6-Hera Syndulla

A Collection of Art Experiments

Although most of them came out of a whim, or because I was sick and had some down time, or else on a road trip and seeking to redeem the time.  🙂

So it turns out that I’ve drawn Ezra more than any other Rebels character (as of now), with drawings of Kanan taking second place.  Which is a bit odd, considering Kanan is my favorite character which may or may not be obvious, but I have a lot scenes, both from the show and from my imagination, that I want to draw.  So the ratios will probably balance out soon.

What’s really interesting is that before Rebels fan art, I never used to draw faces from the front.  It was too hard to get the proportions lined up and looking accurate to the character.  But front-view and almost-front-view angles account for about half of the portraits of Ezra I’ve drawn–and it’s actually not too hard!  And I’m learning tips and tricks about drawing from this angle, which I hope will carry over into my drawings of other fictional characters!  (I really need to get back to A Tale of Two Cities artwork…)

(Referenced from a screencap from cap-that.com.)

This is one of the drawings I started in the car (and finished once we got to my grandparents’ house).  Doing anything in the car, except listening to music and staring out the window, used to make me carsick–but oddly enough, drawing doesn’t.  Maybe it’s because I’m paying too much attention to my work to notice the scenery whizzing by.

I have a headcanon that Sabine draws while eating her meals (like I do sometimes.  Okay, a lot.)  I also have a headcanon that when she isn’t wearing her armor, she puts a brightly colored shirt over her black jumpsuit.  Which never happens in the show, but probably only because it would be too complicated to animate a variety of costume changes.

Ezra, grumpy because he is sick, and therefore not allowed to join the others on their mission.  Also, Kanan may or may not have confiscated his lightsaber so he would be less tempted to sneak after the crew…

(This is a scene out of my head, and not from the show.  🙂  )

A sketch to practice drawing Hera.  (Referenced from a screen cap from cap-that.com.)  I started this one in the car as well, but then we hit some winding mountain roads, and I did get carsick and had to quit until we got home.

Drawing of Poe that I did for Gingersnap’s birthday present–because once again, I was too sick to decorate an elaborate cake the way I usually do.

So this is the first artwork of 2018, and I drew it kinda on a whim.  I was playing Scrabble with my parents and brother Chris, and they were taking a long time to finish up their turns.  So I grabbed my sketchbook and started work on this.  And then finished it at 5:00 am the next morning, to do something slightly more productive than staring into space and bemoaning a second round of sickness.  🙂

It’s Kanan from Season 3, soon after A Plot Twist That Completely Wrecked The Fandom and shortly before Some Very Important Character Development.  Desperately trying to avoid spoilers here, though the picture itself is kind of a spoiler.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Kanan deserves so much better than he gets.

(Also referenced from cap-that.com‘s fantastic collection, and no, they’re not sponsoring me.  I’m just raiding their gallery.  🙂 )

Sabine from Season 3.  I initially just wanted to color her hair, but Chris suggested I add touches of color to the rest of the drawing, rather than coloring one element and leave the rest monochromatic.  This was the result.  I’m still trying to decide whether I’m pleased with it; kinda, yes, but I definitely need to improve my colored pencil rendering.  🙂

(Guess where the reference photo came from.  Yay, you got it!–cap-that.com!)

One of my 2018 art goals is to learn to paint portraits in watercolor.  So here’s a portrait of Durant, although I painted it the other day because I was sick, and bored, and just wanted to paint something.

I suddenly realize that most of my depictions of Durant have him looking down at something.  Hmm, I’ll have to fix that….

Aaaaaand I finally finished my portrait of Thrawn!  Eh, sorta.  The humanoid species* are actually hard to draw–they’re close enough to human proportions that you think, “Oh, this’ll be easy”….but they’reactually just different enough that no, it’s not easy.  *headdesk*  It’s why I struggled to draw first Hera and now Thrawn (though I had no problems with Asohka.  Go figure.)

Anyway, this was kind of a commission from Chris, who really, really wanted me to draw Thrawn, and still really, really wants me to depict him in color.  And I really, really want to draw Thrawn in colored pencil particularly, but I have to improve my portraits of him first, and then improve my colored pencil technique.

*Thrawn is a Chiss

Testing out my colored pencils on the new drawing paper I got recently.

Painting various Star Wars species counts as  portraits in watercolor, right?  Of course right.  🙂

This was also done kinda on a whim, and for the same reasons as Durant’s portrait (sick/bored/wanted to paint).  The camera actually messed up the background; the colors are less blue and more red-violet/purple.  Other than that, I’m pleased with this one!  I actually think it turned out better than my pencil drawing…

And I definitely want to paint the rest of the Rebels characters now!

6-Hera Syndulla

Year-End Art Meme!

(Meant to post this closer to New Year’s; then the new year got off to a crummy start.  Still, better late than never!  🙂 )

Time to thumb back through the portfolio and either celebrate or cringe!  Or both.  Or get inspired to create better art.  Or get annoyed that the brand-new portfolio you bought yesterday is almost full thanks to the slough of Rebels fan art months from the last two months and I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to bring my personal problems into this.

Ahem.  I created and posted this meme last year, but I’ve updated and expanded it a bit since then.  It’s a good way to keep track of progress.  🙂  If you’re an artist, feel free to snag the tag and fill it out yourself!  Or, if you’re a writer, feel free to grab it and adapt it to the art of creative writing.  Go nuts, and have fun!

First piece of artwork finished in 2017

This was my attempt to draw more smoothly with colored pencils rather than the”sketchy” look with visible lines going everywhere.  Didn’t quite succeed…

Last piece of artwork finished in 2017

This quick drawing of Poe Dameron for Gingersnap’s birthday–because once again, I was sick and couldn’t decorate her birthday cake the way I usually do.  We’re very generous people, but we draw the line at sharing germs.  🙂

A new medium/style/technique you tried this year

I actually tried two new media this year!  Of the two, my favorite was…

…watercolor and gouache on toned pastel paper.  An odd combination, but it worked far better than I’d anticipated.  And it recreates the look of an old sepia photograph, which is cool.  I’d like to try other watercolor/pastel paper color combinations soon: indigo watercolor on blue paper,  green watercolor on green pastel paper, and see how those turn out!

Then I tried my hand at charcoal drawing…

…and I liked it well enough, though improving my charcoal technique isn’t my top art priority at the moment.  (This character is Lennox, from Empty Clockwork.)

A subject/medium/technique that took you out of your comfort zone

Drawing faces from the front was always a challenge–to the point that I was too nervous to try,  especially with characters I liked.  Because there was no way I would risk making Sydney Carton, or someone other literary hero, look like a humanoid-goblin-thing thanks to inexperience.  (#perfectionistproblems)  But drawing Rebels fan art forced me to try, and succeed, and even improve.  🙂  And oddly enough, about half my portraits of Ezra have been from  front or near-front angles.

The piece of artwork that others liked the most

Um…I’m not really sure!  I guess this one?

It’s a setting from Christine Smith’s The Nether Isle.

3 ways your artwork improved through 2017

I finally learned how to draw smoothly with colored pencils!  (Thanks to a book I picked up from Hobby Lobby.)  The technique requires a lot of layering and blending, but the results are definitely worth it:

I also improved the light and shadow in my pencil drawings–many of my earlier pictures didn’t have enough contrast and looked too pale.

(This character is Durant, from my story Gentle Fire.)

And, as mentioned before, drawing faces from the front.  🙂

Your personal favorite piece from 2017! (Explain why!)

This portrait of Ezra Bridger.  Not only did I capture an angle I’m not used to drawing, the picture turned out to look (a) very much like the Rebels  character and (b) in the realistic style I was shooting for just ignore the unfinished hands, please.  So yeah, definitely my favorite piece!

