Thursday, May 21, 2009

Reading Journal: The Lady Elizabeth

I really liked this fictionalized biography of Elizabeth I. It was an unabridged edition on 16 CDs--20 1/2 hours long.
The reader was very good, and I think hearing the story in her beautiful British accent added much to my enjoyment.
The story begins with Elizabeth a mere toddler, although a very precocious one, and continues through her childhood and her precarious teens. It ends soon after she ascends to the throne.
Even though I knew that she didn't end her days in the Tower of London or on the executioner's block as so many before her, the author still managed to convey a great sense of peril and suspense.
This is one of the very few times where I have purposely painted a background for a specific book. As longtime readers of this blog may remember, I generally paint backgrounds way ahead and then match a book to them. But in this case, none of the prepainted pages seemed to work for the images I wanted to use. I decided her portrait would look best on a dark, rich background, so I made a mixture of Americana's "Black Green" and Anita's "Wine." While this was still damp, I overbrushed it with Golden's fluid acrylic "Quinacridone Magenta" for added depth.
I wanted to use an image of King Henry, but not have him be an equal focal point with her; so I made him smaller, had him bleed off the page, and brushed him with watered-down gesso so he looks kind of ghostly.
Since the picture I had of Elizabeth was cut off just below the knees, I had to figure out how to keep that from looking unfinished. I decided to write the title and author on a kind of banner that would extend from the bottom of the dress. I had a small rubber stamp of a banner which wasn't nearly big enough for what I needed. So I scanned and enlarged it that way. I aged it by applying Tim Holtz's Distress Ink "Old Paper" with a holey sponge. To darken the folds, I picked up some of the ink with a waterbrush filled with blender fluid.
Continuing the theme of richness, I wrote the text out with Dr. Martin's Spectralite Gold and a pointed nib.

Reading Journal: Bloodstream

Marty Hopkins is a sheriff's deputy in a small Indiana town. She also has a 10-year-old daughter and a troubled marriage.
As this book opens, she is investigating the disappearance of a local 14-yr-old boy. He had been hanging around a group of teenagers from Arizona who were spending the summer in a church camp excavating a utopian religious community from pioneer days.
Before long, his mutilated body is found in the flood-swollen river, and then the same thing happens to a second boy.
There are reports of a mysterious naked man who dances by the river at night while garbed in a bull's mask, a hairy shoulder mantle and a set of horns. Marty finds this hard to believe until she comes face to face with him in a labyrinth of vines.
I liked that the author created characters who were multilayered instead of stereotypes. Although the story has a sensational revelation at the end, she shows people doing their best to deal with temptations, biases, and severe traumas. Even the perpetrator, though deeply flawed, was a sympathetic character.

For the base colors, I used Anita's Lime and Morning Blue, and then created texture by sponging through drywall tape. The title and author was written with a Marvy calligraphy marker, and the text with a .05 Prismacolor pen. The vines enclosing the text were cut from a magazine ad

Reading Journal: Dreamers of the Day

I'm extremely disappointed with the writing that I did on the title for this spread. I was trying to come up with something that looked faintly Arabic, but this is truly horrible looking. However, I did enjoy this book by Mary Doria Russell and wanted to preserve my memories of it. Here's what I said about it, beginning with a quote from the main character:
"My little story has become your history. You won't really understand your times until you understand mine."
Thus this warning from Agnes Shanklin, a 40-year-old spinster schoolteacher who narrates from the afterlife, sets the stage for her adventures during the Cairo Peace Conference in 1921.
After her entire family perished from influenza in the aftermath of WWI, Agnes received an inheritance which allowed her to indulge in the trip of a lifetime. Soon after arriving in Egypt, she meets Lawrence of Arabia who had known her sister, and through him she becomes acquainted with Winston Churchill, Lady Gertrude Bell, and a host of other characters both real and fictitious.
She is courted by German-Jewish Karl Weilbacher, who encourages her friendships with the British in hopes of learning more of their plans. Agnes, both plain-faced and plain-spoken, has no illusions about his designs, but welcomes his attentions as her only hope for romance. He squires her around while world-altering events swirl about them.
This was an intriguing story that relieved some of my ignorance about the forces and permutations that made the Middle East what it is today. We do indeed reap what we sow.

