55-Thwarted Steps (Dr. Jekyll)

Favorite Character Types

I loved Chelsea’s post about her favorite types of characters, and she kindly let me borrow the idea for my own blog!  These are the folks I most enjoy reading about:

The Principled/Steadfast Fighter

Captain America is probably the poster boy for this type!

This character may fit into the generic “good guy” category, but his (or her) defining feature is dedication to what he believes is right.  Characters such as Captain America, John Blake from The Dark Knight Rises, Jarrod Barkley from The Big Valley, Jane Eyre, Fanny Price, Peeta Mellark from The Hunger Games, King Tirian from The Last Battle, and Puddleglum from The Silver Chair.  (Gloomy as Puddleglum is, when things are on the line, he’s steadfast in his principles!)

And this kind of character doesn’t always win the battle–Travis from The Alamo is this type (though, in a twist, definitely not a generic good guy).  But while winning the battle is important, for this character, doing what he believes is right is the ultimate fight.  And I love these kinds of characters because they give me hope, inspire me to stand up for my principles.

The Gentle/ Good-Hearted Fighter

Hugh Dancy as Daniel Deronda from the 2002 mini-series.

This is the guy who may seem like he’s too mild or gentle or soft-hearted to fight–but for these guys, Good Is Not Soft.  This is the character who cares deeply about his world, his loved ones, and his morals, and because of that deep love, he fights as fiercely as any hardened warrior.  Frodo and Faramir from The Lord of the Rings are the prime examples, but others are Jean Valjean, Samuel Diggs from Mercy Street, Igor from Victor Frankenstein, Fanny Price (again), and Bilbo Baggins.  Possibly also Daniel Deronda.  Steve Barton’s portrayal of Raoul also fits this category.  Just listen to his rendition of “All I Ask of You”–he’s understated, but earnest, and you can tell that he’d be willing to walk through fire for Christine.

This character is a subset of the principled fighter, but I enjoy this type because their fierceness is unexpected.  They get the upper hand because they look too tender to  do any damage–and yet they ultimately care so very deeply they’re willing to lay down their lives to defend what they love.  Durant from my story Gentle Fire is definitely this type.

The No-Nonsense Mentor

A comic I drew back in 2013!

Forget the wise old man smoking a pipe and delivering quiet (if vague) words of wisdom; I like the mentors who tell it like it is and won’t put up with your whining, who whip ya into shape, and have a sharp wit to boot.  Think Gandalf, Alfred Pennyworth, Obi-Wan from the prequels, and Captain Pellew from the Horatio Hornblower TV series.  Dr. Livesey from Treasure Island kinda fits this category as well.

I think I like this type because the “wise old man” mentor type seems to deliver very vague advice and let the hero figure out the context/deeper meaning on his own.  And if I were a young hero-in-training, I would be incredibly frustrated.  Either tell me what to do point blank, or let me do it my way.  No waffling in between those options, please.  And the no-nonsense mentor does not waffle.  Their advice is “take it or leave it.”  That, and I love a sharp wit.  🙂

Honest, Honorable Men

These guys get labelled “bland” or “boring” because All Girls Want Bad Boys–until we’re pestered by that one boy who won’t take no for an answer, and then our distaste for honorable men comes back to bite us.

Ahem.  Sorry, got sidetracked.  But seriously, what’s wrong with a respectful and honest guy?  Just because they lack an edgy dark side doesn’t mean they’re boring.  Case in point would be Charles Darnay from A Tale of Two Cities.  Many people compare him to Sydney Carton and declare Sydney a more interesting character.  But that doesn’t mean Charles is one-dimensional.  He makes mistakes.  He should have told his family he was heading back to France.  His pride was nettled as Englishmen ridiculed the French aristocracy, the class to which he belonged–even though he had renounced his heritage.  And just look at his interactions with Lucie—when alone with his beloved, this honest, straightforward, principled young man turns into a sentimental softie who calls her pet names.  It’s adorable.

(And from a story analysis perspective, if Charles hadn’t been honorable and honest, Sydney would probably not have been inspired to change.  Comparing himself to Charles showed him what he could be, if he just made the effort.  But that’s another topic for another post.)

Other honest, honorable characters are Jarrod Barkley, Daniel Deronda, Mr. Darcy, and Edward Ferras from Sense & Sensibility, and James Green from Mercy Street.  A female example would be Jane Eyre (actually,  we could use  more female characters in this category.  I specified male characters because I respect those qualities, and I”m tired of the bad boy attraction, but women ought to be honest and honorable too.)

The Leader

This is how I picture Peter Pevensie!

I love a man who takes charge (without being a bully) and who knows what to do in the situation.  A man with initiative and willing to plunge right into things and get involved.  I can’t express how much I love the leaders!.  Characters like Jarrod Barkley, Captain America, Peter Pevensie, Aragorn, Hadley Fraser’s Raoul from The Phantom of the Opera, and  Lucky Jack from Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

I like the leaders because, first of all, that is the role God assigned to men.  And I respect a man who embraces that role and doesn’t let the culture dictate otherwise.  It’s also quite admirable when a man sees what needs to be done and steps up to the plate, takes the responsibility of handling a sticky situation and tries to solve the problems that get thrown his way.

