Monday, 31 December 2018

2018 in Review

Firstly, I'd like to make a small announcement. My blog used to be hosted on a different site (Live Journal), but over the course of this year I've been transferring all of the posts over to this site. You can now see my entire blog right from the beginning, in one spot! Just go to the 'Archives' section in the right-hand sidebar. There are over 700 posts going back to 2004, so it's quite an achievement. And yes, here is the obligatory link to the first post, though I doubt it will make any sense to anyone!

Now, on to my review of 2018!

There were a few firsts -- and seconds -- this year. I finished my first magazine-style zine, Intensely Introverted #1, and took it to the Festival of the Photocopier Zine Fair.

I've written zines before, but this was the first one that I want to turn into a series, like a magazine. Work has started on Intensely Introverted #2, but you know what, I'm not sure that I'll return to the zine fair. The amount of anxiety and stress I experienced before and during the Fair wasn't really worth it. I just can't be in a room that full of people for that long. Or perhaps I'll skip a year and only do it every second year.

I went in three (!) art exhibitions, all at NOIR Darkroom: their first anniversary exhibition, Stay Safe, and A Very NOIR Christmas. I feel incredibly lucky to have had these opportunities, and I hope I'll have more in 2019!

(Mine is the one at the top.)
Also at NOIR Darkroom, I did two workshops: Painting with Bob Ross and Screenprinting. Both are highly recommended! Since then, Husband and I have started watching Bob Ross' The Joy of Painting on Netflix when we want to relax. Though we now know that creating those paintings isn't quite as easy as he makes it seem!

Early in the year, Husband and I became re-acquainted with a foodie friend, and we decided to have a monthly lunch date together. I've been to many places that I wouldn't have gone to otherwise, and had a chance to dress up (Or even just get dressed at all quite frankly. Leaving the house voluntarily isn't really my thing!)

In June, I finished my first 101 Things in 1,001 Days cycle and started my second one. I did NaNoWriMo, went to the Melbourne Planner Market, and spent much more time outside.

Last but not least, in April I got to wear the Birthday Hat:

Now for the customary stats (last year's stat in brackets):

Books finished:
full-length: 19 (19) . . . . It's not a typo, they're the same!
short & manga: 16 (13)
currently reading as of today: 10 (14)

Blog posts: 46 (57)
Instagram posts: 285 (284) . . . . There may be more this evening!

Craft items started: 2 (2) . . . . (It seems like I never do any craft, but I've been working on my blanket a lot!)
Craft items finished: 4 (4)
Craft projects in progress as of today: 42 (42)

Zines started: 0 (1)
Zines finished: 2 (1) . . . . (if mini zines count! harhar)
Zines in progress as of today: 1 (1)

I hope everyone had a good 2018 and will have an even better 2019! I'll be back soon with my plans for the coming year!

Friday, 28 December 2018

Instagram "Best Nine" for 2018 and What's Important

This is the second year that I've participated in the Instagram "Best Nine" phenomenon. By plugging your Instagram name into this website, you can retrieve the 9 photos with the most 'likes' for the year, packaged up into a handy mosaic. While it seems vacuous, I found last year's exercise to be thought-provoking and even a little inspiring.

Here is this year's result, with thoughts below:

I'm pleasantly surprised to see that my art features in my most-liked photos. Middle-left was an entry for Tara Leaver's 21 Days in My Art World challenge (which I'm pleased to see will be happening again in 2019), so that explains its popularity. Top-left was done for the Art Maker Circle challenge by Nicole Piar. Unfortunately I never finished that challenge.

I have to scratch my head as to why a barely-started painting (bottom-centre) was so popular, though.

I posted very few photos of myself this year, but two managed to make it into the top. I'd like to explore my style more in the future, so this result is encouraging.

And as for the food ... I really don't know! Perhaps there was something about the composition or the filtering that was appealing to people? I'll probably never know. Social media is, in the end, a mystery.

The thing that strikes me about this year's collage is that it's basically a summary of what I'd like to do more of in my life. What's good for my soul. Making art, having meals and spending time with friends, and expressing myself through fashion and (admittedly overly-filtered!) selfies. May there be more of the merry stuff in 2019!

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Happy Festive Season!

I hope you receive everything you wish for!

