Category: inspirations

A Hobby Away from My Hobby

Well, it seems I can not avoid this little text box any more! I’ve been so holed up away from human contact in order to press ahead on some deadlines that I’ve sorely neglected my little corner of cyberspace.

In truth, I’ve also been taking time out for myself to visit with old friends and break the shackles from the computer and art desk for a few evenings. Sometimes we just need to unplug and get out of the darkness, especially for work-at-homers who don’t get to socialize with others as much. Sitting in the dark on the computer or art desk, while effective for producing a vampire-like pallor, is not conducive to good health in the long run!

It’s become even more apparent to me lately the subtleties of switching from an art hobbyist to a professional work-at-home type. Not only is there the lack of a social workplace, but there is also the fact that if I’m not careful, I’ll work myself into the ground! It’s an easy thing for me to think up things that need to be done and much harder to sit and relax with idle hands. I’ve always been a bit of a work-o-holic and I can guarantee those that think working at home is nothing but laziness and fun will think differently if left to their own devices! If you don’t work, you don’t get paid, you don’t get your next job, and you don’t have anyone to blame but yourself.

In order to keep myself sane these days, I’ve turned to a ‘hobby away from my hobby’. With drawing and painting my main job, I find myself sadly less willing to paint and draw on my own personal projects. The urge is still there, but the exhaustion can prevent me from really putting my all into personal pieces. I’d rather not work on them at all if I can’t put as much love and attention into them as I do for my professional work!

And that is where my old love of handicrafts has arrived to save the day! I was an avid friendship bracelet maker, a knitter, a pop-up book maker, and a sculptor back before painting and drawing consumed my life. If I could not create 2D things for pleasure, than I can create 3D things to appease the muse! This has led to a flurry of new jewelry experiments and a renewed interest in leathercrafting. I love to experiment and learn new things and it feels so wonderful to have an outlet that gets me away from the computer and using my hands in a more physical manner.

(The morbidly curious can go see some of my latest handicrafts here)

More importantly, I enjoy the change of pace as I have not quite gotten used to the monotony that is sleeping, working, and relaxing all in the single room that is my studio and bedroom!

So if you can’t find me at my art desk or computer these days, look for me in the beading aisles of Joanns and Michaels where I am happily immersed in saving my own sanity!

How about all of you? Work-at-Homers, how do you deal with the monotony of home life? What are your other hobbies that keep you from going insane? Or are you already insane and hoping for a change of pace?

Top 10 Movies that Make Me Want to Draw

With so much going on lately, I’ve had little energy to write expansive blogs. My apologies for this! After I finish the last chapter of my book, I hope to come back to it with more informative blogging sessions getting back to some of the artists and technology topics discussed previously. I am also open for topic suggestions, if you have anything you’d like me to ponder about in the meantime.

For now, I leave you with a list of movies that make me want to draw. I’ve never been one to work in complete silence so there are always movies or music playing in the background. These particular movies give me a twinge of creativity, a tiny ache to draw something boundless.

1. What Dreams May Come
Much like Dante of the Divine Comedy, Robin William’s character embarks on a quest through the underworld to redeem the soul of his wife. I’ve been leaning a lot on this movie of late with its glimpses of shimmering heavenly cities, libraries floating amidst underworld rivers, and thought provoking philosophy. Every time I watch this movie, I find something new in the rich canvas of its imagery that I never saw before. Tear jerker warning for this one!

2. The Cell
The director of this movie admitted it really was like one big psychedelic music video. Using state-of-the-art technology, a child therapist ventures into the mind of a killer in order to find the location of a victim who may yet be alive! Though disturbing, there’s something about the mix of dark, gritty, and deeply symbolic imagery in this one that awes and fascinates me. The soundtrack to this one is also amazing with slight eastern undertones

3. Legend
I feel this movie is a prerequisite for many contemporary fantasy artists! With its classical tale of a beauty being taken to the Underworld, ethereal unicorns, and goblins who speak in couplets, what more could a fantasy fan want for imagery? The UK release of this film sports a completely different soundtrack and ending, but I still prefer the US version with its surreal soundtrack by Tangerine Dream. Oh yeah, and Tim Curry as the Devil! C’mon! (Wow and check out that epic trailer narration!)