3 things to improve in your artwork in 2018

  1.   Um…probably more realistic-looking hands.  🙂  Along with more varied poses and facial expressions.
  2. My colored pencil technique and also my watercolor technique…the values in my paintings lately have been unbalanced and with poor contrast.
  3. And drawing more out of my imagination and not relying quite so much on reference photos.

3 new things to try in 2018 (such as styles, mediums, poses, backgrounds, characters to draw, contests to enter)

  1. Keep working with the watercolor/gouache/pastel paper combination (not exactly new, but still…)
  2. Painting watercolor on wood.  I found some pictures of that style the other day, and it looks really interesting.
  3. And I want to learn to paint people in watercolor…a daunting thought, but we’ll see how the process turns out!

What do you enjoy most about creating?

Both the process and the finished product (usually).  I also love being able to capture the characters and scenes from my imagination!

6-Hera Syndulla

More Rebels Fanart, Multiple Mishaps, & Concept Art

I’m still at it, and I still want my show back and may or may not still be mad at The Last Jedi for booting it off the TV schedule.  Also, I will not be seeing The Last Jedi, because when Chris returned from the theater today, he told me the movie wasn’t something I’d like.  If he’d thought that I would like it, I would have gone to see it, probably, but my initial misgivings were justified and I hate being right sometimes.  So that’s that.

Back to Rebels.  I am very scared that someone is going to be killed off before/during the Season 4 finale.  Most of the fandom is betting that the victim will be Kanan.  If that is the case, I will probably cry.  On the other hand, that seems like such an obvious plot device, that I wonder if the filmmakers will actually go with it–and due to Kanan being a mentor character (though he’s also a protagonist in his own right), the fandom predicted that he would be killed off in every new season.  Which didn’t happen.  Kanan was put through a physical and emotional shredder each season, definitely, but he’s still with us.

And yet there’s just enough uncertainty that I’m very scared.  And going into a nervous breakdown over the hiatus.  I may also be taking this way too seriously.  🙂

To balance out all this nail-biting panic, I like to draw funny stuff–because, let’s face it, the SpaceFam is just as quirky and realistic as any family here on earth.  So Hera discovers, with some annoyance, that the rest of the crew hijacked her grocery list.  And kudos to anyone who can figure out which handwriting belongs to each character!  Answers at the bottom of the page.  🙂

Mama Hera comforting her Space Baby (i.e. Ezra).  For some reason, the Prince of Egypt soundtrack perfectly fits the Rebels show–at least in my mind. I’m not sure why–the animation styles are totally different; the stories are different (parallels exist here and there, but you have to stretch both situations to get them to match up), they were produced by different studios, have different voice actors, etc.  However, after listening to the Prince of Egypt soundtrack 383 times, and watching Rebels 135 times, I gave up wrestling with the logic and just ran with the idea.  🙂  These particular lyrics are from the number “Deliver Us” (and if you listen to nothing else from the soundtrack, listen to that song!), and they sound like the kind of thing Hera would say.

Also, have I mentioned Twi’leks are hard to draw?  Hera still looks a little disproportionate to me…

Ezra is such a cutie.  🙂

Another Rebels/Prince of Egypt crossover.  I almost gave up on this piece because after Attempt #224 to draw Hera correctly, I was almost literally blowing steam out of my ears (did I mention Twi’leks are hard to draw?!?!?!?!).  But then I looked up some Rebels screencaps (from cap-that.com), and studied the reference photos closely–and tried again.  Had to erase and redraw Hera’s face a few more times, but it wasn’t too long after that she looked semi-correct.  And so I’m content.  🙂  Actually, I’m glad I didn’t give up on this piece because it turned out beautifully!  The lyrics are from the number “When You Believe”–and quite frankly, that song fits Hera perfectly.

Somebody stop me from doing these crossovers.  Actually, don’t, because they’re too much fun!  Kanan vs. Inquisitor #1, a minion of the Empire trained to hunt down the remaining Jedi.  The lyrics are from the Prince of Egypt number “Playing with the Big Boys”, and that song actually does fit most of Kanan’s interactions/fights with this guy.  (So maybe the soundtrack doesn’t fit the whole Rebels story, and does match individual situations…)

Buuuut I don’t want to draw the Inquisitor again, ever.  He’s freaky to look at and even freakier to draw.  Emmet was incredibly helpful, however, as I muscled my way through this, critiquing how I depicted our dear Sith employee, and how well I’d drawn the lightsabers, and the overall look of the piece.  (I used a screencap from cap-that.com as reference.  And I may or may not have looked at nearly all the Rebels galleries or checked 2,385 screencaps for other art references.)

Kanan’s messy hair was oddly satisfying to draw.  Maybe because it never falls out of place in the cartoon, a break from reality that drives me a bit nuts?  (Actually, it’s because individual strands of hair would be too hard to animate, but whatever.)

So um…what can I say about this?  A scene from the Season 2 finale “Twilight of the Apprentice.”  I can’t decide if I love this or hate it because KANAN DESERVED SO MUCH BETTER HE’S BEEN THROUGH SO MUCH AND DESERVES THE HAPPIEST OF ENDINGS ahem, was that out loud?   But on the other hand, the artwork turned out really well, though I added or removed aspects from the scenery for dramatic effect (e.g. Kanan’s lightsaber is actually not in the frame during this shot of the episode).

(Referenced from a screencap from cap-that.com.)

I randomly wanted to draw Sabine with her Season 2 hair–she gets a new hairstyle/color each season, though I noticed there’s always blue/purple in the mix somewhere…

(Referenced from another screencap from cap-that.com., and I may or may not spend too much time browsing their Rebels gallery for reference/inspiration…)

Emmet pointed out that I need to draw Captain Rex, to add to my collection of profile portraits.  So I did.  🙂  I now draw these portraits facing the opposite direction as the characters appear in the reference photo–that is, Rex was facing the other direction in the screen cap.  It’s a good exercise to train my eye to assess the proportions and shapes of the face rather than just copying directly from the picture.

(Referenced from another screencap from–you guessed it–cap-that.com.)

And then Chris said I needed to draw Asohka Tano, so here she is!  And I am beyond thrilled with how this turned out–I was honestly scared to attempt Asohka because of the complexity of her head and the patterns/stripes on her face and head.  And they’re not even 100% accurate, but her features (a) look like Asohka, and (b) I didn’t want to spend half the night erasing and refining stripes.  So Clone Wars fans, please don’t murder me.  🙂

(Referenced from a screencap from cap-that.com.)

On a totally different note, I mentioned in this post that Christine Smith gave me permission to draw art inspired by her story’s aesthetic, and I have now finished a couple pieces of concept art!  You can read about her story here, and read snippets from the draft here!

This is graphite and white pencil on toned pastel paper.  It was also my plan B, because I had finished a gorgeous drawing of this exact same scene in one of my small sketchbooks.  I was pleased with it, so the next step was to pull out the page and scan a copy into the computer.

So then this happened:

I was less astounded by the rip and more by the fact that I’ve literally never torn my paper taking it out of the sketchbook.  In 6 years of drawing, this was the first accident of that sort.  (Priorities, no?)  Taping the paper proved impossible–the rip was too visible, and so I finally traced the old picture to create new line art and rendered the scene on pastel paper.

Ruins in a forest.  There was a mishap with this one too; I started painting the scene, but didn’t lay down my values correctly.  To get the lights and darks to stand out as they should, I added layers and layers of paint…which eventually turned the layers “chalky” and not transparent the way watercolor should be.  Hoo boy.  Though I’d been painting for hours, and it was 4:00 p.m., I prepared new line art as soon as I realized my first picture couldn’t be saved.  And started painting Version #2 with some trepidation–but it turned out much better!  At least until the scanner ruined the quality of the colors.