Reading Journal: Friend of the Devil

This book triangulates with two other novels by Peter Robinson..."Aftermath" and "Caedmon's Song." The former one also featured Inspector Banks, but the latter did not. I recalled "Aftermath" very quickly, but "Caedmon's Song" only came back gradually and in pieces. It's strange that the first reference to it that I found familiar was the name of a minor character--an Australian named Keith McLaren.
This book features two separate crimes that take place a few hours and a few miles apart. Banks is investigating the rape/strangulation of a girl in Eastvale, while Annie Cabbot tries to determine the identity of the mysterious woman in black who slit the throat of a completely paralyzed and mute woman. At some point, it is discovered that this quadriplegic had been deeply involved with the crimes that occurred in "Aftermath." Toward the end, it is revealed that her murderer was the victim, as well as a revenge killer, in Caedmon's Song."
When a policeman on Bank's team ends up getting his throat slit too, the separate investigations become inextricably intertwined.
Peter Robinson's books never disappoint me.
I decided to write the titles as I did to illustrate how each one references back to the others. They were written with a white Prismacolor pencil and I wrote the authors name with a pencil. It's surprising how well it shows up on the flat black paint. I'll try to remember that since it's hard to find tools that work easily and well on dark paint.

Reading Journal: Death of a Butterfly

After reading all the Deborah Knott mysteries by Margaret Maron, I started in on the Sigrid Harald series. She actually developed the Sigrid character before Deborah, and this is the second book featuring her. I'm not reading them in order...just taking them as I can find them.
Julie Redmond has her head bashed in one day while sitting in her kitchen. As Sigrid tries to find out who killed her, she discovers that the beautiful young woman had been cold, self-centered, and demanding. There are several who might have had motives...the elderly neighbors across the hall who adore her little boy and cringe at her cruelty to him; or the ex-husband who has been shut out of his son's life; maybe Julie's ex-con brother with whom she frequently fought; or perhaps the former boss that she blackmailed.
This book is the one that introduces Dr. Jill Gill, an entomologist who give Sigrid the caterpillars that ultimately give her the clue to the murderer's identity.
Background painted with "Crocus" and "Morning Blue." Title written with a Pitt brush pen.

Reading Journal: The Street of a Thousand Blossoms"

This book is written in spare prose, much like Japanese poetry, conveying deep emotions with few words.
Gail Tsukiyama begins her story in 1939, showing the gentle, honorable side of ordinary Japanese people. Hiroshi and Kenji are two brothers being raised by loving grandparents. I was drawn into this intimate world by her quiet description of how they climbed a watchtower each evening to listen to a neighbor girl practice her cello. As war news raged around them, the grandfather buffered it by cautioning them..."Everyday of your lives, you must always be sure what you're fighting for."
The brothers are extremely different in personality, physique and interests. Hiroshi is consumed with the desire to become a sumo champion, while Kenji is fascinated with creating masks for Noh actors. This advice always lingers in the backs of their minds and helps them correct their courses as they struggle to find their way in a world trying to reconcile tradition and change. It is also the heartbreaking story of the women who love them.
Background paint was "Melted Butter" and "Lavender." Used a Pitt F pen and a Pitt brush pen for the title.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Reading Journal "Playing With Fire"

In this book, a series of fires occur so near in time that Banks and Cabbot fear a serial arsonist may be to blame, but also realize that someone may be trying to make murder look like arson. The first fire takes place on two barges moored together and kills an artist on one and a young girl on the other. The second fire destroys a trailer along with the man inside. At first, they suspect the girl's boyfriend, but he has an alibi, and he accuses her stepfather whom he said had sexually abused her and got her hooked on drugs.

Eventually, their investigation shows that the artist and the second man killed had known each other at college, and they believe that an unknown third man was involved with them in passing off counterfeit paintings as the real thing. Annie Cabbot becomes romantically involved with Philip Keane, an art researcher who offers to assist them with the case. Banks is suspicious (although Annie accuses him of jealousy) and has Keane checked out, but can't really prove anything against him.
The pages had been initially painted with gray and a touch of purple, without any idea of what they would eventually be used for. Then when I was going through my Reading Journal looking for a background to use as the basis for this book review, I realized that it resembled ashes. So I overpainted with “Christmas Red” and “Tangerine” (Anita’s brand paints from Hobby Lobby), being sure to let some of the grayish background show through. When it was good and dry, I wrote the title with a black Pitt brush pen, extending the descenders on the Y & G, as well as pulling the crossbar of the T, and adding one to the final E. I was trying to create the feel of leaping flames, and to enhance that even more, I added extra strokes around the letters with orange and crimson Prismacolor pencils. 

This book is a mystery, and I wanted to reveal “whodunit” for myself to remember later, but not to spoil the ending for anyone looking at the journal. So I covered up where I had written the ending by tipping in some “flames”. I made these by painting a piece of manila cardstock with the orange and red paint, and cutting the top in jagged points. Then I applied a strip of transfer tape to the left side and pressed it into the gutter. The flames can be lifted back to read what is underneath.