Run to Mystical Landscapes at AGO and leave the toddlers at home!

Fantastic! This is one word which sums up the Mystical Landscape show at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto. Running from October 22, 2016 – January 29, 2017, the show features art between 1880-1930 of artists who were disillusioned with traditional religious institutions and searched for meaning through mystical experiences.

The 37 artists from 14 countries includes: Lawren Harris, Emily Carr, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Piet Mondrian, Claude Monet, Edvard Munch, Georgia O’Keeffe and James McNeill Whistler. It was interesting to see pieces from Edvard Munch and Georgia O’Keeffe that were not a screaming figure or flowers, which they are best known for! A complete list of artists in the show is available here on activity worksheets for school children (which also explains the themes of the show quite well) and listed below.

I was impressed with the fact that audio resources for the show were available for free as a guide during the show (those plastic things you carry around) or you can download the audio onto your iphone or listen online!

During the show, the showstopping piece everyone looked at was Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night over the Rhone at Arles from 1888. I’m sure phosphorescent (glow in the dark) paint was not used, yet somehow this piece has stars which glow and touches the soul with curiosity. Wikipedia has a write up with details about Van Gogh writing to his brother about this painting.

Vincent Van Gogh, The Starry Night over the Rhone at Arles, 1888

My favorite pieces in the show were landscapes  by Swedish artist Eugene Jansson. The one below is Dawn over Riddarfjärden, 1899. This is a large painting and when you look at it you feel like you are part of the landscape, engulfed in the light which is spilling out from the sky.

Eugène Jansson mystical landscapes ago

I’ve been to the show twice, once with my mother-in-law and once with my toddler. It was much more enjoyable with an adult because you had time to walk around slowly and take in the beauty of the paintings. I thought that my toddler might like the beautiful colors of the art, but he only wanted to climb up and down the leather couches within the exhibit. I guess those were his favorite pieces in the show!

Towards the exit there were a few pieces with crystals and planets in space which I thought were great as well. Lots to see and take in at this show, I highly recommend that you stop by if you are visiting Toronto!

Artists List in Mystical Landscapes Show

(Source: AGO Teacher Resources)

France
Émile Bernard (1868-1941)
Richard Burgsthal (1884-1944)
Maurice Chabas (1862-1947)
Henri-Edmond Cross (1865-1910)
Maurice Denis (1870-1943)
Charles-Marie Dulac (1866-98)
Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Louis Welden Hawkins (1849-1910)
Georges Lacombe (1868-1916)
Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Paul Serusier (1864-1927)
Henri Le Sidaner (1862-1939)

Austria
Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)
Egon Schiele (1890-1918)

Belgium
Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921)
William Degouve de Nuncques (1867-1935)
Netherlands
Vincent van Gogh (1853-90)
Piet Mondrian (1872-1944)
Jan Verkade (1868-1946)

Denmark
Mogens Ballin (1871-1941)
Ejnar Nielsen (1872-1956)
Jens Ferdinand Willumsen (1863-1958)

Norway
Edvard Munch (1863-1944)

Sweden
Gustaf Fjaestad (1868-1948)
Eugène Jansson (1862-1915)
Hilma af Klint (1862-1944)
August Strindberg (1849-1912)

Russia
Marc Chagall (1887-1985)

Switzerland
Augusto Giacometti (1877-1947)
Giovanni Giacometti (1868-1933)
Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918)
Felix Vallotton (1865-1925)
United States of America
Arthur G. Dove (1880-1946)
Marsden Hartley (1877-1943)
Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
James McNeil Whistler (1834-1903)

Canada
Emily Carr (1871-1945)
Lawren Harris (1885-1970)
Alexander Young Jackson (1882-1974)
Jock MacDonald (1897-1960)
Tom Thomson (1877-1917)
Frederick Horseman Varley (1881-1969)

Great Britain
James Dickson Innes (1887-1914)
Paul Nash (1889-1946)
George Frederick Watts (1817-1904)

Ireland
Grace Henry (1868-1953)

Czech Republic
Wenzel Hablik (1881-1934)

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Undead Sorceress Front Cover Reveal!

I was complaining recently that I had hired a cover artist who fired me as he thought my mock front cover was good enough. Also he had 20 covers in queue and didn’t really want to think too hard about detail work. So I took it upon myself to improve what I already had as I thought it was missing a “”je ne sais quoi!”

After spending many hours researching and staring at hundreds of other book covers in store and online , I learned a lot about styles of different books. As I wanted a “unisex” book, straight lines were better. Books purposely aimed at female audiences had lots of swirly motifs and books directed to men had darker colors. Fantasy books in general are the most elaborate, with lots of illustrations compared to other books which just have fancy text and stock graphics.