So, have any of you readers seen Rebels?  Do you have a favorite picture from this batch?


Okay, the answers for the handwriting mystery: the items “waffles” and “caf” (coffee, basically) are in Hera’s handwriting.  Then the others take over; the explosives and paint requests are Sabine’s handwriting; the droid restraining bolts request is in Zeb’s handwriting; and the earmuffs and meilooruns request was Ezra’s (though that last item was also a prank).  And Kanan’s handwriting is at the bottom of the page–not requesting a grocery item, but a little peace and quiet aboard the Ghost.  🙂

6-Hera Syndulla

In Which Christine Has A Checkered Experience with NaNo

So, in the the Beautiful People link-up from October, I said I decided against participating in National Novel Writing Month.

Then I changed my mind.

I read Christine’s post for how to survive NaNo and her post about her NaNo work-in-progress…and started to think that the challenge would be a good way to spark progress on my own novel.  So after some thought and prayer, I decided to at least start NaNo.  If it proved too demanding for my writing, my life, or my health, I would either drop it or amend my goals.

I had already begun writing my novel a few weeks before November began–on pen and paper in a loose-leaf binder–so I didn’t start page one on November 1st.  But the situation helped me create my daily goal: I counted 1,600 written words, and found that amounted to roughly 6 1/2 pages. To get 2K a day, I estimated that would be about 9 pages. So my writing goal became 9 pages a day.  I found I actually loved meeting a daily page goal!  And it definitely spurred writing progress, and helped me do more than I thought I could!

Well, for the first two days at any rate.  I ended up writing in the wee hours of the morning of November 1st–not because of any dedication to the craft, but because of asthma trouble that forced me to sit upright.  After hours of sitting in the recliner and texting a friend who also happened to be sleepless, I finally noticed the blue binder sitting nearby and thought, “Why not?” I actually met my 9-page goal that day, and the next–but then reality and the need for sleep set in, and I fell behind for the next two days.  🙂

I caught up by adding an extra 3 pages to the daily goal–and promptly fell behind again.  I kept adding an extra 3 pages to the daily goal every time I fell behind–and thus began an endless cycle of trying to catch up.   It was incredibly helpful to have my friend Heather encouraging me through it, asking after my progress via text and cheering me on!  But the amount of catch-up work to be done soon got overwhelming.  And I got perpetually exhausted halfway through November, and so decided not to push myself to meet the daily page counts any more.  And then Thanksgiving approached, and I got caught up in drawing Star Wars: Rebels fan art, and long story short, I dropped the NaNo goal.

Which was incredibly frustrating, because this cycle of falling behind and dropping goals happened repeatedly through my 12 years of writing.  Mainly because of my chronic illness (though I also used to be a huge procrastinator and perfectionist).  HOWEVER, the whole experience wasn’t a waste, because here’s what I learned.:

  1. That Star Wars Rebels fan art is so fun to draw!  Okay, okay, I’ll be serious.  🙂
  2. November is really not a good month to set a self-appointed writing deadline.  For years, November has been a wind-down month for me and a Christmas preparation month–I do all my shopping, boxing, and wrapping through November, and what with Thanksgiving at the end of the month, it’s just a bad time for me to cram in 2,000 words a day.
  3. On the other hand, I actually can meet daily word counts/page counts–something I hadn’t been too sure about before starting this endeavor.  Having a concrete daily goal of some kind really does jump start my progress!
  4. Writing with pen and paper actually works better for me than typing on the computer.  Or rather, it works better for the draft; I do character and story development on the computer.  But with Gentle Fire, it has worked really well to type a bunch of notes, a sort of “thinking (or is that typing?!?) out loud” process, and then de-clutter the notes, print them out, and draft the story by hand.
  5. However, this process is definitely slower than tapping away on a keyboard.  So when I have the option, it might work best to pair a 50K word count goal with a month in which there aren’t as many holidays.  🙂
  6. As such–I may actually try for a monthly 50K word count again–but in March, not November.

All in all, I’m content with the progress I did make, and with the principles I learned.  And once again, I missed the Beautiful People link-up, but I’ll still include the questions here.  🙂

Overall, how is your mental state, and how is your novel going?

Hehe.  Bit of a roller coaster on both counts.  I wanted to chronicle my first two weeks of doing NaNo, like Christine did, but it would be a refrain of “met the goal, fell behind, tried to catch up, fell behind again.”  Kinda boring to read about…

At the moment, I’ve focused more on art than on writing, so my progress is sporadic just now.  I hope to get back into the swing of daily writing after New Year!

What’s your first sentence (or paragraph)?

The little school room, though not empty, had an abandoned air.  Benches were deserted, and a slate or two lay askew atop the wood.  But near the front of the room, the small population of scholars crowded around their young schoolmaster, who sat with a boy on his lap, and a book in his hands.  Two more boys sat on either side of the teacher, and the young man held the book open and tilted so that the students could see the pages.  He read aloud from the text—but no more than a sentence or two at a time.

~Chapter 1

And Durant can’t read further because his students keep interrupting with questions.  🙂

Who’s your current favourite character in your novel?

Durant, hands down, because of his character layers–he’s the quiet type with a serious and reserved demeanor, but he is deeply passionate for his family and his values.  He also adores his nephews and niece, and he enjoys teaching children.  He has an iron will, but a soft heart.  Also because I can relate to his struggles (fear and discouragement) and his priorities (family, fulfilling trust, responsibilities).  May or may not be a case of Real Life Writes the Plot (and I really need to get off tvtropes.org).

I enjoy writing Mary, though; her voice and her actions come very naturally to me.  I also think Wilson will be fun to write, once he appears (he went ahead to the colonies to buy land and set up the homestead, and so he’s not in the earliest chapters), and I’m definitely looking forward to writing Sanchia!  (More about these characters here.)

What do you love about your novel so far?

I like the frontier setting–both Anglo and Mexican–and the twist on the western setting tropes.  Because the frontier is not newly acquired home territory; it’s actually a colony and is referred to as such.

I also love the world building.  While I draw a lot of inspiration from history, I started from scratch with the social and political development of the colonies and simply asked, “given that the colonies were started for economic reasons, how might the society and politics develop?”  And wrote about 4 pages of world building in one day.


Have you made any hilarious typos or other mistakes?

That snippet I shared above?  In the original, I repeated the phrase  “near the front of the room”–in the same sentence!  (And yes, I edited it before sticking that paragraph on my blog…it’s not a problem to correct typos when you’re aware of them.  🙂 )

Also, as I scribbled away one day, I suddenly wondered, “Hey, what chapter am I on?”  I flipped back, five, ten, twelve, fourteen pages…a few minutes of amused chuckling and flipping later, I found my Chapter 3 heading…20 pages back.  Turns out, I’d forgotten to end chapter 3 and just merrily kept writing without chapter breaks!  I got a good laugh out of it, and finally found a good place to put the heading for Chapter 4.

Then the same thing happened with Chapter 6–I got so caught up in the string of events that I didn’t actually end the chapter!

What is your favourite to write: beginning, middle, or end — and why?

I’ve honestly never thought about this.  My beginning chapters are hard because I didn’t connect them very well to Durant’s character arc through the rest of the book.  So I’m kinda making it up as I go, and I expect to write better and faster once I get to the more interesting stuff later on.  🙂

What are your writing habits? Is there a specific snack you eat? Do you listen to music? What time of day do you write best? Feel free to show us a picture of your writing space!

