torstai 23. elokuuta 2012

Artist of the Month: Victoria Francés

Huida 2003.

Wow, I was checking out my statistics and my Tove Jansson entry has had more readers in two weeks than what Luis Royo had after two weeks of its realease. Evidently Royo arouses interest in all kinds of people, but it seems to me that Tove is soon going to be my new number one =) And no wonder, she was extremely talented.

August's artist is (once again) coming from Spain. Luis Royo is Spanish and I dare to say, really famous there. However, right behind him comes an artist who, do I dare to say, has a big boner for everything gothic-romantic.

Victoria Francés was born in Valencia, but was practically raised in Galicia (Northwest of Spain). It's said that she spend a lot of time in the forests of Galicia and in one of her interviews Francés says that she still keeps drawing inspiration from Galicia's woods. 
Not much is said about her art education, exept that she studied at the Polytechnic University of Valencia majoring in Fine Art. Apparently there was a department or other branch of the University called The Faculty of Fine Arts of San Carlos (Facultad de Bellas Artes de San Carlos) where Francés worked as an illustrator. It's rather impressive that she got a real job that had something to do with her degree, most art students get to wait on tables or serve drinks in a bar. (me? I'm still waiting tables to safe money for makeup school..Although I do have 2 art shows under my belt). But Francés was lucky, she got to design book covers and work on commission pieces. It's really impressive if an art student can make money on her/his art.

One could say that San Carlos gave her a little push to really start her career. Her first illustrated book Favole was published in 2003. The book consists of illustrations inspired by Verona, Venice and Genova. Favole enjoyed moderate success (which I think is good from a young and upcoming artist) in Spain and in other countries where it was published.
Even if you aren't familiar with Francés' work, this books literally tells everything Francés is all about: romance, gothic and victorian clothes (and vampires). And I do not mean 'gothic' as people dressed in all black and wear heavy black eyeliner, I mean gothic as in art history gothic.
Francés has said that she is immensely inspired by the Pre-Raphaelite paintings. Well duh, that is a given. However as much as Francés is trying to achieve that Pre-Raphaelite look I think her style is more stylised compared to the Pre-Raphs. As much as I like her work and really admire her style, I still think that that gothic-big-dresses-grave-yard-girls-castles is rather kitsch. To be perfectly honest, I think her work is really-really kitsch. I can understand that she is inspired by the gothic era and the Pre-Raphaelite group, but I personally think that artist's job is not to copy others, but to make their own stuff. It's clear that Francés adores this stuff since she dresses the part (I hope it's not a publicity stunt) and it's ok that she is doing what she loves. I just wish that she'd try to do something different than gothic girls at grave yards because she could adapt her style in to so many subjects! But just because I'm saying her art is kitsch doesn't change the fact that she is a very talented artist. I had a mini poster of one of her illustrations plus I buy her calendar every other year because I think her illustrations are stunning.
Libera me 2004

Favole was followed by Favole II which showed Francés interested in Venice and particularly in masquerades. It's a kind of mixture of Venice and central Europe featuring witch girls and vampires. I say central Europe because the landscapes remind me of Germany. The castles reminded me of England at first, but then I starting thinking that if Francés was telling stories with her illustrations, they'd probably be better situated in Germany rather than in England or Scotland. Favole II was published in 2004 and Francés made her first public appearance at the 22dn International Comic Fair in Barcelona. I read that she wore the similar gothic clothes to the fair as her characters wear in her illustrations. It seems that she prefers gothic/gothic lolita clothing. I read that Francés was very shy when she went to the fair, but to her delight there were many people to meet and greed her. She became a star of the book signing session and she even drew small illustrations for her fans. Not to mention she turned out to be a natural in answering questions and posing for photos. And there, at the fair, she got to fulfil a dream of hers, she met Luis Royo, her favourite illustrator. Francés has named Royo as one her idols and trendsetters.
Favole II was followed by Favole III in 2005 followed by an opportunity to travel to the States for Comic Con in San Diego. 

