How To Train Your Dragon

totes adorbs

I did not expect to love How To Train Your Dragon. I really don’t remember why I watched it at all, who I watched it with, or anything like that. But wow, it was so good. The story, the music…

Oh, the music. I bought the Lord of the Rings Soundtracks because I adored the movies. I bought Prince of Egypt because who doesn’t want to crank up When You Believe or Jethro’s song? The Incredibles, Star Wars…classic soundtracks that I enjoyed listening to…But the soaring tones of HTTYD by John Powell are something else entirely. Rapturous. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so enthralled by music without words.

I was actually poised to dislike HTTYD. I was sort of braced for something like Shrek, which I only sort of enjoyed. I mean, the hero was named Hiccup and had a scraggly voice. I was prepared for a cynical story that was all about tearing down heroic ideals. That is definitely, completely, not what I got. Instead, it was a story about true heroism. An actually useful personal journey in understanding, true value, and sacrifice.

Hiccup’s name didn’t change. His voice didn’t change. But his perception of himself, his father, and of course dragons, did. Astrid’s perception changed. Stoic’s perception changed.

Love really did conquer all.

HTTYD2 was also excellent. Possibly even better than HTTYD. I loved how they built on the story, Hiccup coming to terms with how, though he has Toothless and Astrid, he’s still him, and still the chief’s son. I love the story of him learning that he doesn’t have to be exactly like his father to be a good chief–but being like his father in terms of love, forgiveness, and bravery–that is what makes a good chief. I loved that the story didn’t center on the romance between him an Astrid, you are just shown a real, loving, growing, relationship. The Stoic/Valka relationship so incredibly poignant in the few scenes they had together. I remember sitting in theaters with tears pouring down my face going “YOU DIDNT WARN ME DREAMWORKS! I DID NOT EXPECT TO BAWL AT THIS MOVIE.”

HTTYD3…somehow just wasn’t what I wanted. I think…it felt like they backtracked Hiccup’s emotional and character journey from the previous movie, and…it just…fell flat. I could forgive the antics and goofy humor clearly aimed at the younger audience–though Snotlout’s (right?) obsession with Valka was a little bizarre. Part way through Hiccup’s character arc was sort of designated as “who are you without Toothless, who has become your crutch?”

–except Toothless wasn’t a crutch in the other two movies, he was a catalyst. Did I miss something by not watching the kid’s show Race to the Edge?

We all know and love Toothless, but having the Light Fury resist Hiccup’s friendship so entirely, we don’t really get to befriend her either. Instead, it feels like we married off a dear friend to a harpy who hates us even though she doesn’t know us at all, and we’re left trying to understand why he loves her. I mean…we don’t even know her name. Who is this dragon? She…seems…nice? She’s…pretty?

It’s also really sad that the first movie’s conclusion that man and dragon can live together in peace is reversed in this film–that only SOME people can handle it, and because not everyone can, they don’t get to keep their pets. It might be realistic, but that isn’t what I wanted. I wanted hope for a better future.

A big pro to the story, though, is seeing Hiccup and Astrid continue their real relationship like real people. They grow up, get married, lead the clan, and have children together. Never flagging in their commitment to one another. Talk about relationship goals.

The music was great again, but since I loved the story less I have less of a connection with the music.

Anyway, I still love HTTYD. The characters, the story, and of course the dragons. In particular Toothless and Stormfly. I drew these for practice, working off a variety of images in Pinterest. I think they came out pretty adorable.

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Finley – dog portrait

I so enjoyed putting together this portrait. Finley is such an expressive doggo. He had a whole instagram for me to work off! He’s quirky and *bursting* with personality. He’s got a great smile, too.

He sometimes cosplays as Sirius Black, so I put the constellation of Canis Major, and the bright star Sirius, behind him. Orion is there, too, because the hunter loves his dog, and I worked in the hare so he’d have something to chase.

I might possibly have really enjoyed astronomy as a kid. Mostly the names of the stars and the myths they were named after. I can’t find hardly anything in the night sky. I’m sure it helps that I’ve never lived someplace with a really properly dark sky.

