March 31, 2014

Recent Reads

32. Hera: The Goddess and her Glory (Olympians, #3)
This graphic novel is the third volume in the Olympians series for kids.

So Hera. Jealous. Bitchy. Well, she certainly had reason to be. I mean she was married to Zeus. Womanizer Zeus. I was looking forward to reading about Hera, and while there is a little bit about her, this book is more about Heracles. Don't get me wrong, he is an interesting character, and my childhood crush Jason - he of the Golden Fleece - has a cameo, but I wanted more Hera and less boys. You know what I mean? This is a fun read with wonderful illustrations. Rating: 3 stars.

33. Hades: Lord of the Dead(Olympians, #4)
This graphic novel is the fourth volume in the Olympians series for kids.

Talk about a destination vacation. The book starts with a tour of the Underworld after death, but it turns out that this is really a story about Demeter and Persephone. This mother daughter story has long been a favorite of mine, and I do quite like the twist the author gave the relationship between Persephone and Hades. A fun read with wonderful illustrations. Rating: 3 stars.

34. Relish: My Life in the Kitchen
This is a foodie graphic memoir. The author's parents are foodies, and raised their daughter on things you would not normally see a kid eat. She might have been raised a gourmand, but watch out when she is exposed to salt, sugar and fat. Is there room for both? 

While I found this a fun read, it read like a short story collection which is not my fave writing form. The art while simple, is colorful and cheery, and I think reflects the theme of this book well. I especially liked the illustrated recipes at the end of each chapter. Rating: 3 stars

35. No Excuses Art Journaling: Making Time for Creativity
From the blurb: Using a day planner as your art journal, you'll find daily, weekly and monthly prompts that you can adapt to fit your real-life, busy schedule. Along the way, you'll learn fun and convenient techniques to add sketching, watercolor painting, collage and more into your journal, all while setting goals, creating art and chronicling your unique life.

This book is probably really good for the absolute beginner to art journaling. If you have never done it before, this book has simple instructions, prompts, and colorful examples to get you inspired. It is a little too contrived for my tastes, but I did enjoy seeing how various guest artists interpreted the prompts.  Rating: 2 stars.

36. The Walking Dead, Vol. 01: Days Gone Bye
Volume 1 contains issues 1-6.

The story starts with Officer Rick Grimes getting shot in the line of duty. When he wakes up in the hospital several weeks later, the world is not the same. Zombies! Are there any humans left? Will he find his wife and son?

I watched Season 1 of the TV series, so I knew what was going to happen. This is a fun, if grizzly read, and the black and white illustrations work really well. I plan on reading the rest of these books, though I gave up on the TV series. Rating: 3 stars.

March 30, 2014

2014 Journals (Video)

I'm trying something new with my journals this year. Some ideas are working better than others, so I thought I'd share my process and the journals I am using this year.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

March 29, 2014

Sketchbook Skool

I signed up for Sketchbook Skool. Don't know what that is? Read more about it here

Other than one instructor, I already follow the blogs of everyone teaching. Love their work, and am so excited for classes to start on April 4. Are you taking this class as well? 

March 28, 2014

Journal page

I decided to do a quick sketch of Lisa while listening to an interview with her. Love her artwork.

So, if this was a mug shot, you would not pick Lisa in a line-up, but there are bits that looks like her. I am pleased with that. Tried more shading, liked some sections better than others. This was done with pen in my cheapo writing journal.

March 27, 2014

Cinemascope: Waste Land

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.
Released in 2010. 

Plot line: An uplifting feature documentary highlighting the transformative power of art and the beauty of the human spirit.

This is really quite a remarkable story of human spirit and resilience and art. "Filmed over nearly three years, WASTE LAND follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home base in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world's largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. There he photographs an eclectic band of "catadores": self-designated pickers of recyclable materials. Muniz's initial objective was to "paint" the catadores with garbage. However, his collaboration with these inspiring characters as they recreate photographic images of themselves out of garbage reveals both the dignity and despair of the catadores as they begin to re-imagine their lives."

You can see the trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a documentary worth watching.