El hada de Venecia 2004
With Heart of Arlene (El Corazón de Arlene 2005) Francés decided to step a way from her usual gothic-romantic theme and play with the idea of gender and dolls and social reality. The Heart of Arlene is a mixture of contemporary Francés and classic Francés. She delights us with new themes such as Arlene herself, and treats the die-hard fans with a couple of classic illustrations, some of which have been sexed up. I personally really like Francés' angle on Hada transgénero - El nacimiento de Venus (2006) of a butterfly girl wearing a seethrough dress. Because I happen to like sexy art, I think this is a theme Francés should explore more. That illustration looks so naughty, but so sensitive and eerie at the same time. This illustration is done in her usual style whilst many of the others in Arlene seem like they were done in mixed media. You'll find the Heart of Arlene so different from the Favole trilogy. Arlene is more of a collection extreme characters, people who are more-or-less damaged. The illustrations remind me faintly of the seven deadly sins. The butterfly Venus is Lust, Lluminada girl is Pride, Rojo is Wrath, Arlene is Sloth (the old Sloth, from the Bible, not the new binging Sloth) and so on. Even though the illustrations in Arlene are not as detailed as Francés' other illustrations, they are still worth checking out.

Violin herido 2005.
In 2009 Francés published the first volume of Misty Circus which she presented in the Barcelona Comic Fair. This volume adds another new aspect to Francés collection of illustrations, (but it's not as exciting as the others). Misty Circus tells of Sasha, a child pierrot who travels with the Misty Circus. One review called it 'an ingenuity on the decadent'. Well....uumm.. ingenuity and decadent to me sound like a bunch of buzz words stupid people use to make themselves sound smart. Personally I think Misty Circus is rather dull compared to Francés other published works such as the Favole trilogy or Heart of Arlene. Misty Circus is melancholic and the Indian browns and faded grey's give the series a timeless look. I wouldn't call it decadent by a long shot, comme ci comme ca sounds about right. Even though the concept is interesting Francés isn't pushing it nearly as far as it could (and should) be pushed. Perhaps Circus theme was very popular in 2009 that she chose to leave Misty Circus like that, to avoid copying other people.  And it clearly shows that Francés hasn't given this concept as much thought as she has given to her previous concepts. Above is a stunnig illustration of the Vampire Lestat from Favole III. Misty Circus shows a small change in Francés routine and when I first saw the Misty Circus illustrations, I was surprised that she was stepping out of her gothic-masquerade routine to tackle a very different theme. Even though everyone wears costumes and masks in Circus, Francés hasn't incorporated this to her Misty Circus. Misty Circus is more like 'a short story' of a circus long time ago.

Velos 2001.
With Dark Sanctuary (2008) Francés returns to her more familiar concept. This new book of illustrations mixes music and portraits. I get it that there is a hint of music in the air (I mean hint of music in the illustrations) but otherwise this series is not as impressive as the Favole trilogy or Heart of Arlene. It's beautiful series and I guess it's suppose to relay the message of beauty and aging and music's immortality, buut it's still very boring. I personally don't do the deep symbolism thing (and I do not care for poetry) so perhaps this series is too skin deep for me aka I don't get it nor care for it. 

In 2009 the second volume of Misty Circus came out. Night of the Witches is a continuation of a story about witches who supposedly travel with the Misty Circus. In Misty Circus we follow the story of Sasha, the child pierrot, in Night of the Witches we meet Madame Chloë, a child witch/fortune-teller. She looks similar to Sasha, with her large reddish eyes and almost-anime head. Sasha's and Cloë's character designs are very unexpected, and very different from Francés' usual designs. I know that Francés doesn't have many child characters, but I'm just wondering what possed her to make Cloë look like that. She looks interesting without a doubt, but compared to Francés' usual stuff, she looks very unhuman. Perhaps it's Francés' personal joke that circus folks aren't human. 
I have to say the colours in this series are b-e-a-utiful! For once Francés is not afraid to use bold, strong colours. Even though most of the colours are sort of faded out, the purples, greens and reds pop out real nicely. Especially that horse carriage illustration and that Wizard/magician illustration have beautiful bold colours. Yes, magic is about bold colours! I wish Francés would introduce bold colours to her other works as well. Night of the Witches is a nice series and fits in to Misty Circus. Personally I'd like to see more of these Misty Circus 'episodes'. Maybe next time Francés will introduce us the 'Black Swan', trapeze artist, she is as graceful as a swan and flies higher!

