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Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017. A year that happened.

Well. 2017 was a weird year. There were all of the big sadnesses - the chaos in the world and the constant sense of unease at the discord in our country and the lack of anything resembling morals or integrity in a good chunk of the government. But there were also some more personal sadnesses. My aunt very suddenly passed away this year, which remains rather hard to come to grips with. It still makes me very sad but also really grateful that I got to spend time with her recently and that I have such a wonderful family that I love and who love me. And being able to spend time with my family and friends definitely helped me cope with the sad parts. Playing cards with my mom and my sister. Watching OK GO music videos with my dad. Playing D&D with the Strong Ladies. My family and I getting stuck at a baseball game during a torrential rain storm. The family of owls that lived in my parents backyard over the summer. Those bits of 2017 were good.

I also consumed a whole lot of really good media - books, movies, video games, etc, that I wanted to share. Maybe a few of these things will make you happy as well. Or you'll totally hate them - that's fine too. You do you.


MOVIES + TELEVISION

When I look back at the year, the one movie that really stands out is YOUR NAME. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend going in without knowing much about it. On the surface it seems like a quirky body-swapping anime adventure, but there is way more to it than that and I just loved it. It’s happy and sad and lovely and beautifully animated. Plus the music has been solidly in my brain for months and months.

My other favorites from the year:

THE HANDMAIDEN
The visuals of this movie are astounding and, being a Chan-wook Park movie, it's wonderfully weird and dark (although not quite as dark as, say, Oldboy). It’s also a film that is way better than the book it is based on (in my opinion anyway).

LADY BIRD 
I was a little uncertain about what to expect from Lady Bird - I was worried it was going to be like the Noah Baumbach movies Greta Gerwig is often associated with (which I can’t stand for some reason). I was so pleased to be wrong. The film wonderfully captures so many of the tiny details and big dramas of being a teenager trying to figure out life. I thought it was great. 

JOHN WICK
I know i’m a bit late to the party, but damn John Wick is a stellar action movie. I had been putting it off because I knew bad things happened to a dog, but I’m glad I finally watched it. The fight choreography is creative and distinctive and I really liked the relationships between John Wick and the different underworld members we meet along the way.

BRIGSBY BEAR
This story of a man trying to figure out his world through creativity, friendship, and filmmaking was really enjoyable. In a world so saturated with cynicism, this movie is unabashedly optimistic and kind and I support that.

THE SHAPE OF WATER
Another beautiful fairy tale from Guillermo del Toro, one of my absolute favorite directors. I loved the characters and the story and the willingness to approach fantastical elements from an adult perspective. And of course the movie looks incredible.

BLADE RUNNER 2049
I really enjoyed the experience of watching this movie in the theatre; the music, the visuals, the acting, and the strong filmmaking craft on display all worked so well together. I have some nitpicks but it still really stuck with me.

LEGION
Legion is a wonderfully strange, surreal show which was a lot of fun to watch. I love when something unusual and weird is able to actually make it onto mainstream television. 

VOLTRON
Watching Voltron makes me feel this great combination of nostalgia and excitement. It's very much like the kind of animation/anime I obsessed over as a teenager. I've made fan art. I even read some fan fiction. o_o

AMERICAN GODS
Since I am demonstrably behind on all of the shows people gather to watch, it was pretty exciting to finally have something new that I managed to keep up with from the beginning and could watch every week with my sister. I think the creators of the show did a great job translating and expanding on the source material - especially in the way they enriched the back stories of some of the minor characters. During one of the episodes focusing on Laura Moon, my sister and I turned to each other at the same time and said "this is incredible."

Honorable Mentions
Wonder Woman
Spiderman Homecoming
Thor Ragnarok
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
The Last Jedi


VIDEO GAMES

In no particular order (they were all good):

DRAGON AGE INQUISITION
This is probably my favorite game. Like, ultimate number one favorite game. I can’t think of another video game that I have played so much and have such affection for. I played Inquisition four more times this year, which brings my total time invested in the game to 358.5 hours. Good grief.

WITCHER 3
This is another world I loved spending time in. The characters and story are great and I had such a fun time playing through it. Definitely one of those games where “I’ll just finish up one more mission” turns into “how the heck is it 2am?!”

DISHONORED 2 + DEATH OF THE OUTSIDER
I adore the Dishonored games. They are great examples of strong world building and contain some of the best designed locations/levels I have ever played. I finally did my second D2 playthrough this year (as Corvo) and while technically I wasn’t beholden to the fully non-lethal strategy I employed in my first go-around, I still couldn’t bring myself to kill anyone. Except for that one guard that fell off of something. And for that I blame gravity, not Corvo. I also had a great time with Death of the Outsider.

HORIZON: ZERO DAWN
It would seem that I’m a bit of a broken record when it comes to the “importance of good world building” (see every other game on this list). But dangit, it’s important and HZD is yet another great example. I'm a sucker for abandoned ruins and stories pieced together through history and artifacts so this game was basically made for me. It was a lot of fun to play and actually made me enjoy using a bow and arrow which is a hard game mechanic to get right.