March 26, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 03.26.14

Click image to enlarge. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

March 25, 2014

Journal page

The Sketchbook Challenge theme this month is Warm/Cool. Decided to use a stencil I had recently made to create a journal page to reflect the theme.

Acrylic paints, home made stencil and pen.

March 24, 2014

Recent Reads

28. The Madonnas of Echo Park
This was my book club selection this month, and it certainly gave us lots to talk about.

The setting is Echo Park, a Los Angeles neighborhood, and the characters are Mexican-Americans of various ages and legal status who live there. The cover labels this book a novel, which I felt was misleading as it is an interconnected story collection. Each chapter is a story from a different person's point of view, and in my opinion you need to know that going in, otherwise it is a confusing read.

I thought the author skillfully writes little vignettes, and it is not until you finish the book, and step back that you see the whole portrait he has created of a place, a time, and a people. Like any story collection, there are ones that I loved, and ones I did not, but overall, I liked it.

P.S. If you read this, read all the way through to the Q&A with the author, to learn more about the author's note that kicks off this collection. Rating: 3 stars.

29. Brave Intuitive Painting-Let Go, Be Bold, Unfold!: Techniques for Uncovering Your Own Unique Painting Style
Yeah, well if like me the title got you all excited, you might be disappointed with this book. It has wonderful photos, and I like the art the author creates, but the language is too flowery for my tastes, and while there are a few painting tips, there was not much cohesion or structure to this book. This read like a workshop put to paper, and there seems to be much lost in translation. Rating: 2 stars.

30. Stash & Smash: Art Journal Ideas
A collection of ideas on how to make and keep a stash book. A good source if you have never kept a journal, but nothing new in it for me. Rating: 2 stars.

31. The Dark
A school vacation week sleepover with my nephews is the perfect time to read books like this one.

From the jacket: Laszlo is afraid of the dark. The dark is not afraid of Laszlo. Laszlo lives in a house. The dark lives in the basement....

This is a fun picture book for younger readers, and the artwork is wonderful. Rating: 3 stars.

March 22, 2014

The Winners Of The 2014 Sony World Photography Awards Have Been Announced

I do not even have words to describe how amazing these are.

If you are looking for inspiration, you can see the winning photos here.

March 21, 2014

Easy Peasy Art Journal for Kids

I made one signature art journals for my cousin's kids last year, and recently realized that I had not shared the video describing how I made them. These are quick and easy to make, and so much fun to play in.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

March 20, 2014

Cinemascope: Red 2

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 2013.

Plot line: Retired C.I.A. agent Frank Moses reunites his unlikely team of elite operatives for a global quest to track down a missing portable nuclear device.

I recently came across this movie, and the cast made me look twice: Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Anthony Hopkins, etc. How is it I have never heard of it before? Probably because it is all action and explosions, and has very little redemptive qualities. Well, sometimes that is just what I am in the mood for, so popped it in, and was pleasantly surprised. If, like me, you keep in mind that this is an animated comic book with some of my fave actors, your expectations are correctly set for a fun couple of hours with some laughs along the way. That scene where Helen Mirren is in the slow-mo car with guns? I want that to play on a continuous loop when  my computer starts up. Now, Red 2 means there was a Red 1 right? So please excuse me while I go request it.

You can see the movie trailer here. If you have yet to see it, and need some brainless fun, this is a movie worth watching.

March 19, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 03.19.14

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March 18, 2014

Journal page

Drawn to faces. These sketches were done in my cheapo journal that I am using mainly for writing. You can see the text bleeding through the paper. But have made my peace with it.

I saw this interesting photo essay on Sadhus in India, and loved the photography.

Decided to quickly do a pen sketch of a couple of the men to see if I could capture their essence.

Finished my sketching session by adding some text, a border and date. What have you been creating in your sketchbooks?

March 17, 2014

Recent Reads

25. The Complete Book Of Running For Women
I am gobbling up running books. Why? I am looking for inspiration, motivation, and good tidbits that help me lace up my shoes.

This book is good, but rather above my current pay grade. When the author states that you are in fact a runner even if you are running a slow, relaxed 10-minute mile pace, she lost me. Umm, would love to be that person, but am not. Yet.

