Rayna Sassano Purple Lantern Studio
illuminations and interests
(Official home of the Order of the Lanterns, a writers and artists collective)
I am an illustrator who lives in Westchester County, NY.
Bringing art to all at ConnectiCon's Artist Colony!
Last weekend, I had the wonderful opportunity to sell my art at an anime/cartoon/all things nerdy convention that I had gone to for years: ConnectiCon. For months prior, I had been making and preparing art to sell. I ordered buttons of characters I had created. Charles and I sharpied up some blank vinyl Munnys to sell, and I modified a Monster High Doll into a fun Selkie (seal-mermaid from Gaelic/Iclandic legend) to put out for sale as well. Charles made buttons for Unemployment Quest and we waited eagerly for the game discs to arrive. They did, and they look awesome.
I put my Epson to work making prints and greeting cards, and in a fun experiment, I made a black velvet painting of anime cats to sell at Charles's suggestion. It was an odd medium to be sure, but it was really fun to make. I had to pre-wash the velvet and work with thick acrylic paints, using the blacks as the shadows.
It ended up being one of the many items that sold that weekend. If you are interested in what everything looks like, check out the PLS Commissions page of my website. I'll have it up on my Deviantart as well.
The booth was pretty awesome. Charles's Light Brite attracted customers, and the people on either sides of us were really cool. The girl to the right of me in the Paper Hearts Studio booth was really supportive, cheering me on and buying some of my stuff. The guys to the right in Biomancer and Celestial Lich Studios clowned around with our Lite Brite to attract customers, using a light trick to pretend to 'eat' the glowing pegs that spelled out 'UNEMPLOYMENT QUEST' in glowing rainbow letters. They also shared their strawberry Pop Tarts. They are awesome people. Check them out if you get a chance.
We actually weren't meant to be in the booth that we got, but due to some wackyness that was not our fault, we got moved to booth AC-36 and three quarters. It all worked out in the end, because we were positioned riiiight outside the game area exit and got a TON of traffic. Also, the aforementioned cool people we met were a plus.
I sold a whole lot of items, selling out of the greeting card version of the Silly Mermaid Trio. I also sold the glow in the dark Munny I made and a $30 13x19 print. I had a blast drawing badges for people and I got a good number of commissions, both at the con and outside of it as well! Three people asked me if I could paint their dolls faces if they sent them to me, which wasn't what I had thought to do initially, but it'll be fun! I was asked to draw everything from original Sonic-inspired characters to a pregnant magical girl version of Loki from the Avengers. I accepted them all. It was great to feel like I was illustrating for everyone. This is the true purpose of the illustrator; to illuminate others ideas. Good stuff, and it was great to use felt tip pens and colored pencils again; I hadn't used them in a while as most of my professional work is done in acrylic ink and crow-quill pen.
Charles was a real sweetie, supporting me when I was in drawing mode by feeding me ginseng slices and Bacchus D, a tourine-filled Korean energy drink. What was really exciting for him and me though was through me opening my big mouth like I usually do, talking about Charles and how awesome he his, Second Chance Gaming podcast put Charles on the radio on Sunday! It'll be up on Wednesday. I'll put a link to it on the site when it does. He's got a great voice for radio.
Overall, it was a great convention, and I'm looking forward to doing it again, whether at ConnectiCon or somewhere else.
Posted on 16, 7 2012
For those who only check my site for updates: I'm sorry that I have been more active on Facebook than on here. Due to the lack of a comment interface, it's been easier to get feedback via that method. However: it is apparent that an uodate is in order!
Firstly, I have another book job! I cannot talk about it much yet, but I can tell you that I am very excited about the concept. It's called 'The Boy Who Wore Many Hats,' and it'll be published through AuthorHouse. I'm almost done with the sketches. (all that remains is the cover) and I'll be meeting with the author next month to get them approved. So far, it has been an honor and a privilage to bring the ideas of another budding author (one who is 75 years old and has been kicking this idea around for forty years!) to life.
Secondly, I am thrilled beyond words to have been invited to join the Society of Illustrators. To inform those who are unaware: the Society is a group in the city that was founded by prominant illustrators such as Norman Rockwell and Howard Pyle. They hold shows and give contests for illustrators to enter to gain notice, and every year, they distribute a book of their illustrators to companies. Basically, it is a wonderful networking tool and a great honor. I'm also looking forward to going to their workshops and drawing classes!
Thirdly: to explain the above image: my boyfriend has made a game called Unemployment Quest. It is a wonderful game that he made using RPG maker and the Korg DS 10 to make the soundtrack. Making over ten times the projected amount needed to fund the game on kickstarter, it has been an exciting time for Charles indeed!
This year, July 13-15, I will have a booth at Connecticon's Artist's Colony, where Charles and I will be selling the game, along with my own work, including prints, buttons, badges and custom drawings for those who desire them. I'm really looking forward to further exposure as an artist and being involved in Charles's debut as a video game creator!
So that's that. More updates to follow in the future!
Posted on 26, 5 2012
"We! Are! The Ninety-Nine Percent!" Part Two: World Occupy Day, Times Square
It’s a little late, but in light of today’s events that are all over the news: here is part two.
I decided to go down on World Occupy Day, where about a thousand protesters had gathered to march and Occupy Times Square. I met my sister Kira and her boyfriend Kevin down at Astor Place. After lunch and a quick run to Pearl Paint for some art supplies (Kira needed stuff for class) we took a walk down to the nearest subway down to Zuccotti Park.
Perhaps it was because of the fact that Kira was wearing an Occupy button, or that Kira, Kevin and I were wearing similar army green jackets with various buttons and pins, caused people to stop and ask us questions about how to get there. (One guy even gave us a taste of some delicious Belgian French fries that you could get in the village. Good stuff!) As we headed towards the subway, a man and a woman approached us. They had come all the way from Vermont. Both were college students; the woman had gone to school for cinema studies, the man was enrolled in the performing arts.