Erm, well, the only consistent habit is “sit down and write”.  Beyond that, it depends on the situation; if the room is noisy, I’ll stick in my ipod with The Alamo soundtrack playing–I might also do that if the room is quiet, but I need musical inspiration.

There’s really no good time of day to write–it all depends on how much sleep I got the night before (even this is inconsistent; I’ve written 9 pages after being up half the night with asthma, and I’ve barely written 3 pages when feeling just fine.  I have no idea what the pattern is!).

How private are you about your novel while you’re writing? Do you need a cheer squad or do you work alone (like, ahem, Batman)?

It honestly depends on the story and/or the friend or sibling I’m talking to!  My brother Chris knows more about Empty Clockwork than I’ve shared on this blog or with my other friends-and-relations.  I’ve talked a good deal about Gentle Fire here, but I’ve also kept a LOT off the table.  I’ve talked a good deal about my literary story Yorkshire Crossroads with my sister Enkie, but I’ve also kept some spoilers well-guarded.  So it really depends!

So, I  guess in general, I work alone like Batman–but with a few confidantes that play the roles of Alfred Pennyworth and Lucius Fox.  🙂

What keeps you writing even when it’s hard?

Looking ahead to the finished product.  Reminding myself of my goal–and that it will be worth it when I get there.

What are your top 3 pieces of writing advice?

  1. Understand the story you’re telling–not just the genre, but what it is you as the writer are ultimately trying to say.  And also the themes, the style, the tone, stuff like that.  Then select the writing “rules” and techniques that will suit your story, not the other way ’round (I discussed that briefly here).
  2. Learn how you work best.  Some writers need more time to plan; others need the general concept and they come up with the rest on the fly.  Some need pages of notes; others work off the tops of their heads; still others find a combination of the two.  Understanding how you work best will let you plan reasonable goals (e.g. if you need LOTS of time to prewrite, then shooting for a novel a year might not work), and let you be flexible when life throws a monkey wrench in that plan.  Plus, you’ll tailor your schedule and stories to your strengths.
  3. Encourage other writers.  You’ve been through those difficulties before, so why not help others through them?

So, there you have it, my NaNo experience!  It didn’t end quite the way I’d hoped, but it wasn’t a failure either.  And I would definitely like to try for 50K words in one month, but perhaps in March.  🙂

6-Hera Syndulla

Liebster Award!

Imagine my delight when I logged onto my blog the other morning and discovered that Chelsea had nominated me for the Liebster Award!  I was honored and thrilled–and I absolutely love tags and memes!  So off we go!

Um…did I just overuse exclamation points?  Hmm.

The Rules:
  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you (Thank you, so much Chelsea!)
  2. Answer their eleven questions
  3. Ask eleven questions of your own
  4. Nominate eleven bloggers and let them know they’ve been tagged
Chelsea’s Questions:

1.    Do you enjoy reading biographies? Yes? No? Sometimes?

It honestly depends on whether I’m interested in the biographee.  (That’s a word, right?)  If I’m not already interested in the person in question, I’d rather grab a fiction book.  🙂  If I AM interested, then, yes I enjoy biographies.  Some of the historical figures I plan to research are Sir Robert Peel, William Wilberforce, and Juan Seguin.

2.   What was the last fantasy novel you read?

I honestly can’t remember…but it was probably either a Lord of the Rings volume or one of the Chronicles of Narnia.

3.   J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis?

ARGH, you had to ask that!  Actually, I’ve asked myself the same question before…and come up with no good answer.  Both authors are so skilled in their own ways!  However…I lean every so slightly more towards Tolkien; his scope and style is more to my taste.  (And now I feel like I’ve betrayed dear old Jack Lewis.)

4.  What’s the inspiration behind your blog’s name?

Reality.  🙂  Years before I started this blog, I would talk or write about my thoughts, opinions, ideas, analysis, questions, etc…and eventually got frustrated that I wasn’t doing anything more with them.  So I created this blog as an outlet.

5.   Do you prefer standalones, trilogies or series?

This honestly depends on how good the story is!  If it’s awesome, then I can’t get enough of it and would definitely prefer it to be a trilogy or series.  But I don’t have a preference for any particular story format.  (In fact, quite the opposite: for the longest time, I swore never to write a trilogy because every writer I knew had written a trilogy or was in the process of writing one.  So guess what my first novel ended up being.  🙂  I think God has a sense of humor!)

6.   What’s your favourite book title?

Worlds Unseen by Rachel Starr Thomson.  That title is so evocative of fantasy and of discoveries to be made, both beautiful and terrifying.

7.   Have you ever named one of your characters after yourself?

Not yet; I tend to model characters after aspects of my personality instead.

8.   What is your favourite metaphor and why?

Erm…*forgets every metaphor I ever knew*

9.   Are there any books/poems/songs you’ve come across which you wish you’d written?

Pretty much any poetry from The Lord of the Rings.  That’s still the poetic style I aspire to!

10.    Do you prefer antiheros or traditional heroes?

Traditional heroes, please!  I like a nice, honorable man.  (On the other hand, go watch this hilarious video pointing out the problems of chasing bad boys!)  However, that doesn’t mean said nice, honorable man can’t have flaws or depths or quirks.  Just for the record.  🙂

11. Have you ever written a retelling?

Not yet, but I want to write a retelling of Swan Lake eventually–and I’m tinkering with a retelling of the 2015 film Victor Frankenstein.  Because that movie had so much potential that it didn’t use!

Okay, so now for my eleven questions…

  1. Is there any book considered a classic that you actually disliked?
  2. What is the greatest contrast you’ve observed between modern literature and 19th century literature?
  3. What are your criteria for book-to-film adaptations?
  4. What archetype do you think you would be if you were a character in a story? (Innocent, Warrior, Jester, Mentor, etc.)
  5. What’s a popular fairy tale you don’t care for?
  6. Do you prefer to learn the craft of writing through reading author blogs or through your own experience?
  7. Favorite historical period?
  8. How would one of your contemporary characters react if thrown into a historical setting, or a historical/fantasy character react to a modern setting?
  9. Is The Hunger Games worth all the hype about it?  How about the Divergent series? No, I’m not sneaking two questions in one.
  10. Austen, Dickens, or Bronte?
  11. What literary characters would you bring into our world to try to inspire this culture to better things?

This was such a fun tag–thanks again, Chelsea!  Feel free to grab my questions and fill them out (because blog tags are so much fun!), but I officially nominate:



The Story Sponge

Christine Smith

(Yeah, I don’t know 11 bloggers yet.  🙂 )

6-Hera Syndulla

Artwork Post – Star Wars: Rebels Edition

Also known as Brace Yourselves Because Christine Is Going All-Out Fangirl Now (you have been warned! 🙂 )

So, in my last artwork post, I mentioned I’d been sucked into two different fandoms; the second is Star Wars: Rebels, and that is the one I’m passionate about at the moment.  Actually, I’ve been a fan of Rebels for some time,  but what sent my passion into overdrive was the news that Season 4–the final season, moreover, and the one no doubt most heartbreaking–is on hold until after the release of The Last Jedi.

I’ll be upfront: I do not care about The Last Jedi, because Mark Hamill hinted he did not like how Luke Skywalker was written, and now because it preempted my show.  We’re not pleased, oh no Precious, not pleased at all. In fact, I meant to boycott the film, but then changed my mind and told Chris I’d go see it if he thought I would like it.  Though I’m betting Chris will come back from the theater and say, “Well, you’ll like this aspect, but you’ll definitely not like this one.”

In the meantime, Rebels is on hiatus, and I’m going nuts.  I’ve tried filling the void by looking up screen caps, head canons, and fan art.  And by creating head canons and fan art of my own.  And creating a Pinterest board for the show.  And binge-watching the available seasons.  And noticing new things about the characters and themes.  And talking enthusiastically about the show to anyone who listens.  Did I mention I want my show back?