That being said, there is good information that is geared to situations that apply only to women: menstruation, pregnancy, menopause. There are also good training plans (from what I can tell), and I can see dipping back into this book at a later time. My only caution to beginner runners is to look at this as a running guidebook, and not be discouraged. Lace up. Go as slow as you want. Soak in the fact that you are a runner, no matter the pace or distance you currently inhabit. Rating: 3 stars.

26. The Sandman: The Dream Hunters (The Sandman #11 adaptation)
The King of Dreams gets a Japanese twist. This is a fable about a monk, a fox spirit, and other creatures that might or might not have roamed the Japanese countryside a long time ago. While I found the story itself rather straight forward, the art is simply incredible. Rating: 3 stars

27. Ender's Game (The Ender Quintet #1)
I listened to the 20th edition audiobook wonderfully narrated by Stefan Rudnicki, Harlan Ellison, Amanda Karr, Scott Brick and John Rubinstein. I had heard of the controversy surrounding the author, but opted not to read it until I had finished the book.

This is a story clearly targeted at boys aged 9-12. That does not mean it is not fun for girls, or adult readers, but knowing that helps set the correct expectations going in. Ender is a 6 year old boy who is lonely, bullied and friendless, except for his sister. But life is not just scary for Ender. Earth has been at war with aliens, and there is great fear that the human race will not withstand another attack. Fear not humans. It turns out that Ender is a special kid, and even though he is only six, he is whisked away to Battle School in space, where he is expected to be the savior of the world. A heavy burden for those small shoulders. Commence schooling, mock battles, group dynamic dramas, friends made and lost, and foes aplenty, and all this happens at zero gravity people. Will Ender succeed? Will humanity be saved?

This is a fun, fast read, and while it will not stay with me, and I found parts rather repetitive, I enjoyed my time in Ender's world. I am glad I listened to the audio version, as I am not sure that I would have stuck it through in print. 

P.S. Having now read more about OSC (the author), there are things that make more sense. Buggers anyone? Not sure if I will read the other books in this quintet, but will let you know if I do. Rating: 3 stars.

March 15, 2014

40 Worst Book Covers and Titles Ever

I read a post recently, that got me thinking. Do I judge books by their covers and titles. My initial reaction is noooo. Not really. But in all honesty, I have picked up and read books simply based on the cover. And skipped over books for the same reason. If the cover has a woman in a ripped bodice and a shirtless man with a six-pack, I skip right over it. Unfair of me, maybe. But I do it.

Check out this funny post by the folks at Bored Panda. Do any of these covers want to make you rush out and buy the book? My personal fave is The Manly Art of Knitting. What's yours?

March 14, 2014

Elif Shafak: The politics of fiction

Listening to stories widens the imagination; telling them lets us leap over cultural walls, embrace different experiences, feel what others feel. Elif Shafak builds on this simple idea to argue that fiction can overcome identity politics.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

March 13, 2014

Cinemascope: Downton Abbey (Season 4)

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 2010. Season 4 released in 2013.

Plot line: Beginning in the years leading up to World War I, the drama centers on the Crawley family and their servants.

I loved the the first couple of seasons of Downtown Abbey. Sure it is a soap opera. But with such better costumes, setting and lighting no? Historical fiction at its best I think. Unfortunately, the last couple of seasons have not been up to par. It seems like the writers have no idea where they are going, and well, since the cast is already all dressed up, let's go ahead and film something. That does not sound like a resounding recommendation does it? It is however good in the beginning, and if you have yet to see it, give a try. You might get hooked too.

You can see the trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a TV series worth watching.

March 12, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 03.12.14

Click image to enlarge. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

March 11, 2014

Journal page

I finished watching Season 4 of Downton Abbey recently, so decided to do a sketch of Mr. Carson. Pulled out my little journal, the one with the not so wonderful paper, and did a quick pen sketch.

Realized after I was done that he had no forehead! So tried again, and added some shading as well.

I liked this one better. Notice how he has a forehead? Success! Sure you might not think it looks like anything like Carson, but there are bits that remind me of him. Faces are tough, and yet I continue sketching them. The goal I think is to let go of the outcome and simply enjoy the experience.

To finish my sketching session, added a border and some notes.

