Sunday, 27 August 2017

Death Note 2017

Warning: spoilers | language | sexual and violent themes.
Second Warning: Rushed | Full of Sadness and Dissappointment


   Death Note, an incredibly popular manga and anime which is cherished by so many people, has been brutally and unjustly murdered at the hands of Netflix. A murder most foul. In fact, I'm completely convinced that Netflix themselves must have their own Death Note, paradoxically scribbled Death Note inside it and then watched as fans laughed and cried at the monster that is the so-awful-but-impossible-to-look-away shitshow. Literally, if you don't laugh you'll cry. Hence my painful laughter throughout the duration.

Me: 25/08/2017

   As someone who has only very recently got into watching anime, I completed watching Death Note for the first time this year. I'm still finding my feet with anime and I'm still exploring which genres I actually enjoy, but happening across Death Note was one of the best things I ever did in this area. 


   
   Light Yagami (a.k.a Kira), a high-achieving student who finds the Death Note reveals himself as the megalomaniac that he is, yearning to be the 'God of the New World'. The Death Note, a book which allows you to kill anyone who you write inside it, assuming you know their name and can picture their face, becomes Light's vehicle to gaining the power he desires and begins killing people that he feels deserve it, for example, serial killers etc. At first, the power of the book appears to initially startle him and the emergence of the death god Ryuk is even more unsettling. However, it doesn't take long for Light to settle fully into his role as judge, jury and executioner before Ryuk has a chance to say a thing. In fact, Ryuk is very much surprised by how many names that Light has already entered into the notebook by the time they meet. Furthermore, though the appearance of Ryuk is concerning for Light, he already works out that a god of death will emerge and prepares for imminent death by noting down as many names as he can.




   In the new and significantly worse version, Light Turner (yes) finds the Death Note and almost immediately comes into contact with both Misa Misa, oh sorry, Mia and Ryuk. Ryuk has to convince Light to use the book after scaring him to death (ha) and instead of the impactful scene where Light Yagami saves a young woman from a gang of men attempting to commit sexual violence against her, Light Turner murders a high school bully. I mean, Light Yagami killed people for murder, and, eventually, for getting in his way. This is morally wrong enough, but Light Turner killing another kid for bullying completely ruins the washed up mentality that Light Yagami thought he was doing something good. I think that the extreme example makes it impossible for us to believe that he thinks he's treading the fine line of morality for the greater good instead of just murdering someone you don't like very much. Light Turner is not the mad genius that Light Yagami is portrayed to be, Light Turner shows no intellectual strength aside from doing other students' homework, which is nothing special if you're comparing the two Lights. Ryuk turns up to Light Turner's complete surprise and essentially tells him to murder the bully after Turner says "nah". This is not the power-hungry, psychopath that we all know and love to hate. 

   The complete and utter stupidity of Light Turner only intensifies when he sits in the school gym reading the rules of the Death Note. In public. At school. When Mia sits beside him and asks what he's reading, 
  Mia: "Death Note? What is it?"

  Light Turner: "What is what?" 

You absolute master of deception, Light. She will never suspect that what you're holding is sinister when it's called freaking 'Death Note' and you're pretending you don't know what she's talking about, 

Light Turner: "Uhhh I can't tell you"
Mia: "Okay :)"
Light Turner: *LEANS IN CLOSE* "You really wanna know?"



   Light Turner, you idiot.
   Light Yagami despises Misa Misa. He constantly tries to avoid her and is annoyed that she attempts to be a second killer with her copy of the Death Note. He emotionally manipulates her because she's in love with him and ensures she does everything he wants in exchange for making her believe he loves her too. Light Yagami is a calculated, cold murderer who uses everyone around him to his advantage - this is what makes him such an interesting and incredibly scary character. 

   Light Turner spends the film running around in pure terror and playing Kill, Bang, Popcorn with Mia. who is far more frightening than Light considering she appears incredibly interested in the death of others from the beginning. She blackmails him by writing his name in the note (claiming she will burn it, thus undoing the death, if he gives her the book) and even remarks "you're not crazy enough". I don't know about anyone else, but I think I'm pretty done with the romanticised fucked-up-girl cliche.  Whilst the anime still seemed to perpetuate this, Light Yagami didn't skip around with Misa Misa, going to her prom and pissing about with top hats. He actually put extensive thought into concealing the notebook, ensuring their connection be kept secret and remaining undetectable by insisting they are not seen together. The story was about the large-scale plans that Light had for the world and the pedestal on which he was trying to place himself by killing all of those he felt were unworthy of life. Light Turner's plans begin by taking revenge on the man who killed his mother (come on, are we really going to try and make him relatable instead of having a god-complex?) and extend merely to trying to keep what he's doing a secret and appeasing Mia, who really seems to be the one trying to cover their tracks by killing people who can be traced to them. Light Turner is sloppy and we are completely shut out from any internal thought processes he might be having, unlike with Light Yagami whose intellect is portrayed as Sherlock-esque. He even ends up confessing everything to his Dad in a completely anti-climactic ending, who in the anime he goes to great lengths to keep in the dark about his true nature. Luckily for Turner, his nemesis has also been dumbed down, or else he would have been caught immediately. 