Oh, and did I mention fan art?  *drops folder; sheets of drawings spill out*

Kanan Jarrus is my favorite character.  Also, he has a unique face structure that I wanted to capture in a realistic art style.  #artistproblems  Anyway, Kanan never finished his Jedi training (he was still a Padawan when Order 66 happened) and now lives in hiding from the Empire.  Well, sorta, given that his crew and motley space family causes trouble for the Empire wherever they go.  Way to keep a low profile; then again, nobody except his crew knows his true identity, and he apparently hasn’t used his lightsaber in years. So, way to hide in plain sight.

Kanan is cool because he maintains an odd combination of being relaxed and tightly wound (the latter more so when he doubts his abilities or he’s worried for someone).  He also has a protective instinct for the younger characters, yet trusts them to do their jobs (provided they’re not being reckless).  When they’re are being reckless, expect a hilarious yet-totally-relatable facepalm.  And then expect him to jump into the thick of things to pull the kids out of trouble.  While being a Deadpan Snarker to the nth degree.

Internally, however, he struggles with a lot of insecurity and scars from his past.  His master sacrificed herself so that he could escape during Order 66, and he was still a teenager when that happened.  13 years later, he still struggles with survivor’s guilt, believing himself a coward for running, even though his master ordered him to when the clones turned on them.  He also has massive self-confidence issues when it comes to training Ezra, is clearly stressed about the job, and repeats sayings/advice from the Jedi masters without fully comprehending their meanings.

Despite all that, Kanan is Team Dad and a father-figure for the younger characters, and though he gets stern or cranky when he’s worried for them, he is also very understanding.  His nickname in the fandom is Space Dad.  And I love it.  🙂

This is Ezra Bridger, street rat-turned-Rebel-fighter, youngest member of the crew, brave but reckless, determined but afraid of losing who he loves.  He’s tough and resourceful, but on the other hand, doesn’t always think things through.  Totally thinks he can handle business himself, but totally needs Space Dad Kanan to help him out a good deal.  Ezra’s fan nickname is Blueberry, because his hair often looks blue in the light, but I’ve dubbed him Space Baby.  🙂  (Even though he’s about 14 when the show starts.)

Just get used to Rebels fan art until I get my show back.  🙂  This is Hera Syndulla, pilot of the small Rebel crew, Team Mom to the younger characters, one of the most determined and resilient characters, and devoted to the idea of resisting the Empire.  On the other hand, she is definitely a mom-figure to the younger characters, sympathetic but firm, supportive of Kanan but also steps up to the plate herself to get stuff done.  She also pushes her crew to step up to the plate, and usually has a lot of faith in their abilities.  Unless they’re acting stupid.  Then expect her “mom voice” and a well-deserved rebuke.  On the other hand, don’t mess with her crew, especially the kids, or it will be the last thing you regret.  Hera’s fan nickname is Space Mom, and my sister Enkie dubbed her “Mama Hera” when we were first watching the show.

This character is Sabine Wren, and though I accidentally drew her looking vulnerable here, she’s really tough, both a demolitions expert and an artist.  Which is an interesting combination.  Actually, Sabine is vulnerable beneath her tough exterior; though still a teenager, she made a lot of mistakes that resulted in her family’s disowning her.  And Sabine is an odd combination of cautious and reckless because of it, and she does have trust issues.

I still need to draw Zeb and the droid Chopper, the last two members of the crew, but I can’t find a picture of Zeb that I like enough to use as reference.  Once I do, the last two members of the crew will get their portraits done.  🙂  In the meantime…

…have a happy Kanan.  Happy Kanan is good.  🙂

I tried to add Hera in the picture, but her features weren’t turning out right.  Twi’leks are hard to draw.   Maybe I’ll go back and try again later, but for now, this picture goes in the folder of shame unfinished pictures folder.

Kanan warming up with his light saber before starting to train Ezra.  But he’s not too sure of himself, hence the stiff pose.  As I re-watch the show, I noticed that Kanan is good at using his light saber to deflect blaster bolts and cut through stuff–but he’s not so good at sword-to-sword combat with various ex-Jedi/sSith characters.  Which is good continuity, given his backstory.

On a totally different note, I am thankful for my brothers’ help with this drawing: Chris critiqued my depiction of the light saber and patiently put up with my thrusting my sketchbook in his face every few minutes to get feedback.  And Emmet posed for me so I could sketch Kanan’s left hand (and also pointed out that Kanan’s light saber comes in two pieces that have to be connected before he can use it, so I filed away the information for future reference.  🙂 )

Ezra in a pensive mood.  I can’t believe how well this one turned out; faces from the front are hard (though I’ll get better with practice), and on top of that, I used a screencap from show–which is animated–for reference.  Long story short, this is my new favorite drawing.  🙂

Strike that; maybe this one is my favorite.  🙂  I wanted to draw Sabine’s brightly colored hair from the moment I started these portraits…but I also wanted her to be recognizable in my initial drawing by her face structure, not her iconic dyed hair.  But here, I let myself go all out–and her colored armor was also fun to draw!  I love that Sabine paints/decorates nearly everything she encounters.

One thing I love about Rebels is the protectiveness Kanan has toward others…particularly his Padawan.  And the Les Mis lyrics fit the dynamic, so here’s Kanan, thinking over the difficulties the kid will face in joining the Rebel crew, and wishing a better world for him.  Meanwhile, Ezra is conked out because he actually feels safe now, as opposed to be constantly being on alert while living on the streets.


This was supposed to be a doodle and ended up being a detailed drawing.  Ezra is so cute and adorable.  Even when he’s being fierce.  I just want to give him a hug.

So now I’m curious: have any of you readers seen Star Wars: Rebels?  If so, what do you think?  Favorite character?  Favorite episode? (Twilight of the Apprentice is mine, hands, down, from Season 2, even though it also breaks my heart.)  Any predictions on where Season 4 will go?

6-Hera Syndulla

Artwork Post – Randomness + New Fandoms

And there will be rambling and fangirling ahead.  🙂

So the weekly schedule of posting my artwork on Wednesday has become null and void. For one thing, I haven’t been drawing much until recently. For another I attempted National Novel Writing Month, and ended up with a checkered experience. I’ll probably post about that later. For now, I have plunged headlong into new fandoms and never looked back. And immortalized my obsessions with artwork.

First, I revisited the Christopher Nolan Batman universe with a quick drawing; I found a picture of Bruce giving a quirky look, and knew I had to draw it…

And I painted this scene of Christmas treats that turned out well…

So, the new fandoms?  One is an interest I never, repeat never, thought I would have.  Remember the doodle of Igor in my last artwork post?  It’s from the 2015 film Victor Frankenstein.  I was mildly interested in the film when it came out, but I read enough reviews to conclude that it wouldn’t be worth my time.  Then one final review changed my mind.  It called the film a genre mash-up, but claimed that the story didn’t examine how the genres influenced each other once combined.  Huh.  Since I also write genre mash-ups, I finally decided to watch the film, see if I agreed with that conclusion, and take note of what the story did right or wrong to learn for my own novels.

As it turned out, I do agree with the assessment in the review–but the main problem with the film is that it doesn’t ultimately know what it wants to be or what it wants to say.  Is this an origin story for Frankenstein or Igor?  Is Victor the true monster of the story, or a misunderstood genius, or both?  Is he sympathetic or a psychopath?  The film also included an ethical debate for and against creating life, but ended up a mixed bag of statements–sympathy is obviously with Victor’s argument, but on the other hand, the guy goes full-out psycho-obsessed with his creation before the end and contradicts his own initial motives.  To the point that you kinda have to side with Inspector Turpin…until he also becomes single-mindedly obsessed with stopping Victor…  Yeah, the story is a mess.  I want to review it, in-depth, but since I have the DVD on my wish list, I’ll wait to see if I get it for Christmas first.

