The Viking Age May Not Make the Cut

I have two directions that I could choose while I revising Udal Cuain into The Raven Appears. I’m not sure what I want to do.

ATTICUS & EMERSON

Literary puns aside this is a question on my mind.

When I began the journey of writing Udal Cuain the Viking Age was the time period I was interested in. I’m a huge fan of the show Vikings. The manner in which Michael Hirst brought this neglected time period in history to life is inspiring to me. I could go into a lot of detail as to how his storytelling style speaks to me, but I will save that for another post. From a fantastical element, the Viking Age is a great starting point for a story inspired by history and adventure. Are the Vikings good or bad and what attitude should we take toward these group of people? They were explorers, settlers, conquerors. They have a deep religious history and deities that have sparked comics, like Thor. In general, they are hard core and the sagas of the Nordic…

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Hi Muirin Project, it’s been a while…

A lot has been going on. I celebrated my two year anniversary yesterday. I’ve been working on my illustration style, working on my drink making skills, my liquid eyeliner prowess and working a lot. I dyed my hair navy blue which has faded to a bizarre green. I cut my hair short again, and this time I look like James May and Dave Keuning. Oh dear, it is so funny and embarrassing! ^^ Anyways, I also started a new writing project with my husband. Here are some highlights:

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What else is going on with me?

Udal Cuain I have pulled back from actively writing on the draft. As a writer, I struggled to commit to my draft, setting and characters. I believe I have mentioned this before on the blog, maybe not. To force myself to commit I began writing chapters live in July. I have stayed with this process until January 2018 when I began to question the wisdom of this. I believe in Udal Cuain and I don’t think method is serving my novel well. I have put the project on hiatus to plan, edit and understand what I am doing with my story. If you have enjoyed my writing project hold tight, some version of the story will come back. If you think it could be better, good news I am revising and editing.

More content coming soon, stay tuned.

Harry Potter and the British Museum.

A look into the British Museum’s Harry Potter Collection and the History of Magic has put a grin on my face. Maybe there is hope for every fiction dreamer with enough details and an undying passion for the world you imagine and the characters you craft. The images of JK Rowling’s notes, her handwritten map of Hogwarts — I relate to all of it. I have pages of hand drawn maps, notes and descriptions of everything in the world I have created in my novel. It is encouraging to see that everyone starts somewhere, every piece of art comes from the act of picking up the brush and daring to create something new.

https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/exhibit/ZgLSRWBwxUB9Ig

So, what do you do?

If you have graduated from college, this is the first question you are asked. When you meet someone new. When you see an old acquaintance. When you see your family. It is a question that defines your twenties. “What do you do?” What do we do? This is a vague question that scratches the surface of who you are and, at the same time, defines everything. When most people ask this question, they want to know what your job is. What your title is and who employs you. How long you have been employed and how often you work. It’s quantified. A whole life summed up in a small category. But is that a satisfactory answer to the question posed?

A job is what we do, for part of the time. A career over many years significantly impacts the shape, length and the character of our lives. But is this the only factor by which we should measure our lives and what we “do?” Because if you take more than a minute to consider what we do in our lives, we do a lot more than our day jobs. Even if we get to be Cristina Yang and our job is the career of our dreams.

Why am I posing this question? Well I think as a millennial this question has become a two-edged sword that cuts us down or provides us of high self-esteem. In the culture that we have been born into, a culture that has been shaped by the generations before us, this seems to be the only source of value by which an individual can be judged and quantified. We obsess over it. From the time we begin High School, our lives surround what our major will be in college. What job will we get. We do not think about the personhood of the individual and a fully formed mind and heart. We are workers, producers, we are robots of the workforce.

But who are you when you aren’t working? Who are you on the weekends? Do you seek after new experiences? Do you have any hobbies? Can you cook for yourself? Have you explored any of the world around you? Do read any books? Can you speak more than one language? Do you understand science, art, literature, history, etc? If you remove the job from the equation of your life, what is left? Are you just a consumer of resources? Can you be a whole person without it?

