SIA: Monkey Trading Card

Hey, it’s SIA time again and this is a special one because our newest co-host, Daenel, over on Living Outside The Stacks is hosting this SIA challenge and it’s her first one!

And she chose quite an interesting subject to be the focus for this challenge, which you can see here.

It is a lithograph for the promotion purposes of the Allen and Ginter cigarette brand.

Now I know absolutely nothing about cigarettes, as I don’t smoke (or drink for that matter; I’ll stick to my coffee and juice, thank you very much), but like with all products that people buy, they need something that people will recognize right away to get them to buy. And in this case, I guess a monkey was their key selling point. Whatever works I guess.

But hey, monkeys are cool and that’s one of the reasons why Daenel chose this piece because she “loves” monkeys and also because it is seen as very “spring-like”, which is very appropriate right now with all of our spring-like weather that we’re having here right now.

So lots of browns and greens to work into our outfits this time around. Check mine out:

Monkey Trading Card SIA

Not too bad right? I think that I got the color of the monkey pretty well with the shirt I’m wearing. It’s not mine by the way. I hate turtleneck shirts/sweaters. I own no such apparel. But I didn’t have any brown polo shirts in my closet so I borrowed this from my brother.

And of course, I have to go for broke and included my houseplants in my photo. They were all too “happy” to be a part of the action as well, especially after being cooped up in our apartment all winter long. And as a side note, do you see the rubber plant in the front, to the left? It was featured in a past SIA challenge called “Carnation Lily” something. I can’t remember who hosted it but I was a part of it apparently and so was the rubber plant when it was still a “baby”. Check it out below.

Carnation, Lily, Lily Rose SIA - Me

You can tell that this was from a while ago as the image is really poor (my new iPod cam is SOOO much better by comparison!). But do you see the tiny plant on the far right side in the tiny brown pot? That’s the same plant that you see in my current photo and as you can see, it has grown quite a bit! Given the proper space, water/Sun and care, they can grow to be quite large as they are really mini-trees. After I repotted it, it didn’t take long for it to grow bigger, which I think is just the coolest thing ever!

And as you can see, this current SIA isn’t the first time that I’ve included my plants in my pictures. When the need calls for it, I’ll probably be including them more and more in my SIA photos, especially now that the weather is finally warm enough that they can sit outside and soak up some rays. 😛

That’s it for now. Be sure to check back on Daenel’s blog this Wednesday on the 23rd to see how everyone else went about in interpreting this cool piece. See you there!

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World Traveling Postcard #4: “Cherry Blossoms”

I have another postcard to share with you all. I call this one Cherry Blossoms, and is based on, well you guessed it, cherry blossom trees.

Cherry Blossoms Postcard

I based this painting off of a series of photos that I took last week while my friend and co-worker were walking during our lunch hour. We came across an entire grove of cherry blossom trees, which I had been obsessed in trying to find for my friend, Salazar, after reading her post about cherry blossoms, which you can read about here. At some point, I hope to be able to upload some of the photos that I took (somewhere over 60 images) and share them on the blog. For now, you’ll have to settle for this.

Overall, I don’t think that it’s too bad. I think that I made the trees a little too pink. The cherry blossoms in my pictures were more pale than this. I didn’t realize until after I finished that I could have used liquid white to sort of nullify the pink and make them look less like they came from a Dr. Seuss book, but what’s done is done. And anyway, the liquid white came in handy for adding the yellow flowers seen at the bottom, so it wasn’t a total waste.

This is my fourth postcard that I have sent out, via the Postcrossing site. This one is on its way to Taiwan!

And speaking of that postcard site, I finally received my first postcard through it last Saturday! Check it out!