Despite its problems, the story captured my imagination somehow, and won’t let go.  Hence, my drawing fan art.  🙂

Igor is absolutely precious and must be defended at all costs.  He is the kindhearted, sensitive, but loyal and resilient sort, and has already inspired a character of my own.  🙂

Quick sketch of Victor Frankenstein himself, though I have a better portrait in the works.

Quick sketch of Lorelei (Igor’s fellow performer at the circus and love interest and confidante).  (I usually start with a simple portrait/profile to practice drawing the characters proportions and features before moving onto a more difficult post or angle.)

Also in the works are drawings/paintings for Christine Smith’s work-in-progress The Nether Isle–her aesthetic for the story inspired me to draw/paint it, and Christine very kindly gave me permission to do so!  I have sketches or line art finished for four scenery drawings, and I hope to render them in watercolor very soon.  So stay tuned for that!

Also stay tuned for Part 2 of this artwork post, because to include the 8+ pieces of fan art for Star Wars: Rebels in this post, plus my incoherent fangirling opinions about the show, would make it ridiculously long.  🙂

6-Hera Syndulla

A Few Notes About Christine Daae, Part 2

It’s finally here!  And prepare for a loooong post…

Act II picks up at the Opera House’s masquerade party 6 months after the events of Act I.  The Phantom has been silent the whole time, and Raoul and the rest of the company believes him gone.  Christine, however, knows that the man has no choice but to live under the Opera House; and as far as she knows, he may still be obsessed with her.  Therefore, though she is excited about being Raoul’s bride, she begs him not to reveal their engagement yet.  And she knows Raoul still won’t believe her if she explains her reasoning.  She doesn’t want to rehash this point or argue, saying, “please pretend you will understand in time.”

Which means she doesn’t think he will ever understand.  She trusts Raoul and confides in him on other matters, but unless the Phantom literally shows up, Raoul isn’t going to believe her tale.  And Christine doesn’t want the Phantom to return to her life.  All she wants is freedom, remember, from that world of night.  So if he stays away, Raoul won’t understand what she was afraid of—but the two of them won’t have to deal with the Phantom’s anger either.

In fact, Christine is no doubt thinking of Raoul’s safety as well as her own.  The Phantom would be furious if he discovered their engagement—remember the way he lashed out at Raoul after the dressing room visit—and so she seeks protection for the two of them in secrecy.

These 6 months must have been uneasy for Christine.  The mentor who threatened her with “now you cannot ever be free!” has been oddly silent, but is no doubt still lurking somewhere.  And she lives in fear of her relationship with Raoul being discovered.  And she still stuck with Raoul.  For six months, under constant fear and uncertainty.  Which means she not only trusted him through those long months, but also that they remained faithful to each other in spite of this disagreement.

The musical doesn’t specify what she is waiting on, however, or when she would be comfortable announcing their engagement.  I suspect that she wants to affirm that the Phantom is gone from her life.  In fact, I think she planned to elope with Raoul that night on the roof, hence her line “order your fine horses, be with them at the door!”  But the falling chandelier made her pull back.  It reminded her that the Phantom was not gone from her life—and that consequences will follow if he finds out about her engagement.  Thus, she sought to keep Raoul and herself safe through secrecy, while maintaining her normal life—and watching for a confirmation that they were not suspected, and that the Phantom would not trouble her any more.

So when the Phantom appears at the masquerade, it is the incarnation of Christine’s fear.  She knew he was probably lurking around and possibly still obsessed with her.  His appearance and words confirm it.  And he will continue to terrorize the Opera House, with worse things “than a shattered chandelier” if the company doesn’t obey.

He also singles out Christine and declares: “Your chains are still mine—you will sing for me!”  This not only references his earlier remark, “Now you cannot ever be free!” it may also be a subtle communication that he knows of her engagement.  If she is figuratively chained, she cannot do what she wishes.  Since the Phantom controls those chains, only he can dictate what she can do and where she can go.  And rather than explain that he needs her to sing for his music (as he did earlier), now he commands it, treating it like a certainty.  Ultimately, Christine is helpless to change her situation—as such, if the Phantom decides to put a stop to her relationship with Raoul, he can, and he will.

When she comes to the managers’ office, she learns she has been cast in the star role of the Phantom’s opera—which did not ease her fears—and to top it off, Carlotta accuses her as the perpetrator of these problems.  Christine snaps, showing an outrage that she had never before displayed, and declares, “I don’t want any part of this plot!”  She’s mad at being blamed for this mess, but also angry of being accused of threats and manipulation—notice that she never once says something she doesn’t mean.

She also feels cornered.  The managers witnessed that nastily possessive order, “You will sing for me!” and their first instinct is not to protect her or put up any sort of fight, but to go along with those demands and cast her in the Phantom’s opera.  Andre pretends to be reasonable, but questions her reason for refusing; Firmin outright tells her that performing is her duty.  But Christine’s one fear is that the Phantom will take her again and would never let her go.  If she appeared in the opera, it would play right into his hands.

Though she feels attacked, cornered, and afraid—notice that she insists she won’t sing.  Commands of duty and faux-reasonableness do not sway her.  She has a spine of steel, and won’t let herself be pushed around once she’s decided to draw a line.  And all she wants now is to get away from the Phantom, from the shadows and uncertainties of the last few months—perhaps years, depending on how long the Phantom had been part of her life.  Six months earlier, she had starred in Ill Muto and admitted to Raoul that the Phantom’s music entranced her.  Now, she wants no more, and refuses the star role in Don Juan: “I cannot sing it, duty or not.”

What she intends to do instead is not specified, but regardless, the Phantom won’t give up that easily.  In his note, he appealed to her love for music, saying that her voice was good, but nowhere near excellence.  If that weren’t enough, he accuses her of rejecting his instruction out of pride.  And furthermore, he twists the situation to make it look like she was the one at fault in forsaking him.

He may also be communicating to her (again) that he knows of her engagement to Raoul.  By giving her a chance to return to him voluntarily, he forces her to make a choice: to ally with his music and his instruction, or to go with Raoul in “pride” that she needed no further instruction or protection.  But Christine’s response is instant and terrified: “I can’t.  I won’t do it.”  She is becoming more and more aware of the Phantom’s cunning and manipulation, and so rejects more and more of his advances.

During the chaos of everyone arguing over Raoul’s plan, Christine snaps again—though in fear rather than anger—and appeals to Raoul.  She tells him that the Phantom will take her back, whether she wants to go or not—“We’ll be parted forever; he won’t let me go!”  Think of that; separation from Raoul is one of her prime fears.  She knows good and well that the Phantom can do what he wants with her life.  He does not need to threaten her with danger.  His hold over her is stronger because she once trusted him, and he, in turn, revealed to her his lair and his desire for her to sing his music.  She does not want to return to him, but severing those once-personal ties and escaping him completely is harder than it sounds.  As such, her other fear is that she will never be able to escape the Phantom’s influence; “And he’ll always be there singing songs in my head…”

Raoul reminds her that she had said the Phantom was nothing but a man.  The libretto does not actually record this dialogue; I assume Raoul inferred this point from her conversation that night on the roof, or that Christine had said this directly during some scene that the musical did not show.  Either way, Raoul is right.  The Phantom is human, and Christine knows it.  But he is powerful in ways Raoul doesn’t understand.

