Giant Spider & Me – Review

23 May

Giant Spider & Me: A Post-Apocalyptic Tale

Paperback -180 pages.  Publisher: Seven Seas

The opening of Giant Spider & Me by Kikori Morino is quiet and simple; the lead character, Nagi wakes up to the warm sun streaming through a window and makes a breakfast of eggs, bacon, rice and miso soup. We see her memory of the one person missing from her home. On a close view, we can see that she has set two places at the table, indicating for later the fact that she clearly misses having someone to cook for.

Soon she leaves her tidy, well-appointed cabin to do some weeding and harvesting in the woods. After finding a hefty pumpkin, she is startled by the Giant Spider of the title, the oddly cute bug-eyed beast that she will soon name Asa. Asa follows her home and becomes her companion. Perhaps because of her solitude, Nagi tends to treat Asa as human, before realizing Asa is more like having a cat or a dog in the house. A very large leaf covered dog.

The stories in the book are light and free of agitation; each chapter features a recipe and shows Nagi’s cooking a treat and Asa’s reaction. Recipes are presented in a way that doesn’t interrupt the story- instructions are given simply, and the measurements are only shown on the last page nin a large panel showing the finished dish. The dishes presented are pumpkin dumplings, Japanese style miso ratatouille, Espresso, and Warm Turnip soup. I’ve read a few cooking/food manga, such as Toriko, Food Wars, and one other I can’t recall the title of. Giant Spider & Me stands apart through its focus on home cooking, feminine mood, and lack of over-heated drama. Only at the end of the book is there any real dose of peril. The subtitle of the series is “A Post-Apocalyptic Tale” but the disaster that obliterated scores and flooded the cities happened before Nagi was born, so it doesn’t disrupt the pastoral mood. This aspect of the story was a breath of fresh air and makes it all the more intriguing.

The art in the story is charming and well-rendered, though Morino lacks any stylistic flourishes that would render her visuals distinct from other skilled shoujo artists. But the unobtrusive style and clear storytelling do fit the tranquil mood of the comic. One thing I noticed was the tone of the comic: there’s not a lot of solid blacks in the book, instead there’s a lot of open linework and light grey tones. The interior of her cozy domicile and the nature backgrounds are rendered with a commendable thoroughness, yet never pile on the details or the lines in an attempt to show off. Though the boudaries of her world are small, these environments create a convincing sense of a world. The pages pass quickly as a cheerful, pleasant diversion.


Illustration Friday – Mischief

2 Feb


Here is my entry for the Illustration Friday word – mischief.  I wanted to try a color hold on this image, but I ended up having to use a more subtle color hold than I originally planned.  Photoshop crashed after I had the image all colored (a good reminder to save often!) but I think my second try at coloring came out better.

A novel take on trading cards

24 May

Today I was visiting with a friend, and she showed me a new site for sharing art that I hadn’t heard about.  The site is called NeonMob, and it combines the artist trading card phenomenon with the internet, and the gamified aspects of DeviantArt or LINE, where you can send you’re friends stickers and get rewarded for it.  In DA’s case that means llamas, and in LINE’s case it means emoji like stickers, and sticker packs.

Another interesting aspect of NeonMob is that artists can make money on the platform.  Here’s a look at what their homepage looks like.
neon_mob4.23_AM copy

Anyway, it might be worth a look for artists and fans.

Typesetting Manga

15 Jun

How is typesetting manga different from typesetting American comics?

US comics tend to use speech balloons with a horizontal format, whereas Japanese comics use speech balloons with a vertical format (because of vertical writing). Manga balloons, in Japanese form, and in well-lettered English translations – use a LOT more white space within the speech balloon. A ‘typical’ US comic will use horizontal white space equal to one or 2 characters. A ‘typical’ manga will use horizontal white space equal to the longest line of text. Shoujo manga will sometimes have a little more white space, and Shonen manga will sometimes have a little less, but they will generally have more than US comics.

US comics tend to rely on the order of panels to guide the reader through the page and through the story. Manga is much more likely to use the word balloons to guide you through the page and the story, which means the speech balloons are more likely to cross the panel borders.

Radio Free Albemuth -Movie Review

6 Jun


I only watched this movie after finding it on a random Netflix search, I believe. Worth a watch, especially if you’re a Philip K Dick fan. This is one of those rare science fiction movies that is full of sci-fi trappings without being an action movie in Sci-Fi drag (not that there’s anything wrong with action-based sci-fi…).