Her latest publication, Integral Favole came out in 2011. This series gives yet another spin to Francés' CV. And personally, I think some of the illustrations in this series could be Francés' best work. I adore her detailed works in the Favole trilogy which she continues to show in Integral Favole yet it is a little different from the others. The colours for example are really faded out. Perhaps 2011 was a Grey Season for Francés since most of the illustrations in Integral Favole are mostly different shade of grey and taupe. I don't recall seeing anyone use taupe so beautifully as Francés does in this series. Personally I'd like to think I.F is independent from the other Favole's because the colour scheme is so, so different from the other 3. Even though each Favole has a theme she doesn't decribe them too literally. However this time I find that there is a real story in I.F. In my mind I.F is a tale of a family who lives in a castle in...the outskirts of Venice (really? Because there is like a forest and a pond near a castle...), but it's not a normal family at all, it's a vampire family. They are aristocratics who indulge themselves in Venice's night life. Yet the women are saddened by their immortal existense and the crimes they have to commit to survive. Expect the one, the teenage looking girl who seems to be embracing her inner vampire. The men in the family are 50/50, the other one is like the mopey Lestat, locked away in his room because he doesn't want anything to do with the world anymore. And the other guy who uses his good looks and charm to hunt down the ladies of Venice by night. Even though I'm drawing you this picture of a cliché vampire family, I was not dissapointed with this Favole.

Velo Nupcial 2011
The reason Francés is one of my favourite illustrators is clear when you look at her unique colour palette. Seriously, when have you seen an artist use earth tones so beautifully and as often as Francés does? Her palette, painting style and themes are gorgeous! I wish I could paint as well as she does (I have tried, skin is rather difficult to paint realistically, but she nails it!). Talking about her colour palette, it's the different grey's and taupes that give it that gothic touch. And it's actually really romantic too. When you think about it, the palette in Velo Nupcial for example is very romantic. I wouldn't exactly call it gothic because to me gothic means a lot of pointy towers and lace decorations and black. But that's the cliché with gothic, everybody thinks it has to be black (but it doesn't, especially when it comes to art). Couple of sources have called Francés' art Gothic Romantic, which is right I guess...exept Gothic Romance refers to the late 18th century literature. You can of course say that her illustrations most definately have a story behind them, but in terms of art and art genre, Gothic Romantic is not a correct term for Francés' style. I'd just call it fantasy art. But that doesn't mean I don't find her art romantic. I think Velo Nupcial is a very romantic illustration. This girl is part of the vampire family in Integral Favole. She is purifying herself from the sorrows immortality has brought her. Perhaps she was a bride to be, but accidentally killed her groom, or the crazy teen vampire killed him. And now the young ex-bride is left to mourn for her lost love. Or perhaps she is a ghost-water-spirit who is unable to move on. Most of Francés' illustrations convey melancholy and deep saddness...and so does Velo Nupcial. Subject wise I don't see any other meaning to this illustrations exept that she is very very sad. The paint job is a-may-zaah though! Francés blends all those taupes and browns and grey-blues with confidence, and she was very smart to leave the white bits very very white. That way all the colours really compliment each other. Although there is not much bright or cute colours for me to gush about, I really really like this illustrations because it's so well made. The light yet broken down colour imply that there is a story 'as old as time' behind this scene, but she conveniently leaves it for the viewer to decide what's going on in the illustration.

