Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Month: January 2014

Movie Review: A “Frozen” Visual Feast

My daughter Signy and I are both full-grown adults by this time, but somehow we’ve never lost our love for well-made kids’ movies–especially visually lavish animated movies.

Thus, we found ourselves at a matinee of the new Disney movie Frozen, recently. And enjoying ourselves fully.

Frozen, based extremely loosely upon Hans Christian Andersen’s 1845 tale, “The Snow Queen,” is the fullest merging I’ve yet seen of what I’d call the “Disney” and “Pixar” styles.

Queen Elsa’s ice palace is visually wonderful.

Visually, it’s quite beautiful.  I especially enjoyed the scenes in which Elsa, the elder sister and eventual “Snow Queen,” works her magic with ice and snow. The sequence in which she retreats from her home on the fjord to her own icy “Fortress of Solitude” on an impossibly steep mountain is a real tour de force.

That the story doesn’t follow Andersen very closely at all (there’s a magical “snow queen” named Elsa, love melts a frozen heart, and it takes place in Scandinavia–and that’s about it) is not necessarily a bad thing.

Brave‘s Merida is more strong-minded than either Elsa or Anna in Frozen.

Frozen’s story speaks to today’s ideals of female strength, although the princesses are very traditionally beautiful, at least one of them is really pining for a man, and once again they’re white girls. Merida in Brave was more unconventional, and the mistress of her own mind.

However, I did like the twist on “true love,” and the determined loyalty shown by the characters Anna and Kristoff. I wonder sometimes if loyalty isn’t undervalued in many of our media offerings today.

The music is enjoyable and well performed, and integrated nicely into the plotline. I liked that the voice actors themselves did the singing. This means the voices are fully consistent, whether speaking or singing.

It is clear that Wreck-It Ralph and Tangled have much in common with Frozen.

The movie poster I used above says, “From the creators of Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph,” and that heritage shows in many ways, from aspects of the story to the way they portray horse characters. Signy and I remarked on similarities to both of those movies while watching this one, even before we knew much of the background.

IMAGE CREDITS: What would I do without IMDB?  Various pages from that site are my source for all of the images used in this post: the Frozen movie poster; the image of the ice palace; the Brave movie poster; the Wreck-It Ralph movie poster, and the Tangled movie poster.

Artdog Quote of the Week

I respect Henri Matisse a great deal, and it is probable he knew more about art than I ever will.  Not sure I agree completely with this thought, but I do find it interesting.

IMAGE CREDIT: Many thanks to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Paula Kofoed’s Pinterest page, for this image.

Shannon Manning: Master Paper Sculptor

There is not going to be anything objective about today’s post. 

My subject is Shannon Manning, a Kansas City artist whose work has been inspiring me since about 2004 or 2005, when I first saw it at The Heritage Gallery in Prairie Village, KS.  I was in the early stages of developing my own paper sculptures, and when I first saw his work I was totally blown away.

I had a chance to see Endangered and meet Shannon in person, at the “State of the Arts” show in Prairie Village last October.

I’ve been seeing his work turn up around town during the past few years, but I’d always missed the opportunity to meet him until last fall at the State of the Arts show in Prairie Village. He is an extremely nice man, in addition to having mad skills in paper sculpture!  Here is a small collection of his work to give you a sample, presented with his permission:

As in this piece, 219 N. Delaware, the detail in Manning’s work always astounds me.
I love the visual rhythm of the wings and the exquisite feather effects in Hill and Pond.
Penny Crusher is another example of Manning’s mastery of detail.
Manning handles a variety of textures with great skill in Instant Report.
In Ezra’s Sunday, Manning juxtaposes mechanical and natural forms–and renders both equally well. His technique makes me deeply envious, but in a good way!
As Sanctuary clearly shows, Manning and I share the super-power of being able to fold rocks! I love the way he handles the snow as an accenting mechanism in this piece.

I deeply appreciate having had the chance to share Manning’s art with you.  I hope you have enjoyed looking at a small sample of the work that has been such an inspiration to me over the past decade.

IMAGE CREDITS: Shannon Manning very kindly gave me permission to post images from his website for this article.  PLEASE DO NOT RE-POST WITHOUT MANNING’S PERMISSION! You can view many more of his wonderful works on his online gallery. Individual source pages for the images I chose to post here are: Endangered; 219 N. Delaware; Hill and Pond; Penny Crusher; Instant Report; Ezra’s Sunday; and Sanctuary.  

Artdog Quote of the Week

Art takes courage. Anyone who’s ever created something and exposed it to the view of others knows how scary it can be. But here’s the essential secret of creative work.

IMAGE CREDIT: Here’s more wisdom from the “Wolf-Teeth” blog. Many thanks!

Book Review: Mummies and Murder!