Subsequently, after lots of fiddling around with my graphics program for a few days, here is the new cover. TA DA!

cover reveal

 

You might think – this cover looks the same as the mock cover!

Well, the changes include a different font (looked at thousands of fonts before choosing this one), a straight line divider, shuriken symbol, smaller wallpaper and shadowing of the text.

The “Volume One…” text was moved from the bottom of the mock cover because I looked at many paperbacks at the bookstore and realized that not all books have their edges cut evenly. So if I have anything at the bottom that’s significant, it might look odd if the book cutting machine isn’t having a good day!

For me, the font was super important as it evokes emotions and helps convey an aura of fantasy. Generally the new cover to me seems more dramatic and elegant.

compare l

The spine & back cover is another story as I am still working on that. People keep going on about having an important front cover and they forget the rest of the book! Will post the rest as it comes together!

 

Tokyo Part 3 – Sights

You realize you are a foreign stranger in a strange land when you notice that all the signs are in Japanese and there is no English. Or in my case, no French as well. It’s a uni-lingual city because the majority of the people are Japanese!

Out of all the places we went to, I thought that the neatest area to visit was the Senso-ji Temple area because there were so traditional artsy things and yummy street food!  There was a lot of shopping on the 33 floors of Skytree, the tallest tower in Tokyo.  The three floors of desserts alone left my Viking husband breathless and he usually hates retail!

The following sets of pics include: 1) General stuff – Tokyo Tower, musical posters & casino 2) Senso-ji Temple, highrise sights & Disney Xmas trees, 3) Skytree shopping mall & aquarium and 4) The Meiji Shrine and Edo Tokyo museum.

General stuff

Xmas was everywhere in December although most people don’t celebrate it – it’s just a shopping holiday to them! We were living near Tokyo Tower, so it was a nice sight to see daily.  Originally I thought the casino was an anime store because there were so many cute drawings outside – but it turns out it consists of arcade games, some anime related (Evangelion game).  There were also tons of musical posters in subways stations – such as Wicked and Love Never Dies (sequel to Phantom of the Opera).

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Senso-ji Temple, highrise sights & Disney Xmas trees

One of the coolest places was Shibuya station. My friends insisted that we go to see the street scramble.  It was a bit scary to be crossing the road with over a hundred people at once!

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Skytree shopping mall & aquarium

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Meiji Shrine and Edo Tokyo Museum

It was raining the day we went to see the Meiji Shrine but it was still a nice place to visit, although a bit cold and damp.  The Edo Tokyo Musuem was highly recommended by a friend and it was pretty incredible.  There was a lot of large displays of buildings from different eras you could walk into.

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Fun medals for Hobbit fans

A few days ago I saw the second Hobbit movie and made it through the whole thing without peeing. As a small person with a tiny bladder, this was a huge deal for me! My husband with his iron bladder said in amusement in the end that I deserved a medal.

So what the heck, I’m still jet lagged anyways and don’t feel like unpacking; why not make medals to share with everyone who survived the movies without peeing?!

Medals can be downloaded for fun here: https://jfgarrard.com/medals/

Feel free to share this ridiculous joy and take pride in the fact that you are a champion!

I am a "generic Asian"

Happy New Year!

Throughout December 2013 I had been travelling throughout Tokyo, Japan and Seoul, S. Korea since there was a major family wedding in Korea.

To my surprise, people thought that I was whatever they were and would speak to me at length before realizing I didn’t understand. Then I would get the “this girl is a deaf mute” look. This has happened before in China (I speak Cantonese, not Mandarin), but I didn’t expect people to think that I was Japanese or Korean.

A computer in 2009 simulated average faces for Asians, can you tell which faces are Chinese, Korean and Japanese? (click for answer as well as South Asian faces)

My Viking husband labelled me the “generic Asian” as he was quite amused by all this. With his red hair and beard, people didn’t even try to speak to him. I learned how to say “I don’t understand/don’t know” in Mandarin, Japanese and Korean. However, people sometimes interpreted this as I didn’t know the answer to a question. My brother in law suggested that I learn how to say “I have a mental disability” which may work better.

I was so amused by my new nickname that I decided to rename my blog to “Musings of a Generic Asian” from “Musings of JF Garrard”.

Unfortunately, there was some negative stuff as well which was obvious from angry speech and body language – that I am a terrible Asian as I am hanging out with non-Asian people. Usually it would be an older Asian man that would come up to me directly and say a long speech with nasty glares.