Postcrossing Postcard #1 - Russia

Obviously I won’t display the writing on the back in order to protect the privacy of its sender, but the front is totally okay. This one is from Russia and shows a cathedral, which is a popular tourist attraction in the sender’s hometown. It’s a really cool sketch. Looking at it really makes me wish that I had the patience to sketch such detail as this. But then, it probably would be quite difficult for me, with the tremble in my hands. 😉

SIA: Nabeshima Ware

One of the many things that I appreciate about SIA challenges is that they give me the opportunity to try on different clothes in my closet that I normally don’t wear. That’s practically anything that’s not colored black as that is what I wear about 95% of the time.

But before adopting the whole “all black” motif, I remembered how nice some of the color combos that I would come up with that would look good on me. Nothing “clownish” or clashing of course, but like my last SIA look, with the light blue and khaki colors that I wore. I remember liking such combos like that.

This is another favorite of mine from the past. It also works great now for the current SIA challenge, hosted by Salazar over on 14 Shades of Grey. This time around, she chose the Japanese dish, Nabeshima Ware. This delectable dish depicts (try saying that three times fast!) cherry blossom-like flowers and leafy green graphics, which Salazar says are appropriate for spring. I agree. Our spring started late over here, so a few weeks back, our streets were flooded with cherry blossom pedals from the trees. They are long gone now, but cute baby leaves have replaced them and are now forming. And in a few weeks will be in full bloom. Will we have an actual spring season this year? Only time will tell!

Anyway, this is what I have chosen for this challenge.

Nabeshima Dish SIA

My green shirt (which has folds in it, sorry about that) goes well with the green leaves seen on the dish. And the crisscross pattern on the dish inspired me to break out my black and white sweater-jacket (which is too small for me); the plaid patterns of it matching fairly well with the pattern on the dish.

While I am happy that I was able to squeeze in time to snap a photo for this challenge, this one took several shots before I was more or less satisfied with the results, which I’m not 100%, but is good enough, given my limited time these days. Not quite sure why I was making that particular facial expression either, but oh well. At least I’m not frowning. 😉

Be sure to check out Salazar’s blog this Wednesday, May 9th, for the full round-up and see how everyone else was inspired by this piece! There’s still time to participate!

April Book Reviews 2018

I’m really behind in my book reading lately, which is mostly due to my postcard making frenzy, which has slowed down a bit now (guess the “buzz” finally wore off) and also due to personal family business in late March and into early April. I only managed to squeeze out one novel, along with two picture books, which I thought were very interesting. More on those in a bit. For now, let’s focus on the book that I’ve been reading for the past 2 months.

The book I read is called Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher.

Shadow Spinner Cover

Title: Shadow Spinner
Author: Susan Fletcher
Genre: Children’s Historical/Folk Fiction
Pages: 217 (219 counting the Author’s Note Page)

The book is based on the One Thousand And One Nights or The Arabian Nights for the English translation, and has a single main protagonist, told from her perspective.

Marjan, a 13 year old orphaned Muslim girl living in ancient Persia, is taken into the Sultan of that land’s palace as one of his harem girls in order to help keep him entertained and to prevent him from killing his many wives every night, due to his initial distrust of them. Marjan finds herself aiding the sisters, Shahrazad and Dunyazad by helping them provide stories for the Sultan. In order to do this, Marjan ends up sneaking out of the Sultan’s palace (twice) to find an old storyteller that she remembers seeing before her entrance into the harem. The way that she sneaks out of the palace is pretty creative, despite the extreme danger of her getting caught.

I don’t want to give too much of it away, but thanks to the help of the old storyteller that Marjan meets in town, as well as inside help within the palace, namely the eunuchs, a very strange ‘pigeon woman’, and a few other minor characters, Marjan is able to turn the tables, so to speak, on the Sultan and is able to show him the error of his ways through one of her own stories. The penultimate chapter is a real page turner.