WOLFENSTEIN II: THE NEW COLOSSUS
This game delightfully surprised me. The previous Wolfenstein game was really uneven in tone, but New Colossus fully embraces its weird, gonzo nature and is just utterly ridiculous, funny, well written, and surprisingly charming. Plus it’s a really tight, well crafted shooter.

MASS EFFECT ANDROMEDA
As you can tell by my many, many hours invested in Dragon Age, I’m a bit of a Bioware fan-girl. So , needless to say, I had really high hopes for Andromeda. And while it’s definitely a mess of a game and didn’t quite live up to my expectations, I still ultimately liked it. It’s oddly charming and the gameplay was fun.

Honorable Mentions:
Uncharted: Lost Legacy (stellar story, less than stellar gameplay)
Titanfall 2 (Single Player campaign)


BOOKS

I think it’s very possible that I read more books in 2017 than any other single year of my life: 78 in total. I’ve become a bit of a book addict it would seem. Give be a warm blanket, a cup of tea, a good book and I'm all set.

ROMANCE

A good percentage of what I read this year were romance novels. There is something therapeutic about spending time with a good love story; romances usually follow certain patterns and predictable rhythms and almost always have happy endings - calming elements that I desperately needed in 2017. When I would get overloaded by frustration and hopelessness after another day of reading the news, cracking open a romance novel would genuinely help calm me down.

I am pretty new to the genre, which I only properly started reading over the last few years after acquiring a Kindle (and therefore being able to hide the often embarrassing cover art). It was also really helpful finding other people online who were vocal about their love of the genre, which helped me realize it's OK to like romance books. I tend to pick romances based on reader/author recommendations, book lists, and occasionally just "things that are on sale on Amazon". This haphazard book selection technique lead to reading some atrocious books that, were they paperback and not my kindle, would have been hurled across the room. But it also lead to discovering some books that I really loved.

I read a number of books by Alexis Hall this year and am so happy I came across his work. He has a great conversational narrative voice and For Real is easily being added to my “ultimate favorite romances” list. I also really enjoyed his Arden St. Ives series, which is ridiculously melodramatic but also funny, sweet, and sexy (envision a much better written, charming, gay version of 50 Shades of Gray). These are definitely R-rated books, so be warned.

Another great author that I discovered this year was KJ Charles. She writes great m/m historical romances that I just tear through. Think of England was my favorite, but I also enjoyed the Charm of Magpies and Sins of the Cities series.

A wonderfully written and engaging story about a trio of college students falling in love and growing up. I can't wait to read the next book in the series.

Honorable Mentions:

FICTION

This first book in the Witcher series (which are the source material for the video games) is a really well written, dark take on fairy tales that I loved spending time with. Definitely going to read more of Geralt's witching adventures in 2018. 

Napoleonic wars with dragon aerial combat. Great characters and setting, plus a man + dragon friendship that I adored.

NORSE MYTHOLOGY (Neil Gaiman)
I am a huge fan of mythology and fables so this wonderfully written collection of Norse stories was a treat. It probably also made me an insufferable know-it-all when discussing (myth-splaining?) the historical origins for characters in Thor: Ragnarok. Very sorry. 

STATION ELEVEN (Emily St. John Mandel)
Station Eleven tells the story of a group of people before, during, and after a global pandemic in a wholly original way that completely captivated me.

CARRY ON (Rainbow Rowell)
On the very surface this feels like a well-written Harry Potter clone, but I loved it so much. Carry On does some fun deconstructions/re-imaginings of the "chosen one" trope and includes really likable characters and a stellar, sigh-inducing romance. 

THE BLADE ITSELF (Joe Abercrombie)
The Blade Itself was my attempt to insert some "proper" fantasy in between my copious romance books. It took me a while to get into but I ended up really liking it. This is the first book in a trilogy (with additional connected books) so there is a lot of set up that I imagine is going to have more room to grow and flourish in future installments. Before They Are Hanged (the second book) will be on my to-read list for 2018. 

NON FICTION

A really gripping, readable account of Shackleton’s doomed polar expedition. There is a passage involving sad penguins that genuinely made me cry.

VACATIONLAND (John Hodgeman)
John Hodgeman's Vacationland is a wonderful collection of essays and stories about life, adulthood, and middle age which made me laugh a lot and cry a little bit. 

DEAD MOUNTAIN (Donnie Eichar)
Dead Mountain explores the Dylatov Pass Incident, where a group of experienced Russian hikers died under very mysterious, eerie circumstances in 1959. Despite the freezing temperatures of the siberian winter, all nine hikers left their tent in the middle of the night, many without shoes or proper clothing, with some perishing due to hypothermia and others due to unexplained violent injuries. The book dismantles all of the conspiracy theories and puts fourth a very plausible scientific recreation of the events, but also tells the personal stories of the hikers as well as the author's own journey to gather information. A very interesting book. 

