Category Archives: family

Beauty of Cantopop

Growing up we listened to a lot of Cantonese music from the 70s-90s due to my parents refusing to listen to contemporary English music (except for oldies from the 60s, that was acceptable). A few years ago I confessed that I loved Sam Hui music to a friend. He told me I was an old fashion person because a lot Cantopop music has moved on with the rest of the world into dance and hip hop.

Every since China took back Hong Kong in 1997, there has been more demand for Mandarin products than Cantonese. However, in my opinion, Cantonese entertainment still reigns supreme as the writing styles in TV/movies are mature and always keep the audiences watching for the next plot twist. In China, the industry is still “new” compared to Hong Kong and maybe I’ll get addicted to something in Mandarin, but it hasn’t happened yet. Sadly there used to be over 300 films a year coming out of Hong Kong, and now there is only 30 as all the money is in China.

Regardless, an article in the South China Morning Post explains why Cantonese is still such a great language. (quote from article: “seng gau char siu ho gor seng nay”, which literally means “better to have given birth to a piece of barbecued pork than you”. )

chines barbecue pork
amazingribs.com Chinatown Char Siu

A lot of the music my dad liked to listen to ranged from very calm songs about waiting for someone (English lyrics to Danny Chan – 等Wait) or funny ones about the common man getting ripped off by the boss (English lyrics to Sam Hui – 半斤八兩 Half a catty, eight taels).

Lately I’ve been listening to this music again and it makes me cry because I remember sitting bored in the living room with the family while watching the horrible music videos of these songs on tv. A lot of Cantonese tv was family oriented and after dinner we would all sit down to watch tv and eat fruit. I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait to leave the house for life to start. Now I finally understand the longing and nostalgia of times gone past because people can’t be brought back from the dead.

Anyhow, I wanted to share  a few Cantopop songs via YouTube to those interested in trying out a new type of music. Other than the melodies being catchy, the lyrics are well written and usually the performers had great voices. There was less focus on “packaging” versus talent. Many of these legendary singers have died or retired. A few of them are still around and are still doing well. I don’t listen to much new Cantopop anymore unless they are title songs to tv series but these oldies are always welcomed in my home!

Sam Hui – 半斤八兩 Half a catty, eight taels (1976)English lyrics here, about the common man always getting the short end of the stick!

We are a bunch of working guys Working as slaves for money for life

Leon Lai – 愿你今夜提房距 Hope You Will Not Leave Tonight (1993)English lyrics here. This was the theme song to the TVB series The Legendary Ranger, science fiction series with aliens and a kick ass bodyguard (Faye Wong)! Leon was my fav of the Four Heavenly Kings!

Hoping you will not leave tonight.
But you have disappeared in such a hurry
to live a life in another world to be with someone else.

Hacken Lee – 红日 Red Sun (1992)English translation here, a great song for any bad day!

the path of life so twisted and winding, I have walked it
when did you start to accompany me on this path, giving me encouragement?
like the red sun, this fire lights up the real me
walking together, we can climb a thousand mountains

Jenny Tseng & Roman Tam – 問誰領風騷 (1987) – couldn’t find English translation, this is the theme song to a Wushu superhero series in ancient China. They both have AMAZING voices!

Anita Mui – Stand By Me (1988) – couldn’t find English translation, this was a thank you song to her fans for standing by her for many years.

Leslie Cheung- 有心人 A Man of Purpose (1996)English Lyrics here. This was the theme song from the gender bending romance movie, Who’s the Woman, Who’s the Man?

Wish I could have yet grown up Look for the one simply by instinct

Danny Chan – 等 Wait (1984)English lyrics here. A really sad and beautiful song about being depressed because a love left.

Wait
Lonesome till deep into the night
The night gradually becomes desolate
The night gradually becomes dusky
Don’t say that you’re the one choosing people
People can also choose you

Sam Hui – Heart of a Loafer (1976) – English translation here, a song that reminds you to be humble and don’t be overly anxious.

If life destines something for you, you will have it in the end
If life destines you never to have it, there is no point forcing it

 

 

 

Advertisements

Diversity Is For The Next Generation

Lately I’ve been asked a lot about why I do what I do by other writers and random people I deliver talks to.

Recently I participated in a panel about The Ghost In The Shell Controversy at Anime North and had originally written initial thoughts here – comparing the movie to a sub-par hamburger. Before the panel started, a fellow panelist whispered, “I’m glad that we have a token Asian on this panel!” Yup, I was the only non-white person on a panel which was about diversity.