The Tragic Hero/Antagonist

Henry Jekyll

Often presented in a cautionary tale, I like the heroes who definitely have a downward arc, but who also have either a valid point about the situation or good intentions.  Characters like Javert from Les Miserables: he’s often viewed as the antagonist with no room for mercy or grace in his mind–but think just how sad that is!  Also, as much as I root for Valjean, he did break his parole.  Javert was justified in at least locating the fugitive.

Other such characters would be Robert Angier from The Prestige (film), Dr. Jekyll from the 1994 concept album of Jekyll & Hyde.  Oh, and Boromir, my goodness.  Possibly also Maedhros from The Silmarillion; I relate to that guy more than I should (we’re both the eldest, both responsible, both very honor/duty driven, devastated by any mistakes that violate those last two values…)  And I would argue Gale Hawthorne fits into this category.  Because he was determined, intelligent, intuitive, and creative.  And he misused all that, even though he was trying to help win the war.

I am honestly not sure why I like this kind of character.  I don’t enjoy watching someone destroy themselves–maybe it’s a combination of respect for whatever good intentions the character has, plus a sobering warning.

Silk Hiding Steel

These are the ladies who seem like products of their time (in historical fiction) or the so-hated doormats in a contemporary setting.  These ladies are actually not doormats.  They are quiet but firm, gentle but principled–and as such, when push comes to shove, they are unflinching, industrious, and intelligent with spines of steel.  Lucie Manette, for example.  She was gentle and compassionate, and she spends most of the book caring for her family.  She also followed her husband to France when he was unjustly imprisoned, worked bravely in a foreign country where she was in constant danger of being also imprisoned herself, and every day, journeyed to a corner of the street where her husband might be able to see her if he could get to one of the upper windows of the prison.  And she stood there for two hours to let him catch a glimpse of her when he was able to.  Every day.  Just to encourage her imprisoned husband and remind him that she was there for him.  She also suffered no breakdowns, and she persevered through apprehension and uncertainty for two years.  Oh, and the Reign of Terror was going on during this time.   Lucie swoons only after her husband is unjustly imprisoned for the second time and sentenced to death.  How in the world is she a weak character?

Or take Christine from The Phantom of the Opera.  She seems naive and overly-trusting–but notice that she trusts only those people she considers friends.  Which at first included the Phantom, but after she learns his true identity, she flees from him and never ultimately trusts him again.  She also, after being lied to and betrayed by the man she considered her mentor, was not afraid to love again, and trusted Raoul to protect her (even though she disagreed with his methods later).  And after all that–she remained compassionate toward the man who had hurt her so badly.  Christine is awesome, guys.  For deeper analysis of her character, check out my post here.

Jane Eyre also fits this Silk Hiding Steel category, and Elinor Dashwood , Fanny Price, Emma Green from Mercy Street, and Lisa Carew from the 1994 concept album of Jekyll & Hyde.  Probably others I can’t think of just now.  🙂

So there you have it, some of my favorite character types!  Are there any more you would add to the list?

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55-Thwarted Steps (Dr. Jekyll)

Beautiful Books 2017

This month, instead of Beautiful People (where you talk about your characters), Sky’s link-up is Beautiful Books, where you talk about your work-in-progress!

I’ve mentioned several stories/story ideas here, but my true WIP is a semi- western Gentle Fire.  “Semi”–because the setting is based off early 1800s Anglo and Mexican cultures, but the story world is an imaginary one.  Whoop, wait, I guess I should be talking about this in the questions!  So off we go.

What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?

The 2004 film The Alamo inspired this story…and what particularly grabbed my imagination was the idea of a very young man thrust into a leadership position that would be hard to fulfill with success.  I wondered how I might handle such a situation…how someone else might handle that situation..and Durant’s character and motives and flaws appeared almost instantly (though he’s also grown and changed since I got the initial idea).

A contributing inspiration was one of my pet peeves.  I’ll explain.  🙂  Through 2016, I got sick and tired of the “you can succeed if you work hard enough” message that appears in a lot of Hollywood stories (just about every sports film I’ve seen and several artist/writer/performance arts films.  Plus a lot of the personal stories on American Ninja Warrior).  Now sometimes, work and perseverance do pay off, and they’re inherently good qualities. But they don’t absolutely guarantee success, and I remember the night my annoyance with this message solidified.  My family and I were watching The Martian (with liberal editing and TV Guardian, mind you), and after astronaut Mark Watney is stranded–alone–on Mars with no chance of rescue, he declares to himself, “I’m not gonna die.”  Dad pointed out, “See, that’s his determination.”  And I remember thinking, “You know he could still die, right?  No matter how hard he works?”  Yes, it was good initiative that Watney didn’t mope about his predicament or give up.  But that scene nonetheless struck me as hollow, because there was a distinct possibility of failure.

Okay, this is sounding cynical.  But here’s what I would rather see: stories like the The Alamo and The Lord of the Rings, where the characters fight for their values.  Principles and people they “are willing to fight, and possibly die, for,” whether or not they succeed.  I am definitely encouraged by those examples.  And I’ve worked all that into Gentle Fire.