“Can we follow you?” the woman asked, adjusting the long scarf that was looped several times around her neck; a popular fashion that I often spotted on artsy types.
“Sure.” Kira replied, as Kevin and I uttered similar sentiments.
They followed us into the subway. Another tall, middle-aged man and his friend saw our small group and asked us about Occupy. We chatted a bit (I talked to one of the men and others chatted with the other man who was standing a few paces away) and I mentioned as I always do when asked, that I was a children’s book illustrator.
“Wait a minute.” The man replied excitedly, “My friend over there, he works for Penguin!”
At his urging, I went over to him (he was talking to Kevin on the other side of the bricked subway ceiling supports) and gave him my card. I said I was Occupying too.
“The more the merrier.” He said.
Let's hope that as a fellow Occupier, he will sympathize with my desire for a job.
We rode the subway down to Zuccotti Park, and as the crowded car shook and we gripped whatever supports we could, we continued to talk to our new friends from Vermont. The man pulled a small portable audio recorder out of his tweed jacket that he had brought along.
“I love to take this thing around and just record ambient sounds.” He smiled.
He planned to get some audio of the protest and create an interesting piece. I told him to email me when he was done with it.
It really was great to meet like minds, but I would say that it was even more interesting to be butted up against the wide variety of different people that we were to be sharing space with for the next few hours: in the main hub, in Times Square, and in Washington Square Park.
We were only in Zuccotti Park for a short time, but from what I saw, it was more organized than I anticipated. There was a kitchen where steel racks held non-perishable items as two people prepared some vegetables for the people who were staying overnight. There was a ‘comfort station’, where people had extra bedding and coats gathered for those who needed it.
There were the types of people that you would expect. (As image uploader is being glitchy, I will do my best to relay what I saw. It's sad, but I will make an album on facebook for OWS photos.) There was a man with an antique accordion-style camera taking pictures of the crowd. I saw another man with a homemade politician puppet chasing after another man who was covered from head to toe in violent swirling rainbow colors, carrying what appeared to be a giant peace sign made out a light material, perhaps paper mache. Those who know me will nod knowingly when I say that I am used to people in unusual dress. I've been to enough anime conventions to know that there was a con-like atmosphere in certain areas of the park. At a con, you could say these guys would be the ones to be wearing the 'free hugs' signs.
However, I did occasionally spy people that were wearing normal street clothes of varying ages. There were even more of these people in Times Square.
Of major interest: there was an area at the edge of the park where people could broadcast their thoughts through the media and it seemed that reporters had gathered there. As I passed, we paused shortly to listen to a young African American teenager who was expressing her disgust for Obama before a microphone, as a cameraman filmed the soapboxing.
As I weaved through the crowd, trying to keep our small group together, I was given several pamphlets. I also grabbed a copy of a ‘news zine’ that seemed to be put together by some of the people there. (For the sake of brevity in this account of my adventures, I will discuss these papers in a later entry.)
To my delight, there was a ‘library’, where you could take books and bring your own as well. Sadly, I didn’t get to explore the library since people were beginning to leave the park to travel to Times Square for the protest and ‘general assembly.’
For those who don’t know, protesters aren’t allowed to have microphones, so they use what is called a ‘mic check’ to make sure that people can hear what they are saying. Whenever someone decides to speak, the crowd would repeat the speaker’s words. Since there were so many people in Times Square, two repeats, or echoes of the ‘mic check’ were needed. Now you know!
Our group was sequestered between the Duane Reade and the Planet Hollywood. (Kevin had to leave because he had an awesome show to play.) From my location, I could see a news ticker display information about us, as it was happening. It was very surreal. Kira stood next to me and in a voice that sounded surprisingly loud coming from her small frame, she chanted along with me.
We were soon joined by one of Kira’s friends, a guy named Kevin who I knew from an association with another friend. He wore a jean jacket that was covered in bright patches. Around his neck was a broken telephone cord.
I pointed to a small, strange looking bean pod that he was holding in his hand and shaking.
“That’s pretty cool.” I laughed as he shook it enthusiastically in response.
“I found it on the way here.” He replied happily.
People were lining up for their chance to speak, and when it was their turn, they would climb onto a large urn-shaped planter that elevated them among the crowd so that they could be seen.
The soapboxers themselves ranged from people airing their personal grievances and stories, to people attempting to move the crowd with generalized, yet passionate speeches. Two women from Kenya made up a beautiful poem right on the spot. A young kid who looked to be in third grade spoke about the importance of free speech. There was a father who broadcasted his worries about being able to provide for his children. There was a young lady who bravely told the crowd that she was told that she would get a job for a firm if she would perform a sexual favor.
I noticed that the people who were rambling on too long, became too obsessed with religious (or atheist) fervor or became too self-indulgent were less likely to be doubly echoed by the crowd. It was like being in the midst of an organic editing machine, where unsavory ideas were dropped and profound ones were amplified.
What was the most amazing, what made small tears prickle in the corners of my eyes was when people pulled a old woman up unto the small planter and supported her as she spoke.
“I am ninety-two years old.” The crowd responded with excited murmurs as they finished the second echo of the mic check. Using words that demonstrated an exquisite mastery of the English language for her age, she described how she had been an activist all her life, and she remembered the difficulties in the time of Roosevelt. For me, this was the highlight of the night, and I hope that footage of her is out there somewhere. I was next to a woman with a hefty looking video camera, so hopefully she would have put her recordings up.
Today, the judge has ruled that Zuccotti Park would remain open for protests, but that people weren’t allowed to bring tents or stay overnight. It was reported that the library books were thrown in the dumpster, along with other people’s belongings.
I have been listening to diverging news sources. I have heard the arguments that there is ‘no leader’ or ‘no direct demands’. Personally, I think at the moment, it is good that there is no head of this organization. Each day, people are discussing the issues and continuing to hold ‘general assemblies.’ This morning, on the OWS website, I watched the livestream in which people who were planning to march back to the park to be arrested were instructed on civil disobedience. In an attempt to be aware of what all sides are saying over the issue, I have been listening to both NPR, WOR, Democracy Now (on occasion) and even WFMU’s Dusty Show, where a man named ‘Clay Pigeon’ goes around and interviews Wall street bankers, people off the street and occupiers alike.