Originally I wasn’t sure if we had enough material to fill an hour criticizing this Japanese manga based movie, but the audience filled the air with questions. The audience was very respectful and really wanted to understand why there was a controversy. A few panelists believed that nothing should change and things were fine. It was a bit disappointing, but I thought it was good that they had a forum to voice their opinions.

I was impressed that another panelist said that their issue was that the movie was about an Asian girl who grew up to become a white female robot and they found this horrifying as well as sad. That being Asian was not perfect and the worst! After they said this, black girls in the audience started snapping their fingers in the air!

We were asked again and again why there was a diversity problem in this movie. Finally I blurted out, “The issue is that the Asians in Asia don’t care about the Asians in North America!” An Asian girl approached me at the end and thanked me for that.

The Asian culture has been well established in Asia. But Asians in North America that don’t consider themselves Asians from Asia. This is a new phenomenon. Well, not that new, given the railroads were built in the 1800s and all. The new generations of Asians or “bananas/coconuts” (white on inside, yellow/brown on outside) grew up in a different culture and are outsiders in North America and in Asia. We are discriminated by our ancestors’ culture and in the culture we live in. We aren’t good enough for either sides.

The diversity issue is important to us because we know we don’t want to go back to Asia and want to contribute to the society we live in currently, outside of Asia. We want to share our insights and add to the arts. However, when you are told over and over again that you are not good enough to contribute anything; while being told that yes, you are an equal in society (since you pay taxes), you become angry at the hypocrisy.

“You’ll never be seen as a Canadian,” my father told me once. “People think you are from China.” He was telling me to stop believing that I fit into Canadian society and to accept that there was no equality here. He always thought that I was a naive optimist who dreamed too much. If there is no change, he is correct, we will never be able to fit into society we live in.

The other day I met with some famous Asian Canadian writers to invite them as guests to speak at a future Asian literature conference in Toronto. I had to bring my toddler with me because my husband couldn’t babysit last minute. Anyhow, these two men (both had no kids) were asking me why I was planning a conference when I had a child to take care of. What was my motive? 

I do what I do for the next generation, was my answer, as I held my wiggly toddler who was kicking me in the shin the whole time. He’s half Asian and half Caucasian – he’s not going to fit in anywhere as a halfie (or hybrid as some people tell me). Sometimes I feel guilty because I think life would have been easier for him if he was fully Caucasian. That somehow my Asian blood contaminated his future. I know this stems from an inferiority complex, of being told everyday that you aren’t good enough…Fighting for equality is draining and there are days when I just want to give up.

But, I can’t give up, I don’t have a choice. By bringing more Asian literature and diversity debates into the world, the next generation will not have to fight as much to have their voices heard and perhaps live in a better world we envisioned for ourselves when we were younger.

Heck, to be honest, I don’t want to waste my time debating about being Asian or what not either. Until everyone is on equal footing, these conversations will continue. As I mentioned in one of my talks at Anime North, there are more robots and aliens on book covers than Asian people! Somehow, that doesn’t sit well with me, which is why I speak up as much as I can.

World Building On A Road To Hell

The following are some thoughts which I will be sharing at Anime North on May 27/17 at the World Building for Authors panel.

Recently I was looking up some ideas on what to talk about at this world building when it suddenly occurred to me that I have been doing it every day for almost a year now. Last June, after my father died, I got into a huge fight with my family.

Elderly relatives (especially one over 100) was not allowed to know that he died. People believed that they would die from shock from hearing the news. I was the outlier and eventually caved because of a group vote.

In Asian culture, one is not supposed to share bad news. I am the one banana (yellow on outside, white on inside) who feels that bringing out the truth is the best so solutions can be discussed. Well, in case of death, there is a stigma against any discussion, usually people just don’t talk about it. When an aunt died of cancer last year, I wasn’t allowed to attend the funeral either because I was on maternity leave and weak, therefore, spirits from beyond could harm me. During her time of illness, no one in the extended family knew. She wanted to die in secret and didn’t even want a funeral. When I fought to let people know my father died, I was fighting not just family, but the Asian culture as well.

Anyhow, my father was a devoted family man and visited these elderly relatives every day. After work he would drop by to cut up grapes or prepare other snacks for the ones in nursing homes. For immobile relatives in wheelchairs, he would take the time to drive them out for dim sum and groceries every weekend. Now that he has gone I haven’t been able to fulfill even half of what he did for these people while he was alive.