I got the initial story concept in April, 2016 (and commemorated the event by making April 24th Durant’s birthday.  🙂 ).

Describe what your novel is about!

Durant wants to live in peace with his family in their frontier home, but the west is too far from the mother country to receive consistent help, and it has no organized government.  As the family struggles against wilderness and the lawlessness, Durant fights to help establish a government to safeguard his new home and make it prosperous.  And he is keenly aware of the consequences of failure.

Well, lookee there, I managed to write a short synopsis!  🙂

What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!

The landscapes are modeled after places in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, with some south Texas-inspired landscapes here and there.  The northern most parts of my imaginary world are mostly mountains; the midlands have slopes and woods dominating, and the southern most portions are desert-ish areas.  As such, the southern towns and homes are built from adobe (with a few lumber houses for those who could afford the material), while the northern towns and homes are often log cabins.  However, these varied landscapes all belong to one colony of one nation, and Mexicans and Anglos live together in several areas, and those towns/communities are often a blend of the two cultures.

Music has also inspired lots of plot points, story twists, and general settings.  These songs in particular:

“West, Pioneer!” (Annie Moses Band, American Rhapsody)

“Homeland” (Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron)

“In The New World” (Annie Moses Band, American Rhapsody)

“Listen to the Mockingbird” (The Alamo)

“Sell Our Lives Dearly” (The Alamo)

“Where You’ve Always Been” (Annie Moses Band, American Rhapsody)

“Home Away from Home” (James Galway & Phil Coulter, Winter’s Crossing)

“Flares” (The Script, No Sound Without Silence)

“Hard Times” (Annie Moses Band, American Rhapsody)

“Hymn for the Heartland” (James Galway & Phil Coulter, Winter’s Crossing)

“El Bexareno” (The Alamo [note: my keyboard won’t make Spanish accent marks; hope the meaning is clear enough!])

“Clancy’s Theme” (The Man From Snowy River)

“La Zandunga” (The Alamo)

Introduce us to each of your characters!

*looks at list of17+ characters*  Or…maybe just the most prominent ones?  But rather than narrating personalities, I’ll list the tropes from tvtropes.org that apply to my characters.

Durant

Beware the Nice Ones – Threaten Durant’s values or family, and he will not go quietly.  His reactions range from calling you out to insubordination (though he always tries the peaceable solution first).

Cannot Spit It Out – He’s definitely better with written communication.

Deadpan Snarker –  In some instances (the flip side of the trope above!)

Friend to All Children – He loves kids, adores his niece and nephews, and he likes teaching (and prefers the vocation of schoolmaster to anything else).

Knight in Sour Armor – He turns into this.

Not A Morning Person – And often wakened by nephews bouncing on him in the morning.

Alex huffed.  “Why are you always sleeping?”

Durant turned over.  “I beg your pardon, you rascal.”

The Quiet One – Initially, but he opens up once get he gets to know someone.  And he’s laid back and more cheerful around his family.

Why Did It Have to Be Snakes? – He hates public attention.

Mary

Deadpan Snarker – Definitely.

Determined Homesteader – She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty working with Wilson to establish their homestead.

Gentle Touch vs. Firm Hand – Mary manages to uphold a combination of the two.

Good Parents – To Alex, Luke, and later, Sophie.  She and Wilson want to have more children once they get settled in their new home (even though pregnancies are often difficult for her).

Happily Married – To Wilson.

Honest Advisor – Mary can see through smoke screens, recognize when both sides have a point–and she tells it like it is.

Humble Goal – She wants to build a comfortable home for herself and her family.

Mama Bear – Don’t mess with her kids, or you’ll be looking down the wrong end of her musket.

Team Chef – She absolutely loves to cook and to keep hearty meals on the table for her family.

Wilson

(I really need to draw a proper portrait of Wilson!)

Determinator – He has a type-A streak that can make him stubborn.

Determined Homesteader – Wilson is a farmer through and through and honestly prefers to get his living from the soil.

Does Not Know His Own Strength – While Wilson is incredibly gentle with his wife and kids, he sometimes falls prey to this. He once gave Durant a friendly back slap–that was so strong, Durant stumbled forward a step or two. And then refused to quit teasing Wilson about it.

Good Parents – To Alex, Luke, and later, Sophie.

Happily Married – To Mary.

Humble Goal – He wants land of his own and a working farm to pass down to his sons someday.

Mellow Fellow – He’s laid-back and cheerful–usually.

Papa Wolf – Mess with his family, and you’re going to wish you hadn’t.

(Don’t have a drawing of Barros yet.  Sorry.)

Barros

Papa Wolf – To daughters Teresita and Maria.

Reluctant Hero – Subverted; Barros defends his family and values without a second thought, he but he would rather lead on a social level than go into politics.  Guess how well that preference works out.

Reasonable Authority Figure – He generally listens to all parties, and never acts without thinking carefully. On the other hand, he can also make up his mind quickly when needed.

(I’m still developing his character, which is why there aren’t as many tropes for his personality yet.)

Sanchia

Friend to All Children – Possibly because she has several younger brothers and sisters (and a couple of older ones; I think she’s the third child of nine kids).

Humble Goal – To help support her family.  She loves them dearly.

