Month: January 2015

books i’ve read, 2014

I was very disappointed with my reading efforts this year. Five novels and a handful of single comic issues? I can do better.

But maybe I’m being too hard on myself. I actually read a lot this year.

I read news articles every day in my efforts to keep up with what’s happening in the US and to better understand Australia’s political and cultural landscape (there were many articles on international news as well). I read countless blog entries on Jezebel, Cracked, and Lifehacker (many were actually very informative and insightful). I also read two excellent long-form articles– The Overprotected Kid (via The Atlantic) and The Strange Tale of the North Pond Hermit (via GQ) that I highly recommend.

People get too hung up on what counts as reading, myself included. My husband reads the newspaper at least once a week and finishes dozens of comic books each year, and yet people don’t consider him a reader. I don’t think he even considers himself a reader. But maybe he should. Maybe it’s time for us recognize that so-called “light reading”– the kind that comes from pages other than books– is still important reading. There’s still a lot to be learned, and it often leads to reading books.

So, without further ado, here is the list of the book-reading I completed in 2014. Though it is in no way more significant than all the other items I read throughout the year.

  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • Free Comic Book Day issues
    • The New 52: Future’s End #0 Special Edition
    • Guardians of the Galaxy
    • Archie Digest
    • Rocket Raccoon
    • Bongo Comics Free-For-All!
    • All You Need is Kill
    • Raising a Reader!
    • 2000 A.D.
  • One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson
  • Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (reread)
  • 11/22/63 by Stephen King

Best Book:
This is a toss up between Gone Girl and Dark Places. Gillian Flynn has quickly become one of my favorite fiction writers, and I honestly can’t decide which novel I liked most. What the two have in common is that Flynn manages to make the reader care about some really unlikable protagonists. Her characters are incredibly flawed, but you can’t help rooting for them. (I also highly recommend the movie version of Gone Girl. Flynn wrote the screenplay, so it is incredibly true to the book. It also has some excellent performances.)
Worst Book:
There really wasn’t anything I read this year that I hated. The ending of 11/22/63 was a tad disappointing and the story dragged on horribly in parts, but overall I did enjoy the story. Not sure if I’ll be seeking out any other Stephen King books based on this one. I think I’ll stick with the film and television versions of his work.
I also reread To Kill a Mockingbird for a book club, and wasn’t as impressed with it as I was when I was first introduced to it in high school. It’s still a great novel, I was just expected more.
Looking forward to in 2015:
I have so much reading to do, that I purposely asked for as many non-book items as possible for Christmas so I can clear my shelves and Kindle app. Still, my husband got me Amy Poehler’s memoir, Yes Please, which I’m excited to start. I also have two Erik Larson non-fiction books to finally get to. We’ll see how successful I am this year, given that I’ve also resolved to focus more on my design and art work, dedicate more time to this blog, and will be continuing the movie review blog.

It’s going to be a busy year!

on drawing again

pastel still lifestill life | pastel, charcoal and gesso on kraft paper

I used to draw a lot. Majoring in illustration meant it was a priority for four years of my life. I spent hours in the classroom and at home drawing and painting everything: hands, feet, still lives, nude models, cartoons, doodles. It was necessary practice, and often part of my homework.

After graduation creating art fell by the wayside. After moving I simply did not have the space to set up a studio. Drawing and painting can be very messy and often means leaving that mess out for several days (or weeks) while the piece comes together. Creating in a shared space is incredibly difficult, so it became a lot easier to work on less space consuming projects. Graphic and web design became my new passions. Each project was nicely contained to my hard drive, I could work virtually anywhere with zero cleanup required.

I absolutely love working digitally, but it often feels like something was missing. I’ve always loved working with my hands, creating something physical that can be touched and held afterward feels special. A second move meant I now had studio space, and I started crafting and scrapbooking to fill this void. But I rarely picked up a pencil or charcoal. I started paintings, but never got past the underdrawing. My passion for drawing and painting wasn’t there.

Late last year my husband signed us up for a one day drawing workshop at the Art Gallery of NSW. He also likes to draw cartoons, and thought this would be a fun activity for us to try.

Drawing again for the first time in over five years was strange. I felt stiff at first. My hand wasn’t doing what my mind wanted it to. After ten minutes I realized I was holding the pencil wrong. Suddenly I could hear every drawing and painting instructor I had in college saying in unison, “Draw from the wrist!” Things went smoother from there, but I was reminded of another saying a professor used to often say, “Everyone has 10,000 bad drawings in them. You have to keep practicing until you get to the good ones.” I was still in the under 10k range.

Maybe I’m being a little hard on myself. I do rather like my pastel still life. Once I started holding the tools correctly the drawing came together well. I especially loved the colors, though my use of compliments outed me as someone who’s “done this before” to my fellow workshop goers. And the smell of workable fixative being sprayed took me right back to my college days.

Will I keep drawing? I’d like to. I have the space now, I just need to set about reacquiring all the tools I left behind when I moved to Australia. Getting my hands dirty again was a lot more fun than I expected it to be. I also have many ideas floating around in my head for drawings and paintings, many gift ideas. I guess my 2015 resolution is to get on that. Christmas is less than 12 months away…