Since he disappeared, I have been asked questions everyday:

Where is your father? they would ask. Sick, not feeling well, I would say. Why isn’t he visiting? He hurt his leg. What is he eating? I’m cooking and freezing meals (technically true as I was dropping them off at the house to feed mom). Why didn’t he come to my birthday party? He was busy.

Indeed, the road to hell is paved with good intentions!

In the beginning I felt a lot of pain whenever I spoke to them because I felt guilty about lying. I had many breakdowns during the first few months and would start crying after I left the nursing home. None of these elderly people have dementia and their memories are better than mine.

Over time I started to construct a world for them and me in which dad was still alive, but just sick and in bed. We do have relatives that get sick and disappear for twenty years, so this was the most plausible explanation. No one talks about it, pretending that it’s normal, but I suspect it must be due to chronic depression. After I explained that dad is probably experiencing the same thing as the “other relatives” there were less questions.

When an author builds a world for their readers, they have to think about many things. There are physical rules, society structures, the characteristics of their environments, food, clothing, relationships, etc. All the things which we adhere by and use on a daily basis. I have written fantasy and science fiction with such worlds I built for readers. I have edited stories and criticized other authors for breaking their own rules or writing nonsensical science.

Nothing however, compares to the world building I have to do now. It is a fragile world I have constructed because I am not the only author. I have siblings, aunts, cousins and other relatives that have the ability to destroy this world if they say the wrong thing. They usually run from questions asked about my dad and I told them that this is unacceptable. If you all agreed to keep the truth from her, at least keep your end of the bargain with me on speaking about dad as if he was alive.

I can speak all I want, but I know I can not control other people and can only do my part as best as I can. Many people have stopped visiting the nursing home for fear they will say the wrong thing, which is very sad. The only thing I can do is keep up with this mirage the best I can until it breaks.

PTO project live and I’m angry

My latest project is the Pessimist to Semi-Optimist (PTO) Project which battles depression by addressing one negative thought a week throughout 2017 with thinking exercises. While launching this I was working with the editor of Ricepaper magazine to publish an article of lessons learned from deaths in my family entitled Save a Life, Stop Being Asian.

I’ve received lots of positive feedback from friends and family, which is great, but then the trolls among my friends and family came to visit. The internet is the wild west and comments from strangers don’t hurt as much as people whom you interact with daily or have known for many years.

So far I’ve been accused of:

  1. Hating the Asian culture – not true. I am merely pointing out that strengths in our culture become weaknesses during a healthcare crisis. For example, being stoic and protecting face (reputation) at all costs when help is needed. I can not tell you how much energy was wasted fighting face instead of getting medical help.
  2. Victim blaming – not true. When people are really sick sometimes they don’t recognize that they need help (due to mental illness) or refuse (being stubborn), which makes it really hard to help someone when you know the consequences.
  3. Pretending to be a medical professional – not true. I work in the healthcare sector, but I am not a doctor and I don’t claim to be one. The PTO project is my journey on depression which I’m sharing in hopes of helping other people struggling through the same thing. When you are down and flat on your back, believe me, any little thing that can prop you up helps.

Other than anger, I feel deep disappointment. The same people criticizing me now and telling me to stop writing are the same people who were not there when crap went down. They are such busy people, they didn’t even attend the funerals as well. They also grill me about religious values, tolerance and acceptance of others – yet they are not being empathetic or helpful at all. Feeling stupid for believing that people should practice what they preach. Good grief, how can I not be a pessimist!

I know everyone is struggling with something, but please don’t beat other people up when they are already down to make yourself feel better. Really read or listen to what I’m saying before you go bat-shit on me.

Apologies for my rant. Will forgive everyone tomorrow, will be angry today only because I know I have to let go of anger or else it will destroy me. I’m trying to harness this energy for good by writing and will chose which friends and family to allow into my life from now on. A grief counselor told me quite frankly that “with friends and family like these, you don’t need enemies!”

If you are going through something similar in your life, know you can only control yourself and your reactions. If avoiding someone isn’t possible, you will have to make the best of it by changing your own behavior and choosing to share only selective things from your life with them. Running away does help, but only works for a little while because the main problem still remains.

Thank you for reading, have a good day and let’s all try to be slightly positive among the rubbles of life!