March 10, 2014

Recent Reads

22. Out of My Mind
My 11 year old nephew is interested in this book, so we are reading and discussing it together.

The story is about 11 year old wheel chair bound Melody. She has cerebral palsy and never been able to walk, talk, or feed herself, but it turns out that there is nothing wrong with her brain. When she finds a way to communicate, is anyone ready to listen? The novel explores the low expectations people have of the disabled, the prejudices and meanness that can be typical of middle school, and how Melody navigates these sharky waters.

This novel is targeted at middle school kids, and could spark wonderful conversations on these important themes. The lack of additional stars are more a reflection of my age. There is not much depth for the adult reader, but then again, we are not the target audience. Rating: 3 stars.

23. Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess (Olympians #2)
This graphic novel is the second volume in the Olympians series for kids.

You would find Athena on my top five goddess list. Goddess of wisdom, war and craft. What is not to like? In this installment, the fates share several of Athena's adventures. As an aside, have you looked at her family tree? Gives me a headache just looking at it. This is a fun read with wonderful illustrations. Rating: 3 stars.

24. Animal Farm
This is my second reading of Animal Farm. I listened to the audiobook this go around, wonderfully narrated by Ralph Cosham. 

Book blurb: In this satire of the Russian Revolution, Mr. Jones's Manor Farm is transformed into Animal Farm, a democratic society proclaiming All Animals Are Created Equal. After totalitarian rule is re-established, the reality becomes But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others.

This is a fast but disturbing read. I found myself getting more and more mad as I listened, though I did love the singing of Beasts of England. First published in 1946, this book is as pertinent today as when it was first written. So interesting to have re-read this so close to finishing The Orphan Master's Son. I gave it four stars when I first read it as a young adult. It resonates so much more today, so bumped it up an additional star. Long live Snowball! Rating: 5 stars.

March 8, 2014

Speech from Lupita Nyong’o you didn’t hear

Accepting an award from Essence Magazine, Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o discussed “Black beauty” and how “you can’t rely on how you look to sustain you.”

You can watch her speech here.

March 6, 2014

Cinemascope: Blackfish

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 2013.

Plot line: Notorious killer whale Tilikum is responsible for the deaths of three individuals, including a top killer whale trainer. Blackfish shows the sometimes devastating consequences of keeping such intelligent and sentient creatures in captivity.

The folks at Literary Disco discussed three essays on how humans behave around wild animals a while back. We read all three aloud in our home, and had a lively discussion about the themes raised. One essay that stuck with us, was The Killer in the Pool. This documentary covers the same material with different conclusions. 

Be aware that this fantastic documentary is difficult to watch in parts. It asks some important questions without beating you over the head. I have seen the Shamu show at Sea World, and remember being awed by the killer whales. Knowing what I know today, I will not be visiting Sea World again.

You can see the movie trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a movie worth watching.

March 5, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 03.05.14

Click image to enlarge. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

March 4, 2014

Journal page: Journaling with kids

My nephews were over for a sleepover recently, and one of the things we did was play in our journals. I recently stumbled onto Steve Harpster, who has these fun drawing videos for kids. Using his free downloadable ebook, the boys and I had fun drawing and talking about zombies.

I'll share some pics of the pages my nephews created later. These are mine. Fun and so easy to do. I loved that the boys did not think they could draw these complex figures, but following the step-by-step directions, they loved their zombies too.

Pen and markers.

March 3, 2014

Recent Reads

19. Zeus: King of the Gods (Olympians #1)
This graphic novel is the first volume in the Olympians series for kids.

I love stories that begin when the earth was still cooling, hence my love of James Michener. My nieces and nephews are totally into the gods - Greek, Egyptian, Roman - and I salute Rick Riordan for that. Since I've got nephew play dates coming up, picked up these books for us to read and discuss.

In this installment we take it from the beginning of time until Zeus is in power. Fun with wonderful illustrations. Rating: 3 stars.

20. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work
Book blurb: Kafka is one of 161 inspired—and inspiring—minds, among them, novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians, who describe how they subtly maneuver the many (self-inflicted) obstacles and (self-imposed) daily rituals to get done the work they love to do, whether by waking early or staying up late; whether by self-medicating with doughnuts or bathing, drinking vast quantities of coffee, or taking long daily walks. 