   For those of you who haven't seen the original Death Note, or read the manga, you will be wondering who tries to stop Light. This is L.

   L is an incredibly intelligent, though unusual, character who has been known to crack the hardest criminal cases on record. He likes cake, sweets and ice cream and almost always sits in a crouched position with his knees brought up to his chest - he claims he can think better this way. He also has an adorable way of holding things by the corners with his thumb and index finger. In any case, this all seems to remain true in the remake and when he was first introduced I actually liked his character. I felt a tiny short-lived feeling of relief that they hadn't entirely messed everyone up. Then, sadly, the film continued on. Originally, L was calm, thoughtful, mysterious and you always felt that he would always know exactly what to do in each situation. He skillfully traps Light Yagami into revealing he is from Japan and taunts him endlessly in order to find out his identity. Their mind games with each other are thrilling and suspenseful to watch and you find yourself completely immersed in their metaphorical game of chess. The same effect is attempted in the film and falls completely flat because L is frantically calling his colleagues to check they are still alive and is almost always trembling, shaking, sweating and darting his eyes around nervously. I'm not saying that this isn't normal for someone in his position, but he does not comfort the watcher in the same way the anime L does. Even though we find that L does have emotional depth, his live-action counterpart is significantly less strange and does not seem to struggle half as much socially that the original L does. I would also like to note my disappointment that live-action L betrays his nature by threatening to use a gun in anger after engaging in a panicked chase after Light. This is can be put down to personal opinion, but I prefer put-together L who always has another trick up his sleeve. 

   Overall, Death Note (2017) was painful to watch and there are so many infinite reasons that it would be truly impossible to explain each issue without creating a post so much larger than this one. However there are some things I would like to point out. By now, most of you will understand that the majority of the original characters were Japanese. At first, I was accepting of the fact that this version would not take place in Japan and that everything would be very, very American. You'd be right in assuming the start of the film features cheerleaders and American football. However, truthfully, I can't really happily accept it. Again, perhaps a personal preference but I would have preferred that Light remain as Yagami and that he was a Japanese student. I'm upset that L was not shown to outfox Light by only broadcasting his trap in Japan in order to bait him into acting. I'm upset that elements of Japanese culture such as Shinigami did not receive the representation they deserved. 

Seeing as an emotive and wonderful series was squeezed into a film, I'd like to take this time to say RIP to all the characters who didn't make it to the live-action. You were missed. 


   My good friend Nathan managed to sum up our collective pain in one brilliant sentence;

"They turned it from a smart, complex drama into a needlessly violent and mediocre thriller and turned Light and L's intricate battle of wits into a cliche revenge story"
- Nathan W. 2017 

   The film was a disaster and the only consolation was the shrieking laughter every time Light ran into a locker or slid over a car bonnet. However, they did get one thing right; Willem Dafoe was a really good choice for the voice of Ryuk. 


Look after yourselves lilypads, 

Lauren Newman a.k.a shrInking violet








Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Self Worth

Img (c) Lauren Newman
Do not use pls and thank you
Hey tulips,

I haven't blogged "properly" in a while. The reason I use "properly" is because I haven't really zeroed in on a subject for a long time. I miss it. I had initially thought that the summer holiday would mean that I'd be blogging daily, however, I hadn't factored in how busy I would be and that the reason why I'm constantly on my computer during the academic year is because of assignments, reading and research. I will admit that blogging was a very satisfying form of procrastination because it is somewhat productive.

The topic I want to tackle today is mainly about self worth, but also about insecurity, jealousy, body image and relationships we have with others. It's not a secret that many of us struggle with our worth as a human being, and that these worries about ourselves tend to show themselves regarding our appearances and character.

Throughout my life, I have had issues accepting my body and my general appearance. I have completely loathed my body, thought of myself as ugly and repulsive and spent many long days wishing that I looked like someone else. Sadly, these feelings will be all too familiar for many of you. As someone who can proudly say that they have made a lot of progress in this area of my life, I want to offer some words of wisdom that I use on myself and hopefully they may help others as much as they help me.

1.) Try not to base your self worth on the opinions of others.

Now, I'm not saying that in order to do this you need to become completely emotionless and no longer care about what people think of you. I, like many others, am a sensitive person and a people-pleaser. I admit unashamedly to wanting people to like me and caring about what kind of person they think I am. In my unprofessional opinion, it is perfectly human behaviour to enjoy positive feedback from other humans. However, the difference for me now is how I respond to that feedback. I do not allow others to define my identity or worth, no matter if their opinion is good or bad.

Basing your self worth and confidence on what others think may work perfectly for you if you have a steady stream of praise and admiration showered on you each day, for whatever reason. I'm not telling you that you should not enjoy this and absorb it and allow it to boost your confidence and happiness. However, the danger of this is if it stops. If, for whatever reason, you begin to receive less and less attention until eventually you are left with nothing at all, what do you do? If you cannot emotionally support yourself and give yourself a sense of worth, you are surrendering your identity and sense of self to others. In my opinion, this isn't a healthy way to live. Furthermore, what if the feedback suddenly becomes incredibly negative? If you allow others to define your worth, you may also absorb the bad just as intensely as the good and begin to believe any horrible thing that is said about you. This will chip away at your self esteem and make you feel awful.

