55-Thwarted Steps (Dr. Jekyll)

Artwork Post – Long Overdue

I’m so sorry, guys.  I didn’t mean to wait this long!  Initially, I had very little artwork to post; then I got busy; then I got sick.  But when sick, I always get the urge to draw (putting the down time to good use, I guess), so behold an avalanche of artwork!

A couple of weeks ago, I picked up a colored pencil tutorial book at Hobby Lobby and studied it thoroughly.  One technique looked interesting: laying down the values of the drawing with a black (or brown) pencil before adding color.  So I gave it a try…

The black-and-white values as the first layer…

…and here’s the finished product!  I like this technique!  Though it’s not the only one in the book; I’ll try some of the others later.

Another pencil drawing with the same technique (called “grisaille”), except this time, I used a black pencil to draw the values of the trees and a brown pencil for the values everywhere else, since the rest of the picture wasn’t supposed to be as dark.

The book also explained how to get rid of that white-ish waxy buildup that happens after several layers of color: rub the picture, lightest parts first, with a cloth or paper towel until the colors are uniformly smooth.  It’s one way to get rid of the sketchy pencil look that I complained about in my New Year’s artwork post.

Sloppy doodle of Charles Darnay on computer paper, done while listening to A Tale of Two Cities musical soundtrack.

Sketch of James Barbour as Sydney Carton, done while watching A Tale of Two Cities concert (and simultaneously dying inside of feels).

Slightly crooked drawing of Lennox, my character from Empty Clockwork, laughing at something.  He’s a generally cheerful fellow.  🙂

Drawing that I intended to be Mary, from my western story, but it didn’t turn out quite the way I wanted.  So it’s just a random girl putting her hair up.

It’s a head canon of mine that Susan Pevensie reads her mother’s old Good Housekeeping magazines, so here Susan is, curled up and studying household economy.  Also, I drew that pose entirely from my head with no reference!

Although I chickened out at drawing feet and so covered them with the blanket.  🙂

Once the children grew up in Narnia, Lewis describes Susan as “a tall and gracious woman”, so here she is, welcoming visiting dignitaries or ambassadors, or people like that (and hey, at least I tried to draw hands!).  I don’t see Susan being a flashy dresser or weighed down with elegance and jewelry; she’s sensible and practical, and would probably favor a sensible and practical style, though also one that befits her rank.  The place she would splurge with ornaments, however, would be her hair; you have all that gorgeous hair, and you’re going to want to do something special with it.

The Pevensies and Caspian discover fanfiction of their stories.  From left to right: Caspian, Edmund (standing), Peter, Susan (also standing), and Lucy.  Behold also my awesome back-of-the-computer-screen drawing skills (haha), though I am inordinately proud of that mouse and mouse pad, for some reason.

Drawing may or may not have been inspired from a real life pet peeve.  🙂

That’s all for now!

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55-Thwarted Steps (Dr. Jekyll)

Artwork Wednesday – Fandom Crossover Edits!

Once upon a time, I was chatting with Bella  about A Tale of Two Cities.  At some point during the conversation, we realized that lyrics from other musicals like Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera fit the characters from AToTC.  Cue massive feels and fangirling and ideas shooting back and forth–and then a Photoshopping frenzy!  🙂  I began making picture/lyric edits, and Bella has already featured some of them on her Tumblr fan blog, which is here.

Warning: Serious feels and heartbreak ahead for Phantom and A Tale of Two Cities fans.  What do you mean, I’m taking this too seriously?

 

See what I mean?

That crack you heard was the sound of my heart breaking…

SYDNEY

*gross hysterical sobbing*

As much as I love Sydney, Charles and Lucie are an absolutely precious couple, and they also need some love!

How about some Tale of Two Cities + Phantom?

I recently introduced another friend of mine to The Phantom of the Opera musical (the 25th Anniversary Concert, of course.  🙂 )  And she loved it–so much that she made some edits of her own!

#TeamRaoul!!!

*applauds*

Aw, yeessss!!

But it isn’t just musical crossovers I make, oh no.  Here’s Captain America + Bandstand:

I’m sorry.

And then The Alamo:

Now I’ve got to run, ’cause Chris is going to kill me.

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55-Thwarted Steps (Dr. Jekyll)

T-Swift Book Tag!

Bella tagged me the other day for this really creative tag—one using titles of various Taylor Swift songs.  And I’m a sucker for blog tags, so this is going to be fun!

1. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

(Pick a book or series that you were pretty sure you were in love with, but then wanted to break up with)

This was a fantasy series, and a fantasy series written by a Christian.  So the stories wouldn’t have demonic magic and other fantasy elements I objected to, right?

Well…no, there weren’t any of those elements.  But the writing style was hard to read; there was so much description (repeat: so much description) in the prologue that I actually lost my mental image of the scene.  A form of sensory overload, I guess.  The writing style continued flowery and redundant through the rest of the story, and it read as an attempted mimicry of Tolkien’s simple grandeur.  (Spoiler alert: it failed.)  The writing was so bad in some parts, that I took a pencil and actually struck through phrases and rewrote them in the margins.  That soothed my tortured editor’s soul.

And out of the 15+ characters, I half-liked only one and truly liked only two—and one of those two characters was a really minor one.  I did enjoy this series reading it for the first time while the twists of the story were new.  But when I read it a second time, I could barely get through the first ten chapters.  Definitely never getting back together, and if I read this series again, it will be only to review it.