Overall, it was nice story. I really liked the main character, for her strength and bravery when all odds were basically against her (and having a deformed foot didn’t exactly help her). A lot of the other characters are likable and you will find yourself rooting for them to succeed, or at least hoping they come out okay, as you read the story. I won’t name them all, but some of the note worthy ones are Zaynab (the weird pigeon woman), who befriends Marjan and sort of becomes her “mother figure” as she was away from her adopted mother, being stuck in the palace and all. Abu Muslem, the old storyteller, was a pretty fun character I thought. For most of the story, he hid himself away and Marjan could only reach him by way of a boy named Ayaz, who happens to be the storyteller’s nephew. He (Ayaz) seemed to be quite the jester of the whole story as you are not quite sure of his motives at first and seems to enjoy toying with Marjan’s confusion and dire situation. But he was okay. I found that I really liked Dunyazad. She seems quite the cynical type (normally I don’t care for characters that are like this, but her character was written quite well) who seemed quite uncertain and untrusting of Marjan, believing that she couldn’t help her sister, Shahrazad, from stopping the Sultan’s murderous mania of killing his wives. But as the story progresses, you begin to see a lighter side to her and towards the end, she grows to respect Marjan and ends up helping her. So that’s pretty cool. The only character that I didn’t care much for is the Khatun, the Sultan’s mother. The author describes her as being extremely fat and extremely loud, who’s only purpose is really to intimidate and scare the women in the harem. While it can be implied that her reasons for her malicious behavior is because she wishes to protect her son, there also seems to be a more sadistic side of her that enjoys seeing those under her suffer. She especially gets a joy out of beating the crap out of Marjan later in the story. I was sort of hoping that she would get what she had coming to her in the end, but…

Like I said, this was a pretty nice story. For those who have read the actual One Thousand And One Nights stories can see how much of this story is based on them, I’ve only read part of them so I can’t be sure. But if anyone who has read them and wishes to give their input, I’ll be glad to hear it.

My only concern for this book is the “disappearance” of Marjan’s adopted family towards the end of the story. Marjan and her “aunt/mother”, seem to be quite close in the early parts of the story. But after Marjan moves into the palace, we never see her “aunt” and her husband again, though they get mentioned at the very end with Marjan worrying if she will ever see them again. Sort of a sad take on their part, but I guess not everyone can have a happy ending.

So my rating for this book is a 4 out of 5. Good story! It definitely makes up for the last book I read back in February and didn’t like too well.

And with that, I want to briefly talk about the two picture books that I mentioned earlier. Normally, I don’t review picture books on my blog and they don’t count towards my book count (only novels count). But these two books are great stories (especially for kids) and I wanted to present them.

The first one is called Goin’ Someplace Special by Patricia C. Mckissack.

Goin' Someplace Special Cover

Those of you who have been reading the blog for a while will recall that I read a book by Mrs. Mckissack last year (April in fact!) called A Friendship For Today. You can see that review here. Though that one was one of her novels, this story is no less powerful for a picture book. It’s about a young girl, ‘Tricia Ann, living in the 1950s in the southern part of the US and shows her traveling to her “special place”, while facing the harsh realities of segregation and discrimination along the way. She wishes to travel to this special place on her own without her grandmother, feeling that she is ready to do this. But this proves to be a harder challenge than ‘Tricia Ann realizes as the constant reminder of the evil Jim Crow laws constantly rear their ugly heads in her face. But after a kind soul that she meets along the way reminds her that she is somebody, ‘Tricia Ann presses on and finally makes it to her “special place”.

I really love the art that is displayed in the book and is very well done; beautifully rendered and truly shows the emotion that’s attached to the story the book tells.

And finally, I present the book, My Name Is Bilal, by Asma Mobin-Uddin.

My Name Is Bilal Cover

Another powerful and heartfelt story, this book tells the story of a brother and sister who are Muslims and have started a new school. It shows the difficulties that Bilal (the brother) faces as he and his sister are not initially welcomed by the other kids, one kid in particular. But Bilal finds his place there after the console of one of his teachers, shares a story of a man who shares Bilal’s name and the challenges he faced in ancient times. In the end, Bilal and his peer aggressor, end up playing together and comes to a greater understanding on how important it is of being proud of who one is.