When I was young (warning: more highly subjective background info from Lauren), I always placed my worth in the hands, or words, of others. I internalised every single time I was called ugly and worthless and by the time I was in my early teens I truly believed that I was repulsive to look at. However, my achievement in school had been good and teachers had always commented on my good behaviour and conscientiousness. I took this and ran with it into high school, and into relationships as well. Again, still fully believing in the power of others' opinions, I began to absorb the bad grades I achieved due to illness and low attendance. I also accepted the negative and cruel criticisms about my nature from a boyfriend at the time. Despite grasping ferociously onto this person who contradicted others by describing me as "beautiful" I also became "lazy", "childish" and incapable of doing anything right without him, in his words. My issue became that instead of building my own self worth, I focused entirely on what others thought about me and very easily accepted their observations as truth. I would offer myself up to others as being passive, scatterbrained, incompetent and only worth something if I was helping others achieve their happiness.

Additionally, even if someone is being nice about you, that doesn't mean you have to adhere to their opinion of you still. For example, if someone describes you as "nice" and "quiet" and "agreeable", this doesn't mean that you are not allowed to describe yourself as other things that perhaps might contradict these meanings.

Learn to accept that others can form opinions of you without you using it to collage your identity.
This is not a linear process. It is long and difficult and not without many bad days. You are trying to rewire your way of thinking, which, I'm afraid, is a large task to undertake, though very much worth the results.

Disclaimer: Sometimes we, as people, make mistakes. Sometimes we treat others wrongly or hurt their feelings. Sometimes we need to do better in education or work. Listening to constructive criticism can be really good for us and it helps us to improve as human beings. We must remember to process criticism from others and try to assess how and why they are criticising us. If your lecturer asks you to try and apply more critical reading or restructure an essay, don't scream "I AM TOO WORTHY FOR YOUR PROJECTIONS ON MY CHARACTER". This is an extreme example, but I think you get what I'm trying to say. Generally, the difference between constructive criticism and unnecessary, hurtful criticism will be obvious but it isn't always, which is why I feel the need to point this out.

2.) Your boyfriend, girlfriend, sexual partner etc. are included in "other people's opinions".

I know that it is wonderful when we find an exciting human that we love and everything feels magical. You see that person entirely through rose-tinted spectacles and everything they say and do will be impossible to not freak out over. However, just because you love or like or admire someone does not mean that you should allow your identity to be swamped by theirs. You are an individual, not so-and-so's boyfriend/girlfriend/etc. and you should never need to shrink to make room for them. Whenever I have felt low about my appearance, my boyfriend's reassurance that he finds me beautiful is nice and always appreciated, but it isn't the antidote to low self worth. It doesn't change the way I see myself. I have had to do this for myself, though having someone who doesn't feed you negative things is always a huge help, it's important that we can still feel positive about ourselves, even when others are not expressing positivity about us.

It is great to feel weak at the knees when your significant other tells you how they feel about you - believe me I do - but we should still be our full selves if they were to suddenly leave. The whole idea of "I can't live without you" might be very romantic, but do we really want people we love to be so unhappy with themselves that they need others to feel worth something? I certainly don't want that. The idea that my boyfriend could have happily lived without me, and I him, makes our relationship all the more special. It is a choice, not a need. Obviously, I'm not saying that it's okay for your partner to say "I'd honestly be really happy if you weren't here" and it's normal that we feel like we've lost a limb when we lose someone we love. I just mean that you need not feel that you are half of a person or not worth being described as a whole person without someone else. A partner who loves and cares about you should want you to feel whole.

3.) Stop comparing yourself to others - no really. Stop. It.

The mere existence of other women seemed to be the sole cause of my insecurity for a long time. I hated seeing beautiful women and I came to resent them. I allowed my fear of being judged and my shattered self-worth to make me shrink away from supporting fellow women and enjoying their beauty and self-appreciation. Many friends I have spoken to have felt exactly the same way, and I realised it's not uncommon. This is one of the first things I worked on changing and I now feel a swell of happiness seeing others feel comfortable and beautiful in their own skin. Genuinely feeling this way feels good and healthy, but it's understandably incredibly difficult to get there if you don't have a certain level of self worth. Once you are able to begin lifting yourself up, this aspect of the problem does get easier. Especially when you talk to women you were jealous of and realise that they have felt exactly the same way - which by the way is sad and not something we should enjoy, but rather just take comfort in that we are all human and all affected by the same feelings.

 Never have I ever wanted to change the way I look merely because of my features themselves. I wanted to change the way I looked in favour of something else that someone else had.
Hated my bumpy nose? It's because I wanted a slim, ski-jump one.
Hated my eyes for their hooded lids? Only because I wanted bright and open eyes.
Hated my love handles? I wanted a slim figure.