4. Bram Stoker’s Dracula
The Francis Ford Coppola version. My favorite version of the classic vampire’s tale (and possibly my favorite Vampire movie of all time). With the wardrobe of Eiko Ishioka and heavy influence from the Symbolist movement of art, this movie is just mind-blowing sensory overload. Even more impressive is the fact they used classic film splicing and layering effects with no cg. Add to that Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins and you have a combination for win in my book!

5. Brotherhood of the Wolf
Gaudy sensuality, over the top action sequences, a Native American dude who inexplicably knows oriental martial arts. I can forgive this movie its flaws for its gorgeous wardrobe, interesting plot twists, and wonderfully surreal soundtrack. I love Monica Belluci’s wardrobe especially. Dark lace, razor sharp fans, corsets, and tarot cards. Mmm.

6. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust
From Ninja Scroll to X, I’ve always had a liking for the work of character designer and animation director Yutaka Minowa. Never are his designs more stunning and gothic than they are in Bloodlust. From D’s adornments to Leila’s combat jumpsuit, this movie is a character designers feast! Where else can you get a werewolf with a face in his stomach, a man who attacks with shadows, and a vampire hunting gang all in one movie? If you don’t watch it for the plot, watch it for the visuals.

7. Willow
I’m perhaps dating myself with this movie on the list. I love it for the same reason I love Legend, it’s fantastical visuals that aren’t quite sugary sweet fantasy. A group of unlikely heroes must protect a baby from an evil queen. Roguish heroes, wry humor, monsters, sorcery and more! It’s a fun and inspiring ride. Probably still my favorite thing that George Lucas has ever done, even over Star Wars.

8. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers
This movie needs no introduction. I list Two Towers here because it is my favorite of the trilogy. The biggest treat for me in this one, visually, is the distinctive sets of armor we see in the Elves, Goblins & Uruk Hai, and the Men of Rohan. There’s also a more down to earth plot here in the epic fight of Helm’s Deep. It was far more epic with its human tale of fear than the epic fallout of Return of the King. I toss this movie on whenever I’m in the mood for martial inspiration.

9. Pan’s Labyrinth
Guillermo del Toro at his best. A little girl named Ofelia entertains flights of fantasy in the old labyrinth near her home, where she and her mother are prisoners to the whims of her mother’s lover, a violent military Captain. I love this movie for the way it walks a fine line between reality and fantasy. The creatures are never unbelievable, even if we are left questioning Ofelia’s hold on reality as she ventures deeper into forbidden places. The ‘Pale Man’ gives me the chills every time! There’s a fairy tale magic blended with the harsh realities of real life. It’s that blend that makes it the most compelling to my art muses.

10. Labyrinth
Another movie that needs no introduction. I grew up with its songs at the height of Jim Henson’s creativity. The Masquerade dream sequence,especially, gets my artistic gears going!

Wow, this entry didn’t turn out short at all did it? It’s amazing after compiling this how many of my inspiring movies deal with descending into otherworlds, underworlds, or dreams, though I am far from surprised by this revelation!

So what are your favorite inspiring movies? What gets your creative juices flowing?

Of Avatar, the Future of Animation, & Uncanny Valleys

Do you remember Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within? You know, that movie with the computer animated people and glowy spirits? I remember thinking when I saw Spirits Within that there was something missing as far as the emotion of the characters and the makeup of their world, though I enjoyed the movie on its own. It was all very shiny and glowy, yes, but there was just the slightest lack of true emotion thanks to the boundaries of technology at the time. They hadn’t quite crossed the uncanny valley. Hair was still clumpy and unnaturally flowing, facial muscles had the expression capabilities of plasticine puppets.

And then James Cameron’s Avatar (not to be confused with Avatar: The Last Airbender) came along. Rather than parroting other reviews, I will say this. I enjoyed it much and did not go in expecting an overly impressive plot. I went for sweeping bio-luminescent vistas and the fascinating blue tribal cat people. It is not a triumph of storytelling, but rather of animation. When the main character is walking in his Avatar body feeling the soil between his toes for the first time without the aid of a wheelchair, I could feel that sense of euphoria. I could see the smile lines on Jake Sully’s face, the intake of breath, the natural gorgeous flowing hair that didn’t look stuck on like a texture mesh hat.