Like some other artists, Francés has created a world of her own. As I said before, the broken down and blended colours suggest that Francés' world is perhaps Victorian because all the people are wearing like long dresses and puffy shirts and tight pants etc. And that is OK, exept, if you take away her unique style, what else is there? Then she'd be just another fantasy artist, painting girls in long dresses, lying in snow or posing in front of a window. It'd be really boring I know. Perhaps some of you find her art boring regardless because it's just about fancy people posing in odd locations. Francés' art is very commercial because her subject is very popular among certain age groups. I can see why so many people like her illustrations. And they don't even have to be interested in art because Francés has gained a steady fanbase just with her illustrations-turned-into calendars, and duvet sets, and posters. I buy her calendar every other year and I had the Libera me poster (I lost it. Iii lost my poster, rippito flippito sippi slow motion!). I don't mind that she has gone commercial. I'm just saying that because her subject is commercial, it's a tad hard to take her for a serious fine artist. After all, fine artists or even fashion designers dread to go commercial because it might dock down their 'value' and make them 'those' kind of artists.

I had the Libera me poster and it's actually one of my favourite illustrations from Francés. It's incredibly detailed. I can only imagine the time and effort she spend making this illustration. That dress is exeptionally well depicted. The folds look accurate and there are no bizarre shadows or tone changes. Her skin looks a bit matte, but otherwise she looks very realistic. As a matter of fact the whole image looks very matte, as if it was done with colour pencils. I'm not sure if Francés uses water colours or acrylics (or colour pencils?) but I got the impression she mostly uses acrylics. Though Libera me doesn't look like it was made with acrylics. It's a somewhat romantic scene and even though I have a slight problem with the perspective and depth of this image it's really not as bad as Huida (seriously, it's a pretty illustration but my gawd, is the composition in that image really awful. That well in the middle and that girl in the white dress running to the right, it makes a really awkward scene *shudder*). Because the trees are so damn small in Libera me, we can choose to think that the vampire girl is either monsterous big, or this is just awkward composition on Francés' part. However don't be mad at me, I still like this illustration very very much. It's beautiful to look at, it has drama and mystery to it plus I love love looove her rose crown and her hair! I so want that hair ;)  

Even though I'm not that gothic, I still enjoy France´s work very much. I can totally imagine myself as that girl in Huida. I have finally managed to escape the evil overlord's (he is mostly likely a vampire) grip and am now running to my freedom. But first I need to pass this omnious forest.
I can also imagine that I'm one of those fancy ladies living in Venice. I go to a masquarade ball every night and wear gorgeous dresses. I can see that her art is especially appealing to girls ;D
I hear Francés poses for her illustrations, or rather she makes illustrations on the bases of her photo shoots. So perhaps we can assume that Francés' illustrations are partly self-portraiture hence quite personal. Her style interests me and in fact her illustrations give me this image of old yellow-ish paintings from the past. And as we know, when it comes to old yellow-ish paintings or letters, there is always a story there.
These photos are just a glimpse of what Francés can do with her talent and subject. She is indeed a very talented artist. I'm looking forward to see what she does next.

Remember to check out Francés' unique website. Seriously, it's very nicely done. Sadly it's only in Spanish, but you get to see her illustrations.

I hope you enjoyed my review on Victoria Francés and I'll see you next month!



perjantai 17. elokuuta 2012

Autumn book club: Let the right one in.

Hi guise!!

OMG I'm going to see Lady Gaga in Helsinki this month!!! I am so excited =D I got a really good seat too, right near stage, so I should be able to see Gaga perfectly <3 I'm going to see her on Monday the 27th so only a few weeks left. Will be perfect since I'm looking to work really hard the rest of the month. I haven't been feeling particularly artistic right now, so it's gonna be inspiring to see Gaga's show. I have a couple of collages that I should finish, buuuut since I'm doing long hours at work, I don't have the energy to focus on art afterwards. Hence I thought I'd do something fun for my blog for a change.

