3 Recent Amazing Things

July 09, 2012

(Last day to enter the Elven Flower Jewelry Set Giveaway!)

I normally don't write about books that I read or movies I watch, simply because I go through a spectacular amount of material. I've never had the gumption to tread the waters of book-and-movie-review-blogging, because I know I'll drown under tsunami waves of heavy books and shiny discs.

But this is my blog, and I can write about whatever I want to. I didn't prepare a good artsy post and I feel in the mood to talk about the books and movies I enjoyed the past several days!

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Last week at the library, I was browing the kid's section (because one must always browse the kids section and balance research paper books with fun books) and saw a brick that didn't look like it belonged in the midst of grade-school Scholastic paperbacks. Now, any time a five inch thick book is in the kid's section, my interest is immediately peaked. I pulled the weighty volume off the shelf, recognized it as something a friend had recommended, and gasped as I turned the leaves.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick is a real treat. I'd already seen the movie, so the plot was deprived of that new-story magic. However, it's still a sweet little story set in 1937 France, involving train stations, clocks, films, magic, and friendship. Not to mention mechanical automatons, which I had not heard of before. I am now in love with automata-- there's a few cool ones on my Gizmos Pinterest board.


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I found this AWESOMESAUCE Lego Pegasus Automaton!

Back to Hugo-- what really caught my eye about this book was the creative fusion of the illustrations and the text. Traditional books tell their story with words only, and the illustrations simply picture-ify short scenes. Graphic novels rely on visual cues for their entire stories. Hugo is neither; the text and images are so closely intertwined that you need both in order to follow the story.

My favorite part? The illustrations read like a storyboard. They are like a flipbook for short scenes of a film. Progressive pages zoom in on important items, just as a video camera does. Brian Selznick did a spectacular job of choosing the perfect moments to illustrate. You know how a film can capture emotion in people's expressions in a way that words simply can't? All the emotional scenes are gorgeously illustrated in this movie-magic manner. (And the movie-magic experience ties right back into the storyline).

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Did I mention gorgeously illustrated? You couldn't have picked a better time period for this style of drawing. The crosshatching and stylized figures creates a dreamy atmosphere. Mechanical pieces of useful art, like clocks and wind-up toys and automata look amazing and slightly steampunk. And the vintage clothing? If I ever have to draw pictures of crowds, I am SO giving them cloches and flatcaps and overcoats and shiny shoes.

I was going to copy some of the pictures from Hugo but haven't had a chance yet. However, the clockwork drawings inspired these little mechanical dragonflies! They're from my imagination, and drawn partially at my brother's baseball game, partially at home while listening to Sherlock Holmes.

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Another recent read was the Letzenstein Chronicles by Meriol Trevor. (Nope, not Lichtenstein, but an imaginary European country). These are a really charming series that I always come back to every year or two. I love them so much, especially The Crystal Snowstorm and The Rose and Crown. It's late and I don't have time for a full review, but suffice it to say that I love these. :) Along with most books published by Bethlehem Books!

They're historical novels that I suppose are designed to teach you about the revolutions of the 1800's. I like the history, but love the characters even more.
There's everything from adventure to intrigue to romance to artists to child-being-forced-to-become-Grand-Duchess to revolutions of the 1800's to acting and languages and friendship and loyalty and narrow escapes and castles filled with orphans and some very memorable characters.

Get them from your library, NOW.

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We went to the theaters to see Brave. It's a tradition to watch all Pixar movies when they come out. Honestly, I was a little disapointed. Brave is a fun movie... but it didn't have the depth that I've come to expect from Pixar. I never truly connected with the characters. The whole "change my mother to change my destiny" thing... Merida was leaving herself WIDE open to all sorts of magical troublemaking. Plot hole!

They really pushed the whole strong-female-lead issue. A bit too hard. It wasn't natural although it was good in theory. (And for goodness sake, that cliche corset scene? <--- link goes to funny commentary on that scene). I also heard all sorts of hype about this being Pixar's first female-lead film, and the first film directed by a woman. Kudos to them for not discriminating, but I honestly... I don't know. The fact that they have to make such a big deal about that is sad. It's also sad that the story is so much about that. It's got a girl-power flavor-- which it not a bad thing, but it overwhelms other flavors that could have made the film so much more while still being totally empowering.

Seriously. Let's just admit the fact that girls are just as good as boys, and get on with it. Write good stories. Don't get hung up on what gender the lead or director is. Just make good art.

One thing that I really liked, though, was the depiction of Merida's mother the queen. She was a very strong woman in her own way, although like all people, she had her own flaws. The scene where the queen calmed an entire banquet hall of fighting warriors, simply by walking? Not all woman have to be kick-butt tomboys to be strong and powerful in their own way!

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(And she made pretty tapestries with insane detail. I can't even imagine... and the animation! You could see every thread!)

I did enjoy Brave, despite my ranting. I've just come to expect more emotional depth from Pixar. However, in one thing there was no disapointment to be found at all. THE ARTISTRY.


That film was eye candy. And ear candy. (OK, ignore the ear candy, that sounds disturbing. But believe me when I say the music and accents were delicious!). I am totally renting the DVD, just so that I can press the pause button all I want. So much detail. And so much of my obession with knotwork! There was something amazing in the credits...

Celtic. Knotwork. Snowflakes.

As soon as the movie was over, I went to sit down next to mom. The first words out of my mouth? Celtic knotwork snowflakes. It's a joke in my family now, because I just kept going on about it!

I can't wait until there are pictures of the credits online, or until I can get the DVD. I'd love to copy the designs I saw in the theater. As it is, I had to make them up!

I'm pretty proud of the top right one; I drew it as soon as we got back and didn't even look up designs that are typically used in circular celtic knots.

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  1. Your artwork and your knotwork are progressing by leaps and bounds, Shaylynn! I love the dragonflies, and the snowflakes? Hello! So darn cool. And don't worry. Although I seem to have loved Brave more than you did, I too came home ranting about Celtic knotwork snowflakes. They were just so awesome!

  2. Great blog i love this blog due to great photography here as well as valuable things inside this blog.


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