided to give him one. The rest of the story is pretty much their honeymoon phase of the relationship, and I’d be lying if I said it was pretty painful to read through. Not the good kind of painful.

I mean some other things happen, but they seem so minor in comparison to how much attention is given to Levi. Prof. Piper gives Cath an incomplete and is willing to do a semester-long independent study with her to finish Cath’s last assignment and pass her class, which she stupidly ignores until the very last minute. Wren blacks out and is dropped off at a hospital to have her stomach pumped or something. Cath’s mom shows up, there’s an awkward couple of pages where they don’t really talk much, and then she disappears. (Did Cath’s mom really need to show up again in the story if this is what it came down to? Couldn’t she have just left when they were kids and the impact she left have been enough? Seriously, this whole mom subplot disappears as randomly as it appeared.) Nick also shows up at some point to give Cath credit for the story, but only because Prof. Piper wants to publish it in the school’s journal and she won’t publish it without both their names.

But honestly, it’s all about Cath and Levi. Holding hands. Snuggling. Smiling. Flirting. Blah blah blah blah.There’s so little conflict, the story just becomes boring. Every other thing I mentioned that happened is just a minor roadblock. In fact, many of these events seem to exist just to make Levi seem more like a knight in shining armor.

It didn’t help that I found Levi really obnoxious. From the first scene of the book, I already had the feeling that I was either going to like or hate him depending on how involved he was. Levi’s the type of character (the type of person, really) who’s always smiling. Who’s super nice to everyone. Who goes out of his way to help whoever needs help. Who’s always positive. Who loves life. Who’s very forward. Who’s very flirty. Quite frankly, he’s a toned down Augustus Waters. And if you read my Fault in Our Stars post, you can probably tell this isn’t my favorite type of character.

Honestly, he seems too perfect. And that’s boring. Really boring. Call me cynical, but his and Cath’s relationship seems more like what you would see advertised in photo frames. For someone that was so hurt by his betrayal and for someone that supposedly has a lot of trust issues, Cath sure went back to trusting and liking Levi pretty fast. And maybe that’s realistic; after all, love is weird and doesn’t make sense. I can see someone hopping back into toxic feelings.

And if she did and he broke her heart all over again by getting drunk and making out with some other girl again, then that would be fine. Maybe she could move on and learn that guys like Levi aren’t right for her (which is something she’s stated multiple times throughout the book). But that doesn’t happen. He acts obnoxiously nice all the time and wins her heart. And they have a perfect relationship that you get to read about for 200 pages. With one or two minor inconveniences, of course.

Rainbow Rowell also describes Levi as smiling too much. He’s always smiling. ALWAYS. Or grinning. Or radiating. Or whatever. The descriptions of him smiling get pretty old pretty fast. It’s like in Harry Potter when Draco and his goons HOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWL with laughter every time something embarrassing happens to Harry. After a while, the same set of descriptions get really old and really annoying. And to her credit, she does mix up the descriptions of him smiling all the god damn time. But in the end, it all means the same thing. After a while I just wanted to say, “OKAY. I GET IT. HE’S A REALLY HAPPY DUDE. STOP TELLING ME HE’S SMILING AFTER EVERY CHARACTER SAYS SOMETHING TO HIM.”

But if you’re into this sort of happy “awwwww” romance stuff… then go for it. Like I said in the beginning, it’s not a bad book. But for me, it turned out to be really disappointing. And part of that is due to taste. Compared to the character flaws in Eleanor and Park and Landline, I really thought Rainbow Rowell could have made the relationship in this book a lot better and more interesting. I’m not very interested in romantic stories where both characters just partake in each others bliss for the majority of the plot. There needs to be more conflict. The characters need to have more flaws. And while you could argue these things are present in Cath and Levi, I don’t think they’re present enough.

Like I said earlier, I was also really disappointed the book started out by delving into the complexities of a college lifestyle but then strayed so far away from that. Maybe a second read would be more positive since I would know what to expect, but I still think so many more interesting possibilities existed in Fangirl and I really wish Rainbow Rowell would have explored them more. Everything kind of conveniently fell into place by the end of the book and I sort of felt cheated. But again, this could just be me.