For as complicated as human emotions are, subtlety is key in making an animated character, and yes even works of art, feel real to us. Emotions are not merely the smoldering of someone’s eyes with lust/love/greed/anger, but a combination of subtle movements, body language, posture, breaths, and the numerous tiny muscles in the face that combine to form a smile, a catlike hiss, or the smothering tension of someone overwhelmed by hatred and grief.

I came out of the movie wondering if some day I might be able to see my own stories and characters alive in animation. I’ve certainly thought this before, but never had any faith that animation could make them look tangible and human so much so that I could reach out and touch them instead of merely think of them as moving caricatures on a 3D animated canvas. (2D animation is a whole other other discussion on its own).

This movie also represents a leap in respect for the computer animated method of film making, in my opinion. Where once it may have been considered a fantastical fancy for children’s entertainment, or merely the canvas for Frodo and Sam to journey through, now it is something viable, monetarily and for serious storytelling. Computer animation can be main stage and main actors for a movie rather than merely pretty background elements or distant cg doubles engaged in minor background activities or stunts too dangerous for the real actors or stuntmen.

I, for one, am looking forward to where this style of storytelling and animation takes us next!

Image from

Sally Forth into the New Year!

After a weekend of new years reverie, I return to this journal with renewed vigor and the usual contemplation this time of change brings about. It started out with a meme on DeviantART:

2009 A Year of Art in Review by =ladydove7 on deviantART

I started off this past year with a lot of uncertainty about where I wanted to go with my art. I knew the kinds of things I wanted to draw, but not how I would be able to get there or where to take my first step. In February, I was just coming off graduation from SCAD and nearly a full year of creative stifling in which I did hardly any creative writing or art. The previous year was not a waste, however, as I learned so much about advertising and the business side of things that I was bursting with ideas for my creative half once I finally got the time to sit down and think things through for myself.

I wanted to go into more narrative works this year, but due to other prospects, ended up venturing into the soothing pastels of angelic territory for an upcoming project. With a year of possibilities ahead of me, I’m full of anticipation to see how current efforts pay off and also to really push Angelic Shades beyond merely a pipe dream and into a successful business venture!

Here’s the short list of my New Years Resolutions:

* Finish the Rapunzel Project

* Start researching for the Archangels Series (and the subsequent Fallen Archangels Series)

* Hit the art fair and convention market HARD! I’m due for more personal appearances

* Make time for exercise before I turn into a giant McNugget

* Read more books, starting with the rest of the Kushiel’s Legacy series

* Start a sketch group (or at least have one night for doodling and research out of the week)

Things I have no intention of changing in the next year (in response to Hayley’s list):

* Drinking green tea and Godiva coffee. This routine has become regular muse bait.

* Chatting with friends online & networking. Some of the most inspiring people in my life live oceans away.

* Being obsessed with the devil in the details, for he is a wily beast I must pursue! My work wouldn’t be the same without him.

* Researching when I should be sleeping (aka. MOAR research!). Let’s face it, I couldn’t stop doing this if I tried.

* Playing video games and watching cartoons. I’ll never grow up! I’m a Toys R Us kid!

*Ignoring the unconstructive naysayers. Creativity & creative businesses cannot survive without constant enthusiasm, positivity, and being willing to face the unknown!

Developing Personal Symbolism

So you’ve gotten pretty good at your medium of choice and have even collected a few good commissions under your belt. Confidence is slowly seeping in as a personal library of images begins to grow from a collection of sketches and half-formed thoughts into a gallery of images that one can truly be proud of.

And…what now?

I feel like I’m at this point lately with my artistic evolution. I’m proud of a select few of my pieces and gaining the confidence to start marketing myself as a ‘professional’ on art show forms, but I still feel like I’m not quite there yet. There’s a key ingredient missing and I’m still in the process of discovering what it is through trial and error. Lately I’ve been turning back to my roots, to the artists that made me want to draw in the past and the artists that keep me inspired to draw each and every day. They show me a glimpse of the worlds I could create and the emotions I could convey if I could just get myself there.

What is it about their art that I enjoy so much? Why am I drawn to them? Why do their pieces feel ‘finished’ to me and why do mine don’t? I turn to artists who are my contemporaries. Meeting them at shows and admiring their work is an extra kick in the butt for inspiration that makes each convention a joy. I see the work of folks like Matt Hughs, Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, and Tom Fleming that strike a deeper chord with me because of the dreamlike, and oftentimes dark ethereal quality of their work. What do they all have in common, I wonder?