2. Red

(Pick a book with a RED cover)

REEED!  THE BLOOD OF ANGRY MEEEEEN!  BL–oh, wait.  Although that’s not too far off the mark…

I never thought I would like The Hunger Games series.  But though Suzanne Collins wrote some pretty dark and depressing twists, they serve a purpose in the story—they make a point about humanity.  Nobody decent ever wins the Games because in a gladiator style fight-to-the-death contest, nobody really can.  She’s brutally honest about how each Victor bought his or her freedom at a dear price, and were often haunted the rest of their lives by what happened during their fight in each Hunger Games.  She did not create a world that a young, feisty teen heroine could escape with nary a scratch, physical or moral.  If anything, her characters are struggling to survive in a world that makes beasts of them all—and fighting for survival more than anything else.

But the story isn’t nonstop darkness either.  The exception to all the points above is Peeta Mellark.  Peeta chooses not stoop to the level of the shallow Capitol citizens or the Tributes and Victors so desperate for survival.  And his actions show the other characters that they can do the right thing regardless of circumstances, that they can choose another path.  Most of them don’t, but Peeta’s example is still there, as a silent contrast to the mistakes everyone else makes.

3. The Best Day

(Pick a book that makes you feel nostalgic)

Long before The Lord of the Rings hit the bookshelves, Professor Tolkien made up a wondrous world for his children: the world of the North Pole, home of Father Christmas.  Letters were left by the fireplace on Christmas Eve, written in shaky old handwriting, that related the anecdotes of Father Christmas, his assistant the North Polar Bear, the Red and Green Elves, and various other characters.

I love this book because of those funny anecdotes, Tolkien’s style of writing, and the pictures that accompany the letters.  I read this book every Christmas, and I often read parts of it to my brothers as well—they laugh heartily at some of the rhymes at the end!

4. Love Story

(Pick a book with forbidden love)

Can I skip this one?  Stories built around romance aren’t my thing, and forbidden romance strikes me as awfully melodramatic.  I would rather read about a couple who marries early in the story and learns to love each other and put up with each other on a daily basis (and not as a comedy either.)

Which is why I’m writing such a story.  🙂

5. I Knew You Were Trouble

(Pick a book with a bad character you couldn’t help but love)

Heh.  Bad behavior in fictional characters instantly severs my respect.  (Same thing happens with real people.)  But one character I’m fascinated by (though certainly don’t love) is Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights.

Heathcliff is rotten to the core, but intelligent, cunning, forceful, and charismatic enough to get away with it.  He’s often described as “gipsy” brown, but nobody really knows his ethnicity.  Which adds to the mystery of who he is—and on that note, nobody knows who his parents were.  (People have speculated that Heathcliff is Mr. Earnshaw’s illegitimate son, but given the way the Emily Bronte portrayed Heathclif’s character and influence, I think she purposefully kept his parentage a mystery for the sake of mystery.  Anyway, if Heathcliff was Mr. Earnshaw’s son, even illegitimately, that revelation could have been a game-changer for the plot—for instance, the romance would become near-incest.  The Brontes were messed up, but not that messed up.)

So Heathcliff is intriguing because of the mysteries surrounding him and because of the forcefulness of his character and cunning.  Being passionately in love does not dull this man’s wits; rather, it sharpens them.  Unfortunately for the rest of the characters.  Ladies, do you really want to crush on a guy who nearly bashed in the head of a five-year-old as revenge on the kid’s father?  You might want to change the caption of your Pinterest pins from “Heathcliff my Love” to “get this guy a restraining order, pronto.”  Although odds are, he would ignore that piece of paper.  Heathcliff is a fascinating character, but a terrifying one.  It’s almost like watching a tornado—you want to get out of there, yet you can’t look away.

6. Innocent

(Pick a book that someone ruined the ending for)

Actually, I tend to spoil the books myself.  If I’m not sure a book will be worth my time, I look up reviews before buying it (therefore running into multiple spoilers).  Or if I don’t really care about the story, but kinda want to know what happens, I’ll skip ahead and read a bit.  (So naughty.)

A book that fell into the first category, was The Ale Boy’s Feast.

That cover art, though…

I loved the first book in the series, skipped the second because I disagreed with some plot elements, liked the third book, but wasn’t sure this last would be worth my time.  So I tracked down enough reviews to get a basic idea of what happens .  I finally decided to take the risk—and boy, was it worth it!  And the story still revealed twists that I hadn’t anticipated.

A book in the second category (don’t care enough to finish; curious enough to peek ahead) was Two Crosses.  I really didn’t care about the characters but vaguely wanted to know what happened.  So I skipped ahead a bit to read.  And got freaked out by one of the story twists, and then lost interest and never finished the book.

7. Everything Has Changed

(Pick a character from a book who goes through extensive character development)

You knew this was coming–Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities

Sydney first appears in such a slovenly state that he looks almost debauched.  Second impressions don’t change this image; he’s drunk, rude, and apathetic about his work and his life.  Or rather, he seems to be apathetic.  Early on, Dickens shows us flashes of remorse, humanity, and lost hope that keeps readers from writing Sydney off as a hopeless case.  (And unlike Heathcliff, there is nothing charismatic about him either.)  Through hints dropped through the story, we learn that Sydney was once a bright young student, but lost hope or lost purpose, and came to hate himself, to drink because of it, and to despise himself further.

But through Charles Darnay’s silent example, and Lucie Manett’s compassion and kindness, Sydney begins to see himself in a newer light: to see himself for what he is, but also to see what he could be.  Neither Charles nor Lucie writes him off as hopeless; they treat him as a normal human being while not glossing over his faults either; this creates a very clear mirror for Sydney to appraise himself.  Lucie’s compassion and kindness touch him in particular; and he begins to hope again.

