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Twenty years ago today, the first Harry Potter book hit the shelves. I didn’t pick it up for another two years, but I could never have guessed when I did so what a life-changing reading choice it was. I already knew I wanted to be an animator, but Harry Potter gave a focus to my energies, and the compulsion to draw anything I could from the books gave my drawing skills a necessary boost before college. Putting those drawings online (starting with the one above) made me, weirdly, one of the first Internet fan artists, and the friends I made and the following I gathered from that have been blessings for which I can never be too grateful. For someone who was such a pariah in middle/high school, it still blows my mind that I’m ‘popular’ in another sphere – what might have happened to me otherwise? So hard to imagine … And yet, so many people out there have similar ‘there but for the grace of Harry Potter’ stories they could tell. What an amazing thing to have brought such a catalyst into the world. Thank you, J.K. Rowling, from the bottom of my heart, for being such a positive force!

And no, it hasn't escaped my notice that I am once again compulsively drawing a dark-haired pointy-nosed bespectacled young Englishman ... one might almost be tempted to have Thoughts on this.
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I can't deny I've had a rather odd life, in a number of ways. One of those ways is that, for the most part, I've lived in places where I am outside the dominant culture, and often in places with a dominant institution to which I do not belong.

It's certainly no different here in Cambridge – I love being surrounded by the University, and being able to take advantage of the opportunities and activities that arise from a high percentage of nerds in the population, but with no academic history of my own, or tangible connection to the institution, I'm once more on the outside looking in ... though, as I like to say, I like the view into these windows better than any others I've been on the outside of. It isn't often an issue, and the actual University people I've met have gone to great lengths not to be as exclusive as my brain is determined to believe the University is, but it does make for the occasional peculiar experience.

One of these happened just the other day, as news broke of an enormous donation of rare antique books to Trinity College Library. Old books, cool! History, cool! Hey wait a minute – don't I go to church with that guy?

Turns out the Sunday morning background character I have unofficially named Gosh He Looks Like Lupin* is in fact the librarian at one of the largest and most prestigious collections in the world. Golly.

*Not so much in the photo in that link, but in person, it's a little uncanny

Sunday Update: You'll never guess who was a bit of a celebrity at coffee and biscuits this morning!
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I don't know what fired that particular neuron yesterday, but I was suddenly thinking about Lupin after at least five years of not having done so at all. I chanced a doodle to get him out of my head and my mind back on work, but that wasn't as effective as I'd intended, and ended up listening to half of Prisoner of Azkaban in awful audio quality on YouTube (a video which has since been taken down, so halfway through is where I will stay for now).

A couple more drawings that evening, in a limp gesture towards Inktober, and that makes a post.

I'm used to racing through the book at the speed of thought – at that speed it plays just like a film, the tempo is immaculate – so Stephen Fry's slow reading took a little getting used to, but at least he read most of the lines as they were clearly written to be delivered, in contrast to some of Jim Dale's baffling and/or severely toned-down interpretations. I can't blame him, he may have been directed to remember that he was going to be used to put kids to sleep, but when Hermione is SHOUTING IN ALL CAPS it should, you know, sound like SHOUTING IN ALL CAPS. That's my opinion anyway. Call me crazy.

It's been a while since I read the book so I don't know why I was surprised my perspective has shifted, but the most unexpected way in which it has done so is in regards to Lupin: I am now beginning to teach, myself, so instead of him being a character I admire from a student's perspective, he is a character I find myself very much identifying with.

I was mildly bothered by Fry's reading of Lupin reminding me of someone, until I finally realised it was Dr Chinnery from League of Gentlemen. Not, perhaps, the most ideal connotation, but on the other hand ... not entirely unwelcome ...

As the audiobook has been taken down now, I don't get to reach the exciting bits today as I'd hoped ... but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. If I can pick up the book somewhere (and it's not like there aren't 5 million copies floating around) I can do them at 'movie' pace, at the point when that most matters. It's been a great way to revisit the material, actually – I'd practically memorised the book back in my HP days, but I found while listening to the audiobook I would only remember what was going to happen within a minute or two of it happening, which meant I could enjoy the surprise but also had enough notice to get good and excited about it before it actually 'happened.'