Book Reviewed: The Keepsake (2009)
Available from: Rainy Day Books, or other fine booksellers.
I was pre-sold to love this book.  I mean, mummies and murder!  What about that is not interesting?  I spotted this book on my aunt’s bookshelf when I was visiting last fall, and chose it with positive expectations.  However, I immediately ran into problems with it.
First problem: it starts with a prologue. I generally hate prologues.  I’ve rarely read one I felt delivered information we couldn’t have learned in the story itself. I’ve read so many pointless prologues, that lately  I have to fight to keep an open mind about the skill of the writer, whenever I run into another [expletive deleted] prologue.
Worse, there’s an unnamed, first-person narrator in this [expletive deleted] prologue, and s/he is muttering about fuzzy facts and talking in unspecified time frames.  I hate that.  It was cryptic to the point of I-started-skimming-very-rapidly.  Thank goodness that stuff is done with, when the [expletive deleted] prologue ends.  If it had gone on much longer I would never have finished the book.

Once I got into the story proper, the writing improved dramatically, but then I encountered what I came to think of as the “TV interference.” 

The names are the same, but TV changed things!
One reason I was intrigued to try the book was that it was billed as a “Rizzoli & Isles” novel.  Yep, I watch the show.  It’s not my utter favorite cop drama on TV (too many high-heel foot-chase scenes and long hair not pulled back at crime scenes or the morgue, for two reasons), but I like it enough to have programmed a “series record” command for it on my DVR.
Yeah, I know TV is a different medium and storytelling must be done in different ways, but I was not quite prepared to see exactly how much the TV show has deviated from the original books.  I kind of expected the characters to seem . . . familiar.
So I’m reading along, and–wait.  Frost is blond? And married?  
Jane has a husband and a daughter?  
Maura’s in love with a priest??  Yikes!
Who are these people?  The names sound familiar, the setting is Boston . . . but woah.  Okay: not the TV show at all.  Major reset!  But once I stopped expecting them to be people with the same names that I knew from TV, I found the characters likable and interesting.
So, all right, I had some problems getting started.  But once I got past the [expletive deleted] prologue and the character-cognitive-dissonance, what about the story?  
Mummification: part of a unique M.O.!
Actually, that was pretty cool. Good villain, some logical but unexpected plot twists, plus did I mention the combination of mummies and murder?   
I liked Josephine, the murderer’s main “target,” and especially the way she tried to fight back, even when she was at a huge disadvantage.  On the other hand, there were several times when she had maddening blind spots.

I did kind of see the end coming. It followed a  formula that’s become kind of standard, especially on TV, and this wasn’t written long enough ago to be a new approach. I would like for the author to have thought harder about “what if X realizes this, at that point?” to make the denouement take less predictable turns.

But (except for the prologue) it was pretty well written, and quite readable, and the archaeology angle was a lot of fun.  Would I say it was worth the time?  Yeah, I would.  But you probably could skip the prologue, and don’t expect the characters to be much like what you remember from TV!

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to Tess Gerritsen’s Website for the cover image!  The First Seasoon Rizzoli & Isles show poster is courtesy of the “Sylum Clan” Blog.  The photo of the mummy and sarcophagus is from the Dead Media Archive.

Artdog Quote of the Week

Here’s an essential truth of the creative life.  Are you a survivor?

IMAGE CREDIT: Many thanks to the “Wolf-Teeth” blog for this thought and imagery.

Pieces and Previews

Last week I posted a 2013 Portfolio retrospective. This week, as promised, I’m sharing bits, pieces, and first beginnings of my current works-in-progress.

4-column section from a project started in 2012–still not resolved.
Here’s one of my Rosebush pieces-in-progress.
Here are some more Rosebush pieces.
I’m still working on a good background for my Lioness.
This is part of my newest series in progress. It’s so new, I don’t really have a name for it.
This is another piece of yet-to-be-named imagery in the process of being colored.

So now you’ve had a look inside my “art parts” box. I’m really hoping before the year is out you’ll see some finished versions!

IMAGE CREDITS: All of these images are my own, of Jan S. Gephardt works-in-progress.  If for some reason you should decide you want to re-post them, please include an attribution and link back.  Thanks!

Artdog Quote of the Week

As we begin the new year, perhaps we all should bear this thought in mind.

IMAGE CREDIT: Many thanks to the “Survival of the Fittest” blog for this blending of thought and image.

My 2013 Retrospective of Finished Pieces

I’ve been doing my annual review as we mark the turn-of-the-year, and one of the things I changed this year was assembling a “2013 Portfolio” for myself.  I enjoyed looking at it, and thought you might enjoy a look back as well.

Hippo at Home was the first piece I finished in 2013. This is the old mat.
Border Rose used part of the materials from Rose Dance.
White Clematis I is one of the Clematis Variations collection.
Purple Clematis is another of the collection.
White Clematis Panel rounds out the Clematis Variations collection.

Ann’s Hat Tag was a personal project.
Nine-Part Herbal Fantasy-Light Cycle was the final piece I finished in 2013.

I also had many works-in-progress that I did not manage to finish. Paper sculpture takes a long time, especially when it is as big as the 15″X15″ square Nine-Part Herbal Fantasy.  Next week I plan to produce a “Pieces and Previews” post that shows a few of those.

IMAGE CREDITS: Need I mention that these images are all my own artwork? If you wish to repost them, please do so with attribution and a link back. Thanks!

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