We went to a dark sky park one time, but there was too much cloud cover and moonlight to see stars.

Someday.

A new thing for me: Sip and Painting

I often sip wine while I paint or draw in the evenings. But I’ve never before tried to teach anyone anything about art. Ever. Before this summer.

I like teaching. When I learn how to do something, I always end up teaching it to someone else eventually. Mostly, though, I’ve taught things like basic understanding of laws. Not things like art, which is so much more instinctive.

For me, anyway.

I’m not really sure how to teach drawing. I learned from books, and copying and tracing and drawing relentlessly. I know some words and principles that might help people draw better, or at least….help them even TRY to draw…but I don’t really know what anyone could possibly do beyond that. You learn to draw by practicing, and learning a few principles about how to draw what you actually see, not what you think you see.

With the sip and paints, a sketch is provided. So I’m mostly trying to convince people to let go of their inhibitions and let the pigments play. That’s the point of watercolors, really.

I myself painted the same rose 3x before the event (4, actually, but I only brought 3) and 2x during, different every time, to encourage people to think outside the box and let go of the pigment.

My mother in law will laugh if she reads that, because I had a hard time letting go, myself.

The blue rose was my final piece.

It was fun, I have a better idea for how I would arrange the table, how I would talk people through some of the techniques a bit better. It seemed to really help them to watch me paint, and this time I’d set myself up behind a pitcher of water and a vertical display of the color wheel–which literally no one looked at. Next time, I’ll forgo the vertical color wheel, put the pitcher somewhere else, and make sure to show people things before I unleash them to dip their brushes in pigment.

I think everyone had fun, and they definitely came up with some great combinations and turned out some very nice work. Best of all, they smiled a lot and talked about how relaxing it was. Creating art has, of course, been proven to relieve stress. One of its many benefits!

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Space. Sci Fi. And Covers.

I’m *always* diddling around cover ideas for my epic fantasy projects. Always. But, for the first time ever, I designed a cover for someone else. I’m pretty thrilled about it, actually. A college buddy started publishing these awesome sci fi short stories on Kindle, Stories of the Human Ship, and I got the opportunity to make a cover for story 3 which comes out this month!

Are you ready? Here’s the book blurb:

When most of Earth was destroyed in a nuclear war, the alien races arrived to auction off what was left. Now, a band of escaped humans in a stolen alien ship struggle to survive in an unfriendly galaxy. The stars are within reach, but there are no safe harbors.

If you like sci fi, or just good stories, you should go check them out. Story one is The Human Ship. They are free, too, which is pretty crazy.

This story is going places, be in the know early and help it spread!

New short story available on Kindle from Jordan Estrada!

Marvelous Moondancer

My brother is a professional mime and dancer (UK folks, you should look him up!) but I don’t recall ever drawing dancers much. I drew one during Inktober last year and he actually came out really well. I was also helping out a local ballet company at the time, and ended up painting a whole bunch of random things for them (a toy box, and the firebird dancer, for starters.)

Pinterest, that great source of inspiration, saw me hunting for images all those times and has helpfully been handing me gorgeous photographs of dancers for months now. I guess it’s no surprise that I started thinking of ways to create more mythic performers.

It took me two tries to get the moondancer the way I wanted…and then I realized neither had wings and I had sort of wanted her to have wings. Whoops.

Full Moon

Oh well.

I guess I’ll just have to paint another.

These are both done with Inktense backgrounds, and the dancers themselves are brushpen. I’m really enjoying the blending of Inktense as a background. I also love watercolor backgrounds, so it’s not like I’ll switch entirely—but sometimes you just want the hazey look. I used hematite watercolor in the skirt of the New Moon (the dark dressed dancer), because the granulation and flow was JUST want I wanted.

Neither of them are for sale anywhere. But could be, so just say the word 😉

New Moon

Which one do you like better? I like the pale dancer better than the dark dancer. It was more what I was going for originally, but they both have appeal.

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