Both of these children’s books, though very different in terms of story, share the same kind of ‘vibe’ and I think are great stories to share with kids; reminding them that it’s okay to be who they are and not be ashamed. Isn’t that the kind of lesson many adults need to learn as well? I’d say, “yes”.

So those are my books for this month. I’m really excited because I discovered some really interesting books that I can’t wait to start reading and I hope to be able to present them to you next month. Wish me luck!

Also, be sure to check out Salazar’s blog on 14 Shades of Grey to see what books she has read this month. Both seem pretty interesting!

 

World Traveling Postcard #3: “Cactus Grove”

Those of you that have been following along for a while know that I sort of have an affinity for desert scenes and have done several of them over the course of the blog’s lifespan (though I have yet to do a “cold desert” scene).

But here is my latest piece depicting the “infamous dry biome”.

Cactus Grove Postcard

Done in crayon, this is another one of my homemade postcards (a couple of index cards clued together) that I did while waiting for my watercolor postcards to arrive in the mail.

Of all of my desert scenes that I have done in the past, I feel that this is my best one.

See below for past “desert postcards”.

 

Desert Plain Postcard
Desert Plain
Mesa Postcard
Mesa
pyramids-postcard
Pyramids

 

As you can see, I’ve improved quite a bit since 2015. Looking at my first one, I can’t help but think how awful looking my cacti are in comparison to my latest ones. And the perspective is off on the foreground pyramid!! Geez…!

But getting back to the present…

I particularly like how I rendered the saguaro cactus, with its many “arms” extended out. I’ve never seen one in person but I hear that it’s quite a breathtaking experience from those who have.  They actually have quite an impressive lifespan, with some living as long as some trees do; 150 to over 200 years old, far outliving any of us. Ain’t nature grand? 😉

Anyway, while I liked what I’ve done with the cacti seen in the foreground, I feel like the background could have used some work. I wished I hadn’t made the ground in the far background so dark. Looking at it now, I could have just used a darker shade of green, or brown, or both, since the scene is supposed to be at “dusk”. But it’s okay for what it is I guess. At least the silhouetted cacti in the far background are cool. 🙂

And this is another “world traveling” postcard (using the Postcrossing site that I mentioned in a previous post here). This one is headed to Russia!

Postcard Post: “Morning Glory”

Okay, first off, a little housekeeping update to note here:

I finally added a “follow” button to the blog! I’ve noticed on other people’s blogs that a “follow” button is present on theirs but not on mine. So after playing around with the settings for a bit, I finally figured out how to add a “follow” button and hopefully more people will want to follow along! Always making changes and improvements… 🙂

Okay, now that that technical triteness is now done, I have another postcard to present here!

Morning Glory Postcard

I call this one Morning Glory, due to the fact that I pictured this scene to be early in the morning, just after sunrise. A bit dramatic for a title I know, but hey, it’s my postcard!

As always, I used watercolor paints to create this image, though it was more paint involved than water. I’m discovering that the less water that I use, the richer the colors will be in the end (though I used a lot more water to create the sky and grassy areas).

I also used white-out to create the clouds and the snow on the mountain tops. It surprisingly works quite well with the watercolor paints. Who knew that there was more than one use for white-out besides correcting one’s mistakes? 😉

 

SIA: “Melancholy Courtesan”

After the barrage of postcard posts that I’ve been doing lately (and trust me, I have more waiting to be published), I figured that it’s time to break it up and do an SIA post.

And what an exciting SIA challenge it is. Chosen by Jen over on Librarian For Life And Style, this latest challenge is a Hindu painting, painted in the 1750s of a courtesan who seems lost in thought and has a somewhat of a sad look on her face, hence the title of the piece.

I have to say that I am very much into Indian culture; artwork and history alike. I like to read whatever I can about India, be it fiction or non-fiction. I hope to share some of my fascinating finds in future book reviews as I have recently discovered a few more Indian writers that I can’t wait to read about. Very exciting stuff!