I was being made to feel ashamed that I was a bad Japanese/Korean when I was Chinese. I’ve never traveled to China with my husband, so I’m not sure if we would experience the same thing there. Generally, I think this happened so often because the older generation wants to enforce their rules on the younger generation.

Regardless, it was a wonderful trip and I have been inspired to create art again after a visit to the Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA) and National Musuem of Modern and Contemporary Art in Deoksugung. It was amazing to see the fusion of Eastern and Western art techniques and the powerful messages behind each piece.

I don’t think I’ll see my husband much this year as I want to finish up a few books, travel to a few conventions, start a podcast and create some cultural identity art!

Over the course of the next few weeks I’ll put together my pics and comments, so stay tuned!

Introducing Sammuel Bowden, the creator of Twisted Eden

Recently I posted some tips on Kickstarters on Google+ and was contacted by Sammuel Bowden, a talented writer and artist from Bronx, NY. He just recently started a project called Twisted Eden, which is an innovative take on the traditional graphic novel format. His kickstarter just started for this book.  The video is pretty slick and artwork super unique; I’ll let him explain his revolutionary ideas, which are quite exciting as I love reading graphic novels!

Twisted Eden Cover 1

Hi Sammuel, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. Can you introduce yourself and let us know a little bit about your background? Your artwork is quite unique (similar to air brush styles), did you have any art training or is it a natural talent you possess?

Lol, not to sound cocky, but it’s a natural talent. I have been drawing since I was seven years old, but I always wanted to take art classes to perfect my style! Natural talent is one thing, but professional training is another for the fact that it is a lot more technical.

The title of your kickstarter is “It’s not just a Graphic Novel, It’s a new Beginning!” and you mention that the difference between your book and the traditionally published graphic novel is the fact that it is a “True Hybrid Book”. Can you explain a little bit about what this means? How did you come up with this?

I’m a very analytical person. Whenever I watch a good movie, show, or read a good book, I ask myself two questions:

What makes me like this show/book so much?

What elements do all the things that I like have in common?

Asking those questions over and over again, had given me an idea. That Idea was to blend in as many elements as possible to make the “ultimate” story. Originally, I wanted to make an anime series, but not having any knowledge or networks in animation…I knew it would be impossible at that stage. So, Instead of an animated series, I wrote the plot to a book series and kept my drawn characters.

I always loved shows with a narrator, so I thought that it would be a good fit to make my book a First Person Narrative. But, making my book a written novel took away some good scenes that I had imagined for an anime series. Certain things are just better told through a sequence of art panels, where you can actually see the action.

So, wanting to keep my highly detailed writing, I decided to make a way to merge comic and narrative together! Then, as I played around with words and formats, and displayed my Half-Novel/Half-Graphic novel story to my friends. I realized that I may have the next big thing.

People who prefer words read my book for it’s writing while appreciating the art, but comic lovers enjoyed my book in reverse to the novel lovers. Also, kids who hated reading books would read the long pages of my story just to find out why two characters were fighting in a comic strip. Not a single person has disliked my content.

I felt like I accomplished my goal in blending in all elements of a good story. But, more importantly, I was able to combine two separate worlds of story telling together (Hence the name True Hybrid Book).

On your website you talk a little bit more about Twisted Eden and that you had actually thought about this story and its characters for a long time. How did you come up with this story?

Well…being born in the 90’s made me appreciate Anime in a big way. Seeing shows with intense action like Dragon Ball Z is one of the things that kept me drawing at a young age. But, as I got older and became more analytical, I knew that I needed something more than a basic story with big fights.

When I first made my story, I noticed that my characters didn’t have enough internal conflicts to make them relatable. So, I went back to the drawing board and started giving each character an internal conflict. That’s when I thought of the classic “memory loss” idea for my main character. A person trying to uncover their lost memory always added that “mystery” element to the book that most people love!

My main character’s loss of memory was a good way for me to give him more depth while giving the story an unpredictable plot. In total, I believe it took me around three years to put everything together. Lol, I think I just realized that I sacrificed hanging out with friends in High School and college for this book…sheesh!

Can you explain why you chose to name your book Twisted Eden? Without spoilers can you hint on how it fits into the story line?

Well, most of us know about the classic story of the Garden of Eden from the Bible. So, I wanted to make a fiction book that “twisted” the story of human’s origin. In the Garden of Eden, there were two trees that wasn’t to be touched. One granted man the power of Knowledge while the other Granted man the gift of life.