These are important questions. As millennials we face a tough job market. Most of us are not doing what we want straight out of college. We muddle through. We wait for the right opportunity to find and make do while we wait. So, when you are asked what do you, when you are muddling through unemployment and dead-end jobs, waiting for the job that will fill you with purpose, how do you answer that question? Where are you finding your worth? It’s a really hard thing to find. You have to go against all the expectations and look for a purpose that you have derived yourself. I have slogged through this mud for three years. It is murky. It is a process that our generation is being defined by. But what if we change our perspectives? 

What you “do” for work should only define your life if it is what you love. If it is a passion project. But it should never be your source of worth. It is so easy in modern life to get absorbed in the frantic pace by which culture dictates life should be. Instead of living our lives by checking boxes of things – job, car, mortgage, pet, Instagram of expensive trips, expensive meals, and pictures of trend things – take a breath.

Seriously. Just breathe. What do you want out of life? You. Not what someone else is telling you need. Tune out the advertisements. The expectations of society. Be still and listen to your heart. Explore the world around you. Create the life and the self that makes you happy. Build your worth by crafting yourself into a good, well-rounded person.

  • Travel. Domestically and internationally. See some part of the world. Start slow and go as you can.
  • If you can’t afford it at the moment, watch travel videos, read books, listen to podcasts.
  • Meditate.
  • Workout.
  • Take up a hobby.
  • Start a blog.
  • Draw, paint, craft.
  • Research. Discover an industry you would like to work in and learn how to achieve it.
  • Build a resume that will give you what you want. Learn how to market yourself. Be your own brand. Go forth with confidence.

Be patient and never give up. Life is full of phases. If you are in a phase you hate right now, all hope is not lost. You may be spinning. You may feel confused but I promise it will get better. The first step is to stop tethering your worth to your job and find your worth in your passions and personhood. When you begin to see yourself as more than a title heading at the top of Linkedin and see yourself as a person with gifts, talents and passions, you will begin to find your way again. Believe in yourself in the darkest moments. See this question of “What do you do?” as an opportunity for growth. Not to make yourself grow, but to make the person who asks you this question grow. Encourage these people to not see life through only one dimension. Open their eyes to the fact that life is not about your job. Not about how much money you make and how much stuff you own. Seek meaning and encourage others around you to live meaningfully. 

Instead of asking someone what they do, ask them what they are passionate about. Ask them how they are doing. Ask them to share stories of their life.

-M

 

 

Hybridity, Globalism and Beauty Inclusive

The finale of Project Runway Season 16 was by far one of their best in recent years. Personally I would say it was their best since the program switched networks from Bravo to Lifetime. If you separate out the probably scripted twin drama and take stock of the talent that was left. The cast of designers had conviction in their designs and personality. But enough of my personal opinions about the cast, the real point of this post is about the clothing.

For this post I am going to discuss the top five designers that created ten piece collections. Although Kenya was eliminated before NYFW, I believe it is pertinent to include her in this group. Kenya, Kentaro, Brandon, Margarita and Ayana are a fantastic cross section to analyze.

 

Kentaro:

  • global point of view
    • hybridity
    • all shapes and sizes
    • avant garde
  • Japanese elements of design
    • balance
    • presentation
    • minimalism
  • artistry of music in design
    • composing

 

Brandon:

  • innovation
    • street wear
  • androgyny
  • layering & shape
    • translates to all sizes
    • men and women

 

Kenya:

  • Toni
    • full figured inspiration
    • real woman
  • Cut of clothing
    • makes all sizes shine
    • understands fabrics
  • Refined
    • tailored
    • instills confidence and beauty in every piece

 

Ayana

  • Modest point of view
  • Hybridity
    • a market that is neglected
    • hijabs showcased as street wear or elegant headpieces
    • east meets west
    • harmony
  • Although there is a lot of fabric her designs are balanced
    • works on all shapes and size

 

Margarita

  • Puerto Rico
    • island perspective
    • Latina culture inspired
  • Pattern
    • balanced
    • dramatic
  • Understands a woman’s body
    • every model looks confident and chic, even in a bathing suit

 

There are a lot of buzzwords in that list that have rarely been uttered in fashion and it is amazing – full figured, modesty, hijabs and androgyny** Each of those words says something important for fashion in 2017: the perception of gender, beauty and femininity is changing. That is exciting.