But getting back to the SIA, here is what I did for this challenge.

Melancholy Courtesan SIA

Not bad I must say. My attire matches the neutral colors in the painting (light blue and beige), and the background around me matches the subtle pinks and greens that are also found in the painting. Pretty simple. And of course, I did my best to mimic the pose of the woman in the picture. 😛

What you’ve probably noticed the most is the change in backdrop that I’m using, which plays a pretty big role for this particular challenge. Because of my limited attire when it comes to these challenges, I often have to use other elements in my photos to help keep them interesting. And in this case, the wall behind me, as well as the floor served this very purpose quite well! I’m actually sitting in the “lobby” area around the corner from my apartment. See, each floor has a sort of “mini-lobby” with a small table and two chairs that sit in front of the elevators. And to the left of me (my right in the photo) is the hallway that leads to apartments. On the opposite side of me, are windows, which makes for great outdoor lighting (without actually being outdoors). And in front of me are the elevators (though I moved the chair I’m sitting in over a little so as not to get the full length mirror in my shot (yeah, we have a full length mirror in the lobby of each floor too). One day, I plan to give you all a virtual tour of my place so you can see what it looks like. I actually already took the photos of all the major places in the building some time ago. I just haven’t felt like uploading them all yet. If you all prompt me to do it, I may do the tour sooner rather than later (hint, hint!).

But anyway, that’s what I came up with for this SIA. Don’t forget to check out Jen’s blog this coming Wednesday to see the round-up and see how everyone else went about in interpreting this piece. It will be fun! Join us!

World Traveling Postcard #2: “Trees”

I’ve been on a postcard making frenzy lately. I got three made last weekend and I plan to make at least that many this coming weekend too. And like what?! Two posts in one week on just postcards?! Yep, the blog is finally living up to its name and you’ll be seeing a lot more postcards from here on out for a while.

Okay, so this is another “World Traveling” postcard (technically, they’re all world traveling because my friends that I send them all to all live in different countries) that’s on its way to the Czech Republic.

Trees Postcard

I gave this one a simple title, Trees, because it mostly depicts, well… trees. Truthfully, I’m not all that pleased with how this one came out. I based it off of a photo I saw in one of the children’s books I was working on processing at work but I find it too simple, appearance-wise. I think the trees came out okay (I’m still working on painting them properly) but there’s nothing really exciting here to make it stand out. The only really cool thing here are the reflections of the background trees seen on the water’s surface (love that “wet-on-wet” technique), which makes for a nice effect. But that’s about the only thing going for this postcard.

Postcard Post: Nature VS Man-Made

Quiz time. Where would you rather go to spend your free time, a nice lake near a forest of trees with beautiful mountains in the background, or some smelly, hot steel made oil rig, complete with enough petroleum to keep 10 or more gas stations running for a year?

Yeah, I figured that you would chose the former. I would too. But still, you have to admit that an oil refinery makes for quite an interesting subject for postcard art. And that’s what I’ve done with my latest pieces seen below.

 

Forest By A Lake PostcardOil Refinery Postcard

Could these two places be any more different? Perhaps the second one is the future version of the first image? Hmmm…

Yeah, I’m kind of stuck on the whole “past vs. future” thing right now as the second season of the super awesome TV show, Timeless is currently running and I’m totally into it. I thought season one of the show was total “kick butt”, “off the charts” good. But season two is like 10 times better and I’m on the edge of my seat each week to see what happens next. 😛

*Ahem*, well, back to the art now.

Both of these I did for friends of mine and I have to say that I’m quite proud of both. The first one, Forest By A Lake, was done with basic crayon, while the second one, Oil Refinery, was done with watercolor paint.