And it hits me. Their work has a deep core rooted in symbolism and heavy with emblems reflective of their own stylistic choices. The root that grows from mother to fetus suggesting a piercing tactile bond. Alighting swarms of butterflies indicative of the freed soul. The bleeding apple representative of Eve’s sin. Each artist spins a tapestry of symbols unique to their own choice of colors, emblems, and compositional style.

I won’t say this is key to success for all artists, but I do know that the presence of a system of symbolism really draws me to the work of most of the artists on my favorites list. I’ve seen the embryos of symbols creeping up in my own work. The climbing, barren vines blooming with white roses at the angel’s presence. Candles burning in the dark where forgotten ideas lay undiscovered or discarded. There are so many fragments of symbols I don’t quite understand and haven’t yet fully given birth to yet. If I keep drawing and painting and observing, I’ll find them waiting in nooks and crannies of my perception, some obvious and some not.

But I suppose finding one’s own system of personal symbolism is like finding Enlightment, a fleeting perfect thing that will never last as long as the mind keeps searching for meaning in everything.

And how boring would it be if our symbols never changed or evolved at all?

Why I Wanted to be a Warrior Princess

A virile man with glistening muscles and an impeccable tan wields a gleaming sword over his head that rightly should weigh more than he does. But he can lift it because he’s the hero. At his feet, an equally athletic woman scantily clad in chainmail and still shrugging off the bindings of her rescue appears surprised with one hand lifted to her mouth in a gesture of delicate fear.

This is your classic fantasy. Conan the Barbarian, Heavy Metal, what we might call high fantasy, sword and sorcery, or fantastic realism…and it’s an image that’s become one eternally linked to what makes fantasy Fantasy.

I grew up watching Schwarzenegger’s “Conan the Barbarian” over and over till my parents were sick of it. And yes, I even watched “Red Sonja” and “Super Girl”, all the sparkly spinoffs of the boy fantasy stuff made for girls that was just plain 80’s horrible. But it wasn’t till shows like She-Ra and Xena: Warrior Princess came along that I decided in my pubescent wisdom that I wanted to be a warrior princess.

Why settle myself to pink ruffles (or a chainmail bikini) and waiting to be saved when I could be like Xena and fix my own dislocated shoulder with a quick shove into a nearby wall? Here was a fantasy figure I could latch onto. She was smart, independent, as good a fighter as any Conan, but sensual and caring when she needed to be without ever losing her edge.

There was just something missing from the chainmail bikini-clad women of popular fantasy. They were a plot device, an archetype designed to make the hero whole. But why be a device when you could be the hero? It appealed to that independent streak in me that admired the ability to take action for one’s self. Xena still saw her share of sexy outfits, but through it all, she defined herself as a well-rounded character who took command of a central plot for countless seasons of storytelling. But many people like to watch her only for the outfits and her sexy looks, since we all know sex sells, that’s why many adult sites are really popular now a days, and some people even go to sites as to find the type of adult material they like.

Nowadays, I wonder what we think of when we think of fantasy and the figures we wish we could be. What art comes to mind? Vallejo, Bell, and Frazetta are some of the big few who formed our classic foundations, but who will form the archetypes of our future? What images will strike us and inspire future generations to leap about the living room in raucous games of Pretend? Will we just keep building on these archetypes or will they ever be replaced entirely?

Will it be sparkling vampires? Half-demon antiheroes? Quick-witted thieves with hidden streaks of morality and guilds at their backs?

(While dragons, it seems, are impervious to the passage of time, as far as popularity goes).

Only time will tell, I suppose. Meanwhile, I will enjoy my Xena reruns and sharpen my knives. X-actos will have to do till the time comes that I fulfill my childhood aspirations of being a warrior princess.

How about yourselves? What figures comes to mind for you when people say ‘Fantasy’? What fantastical figure did you want to be like growing up? Those of you with children, who do your kids pretend to be like?