COMICS + GRAPHIC NOVELS

I didn’t read nearly as many comics and graphic novels as I would have liked to this year, but from the small handfull that I did read, MY BROTHER’S HUSBAND by Gengoroh Tegame really stood out. It’s an interesting, well drawn story of a young Japanese father coming to grips with his own insecurities and prejudices when he meets the husband of his deceased brother.


ART

I made a lot of art that I am really proud of this year, but also had a hard time getting motivated and coming up with ideas. Pretty sure that had to do with all the negativity and sadness leaking in from the outside world. But I made progress on my Nerd Love series (24 down, 28 to go) and I made an effort to occasionally push myself out of my comfort zone with results that i’m mostly happy with. I won Best in Show at this year’s Lincoln Arts Festival, had a successful first venture into out-of-state craft fairs, and printed my first art book. So not too shabby. Now I just need to get my mind back into art mode so I can get started on some neat projects that I have coming up in 2018.

So that was 2017. Some good bits. Some bad bits. Definitely a year that happened.

Goals for 2018:
- Try to experiment more with movement in my art
- More architectural collages that don’t involve people
- Expand my etsy shop selection now that I can make giclee prints at home
- Get an iPad and learn how to use Procreate
- Finally get that new tattoo

- Oh, and finish Yuri on Ice...


- And get caught up on Game of Thrones...

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

November stuff!

Ah, November. Time to pack up the halloween decorations, air out the winter coat, and attend some awesome craft fairs!



Friday, November 17 / 5:30-9:30 p.m.
Saturday, November 18 / 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Unitarian Church of Lincoln, Lincoln NE


I will be selling all of my small wares at the Handmade Harvest craft fair - prints, cards, jewelry, art books, and maybe some very small art (we'll see what fits on the table). This will be a fun event and a great way to get a head start on holiday shopping. 



November 24, 2017
Capital Square Atrium, Des Moines IA

My first out-of-state craft/art fair! I will be taking my show on the road for this year's Market Day Black Friday sale in Des Moines! The people who run this event are incredibly rad and I'm so excited to be participating.


ART BOOK & ETSY UPDATE

New giclee prints featuring more of my plant/animal hybrids (plantimals?) are now available in my etsy shop, along with my brand new art book featuring recent original and pop-culture collages and sketches from 2016-2017.






Tuesday, September 12, 2017

It's Nearly Fall!

The leaves are juuuuuuust starting to change. There are spiders friggin' everywhere. I can actually go outside without melting. It's almost fall! And with that comes a whole bunch of events and art shows. 

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LINCOLN ARTS FESTIVAL

September 30 & October 1, 2017

Southpoint Pavilions, Lincoln NE


I'm back at the Lincoln Arts Festival! In addition to new prints, cards, and jewelry, I will also have brand new ART BOOKS! I'm so excited about these books and hope you like them too. Plus, I will have lots of original work available, including a bunch of Nerd Love collages. Lets hope for some lovely fall weather and less rain than last year.

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GHOST STORIES (Small Group Show)

October 4-30, 2017


Gallery 9, Lincoln NE
Opening reception: 
Friday, October 6 (6:30-9:00 p.m.)


Immediately following the festival, I will be showing a collection of new work at Gallery 9 along with Vonni Sparks and Carol DeVall. It's going to be a really fun, colorful show - please come and check it out!

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EXTRA LIFE CHARITY GAMING MARATHON
November 4, 2017
I wasn't able to participate in Extra Life last year because I foolishly signed up for back-to-back art shows in November and December. Luckily things worked out a lot better this year. Extra Life is a 24-hour gaming marathon to raise awareness and money for children's hospitals across the country. I always support PennState Children's Hospital, who provided care for my cousin when he was undergoing treatment for Leukemia. Please follow the link if you would like to make a donation! If I can get it figured out, I'm going to try to stream my games throughout the day so you can tune in and watch me get progressively worse as I get sleepy. Maybe some Destiny 2? Or Uncharted: Lost Legacy? Or Horizon Zero Dawn? You guys, I have so many games that I need to get caught up on.

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HANDMADE HARVEST

November 17 & 18, 2017

Unitarian Church of Lincoln, Lincoln NE

I will be selling all of my small wares at the Handmade Harvest craft fair - prints, cards, jewelry, art books, and maybe some very small art (we'll see what fits on the table). This will be a fun event and a great way to get a head start on holiday shopping. 

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MARKET DAY BLACK FRIDAY

November 24, 2017

Capital Square Atrium, Des Moines IA

My first out-of-state craft/art fair! I will be taking my show on the road for this year's Market Day Black Friday sale in Des Moines! The people who run this event are incredibly rad and I'm so excited to be participating.  

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So that's the schedule so far! Because of all of these events, there will be a few times in the next couple of months where my Etsy shop will be closed. But when it's open, you will be able to get the new prints and art books there. Plus, I will be having a special Cyber Monday shop sale, so stay tuned for details. And finally, here are a few new Nerd Love pieces, because text-only posts always feel so barren and lonely.