Beautiful Dreams 2: More Art of Juri the Dreamer

As I mentioned in Beautiful Dreams, I’ve been a fan of Juri Chinchilla’s amazing art for several years and have been fortunate enough to develop a nice collection of her work. Here I’d like to share and talk about more of it (as well as ramble a bit about the stories and inspirations behind certain pieces).

 

 

Juri continues to be heavily featured in Perna Studios excellent card sets. I’ve been lucky enough to get several diverse, beautiful sketch cards of hers from sets like Witchcraft, Elementals, etc, in addition to having the opportunity to commission some incredible Artist Proofs (APs) as well.

Juri’s also done promo and base card art for Perna’s sets, and special cards including metal and spot foil chase cards and variants.

 

 

Some particularly interesting pieces of my collection include unique original works, such as Juri’s original pencils underlying her Mistress of the Night piece (the final version of which I featured in Beautiful Dreams) and colored and original art versions of her page from Sarah “Sakky” Ruth Ford’s Magical Girl Coloring Book.

 

 

Juri’s Personal Sketch Cards (PSCs) have been more fantastic additions to my collection, with the great opportunity to request particular subjects and design elements.

As always I adore her use of color, particularly in her hand drawn work, and like with her Perna sketch cards and APs above that aspect also really shines in her PSCs. Seeing her visions of some of my favorite characters come to life has been a real treat. I’m a diehard gamer, with particular preference to RPGs and fighting games over the years. With Juri’s pitch perfect confrontation between Kasumi and Ayane from Dead or Alive and jaw dropping melding of Morrigan and Lilith from Darkstalkers joining the original sketches I got from her featuring Millia Rage, Jam Kuradoberi, and Dizzy from Guilty Gear, I now have incredible renditions of all of my favorite characters to play from each of my favorite fighting game series.

 

 

Valkyrie Profile is my single favorite RPG of all time, and Juri’s intricately detailed, soft yet strong interpretation of Lenneth Valkyire is exquisite. Favorite series honors go to Persona, and I adore Juri’s vibrant, striking depiction of a key supporting character from one of the series’ best entries.

 

One of the more unique requests I’ve made is a card featuring one of my favorite professional wrestlers, Mitsuru Konno from Gatoh Move. Mitsuru’s already showing great potential and instincts even with only a little over a year in wrestling, and I adore the incredible way Juri’s captured and combined her strength, determination, grace, and beauty in this remarkable rendition.

 

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Mitsuru Konno PSC by Juri Chinchilla.

 

The last two pieces I’d like to talk about are anime/manga related. I’m using the word “favorite” a lot, but in explaining the inspirations for choosing these subjects across various mediums it has been appropriate and illustrative in every case. Gorgeous animation, thought provoking stories, and an incredible atmosphere come together to make Kino’s Journey my all time favorite anime. Juri perfectly related Kino’s cool, somewhat detached demeanor resting for a moment atop Hermes against a wonderful background horizon that evokes the show’s sense of traveling through a vast, intriguing world.

 

Rosario Vampire is an amusing, fan-service and action heavy harem style manga based around a high school for monsters where students regularly get into fierce battles with one another. It has solid story progression once it gets going, but is admittedly largely formulaic and trope ridden. However halfway through the second “season” of the manga there’s a side story,  introducing a relatively minor supporting character (who didn’t even make the anime adaptation), which embraces and upends cliches in equal measure to present a nuanced, emotional story that is easily at the top of the (long) list of things I’ve read. San Otonashi is a phenomenal character and (here’s that word again 😉 ) an absolute favorite of mine despite her relative obscurity. Even with being initially unfamiliar with San, Juri was able to create a gorgeous, spot on card of her, conveying both delicacy and strength and again really elevating the final work with her incredible coloring.

 

 

More information about Juri’s art can be found on her artist page. I hope to continue to follow and collect her incredible creations for a long time to come. 🙂

 

Quick Thoughts: Pocket Ops, Dragon’s Hoard, and Sentient

Some quick impressions on my first experiences with a few new games.

 

Pocket Ops

 

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Tic-Tac-Toe was never so much fun. The idea here is you try to predict what spot your opponent will take, and if correct their piece doesn’t get placed. It’s a wonderfully simple concept that turns a trite old favorite into something different and intriguing. Beyond that are optional pieces with special powers that add further depth and variation. Really nice execution of concept here to make something new and interesting.