Image by Earl Norem

Vicarious Roguism

With all the temptation to join in the current MMORPG’s and my recent acquisition of Dragon Age: Origins, I’ve been pondering much about something I always find myself doing. For so many years now, I’ve loaded up that stereotypical fantasy game with its promises of epic diversions and crafted an identity from the depths of my imagination confined by pixels and stats. I’ve named the blank sheet of a character some elegant, yet completely impractical name, defined my identity through them with the idealistic traits I find myself drawn to artistically (long hair, fair eyes, athletic build).

When it came down to what job this fantasy personality might be, I’ve almost always settled on the class Rogue (or various incarnations, including but not limited to: Thief, Gambler, Assassin, and Corsair). Sure, I’ve played other classes just to see what they’re like, but this is the one that always felt closest to home.

Why is that? Do I secretly want to sneak into places I’m not allowed to be in? Do I suppress the urge to steal purses when citizens walk by? Better yet, do I somehow want to be an outlaw? Do those of you who play Warriors or Paladins find that this reflects your own personality as far as being honest and straightforward? Mage-players, do you find that this reflects something about your proclivity for intellectual thought and logic? Stereotypically speaking, of course.

While I don’t profess to be an outlaw, I’ve always been intrigued by forbidden places. There’s a house on 18th street in Midtown Atlanta that’s been abandoned for a few years and I can’t resist the urge to peek inside when the door is open. It was once a bonsai studio and I can make out the tall studio windows, broken glass, and husks of hanging plants still inside. I’ve never gone in, however, and I’m ceaselessly intrigued whenever I walk by it.

If anything, it’s the Rogue’s tendency for moral adaptability that encourages me to enjoy them most. I’ve never been one to settle for a black and white view of the world. There’s always a different slant to any debate, a possibility to see between the lines. This also links to my love of characters, particularly villains, who can gain our sympathy because they have strangely logical and sympathetic reasons for doing what they’re doing. By going Rogue, I like the ability to keep people guessing and to play the Trickster. Tack on a healthy dose of cleverness and you have traits I admire and would go so far as to say reflect my own personality (if you subtract two parts air-headedness and one part inability to be stealthy).

Funnily enough, I more often than not play the gentleman thief in most RPG games. What this says about me, I don’t quite know. The fact that I also play Elves/half-Elves almost exclusively is an entirely different debate altogether (elegant, aloof, nature-loving, snobbish? Hmmm…future blog topic, methinks).

Maybe it’s no surprise my favorite superhero is Batman, the most Roguish of superheroes and the definitive figure for that shadowy part of ourselves that does what it takes, even if it takes breaking the rules, to bring justice to the world.

But I’ve gone from D&D to Batman all in one post so I think I’ll end this for now.

What class do you play? What do you think this says about you? What fascinates you about any particular fantasy role? I’m dying to know!

Image from Thief 3: Deadly Shadows

Evolution of a Series – The Christmas Project

To point out a strange fact, I have always been a sort of ‘one shot’ scene artist. In the past, I was prone to drawing character portraits or specific scenes with no sequence, all art that could be digested at once with little baring on the other images I might draw of the same characters. Now, it seems, a natural evolution of my artistic development has been a tendency to start thinking in themes, or series.

From a business standpoint, series are more marketable with the appeal of being able to buy a ‘set’ or to identify with that part of a series that represents you (ie. people love a birthstone series because that means there’s something personal involved in the symbolism of a series that they can get for themselves or gift to a loved one). From an artist’s standpoint, I’m enjoying the challenge of presenting a set of art with consistent quality that utilizes strong symbols and the potential to develop art with evolving symbolism.

My earliest attempt at such an undertaking has been a project that started out with indistinct roots in 2006. I was short on cash for the holidays and aching at the thought that I would be unable to provide any of the gifts that my loved ones deserved. I did, however, have some metallic cardstock and color pencils to my name. And so, in a torrent of sleepless nights and sketching, the first of the ongoing Christmas Project began.

Christmas 2006 – Angel of Noel

I never have been one for the traditional images of Santa, reindeer, and nativities for Christmas. For me, these images feel so overused and have lost the impact that I think more primal symbols such as holly, poinsettia, and the deep rich greens and reds of winter festivals have. The first of this series came alive with the realization that poinsettia flowers come in a range of simple, but striking colors that make for an elegant backdrop for this angel, who I wanted to channel maternal beauty and nurturing with a non-denominational appeal. She wears the veil of a holy maiden and the holly garland of a celebrator, her eyes closed as she honors the quiet elegance of the flowers and candlelight. I was also inspired by the Mexican legend behind poinsettia which speaks of two children who did not have the money to honor baby Jesus at their church’s nativity. Being poor, they could only manage to pick weeds to decorate the manger. The other children chided them terribly, but the weeds burst into flames that turned into a beautiful red plant, creating the beautiful miracle of poinsettia, which are known as “the flame leaf” or “flower of the holy night”.