Never once did I want to be rid of my bumpy nose, hooded lids or love handles because there was something wrong with them inherently. I just wanted something different. Once I stopped comparing myself and enjoyed myself for what I am, not wanting to change became much easier. I'm not saying I'm converted and never wish I could change something about myself, but it's a process that is helping me not to plunge into a pit of self loathing. I know that I am in a better place now because I genuinely really love my love handles and have embraced my nose and my eyes as part of me. There is nothing cocky or self-absorbed about allowing yourself to be happy with the way you look, by the way.

Conventional beauty standards are not the only way to be beautiful and I beg of you to ignore the vile rating system. You are not a 2/10, 5/10, 7/10 or a 10/10. You are a complex human being and your purpose is not for others to find you attractive.

4.) Your appearance is only as important as you make it. Be what you want to be. 

Okay, so as cliché as this might sound, you can be whoever you want.

Make up and selfies: If you want to dress up every day, do a full face of make up and post 3038947 selfies and it makes you happy, then by all means do it. However, if you're only doing this to "keep up" with others, which is something I have considered doing; don't. There is a lot to be said for the idea that people will judge you regardless of what you do, so just be yourself. At one time, I would not leave the house without makeup because I felt ugly without it. Now I've realised that the only reason I did that was because I thought other people thought that, and now I only wear it when I feel like wearing it. Adversely, don't let other people stop you from wearing it.

Fashion and identity: When I wear clothes that I like, I'm wearing them because I feel good in them. I don't care if other people don't like them, I don't care if it's on trend or if it isn't. Being "cool" is a completely subjective term. Dress to please yourself.

You are not just your skin: Again, this is cliché but you have an inside as well as an outside. The only time we see ourselves is when we look in the mirror, but we live inside our minds 24/7. Being beautiful is not more important than living your life, experiencing things, loving and being loved, getting an education, working, reading, having fun and ultimately your health and wellbeing. One thing commonly said by older people is "I can't believe I ever thought I was ugly when I was young". Being concerned about how you look will get in the way of enjoying life.
I will end this point on one of my favourite quotes of all time;


(c) Roald Dahl
Illustrations (c) Quentin Blake 

5.) Thin" and "beautiful" are not synonyms. "Fat" and "beautiful" are not mutually exclusive concepts.

I could now immediately launch into my thoughts on fat shaming, but that is definitely a topic for another time (or this section would be a huge wall of text). All I will say is that fat is not an insult, thin is not a compliment and they are just two of many body types. If someone uses these terms as such, remember that you don't need to agree, you are allowed to disregard it instead of internalising it. This is difficult when it's often ingrained in us after years of hearing it, but thinking about it in this way and discussing it helps to disentangle it from our self worth.

Tips on achieving some healthy mindsets:

- If someone compliments you, try your best not to reject it. Say thank you, and perhaps try and return a genuine compliment. I've got into the habit of when my boyfriend says "you're beautiful", I'll say "yeah I am, and so are you".

- If someone insults you or says something hurtful, remember that you do not need to gather their words and pin them on your chest. You can leave them behind, they are not you.

- If you berate yourself, stop and say out loud; "no, I am worth something. I am worth more than I think I am and I do not deserve to have horrible things said about me, especially not from myself". This might seem strange and weird but it genuinely helps to say it out loud.

- Stand in the mirror every day and pick out three things you like about your appearance. Then tell yourself you are great. Repeat with things about your character.

- If you can't stop comparing yourself to others, delete apps that may potentially mean that you're being exposed to the people you might possibly be comparing yourself t-- Delete Instagram. That's what I'm basically trying to say. Delete the app that studies have shown to be the worst for mental health until you are healthily able to view Instagram models without holding yourself to that standard. I'm being dead serious. Working on myself in this way means that now I can see Instagram models, think "oh nice" and sit there quite happily without a single wish to change anything about my body. Sometimes, usually once a month, I have blips and see someone pretty and completely degrade myself. The important thing is I can recognise that it was just a lapse and that I look the way I look and that I'm happy with that. Furthermore, I'm happy to see that person feeling confident and beautiful. You just have to keep reinforcing. If you don't want to delete Instagram, unfollow people that trigger your insecurities and avoid the search tab. This is not a long term solution, just temporary whilst you are healing.

- Try to avoid the "fake it until you make it" approach in trying to appear cocky and self assured. You don't need to prove anything to anyone because this is not about what other people think. This is about how you feel for your own happiness and health.

- Kindness costs nothing - liking yourself is a lot easier when you're kinder to others but also to yourself as well.