Nice Girl – She’s warm and enthusiastic (without being overly effusive) and friendly.

Plucky Girl – She tries to cheer others up and isn’t easily discouraged.

Proper Lady – As per the social and cultural standards of the time (though in a twist on this trope, she’s not an upper-class lady).

Silk Hiding Steel – She moved to a foreign colony–alone–to work as a seamstress and earn money for her family .  At age 17.

Spicy Latina – Actually subverted to averted, depending on your perspective.  Sanchia is passionate for her values and tends to push others to fulfill their talents and callings, but she’s also down-to-earth and patient and cheerful.

The Social Expert – She’s outgoing, observant, and a good conversationalist!

(Characters not featured here: Alex, Luke, Sophie, Teresita, Maria, Jacobs, Harrison, Williams, Jackson, Dennis, Eduardo and Dolores, various others who haven’t been named yet.)

How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)

Lots and lots of planning.  I need to know my characters thoroughly before starting the book, and I need to know what the story is ultimately saying, and where the major plot points are, as well as where everything ends up.  As such, I’ve been planning this novel for over a year, and only just beginning to write it.

What are you most looking forward to about this novel?

Writing Durant’s character and journey and growth (and he does grow a lot).  And I look forward to writing the world and how the characters react to it and influence it.  I also think the story and its settings and problems are fresh twists on the western genre, and so it’ll be fun to play with all those ideas!

List 3 things about your novel’s setting.

  1. Most characters refer to the frontier as “the western colonies” or just “the colonies”–since the new land was founded by the eastern government for economic benefit.
  2. Anglos and Mexicans live together in the colonies and eventually created a blend of cultures.   The land being harsh and rugged, the colonies of the two nations engaged in trade and came to depend upon one another a good deal.
  3. The story is set during the dawn of the west, during the 820s–30s.  As such, the fashions are 30s style (both Anglo and Mexican) and the weapons are muskets and flintlock rifles.

What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?

See the synopsis above.  🙂  Durant really just wants to be left alone and live in peace with his family.

How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

Spoilers!  This is actually a key point, so I’ll keep it under wraps for now.  (And maybe intrigue people by doing so…mwa-ha-ha!  🙂 )

What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?

Again, spoilers!  I’d rather let readers figure this out for themselves!  As for the readers’ feelings…I’ve noticed a trend of bittersweet endings in my stories.  Think The Return of the King bittersweet.  So there’s that–but I would want the readers to feel quietly inspired.  I say “quietly” because sometimes it’s the subtle things that influence you the most.

Now, I considered whether to participate in National Novel Writing Month (in November)–and ultimately decided against it.  The reason is that I’ve switched writing methods.  Rather than typing at my laptop, I’ve gone back to scribbling with pen and paper and this actually works better for me.  Typing is handy, but it’s so fast that I often finish a scene or a line before I’ve planned the next–so I have to stop and think what comes next–and there goes all momentum.  But because handwriting is slower, I don’t come to the end of my imagination as quickly, and the momentum doesn’t slow down either.  And there’s no “backspace” key on a pen, meaning less incentive to edit during the draft.  🙂  HOWEVER it would be incredibly difficult to reach a handwritten 50k word count in one month.  I may twist the rules a bit to suit my methods, or follow along as well as possible for the first week or so, but nothing official.  And perhaps, I’m not doing NaNo–I might be able to write humorous blog posts for the rest of you writers to enjoy!

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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)

Artwork Wednesday

Artwork Wednesday is back!–after a hiatus in which I spent more time writing than drawing.  Funnily enough, last week was just the reverse: more drawing than writing.

Anyway, one project I finished a couple of weeks ago isn’t pencil-and-paper art, but a second attempt at colcha embroidery.  The the result was much better than the first:

Colcha is fun, and the texture of short and long stitches is unique.  But synthetic yarn was really hard to use, so I looked up the price of 100% wool yarn and whether art stores in my area carried it.  And blinked at the screen in disbelief when the results were (a) ridiculously expensive and (b) largely unavailable to boot.  Synthetic wool is apparently cheaper to produce, and therefore more abundant in stores.  So I may just keep using the yarn I have for colcha, however inaccurate that might be.

Quick drawing of theatre curtains and a stage, artwork for my 10 Favorite Musicals link-up.  It only now occurs to me that I could have used stock pictures.  But I guess it’s good that I was willing to do the artwork myself.  🙂

Doodle of a gingerbread house.

I love drawing oranges.  Layering the colors is fun, and oranges are just so bright and perky.  Plus, they’re more interesting to draw than a plain sphere to practice light and shadow and so on.

For Christmas, I got the Alamo 2004 film guide (my preccioussssss!!!) and after reading almost the whole thing that same day, I decided to draw the characters using the photographs inside as reference.  This is Jason Patric as James Bowie.  As I finished up the sketch, Chris sent me a text from across the living room: “Dat drawing, tho.”  🙂

I made an interesting discovery with this project: I sketched this with a 2B pencil instead of H or HB–and not only did the 2B contribute to the rough appearance of the character, it helped me lay down really dark shadows.  With 2B as one of the lightest values, I used much darker leads to get the shadows to contrast properly.  Which was a nice discovery; previously, my drawings were pale, as if I was afraid of putting down bold shadows.  I wasn’t–and couldn’t figure out why my shadows weren’t dark enough.  It was because thelight values were too light and therefore didn’t require enough contrast to make the picture stand out.  *files information away for later*

Patrick Wilson as Travis.  I drew this using the same technique as with Bowie’s portrait: sketching with a 2B pencil.