He makes little efforts never to appear drunk before the Darnay family, but he does not actually change his habits and behavior until near the end of the story.  When conflict is at its hardest for the Darnays and their friends, Sydney sets in motion a selfless plot, sticks to it like steel, and remembers Scripture for the first time in years while wandering the streets of Paris.  I really can’t describe his transformation with justice; read the book yourself.

8. You Belong With Me

(Pick your most anticipated book release)

My own novels.  🙂

Hoho, sorry, couldn’t resist.  Only that won’t be for another 17 years.

One book I anticipated before its release was Rachel Starr Thomson’s Coming Day, the final book in her Seventh World Trilogy.

I’ll probably always have nostalgic and grateful feelings for this series because I read it while writing my first trilogy.  Reading these books and keeping up with Rachel’s blog gave 17-year-old novice writer me the encouragement to keep plugging away.

9. Forever and Always

(Pick your favorite book couple)

I have to say Jane and Rochester from Jane Eyre.  What I like about this pairing is that they fall in love, not because of their looks (she was plain, he was “ugly” according to the male beauty standards of the day), but because of their intelligence, and because of their personalities.  Falling in love also happens overtime and in very mundane ways.  And they must go through trials before they can be together.  While these difficulties are indeed external, they reflect the important need for internal change.  Jane has to fix her priorities (she confesses that she’d made an idol of Rochester), and Rochester must be humbled before they can be together.

I complained about melodramatic forbidden love earlier, even though, to a degree, the romance in Jane Eyre is exactly that.  But Bronte got away with it because she made me care about both characters, and because Jane’s and Rochester’s actions grow organically, out of the circumstances and personalities already established.

BONUS QUESTIONS! (Added by Bella)

10. Never Grow Up

(A book you read when you’re feeling sad/emotional)

This book is hilarious, guys.  A series of personal anecdotes by the authors (cousins, who were both home schooled) shows just how funny mishaps, accidents, and family quirks can be if you look at them with the right attitude.  The authors describe their crazy, fun, hectic life with good humor and a wise outlook on life.  When I first read this book, I laughed out loud at every other paragraph!

11. Begin Again

(A book you’ve read multiple times but always go back to it because it’s that good)

The Chronicles of Narnia, and…

The Lord of the Rings!  I grew up with these books, and I’ve been reading them for 17 years (in the case of the Narnia books) and 13 years (in the case of LotR).  And every time I reread them, I notice something new, either about the characters, the story themes, the writing style, the symbolism, or…I could go on, but I’d like to keep these descriptions short.  🙂

12. Starlight

(A book you hid in bed with/fell asleep reading)

This one, but only because I just wanted to finish and be done with it.  No offense to the author, but 3/4 of the way through, I still didn’t understand what the point was.

13. I Know Places

(The number one book you would take on a long trip away from home)

Going to borrow one of Bella’s answers and say The Hobbit.  Maybe because journeying is a prime theme of the book?  Or maybe because, like Bilbo, I would rather be home than abroad.  Unless the destination was San Antonio, Texas, in which case, I’m off like a shot from an 18-pounder.

Look at this gorgeous edition my grandmother bought me!

14. Change

(A book you’ve never read but want and plan to)

I want to read this one only because it looks like an interesting social critique/commentary, as well as a remark on human nature.

I also want to read Watership Down someday; Julia recommended it, and it’s her favorite book.  (I would showcase a picture, but our copy seems to have disappeared.)

BONUS QUESTIONS 2!  (Added by Christine)

15. Long Live

(A modern book you think should be a classic or a classic that should be more widely read today)

First category:

Part adventure and part mystery, this story is about four children recruited as secret agents by kindly Mr. Benedict.  He suspects that the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened is hiding a dreadful secret, and since it is an academy for children, child agents are the only ones who have a chance.  That, and children are so easily overlooked by adults that his team should be able to find critical information before it’s too late.

The mystery grows darker and deeper as the story goes on–and though the book was written for children, and children are the heroes, adults will find this story very deep and thought-provoking.  Particularly how the students and staff on the island are manipulated by very cunning mind control.  When I first read this story, I couldn’t put it down, and I think it deserves to become a classic.

Second category (classic that should be more widely read):

This is Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone.  (You can’t tell by cover; this edition is from 1944.)  It’s one of the most confounding mysteries I’ve ever read, with false clues and red herrings galore.  The whole reason the mystery of the stolen diamond arose is pretty mundane—but the red herrings, and misleading clues are what make it so fascinating.  Also the fact that each part of the story has a different narrator, and, just as in real life, you kinda have to sift motives and figure out just how colored everyone’s perspective is.  And even the most biased narrations reveal new story layers and clues that carry over into the next bit.

I think this one should be more widely read because of the unique narrative style and the twists and turns the mystery takes.

16. Mean

(A book you have a personal vendetta against for whatever reason)

Hoo boy.  I actually have a long list of books that annoy/anger me.  But the top series for this category would be the Elsie Dinsmore books (the Life of Faith reboots, that is; I’ve never read the originals).

Elsie annoys me because she’s too perfect at age eight for me to relate to.  I get that the writers are trying to set an example, but come on.  That amount of perfection in an eight-year-old is bound to make us hate her.  Because unlike Elsie, the rest of us have a sin nature.

Okay, I’m being snarky.  But Elsie never really messes up or makes serious mistakes that she has to learn from—her struggles are usually inflicted upon her by the other characters.  And she’s so spiritually mature at age eight that there’s no room for growth or improvement.  That, I think, is the fatal flaw of the series.  In real life, sanctification and growing more like Christ is a process, learned through studying the Bible, observing others, making mistakes, going through trials, and so on.  Stories intended to enlighten and encourage should reflect that, should show that growth process rather than portray near-perfection at the start.  And yes, there’s a place for setting an example via a noble character (Frodo Baggins from LotR is one of my favorite characters of all time), but here on this earth, nobody is going to attain perfection.  And I think stories should reflect that, but should also show characters striving to be more like Christ.