This is a fun book to dip in and out of. I quite enjoyed getting a glimpse into the habits of these creative types. I have three complaints about the book:

1. The sections are really uneven. Some are a couple of pages long, while others are a mere paragraph. I wanted more.
2. Only about 23 women on this list. I would have liked to see more women profiled.
3. You would think that there were no creative people of color in the world. And no, Toni Morrison does not even begin to cover it.

Overall I found this an interesting read, and found it pleasantly affirming how many people took naps, long walks and procrastinated. Rating: 3 stars.

21. Running Like a Girl: Notes on Learning to Run
After taking several months off to rest an injury (dang shin splints), I've started training to run a 5K again. I love reading books that help me feel like I am not alone in my highs and lows of running. And this one did just that.

This is a memoir about a woman who decides to start running in her thirties. I could so relate to some of her early stuff: After eating three slices of toast with honey and spending ninety minutes on iTunes creating the perfect playlist, she hit the streets—and failed miserably. However as a person working towards a 5K, reading a story that goes from couch to marathon in one chapter makes me want to whack the author on the head.

This is a fun, fast read for beginner runners that explores the high and lows of the sport. Rating: 4 stars.

March 1, 2014

One Little Word 2014: February

And just like that another month is over.

As you might recall, my word for this year is Cultivate. I am taking a more laid back approach to my word this year. Am picking a theme for each month, and then seeing where I end up.

My focus this month was to cultivate flexibility. Sometimes I feel like I get stuck on one way of seeing or doing something, and I wanted to explore ways to shift that perspective. Here are some things I worked on this month:

  • Stretching. Physical flexibility is something that I have flirted with over the years. I know it is good for me, and yet I don't do it often enough. Read those words again. Did you catch the phrase "often enough"? It turns out that that simple phrase is one of my largest stumbling blocks. If I cannot do a full hour of yoga, then why bother doing it all at? After all I should be doing yoga. Stretching does not count. It is not YOGA. So I worked on that this month. I did not do yoga. I simply stretched every day. A short pre-warm-up stretch before exercise, and a lovely post-exercise one. And guess what? It works. I have gotten more physically flexible over the month, and yes, even though most of my stretches are technically yoga poses, shhhh! don't spoil it for me.
  • All or nothing. This is really a continuation of the section above. I find that I have this tendency to go all in, or why bother. This can be a problem for me. As I've started training for a 5K again after an injury, I've had to pay close attention to my physical, emotional and psychological energy levels. And you know what? They change daily. And drastically. I've always maintained that we are just a bag of chemicals, and now I have confirmation. I have had to learn to pace myself. Some days I go faster. Other days slower. But go I do. Here is my new mantra: The 20 minutes I do walk is better than the 4 miles I did not run. (Credit: Gretchen Rubin).
  • I know best. I have classic oldest child syndrome. I know best. Really I do. And I'll often do it for you. I have spent the past several years working on deprogramming this tangle of neurons, and I have gotten better. I was given a piece of advice many years ago: When you always step forward first, you do not give others the chance to do so. So, I practice waiting. And, yes, it drives me nuts. But I wait. And see. And am sometimes pleasantly, wonderfully surprised.
  • Practice non-attachment. If you know me at all (see earlier sections), you are probably laughing out loud at the moment. Me? The one always at the helm steering is talking about non-attachment? Hilarious I know. I got this advice from none other than the Buddha himself. Well, not in person people, you know what I mean. And over the years, I have simply put this advice on the bottom shelf. Yes, that might work for other people, but me? No way. Well, I had a break through this month. I was reading something (wish I could recall what) and realized that there was a difference between detachment and non-attachment. Detachment means that you do not care; hence why bother at all? Non-attachment means that you care, often very much, but you are not attached to any specific outcome. There are multiple outcomes that are all acceptable. Maybe not my "right" one, but also acceptable.  Turns out I was hung up on a vocabulary problem. A light bulb went off in my head. And while I am not fully there, I have been practicing this, and you know what? It is a lot less stressful.
These are some of the ways I cultivated flexibility this month. How do you do it?