- Treat yourself and others like Aibileen Clark treats Mae Mobley from The Help (2009, Kathryn Stockett)

(c) DreamWorks Pictures, Reliance Entertainment, Participant Media, Image Nation, 1492 Pictures, Harbinger Pictures


Everything expressed in this post is my opinion. I do not have any qualifications pertaining to this subject and it is entirely just things that have helped me - the case may be very different for many of you. 
Take care tulips, 
Lauren Newman a.k.a shrInking violet







Sunday, 23 July 2017

The Highlands

Afternoon thistles,

Photography (c) John McFarland

A few weeks ago, my family, boyfriend and I went on an adventure to Scotland, more specifically, Fettercairn, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. Not only was it wonderful because I got to see a panda in real life, but I also met up with a couple of friends who I hadn't seen for two years. You made the entire holiday completely unforgettable and I loved seeing you guys again <3 We played mini golf, went on some rides which me and Bridie found horrifying and visited the cafe where J.K Rowling thought up Harry Potter. We also wandered around Edinburgh listening to bagpipes, buying shortbread and admiring the surprisingly varied collections of tartan.

Gingers ft. Michael
(Please do not take/edit the photo unless you're gonna put little hearts all over it)

Another great thing about being in Scotland is that everywhere is beautiful and I felt very inspired to paint and draw whilst I was there. Sadly, I was so busy that I didn't get to paint any landscapes like I was hoping, but on a particularly quiet day I did some practice drawing. Personally, I very much prefer it to a landscape;
(c) Lauren Newman do not take it please.

As usual, this post is an amalgam of things, which is normally what I prefer, and I want this section to be dedicated to John. Quite frankly, so many people find themselves in relationships which do not help them grow, lie stagnant and, more seriously, cause damage. I was one of these people who found themselves in a very damaging relationship and feel that it has changed me irreversibly for the rest of my life. However, shortly after meeting John, my world suddenly became less painful and fearful and I felt I could truly grow. This person encourages me every single day and has shown me that I can be in love and keep my freedom and individuality. No matter what happens, I will always be so glad that he came into my life and supported me whilst I rebuilt my self-worth and confidence. 

There is lot more I want to talk about soon, but I think it would be better if I posted separately in the spirit of not uploading walls of text.

On that short note, take care seedlings, 

Lauren Newman a.k.a shrInking violet

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Fifty Shades of Vampires.

Evening willows,

As someone who often becomes physically and emotionally overwhelmed by day-to-day life, taking some much needed time for myself is always welcome. I spent the day alone today, so not only did I get to relax, but I also finished Death Note, an anime I have been watching, and I finished a drawing as well. Quick note to any anime fans (not a death one, though), if you're interested in Death Note, I would advise not Googling anything and simply going and watching it. It's a really good anime, despite me having some qualms with it in places, and I highly recommend it. 

Before we head on to the main topic of this post, I will discuss a couple of other things I did today that weren't so relaxing. 

Trigger warnings for sexual themes, with f-bombs to match, and mentions of abuse/rape. 

Firstly, I wasted two hours watching Fifty Shades of Grey. Anyone who knows me will know that I have not read any more than a few pages of the books, and don't particularly hold them in very high regard, so what possessed me I will never know. SPOILER ALERT; I spent two hours watching a film about a millionaire introducing a startlingly innocent 21-year-old, who seems to have gone through life without being encountered by the existence of butt plugs, to his sex dungeon. Plausible, you say? Okay, fair enough. Not everyone gets more than their daily dose of the Internet so I can get behind it (haha). There are some pretty special gems in there though that I've extracted just for you;

- After Anastasia Steele repeatedly questions Christian Grey about why he doesn't want her to touch him, he dramatically crouches over the windowsill and whispers "Because I'm 50 shades of fucked up" which, I will admit, is where I lost it. The film had an average chance at being taken seriously to begin with, but I could not get past that line. I'd laugh all the way through if it wasn't so concerning. 
On that note, does anybody else find it uncomfortable that the story seems to equate experience of childhood abuse to being a BDSM practitioner? No? Not to mention that the relationship shared by Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele is not reflective of BDSM relationships, but of abuse and rape. 

-  Christian spends a decent amount of time trying to convince Anastasia that his playroom is worth compromising for, that she should sign a contract and become his sex slave. He insists that she considers it. 
Anastasia: "Will we still go out to dinner, and movies...?"
Christian: "That's not really my thing."
What the hell, Christian? 

- Christian: "If you were mine you wouldn't be able to sit down for a week"
This alone might be enough to make you cringe, but I expected this kind of thing. What I didn't expect was that he would randomly rip his shirt off, crawl across the bed and TAKE A BITE OF HER FRICKING TOAST. I don't know about anyone else, but that'd be me screaming the safe word. 

- Christian: "my playroom"
Anastasia: "like your Xbox and stuff?"
*sick* 

If you want more hilarious and also shocking examples of this painful series please do read a wonderfully cutting post here; Grey: 32 creepy extracts that prove Christian Grey is the worst

Not that anything can really top my disastrous film-watching experience but I randomly decided to make these Watermelon & strawberry slushies today. Tasted nice but, in short, I am never deseeding a watermelon ever again.