17.  Safe & Sound

(A “comfort book”)

Definitely the American Girl Josefina series!  I love Josefina’s character: sweet, but determined; shy, but with a spine of steel and high hopes.  She has such close, loving relationships with her sisters and her father, and the rancho where they live is a setting both unique and familiar–it’s pretty much a farm, just set in the Spanish West world.  I love the descriptions of weaving blankets, celebrating Christmas, trading in Santa Fe, the New Mexico summers and fandangos.

I had so much fun with this tag!  Thanks to Bella for tagging me!

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55-Thwarted Steps (Dr. Jekyll)

10 Favorite Musicals! – Part 1

Overflowing Mind & Pen

All right, it’s here!  10 favorite musicals implies, of course, that I enjoy and listen to more than just those; the ones that didn’t make the top favorites list are: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Maury Yeston’s Phantom; The Lord of the Rings; The In-Between; The Sound of Music; Cinderella; and H. M. S. Pinafore.  (I may have forgotten a couple; I listen to a lot of musicals.  🙂 )

As such, I’m going to mention three favorites in this post, three more in the next post, and the final four in the last post.  Writing about all ten in one post would probably break the record for the World’s Longest Post Fangirling Post About Musicals.

Right, we’re off.

#1: Jane Eyre

Adapted from Charlotte Bronte’s novel, Jane Eyre tells the story of an orphan from her loveless childhood to her lonely young womanhood as a governess—but her situation is at Thornfield hall, the master of which, Mr. Rochester, kindles a spark of life in her that had remained long hidden.

Great.  I just made my favorite novel sound like a CBD romance thingy.

Anyway, Jane Eyre is my favorite musical of all time, which is why I’m mad that it (a) closed after only 7 months and (b) was apparently never filmed.  Or at least never released on DVD.  Fortunately, there’s a soundtrack available, and when I discovered the musical in June 2014, I fell in love with the score instantly.

This musical is a fairly faithful adaptation of the book (second only to the 1983 mini-series with Timothy Dalton).  Most notably, Helen is an influential character, and the story includes her faith and its impact on Jane’s character.  Helen even gets a beautiful number of her own: the song “Forgiveness”.  Also, in many of the songs, the lyrics are phrases or wording taken straight from the book (though tweaked to fit rhythm and rhyme).

The musical did make some changes: St. John not only has a minor role, but he was upgraded to be slightly kinder than he was in the book.  Also, Mrs. Fairfax was turned from a quiet, orderly housekeeper into an absent-minded figure of comic relief.  I understand the reason; the story needed some humor, and a stage play doesn’t adapt Charlotte Bronte’s dry wit very well, unless the audience is willing to sit for 3 hours listening to exchange of dialogue.  Still, it’s one thing to add comic relief; another to change a character’s entirely personality.

In general, however, the story stuck to the source material.  And the music is beautiful on its own merit: the melodies are haunting, quiet, souring, lonely, joyful.  The lyrics are poetic, passionate, and encouraging.  (That said, there is some scattered cursing throughout the songs; Mr. Rochester is the main culprit here.  Just something to watch out for.)

In fact, it’s hard to pick a favorite song; it would be easier to list the numbers I don’t care for (only three out of 25!).  But I’m going to go with Helen’s song “Forgiveness”.  In it, she admonishes Jane that “You have to be strong to offer good for evil, to return right for wrong.”  So many people act like a stubborn, fighting attitude is strength.  And if you’re fighting for what’s right, yes.  But it’s equally as strong to hold your tongue and “learn to endure.”  On the flip side, she tells Jane “You can continue to grieve, but know the Gospel* is true.  You must forgive those who lie and bless them that curse you.”  In other words, there’s no need to be a stoic about suffering, but to endure it with the knowledge that God knows–and blesses–who is right.

*I’m not sure if she means that “forgive those who lie” is the Gospel, or if she’s referring to the Gospel and the principle separately.  The first case is incorrect; “forgive those who like &etc.” is not the Gospel…but substituting the word “scripture” removes this problem.  🙂

 

#2: The Phantom of the Opera

Erik instructs young soprano Christine Daae in singing, masquerading as her Angel of Music.  Erik also terrorizes the opera house as the mysterious Phantom of the Opera.  When Christine learns his true identity, she flees from his guardianship, but this Phantom has a desperate fixation on her, hoping for her love.

 I’m terrible at writing any synopsis, apparently.  Also, it’s hard to describe every aspect of The Phantom of the Opera.

Which is one reason why I like it.  At first glance, the story seems to be a Gothic romance; and to some degree, it is, but it’s also about love, trust, and compassion.  The Phantom, hideously deformed and therefore outcast from society, desperately seeks Christine’s love, but goes about winning it the wrong way.  Christine, alone in the world after her father’s death, also seeks love and guardianship and at first thinks she’ll find them in the Phantom, at first trusts him.  But then that trust is shattered when the Phantom reveals his true identity.  Christine flees, and puts her trust in Raoul, her childhood playmate and now her sweetheart who also seeks to win her love.  Which turn of events, of course, angers the Phantom.

