Thursday, April 28, 2011

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So, the past two months have been insane. The fella managed to put himself in the ER with a chest wall muscle tear, and Maeve has been given the all-clear to get the adenoids out. To top things off, my laptop dies, taking most of my stories with it (remember to back up your files, folks!), as does the dishwasher. Thus, if my life had loading screens, they would look something like this (with apologies to the brilliant Nick Thornborrow):

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So, brain fried and body exhausted, where do I turn at the end of the day?

Hello, dear.

Ah, Dragon Age 2. So addictive. While I did find myself missing Alistair and the gang from Origins, the sequel is holding up very well. Instead of traveling all over a country, the action is restricted to the city of Kirkwall and its environs. The storyline, while much smaller-seeming in scope than in Origins, feels much more intimate than the first time around. I could see the changes my decisions made in the city, and I felt more invested in the future of Kirkwall. I'm on my second playthrough (as a mage, of course), this time distancing myself from Anders and making time with dreamy tortured soul Fenris instead (take that, you manipulative jerk). The moral grey areas I liked so much in Origins are still here, though there are a few aspects I miss. You can only talk to your companions at their homes, which, honestly, is kind of rude. They'll chat with each other behind your back, but if you talk to them? "We should keep moving." Not cool, man. Seriously, though, I liked the camaraderie from the first one, when you could chat with your companions whenever you felt like it (or at least, when you were at camp). It made the relationships more believable, as opposed to this one- despite the implication that you've been hanging out for three years, when someone declares their undying love, it feels like it's coming out of nowhere. The quests themselves are interesting, but the dungeons...same template, over and over. Also, instead of changing the environments, it's wave after wave of enemies. Ah well. Still, the game is fun, the characters multi-dimensional and interesting, the story engrossing, and now I'm feverishly waiting for the next installment.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I Can Never Get the Season Right

I think it may be impossible for me to paint a picture inspired by the current season. Spring is finally making an appearance around here. The robins are singing, the geese are squabbling, little crocuses are peeking out of the ground, and the two watercolor attempts to capture this lovely season so far recall a post-apocalyptic dystopia and a bloodbath. However, if there's one thing I've learned so far, when it comes to painting a picture, don't fight where it takes you- just go with it.

I had always had the impression that true artists plan out their pictures far in advance, with weeks of sketches, detailed layouts, and general meticulous preparation. And if it gets tedious, they would just power through it. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that this is not necessarily the case. At the panel at Mythic Faire, I'd asked the artists what they do when a painting isn't going their way, and if they stick with the original plan or just go with where the painting takes them. Each one of them more or less replied that if a picture becomes a grind, they abandon it and move on, and that they tend to just follow where the picture takes them rather than sticking to a hard and fast plan. This gives me a great deal of hope. For the life of me, I can't follow a set path in a picture no matter how hard I try, and it was very comforting to know that world-class artists like Daniel Merriam, Renae Taylor and Don Maitz (and by Mr. Maitz's description, his wife Janny Wurts as well) run into similar issues.

A few years ago, during a book signing I asked Brian Froud for the best advice he could give to an artist, and he said not to get in the way of the art, to let it take you where it pleased. I love this. For the longest time I berated myself for never being able to stick to a plan, starting off at point A and veering away from point B and ending up somewhere around Q. Now I've finally given in and realized that I just don't function that way.

So, as springtime is blooming all over the damn place, I've made another autumn picture. And it's one of my favorites so far.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

In Which Cat and Pete Go out to Play

A few weeks ago, the fella and I attended Mythic Faire, a sort of faerie/steampunk/renaissance sort of convention. After hitting Faeriecon for one night last year and having a great time (and wishing we'd been able to stick around for the entire weekend), we really wanted to experience the sort of camaraderie that only comes with good music, alcohol, and fantastical costumes. Also, any excuse to wear a corset:) We ordered tickets months in advance and kept our fingers and toes crossed that the girl wouldn't come down with anything that week (and she did manage to catch pink eye in the beginning of the week, but we growled it into submission. The eye drops helped a little.). Thus, the girl got a fun weekend with her grandparents, and the man and I got two whole evenings to ourselves! It was a glorious thing.

Hi, my name is Catrina. I am 34 years old and still enjoy playing dress-up.

The first night was more of a steampunk theme. We attended the Time Traveler's Ball, catching the tail end of the lovely SJ Tucker's set and the awesomeness that is Abney Park. How did we not get into them before now? Ever since I've been humming airship shanties. The band themselves were friendly and seemed to genuinely enjoy interacting with fans (also, Jody told me she liked my fascinator:). I'd see them again in a second. Pete was fired up by the proceedings- he's very much into the steampunk ideology, and we're mulling over ideas for a future costume (he was thinking of something the late-16th century admiral Yi Soon Shin would wear if he were a futuristic airship captain). Me? I like the aesthetic, but it's not my favorite genre. We ended the evening chatting with a pleasant fellow over a few drinks.