Christmas 2007 – Holiday Nouveau

The next in the series was my first concerted effort to pay homage to one of my favorite masters of illustration, Alphonse Mucha. My favored holly and poinsettia are present, but portrayed in the decorative style of the art nouveau movement, which gives everything the sleek decorative flare that only crisp lines and soft color can. Snow-laden evergreen branches have worked their way in as well, as I’ve always enjoyed the pristine tranquility of snow hinting at the green boughs underneath. So peaceful and reminiscent of my days in Colorado, where snow covered everything, a rare sight around these parts. Interestingly enough, I discovered the difference between my style of anatomy and Mucha’s shows itself in the fact that the shoulders of his ladies are less muscled and more sloping with rounded subtle chins. It seems I do so love my athletic swimmer’s build when working with the female figure!

Christmas 2008 – Advent Angel

Another angel took flight in 2008, where I found inspiration in the amalgamation of symbols from the lovely birdflowers and birthstone series by Brenda Lyons and Jessica Douglas, who both struck a chord with me in combining the flowers and birthstones for each month with an angelic figure. This is perhaps the most symbol-heavy of the Christmas series with its original purpose serving as the first of what was to be a birthstone angel series. The Blue Topaz and Turquoise stones of December took form in the angel’s dual-toned wings. In the window behind her, motifs combining the flowers of December, the Narcissus, holly, and poinsettia, spiral around the center with narcissus growing at her feet. She also wears the crown of Saint Lucia, a saint celebrated in Scandinavian nations (and others) by a feast day near the winter solstice where young girls dress with a candlelit crown and bring sweets in a procession. A running theme in this series hearkens back to the idea of Winter as a gray season where the pleasures of good company and a fire stave off the cold. I also can’t imagine a Christmas without the presence of white candles and lights, one of my favorite decorative motifs for its simple elegance. However, I’ve decided to scrap this approach as the background feels too open and empty. I am sensing massive stained glass panels in my future!

Christmas 2009 – December’s Window

I loved the window behind the angel in “Advent Angel” too much to let it slip into obscurity, so I decided to feature it prominently in this year’s card, which seems like a paring down of all the things which have come before. I wanted to channel the sense of stillness in winter with the light of celebration, good company, and reverence for the life that lay dormant in the snow. There are no figures but for the cardinal, who thrives even in the gray winters. The window stands as a guide and a portal for all those who might appreciate the meditative feeling of decoration that light and shape can bring us. Again, the motifs of narcissus, poinsettia, and holly figure prominently.

What’s Next?

In keeping with more subtle, non-traditional symbols, I hope to work in more of the feeling of warmth in company or perhaps even more traditional, not widely known versions of Saint Nick. Christmas is a surprisingly varied and symbol-rich holiday and I hope to keep this series going for as long as I am able! It will be a challenge to see if I can continue to make each one unique as the years go on.

If you like these images and want to use them for your own celebrations, greeting cards and post cards are available at my Zazzle shop. I hope you’ve enjoyed this walk through the creative process and that you’ll join me for future looks into the creative thought behind other series in the works.

May your holiday seasons be filled with joy and light!

Your Wings Await

A fresh can of Dr. Pepper (or two), comfortable pants, a late night muffin, and a bottle of painkiller for the eyestrain — this was at one time my regimen for playing MMORPGS (Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games) back in college. Gone are those days where I could survive on 4 hours sleep and function on chocolate muffins and cheeseburgers alone. (For the curious, I was an Elvaan named Zhele with plans to become a master thief-ranger. I’ll let you figure out the MMO). Nowadays, there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day nor the luxurious income (or excuse) to drop a monthly fee on a game.