Through Ayana’s clothing we see power in covering up, beauty in modesty, and a respect for culture and religion. It challenges the standard of religion in modernity and makes religion matter. It destroys the barriers of segmentation which modern life encourages to do.

Through Kenya’s clothing we see the respect for the real woman, one with curves. A woman who is beautiful as she is and chooses clothing to enhance herself and own her confidence in every moment of her life. We are all Toni.

Through Kentaro’s clothing we see imagination. He brings Japanese culture and marries it beautifully with western dress. He makes minimalism have impact. And he beautifully drapes his clothing to fit any and all shapes.

Margarita’s collection captures her soul. It was a celebration of her home, Puerto Rico. It was a celebration of her Latina culture and her island life. I like that. She is bold and fearless yet she knows her customer and that customer is any woman, any size, that wants to look beautiful.

Brandon’s collection speaks to his style and aesthetic. He is effortlessly cool. He is an originator. His ten pieces were similar, but wow does he have the foundation for a brand. His clothes are already being worn by Imagine Dragons. His clothes are the pinnacle of androgynous and street wear. He took his background in menswear and made a womenswear version that would probably look amazing still as menswear. Who else can pull that off? He captured the zeitgeist of what we want out of our clothes in 2017.

**Yes, the word androgyny been thrown out a lot on the show. But seriously have we seen clothing as gender ambiguous as Brandon before? No.**

Finally the models. Diversity as it should have been always. This season had the best models of all because they were all unique and were all showcasing their own natural hair. The model confessional was critiqued by some as unnecessary but I disagree. This season was all about models breaking barriers, why would they not interview the models? It was an extra segment added later that enhanced the storylines, instead of fabricating fake drama, like all the Lifetime seasons before. Getting to meet the models in the interviews also enhanced the finale. It was special to see Liris, Janine, Jazzmine, Sian and Meisha (and any others I have missed) walk the NYFW runway because we knew them. We learned about their stories with the designers and so it was a complete thought, culminating in the final show.

What I hope to see in Season 17 is a continued focus on diversity, conviction and real women. Congrats to Kentaro and all the other finalists and models who showed at NYFW, you gave us a great season.

 

Reflections on Lena

Portraits. Figure drawing. Painting. A piece of charcoal in between your fingers. The scratching sounds of drawing on a canvas. The dunking of brushes in water. This is the symphony of the art student. The story of Lena and myself.

Lena has been a standout character for me since I read the series in High School. Lena is shy, quiet, and emotionally reserved. A dreamer. She does not enjoy being the center of attention. I am an awful lot like her. I am an INFP. I am reserved, shy, and sensitive. I like to stay in the background and dream. I also have a burning need to create. And feel most alive when I am behind an easel.

I used to draw everyday, from the time I was seven. I would carry papers and pencils with me and I would draw anything I could think of. My grandmother, who was an artist, spent many visits with me, teaching me little tricks to make my drawings better. She gave me a framework to create. She showed me how to draw figures from eight circles; she sparked my interest in drawing people. And so I drew people from my imagination. I made fantastic little crayon worlds of color and people, far away from the reality around me that was drained of color and expression. Drawing was my little safe world from all the monsters outside of my paper that could make me sad.

Then her fingers started itching for a piece of charcoal…It was like leaving drugs out for an addict.

The world has always been a bit scary to me, but the world I create from the end of my paint brush or my pencil has always made me feel happy and safe. As the kid of a screwed up divorce and a toxic extended family, art has been my therapy, though I didn’t realize that until my 20’s. Once I began to notice the people around me, I began to soak up people’s emotions, and I didn’t know how to process the sadness and the pain. In High School, I began to understand that there was more to the drawing process than simply creating things from your imagination. In order to grow, you had to look deeper. You had to study the world around you.

As a child you were taught to see the world in geometric shapes and primary colors…Then you had to spend the rest of your life unlearning them. That was life as Lena could tell. Making everything simple for the the first ten years, which in turn made everything way more complicated for the subsequent seventy.