 

Dollar Tree Canada Review

Whenever I rave about Dollar Tree in Canada, people look at me with puzzled looks about how excited I am to go there. Dollar Tree offers fantastic value for brand name products and has become one of my favorite stores to frequent. I think it’s because I grew up in a frugal immigrant family and we were taught to be bargain hunters. There wasn’t much left over with three kids and my parents sponsoring their parents along with relatives to Canada. We were always at sketchy malls and flea markets versus the fancy shiny malls that I visit today.

Dollar Tree is an American store which sells items for $1 USD in the US or $1.25 Cdn in Canada. Its headquarters is located in Chesapeake, Virginia and they operate 13,600 stores throughout North America. According to their website, its stock is trading at $85 USD today. They also recently purchased the Family Dollar chain for $8.5B USD to expand their empire.

My family first discovered Dollar Tree while cross border shopping in Buffalo, NY. For some reason my mother was really obsessed with buying toothpaste at the time. Anyhow, what attracted me were brand name quality items such as Disney toys/coloring books/puzzles for the kids and fantastic event planning stuff. If you are having a party with a Mickey Mouse theme for example, you can grab everything here – party cups, banners, cupcake sleeves, candles, loot bags, loot bag toys, puzzles, stickers, pens, etc. They even have helium balloons which they fill in store too! All for $1.25 each!

The Dollar Tree Canada stores carry less items than Dollar Tree US stores and do not carry frozen groceries. Compared to its main competitor – Dollarama, Dollar Tree is pretty amazing since the $1.25 Cdn items they carry may cost $2-4 Cdn at Dollarama (examples – Betty Crocker brand containers, reading glasses, scarves). However, Dollarama (Canadian company) has over 1000 stores all over Canada versus the mere 100 Dollar Tree stores spread across five provinces.

Typically my Dollar Tree haul will include lots of children books (Sesame Street, Mickey Mouse, Avengers) and toys, however, today my shopping was interrupted by my Viking husband who came early to pick me up and drag me out of the store. He is the total opposite of me and strongly dislikes shopping.

dollar-tree-haul

My purchases today included: books, Disney kid socks, Trophy peanuts, Arizona ice tea, scrapbook tape, Clearasil acne cream, Betty Crocker muffin mix, Nissin cup noodles, Loacker chocolate, index cards and mini picture frames (large picture frames same price, but I needed small ones for wallet size pics).

Dollar Tree also has a lot of scrapbook stuff and seasonal items (Christmas, Valentines, Thanksgiving).   After a holiday is over, they put their seasonal items on sale, so if you are near one of these stores you could get a box of Christmas cards for $0.50. If you are a parent, I highly recommend this store for random kid things because they sell licensed products which won’t break the bank! Now go to the Dollar Tree website and find a store near you for some happy bargain hunting!

 

Thomas The Train Party on a Budget

There has been enough doom and gloom lately to make me depressed for a lifetime, so my husband decided that we should do something fun and plan a kid’s birthday party instead of thinking about death all the time.

Since my offsping is into Thomas the Train, I thought a Thomas themed party would be great. I looked up some parties and thought that this kid Max’s party was the gold standard! You can click on the picture to check out the other fabulous treats served at this party.

I’m going to admit this feels like the time I was just watching exercise videos on the couch with a friend and us commenting on how much work it seems to exercise as we ate chips!

Here are collages of my hack party (certain Max’s party had a higher budget!) which ended up to being lots of fun due to the crazy kids running around the room! The younger kids were more interested in playing with the wrapping paper than the presents. Meanwhile, the older kids asked to open presents and acted like wild animals attacking something as they ripped apart wrapping paper with fury…then yelling “eww” when the presents were clothes instead of toys!

The Thomas cake was ordered from Metro supermarket and had a chantilly cream filling with blueberries. The blue/red dyes were really strong and stained a lot of hands!

thomas-party-v3a

The adults were civilized, of course, drinking and eating munchies while having polite conversations. Grandma was a bit bored since she doesn’t speak English, but there were a few people who could speak to her and entertain her while I played hostess. We were really grateful for all the wonderful toys given to us as presents! Much more fancy than the toys I had while I was growing up (bootleg Cabbage Patch Kid dolls?)!