Dunno if I'll get more drawings done, though. Too many other wonderful things beckon. It's a hard life, having to choose between wonderful things ...
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Someone on Tumblr asked me if I'd listened to the recent radio dramatisation of Ursula Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness. I have – the first episode at least – and if you wish to do so you'd better hurry up because it expires tomorrow evening (UK time): Episode 1 / Episode 2

Le Guin's own story is intriguing, what little I know if it, and the trails for the drama sounded interesting; the promotional image was of two people manhauling across a frozen waste, so with that and it being a drama on Radio 4 I was as a moth to the flame.

I think I might have tried reading A Wizard of Earthsea (which has also had a BBC dramatisation) when I was a teenager – I definitely remember trying a few highly recommended fantasy novels at one time and not being able to get into any of them. The memory which stands out most was dropping out after five pages of Dragonriders of Pern when the internal screaming got louder than the words. It's your world's analogue to a year, just call it a year! Why are you capitalising so many random nouns? Most fantasy to me felt like drowning in worldbuilding, a lot to keep track of with nothing to hold onto, no emotional life ring or a foothold on something I knew.

I'm more than twice the age now, have done a lot of reading in the meantime, and have made an effort to try to understand and appreciate the unfamiliar and initially distasteful, so I thought I'd give it another try. Unfortunately the old familiar drowning feeling came right back. I tried to soldier through, appreciating the production and ideas at least, and I think I got all the way to the end, but couldn't make myself go for Episode 2. I'm really sorry.

Of course I had to keep picking at it; I had to figure out why this turned me off so much when it ostensibly has a lot in common with other things I like. An idea I had in college came back to me, that speculative fiction really ought not to be divided into Sci-Fi and Fantasy (the boundary between which is famously subjective) but rather Fantasy With One Foot In Reality (Bipedal Fantasy, for short) and Wholecloth Fantasy, which is an entirely distinct universe with at most a passing nod at our own. Whether it's set in a quasi-medieval Arcadia or a hyperfuturistic space station, a story tends to be either tethered to our own reality or completely free-floating.

All the fantasy I like is Bipedal:
Watership Down is a book about another society, with its own rules, mythology, and vocabulary, but it happens to be made up of ordinary rabbits in ordinary Hampshire (which, admittedly, is a fantasy world to a five-year-old in San Diego) and the familiar pokes through often enough it never feels very foreign.
Redwall is set in another world, but with familiar furniture – it could be the same world as Wind in the Willows, Beatrix Potter, or Disney's Robin Hood – and in the early books at least it is not magical.
Harry Potter is magical, but has one foot planted in our everyday reality; most of the books start at the Dursleys', and Harry comes to the magical world with a relatable Muggle frame of reference. We only start losing the lifeline to our reality when the wizarding world has become a second home, and even that alternate reality plays off what we find ordinary.
The Dark Is Rising is very similar, and while its magical world is less of a riff on the nonmagical one, it keeps one foot in each world much more consistently than Harry Potter does.
Discworld is set in another world, and is magical, but it is plainly our world reflected in a funhouse mirror. Its thematic and satirical aspects are the foot it has in reality, and the characters it uses to illustrate its high-concept side are fully relatable human beings (for a given value of human).
Ray Bradbury's writing also uses its satirical side to ground us in a familiar reality, often the quintessential 1950s suburban ideal or stereotypical mid-century image of The Future.
Fatherland, being Alternate History, depends upon on our knowledge of WWII, but being twenty years down another leg of the Trousers of Time, maintains a certain distance. The power of its ending comes in part from its swinging back around to connect with our reality.

The Left Hand of Darkness' idea of gender-shifting humanoids is fascinating and opens all sort of narrative and philosophic opportunities, but I felt like I got more juice out of the Dwarf Feminism subplot in Discworld, and especially Monstrous Regiment's illustration of 'People are people' – the characters in Left Hand of Darkness seemed to spend more time explaining the implications of gender fluidity and how their society and relationships were structured around it than they did being people. Wouldn't it have been more effective to make us know and love the characters and then find out their species' quirk?