I didn't quite reach my goal of blogging twice a week this year, but I have lots of plans and hopefully now that I'm on holidays I can bring some of them to life. Here's a sneak peek of a few topics coming up soon:

❄️ My new art project
❄️ Growing potatoes in a bag
❄️ Sewing adventures
❄️ Podcasts I'm loving
❄️ My planner sticker collection
❄️ Cooking fun

Have a happy and safe holidays (if you're on holidays!).

Sunday, 2 December 2018

My November, including End of NaNoWriMo 2018

November this year seemed to have a bittersweet taste. As Spring moved into Summer, everything heated up. Yet there were also quite a few thunderstorms, which I always enjoy. I've been busier as the holiday season is getting nearer, but my job is finishing just before Christmas, so I have some quiet time to look forward to. It's been hard to motivate myself to do anything that doesn't have a deadline -- anything just for myself. Maybe that's something I need to rediscover.

What I've been writing ...
My NaNoWriMo story was mostly finished before the 30th November deadline. That's a nice way of saying that I didn't finish it! I won't say that I failed though, because I'm close enough to see the finish line, and I think I'm able to and want to get it made. So I'm setting myself a deadline of end of December to finish the story, edit it, create a cover image and publish it. I haven't decided where I'll publish it yet, but iBooks and Smashwords look most promising. I'll be sure to post links to it when I do!

What I've been painting ...
I created a painting for NOIR gallery's Kris Kringle party exhibition, but I forgot to take a photo of it at any point before I handed it in for the exhibition yesterday, oops! I'll be back there in 2 weeks for the closing party and artwork swap, so you'll have to wait until then to see it on the blog. Or, if you're in Melbourne, I hope you'll check out the exhibition at NOIR Darkroom in Coburg.

What I've been dreaming of ...
A few months ago I posted about how my garden is a mess. Well, we're getting that sorted out! Below is a 'Before and After' of the passageway behind the house. The 'After' looks very barren right now, I admit, but we're planning on building some raised garden beds and hopefully growing some nice, lush things.

What I've been playing ...
Happy World Ocarina Day! I've taken up my ocarina practice again this month. Seeing other people online becoming enthusiastic about learning and playing live instruments has been inspiring. Plus, I enjoy learning Christmas carols because the tunes are so familiar, and this is the time of year for it!

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Melbourne Planner Market and Sticker Haul

The weekend before last, I went to Melbourne Planner Market. This is the third year the market has been run, and my first year attending. It wasn't held in the city itself, but in the inner suburb of Kensington. It wasn't that close to me -- about 40 minutes' drive each way -- but I bribed Husband to drive me there with the promise of dumplings for lunch afterwards.

The above photo is from the Melbourne Planner Market website.
It was quite a small market with about 25 stallholders, but I found the range was good and I saw some interesting things. Only a couple of stalls were selling actual planners, most were selling planner stickers, washi tapes, charms and other accessories for your planner. I concentrated mainly on stickers (my biggest obsession this year!).

Here are some photos of my haul:

I'm also always on the lookout for stickers for my Hobonichi art diary, which I like to do in a more subdued, elegant style, whereas my planner is very over-the-top cute. In a way they parallel my interests in fashion, which are very diverse too.

A pack of washi tapes, sticky notes and bulldog clips. Until recently you could only order interesting and/or decorative bulldog clips and sticky notes from overseas. It's strange what we do and don't have access to in Australia!

I'm looking forward to attending the Melbourne Planner Market again next year ... if I'm still interested in stickers. A lot can change in a year!

Saturday, 24 November 2018

NaNoWriMo : The Halfway Point

(Technically it's the three-quarter-way point now, but that doesn't fit so well into the title!)

A few posts ago
, I told how I decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month this year, but with a twist. I'm writing a 5,000 word story instead of the usual 50,000 word novel. That works out to 167 words per day. For someone like me, with a lot of different projects happening at once, it's a more realistic goal. So how am I doing, halfway through?

I'm pleased to say that I've gotten further than I did in my last NaNoWriMo attempt. That is, I've actually started to write a story! For the first week or so, I was winning -- thanks to the three-quarters of a page I wrote before the month even started, I was ahead of the word count.

However, this turned out to be a bit of a double-edged sword. On a day when I was feeling tired, I felt like I could take a break. I was feeling a bit depressed due to some unrelated issues, and one day turned into five, until I was behind again. Strangely, this turned out to be a motivating factor for me to start writing again. I needed to get back to that place I was before. I needed to believe that I can do it. The voices in my head were still telling me it's a terrible story, but I thought to myself, a terrible story is better than no story!