I know that there are all kinds of people at these protests. I just hope that people continue to be non-violent and keep talking to each other. On Thursday, Kira and I have planned to go back for the two-month anniversary of the movement. I’ll continue to do my best to give personal accounts and anecdotes of what is going on.
PS: If you are curious, OWS has an official website that also contains their livestream. Go check it out if you haven’t already. Also, if you want to listen to archives of ‘The Dusty Show,’ you can check them out on wfmu.org’s radio archives.
Posted on 15, 11 2011
"We! Are! The ninety-nine percent!" Part one (of two)
I have never been the most politically minded individual. It’s not for lack of caring, but you could say that perhaps it might be because sometimes: I'm afraid to know. I think many of us are. We get submerged in our ‘first world problems’ and would generally prefer to avoid what goes on in the news. For me, what has worked up until now was to create a small wave of positive energy wherever I go, encourage, love and respect others, all while keeping my head down in terms of politics. I try to be informed, but not absorbed. I’d try to listen to what was around me without being assaulted and assimilated by all-encompassing political viewpoints.
The reason why I am making this post a two-parter is because I really feel that since this is a personal account, it is important for readers to know exactly what I have been up to as of late, Facebook updates aside. There is only so much status updates can express, other than having much free time and feeling the occasional narcissistic craving to sound off in cyberspace. Blogging is guilty of these tendencies as well, but you wouldn’t be reading if you weren’t interested, yes?
October has been a pivotal month for me. Somewhere along the way, I decided: if I had no day-job, I would do things that I wouldn’t normally do. I would push myself in my daily affairs out of my comfort zone.
This is one of the reasons I decided to Occupy Wall St.
Honestly, the real struggle that I have been facing as of late is that I am too comfortable. I am living at home, and have little expenses other than four loans. I have a studio to work in, and a little area to watch TV and read. I have the Internet and an Iphone. All of these factors have added up to a comfortable lifestyle that is more than a little tempting to absorb oneself in. I’m sure that some of the people who are down there in Zuccotti Park that are around my age are experiencing similar environments and similar temptations.
Every day, it is a part of my struggle to try and do something productive, each day. Before October rolled around, I have been slowly building up a defense. I have been trying to go out driving more, and I am slowly becoming less afraid of being behind the wheel. I have returned to my old habit of taking long walks at night. Developing a routine has made a difference. I have been getting up earlier, and making reading and meditation in the morning a priority over the computer. By reading more challenging books after a temporary foray during college into the realm of YA fiction, I have been able to keep my mind engaged post-school. (In my defense, I was reading a lot for school, meeting critique deadlines, and books became a way to relax my mind!)
Here’s a small list of what I have been reading;
*The Basic Writings of C.G. Jung:
~ I’ve wanted to read this for a while. Charles lent me his copy. So far, I really appreciate how Jung attempts to defend the importance of a spiritual essence within oneself that influences one’s philosophical behavior/lifestyle. Our love for antiquity and myth (even modern ‘myths’…think about it!) is also a factor in our development. You can see why artists love Jung. I have an intense love affair with stories of all kinds, so this is something I can get behind! It’ll take a while to finish for sure.
*Talks on Truth by Charles Fillmore and The Twelve Powers of Man by Charles Fillmore:
~For those who don’t know, I’ve been in a new-age/Christian church for most of my life: Unity Church. Google it if you are interested. In a few words, it’s about mastering the power of your thoughts to create desirable effects in your life. It’s an integral part of my lifestyle, and part of what makes me tick. I haven’t read any books by the co-founder, and I’m glad that I am getting to it now. I just finished the first Fillmore book and am now reading the second.
*The Tao Te Ching: I have been reading a few verses a day when I wake up. It is essential reading, especially in these times. Good stuff!
*A Practical Guide to Qabalistic Symbolism by Gareth Knight: Now this is interesting reading. Contrary to what you may think, the Qabalah is not just for people of the Jewish faith. It is a map to the universe, and one of the oldest esoteric teachings out there. If you have the gumption and diligence, it’ll reveal much about both you as a universe and you in the universe.
I wanted to talk about other things, but this post is getting two long-winded! I promise to get to the meat of things and give you a lengthy account of what I saw down at the protest. Until next time!
Posted on 29, 10 2011
I made a mermaid reliquary.
I like being creative in all kinds of ways, and last week, I got to enjoy working on an idea that I have had for a while now. In fact, the piece itself had been started, but I hadn’t been able to work on it for a while.
My aforementioned awesome sculpture makin’ friend David likes to collect bones. I’m kind of obsessed with mermaids and the ocean. I always have since I was a little kid. I wanted to be one. Water crops up as a theme in my work often. I have re-occurring dreams of water, and when I was sitting in a crowded auditorium or gym in school, I used to entertain the thought of how cool the whole place would look like submerged, and we could breathe underwater.
Another reason that I wanted to make this is because I think that an altar of sorts, if made with a serious intention with your own hands can attract prosperity to you. It is my opinion that the power of our minds, with the aids of tools can be beneficial in creating the kind of future you desire. Anyone who carries around a 'lucky penny' or wears a 'lucky necklace' or other such objects may be unintentionally or intentionally using tools to activate the power that we have within our own minds already! As you may have seen in the 'about' section of this site, I have a creative altar, but I have always wanted to make one that was more in-depth with more construction.
I know it seems a bit morbid to honor my love for mermaids in this way; However, I wanted to create something that honors a balance between the cute and the macabre (which I enjoy both) and my love for both the imaginary and real ocean-dwellers. So I went down into David’s sculpture ‘cave’ in his basement and looked through his bone drawers until I found one that looked neet-o.