I know there are hundreds of blogs focusing on literature and literature is very popular subject among Finnish bloggers. I believe one of our ministers keeps a literature blog which he updates regularly. My blog is a miss-match of different things I'm interested in. Well so far it has been about art, but I'm looking to talk about other stuff too.
There are times when I read books in tandem, and then there are times when I don't read anything at all. Right now I'm on one of my literary tandems, hence I thought I'd give you the 4-1-1 on 5 books I have 'recently' read.
However, there is a catch (with me, there's always a catch xP). IF I post all 5 right now, this would be seriously looooooong entry. Nothing wrong with that, but I think you, the reader, would get frustrated about how long this entry is going to go on (like reading a school book: 'OMG I have already read 30 pages and there is still 30 left on the British bread wars!'). And since it's me writing these reviews, they are going to be long.
I'm going to start with a book I read in June followed by:
The Taker by Alma Katsu
Män som hatar kvinnor (The girl with the dragon tattoo) by Stieg Larsson
Rei Shimura series (I think I'll review two of those) by Sujata Massey
and the last one is...well I haven't decided yet.

I'm looking to post The Taker next month and Lisbeth's series in October and so on...

Now, I must warn you about big time spoilers. In order to give you my honest opinion on these books, I have to assume that you have read them, or are curious to know what happens and you don't mind spoilers. If I have to avoid spoilers this would be just another plain book review. There are many things I wanna say about these books so it makes more sense if I'm allowed to assume that you have read the books. I'm going to be critizing some of the books quite 'heavily' so hopefully you are not one of those people who get offended easily --_-- You have been warned!

I'm going to start with a book that I really really liked for its capability to amalgamate fantasy in to reality. Låt den rätte komma in (Let the right one in) by John Ajvide Lindqvist. I read a few reviews on this book years before and I came really close to buying the movie (the Swedish one, duh!), but I knew that I'd read the book one day so I didn't wanna spoil the story for me. I read this book in June and what happens to me sometimes when I read a book is that I start reading it, then I get bored and leave it for a few and weeks and then finish it. Same thing happened with this book because I felt that it wasn't proceeding fast enough and that there wasn't much stuff happening. When you get past that, Låt den rätte komma in is actually very interesting story.

What I think is important to understand about this story is that it doesn't religiously follow the main character, this is more like a collection of mini stories involving people who are accidentally involved with each other. The main character is a twelve-year-old Swedish boy named Oskar. The story takes place in a suburb near Stockholm in early winter of 1981. Oskar is bullied at school, he has a problem with urination and is slightly over-weight .He lives with his mother and doen't have anyone to call a friend. So he is a typical little boy (who wasn't bullied at school, who had ''friends'' but didn't have friends?). The book takes a really interesting turn right in the beginning when Oskar is walking through a forest to find a secret place to let out all his anger. Mean while there is a man in the same forest searching for a prey. I seriously thought that Lindqvist would kill off his main character right in the beginning. My skin was crawling when the story was describing the lurker's thoughts. Håkan (the gay pedophile lurker) kills a different boy and drains his blood. It's revealed that Oskar was on his way to a different spot where he played that he'd kill his bullies by stabbing them to death (he stabs trees with a kitchen knife). So Oskar lives to fight another day, until he meets Eli. Eli is a girl living in the next apartment house (she and Oskar share a wall). At first Eli is cold and distant until she warms up to Oskar's gestures to become friends when he loans her his Rubik's cube (she shows genuine interest in the toy). Hence they start meeting every night after dusk. During the day Oskar goes to school and avoids bullies, steals knives and candy and buys stolen items from his neighbour Tommy and deals flyers on the weekends.