I haven’t read the novel Radio Free Albemuth, but I have a feeling this isn’t a straight adaptation. It has elements of VALIS (the Living Satellite that orbits Earth and bombards Phil with secret information in the form of religious experiences, and also the presence of a singer/musician chosen by VALIS to reveal information/spark revolution) and Scanner Darkly (there is a scene reminiscent of the rural prison work camps from the Scanner Darkly novel, but the movie has minimal drug references compared to Scanner Darkly, which is explicitly about drugs, drug users and drug culture).

The thing the movie seems closest to is a novel about Philip K. Dick that I have never read, but have heard about. That novel is “Philip K. Dick Is Dead, Alas” by Michael Bishop. It tells a story “set in an alternative universe where his non-genre work is published but his science fiction is banned by a totalitarian USA in thrall to a demonically possessed Richard Nixon” according to Wikipedia. Everything about that description takes place in this movie, with the debatable exception of demon possession. In Philip K Dick’s world, it’s very common for distinctions between Religious, Spiritual, Technological, Inter-Dimensional and Neurological concepts to be blurred, re-established, and then blurred again.

Philip K Dick has had his work adapted into films time and time again, which raises the question of whether this film adds anything new. After all, we’ve seen Blade Runner, Total Recall, The Adjustment Bureau, Scanner Darkly, and Minority Report. Does this movie have something new to offer? In a word, yes. This movie does a great job of capturing elements of Dick’s work that other film adaptations have removed, namely the narrative complexity that seems to be a hallmark of novels and a hindrance in cinema. Perhaps because of this, the pacing in the film ranges between brisk, slow and non-existent. The cerebral concepts, and strangeness of the plot is what will hold your attention, if anything will. I don’t know that Philip K. Dick ever had a diagnosis, but watching this movie is like a peek into the personal thoughts of an extremely brilliant, creative man, who is also a paranoid schizophrenic.

The production level of this movie is similar to a SyFy Channel Original, but the production values are well utilized for what this is. The esoteric concepts that VALIS reveals are explicated in some very effective 2d animated sequences. The actors involved provide adequate performances from a script that is perhaps hard to grasp on an emotional level. I would have loved to see what a better cast could have done with this material, but it pretty amazing that this film got made with any cast. The best performance is actually provided by Alanis Morrissette, who is playing a character similar to herself. This film may not be for everyone, but I do think those who are suited for it will find a lot to enjoy.

A Sketchbook a Month?

30 May

Drawing: I’ve heard many times that artists should fill a sketch book a month. How do you find the inspiration to draw all the time or be creative on command?

I’d be really impressed with an artist that filled a sketchbook every month.  I fill about one a year.  The most honest answer I can give to “How do you find the inspiration to draw all the time” is that you don’t.  You just create a habit of drawing, and you draw even when you are not inspired.  When one does this, one will find that she is inspired more often.  It’s easier said than done, of course.

In response to the second question, I have a few things to say.  Firstly it is not necessary to be creative to draw.  You can copy other drawings, and you can copy photographs, and you can draw things you see in real life.  Doing this is not cheating, and it can help you develop valuable skills.  These drawings may not be ideal for exhibiting or selling, but they are useful practice.  Just like athletics or performing music, drawing requires practice.  Okay… that’s all well and good, you may be saying, but what if I want to be creative all the time?  Well, being creative is about having ideas, and the best outline for how to have ideas that I’ve seen is this.

A 5-Step Technique for Producing Ideas circa 1939

This method was laid out by an advertising man in a book that was published around 1939.  It’s still relevant today.

The Hardest Part

26 May

So, recently, I started an account on a website called Quora, where you can ask and answer questions.  Here is one of those questions.

What is the hardest part when you start drawing?

When you draw or design and face trouble what do you think you need at that moment to help you overcome the situation?

The hardest part of drawing as a beginner is dealing with frustration.  Your drawings won’t come out as well as you would like, and it will be difficult to overcome that frustration and persist in your drawing.  Persistence and dedication, more than anything else will make you a better artist, and allow you to develop your own point of view.

As a beginning artist, you are very likely to think “I can picture this perfectly in my head vividly and perfectly, but I just can’t get it onto the paper”  While this thought feels true, it most likely isn’t.  Before you devote yourself to drawing, you haven’t really learned to look closely at the visual surfaces of things.  Your imagination is also a lot less visual than you think.  As you continue to pursue visual art, your imagination will become more visual.  By the way, the problem where your skill level doesn’t allow you to recreate what’s in your head?  That problem will most likely never go away.  But you can, over time and with effort, close the gap a little.