Briefly, reliquaries are sculptures that house a bit of a person or animal that has been left behind. Usually, a bone is used, but sometimes a piece of cloth or something the person has worn can be an included relic. Some churches around the world claim to have the relics or remains of saints and will display them proudly for worship.
I painted the sides blue-green and glued the protruding wood and the framed glass on the top. The sides are lined with paper from a casio piano’s instructions. I chose it because I think it had a playful shape. There are a few obvious ocean-y motifs, but I played up the imaginary by adding wings on the top. The miniature portrait in the middle contains a mermaid I drew. There are a few motifs of the sea, (such as the bottle of pearls and the shell in the middle) but I didn't want to go over the top with them.
When I can find a small enough light, I plan to light up the box from the inside, so the light will play off of the light sheet metal that I lined the inner walls with. I may add to it in the future, but I am satisfied with it for now.
It was fun to take a break from the usual thing and make this project. We’ll see what comes next! I am sending out postcards to try and get some business from bigger companies. I have confidence that my style will be needed somewhere!
Posted on 30, 8 2011
Hobby Exposure: The Care and Feeding of Ball-Jointed-Doll (Part Two)
So a post or two back, I shed some light on one of my many fun hobbies, my Ball-Jointed-Doll (BJD) Fairyland Pukipuki named Lena Vesper. Here, I will talk about some of the fun parts of owning a doll that can fit in the palm of your hand and how it can bring out the creativity in some owners.
I bought Lena for myself as a Christmas present two years ago, and since then, I have managed to give her a ‘face-up’, sew her some clothes, and design her some accessories, including a place for her to hang out and sleep.
Crafting things in miniature is not a new hobby by any means, and it is enjoyed by all ages. There is even a whole sub-culture of people who make and/or collect miniature books; this practice originated roughly in the Victorian era.
BJD customization can be a self-absorbing hobby that sometimes has opportunities for socialization. For me, the part that I enjoy the most is designing the doll itself, but others may enjoy talking on the forums such as Den of Angels (a popular one) about methods and the social implications of owning a doll. Doll meet ups, whether locally or at hobby conventions such as Connecticon in Hartford, CT (where I go) are fun places to share your hobby with others.
Personally, I can enjoy this hobby by myself, but the forums are a really great place if you have questions or want to understand why people own these dolls. Regrettably, you have to join to be able to view the posts, but I suspect there are other resources out there. For the sake of brevity, (and I admit, laziness) I’ll tell you that google is your friend if you wish to find out any more information.
Lena in a stage that BJD collectors call 'unboxing'. Some people take tons of pictures of just this stage, and some make it into a strange story about how the doll is 'born' or 'arrives'. I did not do this.
There are many different ways to paint faces using model paint and such, but the most successful way that I have discovered through frequenting Den of Angels is a ‘dry face up’ executed with flat model spray laquer that you can buy from hobby shops, pastels, and colored pencils (for details). I also used the following video for inspiration. This is what is great about a creative community of any kind; there are people who are willing to share their methods and ideas for others. I owe my thanks to BJD Collectasy for paving the way. ^-^
you can view it if you wish: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuzTS7TQiQM
Lena’s outfit was made from fabric scraps. Her glasses were made from thin plastic taken from a Chinese takeout container, jewelry plastic thread (for the nose-pads) and paper clips.
Her buttons were made from thin plastic from a different container, with drawings I did. She has three buttons. One is of a little red paper bug that I accidentally crushed while I was painting, so for fun I immortalized it in a button. Another button depicts the Purple Lantern Studio symbol, and the third button has a small wing to represent her friend Raven’s band ‘Raven and the Serephs.” Raven is a character that belongs to my friend Ned, and while he is not in BJD form, his character is in the story that Lena is in as well as she is in his. Hooray for extended universes!
Her necklace is made with a clear bead and tiiiiny bits of metal. It was a real pain getting them together, but it was worth it. Someday, I’ll be able to tell you more of Lena’s story. I must remain mysterious for now for the sake of copyright as she is part of a fantasy trilogy that I have been conceiving and writing on and off since my senior year of high school. I’m determined to get it out there some day, even if I have to publish it myself!
Here is a picture of Lena’s room:
The shell of the house was made out of the bottom of an old children’s art case (from when I was little) Foamcore makes up the walls. Small pvc scraps and Chinese food take out plastic containers make up the windows. Because my dad has an Alarm, TV and phone aassembly/installation and monitoring business, I have access to lots of fun plastic scraps on occasion. For example: the ‘legs’ of the chair were made from wire caps.
The pillows, bedspread, mattress and top pillow are all personal sewing projects. I especially love the kitty pillow. :3
The desk, chair and bookcase are all handmade out of various items, including small boxes, blue plastic from a floppy disc holder, Some of the accessories were bought. There is a company called ReMent that makes amazing life-like and adorable wee food and accessories. The miniature journal on Lena’s desk was created out of a necklace clasp, cardboard, and decoupage paper. That was fun to make!
Stay tuned as I continue to balance my hobby-filled life with daily mature adult tasks. Yay!
Posted on 7, 8 2011
Rayna Takes a Day Off and Sharpies Up Some Stuffies!
Three illustrations away from being done with the book, I had to order more ink for my printer. So today I was able to take a day off and work on one of the fun creative mini-projects that I’ve been meaning to get to. Due to my boyfriend being ridiculously awesome at crane games, I am amassing a small pile of stuffed animals. He had never been good at them before, but after winning a red elephant for me at a rest stop on the way back from Buffalo, Charles has gotten hooked, literally.
Now, I was never a huge plushie person, as Primrose, the beanbag PLS mouse mascot has been just enough for me to enjoy. (She is on my shoulder in the ‘about’ page of the site) Sometimes, I make exceptions for characters I enjoy. Those who have seen my room know that I have a ‘The Cheat’ and a Minchi plushie, just to name a few. At Charles’s suggestion, I have given the animals captured by the manipulations of the Claw of Freedom a Sharpie makeover. Because I can never just do that: now that they have been given a new life, I felt compelled to write their origin stories. As a result, I may just be enjoying plushies more than ever, and would make a fine employee for the creators of the Build a Bear franchise. Forget children’s books, this is my calling!
