1 AM is Always the Best Time to Learn How to Draw

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Hello everyone! I hope you all had wonderful and filling Thanksgiving. I didn’t end up posting last week because of the holiday, but I had a great vacation in Long Island filled with down time, food, good books, and walks to the beach. I also have a few book reviews lined up for the future and a much longer to read list than I did before, so there’s that to look forward to.

Last night I had trouble falling asleep. This isn’t that rare – I’m naturally a night person. I go to bed on the later side, and I have often found that it is easier for me to do work, especially writing, late at night. Also, yesterday I was thinking about finding a good avatar for my tumblr site and for Steam (which I also got back into over the holiday thanks to a friend of mine.) I wanted one that was special for me rather than something I randomly found off the internet, and I kind of wanted it to be a drawing, but I didn’t have any drawings of me that my friends made or anything. So I decided to make one myself.

This also happens somewhat regularly, although not as regularly as my random insomnia. I have dabbled with drawing for a long time. I had a serious anime phase in ninth grade which included a drawing interest as well, but I found that I got caught up on the eyes or the symmetry of a face. I would draw one eye and then try and recreate it and all hell would break loose. I also think I started with the eyes, which made the proportions a little weird from the start. Eventually I got frustrated and decided that I couldn’t draw and moved on with my life.

Then a few years ago, in another bout of insomnia I randomly copied a sketch I found off the internet. I’m not sure whose picture it was, and I don’t have the copy or the photo I took of it anymore, but I was surprised at how well the picture turned out. It was just of a girl with long hair resting her head on her hand, but I was very proud of myself. Maybe I could draw after all.

I feel like a lot of authors can also draw, and its always been something I’ve wanted to do. It would be so handy to be able to sketch characters and have them come out (at least somewhat) the way you pictured in your head. I feel like that would make the whole character/world creation process much more complete for me. So after my success with the internet sketch, I decided to draw a character of mine. And it didn’t work. I drew a girl with wavy hair but that was it and I didn’t really connect her with the character she was supposed to be. So I wrote off drawing again.

But then last night I decided to give it another go. I’ve also been casually talking with a friend of mine about what if we took drawing classes (again these conversations are late at night and nothing really comes from them other than hype), but I tried the copying method of drawing again. Because I wanted that avatar.

So I went through my facebook profile pictures and found one that I thought was pretty simple. It was from when I went to visit my godmother down in Florida the year before last, and I am sitting by the pool with shades and an iced tea. I chose it because my hair was in a ponytail, which isn’t too hard to recreate on paper, and the fact that I am wearing large sunglasses solves the eye problem I had back in my anime days. And I was pretty pleased with the results, as far as avatars go.

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So in my sleepless excitement I decided that I would have to go out and get a sketchbook, because I always like keeping things like drawing in one place if I do decide to continue down this path. So I went to Sam Flax this afternoon as a break and got a pretty nice sketchbook on sale – the Sam Flax near me is going out of sale and while I don’t go there too often I’m pretty sad about it.

The sketchbook is pretty nice I think. I’m not a sketchbook expert or anything, but I always enjoy a new notebook. It has very smooth pages – I really don’t like the rough page sketchbooks for drawing, and it’s not too thick, which is good in case this drawing thing is short lived, which it very well might be. I liked the cover of a different one more but it was thicker and a little more expensive. What can you do. They were both black, but the other one was smoother. Oh well.

I traced the drawing into the book, which also didn’t take too long because the pages are pretty thin, but I did notice that when I went over it in ink, it bled through to the back of the page. Not on to the next page though, so I just won’t use both sides of the page if I trace things over with pen. That still means I have 79 unused pages to go though, so I should be good.

I also have a “Drawing” folder on my computer with some of my friends’ profile pictures I can use to practice – I’m not a creeper I swear. I found a few that were just one person and looked like they could potentially be simple. I could also move on to actors or something like that if I’m feeling really ambitious. Or maybe animals? Still life? Just as long as I stay on the “copying” side of thing for now. Who knows?

Also not only are film scores good to write to, they are also good to draw to as well.

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Miraculous Times: The Age of Miracles

Well here is my review/discussion of The Age of Miracles (finally). I finished this book around 3 weeks ago, but have been pretty busy with different things so I haven’t gotten around to talking about it until now.

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Picture from NY Times

I was glad that when I went to the library they had The Age of Miracles, because as I have found out, it is hard to get new books from the library, because that is what everyone else is doing as well. The Age of Miracles is about what Karen Thompson Walker calls “the slowing”, where the earth’s rotation slows down, making both the nights and the days unnaturally long. During this time of change and crisis, Walker focuses the story on Julia, an eleven year old girl living in California and her life, family, and friends.

Although there is a coming of age story in The Age of Miracles, I viewed it more as a thought experiment. “The slowing” works its way into every detail of Julia’s life, and is what drives the story forward. Walker examines what the slowing of time would affect days, nights, friendships, schools, gravity, tides, soccer practices, and marriages. Julia herself wonders how many of the changes that she is experiencing could be attributed to the slowing as compared to simply growing up in a normal world.