The next night was the Kelticworlds Masquerade. We missed the opening act, but caught Delhi 2 Dublin. Great energy. They had the crowd jumping. I loved the costumes for this night, and really wish I'd taken pictures. At the very least, I wish we'd gotten pictures of ourselves. Ah well.

Panels! Pete got a great deal out of the ones he attended (the Steampunk Panel and Designing a Renaissance Fair with Don Carson), and I'd thoroughly enjoyed the Drawing Down the Moon art panel with Daniel Merriam, Renae Taylor, Don Maitz, and moderated by Robert Gould. All of the artists were very down to earth and helpful, and the discussion went a long way toward reassuring me that my painting methods were not completely insane. I'd had the opportunity to speak with Daniel Merriam at length after the panel, whose work happens to be a personal favorite. He was very personable and accommodating, elaborating on a question I had asked during the discussion. He noticed my sketchbook and asked about my style and while I really wanted to ask for a critique...I wimped out. Pete was even sitting nearby with his laptop and could have shown him my website, which we'd redone in time for the convention. I was just overwhelmed by self-consciousness, which was silly, as he was genuinely nice. Yes, I am kicking myself now.

Now, there were two big draws to Mythic Faire for me, outside of the kidless weekend with the man and the opportunity to wear a corset: getting inspiration for sketches and connecting with other artists. The former was slightly more successful. I'd had the idea that I would carry around my tarot cards and a sketch book, exchanging a reading for a sitting. This worked once- I attracted the attention of a lovely lady named Hannah(?). Unfortunately the sketch does her no justice, as I'd enjoyed a drink or two by then;)

She was much prettier than this.

For the other readings, I received a guitar pick and a button bearing the legend "Kiss me, I'm Irish." I'd chucked the sketchbook at that point, as it was a pain to lug around the entire night. The rest are just drabbles.

The last one I'm using in a new picture, so you'll see her again.

The high point out of the whole thing was catching up with our brilliant friend Ben, whom we hadn't seen in a million years. We forced him to watch Korean historical drama, because that's how we roll. Also, we have his sketches:

The burly guy cracks me up, as does the grouchy wizard heading off the paper.

So we had a great time. If we can swing it, we'll try to make it to Faeriecon, and maybe I'll actually get up the courage to exchange business cards with people and draw a bit more.

Friday, April 1, 2011

In Which Cat Attempts to Paint Cheerful Scenes, and Fails Miserably

Well, this has been a month of exciting goings-on, most of which Maeve-related. The good: going to Mythic Faire, and having Pete's parents come to visit. The bad: the wee one's various ailments, starting off the month with pink eye and possibly strep, and ending it with a double ear infection and nasty cough. The beastie ended up missing preschool for the vast majority of the month. Fortunately, these illnesses have not been too severe, and Maeve has, for the most part, kept her energy levels and general goofiness. Which is good! However, after a month...

This is your brain.

This is your brain on Maeve.

Thus, not much artwork was done this month. The brain cells had been fried to the point that, by the end of the day, all I could really muster was playing Dragon Age 2. However, I did get a few sketches at Mythic Faire and found the time to paint two rather disturbing abstracts.

Yeah...was trying for a lighthearted spring vibe, failed spectacularly. Perhaps if spring were bursting out all over right before the Morlocks crawl out of their caves to hunt. Not complete loss though, as I'm sure I can use those colors and textures in a digital piece.

And that's not even the creepy one...

So, like most people out there, I watched the news reporting the tragedies in Japan and wanted to help. I know! I thought to myself, I'll do a cherry blossom-themed painting, put it up for auction and donate all of the proceeds to charity! Spring, renewal, and rebirth seemed like an excellent theme, and I decided to paint an abstract sakura tree. It would be light and cheerful and full of pink-swirly goodness! didn't quite turn out that way.

That's not a tree, it's a crime scene.

On one hand, I like the patterns, and the colors are wonderfully vibrant. On the other, it's kind of terrifying. Pete looked askance at it and remarked that it looked like afterbirth. I can't disagree. Thus, I decided to donate the older painting, which is pleasant and features a far less interpretive version of cherry blossoms (and she's still available!). Again, I'm sure I can find use for it in a digital painting somehow, so it's still worthwhile. Even if it is spooky as hell.

Next up: Mythic Faire!