Lucian the Vampquack
An escapee of a laboratory experiment gone horribly wrong: "WHAT HAS SCIENCE DONE?!" Screamed a particular blond-haired, blue-eyed scientist as Lucian broke through the wall with his ‘hippity hoppity’ nano flippers. Angry with his creators for writing such deplorable mantras on his feet, he has since vowed to rid the world of all Aryans so as to prevent more tragic creatures such as himself from being created. Hippity Hoppity, my friends: You’ve been warned.
Minado the Bear Shaman
Minado is a traveling shaman who lives in the world of olO. He is about 153 years old. In a bizarre symbiotic relationship, it is necessary for him to gouge on the tribe of sentient carrot people in order for his waste to create fertilizer for new carrot-y lives. Moreover, the juices of the carrots give him the necessary power to commune and assimilate the panda gods in an attempt to reach enlightenment: all for the greater good. One cannot make oneself godlike without the sacrifice of a few toiling people of the soil. Funfact: in the past this panda has manifested on earth to dispense wisdom to Ayn Rand.
(His rabbit-eared get up is the his ceremonial robes for the sacrificial feast.)
Now: I have this elephant here that needs a story. I was going to try to figure it out for myself, but then I had an idea: Why don’t you guys take a crack at it? Who and what is this elephant, and where does he live? What does he do? A small blurb will suffice, but if you want to write more, I’m not going to stop you! Selected blurbs/stories will be published in the blog.
It was nice to take a break, but now I must push onward!
Posted on 19, 5 2011
Getting Personal: Learning to Pilot the Eva, I Mean, Learning to Drive.
So those who know me more than others know that I have an intense fear of driving a car. I have put it off for so many years. Heck, my mom learned to drive when she was in college because she was forced. Not to mention, she learned to drive STICK first!
I really had no initial desire to drive. I wasn’t (and still am not) such a wild drinker who needed to escape her parents to party in someone’s house with no parents in sight. I’m still a ‘one-drink Molly’, as they say. Okay, maybe they don’t, but whatever. Sometimes I have two, but only if I feel like I am in a comfortable place. Three of my friends had (two still have, currently) minivans, and we would all pile in to go on late night diner and Ihop adventures. We would have wonderful conversations surrounded by diner food and in the case of some, lots of coffee.
I didn’t have a need for a car in college. My parents didn’t have a spare car, and it would be an additional expense to keep on campus and maintain. I could take the shuttle whenever I needed art supplies, and I was often to busy makin’ art to go out for fun. Moreover, all my friends were on campus, for the most part. Sometimes, people would take me out, and that was nice. I hope to drive those people around someday, and I’m sorry if I was dependent.
Nowadays, many of my friends have jobs, and hangouts are less frequent and even more important than they have ever been. In a month, one of my oldest friends (David Woehr, the sculpture guy from an earlier post) is moving to Massachusetts. I am beginning to feel the urge more and more to learn to drive the Honda CRV that is sitting in the driveway, but when I think about it, I feel prickles of fear assault my gut.
I love walking; it helps me to mull over my thoughts and it is only place other than the shower where I feel like I can get some serious thinking done. I feel so happy when my feet are able to take me to places that I enjoy, like the comic book shop or the City Center. However, when I walk to White Plains, I pass through the tunnel that is the start of the DMV course and although I try, it is hard to picture myself sitting in my car waiting to be tested. Truly it is a dark tunnel that I know I must emerge from.
I have four college loans. I still live at home with my parents, and although I have two book deals, they are still not enough for me to move out yet. I am absolutely grateful to my parents for keeping me here, but I am starting to feel a bit trapped and immature. Those who know my parents understand that they are amazing and supportive, but even so, there comes a time when everyone must do the things that make them uncomfortable. I know someone who constantly pushes himself, and lately, it's been making me feel like I should be doing the same!
I don’t fear being alone. I never did, I always have so much to think about and so many nerdy/artistic activities to remind me of how great it is to be alive. I never take being alive for granted, ever. I have had at least two brushes with near-death experiences, one of them being vehicle related.
When I was little, mom had a sports car that she was planning to give up, but she really loved the car so much. She was driving along with me strapped in the back street, and perhaps she might have been going a little fast. She told me that she heard a voice directly in her right ear that screamed “SLOW DOWN.” She did, and we narrowly missed an accident that could have taken us both. Mom is of the opinion that the voice that she heard was that of her guardian angel.
When I was younger I used to have reoccurring dreams about being in a car with no one behind the wheel. Oddly enough, I don’t have them anymore, but I still fear driving. I know it’s immature. I know it's holding me back, especially since I have some amazing people that would make great road trip buddies. It would be unfair for me to be the only one that was unable to take the wheel during this experience.
Rest assured, I'm naming my car when I pass the test. It's also going to be a SUPER NERDY vehicle. I'm sure you guys can picture it now... (Oh and yes, I'm absolutely putting my Central Dogma Parking Permit on my car that came with the Evangelion Platinum edition dvd as well)
I have chosen to express my fears publicly in the hopes that I can hold myself to the promise that I will sign up for driving lessons. I will do this! I will pilot this thing! For science and the future! Unless perhaps as Dad said the other day, “Maybe you could get a limo to take you to your book signings.” T_T
PS: I am working on getting a comments section incorporated into this blog. Hopefully Paul can get it going, because I think it would be great to have. This blog has now entered Personal Mode, and will not always be about business or inspirations. I used to keep personal journals and sketchbooks and I would like to resume this!