But, I didn’t want to look deeper. I didn’t want to tap into the world and investigate it the way I was supposed to. It was too painful. So I hid, in perfect images on the canvas. My work was stark, vanilla, and generic in its symmetry. My color choices were identical to what I saw in the pretty and safe inspirations I chose. I duplicated reality by removing everything dark and rough from the image. I smugly believed I was better than everyone else, because my images were so perfect. But that’s not what art is about! Art is about emotion and communicating a story behind the lines and colors. You are saying something. And my teenage work said nothing. I painfully realized this at a Senior Art show at a local gallery. I wandered around the gallery looking at my competitors’ work with superficial confidence. Their messy strokes and moody colors to me were less than my ideal art. I would win, I knew it. If the judges had taste I would.

And I didn’t. I didn’t even place.

Lena had been avoiding Valia’s obvious pain, and her own associated troubles. Seeing Valia’s face, she couldn’t ignore the pain. Drawing Valia meant not only seeing it but going in after it. Lena felt that her only hope was to try in stages….She wouldn’t just find the sorrow, plentiful though it was. She would be an archeaologist. She would unearth the former Valia; she would rediscover her in the midst of all her ravages…Lena was drawing what she saw, but allowing the past to inform the way she interpreted it, if it was possible. She could see the beauty if she really tried.

That moment of underwhelmed achievement and, real failure, made me reflect. I recoiled. I knew what my art was missing, but I refused to go there. Refused to be uncomfortable and be an archaeologist like Lena. So, I put down my brushes and my pencils and I packed them away and decided I did not want to be an artist anymore. I didn’t want to investigate the depths of a person’s face and soul with my charcoal. I didn’t want to examine the world around me with my paints. What a silly way to think!

You can’t escape emotions or pain. They are everywhere. In the books we read and the topics we discuss. You have to cut yourself off from everything to not feel something and, even then, when you feel something, you have to feel it all by yourself. It will clobber you.

She had thought that her challenge would be to paint his anger, to confront it. But now she knew that wasn’t the challenging thing. The challenging thing was to see past it…Sometimes you could see things more truly when you forfeited your normal visual relationship with them. Sometimes your preexisting ideas were so powerful they clubbed the truth dead before you could realize it was there. Sometimes you had to let the truth catch you be surprise.

I’ve gone through many phases of art now. Abstract strokes. Angry, dark painting of distress and pain. Faded colors, too muted to barely speak. Bold expressions on portraits. Watercolors. Acrylics. Oil Pastels. Charcoal. I have duplicated, interpreted, and dug through the world around me to find the beauty hiding beneath. It called to me, screamed at points for me to find it. Instead, I ran away.  I hid my head away from art. I despised it for a while, for its pull caused me pain. And then one day, as I was working on a short story, art called to me again and welcomed me back with a hug. It released my demons and opened my eyes back to the world of random lines and shapes. The beauty with the world waiting to be discovered. Reading Lena’s character development from ‘Girls in Pants,’ spoke to me deeply about my own journey. It put expressions and emotions into words I could not find. Pretty surprising for a Young Adult Fiction book. I expect that out of Dostoevsky, not Ann Brashares.

The trick of drawing was leaving your feelings out, giving them the brutal boot. The deeper trick of drawing was inviting them back in, making nice with them at exactly the right moment, after you are sure your eyes really were working. Fighting and making up.

Fighting and making up is the concept that spoke to me. As I create my illustrations for Udal Cuain, and even write Udal Cuain, I am confronted with this. There are deep emotions I am dredging up with every chapter I write.  I must fight and make up in order to capture the feelings I am after. The story cannot be told without it. Even a simple portrait, like in the ‘Girls in Pants’ story, cannot be made without confronting the bad to showcase the good. It is a necessary battle to have on the canvas or the page. Without it, we are saying nothing of value, we are noise for the sake of noise shouting into the abyss of creativity lost.

 

Brashares, Ann. Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood. (2006) Delacorte Press: New York, NY.