In the beginning, I was reading through what I'd already written and noting down changes before I started writing anything new. As the story grew to a page and more, I realised this wasn't going to be feasible. It was taking too long and distracting me. Editing can wait until later! If there are any words or phrases I'm not completely happy with, I use the highlight function in Microsoft Word (or just circle them if I'm writing by hand) to mark them, and just keep on going.

In fact, after having listened to lots of podcasts and read even more articles, the best advice I've heard is just that. Just keep going! It's been presented in many forms by many people, but what it boils down to is: just keep writing! It doesn't matter how bad you think it is. You can always fix it later.

I also decided to write an outline, which helped me to get the story straight in my mind. It made me realise there are actually two intertwined plots, and that helped, though I'm still not sure in which order things are going to happen. Hopefully that will come together at some point.

And hopefully I'll have good news (i.e. a finished story) in a couple of weeks!

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Movie Review: Outlaw King

Outlaw King is a 2018 Netflix movie set in the early 1300s, telling the true story of Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine), a Scottish nobleman. Scotland is a weary and poverty-stricken nation after eight years of fighting the English, whose king Edward I took advantage of a leadership dispute to invade the country and tax them heavily.

After the death of William Wallace (whom you may remember from the movie Braveheart), the people are stirred by anger, and Robert takes advantage of this wave of outrage to gather soldiers together to fight the English invasion. A rash and impulsive decision threatens to undo everything he has done, and leads him to quickly seek to have himself crowned King of Scotland. The English retaliation against this is swift and brutal. Led by the king's son, sadistic Prince Edward, the English forces move to crush any opposition and punish Robert by capturing his family. The rest of the plot will be known by students of history, and for anyone else, I want to avoid spoiling the ending.

The casting of Chris Pine (best known for his portrayal of Captain Kirk in the Star Trek reboots) was an interesting choice in my opinion. Pine has been made up with greying hair and a beard, making him look much older than he is, and is almost unrecognisable. At the start of the movie's events, Robert the Bruce was only 30 years old, so possibly looked younger than his movie counterpart. Perhaps this was done to make him seem more authoritative? Then there's the accent. American actors are often put in roles playing non-American characters and the accent can sometimes be an issue, but I think Pine's Scottish accent was very well done.

The movie isn't shy in showing the brutal realities of mediaeval life: the mud, how peasants are treated, people being hung, drawn and quartered, and horses being impaled in battle. If you don't want to see any of this, then this isn't the movie for you! If you want to see a no-holds-barred account of history, Outlaw King does this well.

It's true, critics have pointed out several historical inaccuracies in the movie. No historical movie is one-hundred percent accurate (if there are any, let me know!) and stories need to be appealing to their audience. Robert and his wife had already been married for two years before the events of the movie, but we wouldn't have felt so much empathy for them if we hadn't seen how they met. Fire arrows weren't used in Europe at that time, but we wouldn't have been able to see normal arrows in the dark during the night time battle and, I have to admit, they looked pretty awesome!
(More historical inaccuracies are listed on the Wikipedia page for the movie.)

At times there were visual metaphors more suited to an arthouse movie -- an upturned apple cart, a rainbow. These were jarring and made me wonder if the movie was trying to be something other than what it is. Then it swung the other way with 'that' scene. I have no problem with nudity in movies if it's warranted, but these days it seems almost expected for Chris Pine to be nude at some point in every movie that he's in. If people aren't talking about the movie for the blood and guts, or the accents, they're talking about it for that.

Overall though, I thought it was a decent movie, with gorgeous highland landscapes contrasted with the not-so-gorgeous narrative of Scottish mediaeval society.

Would I watch it again? Yes!

Sunday, 4 November 2018

I'm Doing NaNoWriMo!

Sort of!

Yes, I'm giving National Novel Writing Month another go! With some modifications, however...

A whole 50,000-word novel is a bit much for me. I've never done well at any kind of 30-day challenges. I couldn't even write for 10 minutes a day when I tried it three years ago. During the week I rarely have the time or the energy to work on anything creative, leaving an ever-mounting backlog which means I never get past the first week -- or often the first 3 days!