Posted on 23, 4 2011
Hobby Exposure: The Care and Feeding of a Ball-Jointed Doll (Part One)
On my last birthday, in May of last year, I added a new hobby to my list. At the age of twenty-three years old, when asked by my parents what I wanted for my birthday, I asked for a doll. Now, I’m sure you may be thinking I’m a little too old for dolls, but let me tell you, the doll and toy collecting community encompasses all ages, with resin ball-jointed dolls as it’s own subculture within. People can collect dolls at any age. However, this is not just ANY doll: it’s a super high quality, resin, fully pose-able PukiPuki from the reputable Fairyland doll company. How did I become the owner of a 4 inch resin cutie?
I was initially exposed to this hobby when I bought a copy of the English version of the Gothic Lolita Bible magazine a few years back, through an article about a woman named Aimee Major Steinberger. I also own her sketch diary about her adventures in Japan, including her visit to the Volks ball-jointed-doll company, so I was aware of them at least. Seeing one in person, however, is a whole different experience.
When my friends became the owners of large ball-jointed dolls or bjds for short, I thought that they were pretty interesting, but that their size was a bit daunting for me. As you may have guessed from the small stuffed mouse sitting on my shoulder in my profile photo, I like things tiny. As a long-time collector of small trinkets that ranged from coins and rocks when I was younger to the Japanese figures that you can get from vending machines that I collect currently, I was always fascinated with the minute and diminutive.
It was all because of one of my friends (who we will call ‘Dee-chan’ here) who last Christmas, received an unpainted PukiPuki cat-doll. We talk frequently on the phone, and in the weeks that followed, Dee-chan described her process in customizing the doll to look like one of her many awesome characters that she designs both the stories and images for. As I heard her discribe what she was doing with excitement in her voice, I thought about how much fun it would be to try something like this myself.
This bjd was going to be modeled after a character named Buru who is a fan-character from Final Fantasy X. It would represent Buru only after it was taken apart, dipped in a pot of boiling dye, and strung back together. Additionally it would have a trimmed wig, new eyes put in with putty, and be given a ‘face up’. (when features are added to the face like blush and eyelashes) That’s a LOT of work and risk for a doll that is not cheap. A standard PukiPuki alone is $138, not including any clothes. Dee-chan’s PukiPuki had extra items added to it, such as kitty-hands, so it was a real investment!
Why go through all this risk? Why spend this much? For Dee-chan, and many others, it was their way of bringing the characters that they had created and loved to life. For others, they were creating an avatar to represent what characteristics and mannerisms they loved. The reasons can be very diverse, and are often discussed in detail on bjd forums.
What really made my desire for one of these turn into an ‘I WAAANT fever’ was when I saw Dee-chan’s finished creation. The second she put her PukiPuki bjd in my hand and I moved the joints, I knew I wanted one of my own to customize and love. It’s one thing seeing the dolls online, but holding them is a whole different experience. Be careful: it may make you want one, as it did with me.
Bjd customization is wide-ranged and complex, from a simple face-up to the risky process of dying resin and in some cases, sanding and sawing into the resin itself to create a new look by attaching additional parts like say, wings. Some people even cast their own resin parts for even more complex customization.
Bjd companies are diverse and if you are curious, here is a short list of a few notable companies:
This is one of the most famous bjd companies. They make a wide-range of dolls, including the Dolfie Dream, which you can fully customize with a wide range of options, including animatic eyes. They have a place in Japan called Tenshi no Sato where you can visit and take your doll to a café and eat with her. They also have a ceremony for dolls and their owners that they perform, for a cost of course.
Makers of a wide-range of doll sizes and a good mid-range price range. They are most famous for their Pukipuki and Little Fee lines. Little Fee is a 9 inch bjd with a child-like face.
Makers of the ever-costly Monthly Doll. (for which people will save a bundle to own) Some people own more than one!
Next time, I’ll go more into detail about my PukiPuki, Lena Vesper with more funfacts about the hobby. Until then!
Posted on 20, 4 2011
Books for the young and not-so-young: #2 The Secret of the Unicorn Queen is so VERY 80s
Back when I was talking about Bruce Coville’s Unicorn Chronicles, I had mentioned this book series and many asked me what it was all about. So, I thought, why not review it here? This is my copy of book one:
Be prepared to put your silly goggles on as we explore this period piece that is more hilarious with time. Since it's the good o’l eighties, put on those holographic ones.
All the plot elements that are usually present in this time period are there: Mad Scientist, check. Teenager, check. Usage of the words ‘bodacious’, check. As quoted from the review on the back of the book:
Meet Sheila McCarthy, an ordinary teenager who likes cheeseburgers and Bon Jovi. But it is her love of science that brings her to the laboratory of eccentric inventor Dr. Reit---and to his latest machine: a transporter into parallel worlds! Sheila accidentally goes though its portal and finds herself in the kingdom of Arren. Somehow Sheila must find her way back home….
For a book with unicorns in it, it is actually pretty hardcore. The unicorns are something akin to beasts of burden; they don’t talk or hang out in pastel paradises or playsets. Shelia herself trains with the Unicorn Riders, a group of warriors who serve the Queen. Throughout the course of the series, Shelia actually gets cut and roughed up in the process, learning though blood, sweat, and ‘magic’ that she had unintentionally brought in her backpack across time.
Because of the items in her ‘magic bag’ such as a flashlight, tape recorder, and matches, (remember kids, playing with fire is a good idea!) Sheila is mistaken for a sorceress. The riders decide to keep her along, for what help she can give them. For the eeeeeevil wizard Mardock has convinced Dynasian, king of Campora that the unicorns need to be captured and sacrificed!
Notable quotes from the book include:
“That bracelet you’re wearing, it’s moving! (Darian exclaimed)
Sheila glanced down at herself and laughed. “That’s just my Mickey Mouse watch.”
"“There you are you little—“ the shopkeeper’s angry words were cut off as Springsteen’s voice began to pound out the words to ‘Born to Run’. Very funny Bruce, Sheila thought."
The book itself has been re-published in the past year or so, with new covers that are appropriate to this time. As far as I know, none of the inner content has been edited in any way; Bon Jovi and Bruce Springstein have not been replaced with Miley Cirus. If you are really curious- you might be able to find it in a library.