And yet, it’s times like these where I miss that finger on the pulse of adventure and fantasy with friends in our own little personal epic. A new MMO called Aion recently released and I can’t help but feel that it was made for me. Extensive character customization, Assassins, crafting, warring angels & demons (of a sort), and your very own wings? I get brain twitches just looking at the beautiful videos and artwork for this game. I am totally sold (and have been since I saw the early concept art). Maybe, just maybe, I’ll work up the extra time and funds to play it? Can I brave being a n00b all over again?? We’ll see what happens once I finish my current huge project.

So why is it that we like MMO’s? Is it that feeling of being part of something larger than ourselves? I always got a warm and fuzzy feeling from saving lower level people from mobs that overwhelmed them or helping out a random stranger. Perhaps it’s the element of surprise? Nothing says ‘surprise’ better than stumbling upon a giant friendly looking sheep, only to learn that it’s actually a Tremor Ram that WILL kill you in one hit. Or how about hanging around and meeting great folks from around the world? I used to enjoy virtual boat rides where I could play virtual craps or telling jokes while we waited. I miss that spontaneity and bonding with others, a very tempting aspect of games, especially when considering the fact so many of us are work-at-home types who rarely get to see the outside world!

There’s always the fear I’ll get sucked in and never see the sunlight, but I’m not getting sunlight now so that might not be too incredibly detrimental as long as I learn to venture out from my hidey hole every now and again. Remembering how to socialize properly with others in real life is key!

So what are your memories of MMO’s? Do you play? What’s your favorite one? Why is it that we love them so much?

Image Source: Aion Aiva Wallpaper

Beautiful Monstrosities

“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.”
– Edgar Allan Poe, The Raven

I have once seen a vision of a woman stripped of her hopes and dreams, left with nothing but the purist of suffering and endless weeks of solitude. They marked her with the holly of hopelessness and tattooed her with the symbols of shame. When she was at that abyss’ edge between wishing for death and longing for peace, they took her from her wooden cage. Singing songs of prayer, they nailed her hands upon the floor. There, she dreams, dreams forever more.

But the dreaming has ended and the nightmares have begun, for the Sleeping Priestess will not lie in peace.

If you don’t know this scene, than you haven’t played Fatal Frame 3, one of my favorite video games of all time. You may not know this about me, but I am an avid fan of horror video games (not survival horror, but psychological horror). Silly, I know, considering I tend to draw such pristine and shiny things as angels. It’s around this time of year that I whip out my collection of Silent Hill and Fatal Frame games and let the shimmering worlds of nightmares, dripping walls, and deep, disturbing folklore soak into my bones.

I wonder sometimes why we are drawn to such images of the grotesque? Why on earth would I enjoy a game where the walls crawl with something that looks disturbingly like entrails or the ghost of a poor woman who was once sacrificed lurches inexorably towards me with an accursed touch? There is an inescapable artistry to it that disturbs and fascinates me. Enthralling are these games like Silent Hill that can tell the story of ones dreams and nightmares affecting the real world for one like myself who has had plenty of dreams and nightmares plaguing them in the wee hours.

I don’t think it’s too much of a leap to ask ourselves the same question about macabre art and literature. From the works of Tim Burton and Neil Gaiman to some of the more grotesque perversions of Dali and the Surrealists, how can we look at things which are not considered ‘beautiful’ and find them fascinating? It seems against common sense, but I could stare at Dali’s work for hours pondering what tormented dreams he must have had, or curl up with Edgar Allan Poe’s stories and delight in all the images of masks and swirling dancers falling to the floor that Masque of the Red Death conjures for me.

The macabre is not for everyone, but there is certainly an audience for it, including myself. I find I am particularly fascinated by those stories that speak of the human spirit’s endearing ability to affect the living, even after death, or that terrifying potential of the mind to create illogical nightmares that feel so real while we’re having them. Much of the artwork and writing I have done which is not so well known are those which depict lucid dreams and nightmares, which somehow easily bridge into horror more than anything else. It’s a fascination with dreams and the mood of dreaming that really attract me to certain types of horror. I’m also a sucker for a good mystery, which horror stories of the psychological nature generally center around.

That’s my theory, anyways. I’m curious to know what yours are? Do you have a penchant for the macabre? Or are you left wondering why on earth anyone would enjoy such a thing?

Share with me your dark little secrets and remember to have a safe and spooky Halloween!

Image by Tecmo Ltd.