The kids I babysat that night (yes, I had to babysit even after the party) wrote on the notepad which I was using to keep track of presents for thank you notes. The word “poo” seemed to render them into hysterics for some reason. I wish I could let loose like that sometimes and not worry so much!

thomas-party-toys

A lot of free resources are available which makes it handy for those who have color printers. To make life easier, I used a 2″ puncher to cut out cupcake toppers which I used to decorate packaged oatmeal cookies.

Here are the links to Thomas party resources  for someone else wants to plan a similar event!

Doodle Bug Designs Thomas “Happy Birthday” banner (free)

halegrafx.com has Thomas Cupcake toppers, water bottle wrappers, invites, thank you cards (free)

Official PBS website has free coloring pages and activity sheets (free)

Passion for Savings has “Happy Birthday” banner, cupcake toppers, food labels, water bottle labels, loot bag labels (free)

Thomas cake purchased from Metro grocery store ($)

Partycity stores had Thomas decorations, loot bags and assorted party supplies ($)

 

Thinking My Way Out of Depression

“I don’t understand why you are like this. He’s dead, life goes on. Why are you wasting your time?”

It’s great that the rest of the family can move on with life while I sit around and lament about the death of my father, the lost future with him as a grandpa and how life just sucks. I always thought I was adaptive to change, but obviously it’s not true when it comes to life changing events. The docs tell me I have PTSD due to my looping of the last day before his death over and over again, along with major depression which makes it hard to do anything. Even calling up a friend feels like the energy will drain out of me and I’ll collapse.

Many pushed anti-depressants on me, but given I get stoned on allergy meds, I decided I’m not sure if I want something that could rewire my brain. Instead, I am trying something called “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” (CBT). Basically I’m trying to think my way out of depression by going to counselling and doing lots of thinking homework every week. The idea is that CBT will help you stop the thoughts which are spiraling you into depression.

In my case, one thought that comes back over and over again is that “I could have saved my father.” This consists of all the would/could/should have scenarios which contains millions of possibilities and endings. Then guilt and sadness enters into the equation and I end up lying in bed, being very depressed and not being to do much as I fall into this deep well of horrible thoughts.

This is a classic case of complicated grief in which the brain is rewarded with feeling closer to the deceased while suffering and in pain. A Neuroimaging study done by the University of California shows how complicated grief rewards the brain which makes adapting to the reality of the loss more difficult.

This week, by filling in worksheets with my situation (similar to ones found here) I find evidence for/against if the thought is true and what is the cost of the thought. For the “I could have saved father” thought, the scenarios could have or not have worked out and by doing this looping, it has a high cost of neglecting my family/work but at the same time I am rewarded by feeling like my father is still alive (glimpse of hope). Taking a step back, the situation is the same – father is dead, so no matter what I think I could do, it is useless since he is gone.

Ideally,every time the looping about saving him starts, I need to be mindful and respond to myself by thinking “Yes, I could have done more, but it’s too late. Father would want me to take care of the rest of the family now and carry on his legacy.”

George Micheal’s “Praying For Time” lyrics come to mind:

Hanging on to hope
When there is no hope to speak of
And the wounded skies above say it’s much too late
Well maybe we should all be praying for time

A lot of this mindfulness stuff is based on Buddhism, but with the religious component stripped out and scientific methods applied. Asians are such practical people, sometimes I wonder what is wrong with me. I am such a failed Asian…

In a way I’m starting to do what the rest of the family has done by forging ahead into the present/future. Instead of forgetting the past though, I think it`s valuable to learn from it. I’ve written an article on how to handle healthcare crisis in the family (sent off to magazine publisher but no response yet) and thinking about writing a book which may help others.

These quotes struck a chord with me and I find them comforting:

“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?”
~ Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931)

I know I can’t wallow too long in depression or else I’ll drown in the puddle. CBT has helped me quite a bit, but I know the road for recovery still has a while to go for me…

Accepting Death and the New Reality

Buddhist saying: “Death is the mirror in which your life is reflected.”

I haven’t written anything for a while or done anything creative since my father passed away in the summer. This month I’m slowly pulling myself together, working through a writing course and speaking at a conference. Doing little things to stop my brain from going crazy with grief.

Since I live in North America and grew up in a safe environment I have never really experienced much death. The death of a few friends over the years did impact me, however, the death of a parent is a totally different thing. I work in healthcare which is a double edged sword because I know where all the resources are to get help, but when the worst outcome happens, I find myself feeling responsible for this failure. Rationally, I know not all patients make it through the healthcare system because people do get sick and don’t survive. Stats don’t help when the situation is personal.