A few people mentioned that I should update more, so expect more frequent blogging from me in the future. Just to attempt to tie this post and the next together, here's a picture of my friend Dee's lovely ball-jointed-kitty doll riding a My Little Pony she gave me a long time ago:
Until next time!
Posted on 12, 3 2011
Illuminatingly Awesome People: October-The Endearingly Strange World of Sculptor David Woehr
People may say that I am biased about my long time friend and art-making companion, but I say his talent and motivation speaks for itself.
From the moment I knew him, even at his diaper-crawling years, David loved to take things apart and put them back together in a new way. From setting fire to his action figures and splicing them together in the unique experiments of his childhood years, (his mom didn’t mind, much) to making monsters out of clay and found objects, David was always comfortable working with unusual subjects and unusual subject matter.
A common scenario that occurs if I go on a walk with him almost always involves him picking something off the street to muse over, and perhaps use later. His studio/sleeping space is filled with things that he has picked up or received from one place or another, and he prefers it like that.
When David told me he was going to Alfred, I wasn’t surprised one bit. I always knew that David would be a sculptor; he’s just wired that way.
As long time buddies, we had skipped out on giving each other birthday presents for three years, each saying that we would create something awesome and meaningful in time to make up. We each felt that our long friendship was more valuable than something store-bought.
So David made me Monti, the absolutely adorable little guy below:
Monti is a forest denizen, friend and protector. He will stop at nothing to do so. He really will. He is made from the unique process of ‘felting,’ (which takes ages to do!) and has clay masterfully incorporated into his design, in the face and his feet. Plus did I mention how awesome he is?
All of David’s creations are unique and he is now taking commissions! Plus, it’s the month of his birthday and he’s feeling sassy for making things, even after a long day at Starbucks.
His ready-made purchasable creations involve really awesome bug-like creatures that will protect you in your vehicle/bike/aircraft/whatever, and a MONKEY-THING ROMPIN’ WITH GIRLS UNDERWEAR ON.
If you want to check out more of David’s stuff, or request a commission, feel free to email him at:
Really, I’ve got to pull out something amazing in exchange. David likes steampunk, so I’m working on something with that theme. It’s going to be different from my usual fare, but I’m enjoying it so far! I’ll post it on the PLS commissions page when I’m done.
Now, TO WORK!
Posted on 21, 10 2010
Illuminatingly Awesome People: September- Jhonen Vasquez (with old email responses from JV himself!)
There are many different artists that make me bubble over with excitement at their works and achievements, but let it be known for the record that Jhonen was my first. Before Jhonen, I hadn’t really picked up any comic books. I knew they existed, but my perception was of vapid heroes and villains in tights, fighting other heroes and villains clad in likewise attire. Personally, that never really appealed to me (with the exception of Batman, which to me was something different) To me, the comics that I enjoyed the most were the daily Sunday strips- reading the Peanuts growing up caused me to develop an unusual habit of exclaiming “Good Grief!” causing many raised eyebrows among my fellow middle schoolers. Likewise with Calvin and Hobbes- both my oldest friend and I learned many vocabulary words that way.
Either ironically or appropriately (due to the nature of Jhonen’s humor) a girl who had teased me a lot when I was young, but had eventually mixed as an outward acquaintance in my small circle of friends was holding an strange looking comic book in her hands one day. (This particular comic was Johnny the Homicidal maniac #3) On the cover was depicted a man with sallow yellow skin, wrapped in belts, a knife in each hand.
I had just started shopping at Hot Topic and wearing black, (hooray for goth phase!) so this comic agreed with me at the start. The thick black outlines interspaced with small text in the margins, (as a reader, I always loved extra details!) the long, angst-filled monologues (appealing to a teenager for sure) and the random humor was honestly unlike anything I had ever read or seen before. As a child, many who know me will attest to and agree that I read a lot; therefore, it amazed me to come across something so unique. Little did I know that it was not only unique to myself, but to many others. These others would imitate and parody his style in the years to follow.
I have written to Jhonen three times about things: The first email I sent several years ago asked what it was like being a professional artist. I got a reply the next day, in which he encouraged me in his own way. In his words:
“What’s it like being a cartoonist? Well, did you ever dip your ass in corrosive acid? Or smear napalm jelly in your face? It’s a little like that, but you get to draw once in a while, so it’s not so bad.”
In another email he sent back to me in a week, I discovered that we enjoyed the same Invader Zim episodes: Backseat Drivers from Beyond the Stars and Dark Harvest. The third time was in response to a one shot comic he did for Free Comic Book day, in which he used ink and wash instead of the usual steel tip/felt pen. I thought it was a good change-up. He said, (without any of his usual snark-iness at first) that he was glad I liked it, and he liked doing something different once in a while. This was soon followed by:
“Make em’ sad I say. Make em’ saaaaaad.”
The best way to describe how I feel about Jhonen’s work is by showing you some work in which I aped Jhonen myself; back when I was discovering my own style. Let the good-natured jabs at myself begin as I lay myself bare for you, the readers:
That only hurt a smidgen!
After I remembered how deeply my love for flowers, sunshine, and little fluffy puppies suffused my being and how this could not be supported by trying to be like Jhonen- at the urging of the Calvin and Hobbs reading friend who was awesome enough to tell me to find my own style, I did just that. It took a while, but I am happy with my style now, and as you can see, not ashamed of my origins.
So to Jhonen V, Illuminatingly Awesome Person for the month of September: thanks for being different, amusing, and not taking yourself too seriously. This is what makes you so enjoyable- and yes, someday I will pay your birthday bar tab by buying one of your signed prints available in your online store.