Finally, we are onto the subject of vampires. Whilst watching the dreaded Fifty Shades of Grey, I was thinking about how it started off as a Twilight fan-fiction. As the two ventured into a misty forest, oh-so-Twilight-esque, I was wondering why Stephenie Meyer made it so that vampires sparkled in the sunlight. I believe it's explained through the fact that their skin is marbly, hard and smooth, and I started to think more about how I would write about vampires. My first question was why are vampires always predominantly humanoid? despite their transformations into bats and such. I was wondering if our often romantisised and sexualised portrayal of them was to blame; wouldn't want to make it too weird right? Just a slight sense of necrophilia should do it. After doing some skin-deep research, it was immediately obvious that vampires were originally undead individuals, of course, so naturally they're sort of human-ish. I did find that little extra information I was after when noting legends of chupacabras, who were said to primarily feast on goats. I enjoyed this fact simply because of my representation of a vampire;


So I've managed to create a somewhat cute version of a chupacabra that unintentionally resembles the very thing it's meant to suck the blood from, though the head is significantly more canine. My idea was that, behind the cheek-pouches, there are long, black teeth which extract the blood and deposit it in the cheeks. The blood then transfers into the body through the throat and is stored in the tail. The image was created using my Pigma Micron liner set and, my absolute favourite medium, my Winsor & Newton bullet tip/chisel tip markers. It feels so nice to feel my way into art again. Next time I hope to share last year's Inktober! 

For now, sweet dreams saplings, 

Lauren Newman a.k.a shrInking violet




Read more: http://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/movie_script.php?movie=fifty-shades-of-grey

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Love Yourself

Evening petals,

Where do I begin? 

Whilst the world was going mad for the 2298372934th time, because that's all it ever seems to be doing, I spent the week in Totnes in a pretty holiday cottage with very little wi-fi. Personally, I could deal with unreliable Internet because we were so busy but I felt it worth mentioning to account for the fact I have been missing a lot of news. Whilst I have been missing a lot of news, I was getting sunburnt, eating a lot of ice cream, paddling in the sea and also spending a lot of time with my two-year-old niece (is actually my boyfriend's niece but I've acquired the title of "Uncy Lauren"). I also celebrated my two-year anniversary with my boyfriend last week, which was lovely. We're not a very post-it-online kind of couple, but I'm mentioning it here because I want to. Thank you for everything.

Personal catch-ups aside, as I did say I would stop doing those for entire posts, I would like to talk about watercolour painting. I have recently made my first three attempts at watercolour paintings and, let me tell you right now, it is not as easy as YouTubers make it look. I was warned many times about the difficulties regarding technique and such, but I was very optimistic and tried my hand at it anyway. The word "can't" is definitely in my dictionary, but I try not to use it and feel disappointed if I do.

So, firstly I decided that the image was going to be a happy one. After all, I needed a suitable mood to match my enthusiasm for my new project. Next, I slathered my desk in an old copy of The Guardian (though I did wish I could have pilfered someone's Daily Mail in the hopes of giving Piers Morgan a little Pride flag and a 'snowflake' graphic t-shirt), then I clunked an old glass of tap water on a "Sweet 16" cork coaster I had for one of my birthdays (no prizes for guessing which one) and rummaged around for my paints. I've had these paints for several years and they are beautiful. The watercolours are in their own little white boxes with their wonderful colour names printed on the side such as 'viridian', 'burnt sienna' and 'ultramarine'. Each of these boxes sit in neat rows in a larger white case with the Winsor and Newton logo on the front. My grandma bought me these when I was young, as she is an artist herself, and I'm so glad that I'm finally getting to use them properly. Next, I set out my brushes; my Winsor and Newton Cotman set (which I did not pay that astronomical price for - go to Amazon) and some Frisk masking brushes. I also used the Royal & Langnickel Watercolour Artist Pad which I had seen used successfully in other artist's' work. Although any paper that claims to be for watercolours is fine, you get what you pay for so do expect some potential negative effects if you go down the cheap road like I did. Negative effects means, mainly, warping of the paper when loading it up with water and ultimately having little balls of paper accumulate on what should be a smooth coat of paint.

For sketching, I initially used a plain old HB pencil but I went over it with a brown Brunel and Franklin watercolour pencil, which I could only seem to find a link for at b&m for some reason. Then I lightly brushed over the sketch with an eraser which left the brown marks, which I went over again in the same brown. My hopes for using a watercolour pencil was that it would blend in when I started to apply the paint, which it kinda did. Next, I decided that I would tackle masking fluid for the first time. Although it looked pretty simple when done online, darn those YouTubers, it was an absolute shambles when I started slapping it down on my page. I don't know if it was the quality of the paper or if I had spread it in far-too-thick globs, but the end result was ripping off much of the top layer of paper with the brown pencil attached. I used, what I deem to be, a good quality masking fluid (Winsor and Newton again) so I can only conclude that practice must make perfect. I was a bit put off by the eggy white-yellow colour at first, but it did go tacky and pull away quite satisfyingly without any discolouration, so I think I will wait until I have a higher quality pad. If anyone has any tips, it'll be much appreciated. Anyway, after I had masked the outlines of the sketch, washed the background a 'cadmium yellow', and rubbed away most of my poor outline, I redrew the brown lines and used a small end-of-pencil eraser to get rid of the frilled, jagged paper that had been torn away. After this, I happily blocked in the base colours, waited for it to dry and added shading in darker colours. Part of my issue with watercolours is that it requires a lot of patience. You must wait for the previous layer to dry before adding another or you will basically ruin the painting. I find the concept of patience quite easy until it comes to art, and then my brain is rapidly rendering the image I want and urging my hand to make it happen instantaneously. However, I did manage to do some waiting this time and didn't waterlog the page too much.