 

 

Dragon’s Hoard

 

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Dragon’s Hoard is a set collection game where players are dragons trading the requisite number of sheep of each color for treasures worth varying points. Yeah, I didn’t quite get the thematic execution either. There’s a glimpse of potential here, with the card backs being the resources needed to play the “treasures” on the fronts, different colors perhaps lending strategic choices to card drawing, and bonuses for specialization. In practice though the gameplay felt lacking (at least in the two player version I tried) with actions to attack the other player (and defend) that felt tacked on and run of the mill and an absence of interesting choices. A really poorly written  rulebook certainly didn’t help either. A second chance with more players is perhaps in order, but this felt like it could have and should have been better than it is.

 

 

Sentient

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Sentient is a game that caught my eye in previews, then seemed perhaps a little too involved for my group as I tried to read up on it. So I was interested, but wanted to try it first before a purchase. It’s fantastic. The mechanics are really straightforward, with players simply choosing a card from those available each round and deciding where to place it in their area to affect their dice and score points based on their final values and the card conditions.

The conditions on the cards and trying to properly manipulate the dice are where the strategy comes in, and the game was a series of interesting, meaningful choices. A final element of having a certain number of workers to place when choosing cards to try to obtain bonus multipliers for different cards types at the end of the game is another great aspect. Really enjoyed this and will likely be adding it to my collection in the future.

 

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That’s it for this time. Hope to be back with more soon. 🙂

Rise 5 Rising Sun Live Thoughts

November 10, 2017 in Berwyn, IL

Rise is a relatively new promotion (associated with the well established Shimmer) that is built around holding training seminars taught by professional wrestling veterans from around the world and having participants earn a chance to perform on the related Rise shows.

 

Rise 5: Rising Sun was held the Friday night before Shimmer’s Fall 2017 taping weekend and followed a day long seminar featuring Madusa (Alundra Blayze) and an advertised Joshi legend who turned out to be Aja Kong. Kong would later wrestle on the show, teaming with two seminar participants against another trio featuring Joshi talent (and Shimmer regular) Hiroyo Matsumoto and another pair of seminar participants.

This was my first time seeing Rise (outside of a couple of dark matches before the November 2016 Shimmer tapings). I like the concept behind the promotion and the unique opportunities it presents for both the participants and the promoters.

 

 

 

A three match pre-show started things off and was broadcast free on youtube, which was a worthwhile way to try to generate buzz. It also allowed a significant number of extra participants to be featured in a fine 6-woman tag of Paloma Starr, Samara & Trixie Tash vs Londyn Ali, Robyn & Savanna Stone, had a great contest between Indi Hartwell and Hyan (which very well may have been the best seminar participants only match of the night), and ended nicely with Layne Rosario getting a shot at veteran LuFisto.

 

 

To open the main show Delilah Doom came out with an emotional, tearful explanation that she injured her wrist during the seminar and had to pull out of the main event. I remember thinking it was appropriate if legit, and manipulative and overdone if part of a story. And since it was a full blown in ring interview instead of just an announcement and the cameras were rolling…

 

 

 

Wrestling-wise the early part of the main show had four (what I think were) participant vs participant matches of  Heather Monroe vs Renee MichelleJewells Malone vs Hawlee LayneThe Sinister Sweethearts (Brittany Blake & Samantha Heights) vs Amanda Carolina Rodriguez & Valentina Loca, and Tasha Steelz vs Allie Kat.  All were pretty much exactly what they were intended to be: ok matches allowing the wrestlers an opportunity to perform and the audience a chance to see some new faces.

 

 

 

Things picked up with the tryouts vs veterans section, starting with an impressive showing for Zoe Lucas (who earned a chance to travel to the US and appear at Rise and Shimmer via Rise 4’s seminar in Great Britain) against Cheerleader Melissa. Melissa’s ring style has changed significantly since last I saw her, but she still played the bullying powerhouse well against Zoe’s arrogant upstart challenge. Zoe looked great all weekend and I hope she returns.

 

 

 

The best storytelling of the night was certainly in the Four Way Match between Saraya Knight, Karen Q, Miranda Salinas, and Ray Lyn. Ray and Karen did everything in their power to avoid Saraya at all costs, working over Miranda constantly and scattering whenever Saraya was tagged in, leaving her no choice but to bring the beaten down rookie back in and hope she lasted long enough for Saraya to come back in. It was an odd dynamic, and I generally don’t like when mulit-person matches become quasi-tag team matches, but it really worked here. Everyone played their roles perfectly, and Miranda couldn’t have looked any more sympathetic. I came out of this fun story really wanting to see Saraya and Miranda as a team.