::toasts with slushie::
//digital illumination complete//
Posted on 31, 8 2010
RIP Satoshi Kon
I remember watching Paprika for the first time and just being perched on the edge of my seat, literally, because there was so much detail that I was trying not to miss a thing. I am filled with regret, not only at his death at the age of 47, but that I wish that I had been a fan of anime at an earlier age, so that I would have been able to see more of his movies on the big screen, rather than watching them on my small TV. Satoshi Kon reminds me why I got into anime in the first place; that occasionally a director, writer, and/or artist comes along that inspires me to want to go home and make something myself.
Sometimes, being an illustrator that enjoys anime can be difficult. While I am aware that not everyone loves the genre, I feel that anime is often misunderstood. Titles with recycled themes certainly do not help, as you do have to be patient to find something you like. It can be a hard to listen to people express opinions about anime in a hurtful way. However, to those who do it constructively, I understand and respect. Personally, I believe that anime is more clearly understood akin to movies then to cartoons, due to the sheer quantity of titles available, and the fact that there are many 'B' titles, like in movies.
Satoshi Kon was one of the more influential and original anime directors. His titles were more than just surreal; they made you think about your own culture, even though his visuals are taken mainly from the Japanese esthetic. It goes without saying that even if you don't like anime; I think that it is worth giving Satoshi Kon movies and his series Paranoia Agent a try.
Rest in peace, Satoshi Kon. Hopefully some good will come out of this, in which other artists will be inspired to create more original anime. You will be sorely missed.
//digital illumination complete//
Posted on 24, 8 2010
Order of the Lanterns Monthly Motivation Challenge #1 ~superhero or villain~
Alright everyone! I've got almost everyone I need to begin, so let's get rolling with the first challenge. Stragglers who said they wanted to do it and don't check facebook will be contacted by the management personnel/Illustration Gestapo. This is about all of you, my talented friends. I want to keep us motivated, and I want us to get down in the trenches and pull out something awesome.
So: on with the challenge!
Our first assignment is to draw/write about/sculpt a superhero or villain. It can be male, female or Other.
For the writers, either a character profile or small vignette about your hero/villain will do. A short story is also encouraged.
For the artists: a character profile, action shot, or even a comic! Take your pick.
If you want to write and draw, by all means, I would keel over from the amazing-ness that would be your combined work. Seriously, go for it.
If you are really feeling special and wish to combine on projects, go ahead, but pull your own weight and work hard.
Since this is in the middle of the month: you have until the end of September to do this. Plenty of time. All work must be submitted in web-friendly form through the following email:
Good luck, ingest lots of caffeine, and lets see what we are made of!
//digital illumination complete//
Posted on 21, 6 2010
Facing their own darkness- Bruce Coville's finishes the Unicorn Chronicles
The Unicorn Chronicles: I loved it as a child, and I guess I am feeling a little wistful that the series is finished. It took my childhood and beyond for Bruce Coville to finish, but it is interesting to think that the series grew up with me and many others that enjoyed reading about the unicorns of Luster.
I would have wanted to finish this book the second I bought it (two weeks ago) but for those who know me, once I get my nose in a book it is hard to pull myself out of it. So I waited until the site was finished- and read it in a day and a half.
So, yes, it is a book for younger readers, but I would say that it is an original fantasy series that stands the test of time, is original, infused with a storytellers wit, strongly bolstered with myths and legends from many different cultures. Cara Diana Hunter is a well-rounded character with feelings that go far beyond: 'Oooh, sparkly ponies with horns!' Not that these don't have their place. Many know that I do enjoy a sparkly pony now and then. You won't find that here, however.
For unicorns of that sort, you may want to check out The Secret of the Unicorn Queen series. Firmly rooted in the eighties with a mad scientist plot, Bruce Springsteen, and tape decks that scare away monsters, it's an amusing enough read. Google it if you dare and look for the older covers.
Throughout the series, a history of the unicorns and their world is woven throughout the central story, with fresh ideas about what a unicorn is, and its function in the world. One of my personal favorites is the idea that a 'Guardian of Memory' is chosen to travel to Earth to fill the hole that the unicorns left behind when they were forced to emigrate to Luster, a world that was created just for them. I also really enjoy the character Grimwold, who wrote the Chronicles, his cantankerous attitude at having to put himself in the stories I believe might be Coville poking fun at the fact of how authors feel about intentionally or accidentally revealing themselves in their literature.
I don't want to spoil it for you, but for a children's series, this book is filled with wonderful dialogue and reveals that I think that some adults might not even guess as they are reading.
If you want to reminisce about Bruce Coville or are new to his books, I invite you to check out his website: www.brucecoville.com You may even realize that you had read one of his books when you were younger, as he has written many. He is the Illuminatingly Awesome person of this week.
Stay tuned for next time, when I discuss and explore the hobby of the care, keeping, painting and customization of asian ball-jointed dolls. Pictures galore of my homemade clothes and accessories await!
//digital illumination complete//
Posted on 20, 6 2010
And here we are...
I couldn't be more pleased to post in my new site blog.
It is my intention to make this a multi-purpose space. Some days, there will be sketches, some days there will be projects in process and of course, some days there will be posts about things that interest me.
Warning: some content of this site may contain any number of items:
Reviews and reminiscences about old children's books. Fun!
Books and Comic books, both American and otherwise.
Movies, movies, movies.
Cosplays in progress, my ball-jointed doll, Lena Vesper, convention photos, city trips and yummy restaurants.
Plugs about the works/goings on about Illuminatingly Awesome people that I know. (If you have something you want to share and you want me to plug it in my blog, see my contact page.)
I'd like to thank Paul Shorey as my official first Illuminatingly Awesome person of the blog. He made my site here. His communication is terrific, and he's a fine artist besides; he brings that aesthetic to his site design. His website, artspaces, allows you to edit your own content whenever you like, without having to know how to code. Not only that, he'll tailor a website to your specifications. It's the best of both worlds. Thanks Paul!
I hope everyone enjoys the site. There are still some tweeks in order, (such as pricings on the commissions page) but all in all, I plan to blog as much as I can while all that is going on.
/digital illumination complete.//
Posted on 28, 5 2010