So I'm modifying the challenge and decided to write a 5,000 word story. That's only 166 words a day. (I rounded it up to 170 for convenience's sake.) At the moment it's easy to tell my brain that's a very do-able goal.

Also, I have to admit, I cheated a little and wrote 500 words on 31st October, because I was so excited when I first decided to do the challenge. This has turned out to be a good thing, because I'm ahead of the count and feel a lot less pressured. Even when I'm ahead, I still aim to open up the document and add something to it every day.

I just have to point out: I never liked the "National" part of NaNoWriMo, as people from all over the world are taking up the challenge. Although, I was doing a bit of digging around today and just found this Melbourne-based Facebook group -- MelbNaNo. So that's nice.

I'm hoping to publish the story at the end of the month on Wattpad or something similar. If anyone knows of a more suitable platform for sharing an original cozy mystery story featuring coffee and cats, please let me know! I'd love to get some feedback on it and perhaps see if I can expand it into a series one day.

Good luck to everyone else doing NaNoWriMo 2018! Now I'd better get back to writing!

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

My August / September / October

Oops! I forgot to do my monthly update a couple of months in a row! To be honest, not much happened in August and September. Winter subsided a bit earlier than normal this year though, and my mood lifted enough for me to start looking forward to things again.

As soon as the sun started to appear again, I enjoyed as much time in the park as I could, walking, reading and viewing the Spring flowers.

Husband and I went out several times with our foodie friend, and we ate a lot!

Last weekend I went to PAX, the video game and tabletop game expo. I had quite a laidback time, spending a leisurely couple of hours playing games from the convention's library, and looking at the upcoming indie games showcase. It was so laidback that I didn't buy anything, and didn't even take any photos!

I refreshed my altar to reflect the new season. I wrote more about it on my spirituality blog here.

And recently I participated in my fourth art exhibition as I wrote about here.

I have another art project in the works, and if it comes through, I'll be sure to let you know!

Selections from Instagram

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

My Painting in "Stay Safe" Exhibition

I'd just like to let you know that my painting is part of the Stay Safe exhibition at NOIR Darkroom until the end of this week. Stay Safe invites a visual discourse from female-identifying and non-binary artists. I was lucky enough to be selected and made a painting especially for the exhibition. It's one of the most heartfelt I've made.

Find the details at NOIR Darkroom's website.

I actually turned up to the opening night this time, and here are some photos I took of the amazing work:

Please note: some of imagery below may be triggering.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Madfest Anime Festival 2018 and Haul

About a month ago, I went to the Madfest Anime Festival. I have attended every year since it began in 2016. In the previous two years, it was held in mid-November, but this year it was moved to mid-September. I think there are pluses and minuses to this timing. It's not too close to other festivals that happen in November, such as PAX and Supanova. On the other hand, the weather isn't as likely to be good. The day I went was dull, grey and rainy -- not very good conditions for cosplay photography! I did see a couple of people braving the rain to take photos, but I did feel a bit sorry for them.

The lineup featured all of the usual: community performances, celebrity appearances and signings, merch booths, creators' corner, and movie premieres (for an additional ticket price). Last year I wanted to build up my plushie collection, but this year I was mainly interested in stickers and crafty things. These things are found in the creators' corner and this year it was huge! All of the little yellow squares on the map below are creator stalls. I was determined to see them all, but I felt like I spent most of my time in that section! However, it was really great to see so many makers getting the opportunity to share their creations.

This year the festival was held in a smaller space -- and it made a big difference. The moment we walked in the door, we were hit with a wall of people and it was quite daunting. There was a much smaller space to sit and only a couple of food stations compared to the spacious area and large selection of food stalls last year. That was a little disappointing. The creators' corner area, too, was very crowded. It took a long time to squeeze through all the people to see each stall. There were some that I wanted to buy products from, but I gave up because of the wall of people in front of them.

I'm not good with crowds, and I needed to take regular breaks after every couple of aisles to reground myself. I'm familiar with the noisy and frenetic atmosphere of conventions, and I was prepared for it, but I still found it overwhelming. I started to get a feeling, too, that I was just there to buy stuff. However, I did enjoy looking at the cosplay costumes, the displays, and being with a group of people who have the same interest as me.

Having said all that, now for the haul! Links to the creators' Instagrams are included where possible (You don't need the Instagram app to view them, links are to a browser version of Instagram.)