Up until this point, Raoul had been Christine’s only ally.  Now she is understandably upset with his plan, yet she never accuses him of cruelty or harshness or going back on his word.  In fact, he is trying to fulfill his promise to her and get them both out of this mess.  And I think Christine knows it.  She feels “twisted every way,” but not because she fears he won’t protect her, or that his plan won’t work.  She doesn’t even accuse Raoul of being cruel towards the Phantom, and Christine is not in denial about the situation.  In fact, she understood the reality before she engaged herself to marry Raoul: that the Phantom was a danger to her and to others.  Matters have come to a crisis now, and they can’t disentangle themselves the way she hoped they could.

On the one hand, her dilemma is deeply personal: “Can I betray the man who once inspired my voice?”  Though she will not return to her music lessons, she recognizes the gift he gave her, and this recognition shows her to be a humble young woman.  Furthermore, trust is one of Christine’s highest values.  To betray someone she had once trusted—to use against him the skills he taught her, to use her voice to trap him, must have violated nearly everything she believed right.  And she may be very reluctant to treat the Phantom the way he once treated her.  She wants no revenge, has no wish to betray him as he once betrayed her.  She just wants out of the situation.

But on the other hand, this problem is not personal: “He kills without a thought; he murders all that’s good.”  It’s not just her life at stake.  And deep down, she seems to know that she has a duty to do this: “I know I can’t refuse and yet I wish I could!”  The fact that Raoul and others are depending on her and her alone to free them from the danger only adds to her torment.

But I don’t think Raoul could have forced Christine to sing.  She’s close to people she loves, and she hates to disappoint and hates to be pressured—but she is capable of standing her chosen ground.  Remember that she insisted the Phantom was real that night on the rooftop, in spite of protests from the man she loved.  And she insisted on keeping their engagement secret for six months, and barely five minutes earlier, had flat-out refused to sing in Don Juan.

Ultimately, she knows what she must do, yet can’t bring herself to do it.  She runs out of the room in conflict and torment, without deciding one way or the other.

Torn between choices, hesitant to betray the Phantom, and afraid she’ll lose Raoul forever, Christine turns to her memories of her father.  She visits the cemetery where he’s buried, which is as close as she can get to him now.  It’s interesting that she did not go to Raoul with her emotional turmoil here.  She may have been a little upset with him for persuading her to betray the Phantom—but then again, she may have just wanted some alone time.

“Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” is a gorgeous number, but it’s vital to the story on several levels.  It indirectly reveals a good deal about Christine’s heart and loyalty.  She describes her father as her “one companion” and “all that mattered.”  She describes him as “friend and father,”—and says that her world was shattered by his death.  With such a close relationship between them, it’s easier to understand that Christine trusted his last promise and was desperate for any connection to him.  And so fell for the whole “Angel of Music” thing.

The musical doesn’t specify how long it had been since her father died, but the lyrics give the impression that it happened some time ago, and that she’d been on her own for years.  And she longs for those days when he was alive, when none of this fear, loneliness, uncertainty existed.  His death and the lack of companionship in her life seems to have haunted her, affected her deeply even while performing as a simple ballet/chorus girl in the Opera House.

But as she remembers and grieves, she realizes that living in the past is not the solution: “Dreaming of you won’t help me to do all that you dreamed I could.”  And she realizes that she must let go of her memories, of that last promise, and move forward.  She will still miss her father, still wish he was there, but she will no longer depend on this longing and her memories: “…Knowing we must say good-bye.  Try to forgive; teach me to live!  Give me the strength to try!”

And by the end of the song, she makes her final decision: “No more memories!  No more silent tears!  No more gazing across the wasted years.  Help me say good-bye.”

This is tremendous strength of character, and a pivotal plot point.  For after this song, Christine herself does not slip into the past.  She deals with the situation as it is.  She also resolves to sing in Don Juan, regardless of the consequences—the conflict at the cemetery seemed to convince her, once and for all, that the Angel she had trusted must be stopped.

The Phantom, of course, is not entirely happy with this turn of events.  He attempts to call Christine back to him; and it’s interesting that in the managers’ office, his note appealed to her love of music and their mentor-student relationship.  Now he appeals to her love and loyalty toward her father, a bond that no one else would fully understand.

Christine, for her part, differentiates between “friend or Phantom.”  The two are no longer one and the same in her mind.  She also no longer follows a mysterious voice without question, and wants to know who is there.  But she quickly figures out it’s the Phantom, and picks up, at least to some degree, on hidden motives in his appearance: “Angel, oh speak!—what endless longings echo in this whisper?”  Christine made several mistakes in her thinking and emotions, but she is not an idiot, guys.  And my sister pointed out that she is fairly emotionally stable—she is affected by the traumatic circumstances, but she doesn’t totally break down under everything that happened.

The Phantom gives her a second chance to return to him voluntarily—and Christine feels the pull, but fights it: “Wildly, my mind beats against you, but my soul obeys!”  At first glance, it seems weird that she chooses to let go of the past, and then immediately falls back under the Phantom’s spell.  But the Phantom is manipulating her in a personal way here.  And manipulating her, as I specified in my Raoul post, where she is most vulnerable.  Also, Christine still feels a pull to the Phantom and his music, but it’s one that she does not want to submit to.

Though on the point of returning to the Phantom, she finally hears Raoul’s frantic call, and runs back to him.  It’s also strange, at first glance, that Christine chooses to let go of the past, but then Raoul has to be the one to snap her out of her trance.  However, this is actually a balance of what each of them are responsible for.  Raoul helps her where she cannot help herself (and his appearance perhaps reaffirms Christine’s knowledge that he will protect her).  And she sticks to her resolve to leave the past behind.  After his song, she does all she can to resist the Phantom, and she chooses to sing in Don Juan to put an end to his behavior and his threat.

After what happened at the cemetery, Christine could not be any more comfortable about the situation—the Phantom still clearly wants her under his authority, and will do whatever he can to call her back to him, thus separating her from Raoul.  And she sings in Don Juan anyway.  She no doubt trusted that Raoul would be nearby to protect her and trusted that his plan would actually work.  Of course, nobody expected that the Phantom would appear onstage in disguise to play role of Don Juan himself.  Christine doesn’t realize it until the end of “The Point of No Return.”

And I have to pause and make some important points about this song.  It’s strongly implied to be a sexual song (or at least to have sexual subtext), and the fact that Christine sings it with the Phantom (though he’s in disguise) makes it an emotionally charged duet.  Right?

Wrong.  Christine thinks she’s singing with Piangi.  She doesn’t realize who her Don Juan really is until the end of the song.  Did she have those feelings toward Piangi?  I think not.  I believe Christine was acting a part, that she did not feel (at least not completely) everything the song was trying to put to put into her head.  And if you think about it, the Phantom—once again—is manipulating her into saying and doing things she might not have done of her own free will.

And on that note, “Point of No Return” is also cited as a metaphor for the Phantom’s life.  It’s also something of metaphor for Christine’s involvement with him.  Her first line could well describe her innocent trust right when he came into her life: “No thoughts within her head but thoughts of joy; no dreams within her heart but dreams of love!”  The Phantom knows exactly what is going on; Christine has “come here, hardly knowing the reason why.”

But by the end of the song, Christine figures out who the other singer really is.  And if she had any doubts that the Phantom knew of her engagement to Raoul, those doubts vanish when he sings the exact lines Raoul had sung to her six months ago.

I was always confused about why she pulled off his mask.  Screaming something like “that’s the man, catch him!” might have succeeded better, and since he reacted so histrionically when she pulled it off the first time, what did she expect he’d do this time?  However, it’s possible that she did it to communicate to him the way he’d been subtly communicating to her: that she knew the truth of his actions and motives, and that she was not afraid of him anymore.