I’d still recommend giving Fangirl a read if you haven’t, but keep what I said in mind. It very much becomes a honeymoon phase love story in the second half, so if you’re not into that then you may want to look for something else. But either way, I’d recommend Eleanor and Park first if you wanted a love story with actual flawed characters that make the story much more interesting. And I’d even recommend Landline if you’re in the mood for a troubled marriage/midlife crisis kind of love story. But Fangirl… I don’t know. Call me blasphemous, but I wasn’t exactly rooting for Cath and Levi.

Fangirl

Info for my edition of Fangirl:

  • Published 2013 by St. Martin’s Griffin
  • Hardcover, 433 pages
  • ISBN 978-1-250-03095-5

Let’s Talk Books — Speak

Warning: Spoilers

Earlier this year I read The Impossible Knife of Memory. It was a book someone had recommended to me last year, and I’m glad I finally got around to reading it. It was a YA book, but I thought it was a really good YA book that I still found things to relate to even in my late twenties. In fact, it’s one of my favorite books I’ve read so far this year. I’m not really sure why I didn’t talk about it, actually. Maybe part of the reason was I felt like I didn’t have anything extensively to talk about with it other than it being really good. Or maybe it was back when I wasn’t writing as many posts about books.

In any case, I’ve wanted to check out another book by the author, Laurie Halse Anderson, since I finished The Impossible Knife of Memory. Speak seemed to be her claim to fame, so I added it to my to-read list. And after knocking off a good chunk of books from that list over the past several months, I finally borrowed it.

Honestly, much like The Impossible Knife of Memory, Speak is a pretty good book all around. It feels pretty different from the prior, but that’s not a bad thing. I don’t feel like I have too much to say about it, but seeing as I’ve been trying to talk about more books lately, I figure I could at least try.

Speak is about a girl just starting high school named Melinda. She called the cops during a party over the summer, and now everyone hates her. Her friends have turned into enemies and most of the student body knows what she did and hates her, too. She’s also very depressed; a traumatic incident at the party has caused her to barely talk and she has to spend the entirety of her time dealing with the aftermath.

The book takes place over the course of her freshman year, separated into four main sections cleverly titled as marking periods. In addition, her days are also separated by brief titles. I really liked this. Dealing with depression can very much feel like a day by day challenge, and I think breaking up the story into identifiable milestones like days and marking periods was a really good way of showing that. There’s even a report card at the end of each marking period that shows Melinda’s grades gradually slipping as she continues to struggle with what happened, with the exception of art.

Art is the one class she has a supportive teacher in. At the start of the year, his students randomly pick a topic out of a partially destroyed globe as their subject for their projects all year. Melinda gets a tree, and struggles to make anything good featuring the tree. Her struggles with this mirror her struggles with depression, except that with her art projects, other people can actually see her struggling to say what she needs to say.

Over time, we learn that Melinda was raped at the party. Rape is pretty much the one thing that makes me very uncomfortable in books, movies, etc. but I’ve been slowly getting used to exploring more stories that discuss it. And thankfully, the part where Melinda recalls the actual incident isn’t too graphic. In fact, the scene goes by pretty quickly and is partially blocked out by her thoughts, which I think is a good representation of how that night probably went.

It turns out the rapist goes to her school. She only refers to him as IT for a while, before being able to finally identify him by name (which again, I think represents a good way of how hard it is for her to start processing everything). And if that wasn’t bad enough, he taunts her. When he’s near, he blows in her ear. He grins at her. He winks at her. He even starts talking to her. He starts going out with one of her ex-friends, which Melinda tries to warn her about even though the friend has been pretty superficial and shitty to her for the entire year.

About 3/4 through the book, Melinda starts recovering. She gets on better terms with one of her ex-friends in art class, and through a series of events they write a warning about the rapist in one of the girls’ bathroom stalls. She starts working on projects in the yard instead of locking herself in her room, she dives more into her art projects, and she starts talking a little more.