I found it fascinating how genuine Oskar was. Here we have a twelve-year-old boy who is severely abused and humiliated at school, yet he still manages to find small pleasures in life. I know in America people would be appaled to read about a damaged young boy who steals weapons and runs away from his father in the middle of the night, but to me, this is very realistic depiction of this child's life. Cause and consequences. Under the circumstances Oskar is, you can't expect him to be too-goody-two-shoes. I mean, kids run away from home all the time, kids steal stuff, yet none of this is barely depicted in stories anymore. Contemporary stories tend to stay tame or, on the contrary, they go way over board, to the point they become silly. This story isn't silly (well until the point when Håkan..well you'll know when you get there). It's very endearing to read about Oskar's attempts to befriend Eli. It warms my heart when the two indeed become friends and for the first time Oskar has a real friend in the world. I found it encouraging to read how Oskar slowly gains more confidence and gets over his urination problem (caused my trauma) and for the first time stands up for his tormentors.. In the beginning Oskar may seem like a young boy heading to loony town since he is obsessed with keeping a scarpbook of newspaper articles about murders. He even practices how to kill his tormentors and uses the threat of 'the ritual murderer' to steal a proper hunting knife from a store. However halfway the book it struck me that Oskar is actually pretty smart. But you'll have to have read the book to see for yourself.

While Oskar's and Eli's friendship deepens (Lindqvist doesn't rush the process), we move on to follow the gay pedophile Håkan. It doesn't take a genious to realize that Håkan is involved with Eli and kills young ones (not too young!) to supply Eli with human blood. Later in the story we learn that Håkan was an elementary school teacher who liked young boys. He wasn't involved with anyone from his school, but a collection of child pornography was found in his possession, so the school fired him and somebody burned down his house. Eli found him when he was literally at the bottom of his life. He is in love with Eli, but remains passive, even gentleman-ish, towards her, who refrains from all sexual intercourse with him. He deeply longs to touch and feel his loved one, who time after time denies this pleasure from him, still he feels deep attachment to Eli. After killing his second victim (the one in the woods) he goes to a library in Stockholm and purchases oral sex from a ten year old immigrant. What really struck me was when Håkan notices that the boy doesn't have teeth =( He assumes that they have been removed to make the oral task easier (more pleasurable for the receiver?) so he gives the boy a fast sum of money to get new teeth. Everyone probably assumes that Håkan is the villain of this story, but the way I see it, he is the anti-hero. I am strongly against pedophilism and do not agree what Håkan does in the story, but Lindqvist writes so accurately about Håkan's regret and conflict that one can't help, but pity and like him at the same time. He is a diamond in the rough, a person who has been making wrong decisions all his life. His innocent obsession with Eli is rather endearing and it's rather amazing to see him respected her wishes not to have intercourse, even though he is clearly aching for her. Lindqvist is really good at telling about Håkan's conflict without going overboard. With small gestures he tells how greatly bothered Håkan is by the murders he had to commit to keep his loved one alive. Still Lindqvist doesn't tell this via fancy words nor drag the sentence on and on by throwing in various figurative expressions. I don't shy away from extreme characters, and you have to admit it, when was the last time you saw a gay pedophile in a story? It's fresh and it's obscene, and it's so Scandinavian. Hello from North Europe, we bring you a collection of extreme characters who are as much extreme as they are realistic. I think it was nice of Håkan to give that young boy money to get his teeth fixed. Yes he is a criminal, but Lindqvist has build this character so well and accurately that I can see a real person there. He has major unforgivable flaws, but there is also goodness in him. Not that I think it's right of him to purchase oral sex from little boys to begin with. However it is a bit annoying when Håkan mopes about his eternal love for Eli and the things he has to do for her, while she has no respect for him what so ever. He is just a food provider to her (personally I think she's a dick). At least he gets to feel like he is the luckiest man on earth to have been chosen by such an angel (and there might also be a promise of eternal life).