Finally, after being satisfied with the colouring, I moved onto the outline. Originally I was going to have no outline and allow the blended brown pencil to remain as the only visible lines. However, this didn't prove to be a good idea considering the mess that was the masking fluid and the blurriness there was once I'd applied water: I have a soft spot for sharp, crisp lines. I had initially been lining with a very fine brush and a shade of black called 'hook' but I found I couldn't quite get the right consistency and it was fluctuating between being grainy and dry or translucent and difficult to keep control over. This is when I decided to use my beautiful Pigma Micron liners. I own a set which contains Sakura Pigma Microns with sizes that range from 0.05 to 0.8 and an extra brush pen, which I adore. I began by lining the entire image with the 0.05, the smallest of the pens with a minute nib. This looked okay, but I didn't want the lines to be a monotonous thickness so I added thicker areas with the 0.8, which admittedly makes up most of the lines. I then began to taper out the thicker lines with the 0.05 on parts such as folds in the clothing and facial features, which I like to keep quite thin and sharp. Finally, I added in some pupils, which were originally a more saturated version of "cadmium yellow" which didn't pop enough for my liking, and scribbled my name and the year.

If you're still here at this point, I am deeply sorry for the piece of artwork you're about to see. I usually prefer using markers and pens, so watercolour is really out of my comfort zone. Therefore, I did something incredibly simplistic, though still undeniably my style despite a new medium. There's some warping and bleeding of the colour, but overall it's not a bad attempt. I think I'll stick to my favourite markers and pens for the most part though!


Oh, also she's a pastel princess alien who doesn't give a damn, frankly.


Love yourselves,

Lauren Newman a.k.a shrInking violet

Saturday, 27 May 2017

The Second Summer: what now?

Good afternoon wallflowers and wildflowers,

 To be frank, toddling out of second year and wandering, dazed, into third has felt a bit like this;

Hercules. (1997). [film] Directed by J. Musker and R. Clements. USA: Walt Disney Pictures.

I've started to hear the word "dissertation" spoken aloud as though it is now an impending reality. Those of you who already have their degree, and may even be brandishing a Masters or a PHD, will likely look back on your dissertation as comparably easy to the work you tackled from then on. However, that does not take away the knock-kneed, trembling-lip, nervous-stutter approach I'm going to take to mine (though that is my general demeanour when I approach anything remotely new). I'm sure I'll let you know in the coming weeks when I have finally decided on a topic, though I imagine it will definitely reside in the field of stylistics. I must make sure that, before I leave, I thank one of my lecturers for the infinite amount of confidence and reassurance she has given to me throughout my two years at university so far. I began by regretting the aspect of language in my degree and was thinking about changing course, but her enthusiasm and excellent teaching style has meant that, not only do I love studying language now, but I am opting to do an independent study in it. Then again, the entire English department at my university are nothing short of wonderful, in my humble opinion. 

Anywho, aside from work-related business, I will admit that my summer is still very much in full-swing, despite some wobbles in trying to pin down a specific study topic for next year. 

  A while ago, I made a Summer books list for what I wanted to read this year and in accordance with this I have started reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. This is long awaited and I will likely make slow progress on it, but reading it I am. In an exciting turn of events, I am also attending one of the book signings that Matt Haig is holding this summer! I don't think I could possibly explain my excitement for this, but if I tried it would be that my boyfriend observed that when I hear the word "author" said on the tv I always look to see if it's Matt Haig, however unlikely. As far as other reading goes, and I know I said I'd stop talking about this, I think the majority of it is going to be about research methodology and stylistics, which I'm weirdly looking forward to planning and making some notes on. 

   Also on the agenda; video games. I will admit, with only a hint of shame, that my teenage years were spent mostly playing video games. After starting university, naturally, they took a back seat and I very rarely make time for the lengthy gaming sessions that I used to (all of my waking hours). However, as it's the summer now, I am very happily slotting back into Stardew Valley. This is easily one of my favourite games and is a welcome substitute for gems such as Harvest Moon which I used to play on my battered baby-pink Nintendo DS. Though I haven't quite found a suitable exchange on PC for Animal Crossing, games like Stardew Valley and Harvest Moon have always been appealing because they aren't based on real-time, whereas Animal Crossing requires that you are logging in regularly to ensure that your neighbors don't start to hate you or, at the very least, you don't end up with bed hair or a weed-infested town. Although I was able to take on Stardew' in the place of 'Moon, I don't think I could replace Animal Crossing quite so easily, as it's a staple of my childhood in gaming. 