The funny thing about these two characters is that a rough, dark, sketchy look works for Bowie because of his personality (and the actor’s face structure).  But that style doesn’t work for  Travis for those exact same reasons (personality/actor’s appearance) and I had to shade lightly and blend the graphite carefully to get this to look like Travis.

A new item on my list of Favorite Things to Draw is cacti silhouettes against a desert sunset.  (Oranges are also on that list, as well as Sydney Carton.  🙂 )

You know those drawings that are basically three blades of grass on a white background, yet the artist sells half a million prints of that on Etsy?  Well, I decided to draw my equivalent; it’s supposed to be a cherry blossom, but the petals don’t look quite right.  Cherry blossoms are beautiful, though, and so I’ll probably try this subject again later.

I also started weaving a little bag to carry around my art supplies so that they won’t end up piled on the bookshelf every night.  I’m using rug yarn (a thick, tough kind of yarn, if you don’t know) so that the bag will be durable enough to be carried around everywhere.  Once I’ve woven all the pieces, I’ll stitch them together and see how it works!

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55-Thwarted Steps (Dr. Jekyll)

Quote of the Week – Travis’s Speech

“I have here pieces of paper, letters from politicians and generals, but no indication of when–or if–help will arrive.  Letters not worth the ink committed to them.  I fear that…no one is coming.

“Texas has been a second chance for me.  I expect that might be true for many of you as well.  It has been a chance not only for land and riches, but also to be a different man.  And, I hope, a better one.  There have been many ideas brought forth in the past few months of what Texas is, what it should become.  We are not all in agreement.  But I’d like to ask each of you what it is you value so highly that you are willing to fight and possible die for.  We will call that ‘Texas’.

“The Mexican army hopes to lure us into attempting escape.  Almost anything seems better than remaining in this place, penned up.  If, however, we force the enemy to attack, I believe every one of you will prove himself worth ten in return.  We will not only show the world what patriots are made of, we will also deal a crippling blow to the army of Santa Anna.

“If anyone wishes to depart under the white flag of surrender, you may do so now.  You have that right.  But if you wish to stay here…with me, in the Alamo…we will sell our lives dearly.”

~ The Alamo, 2004 film

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55-Thwarted Steps (Dr. Jekyll)

Picture Wednesday

Temporarily changing these posts to Wednesday; not sure it will stay that way, but the middle of the week seems like a good time to show what I’ve already accomplished and to prompt me to continue drawing through the rest of the week.

The first piece of artwork is brought to you by New Year’s Day itself.  The name of the piece is *drumroll*–“Mankind’s Greatest Achievement: Seedless Strawberries.”

Also known as “My attempt to make it seem like leaving seeds off the strawberries was a thought-out choice, not an aspect I simply forgot to add.”  And I’m just kidding about those titles.  The title of the drawing is actually “Strawberry sketch”.  Because titles pour from ‘neath my typing fingers with the eloquence of the ages.

Along with sarcasm.  🙂

 

I’m proud of this painting because I sketched the line art and painted the scenery entirely from memory.  I wanted to capture the fresh, green color of tree leaves against grey clouds.  And on the paper, the trees are a cool green, and the clouds are a warm grey, but for some reason, the digital screen scrambled the colors.  Oh, well.

 

Now this was a mixed media experiment.  I used Sepia watercolor and white gouache on toned pastel paper.  To my surprise and delight, the pastel paper held the paint quite well, well enough to handle several washes before the paper started peeling.  Also to my surprise, though the paper wrinkled when wet, it dried completely flat.  (What looks like buckled paper in the scan is actually how the paint pooled and dried.)  This may become my new favorite technique–it has the look of my graphite/toned paper drawings, but the fluid smoothness of watercolor.  And Enkie says this painting looks rather like one of those old-time sepia photographs.

 

Now that autumn is over, it makes sense to paint an autumn picture, right?  Actually, I stumbled across the line art for this in one of my sketchbooks; I had scribbled this landscape months ago and then forgotten about it.  It’s a pleasant surprise to find good artwork while spring cleaning your supplies.

 

Originally did this in colored pencil; finally rendered it in watercolor.  And once again, the watercolor version is my favorite.  Maybe I’d better figure out what subjects or landscapes I prefer in colored pencil…

I used a technique called “glazing,” which is painting over one color with another.  In this case, glazing pink over yellow and then indigo over pink created more vibrant bands of color than using pre-mixed colors of orange and blue-violet.  I’d used the glazing technique before, but not for a whole painting, and not with such brilliant results.  *adds technique to art knowledge arsenal*

 

Another free hand, New Mexican landscape, and a painting that I like much better than my last attempt.

That’s all for now!