So yes, in one sense it’s a Gothic romance, and there is definitely a love triangle.  But it’s not a beautifully dramatic one; if anything, it complicates things, brings terror and doom to Raoul and Christine.  Christine knows the Phantom is dangerous and must be stopped, but she can’t help but pity him.  Raoul would move heaven and earth to protect Christine, and the Phantom would destroy heaven and earth to win her love. In fact, he tries to do just that.

But then, at the end, he performs an act of sacrificial love.  All three of the protagonists, in fact, display sacrificial love for someone else, and that, I think, is ultimately what the story is about.  If you truly love someone, what will you give up for his/her happiness?

Speaking of love, this musical has one of my favorite love songs of all time, “All I Ask of You.”  And yes, the lyrics describe sacrificial love.  Rather than being a feel-good, he’s-the-one-who-flutters-my-heart type of love song, it speaks of service and leadership, sacrifice and loyalty, trust and commitment.

(Raoul)

No more talk of darkness

Forget these wide-eyed fears

I’m here; nothing can harm you

My words will warm and calm you

Let me be your freedom

Let daylight dry your tears

I’m here, with you, beside you

To guard you and to guide you.

(Christine)

Say you’ll love me every waking moment

Turn my head with talk of summertime

Say you need me with you now and always

Promise me that all you say is true

That’s all I ask of you

The rest of the score is similar: powerful lyrics and beautiful melodies.  I fell in love with the film soundtrack at age 12 and fell in love with the 25th Anniversary Concert about 10 years later, and I’ve never looked back.  The vocal talent required to perform this musical is impressive, and I’ve wanted to sing like Christine ever since I heard the film soundtrack.  For the record, my favorite Phantom is John Owen-Jones, my favorite Christine is Gina Beck (with Rebecca Caine as a close second), and my favorite Raoul is a toss-up between Hadley Fraser and Steve Barton.  (When I’m not feeling well, I listen to Barton’s performance of “All I Ask of You”; his voice is so gentle and steady and reassuring.)

And there’s dancing in this musical.  I tend to like a musical better if there’s dancing as well as singing, and this one contains two nice ballet numbers.  And the musical also has funny, lighthearted lines and sequences to break up the tension of the main story line.

Lastly, I love the characters of this story.  I like Christine and Raoul the best, but all three main characters are deeper and more layered than they first appear.  Christine, for example, comes across as air headed at first, but when you look closer, you see that she takes the word of those she trusts and is cautious around people whom she does not trust so closely.  Raoul seems to be (at best) a hot piece of cardboard and (at worst) an obstacle to the Phantom’s happiness, until you look closer and understand his reasoning and his devotion to Christine.  I’ve written and posted a dissertation about Raoul’s character (and one staunchly in defense of his good qualities, as he is generally hated by the fandom), and I’m working on a dissertation about Christine’s.  And I’ll probably write one for the Phantom at some point.

The only caveats are scattered cursing throughout the musical, and the number “The Point of No Return” has some pretty sensual subtext.  We just skip that song.  🙂

As with the musical Jane Eyre, it’s hard to pick a favorite song from The Phantom of the Opera.  But I’m going to go with “All I Ask of You” because it’s about trust, loyalty, commitment.  It speaks of sacrifice from both parties; it centers on the mutual need they have for each other; yet it also is romantic.  How much more romantic can you get than a man promising to “hold you and to hide you.”?

 

#3: A Tale of Two Cities

Adapted from Dickens’ novel, the story describes three French families suffering from the corruption of the French nobility shortly before the Revolution.  Lucie Manette, after being reunited with her father, who was unjustly imprisoned in the Bastille for years, remove to England and become acquainted with Charles Darnay, a young Frenchman with something of a mysterious past.  Meanwhile in France, the Defarges had enough with the suffering of their people and become instrumental in the acts of the Revolution.  All these characters impact each other in minor ways on the surface, but they are also connected in a more sinister way, that, when discovered, that will resurface deep anger and pain.

Give me a break.  It’s hard to describe Dickens’ novels succinctly.  But then, that’s why I love them.  🙂

This is one of the few musicals that can make me cry.  I am not the sort to cry over books and films; if someone tells me, “Oh, that movie is a tearjerker,” there is actually 99% chance I will not cry.  But with this story, I’m always in a puddle by the Finale, if not long before.  In fact, I tend to lose it when Charles weeps during “Let Her Be A Child.”

The musical focuses more on Sydney Carton, the English lawyer who frees Charles Darnay from an unjust trial in England, but who seems not to care about anything in the world.  Which is untrue; his careless attitude merely conceals a heart of long-enduring pain and disappointment.  (Actually, it’s the PBS Theatrical concert [available on DVD] that focuses on Sydney and his character arc.  The theatrical concert is an abridged form of the Original Broadway production.  The OBC was filmed, apparently, but never released on DVD *grumble growl*.  However, we do have the theatrical concert, and it gives a taste of what the full production must be like.)

What’s interesting to me is the contrasts between the main characters.  Sydney compares himself (unfavorably) to Charles Darnay, and Lucie is simply but powerfully compared to Madame Defarge.  Both ladies lost their families at a young age.  Both suffered at the hands of aristocrats.  Both endured loneliness and pain.  But each lady responded to that differently.  Madame Defarge let the pain twist her into cold fury, an anger that could be satisfied (in theory) only by revenge: “I’ve waited twenty-five years for this day!  Doctor Manette may forget; Doctor Manette may forgive, but this one survivor will never let Evremonde live!”

Lucy, on the other, hand, let that pain make her compassionate*.  She did not become hard and bitter; when reunited with her father after all those years, she says, “We both were lost, but now that’s all behind us, all the endless years I never knew you.”  She does not resent the family who unjustly imprisoned her father; and she does not condemn the descendant of that family for his ancestor’s actions.