  Additionally, I have also managed to one-hundred-percent Grim Fandango on Steam. For those of you who don't know, Grim Fandango is my favourite video game of all time. This masterpiece by Tim Schafer, who also gave us the Monkey Island series (good ol' Guybrush Threepwood), was genuinely my favourite game to play since I was old enough to use a computer. My uncle Rob used to let me and my brother play it on his Windows 95 PC and had never-ending patience with us as we tried to work out the pretty obscure puzzles. Now I can, quite proudly, say that I have completed all of the in-game achievements, one of which included completing the entire game in the original tank controls. Strangely, I preferred the tank controls as it was what I was used to playing the game with as a child, though I did enjoy the smoother graphics that the remaster offered. I could not have been more thrilled that such a classic, that happened to be so close to my heart, was given a full remaster and put on Steam. 

  Finally, in terms of gaming, I am half-way through Alice: Madness Returns. Now, I'm not a huge fan of EA Games, but ever since I saw the teaser trailers for this I felt compelled to purchase it. I love Alice in Wonderland and fully intend to complete this game and it's individual take on the story and upload a review at one point or another. 

  Books and games aside, I'm hoping to complete some art and series I've been meaning to watch for a long time now. Art takes a lot of time, motivation and enthusiasm, so I imagine I will begin churning it out when my plans for my dissertation have been submitted. Series, on the other hand, will have their own post in the form of anime - my favourites and must-watches. Hopefully my blog posts will consist of less catching up and more specific themes from now on, I have some as work-in-progress pieces.


 Be green, 

 Lauren Newman a.k.a shr-Inking violet





Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Playing Catch- Up: Mental Health Awareness Week

Good evening fellow mammals,

After what I can only describe as a turbulent couple of months, my second year of university will be officially completed on Thursday 18th of May. You might be thinking, "why the heck are you writing a post if you're not even finished yet omg" give or take a few words. The honest answer is that I'm resting in the name of self-care after a day of panicking and revising; do with that information what you will. 

Unfortunately, due to assignment stress I was unable to get around to writing a post last week. I regret this particularly because it was Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, which naturally I feel very strongly about. The truth is, talking about mental health is really difficult. You might not think so if you've spoken to me recently, as I've been making a conscious effort to be a lot more open about it to help eradicate the stigma, but actually being open about having a mental health issue can be terrifying. The truth is, I wrote an entire paragraph detailing some specific experiences I have with GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) and deleted the entire thing out of fear; 

"What if they think I'm self-absorbed?"
"What if someone thinks I'm an attention-seeker?"
"What if everyone just reads this and thinks it's pathetic or insignificant?" 

This in itself shows me that we have a serious problem with how we approach mental health. 
Talking about mental health is vital because right now it is often quicker and easier to get a box of emotion-altering tablets than it is to get someone to sit and talk to you about your emotions for an hour-long appointment. 

If you have mental health issues, advice or have a personal story to share - my advice is to allow yourself to talk about it. As I have demonstrated above, sharing personal experiences can be daunting but letting yourself share it in a way that you are comfortable with (counselling, family, friends, online) is a healthy way to raise awareness, receive support, fight stigma and encourage others to speak up as well. I truly believe that human connection and compassion is the best possible way to combat mental illness. 
If you're worried about what people will think, remember- "those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind". 
Of course, my pal Steph has written a beautifully eloquent piece for Mental Health Awareness Week; check it out here. I will always commend my friend for how wonderfully she tackles the issue of mental health and the experiences she has had. 

In other slightly less serious news, I drew a comic about anxiety and also purchased a stress ball. 

Firstly, the stress ball (product link)was an unfortunate impulse buy on amazon and I didn't think to check the reviews before just adding it to my basket of stuff and clicking check out. I realised that most people had managed to burst it within the first 30 minutes of use and had been covered in sticky gel. So when the bubbly sack of strange slime flopped out of the cardboard Amazon box, I wasn't entirely prepared for the fact that I could potentially have it explode in my face. I took it upstairs, held it over the bath and squeezed. Low and behold, my freakishly limp, cold hands were literally too weak to force the little gel bubbles to pop out of the black net. Anyway, after some cautioned two-handed crushing I managed to loosen up the rubber, or whatever, to make it so I could squeeze the weird bubbles out. After doing this for about five minutes, leaning over the bath, I realised that I was never going to be able to actually use this stress ball the way I want to because I'll be constantly terrified that it's going to burst and I was probably going to end up causing some injury to the tendons in my arm if I had to keep squeezing it with as much effort as I was. 

Basically, you guys, I bought a ball that is causing me stress. A literal stress ball. At this point in my life, I'm not even surprised that I've managed to achieve making a stress ball actually stressful. 

With that tragic confession out of the way, I'll leave you with the doodle I made during Mental Health Awareness Week. 

Have you ever thought you were a fraud because you deemed other experiences of mental illness as more valid than your own? You didn't think yours were that bad or that you are somehow wrongly claiming you have something when you don't? I do this all the time with anxiety and have realised that it's just best to trust how you feel. If you feel it, it is real. 

Merry May everyone, 
Lauren Newman a.k.a shrInking violet