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55-Thwarted Steps (Dr. Jekyll)

Insights from Three Roads to the Alamo

I am devouring this book.  It is far more interesting than I anticipated; Davis presents a lot of facts, but dwells on the ones most pertinent to the different eras in the lives of Crockett, Bowie, and Travis.  (Or rather, Crockett and Bowie; I haven’t gotten to Travis yet.)  Davis also provides their family histories, detailing them so thoroughly that I mentally nicknamed the ancestors “Grandpa Crockett” and “Pa Bowie” and “Uncle Bowie” in order to remember who all these people are.

The book also offers gems about frontier life, law, and politics (or lack thereof).  For example:

Following the purchase of Louisiana, almost all the region was public land, unavailable for purchase until it was properly surveyed and townships and ranges were laid out.  That would be the work of years to come.  The only more immediate ways to take possession of a tract were either to buy it from a confirmed occupant or else to acquire a Spanish grant owned by a grantee who never actually took possession.  –pg. 43

Now [Crockett] was nearly thirty, with three small children, one of them still an infant, all of them needing care and he with a failing farm to work.  In like circumstances men often broke up their families, placing the children in the homes of friends and relatives, but Crockett felt too attached to his sons John and William, and to baby Margaret.  –pg. 63

Soon [Crockett] added to it other titles in Lawrence County, including town commissioner of Lawrenceburg, court referee, and road commissioner.  For the next two years, he adjudicated in land disputes, took censuses of voters and taxpayers, oversaw the improvement of country roads, and performed whatever small tasks came in the way of a rural functionary. –pg. 69

In 1823 Americans had no folk heroes as yet.  They were too new a people, their only household gods the Founding Fathers, men too lofty and remote to become the stuff of legend.  But the common man was rising now, and he would want one of his own for an icon.  –pg. 86

Ahead of them lay what boatmen called a sawyer, a huge driftwood tree snagged in the bottom mud, its trunk pointing upstream.  Sawyers rose out of the water in response to the current until their weight in the air countered the water’s resistance, and then they crashed down again, repeating the process endlessly until eventually they washed away.  –pg. 117

You may notice from the sequence of the page numbers that every other page contains something interesting, insightful, and informative.  I keep peppering my copy with Post-Its, and this selection of quotes is only a portion of the ones I marked.

It’s amusing to note that very little has changed politically.  I always thought that early 19th century America was morally purer than today; and in some ways, perhaps it was.  But when Bowie gets involved in local politics, and Crockett in local and national politics, we get statements like this:

Brent also promised men appointments if he was elected, even though they would be to offices a congressman had no power to fill; one of Johnston’s friends admitted that some influential men “were completely bamboozled by him.”  –pg. 102

When the House bogged down in debate on the tariff in March, [Crockett] looked on in dismay as a largely partisan element tried to reshape the duties in a way that would align the West, the South, and the mid-Atlantic states against New England, the home of President Adams.  Critics charged that the House was concerned not with protecting manufacturers but manufacturing a president, and Crockett became so frustrated that he determined to vote against every single tariff amendment and against the tariff bill itself.  –pgs. 129—130

David believed he was seeing evidence of bipartisan support, honest men favoring an honest measure, but the more subtle Polk recognized that they were taking the “opportunity to use Crockett, and to operate upon him through this measure, for their own political purposes.”  –pg. 138

“What a state of things,’ [Overton] exclaimed.  ‘The most corrupt & daring are the most successful.”  –pg. 157

Did you think that fighting and backbiting over a political position was a modern problem?

No sooner did Crockett return to Washington for this new session, however, than he read a Nashville newspaper account published while he was on his way east, saying that he had behaved with unforgivable boorishness at the meal, demanding more food when his plate was removed, even licking his fingers, and drinking out of all six cups attached to the punch bowl. … [A]ny one of the other five attendees, including the president, could have put the lie to the story. … The story had to be a lie made up by someone who knew the dinner took place and who gave it to the Clay-Adams press, yet who must have known that at least half the guests present who could refute the tale were themselves National Republicans.  In other words, a fantasy concocted to embarrass Crockett must inevitably be embarrassing to the National Republicans as well, when the truth came out and men like Clark and Verplank were forced to refute what appeared in their own party organs.  –pgs. 134–135

Such calm was hardly likely in an election year, however.  Brent stood for reelection again, and the campaign proved if anything even more bitter than those before.  Charges swirled of Brent’s heavy engagement in forged Spanish grant business, and that in Washington he received money for claims on behalf of his constituents but failed to turn it over.  –pg 155

How about fights in social media?

Crockett took up the fight in the press, and replied in temper that Lea was a “poltroon, a scoundrel and a puppy,” suggesting that if Lea would identify himself, Crockett would “resent” the insults with a challenge.  Lea did identify himself in responding, declining the invitation to duel but repeating his charge that his colleague had made himself the “willing instrument of political, sectional and personal malignities” opposed to the interests of Tennessee, on the part of men who wished to “induce him to act with them in future.”  The correspondence went back and forth in the press for several days…  –pg 141

The author points out that Crockett was not a man prone to violence, but the article in the press had attacked his integrity.