Part of the reason for the difference in media is that I made Forest By A Lake first and was done on a few index cards (glued together to create the “thickness” of a postcard) as watercolor paint doesn’t work so well on that kind of paper. My watercolor postcards that I ordered hadn’t come in the mail yet so it was all I had to work with.

But once they did, I was able to get back into my watercolors again (like visiting an old friend) and of course, I had to pick a rather “interesting” subject to paint first hand. Not to worry though. I also did a few “forest-like” scenes in watercolor as well, which I will feature later on.

So overall, not bad. What I really like about the second postcard is how I was able to show a “depth of field” by making the “oil containers” in the background light and faded by using a “wash effect” to make them appear further away. It makes you feel that this place is huge (and not one you want to find yourself lost in!).

Check out the larger images below.

 

Forest By A Lake Postcard
A nice, relaxing lake…

 

 

Oil Refinery Postcard
Gasoline anyone?

 

World Traveling Postcard: “Forest Path”

It’s been a while since I wrote about postcards, with my last post being in late February. For a while I hadn’t been coming up with very many ideas for any new postcards. And I haven’t heard back from any of my pen pals who usually send me postcards so I haven’t had much motivation to make any new ones, not even for the blog.

But now I’m back on my postcard passion as I’ve found a new motivation to try and make at least one per week. I’ll tell you more about that towards the end of this post, which will explain the title that I chose for it as well. Right now, let’s get to the postcard.

Forest Path Postcard

I call this one Forest Path. This one’s pretty self explanatory. Done in both crayon and color pencil, I consider this to be an “abstract sketch”. As you can probably tell from looking, I used many rapid marks and pencil lines to make out the trees and grassy areas and filled in the rest of the image using crayon. This was definitely one of my quickest pieces as it took me about half an hour, or less, to make it. In terms of speed, I’d say it’s not bad, though not one of my best works. Overall, it’s okay. It conveys to viewers what it is I think. Isn’t that what art is supposed to do?

So now let’s get to the part as to why I did this piece.

As I mentioned above, I haven’t had much motivation in making new postcards lately. However, last week, I was watching a couple of videos on YouTube about pen pals and letter writing (yep, I’m a total YouTube junkie, I admit it). And I came across a video that mentioned a site called “Postcrossing.com”. It’s a site that’s dedicated to individuals who love postcards, which of course, I do. You can read all about it by clicking here. But to give you a quick description of it, basically, this site allows you to send postcards all over the world and receive postcards from all over the world, simply by using the mail. In this day and age where social media pretty much rules the world (I personally think it’s highly overrated), sending things like letters and parcels through the mail seems like something out of the stone age. But I have to say that I really enjoy it and have enjoyed it for the past 4 years or so. It’s more fun than wasting time on a lot of the social media sites these days, that’s for sure.

Anyway, to participate in the postcard exchange, you sign up on the site, and request to send a postcard. The site will randomly select a person that’s also signed up on the site and give you their address, along with a postcard ID, which you need in order to receive postcards. It changes with each one you send out so you have to make sure that you write it down each time (on each postcard that you send out).

Next you just mail it like you would any other postcard. When your person receives it, they register it (using the ID number that you write on the postcard, which is why it’s important to write it on there) and that qualifies you to receive a postcard from another random person from somewhere else (not the same person that you sent your postcard to). It’s completely random so it could come from anywhere in the world! And once you receive it, then you must register that postcard using the ID number that (hopefully) the sender wrote down, which will allow them to receive a random postcard from someone else. And that’s it, the process starts over again. It’s pretty straight forward once you get used to it. I have yet to receive any postcards yet, but I’ve only been on the site for a week now. I figured that I would give this a try as it sounded interesting. And doing this will give me a good excuse to keep the blog updated with new postcards, so that’s a benefit that I can take advantage of as well. We’ll see how it works out. I’ll be showcasing more postcards here and telling you where they are headed. This one for instance, is on it’s way to Germany. I am hoping that the person I sent this to will like and enjoy it!

Look forward to the next postcard!