 

After a solid contest in which Nicole Savoy defeated Kylie Rae, Hudson Envy came out and demanded a match with someone new to Rise and Shimmer. Of course instead of a rookie from the seminar she’s answered by the debuting Taya Valkyrie (who was a last minute replacement when the advertised Courtney Rush couldn’t make it). Good, hard hitting match.

 

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Another big debut, and one I’d really been looking forward to, saw Thunder Rosa face Heart of Shimmer Champion Shazza McKenzie in a non-title bout. Rosa looked fantastic and gave Shazza her best match in ages before the champ squeaked by with a rollup.

 

The semi main was the previously mentioned Joshi led 6-woman tag team match with The Blue Nation (Charli Evans & Jessica Troy) joining Aja Kong and Dynamite DiDi & Rachael Ellering on Hiroyo Matsumoto’s side. This was a ton of fun, with the two powerhouses pounding on each other in between really good showings from their partners.

 

 

 

The main event saw a 6-way “Incursion of the Phoenix” elimination match for the Phoenix Of RISE title featuring six original members of Rise roster (one year previous). Supposedly it was now a 5-way with Doom out injured. This was an ordered entry elimination match with pinfalls, submissions, disqualifications, and countouts in effect and increasing time intervals between entries (two minute first period, then three minutes after entrant #3 until entrant #4, etc).

The early going was decent, with Britt Baker and Deonna Purrazzo starting followed by Kikyo and the champion Shotzi Blackheart. No eliminations until four of the (supposed) five were in the ring, after which Kikyo cleared Baker and Purrazzo. The section with the four of them went on so long (seemingly much longer than the four minutes it was supposed to) that I was starting to think there was no one else when Dust finally came out.

 

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Dust did not seem at all interested in reclaiming her title, instead getting herself disqualified and attacking Shotzi with a barbed wire bat after help from the promoter Kevin Harvey, then leaving after being told by him “she” (Courtney Rush) says that’s enough. The dominant Kikyo then finished off the scraps of the defending champion to become the NEW …. hahahahaha. No. She finished off Shotzi then surprise surprise Delilah Doom comes out to “valiantly” cheat her way into the last spot. Er, valiantly defeat the “unfairly” crowned champ Kikyo, who had actually kicked ass so much the crowd was cheering for her.

As Doom celebrates a scratchy recording of Courtney Rush played and poor Doom has to pretend she can’t tell, that it’s live, and she’s trying to figure out where Rush is speaking from. I know things had to be changed since Rush couldn’t appear, but this was eye-rollingly cheesy. It all leads to Doom vs Rush in a cage for the title being set for Rise 6.

 

 

 

I was quite interested in the match concept and appreciate the attempt at trying something new and notable, but honestly this was disappointing. It just didn’t come together, with inconsistent enforcement/execution of the overly convoluted rules leading to crowd confusion and disinterest. The three eliminations practically made Kikyo a face, and a corrupted authority figure is the LAST thing a developmental federation needed. The increasing time periods for entry had no logical reason from a competition standpoint, and I’d be shocked if they were properly timed, leading to awkward pacing. Doom either got preferential treatment (by the promoter who just turned heel mind you) by being allowed to enter the match last after the random draw had happened, or she drew anyway despite supposedly not being in the match and just happened to get the last spot. One lessens sympathy for her and both strain credulity.

I apologize if it seems like I’m nitpicking, but I want to explain in full the issues I had here, as they did make what could have been an exciting match with compelling stories a bit of a mess instead. Let me be clear: the wrestlers all put in great effort and did the best they could here, providing a lot of good action. And a good chunk of the audience did get behind Doom’s win.  But I felt the booking and overall execution let the wrestlers down.

 

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Rising Sun had a nice mix of veterans brought in to work with the new / tryout talent, with a couple of matches between themselves to spice up the card. I understand the reason for having such matches as a draw and they were some of the best of the night. But from start to finish this was WAY too long at 14 matches, so I wonder if going with more tag matches involving participants and veterans would be better. I’d also cut down or out the pre-show and possibly just show the first match of the “main” show online for promotion.  But again, I’m explaining my criticisms in detail in hopes that Rise continues to refine itself and grow as a promotion. And the length of the show is less of an issue while watching on video versus live anyway.

Despite some issues this was a good show overall that I would recommend checking out, with a variety of new and experienced wrestlers all putting in incredible effort and a number of standout performances. There’s just room for improvement, and I’m sure Rise will iron out the rough spots as it progresses.