The little progress she’s finally able to make is threatened, however, when the rapist confronts her in an unused janitor’s closet, which Melinda has been frequently using to cut class. He yells at her for spreading rumors about him and tells her she wanted what happened. He assaults her again and comes close to raping her a second time, but she manages to scream and get away from him. As she leaves the closet, another of her ex-friends (along with the sports team she’s on) sees what was about to happen.

It’s never revealed what happened to the rapist, but thanks to the sports team many of the students in school found out what really happened at the party and apologize to Melinda. This is a little weird — while I know Melinda was trying so hard to let someone know what happened, I’m not sure if she wanted so many people to find out. But she doesn’t really comment on that one way or the other, so I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. The book ends with Melinda learning to accept what’s happened, but now with a resolve to move past it.

The narration made everything about the book seem more real. Melinda is very direct. She doesn’t waste the readers’ time with long-winded explanations on why she feels the way she does. We can see it through her direct commentary on everything around her and her actions, which I think is what ultimately helps make a good book. The fact that this works well with the short, diary-like sections also adds to the book’s overall impact.

There were a couple of things that I could nitpick, though. For starters, the book is really predictable. And I don’t mean that in a bad way, it’s just a neutral fact. As soon as Melinda identified her assailant as IT, I had immediate suspicions of what happened at the party. Out of curiosity, I went back to the copyright page and scrolled down to that small list of subject matter the book contains and sure enough — rape. People more familiar with stories like this could have probably put this together from the inside flap summary alone. From then on I kind of assumed, as a YA book, Melinda would reveal what the rapist had done and gotten her friends back. And while this is more or less what happened, I’ll give the book a lot of credit for having Melinda not just “getting over” what happened. She directly acknowledges it happened and can’t forget or ignore it. It’s a permanent part of her that will always stay with her, even when she decides she needs to move on. I wasn’t expecting a mature way of ending the book like that.

Aside from Melinda, the characters are also pretty standard YA characters. The teachers range from angry and strict for no reason, weird and disconnected from the students, and in the case of the art teacher, the eccentric genius that’s passionate for his students to succeed and see the world from his point of view while being the one supportive adult in the story. With the art teacher in particular, I felt both jealous and disconnected. For me, art in high school was never particularly involved. I never learned much from my teachers and we pretty much got credit as long as we worked on something. But it was more or less a free period. When I read settings like this, I can’t help but wonder if this is what high school art was supposed to be like or if my school just sucked.

Her parents are also pretty unsupportive. Her mom is so no-nonsense that she tells Melinda she doesn’t have time for her cries for help, even though throughout the book she complains that Melinda never speaks. (Would YOU talk to someone about a traumatic event when they tell you they don’t have time for threats of running away or suicide?) The book sort of goes into a dysfunctional family system that’s been around for a while, and how it used to be better when Melinda was a kid, but it doesn’t dive deep enough. There was certainly a lot of room to explore that further, and I sort of wonder why go enough to raise questions and intrigue but not far enough to justify bringing it up in the first place.

But honestly, these are nitpicks. In other YA books this would have bugged me more, but I think the book was really good as a whole. It knew what it was about and how it wanted to show its story, and it stuck to it for the most part. It more than makes up for some of the less interesting characters. I would definitely recommend reading it if you get the chance.

Speak

Info for my edition of Speak:

  • Published 2006 by Speak
  • Paperback, 198 pages
  • ISBN 9-780142-407325

Random Art Day!

Last week I had a good old fashion, late-night drawing session. I put on a bunch of old Nostalgia Critic videos and dedicated the night to doodling Adventure Time characters from my The Art of Ooo book. It felt really great to draw again, especially late at night. I used to do it all the time in high school, and while I can’t see myself jumping back into that lifestyle as often as I used to, it was a great way to unwind and take my focus off depression. I’m thinking of trying to do this more often, and if I do I’ll share some more art in the future. It’s been harder for me to find things I feel like talking about, and I’d really like to have something for this blog every week, so I’m hoping this might be a good compromise.

Adventure Time doodles

Yeah, I even drew on loose leaf paper to make it feel more like an authentic doodling session. I got in BMO, Bubblegum, Jake, Finn, Marceline, and Fiona on the page before I ran out of room and called it a night.

Hope everyone’s having a good week! 🙂