It is this kindness and forgiveness that gets Sydney Carton’s attention.  She treats him like a normal human being and shows concern for his welfare; upon learning that he was not at church on Christmas Eve, she simply says, “It’s not our business where you were, Mr. Carton,” and invites him to share Christmas dinner with her family, saying he was not eating enough and needed a little fattening.

*This observation is not actually mine; this post brought the contrast to my attention.

This kindness and forgiveness helps Sydney see the world in a new light.  In his song “I Can’t Recall,” he says, “The heavens seem an inch away, not cold and empty like before.”  It almost sounds as though he viewed God as a distant being, one who did not listen and did not care about the world below, much less Sydney’s own hopelessness.  But Lucie’s caring put into words and actions the benevolence attributed to God.  And by the end of the musical, his outlook about God and sacrifice has changed completely.

And I need to change the subject before I melt into a useless puddle.

The melodies in this story are unique because of how amazingly they mirror and evoke the emotion of the moment.  But the lyrics are especially powerful.  For example, the song “Everything Stays the Same” describes the futility of the violence of the French Revolution, and quite frankly, it reminds me of the whining protests going on today.

Come join the revolution

Come play the latest game

Not much has changed, but then again

Not everything stays the same

Because of the amazing lyrics, it’s hard to pick a favorite song.  Get used to that line of thought; it’s prevalent among my favorite musicals.  After much thought, and nail-biting, and hair-pulling, and listening to the soundtrack again, and listening to my favorite songs on repeat, and all but dissolving into a puddle again, I picked “Let Her Be A Child” as my favorite.  Sydney muses on the fate of Lucie’s family–and her daughter–if Charles is unjustly killed, and resolves to do all he can to save him.

Sydney now considers others more important than himself.  The bitterness and hopelessness of his life has faded; he received the unreserved love of the whole Darnay family: Charles, Lucie, and their little girl.  Which showed him, in a way, the love of God.  The Darnays treated him like a member of their family, and Sydney does not hesitate now to show how much he cares.  As he tells another character, “They gave me a family; now I’m giving it back.”

“It is a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done.  It is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.”

~Sydney Carton

*melts into a useless puddle*

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55-Thwarted Steps (Dr. Jekyll)

Artwork Wednesday

Not a lot of artwork to show this week, but it’s because the pieces I worked on were difficult–and I even redid some.  Hopefully, there will be more artwork next week!

Sydney Carton?  Who’s that?  Not someone I mention often, is it?  🙂  Actually, I’m playing around with outfit ideas for  him.  I’ve always pictured him in green, for some reason, and decided to use symbolism in the color: green represents life, renewal, rebirth–but I put him in a muddy shade of green to represent his decayed hopes and ambition.  Brown is often associated with down-to-earth, wholesomeness, dependability–and that’s the color of his waistcoat, the hidden layer of both his personality and outfit.

The line art for this had been sitting in a folder for months, but I finally finished it.  And also discovered that my watercolor penmanship is sloppy.  🙂

Another pastel paper painting, this time blue paper with indigo watercolor and white gouache.  The scene is one I’ve had in my mind for a long time, though I don’t know where it came from.  Maybe I’ll work it into a story someday, like C. S. Lewis did with his image of a faun walking through a snowy wood.

Creative chaos, and a preview of another work-in-progress.  🙂

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55-Thwarted Steps (Dr. Jekyll)

Picture Saturday: Year-End Art Meme!

First off, a schedule change: I might move my Picture Saturday posts to another day of the week, as I often have a lot of time to draw on Saturday and Sunday.  It makes no sense to post before I have the most time to draw, but I haven’t yet decided which day to show the week’s artwork.

On a totally different note, I went through my folder and sketchbooks the other day and found a shamefully large number of unfinished sketches.  So I’m going to make an effort to finish those before taking on too many new drawings.

And leaving “too many” unspecified creates a handy loophole to exploit.  🙂

Until I get the old stuff finished, all I have to show this week are two paintings.  The first is a freehand…

…meaning, remember, that there’s no line art.  I adapted the landscape from a photograph on my “West, Pioneer!” Pinterest board, and I think the painting turned out pretty well.

The other painting is this…

…one that I rendered in colored pencil, but thought would also look good in watercolor.  And I like the watercolor version better than the pencil version.  Not bad for my first time painting a Mexican character!

But since that’s not much art, I decided to create a year-end art meme.  Feel free to fill it out yourself if you want, but I officially tag Julia, Bella, and Treskie!

Rules:

1.) Insert a picture of your artwork (or quote, if you’re a creative writer) from this year to answer each question.  If, however, you don’t have a picture or scan, or don’t have one of good quality, you can describe the piece.

2.) Drawings and paintings aren’t the only artwork to showcase–you can include pictures of sculptures, jewelry, sewing, knitting, set design, dance, quotes from your writing, anything that requires creative energy.

3.) Tag someone else!

First piece of artwork/writing/performance done in 2016

A colored pencil sketch of the yellow and green rings from The Magician’s Nephew.  I like the way the lighting on the green ring turned out.

Last piece of artwork/writing/performance done in 2016

This one.

Unless I sketch something else right before midnight.

A new medium/style/technique you tried this year

White pencil on toned paper!  I love this mixed media combination because it creates easy shadows and highlights, and it’s easy to sketch on because the colored paper hides accidental dark marks better than white paper would.

For those of you just joining us, those characters are Sydney Carton and little Lucie from A Tale of Two Cities.

A pose you’d never drawn before (or just something in your creative field you’ve never done before)

Actually, I drew several new poses this year:

This is Charles Darnay from A Tale of Two Cities.  I drew a lot of TTC fanart this year.