It is inevitable that we all die. I know this. But when a parent dies, you’ve lost your home, your source of wisdom (which you only listen to half the time!) and a person who loves you unconditionally no matter how many times you screw up. This event totally destroyed me and my heart shattered.

People who have lost their parent(s) approach me and we have a connection since we are living in a new reality which we do not want to live in, yet we have no choice. As a parent myself, I know that if I go, I would want my child to be happy and free of sadness. However, at the moment I find it very difficult to feel any joy because I have survivor and filial guilt. I know I am drowning in pain. I know I am majorly depressed and have PTSD. I am getting professional help. It’s been a slow climb uphill to patch together pieces of my heart and to survive minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day.

One thing that has really helped are Buddhist Dharma talks by a monk called Ajahn Brahm. The Buddhists really take a positive spin on things. Instead of the concept of the body being an enemy as you age, the Buddhists consider death as a return to nature. Ajahn Brahm compares the life of his father (which he only knew for 16 years) to a great concert in which he was grateful to have attended the performance. I recommend listening to this monk as he imparts a lot of wisdom about living life to its fullest and how to handle difficult situations.

A friend told me that we have perhaps 40 good years to use between the age of 30 and 70, when we are mature enough to realize that we have to pull our crap together and really live before we start getting sick/die. Also, my Chinese doctor told me that I must do good before I die. To do good only for oneself is being selfish. So one must do good for oneself and others in order to make this world a better place.

I don’t know when death will be at my doorstep. So I will use my time to create more stories which I hope will make a dent in this big world and will carry on the legacy of my father by taking care of my family. Nothing was more important than family to him. He sacrificed everything for us and I have to learn, grow and do good from the experience of his death. If you have parents that are still here, please tell them you love them. Because life is precious, fleeting and unpredictable, but death is a certainty we will all face one day.

Making your own virtual mixed tape to share

While reading tons of articles on how to make a successful kickstarter, I stumbled across a link for 8tracks.  Someone mentioned that this was an awesome way to share your music with the world.  8tracks is a site where you can upload your music and make a virtual mixed tape to share with the world!  Or like in the old days, you can use it to woo a beloved.  Uploading and listening is free!

Be warned, I was extremely frustrated with the uploading process and it turns out you can only upload 2 composer tracks per mix.  Also, it will reject any tracks with no identification data, such as .wma rips from a cd.  Although I listen to tons of Final Fantasy background music, because they were by the same composer, I could only share 2 songs in my mix.

Overall, it was fun to make something to share, so I put together music I listened to when I wrote The Undead Sorceress.  It’s all instrumental music because it helps me with writing.  When I listen to songs with people singing I start typing what they’re singing instead, so it’s terrible for my writing process.  The tracks are from Ashes of Time (movie), Game of Thrones (tv), Rurouni Kenshin (anime) and Final Fantasy (game).

Some of the music (Rurouni Kenshin) is a bit tense because these tracks were inspirational for writing sword fighting scenes.  I remember making a cd for someone with these tracks for her family’s restaurant thinking it sounded very Asian, but she said her customers would choke on the food because the music was so nerve wracking.

Please have a listen, click on album cover below and enjoy!

(Instructions – click link and press “play arrow”!  http://8tracks.com/jfgarrard/undead-sorceress-mix)

lp mix

 

The Undead Sorceress Mix List (31 min)

1. Ashes of Time, Yo Yo Ma, Ashes of Time Redux (movie)
2. Main Title, Ramin Djawadi, Game of Thrones (tv)
3. Liberi Fatali, Nobuo Uematsu, Finaly Fantasy VIII (game)
4. Hitenmitsurugiryu – Amakakeruryu No Hirameki, Noriyuki Asakura, Rurouni Kenshin (anime)
5. The Will, Samurai X Rurouni Kenshin movie, Taku Iwasaki (anime)
6. The Last Wolf Suite – Shishio Makoto No Kumikyoku, Noriyuki Asakura, Rurouni Kenshin (anime)
7. Blue Fields, Shinko Ogata, Final Fantasy VIII (game)
8. In Memories: A Boy Meets the Man, Samurai X Rurouni Kenshin movie, Taku Iwasaki (anime)

 

Making a Family Crest

On a rainy day, this might be something you might want to do for fun. Digital art in a way has replaced scrapbooking/colleague art for me and leaves less of a mess! If you have been watching any historical stuff you may notice that European families tend to have crests. It’s usually on a shield or flag and there tends to be lots of lions involved.