Elegance on Paper… and Cookies :)

I’ve always found various types of calligraphy to be beautiful art forms. So it’s been great seeing a friend of mine, Lillian Liming, share her wonderful brush lettering based calligraphy designs via inspirational quotes, an assortment of decorated items, and instructional workshops. I recently attended two of her workshops and wanted to share thoughts on them here.

 

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Decorated canvas tote bag.

 

My only previous experience with any sort of calligraphy was a (thoroughly enjoyable) Shodo class at Tenri Cultural Institute taught by Tomoko Furukawa. The Japanese calligraphy I was taught there focused on writing kanji and paper decorating, so I had no previous experience with English lettering.

 

 

 

The first workshop I took of Lillian’s was Introduction to Brush Calligraphy (held in partnership with Artsi Workshops). As indicated by the title this was a beginner’s course designed to convey the basic strokes and concepts behind brush lettering and let participants practice them. The format was great as getting right into trying things out is the best way to start learning most artistic pursuits. A lot of important, interesting information was shared regarding things like how to hold and move the brushes/brush pens to properly form the lines and letters, good places to order supplies, and the effects of using different types of pens and paper. A bit difficult to get the hang of, but even by the end of the class practice had made things much easier.

 

 

The second workshop I attended was significantly different as this time the theme was cookie decorating for the holidays. It was again really interesting to hear about things like different types of food coloring and edible paints, the effects of using a faster evaporating solvent for diluting, etc., and tons of fun trying to transform that knowledge into actual festive looking decorated cookies.

 

 

Lillian’s workshops are a wonderful combination of informative and comfortable. The atmosphere is calm and welcoming, with light refreshments served and an unpressured environment, but she still conveys a lot of great information and instruction during her intros and explanations and keeps things moving at a good pace that allows a lot of time for practice/writing with her providing individual help and tips as needed.

 

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My creations.

 

I had a great time at these workshops above and beyond the added bonus for me of catching up with a good friend. I highly recommend checking out any future ones Lillian holds if you have any interest in brush lettering.

All the Paths of Shadow Review

“That’s the sound of history being made, lads. Something I hoped never to hear.”

A king’s orders don’t have to be reasonable, and mage Meralda Ovis is fuming at her latest ridiculous assignment of moving an ancient tower’s shadow for an upcoming speech. But she may have even more to worry about as sinister magic seems to hang over a historic meeting of delegates from throughout the Five Realms and beyond.

 

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I’d previously read Frank Tuttle’s short story Saving the Sammi, and enjoyed the small glimpse into the world of Mage Ovis and her amusing assistant Mug, an “enchanted dandyleaf plant who sees the world through 29 bright eyes” (Best. Sidekick. Ever.). I found this longer adventure even more fascinating.

The world surrounding Meralda exists somewhere between steampunk and fantasy, and the combination works wonderfully. Tuttle provides an internally consistent “scientific” framework of magic at the center of his story that provides and interesting and logical foundation. From there he builds an engaging narrative off of good characterizations among a complimentary diverse cast and a reasonably paced, intriguing plot that’s well balanced among predictability and surprises. Tuttle has a great gift for making his creations understandable and relatable, as well as for properly conveying tension and other important emotional context.

If I have any criticism to offer it’s that All the Paths of Shadow would have benefitted from less contemporary shorthand for describing “unknown” cultures. Hinting at the inspiring culture’s influence via descriptions and connotations rather than flat out using real world terms would have done a lot to eliminate the awkward loss of immersion that often accompanied them.

All and all though this was a creative, enjoyable novel and I’d love to see more from Meralda and her unique reality.

Glimpses of the Stars, the Past, and the Present

Tenri Cultural Institute, in addition to its language school, concerts, and various other cultural events, hosts an art gallery that is always home to a variety of incredible exhibitions ranging from demonstrations of traditional Japanese techniques to innovative displays of multinational modern art. I’ve spotlighted several past showings, including Chika MacDonald’s Mugen exhibit and Nobuko Tsuruta’s 12 Years.

Here I’ll be talking about last month’s Pseudoastronomy by Kiichiro Adachi and the currently ongoing The Art of Japan: NOW, with the Past by the
Alumni Association of Tokyo University of the Arts.

 

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Kiichiro Adachi sees his art as a way to explore the “distortion” of using made man things to “control or simulate nature.” His Pseudoastronomy exhibition (which ran from November 9th to the 22nd) sought to capture a small piece of the grandeur of  the universe via light reflections of off intricate, carefully constructed mirrored apparatuses.