I discovered with this picture that colored pencil also works on toned paper.

The piece of artwork that others liked the most

Probably this one of Micheal Maguire that I drew for Gingersnap.

Your personal favorite piece from 2016! (Explain why!)

This one, hands down.  It’s my personal favorite because, come on, it’s cute!  (Can I say that even though I drew it?)  Also because I managed to draw a baby that actually looks like a smiling baby and not some weird, more-horrifiying-than-cute humanoid face.  And thirdly, because I drew two of my characters in a pose I’d never tried before, and it turned out “surprisingly okay,” in the words of Sherlock.  🙂

3 things to improve in your artwork in 2017

1.)  Well, I want to improve my colored pencil technique.  It often ends up sketchy when I wanted it smooth, and I often can’t get smoothly blended colors or really dark shadows.  Maybe I need to learn better control?  I dunno.

2.)  Learn sketch more quickly.  The jury’s still out on whether I can but just get caught up in drawing/perfecting details, or whether I truly need to learn this.

3.)  Further polish my watercolor technique.  Specifically, learn to layer color better and to paint a little more loosely without refining details into oblivion.

I’m a perfectionist, in case you couldn’t tell.

Other things to improve: more complex poses, more varied facial expressions on fanart and my character drawings, more figures in one drawing, and more complicated backgrounds.

3 new things to try in 2017 (such as styles, mediums, poses, backgrounds, character to draw, contests to enter)

1.)  More fluid and watery watercolor technique (without obsessing over depicting perfect details).

2.)  Draw and refine my characters’ appearances, facial expressions, and activities.

3.)  Drawing and painting bokah (out-of-focus backgrounds) with an in-focus foreground object.

What do you enjoy most about creating?

The moment when the messy sketch begins to look like the image or character I want!  And of course, the finished product!

 

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55-Thwarted Steps (Dr. Jekyll)

Picture Friday

Posting a day early because TOMORROW IS CHRISTMAS!  And I shall be busy either celebrating or chilling with my family–Chris and I have a tradition of watching A Child’s Christmas in Wales together every Christmas Eve.  So, long story short, I shan’t have the time or interest to post on Saturday.

Sydney Carton must be my art muse.  A reasonable explanation for why I draw him all the time.  Wonder what he would think about that if he knew?  He probably wouldn’t care and would ignore me whenever I sat near to draw him.  Which, on the one hand, means he wouldn’t immediately get up and leave in a huff,  ruining the pose and reference.  On the other hand, he wouldn’t necessarily bother to sit still.

It suddenly occurs to me how insane I sound to people who are not writers, and who therefore do not have conversations with imaginary characters, their own or others’, in their heads on a daily basis.  🙂

Anyway, this is the scene from the book in which Sydney wanders Paris the night before Charles’s second trial and after gaining secret entry to the prison if needed.  That wandering scene haunts me; in a way, Sydney is lonely in the sense of being physically alone and also alone in knowledge, having formed his final plan and resolved to act upon it.  But it’s not the utter isolation, the void of comfort and cheerful company, that he faced earlier in the story.  Not to mention the fact that we get a little of Sydney’s backstory here, and that he remembers Scripture for possibly the first time in years.

On a whim, I drew Christine Daae getting ready for a performance.  Hence the slightly exaggerated facial features (I love drawing actor/actress characters in stage makeup).  In my imagination, she’s in a play or opera centering around the Greek myth of Persephone.

Michael Maguire as Enjorlas from the 10th Anniversary Concert of Les Miserables.  I drew this as a last-minute present for Gingersnap, and I do mean last-minute.  Around 2:00 p.m. the day of her birthday, I realized I hadn’t gotten her anything–my contribution is usually a decorated cake, which was out of the question due to my recovering from sickness–and the drawing idea popped into my mind.  I found and printed a reference photo, dashed back to my bedroom, and sketched and erased with all haste.  Approximately 5 hours later, the drawing was finished–and even then, I had to dash back to my room while family and guests served themselves dinner (it was a buffet-style spread) and finish the jacket.  But Gingersnap was pleased; Michael Maguire is one of her favorite singers.

I had “Red and Black” in my head almost the whole time I was drawing.  Not that that’s a bad song to have stuck in your head…

Finally, the happy Sydney picture I promised!  Here he is with little Lucie and in a scene that isn’t exactly from the book, but one that might have happened.  And it makes me happy.

Merry Christmas to all my readers!

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55-Thwarted Steps (Dr. Jekyll)

Picture Saturday

Three weeks in a row!  I’m on a roll!

Just please pretend that I posted this on Saturday, not at dark o’ clock on Sunday morning.  🙂

Believe it or not, I’m still recovering from pneumonia.  Either that, or I caught a second virus while my immune system was already weakened.  I’m back on antibiotics, and hopefully, this round will get rid of the sickness for good.  But because I’m still coughing so hard, I can’t sleep for more than 3 or 4 hours each night; once the antihistamine wears off, I take another dose, but can’t lie down without wheezing badly.  So I get up, regardless of the wee morning hours.

On Friday morning at about about 4:00 a.m., I decided to draw my character Mary Wilson again.  I had to use a No. 2 pencil and computer paper because all my professional art supplies were in the bedroom, and I didn’t want to disturb my roommate, Enkie.  (Also, my art cubicle is a mess; rummaging around in the dark would have triggered an avalanche of supplies.)  But the No. 2 pencil worked well enough for sketching, and at 5:00 a.m., I ended up with this:

This is a better depiction of Mary’s appearance, and I like it better than my last attempt.  Funny story here: I laid this sketch on the couch, left the living room to get my supplies, and returned–to find the dog reclining on the couch and resting her two front paws on my sketch.  Plenty of empty cushion space on the couch, plenty of space to put her two front paws, and she plopped them on my sketch, crumbling the paper a little.   (That may have been payback for kicking her off the couch in the wee hours that morning.)   Fortunately, I had already scanned the picture and saved it to my computer.