And though back then there weren’t solid political parties as we’d think of them, there was division of voter support:

Everyone expected [Brent] to be easy prey after his part in electing Adams the year before, but the Jacksonians in Louisiana fell apart this year and fielded two candidates, dividing the opposition vote.  –pg. 155

I keep subconsciously comparing the information I read to the portrayals in The Alamo film.  And have to remind myself to wait until I reach those chapters of their lives, because the men they were at age 15 or 20 could be radically different from their personalities at ages 26, 33, and 40-something.

But their personalities thus far are interesting to assess.  Bowie is a complex case study: sometimes, I do not want to read the chapters about him because of his underhand dealings and violent tendencies.  On the flip side, he had an interesting and intelligent (mostly) personality.  He had self-control enough to wait for his frauds to succeed, but not enough to control himself in the presence of insults or enemies.  He was intelligent enough to maneuver into the society of influential men, but not enough to research his schemes thoroughly.  He apparently had no qualms defrauding the government out of its public land and smuggling slaves into Louisiana, but he was fiercely loyal to his family.  His character seems to be on a level with Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights—complex, yet reprehensible, yet fascinating.  Like a tornado—you want to get out of there, but you can’t look away.

On a lighter note, Bowie’s first name was James, and he had a brother name John.  I got a hilarious mental image of their parents getting the names mixed up, stuttering when calling one kid or the other, and finally resorting to “Come here, boy.”  The thought amuses me.

Crockett is also a puzzling case sometimes.  While the author—and Crockett’s own actions in Congress—declares him an honest man, he seems to have had no qualms deliberately appealing to what his backwoods constituents liked best, and exaggerating (or de-exaggerating as the situation required) his own knowledge and abilities.  It doesn’t seem to have been a malicious or intentionally deceptive tactic—and Crockett definitely stood his ground, regardless of consequences, once he was elected to Congress—but it seems a little odd in the face of his honesty elsewhere, and his (initial) naïve belief in the sincerity of his fellow delegates.  It does, however, make accurate Crockett’s statement in The Alamo film: “I was never afraid to stretch things a bit…but I never learned to lie.”

On a totally different note, there will be no Picture Saturday today.  Mainly because I have nothing prepared, and I may be getting sick.  On the bright side, it might give me more time to read Three Roads to the Alamo.  🙂

55-Thwarted Steps (Dr. Jekyll)

Life Lately: Reading, Reality, & Nostalgia

My blog is once again a sad, quiet place inhabited by cyber-tumbleweeds. Ideas for posts hit me in a abundance, but whenever I put fingers to keyboard, my brain acts like it doesn’t know English.  Or good paragraph structure.  Or how to log in to my dashboard.

When the grammar/literature side of my brain thus malfunctions, I turn to artwork.  Yesterday, I created a watercolor work-in-progress post, taking snapshots of my work space and of each step of the painting process.  (And scribbled a page of hieroglyphics that I would later translate into coherent explanations.)  But at the last minute, the watercolors bled into each other and caked up, ruining the painting.

Moral of the story: “Quit while you’re not ahead.”  Actually, maybe it’s “Don’t paint and post simultaneously.”  Maybe even “In order to further artistic skill and understanding, practice and use your selected medium more frequently than once in the duration of the moon’s rotation, and the chances of such utter and abysmal failure will lessen drastically.”

Or most likely: “Wait for the paint to dry completely before you add another layer.”  🙂

I have a couple of other posts drafted.  One is about Christine Daae and the deeper layers of her character in the musical.  Another is a post about Movie-Raoul and how Patrick Wilson was underused and underappreciated.  I’ll get them up as soon as I edit and tidy the concepts, sentence fragments, unconnected paragraphs, and random notes like “something about what she might have been feeling <insert picture later>.  <too sarcastic; don’t be biting>  <forgot what I wanted to say here, argh>.”

What I have been doing (instead of blogging) is reading, mainly non-fiction about my historical interests.  One of my favorite time periods is the British political landscape of the 1820s—30s.  This period is called the “Romantic Era,” because of the influence of Romanticism in art, literature, fashion, society—and politics.  I’d go so far as to say the 20s–30s politics laid the foundations for the politics and reforms of the Victorian Era.  Pretty significant, right?  As such, it annoys me when people either ignore the period or lump it in with the Regency or Victorian Eras.  No, guys.  The 1820s—30s was its own period, especially politically.

Okay, rant over.  For my birthday, I received Norman Gash’s Aristocracy and People; Britain, 1815-1865.  A nice, hardback copy to boot.

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Gash’s research is thorough and balanced; he presents all the arguments in a conflict, notes both the successes and mistakes of everyone involved, admits when information is insufficient or when records conflict, and supports his conclusions with a lot of facts.  He also includes an impressive bibliography; I accidentally annoyed my family the night of the party by browsing the bibliography before opening the rest of my presents.  Gash did not disappoint; the bibliography of Aristocracy and People was several pages.

On a different note, though still historical, I changed my desktop background.  If you recall from this post, the background was the Alamo compound under attack.  Here’s my new desktop:

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Yeah, this obsession is not ending anytime soon.  🙂  I recently ordered Three Roads to the Alamo by William C. Davis, and it arrived a couple of days ago.  This book is not about the battle for the Alamo or the politics of Texas independence, but rather about the lives of Crockett, Bowie, and Travis.  Davis too includes an impressive bibliography, with the list of primary sources much longer than the list of secondary sources.  Good show.  And I’ve started decorating the pages with Post-Its.  Which I tend to do with my non-fiction resources.

