Thursday, March 31, 2016

Classroom Doodle: Creative Platypus

Concept art for a clever t.v. series pitch my students came up with in study hall.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Drawing Atuan (Cont.): Creative Platypus

Kossil is the de facto villain for most of The Tombs of Atuan. She is a reminder of the banality of Evil. Grumpy, cross, power-hungry, murderous -Kossil doesn't think of herself as these things. If we met her on the street, might we? She simply acts as the Godking's priestess, and as the Godking's priestess, any slight to her authority, any check on her power, is a slight to the Godking -is treason. What she does, she does for the glory of the Kargad Empire and the honor of its divine ruler. What does it matter if she doesn't actually believe him to be divine? He is the one in power, the Authority, and Authority must be maintained because, in the end, Power is all there is.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Drawing Final Fantasy VI (Cont.): Creative Platypus

A second take on Final Fantasy VI's Terra Branford, this time with Prismacolor brush-tip markers. -still needs work, but I think I'm getting the hang of the thing.

Drawing Atuan (Cont.): Creative Platypus

As I'm continuing to play with my Prismacolor brush-tip markers, my next experiment has been with layering. I'm used to working with whiteboard markers, and they do not mix without fouling up one or both markers. The Prismacolors, on the other hand, layer nicely without rubbing off on one another. Placing more or less pressure on the marker also changes the opacity. Goodness, I'm scared of markers! They don't allow for mistakes. After talking with several of my students, however, I've come to realize that I fear my tools and that has to change. I don't fear the paints when I'm working with miniatures (Warhammer, 40K, LotR) and that's why I'm able to achieve some actual competency with them. Now it's time to gain that confidence for the rest of the visual arts.

So here's today's picture: the Priestess Thar from Ursula K. Le Guin's The Tombs of Atuan. Thar is one of the sympathetic characters in the work. We get the idea that serving as a priestess has not broken her spirit so much as tempered it. She is a fitting foil for her opposite number, the embittered and power-hungry Kossil.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Drawing Atuan (Cont.): Creative Platypus

Here's my second attempt to get a feel for my new Prismacolor brush markers. Following Monday's sketch of Tenar, this is my attempt at Ged. There's no reference material in this case -just my own imagination.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Drawing Final Fantasy VI: Creative Platypus

For my first attempt at using watercolor pencils, I decided to draw Terra Branford from Square Enix's Final Fantasy VI. I've always appreciated the concept art of the series, and the work done for VI stands out as some of the best. I'm still plugging away at my free copy of II and will post first thoughts here soon.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Drawing Atuan: The Platypus Reads Part CCXCII

Inspired by my students, I picked up a pack of Prismacolor brush tip markers on Saturday. To the left is my first attempt to get a feel for these new tools and what they can do. The image is from Yvonne Gilbert's cover for the 1984 paperback of The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin. It's the book my wife and I happen to be reading right now.

I didn't discover Ursula Le Guin until I was almost out of college. It's a pity. These are the books I should have been reading back in junior high instead of wasting all that time on "The Re-Reads of Shannara". Oh well. Each thing has its season.

What stands out to me about Le Guin's Earthsea, and The Tombs of Atuan in particular, is her strict minimalism. Not only is her word count and vocabulary perfectly restrained -not a word more than is needed- but her world and its characters are too. That's nothing short of phenomenal in a genre where over-writing is par for the course. Le Guin allows her characters to emerge from inference. We learn about them slowly, imperceptibly, by a what is said and what is not said, by what is done and what is not done. We learn about Earthsea and the Kargad Lands in the same way. There are no in-depth explanations, no authorial detours into mythology or politics. Unlike the works of Terry Brooks, however, it is not because these elements are not there. We know instinctively that Earthsea has the depth and reality of Middle Earth. Le Guin has simply mastered the art of only revealing the elements of her invented world that are absolutely necessary for the plot leaving the reader to infer the rest.

My wife pointed out a further stroke of genius that hadn't occurred to me before: Tenar, The Tombs of Atuan's lead character, is unlikable. This will be my forth or fifth trek through the novel, and I'd never thought about that; if I met Tenar in the real world, I wouldn't like her at all. Yet Le Guin, as a master fantasist keeps us reading page after angst-ridden page of Tenar's desert life. How does she do that? The answer seems to be two fold. As in Garth Nix's Clariel, Le Guin sets the reader a mystery and plays off of our desire to learn more. As in Clariel, but with a greater degree of mastery, The Tombs of Atuan also presents us with a sympathetic explanation of why the lead character is the way that she is. We understand that in the same circumstance we would be pushed toward becoming the same sort of person.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Back to Square IV (Final Thoughts): Platypus Nostalgia

This post has been a long time in coming, interrupted as it has been by moves and surgeries. By now, I have completed two trips through the Steam port of the DS reboot of Final Fantasy IV (America FFII). This was a touchstone game for me, though perhaps not so much as Final Fantasy I and VI (America FFIII). It certainly cemented my love of RPGs and particularly anything put out by Square in the old days. On the level of nostalgia, then, Final Fantasy IV was a hit. There were so many things that I had forgotten that the game was full of the pleasure of rediscovery both times through. My play style has certainly evolved over the years and I enjoyed being able to make better use of the spells and items available to move my characters through the game without all the endless level grinding that marked my younger days. In particular, I took a page out of Sun Tzu and decided to feed off the enemy by having Rydia repeatedly cast Stop and then getting my MP back through Osmose while the boys finished off the incapacitated threat and Rosa used Pray. This saved me multiple trips through the final Lunar dungeon. I enjoyed the story both times through though I'm old enough now to detect the blatant misogyny that mars parts of the game and had no place in an updated version. That aside, the adventure was compelling enough to reward a second play-through in less than a year. In the meantime, I've moved on to the tablet port of Final Fantasy II. As my thoughts develop, I'll let you know about them right here at Platypus of Truth.

Prior posts in this series can be found here, here, and here.