I found that parts of the book were slow at times. Walker sometimes strays from the main characters to talk about “the slowing” itself, but the book is short so the slow parts never really lasted very long. I was drawn to it because of the unique story, and the writing is well done. Walker is descriptive and literary without being overly wordy. I tend to like descriptions both in my own writing and others, so I was attracted to that in The Age of Miracles. At times it reminded me of how I write, or rather how I want to write.

Another thing that I liked about the book was that Walker discusses middle school and adolescence without sugar coating it. Julia goes through some rough times at school and at home. It is important to realize that just because she is 11 and not an adult does not mean she doesn’t deal with real problems. She gets bullied at school, has a crush on a boy, and deals with friendships growing apart. All of these topics could be dealt with in an idillic way to make her life sound cute and quaint, but Walker does not do that. She is very blunt and raw in that way. There are real problems and stress in Julia’s life. Middle school is rough for everyone, and “the slowing” doesn’t make it any easier.

Another interesting thing that Walker brought up in her book was adaptation. There are people who stick to “clock time” once “the slowing” starts, and then there are those who work to adapt their life’s schedule to when it is light out. This creates an interesting divide in Walker’s society which I thought was interesting. Which time is the right time?

In a way this book reminded me of December by Elizabeth Hartley Winthrop, which is about a young girl (also 11) who decides to stop talking. Both books are about only children (girls) and their families as they try to figure out how to live in these different times.

The Age of Miracles is a short read – it only took me about 2 days, and I started it at night. It can be a stressful book just because of the premise and reaction that the characters have to their change in environment. That and it’s middle school. But I definitely enjoyed the book and thought it was interesting and thought provoking. It all takes place in modern day (they mention bird flu etc.) which gives the book a certain eeriness to it. Julia’s world at the beginning of the book is no different than ours. All in all, I recommend this book.

The Most Magical Circus: The Night Circus

I did not realize this but this month GoodBookScents turned 6 months old – how exciting! I am impressed with myself that I have been able to keep it up for this long – I’m usually bad at starting a routine like that. It’s been a lot of fun and thank you whoever you are for reading this.

Well, this weekend I was able to finish The Night Circus. I haven’t been able to sit down and get a good chunk of reading done lately, mainly because I have been working on figuring out my life, so it was nice to curl up at night with a good book. And it was a very good book. I have been wanting to read it for a while, and I’m glad that I did.

There is a mental list I keep of authors whose prose I really enjoy. The true sign is when I have to stop, set the book down for a second, and process what I just read. Usually my thought process is half “Wow that was amazing” and half “Why didn’t I think of that!” Billy Collins is one writer on the list. Barbara Kingsolver is another. And now Erin Morgenstern is as well.

Usually this awe comes from the style of prose, and the way that an author can look at life. Billy Collins, for instance, takes mundane everyday experiences and is able to twist them into poetry through a fresh eye. With The Night Circus I was undoubtedly impressed with Morgernstern’s prose to be sure, but also the ideas that she comes up with. She has created her own fantastical world of magic and inserted it seamlessly into the early 1900’s. She has a real understanding of how magical realism is supposed to happen in a book.

I should probably give a brief description of what this book is about. It’s been getting a lot of attention recently (debut novel and #1 NY Times Best Seller and all). The plot revolves around two characters, Marco and Celia, who at a young age are bound in a magician’s duel. It’s hard not to give things away, but ultimately this duel happens at The Night Circus, a circus that is only open at night and features an array of interesting black and white tents. Morgenstern weaves character’s lives together through the circus, and it seems like it becomes a character itself, the main character, really, and is more important than any single character on their own. I think you have to read it to really understand what I am saying.

The Night Circus is one of those books with tons of small details that all weave together in the end of the story. I know that if I read it again, which I am looking forward to doing in the future, I would catch more small details than I did on the first read, which would make the book even more interesting. It’s one of those books. It is very visual with all the black, white and red imagery, which makes for an easy and enjoyable read, but Morgenstern’s ideas are so magical and unique -like Celia’s dress that she wears to a party that changes colors to compliment whoever she is with, that I could not help but be impressed. The detail of the book is amazing, and the nature of the magic is very interesting. It is clearly more than trickery and mirrors – it is real, but it is also an art form that can be taught. There is a certain element of mystery about the hows and whys of magic in the story, but that, I think makes it more interesting. There is also a definite dark undertone to the book and the world that Morgenstern has created. It’s magic for an adult audience.

I am still gathering my thoughts about this book, but I know that it was a very good read, and that overall I am impressed. I want to visit the world of The Night Circus and talk about it with Erin Morgenstern, and get inside her head. She also has an interesting blog on her website that has some pretty cool flash fiction on it as well. The Night Circus is not a book, I feel, that can be summed up easily in one little blog post, but it is an great and rather unique read.