It's personal taste, of course. I know there are lots of people who are over the moon about Le Guin and her ilk, and I can see why if I step far enough back from myself. I wish I had that capacity for falling headlong into Wholecloth Fantasy, but my imagination is, as Professor Trelawney would say, 'hopelessly mundane.' I don't wish to tell them they're wrong, only explain where I'm coming from in a way that makes some systemic sense. Does it?
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Drawing fanart is its own reward, and I never expect it to go farther than my website and blog, but a couple weeks ago I got an email from someone with a rather cool present attached:

She made plushies from my drawings! Specifically this one. How cool is that? I feel so ... commercially viable. :D
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I saw the latest Potter movie this weekend; more in-depth ruminating may follow but this is my capsule review: It was the best film it could be with the script it had.
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Yesterday I was contacted by Fandango about offering Harry Potter movie ticket presales through my website.

This isn't the first time I've been approached by a company for Potter-related merchandise tie-ins, and my first reaction was the same as it has been in the past, namely 'Bah! I am no corporate stooge! Begone with ye!' But while I felt confident in my role as arbiter of taste by depriving my audience of life-sized Potter movie wall decals, movie tickets are another thing ... and while I make a comfortable wage at my day job and don't need the promised commission fees, someone could probably use them.

Now, I don't know how much I'm likely to make off this, or how it is to be paid, or if it only counts for Potter ticket presales, but I thought I might get involved and send whatever profits come of it to flood relief in Pakistan. But I wanted to check with the people who actually use my site* before I went ahead with anything.

Would you tolerate a potentially flashy and ugly banner on my site for a good cause?

Would you actually use the service?

Please leave a comment and let me know ...

*I use it, but mostly as an online drawing library ... it is remarkably handy.
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I usually try to keep posts to one or two topics, but I'm afraid I come with a basket of loose ends today ...


A couple months ago a kind lady asked me to do an HP/Dr Horrible crossover for the annual FictionAlley April Fools ... thing ... Well, it was impossible to resist. Luckily I managed to squeeze this out just before work exploded. Dunno if it ever ended up on the site, but it's here now!

How to Train Your Dragon
    I was going to wait until the pain wore off before I wrote a review, but time is running out so I'm going to go with my first reaction, because in retrospect it might be the best thing I can say about the film. How to Train Your Dragon )
    Anyway, excellent film; has a few flaws but enough of the important stuff worked so well that I don't really care what they are even when they're staring me in the face. And, most importantly of all (personally), this coming so soon after Kung Fu Panda makes me ever so slightly less cynical about Dreamworks having the rights to The Bromeliad. I feel the need to push it because it is a crime it's been making less money than Monsters vs Aliens, which leads money people once again to the horrifying conclusion that American audiences (which are the only ones that matter – I wish I were joking) don't want good films. For the sake of quality entertainment, give them your dollars!

Everyone Loves GROCERIES!
    A new grocery store moved in a few blocks away which has a dark secret: it's owned by Tesco. Adventures in Cans and an Illustrative Clip. )
I, for one, welcome our new grocery overlords.

Revelations on Fanart
    Having picked up a bit of freelance in the vein of what I used to do for a living, I was brought face to face with a fact I'd never consciously articulated before. Secrets of the Universe )

Pluggity Plug Plug
    I was pointed to the band mentioned a few posts ago on the latest installment of Lovelace & Babbage vs The Organist, the latest series in a truly fantastic webcomic written and drawn by a friend of mine who spends most of her time animating CG creatures in live action films. Lovelace & Babbage started awesome and has continued to get better and better; just when I thought it was as awesome as it could be she posts Part 4, which introduces a floppy-haired bespectacled showboat of a villain and had me floating on waves of glee for the rest of the day. Curse that day job, this is far more beneficial to the human race.
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Ron Weasley and the Freezing Cold Forest Pool )

There, that's yesterday's drawing. I didn't necessarily forget about it – I kept thinking about it all day – but I never got the chance to draw what I wanted to draw, so maybe I will do that in dailies today. There's only one more commission to go! I'll have to dig up some more stuff this weekend...
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I totally drew something while waiting for dailies to start but MUST WORK NO TIME FOR SCANNING.