Twisted Eden is a Fictional of how things probably could have been if Adam ate from one Tree, while Eve ate from the other…

There are different realms in Twisted Eden with two sets of beings – humans and the Dominants, who govern humankind from within the shadows. What kind of creatures are these Dominants and why do they need to rule in secret? Do they have super powers?

You can picture Dominants as Angels. They are in the form of “Man”, have influence over Humanity, and have wings and cool powers. Some are good, some are evil, but the plot isn’t so simple. What is percieved as good and bad is through the eyes of the beholder… You’ll see these conflicts of Morales versus Circumstances a lot in Twisted Eden.

In your book excerpt you start off with a young Prince from another Realm. Is this Prince human or a Dominant? Will there be lots of twists and turns in this story? Lots of fighting?

The Prince is a Dominant, so he has those cool wings and powers. Yes, there will be lots of twists and turns in the story. I purposely wrote the plot to make a person think something is going to happen when it doesn’t. And yes…there will be lots and lots of fighting! Not as much in the first issue though, because I want to paint the picture before things start exploding!

Let’s talk a little bit about Fusion Book Publishing, is this your own company? Was it difficult setting this up?

Yes! I Found Fusion Book Publishing to help beginner Authors for free! I love helping people, but I favor self publishers since we have a good reputation of producing bad stuff…(thankfully that’s changing) It was really hard to get the ball rolling at first, but it’s finally getting some momentum! The main blog is at http://sammuelbowden.blogspot.com/. The home page shows what’s new while the Free Help page connects you to the Facebook community where you can contact me for help.

What do you hope to do in the future with Fusion Book Publishing as you grow bigger?

I want it to be a second chance for Authors! Everyone has the power to make a good book, but just need guidance on how. I want Fusion Book Publishing to grow to help as many people as possible to do what they love to do. I also want it to serve as a place where readers and fans can reach out directly to the industry to express what they want.

It’s been great learning all about your Twisted Eden project and I hope that it takes off as some of these ideas really captured my imagination! Tackling a new take on a traditional format of anything is a courageous task! Please have a look at his website and send in some support to his kickstarter!

High Tea at the Ritz

It was one of my BFF’s bday last weekend and she asked me and my Viking husband to go to High Tea at the Ritz Carleton in Toronto.  Admittedly my Viking balked at the price and asked why we couldn’t have steak instead.  Because it’s not YOUR DAY was the reply he got from me.  Anyhow, I dragged his royal crankiness to the hotel and we were pleasantly surprised by how much food we were served as well as nice tea.

As a middle class citizen I felt like really a really awkward country bumpkin in this fancy hotel.  I probably did a dozen things wrong, such as using my fingers since I felt like the utensils were going to knock the food off the delicate trays.  I was really nervous at one point and my crumbs flew all over the place.  Yes, I resembled a nervous squirrel the whole time as I observed the chic ladies in their expensive suits, fine haircuts and manicured nails seated at the other tables.

Anyhow, if anyone else goes, this is what happens:

1) You start off by choosing which price point of high tea you want from the menu.  It ranged from $38-88 as the higher prices included alcohol.  We didn’t have any alcohol…

2) Next, the hostess will bring a box of teas, so you can select a tea of your choice – you are given bottles of loose tea leaves to sniff.  “How many people have sniffed this?” someone wondered at the table.  I chose a nice lavender Earl Grey with caffeine, a substance my Chinese doctor banned me from…oh well…

3) Tray 1 arrives with little sandwiches and quiches which surprised us.  We were expecting lots of sugar!  The open face egg salad sandwiches were really elegant and the mini smoked salmon croissant sandwiches were really good.

4) Tray 2 comes next with lots and lots of little cakes and cookies.  At this point I had been drinking tea with sugar and cream so I was already on a sugar high. “WOW!  MORE SUGAR SUGAR SUGAR!” I shrieked happily to my startled Viking who tried to calm me down.

5) Bday cake – we had brought this one along for my friend and the hotel kindly served it to us.  A Dufflet Chocolate Mousse cake was added to our sugar high!

Afterwards we didn’t even eat dinner as we were so stuffed!  It was interesting, but as a poor working person I would feel more comfortable at a pub than at the Ritz…some pics taken of the food that is now all gone below!

Hotel front entrance
Hotel front entrance
JFG and her Viking
JFG and her Viking
Tea Selection for sniffing
Tea Selection for sniffing
Savory sandwiches and scones!
Savory sandwiches and scones!
Sugar Sugar Sugar!  We were amused by the lemon things that looked like poop!
Sugar Sugar Sugar! We were amused by the lemon tarts that looked like poop!