But the Phantom evades capture of the police and drags Christine down to his lair—as she’d earlier feared he would.

Up until this point, Christine had tried simply to evade the Phantom.  Now she confronts him directly, and accuses him of his moral crimes: “Have you gorged yourself at last in your lust for blood!”  And demands to know what his intentions are towards her: “Am I now to be prey to your lust for flesh?”  A huge change from the girl who once followed him into his lair without a question.

She has also realized that the darkness and twistedness in his heart was the problem, not his face.  Yes, he had been denied love, even from his mother.  Yes, he had been wrongfully outcast from society.  But his circumstances are not responsible for his actions—he alone is.  This is another great change from her character at the beginning of the musical: rather than being terrified to disobey or to challenge him, she tells him honestly that he had let this deformity twist his heart into something terrible.  The Phantom had spent the entire musical trying to manipulate her; she, on the other hand, tells him the truth about himself.  She doesn’t even address the fact that the Phantom threatened to keep her beside him for eternity; she focuses instead on the root of the matter.

She may also believe, or hope, that he will change his heart and turn from this path.  It was a bold move to tell him that his soul was more deformed than his face; it might tip him over the edge, and Christine, of all people, knew how angry he got when opposed.  Though she will no longer succumb to his manipulation and lies, the very fact that she points out his problem means she hopes that he might listen—and that she is concerned about the state of his soul.

On the other hand, when Raoul shows up, she cries that reasoning with the Phantom was “useless”—she may be afraid that the Phantom will explode if opposed by anyone else, and might take that anger out upon Raoul.  Which is exactly what happens.  The Phantom forces Christine to make a choice: stay with me, and Raoul will go free.  “Refuse me, and you send your lover to his death!”

Here, Christine snaps.  None of his other actions had brought out her hatred; but now she tells him, “The tears I might have shed for your dark fate grow cold—and turn to tears of hate!”

And she denounces him: “Farewell my fallen idol and false friend!”  She calls him as “Angel of Music” a few lines later, but the tone is almost in condemnation, referring to the role he had masqueraded to use her.  At the same time, she appeals to the fact that he, of all people, should understand the pain of being tormented for something not his fault: “Angel of Music, who deserves this?  Why do you curse mercy?”  She further accuses him of deceiving her–but also that she gave her mind blindly.  She realized he took advantage of her, but also that she was too trusting in the first place.

But her reasoning and pleas do not move him.  And Christine must choose whether to stay with the Phantom or to refuse to give up Raoul and so condemn him to death.

What she chooses to do is a strangely independent decision.  The Phantom is forcing her hand, yes, and there’s no way to get out of the situation.  But Christine does not simply give into his demands.  She sees his ignorance, misery, and loneliness, and she chooses to pity him and to show him compassion.  The very fact that she has a loved one whom the Phantom can use against her contrasts starkly with the lack of companionship in his own life.

This compassion is incredible.  Think about it: the man whom she trusted as a messenger from her father lied to her, deceived her, threatened her, manipulated her into singing a sexual song for his own benefit, betrayed her, and threatened to kill her fiancé.  And she still pitied him.  Her choice is not easy; she says, “God give me courage to show you you are not alone.”  But she offers the Phantom compassion, not ignoring or excusing his actions–she knows exactly who he is and what he had done–but choosing to extend mercy instead of judgment.

And she isn’t trying to manipulate the Phantom into setting Raoul free either.  Christine is honest and values trust, and it doesn’t make sense she would use the Phantom’s emotions like that.  I believe she truly chose to stay with him, partly to free Raoul, yes but also because he needed someone to show him compassion and mercy, to give him the love that others had wrongfully withheld.

But this choice shows the Phantom, instantly and clearly, how he is wrong, and that he himself is not showing Christine true love.  And he sets her and Raoul free.

Christine loses no time in fleeing with Raoul, yet she returns for a moment to give the Phantom back his ring.  I’m not sure whether she meant it to be a memento of her, as he would probably never see her again, or whether she felt it wrong to keep something that he had offered her that she did not accept.  Perhaps both.  Then she returns to Raoul, asking him to reaffirm his promise to “say you’ll share with me one love, one lifetime.”  And she reaffirms her promise to him: “Say you’ll share with me each night, each morning.”

It’s up for debate whether Christine loved the Phantom romantically; the libretto is ambiguous enough that each actress can put her own spin on it.  But I don’t believe Christine loved the Phantom.  She is initially too trusting–but that’s exactly the point: she wants to trust her guide and protector.  Her faith in the Phantom was broken, never to be restored, and she seems to trust Raoul unconditionally, and to give him the same faithfulness he provides her.  She is also so honest that it makes no sense that she would string Raoul along in their relationship, nor to pretend she was afraid of the Phantom when she secretly loved him.  And the love she showed her former mentor was unconditional, sacrificial love, based on his needs, rather than romantic love.

Christine, in a nutshell, is a kind, observant, compassionate, trusting young woman–a  too trusting at first–but with a spine of steel and determination once she’s drawn the line.  She loves people deeply, but she picks up quickly on the realities of the situation.  She has the strongest character arc in the story and makes the choices to grow and to move on.  Yet she remains gentle and compassionate, uses her love to bless and not manipulate.  She’s a layered character who grows.  And there’s so much more to her than meets the eye.



















6-Hera Syndulla

Artwork Whatever-Day-I-Get-To-It Post

Seriously, I’ve fallen behind in my Artwork Wednesday posts.  Sorry about that.  On the plus side, I have a lot of art to showcase since it’s been so long!

Only now that I’m uploading this do I notice the terrible photography quality  Sorry, guys.  Ahem.  This is a watercolor doodle/sketch, and I did this freehand (meaning with no line art), and it’s not too bad.  🙂  I particularly liked how the wall and the shadows turned out.

A colored pencil drawing of Easter lilies!  Which subject makes perfect sense, given that it’s almost November.  🙂  Anyway, I had the line art for this sitting in my sketchbook for weeks before I finally finished it, using the techniques I mentioned in this post.

Quick colored pencil sketch (and this drawing is little bitty in my sketchbook, maybe 2″x3″).  Adobe buildings have joined my List of Favorite Things to Draw, along with oranges, pumpkins, sunset cactus silhouettes, and Sydney  Carton.

When my friend HeatherJoy LaHaye (you can read her guest post here) visited New Mexico recently, she snapped a lot of pictures, sent them to me, and gave me permission to use them as painting reference!  (Thanks again, Heather!)  So here are some adobe ruins, rendered in watercolor and copied from one of her photographs.

This is my favorite recent piece, guys: a watercolor portrait of my character Sanchia from Gentle Fire.  It was so thrilling to get her complexion and hair color the right shades, and her expression just right as well!

Also, I meant to paint sewing supplies in the basket and first forgot to sketch them, then quit caring and just made the basket empty.  #lazyartist

And then here are some doodles, sketches, and works-in-progress…

The corner of the cabin that Durant shares with his nephews.  (Soon after snapping this picture, I realized I’d messed up the proportions, so I’ll probably trace it onto a fresh sheet of paper and redo it at some point.)

Durant and soon-to-be Alex.  (Also starring: the shadow of my arm across the paper!)

Sketches for the components of another southwestern painting (that I haven’t actually painted yet).

Sketch of a tropical scene that I will eventually paint.

Doodle of Igor from the 2015 film Victor Frankenstein.  I plan to (a) draw better doodles in the future, and (b) probably review the film, in-depth, after I finish my Christine posts.

That’s all for now, but I’m working on more drawings and paintings–and so I might get another art post up sooner than later!