Have a commission!

Snape and Magda )
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Nother commission:

Harry and Dumbledore in King's Cross Limbo )

I know I'm pretty bad about replying to email already but I'm going to be even more absent from the internet for the next couple of months. Things are getting a little crazy here and I need to rediscover that magic zone I found when interning at JBA, in which I was some sort of footage machine ... it's probably more than a little related to not having a computer at my desk. If I could get rid of this one, I would, but I need it for company email, looking up scenes and sequences for reference, and the calendar for meetings and stuff. I'll still keep up the drawing-a-day but I think I need to limit myself to that.

See you on the other side!
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Gosh, I love Saturdays, don't you? I enjoyed mine so much I plum(b?) forgot to post a drawing.

Hermione, in the Library, with some Candles )

I have been drawing, I've even been drawing things that aren't frames of animation, but all the ideas I have are Frog-related so I can't post them till November.
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I know I won't have time to draw or scan anything new today so I toss another commission into the pit!

By the way, I've updated my previous post of Frog stuff with a higher-quality YouTube video and a link to some screencaps, courtesy of Dejablue7. Enjoy!
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I was going to scan some more caricatures last night but the nice scanner wasn't working. Here's another commission:

"There was a thud of metal as Ginny's cauldron went flying; Mr. Weasley had thrown himself at Mr. Malfoy, knocking him backwards into a bookshelf. Dozens of heavy spellbooks came thundering down on all their heads; there was a yell of, "Get him, Dad!" from Fred or George; Mrs. Weasley was shrieking, "No, Arthur, no!"; the crowd stampeded backward, knocking more shelves over; "Gentlemen, please-please!" cried the assistant ...

Kapow! Blam! )

Bet you thought you'd never see another HP picture in here... :)
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I drew this in 2004 or 5 but couldn't scan it at the time and forgot about it. I'm sure I scanned it a couple years later, when I ran across it again, but it wasn't on my computer or my external hard drive when I remembered it during my recent website update. So I scanned it again. And here it is.

Remus tries to ignore James bullying Snape by burying himself in his book, from the 'Snape's Worst Memory' chapter in Order of the Phoenix (the only part I really liked in that book).

Yeah ... might be guilty of this sort of thing myself ... a lot ...
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I've standardized all the Books pages, sorted the Books drawings to their respective characters' pages, listified the 'Odds and Ends' which has been sorted into Characters, Locations, and Gags, and (last but not least) updated the copyright dates. Needless to say, if you find any errors or omissions, please let me know ...

Now that the series is finished, and my affections drifted elsewhere long ago, this is probably the last major update of the Potter stuff. Every so often something might trickle onto the site, but it's probably fruitless to keep checking back for new stuff. I'm considering making a splash page for my site, which as soon as you accessed it would give you the choice of going to Harry Potter or Everything Else – what do you think of this idea? I thought it would give my more recent, better, non-Potter stuff better representation than hiding it all in a corner of the Potter site. But if everyone hates this idea, maybe I shouldn't bother. (Or maybe I will anyway, just to be contrary.)

9:35 PM
I am SUCH A LIAR. I remembered a Snape picture I hadn't added, and in trawling through Photobucket to find it, discovered a slew of other things I hadn't included either. So. Utter Miscellany has even more new stuff, the Snicket page gets in on the action, and a few new drawings have turned up on Harry's and Snape's pages (mirrored in the Odds and Ends).

Potter Quiz

Dec. 1st, 2007 01:52 pm
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Via [livejournal.com profile] sydpad and [livejournal.com profile] salamandersoup: Harry Potter Character Quiz )
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Snape escaped Hogwarts through a window, and I do believe the specific phrase 'a Snape-shaped hole' was used in reference to the damage to said structural feature. I'm sorry, but there is simply no other mental image that could possibly come to mind:

Never hire me to draw broken glass! I have no idea what I'm doing!
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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pg 359 [US edition] )


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