I’ve decided to make a new crest as a logo, so here are the few steps it took to make it:

1) Figure out if you have a graphics art program

There are free ones available with basic to advance levels –  Paint.net (free – basic) – Gimp (free – advanced). Many professional artists use Adobe Photoshop, but it’s a very powerful tool and you have to buy it.

I have Paint.net installed and will be using this program.

2) Look for stock art

raw pics

There are two great sites with FREE stock art – Stock.xchng & Pixabay.  There are license agreements for this royalty free art, but if it’s for personal use, it’s generally ok.

I looked for a few images which I knew I wanted: shield, lion with sword and chrysanthemum flower.  I couldn’t find the flower on it’s own so I will have to manipulate and cut the flower out for use.

The lion stands for courage and strength (tribute to Garrard name as the ancestral shield features a lion) while the chrysanthemum flower represents hope/light in darkness.

3) Open Shield graphic & manipulate 

Step 1

The idea is to put all the images into the shield. Generally, I want a white logo with “transparency” so my wallpaper on the webpage could show through.

-open up graphic in paint (File tab > open)

-click “magic wand” tool from upper left “Tools” panel and adjust tolerance if needed

step 2

-press a spot on what you want to delete; for me it’s all the white stuff in the shield.

-the wand will highlight everything in blue, then you just press “delete” and a checkerboard pattern will come through meaning image in that location is transparent

4) Add Lion

Step 3There is something called “layers” in every graphic program.  On the right hand side there is a box which tells you what “layer” you are on.  The shield is on one layer and you will be adding more layers for every graphic.

So before opening up the lion graphic, add another layer (Layers tab > add new layer) to the shield.  Then open up the lion graphic (File tab > open)and put into new layer you have opened – now you see 2 “layers” on the Layers box to the right.

The lion was a very big graphic so I had to drag the corners and shrink it.

5) Cut out flowers, leaves

The chrysanthemum flower is only a small part of its original graphic.  A few steps were necessary to make the flower work for me:

Step 5 6

-open up flower (File tab > open) in its new canvas/window and cut out the flowers by highlighting it

-open a new giant canvas (File tab > new), then paste the flowers in it so there is room to play around

-use rotate tool to move flowers around (Layers tab > Flip vertical) (Layers tab > Rotate/Zoom)

Step 7 8-cut out one of the flowers  by highlighting it and using cut & paste function to put it on an empty part of the canvas

-cut out one of the leaves and rotate to the desired angle. (Layers tab > Rotate/Zoom)

-the leaf and flower have overlapping lines. So to erase lines, use the eraser from the “Tools” box on the left.

6) Add flowers & leaves to the shield

Step 10-add another layer to shield graphic (Layers tab > add new layer)

-go back to flower/leaf window, cut & paste flower/leaf into layer in shield graphic window

-to create mirror image leaves and flowers, I played with the (Image tab > flip horizontal) function

-the shield line in the middle was created by just highlighting the top part of the shield and then cutting & pasting

7) Add “JF Garrard”

Step 12-the canvas has to be bigger (Image tab > canvas side) for adding text, so I increased it in width

-initially the added canvaspart is white, so I had to use magic wand from “Tools” in left box to make it transparent

-using “Text” in “Tools” left box, I typed “JF Garrard” using font Goudy Old Style, size 550

8) Save file in black and white

There are places where I’ll use it in black ink and others in white. Important – to keep transparency, it has to be saved as a .gif file. Also, when saving, it will “flatten” all layers, which means everything will be merged into one layer. Keep a paint.net file (.png) in case you ever want to play with this graphic again with its layers.

Step 14-default is black, just save to .gif (File tab > save as)

-to make the logo white, we have to invert the colors (Adjustments tab > invert colors)

-of course at this point I realize that the lion graphic isn’t totally transparent, so I use the magic wand tool to “erase” the white spots.  After 10 min of painfully doing this (lot of little edges/spots), I discover a flood tool, which does it in 2 seconds. (Tools, Magic Wand, Flood Mode > Global)

-now save white logo to .gif (File tab > save as)

However…

In the end I didn’t use this logo on my website as the shield graphic lines looked too thin after I put it in the header.  I’ll use it on my facebook page though, you can see it here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/JF-Garrard/406247922764234

The more you play with the program, the more you will know.  Good luck in making some fabulous crests!