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I still need to get my hands on resources discussing the battle and the politics of the conflict, but Three Roads to the Alamo is a good place to start researching.

On yet another historical note, I started re-reading the American Girl books.  “Reliving my single digits,” as Mom says.  I forgot how good those books are–not in-depth by any means, but since they were written for 5 to 10-year-olds, they teach the basics of a time period and provide a starting point for more research.

Plus, they’re good stories.  Yes, rather simplistic sometimes, but I was struck by how reasonable the parents (usually) are in each set of books.  Josefina’s Papa, for example, is a reasonable authority figure: he is respected as the patron of the rancho, yet he listens to his children when they have something to say and often does little things to please and cheer them.  Felicity’s parents are also reasonable.  Though she often disagrees with them about what is proper, it’s clear that Mrs. Merriman works hard to keep the household running and to be a wife, mother, hostess, and neighbor.  A doormat of the times, she is not.  And Felicity herself matures through the series, becoming more patient and sacrificial rather than thinking of her own wishes.

It’s sad that the company now owning American Girl has stripped away much of the historical emphasis and resources.  In the ’90s, along with the dolls and their outfits, the company offered paper dolls as well with snippets of information about the historical fashions and customs.  There was also a line of cookbooks and craft books from each girl’s time period.  And companion books titled Welcome to [Girl]’s World, providing even more information about the time period than the “Peek into the Past” sections of the books.

Now most of those resources are gone.  Yes, you can still buy the girls’ stories and find the cook/craft books secondhand online.  But the whole foundation of the American Girl series has been chipped down to almost a side line.  In the recent catalogues, the first pages contain the Girl of the Year and Truly Me dolls, as well as doll salon sets, doll school rooms, and doll snack carts, all with hundreds of accessories and with sound effects built into the hair dryers and popcorn makers (I’m not making that up.)  The historical characters come now with fewer historical outfits and period-appropriate accessories (such as Samantha’s sampler and Addy’s old-fashioned ice cream maker and Kirsten’s spoon bag).  The dolls themselves have been recreated with thinner bodies and faces.

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See?  My doll from the ’90s (on the left) has a wider face and more “chipmunk cheeks”–she looks more like a child, a nine-year-old than the other doll.

Samantha will always be my baby, and I looked like Molly as a kid (round glasses and all, though I have brown eyes instead of grey)–but Josefina is my favorite.  She’s sweet and caring–she loves her family dearly–yet she has a spine of steel and she’s excitable on occasion.  And she has a child’s hope and interest in the world.  In Josefina Saves the Day, it’s adorable that she wants to buy a little toy farm, partly because it looks fun but partly because it reminds her friend Patrick of his home.

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It’s also cute that in this picture, she wears her hair in two braids instead of one!

As I re-read the Josefina books, I became enthralled with 1820s–30s Mexican culture.  So I ordered Welcome to Josefina’s World, which should provide a starting point for further research, especially if it has a good bibliography.

So that’s what I’ve been up to (and what I’ve been fangirling over), and hopefully, I’ll have slightly more coherent posts later in the week.  🙂

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55-Thwarted Steps (Dr. Jekyll)

Photoshop Edits–The Alamo

The 2004 film The Alamo is one of my favorite films of all time (in fact, it’s playing in the background on my laptop right now).  But it’s not popular or well-known (as far as I can tell) because it was a box office flop.  I’m still figuring out why it flopped; maybe because it didn’t conform to the popular portrayals of Travis, Bowie, Crockett?

Anyway, edits, gifs, and screen caps of this film are few and far between; so I screen capped my DVD and started making fan edits of my own.  (And if I can figure out how to use the programs on my laptop, I’ll make gifs as well.)

(A word of warning: the film has language scattered throughout, not too frequently, but it is there.  Also, since it’s a war film, some scenes are intense.)

So I started with just quotes onto the screencaps…

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“It’s Raoul!”  Ha, sorry, I couldn’t resist.  🙂  Still figuring out how to make these quote/picture combinations artistic without being overdone.

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Jason Patric as Colonel Bowie.  I’m working on more quote/picture edits of this character.

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Seriously, Billy Bob Thornton as Crockett is one of the best things about this film.

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Another is Patrick Wilson as William Travis.  I want everyone who thought Wilson was flat in The Phantom of the Opera film to watch The Alamo, because he was so much better in that.  Or rather, he had a better developed character to portray; understated is (or was) just his acting style, but Movie-Raoul was so underdeveloped with the cards stacked against him from square one, that it’s amazing Wilson came across as strongly as he did.  I’ll probably do a post about that later.

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Crockett is awesome, okay?

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*melts*  I get very emotional over this film…

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*hysterical sobbing*

My brother Chris glanced at the computer screen as I Photoshopped this, and after a second of silence, he said, “I have never wanted to punch you in the face more than I do now.”  He was joking, of course.  Kinda.  Because we’re both deeply invested in this film.

Oh, and my current desktop?

My desktop-obsession to a whole new level

Chris said that’s obsession on a whole new level.  And I may have just figured out why I’m still single.  🙂

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