 

 

 

The exhibit was tailored to the space available at TCI and the effect of the moving reflections through the darkened space and added light smoke effects was captivating. In comments about the exhibit Adachi mentions he likes “the absurdity of using mirror balls to simulate the sacred universe.” This perspective and his creativity created a striking piece of art with a thought provoking theme beneath it.

 

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Tokyo University of the Arts Alumni Association of New York’s “2nd Art and Music Collaboration Exhibition,” entitled The Art of Japan: NOW, with the Past, features an art collection by several artists, along with musical performances and workshops all focused on highlighting a combination of modern and traditional Japanese influences.

 

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The opening reception featured shamisen music by Yoko Reikano Kimura and tango/jazz by Machiko Ozawa (violin) & Ayako Shirasaki (piano). Both performances were excellent.

 

 

There are also workshops related to this event, including the still to come “NOH WORKSHOP: VOYAGE TO NOH” with sessions for both children and adults on December 10.

 

 

 

The varied and distinctive pieces that comprise The Art of Japan: NOW, with the Past exhibit can be viewed at TCI until Monday, December 11.

 

 

Elemental Beauty: Perna Studios’ Elementals

I’ve previously written in general about the excellent card sets available from Perna Studios, as well as spotlights on their Witchcraft set and Artist Proofs. Here I’d like to focus on their set that was released in Spring of 2017, Elementals.

 

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Water AP by Peejay Catacutan.

 

For me this was perhaps the most highly anticipated set they’ve done yet. The concept of fantasy cards dedicated to people and creatures embodying the four classic elements is fantastic, and lends itself to endless variation and interpretations.  The 20 card base set is a wonderful example of this, with a multitude of artists providing numerous unique, captivating visions.

 

 

Also included were four striking spot foil cards by Soni Alcorn-Hender, as well as gorgeous metal and lenticular chase inserts.

 

 

As always Perna’s sets shine shine with their one of a kind sketch cards and Artist Proof’s.  Each artist’s individual style, choice of subject, composition, etc all make every card distinct and all of them together result in the extremely high quality these sets consistently achieve.

My favorite elements are wind and water, so those were the main focus of my collecting. I got wonderfully diverse sketch cards featuring each including a gloriously semi-abstract piece by Mick & Matt Glebe (my first of theirs), Danielle Gransaull’s vivid mermaid, Arwenn Necker’s air elemental with a classic fantasy feel, and a hauntingly etherial work by Sean Pence.

 

 

 

Artist Proofs (APs) are generally directly commissioned from the artists and thus provide an opportunity to request something specific (within the guidelines and theme of the set).  In a couple of cases, such as the incredible half formed female elemental made entirely of water by Peejay Catacutan at the top of this entry, I gave just a general subject then chose between more specific ideas provided by the artist.

For the rest, instead of a common base idea for my APs as I’ve done in the past this time I tailored most of them a bit more individually based on other cards the artists had done. Stacey Kardash’s sketch cards featured recurring elementals of each type, and I requested an AP with those wind and water elementals. She gave me a number of great compositional options, and I ended up with a fantastic metal AP of the two face to face.

 

 

I was lucky enough to pull two of my absolute favorite sketch cards from the pre-release previews (and pick up more later). One of the pulls was Achilleas Kokkinakis’ geisha themed air elemental making tea. I adored the idea and execution so much I got two APs inspired by it. One with a water elemental against a gloriously colored sky (prompted by another beautiful sketch card he did) and a wind elemental forming a dragon made of air. I can’t say enough about all the exquisite details, including the intricate borders, small thematic scrolls showing the kaiji for the element, etc.

 

 

 

My other pull of a sketch I’d been eyeing in previews was Alexis Hill’s striking wind elemental gathering lightening. After I’d added her mermaid and earth elemental sketches to my ever growing collection of her cards, I decided to request a fire elemental AP to complete representation of all four elements. Doing a pairing with water was an idea I’d been batting around, and the resulting metal AP from Alexis is great.

 

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Wind and water AP by Juri Chinchilla.

 

And of course I was thrilled to add another AP from Juri Chinchilla, this time a playful meeting between a mermaid and her friend made of air. As always Juri’s work is gorgeous, brought to life with her vibrant shades of soft colors. What I really adore about this one in particular is the sense of motion she’s achieved on a small 2D card with the mermaid’s bubbling hair and the (pardon the pun) windswept curls in her counterpart’s.

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Hope everyone enjoyed my look at the Elementals set. Of course there are MANY more phenomenal artists featured in it and other excellent sets from Perna Studios to check out..