Later, I transferred the sketch to toned pastel paper and add shadows and highlights with proper art supplies.

I’m not sure which I like better; this one is neater and has more detailed features, but the sketch on computer paper has a loose, spontaneous feel about it.

And then I drew Mary again…

…with a quote I found on Pinterest that reminded me of her.  She considers it her pride and joy to care for her husband and children.

Yesterday morning (Saturday) I repeated the drawing-frenzy-in-the-wee-hours of the morning.

Here’s Durant, and this is pretty close to the way I picture him (though the mouth looks weird).  The demeanor is accurate, and some of the features, but this being a first sketch, it’s not exactly the way I picture my character.  I’ll try again later.  Probably at 4:00 a.m. on Sunday morning.  🙂

The illegible note beneath his name reads “@ age 20, maybe?” which was a note I wrote to rationalize the fact that this didn’t turn out quite the way I wanted, and to consider this as his 20-year-old appearance.

 

I said it was time for a happier Sydney picture, didn’t I?  I fully intended to draw him smiling, maybe playing with little Lucie, but (a) couldn’t find a good reference photo, and (b) got inspired for a different subject.  This is a scene from the book, from the part in which Sydney wanders the streets of Paris before Charles’s second trial and watches the sun rise.  That moment is what I wanted to capture.  I may paint this with watercolor someday.

And then I drew Raoul because, why not?

And yay, I finally drew a face mostly from the front!

More to come next week!–or later this week, rather.  🙂

 

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55-Thwarted Steps (Dr. Jekyll)

Picture Saturday

For the second week in a row!  Hooray for consistency!  (How long that will last is another matter entirely.  🙂 )  This week’s art collection is an interesting mish-mash of fanart and drawings of my own characters.

68-melencholy-thoughts-sydney

I got a sudden urge to draw Sydney again, so here he is.  Not sure if this is a scene from the book (didn’t have any particular scene in mind) or just one that could have happened, given his character.  However, I think I’m overdue for a happy Sydney picture now, perhaps one with little Lucie too.

These drawings with a candle as a light source look dramatic, but wow, it takes a long time to cover the page with graphite.  🙂

69-scrooge-michael-caine

Slightly crooked drawing of Michael Caine as Scrooge from Muppet Christmas Carol.  Funny that a Muppet adaptation of Dickens’ classic should be the closest to the book, but the studio pulled it off.  Also, Caine’s portrayal of Scrooge is my favorite.  He gives a believable performance of a greedy and bitter man, but with some humanity in him and capable of changing for the better.

Drawn while watching, naturally, Muppet Christmas Carol last night.

70-luke-helping-his-mama

Remember that drawing I posted a while back of my character Durant, holding his baby nephew, Luke?  Well, here’s toddler Luke “helping” his mama with the laundry.  (The story has a semi-western setting, which is why the laundry equipment is old-fashioned and sitting outside.)  Luke is not the only child; he has an older brother named Alex, but I haven’t drawn him yet.

71-mary-first-sketch

And here’s Luke and Alex’s mama and Durant’s older sister.  This sketch was really just to capture her face and features; I picture her vividly, but actually getting that on paper is another matter.  I mostly like how this turned out; the forehead looks weird, but everything else looks okay.  Her gaze is lowered because she’s knitting or sewing or something like that.

Also, Mary likes red gingham.  She uses it for everything, curtains, tablecloths, throws, and her apron.

72-josefinas-treasures

This is the picture I didn’t finish last week that really belongs with the other Josefina pictures.  The objects are Josefina’s treasures: in the back, her memory box, where she keeps things that remind her of her Mama.  From left to right of the back row: lavender-scented soap, a silver thimble, a dried primrose, a chunk of turquoise, and the doll, Nina.  Then the front row: a blue hair ribbon, the necklace Tia Dolores brought, a swallow’s feather, a silver heart, and a toy pig.

I tried to go for realistic shadows/lighting, but didn’t quite make it; I’m still learning how to use colored pencils.  🙂

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55-Thwarted Steps (Dr. Jekyll)

Picture Saturday

First, a couple of notes–I’m still sick, but also making a slow recovery.  Which is why my blog has been a silent, bare place with cyber-tumbleweeds drifting here and there. This virus flattened my whole family except Mom, who has been Superwoman through checking on the sickies, administering medicine, going to Chick-Fil-A (again and again and again) to bring back soup, taking people and from the doctor, picking up prescriptions–oh, and coordinating the church potluck we were supposed to host as family (but now it’s down to just her and Gingersnap, who has also gotten better).  I am thankful Mama hasn’t gotten sick, that Enkie (my other sister) and Chris are getting better, and that Emmet and I got to see the doctor yesterday.

But before the virus hit so hard, I did get four pieces of artwork done…

52-Blue Punpkin

I saw a picture of a blue pumpkin on Pinterest.  Blue pumpkin?  Unusual, but neat.  So of course I had to draw it.  And it’s fitting because September is here!

53-Pumpkin on Hay Bale

I have always liked drawing pumpkins.

54-Pearl Necklace

Doodle of a pearl necklace.

And I might have drawn Sydney Carton again…

55-Sydney, wandering the streets

That’s all for now; hopefully, I’ll have more artwork next time!

 

 

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