Saturday, March 26, 2011

Contrasting Colors

In my Elements of Style II class, we're learning all about opposites on the color wheel, how colors are made more vibrant by strong contrast.  The same is true of characters.  Maybe a really high-strung character makes everything his laid-back friend says sound like an understatement, or a really cautious person makes his adrenaline-junkie pal out to be insane.  They can drive each other crazy -which is fun to watch.  They can also balance each other out.  

Charles Dickens loves balancing his characters this way.  Bookish but naive Mr. Pickwick is balanced by his friendship with the streetwise but illiterate Sam Weller.  Robert Louis Stevenson shows the cultural difference between the lowland and highland Scots of the time by pairing Alan Breck Stewart with Davie Balfour.  A strong contrast shows who a character is by revealing who they aren't.  Not a bad trick -in print or paint.   

On a completely different subject, I am thinking about changing the name of my blog to `Lit Geek' since I haven't been rambling much about fairy-tales recently.  What do you think?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Rediscovering Shakespeare

I first fell in love with Shakespeare back in high-school.  My family all came down with chicken-pox so mom decided to read `The Merchant of Venice' to us.  `The Merchant of Venice' has everything a great story needs; deadly peril, disguises, a fairy-tale trial to win the lady.  (Am I the only one who thought of Portia's casks while watching the end of `Indian Jones and the Last Crusade'?)  I was so enamored by the story that I read all Shakespeare's comedies and tragedies, and even typed up my own `Shakespearean style' tragedy and forced my siblings to help act it out. 

After all this time, I can come at Shakespeare from a different angle.  I've taken Classical Mythology, so now I actually understand his references to Greek and Roman myths.  I have some idea who those people getting married in the background of `A Midsummer Night's Dream' are (though I still don't have a clue why a bunch of Greeks are tangling with English fairies.)  The same thing happened to me when re-reading first and second Kings in the Bible.  After my Survey of Art classes, I actually understood the descriptions of Solomon's temple.

It is interesting how new knowledge and experiences can change the way you read.  They add context and texture.  Sometimes they open up what used to be obscure, so you find yourself saying `oh yeah, I get it now.'  This spring I'm getting my AA in English Lit and in Art.  I'm glad to be graduating, but I've got to say, I've really enjoyed the classes, and the way my studies have shaded the way I look at life.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Dragon

Sorry for the late post.  I was a little under the weather today.  I thought you all might like a picture that's a little less black-and-white so I decided to upload... da-da-dun... monochrome!  (Exciting, huh?)  

I love dragons, and not just because they're fun to draw.  Dragons add a sense of uncertainty to a story. They're untamed and unpredictable.  That makes them a lot of fun.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Less than Fatal Flaws

I've been watching a lot of the old Disney Afternoon TV shows lately (ah, nostalgia, they name is `lets see how long I can put off doing my collage homework.') and I've noticed quite a few characters fall under what TV tropes calls Mr Vice Guy .  Scrooge McDuck turns stinginess into an art form.  Baloo of TaleSpin puts most of his energy into trying to get out of work.  Darkwing Duck can barely reign in his ego (and usually doesn't try).  

You'd think such obviously flawed characters wouldn't be so completely lovable, but despite their failings, these guys are portrayed as heroes.  Scrooge may love money, but he'll always stick to honest labor to get it -and will thoroughly trounce those who prefer dishonest means.  Baloo may try to get out of work, but he's never too lazy to rescue his friends when they're in trouble.  Darkwing Duck may grumble and glower when the media once again fails to notice his heroism, but that doesn't stop him from being a terrific father, or from saving the city.

I think there's something empowering about reading or watching characters who have to struggle against themselves in order to save the day.  After all, don't we have to do the same?  Maybe we don't face down super villains or air pirates, but we often have to fight our own egos, or laziness, or greed.  Seeing heroes who have to go through the same man against self (or bear or duck against self) is reassuring that we're not the only ones whose better natures have to wage war in order to come out on top.