Håkan's lifes takes a drastic turn when Eli sends him for his last mission (after she screwed up badly and killed a local drunk Lacke ← this is actually a really sad story). Håkan says that he will get her blood one more time, under the condition that he may hold her and touch her after the deed is done. So he goes to a local swimming pool (indoors) and rents a booth to himself, where he makes a mess in his booth when he sees young boys (I guess he is easily stimulated). He manages to capture and 'drug' a boy (he uses some sort of helium tank to make the victim unconscious and then drains them dry) and proceeds to drain him. (regarding this practice there is a wonderful little conversation in the beginning of the story between Tommy and his friends. They hang out at their building's air-raid shelter and discuss how pigs are slaughtered. One of them says that the pigs are hung upside down and drained from their blood while they are conscious). The boy wakes up and makes a ruckus. Before men can burst in to Håkan's booth, he takes a jam jar and pours the acid inside all over his face. His last thoughts are rather moving, he imagines that Eli, angel boy Eli, comes to take him away, and then he pours the acid whilst yelling 'Eli, Eli'.

Mean while Eli has been making a mess of her own. Håkan has dissapeared and she needs blood. She is strong enough to move on her own, but she needs more blood. Hence before she sent Håkan to his last mission, she killed a local drunk Lacke who spend his evenings and nights in a local Chinese restaurant. Now we meet people who may not seem as important to the story's development, but we'll get there. I'm guessing this group of bums is Lindqvist's way of showing how much damage a single parson can do to others. And that every single person has a life and plans of their own, that we shouldn't look down on people no matter what their social status is. At first I was confused to be reading about these local bums who spend their days drinking at a local pub/restaurant with no plans for the future nor ambition (they reminded me too much of the local 'drunks/bums' we have at work). But then Lindqvist gives us Lacke, a man who may be a bum, but still has some drive in him to go traveling and maybe meet someone and settle down. It actually opened my eyes a little since I reckon some of the bums at our restaurant are just spinless, boring people with no credibility. But Lindqvist reminded me that just like Lacke, those bums have plans, things they wanna do and see (but I don't get it why they wanna spend their time at out restaurant EVERYDAY, literally everyday from 10am or 3pm until 10pm). So it's very sad to read when Eli attacks Lacke and kills him. The others are left to grieve for his dissapearance (Håkan dumps the body in a nearby lake), however someone saw Eli attack Lacke. Gösta is a...uummm local loony, cocooned in his apartment with dozens of cats. The others know him and visit him every now and then. So the gang goes to visit him and Gösta tells them what he saw. Lacke's bestfriend Jocke (yeah...I know) is devastated and in his grief insults badly his old (and current) flame Virginia. She rushes out and is far ahead before Jocke rushes after her. He is just in time to see Eli attack Virginia, but Eli is unable to kill her, so Virginia is left wounded. Note that Gösta and Jocke only see a child attack Lacke and Virginia. They don't know Eli.

At this point it would be appropriate to tell you that Eli is a vampire (chuckle). Virginia is infected and begins to turn into a vampire. The story follows her struggles which is rather interesting since she has no idea that she is turning into a vampire. Reading about her ordeal was actually really touching. She was the innocent one. She just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and now she is left to pay for it. Hence it should be clear by now that Lindqvist wanted to make everyone of his characters victims. It's up to you to decide whether they are all victims of Eli or of their own life style (I personally like to think that they are all victims of Eli). In the end Virginia ends up in a hospital and commits suicide (she asks the nurse to open the drapes). Jocke is once again left devastated and if not earlier, this is where you should realize how realistic this story actually is. It's not a story about silly vampires and monsters, it's a story about people with real-life plans and thoughts. This is especially visible in Jocke's gang because they aren't Hollywood-good-looking people with fast sums of money and a few thoughts on life. They are regular people who have very ordinary lives, who seek small pleasures that they can find in their enviroment and pass yet another ordinary day. You won't find 'a thing' happening in these places, no catastrophe or monster lurking in the woods. It's plain everyday life. People go to work, they come home (or our restaurant xP) and do the same thing tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and so on. However, in this case Eli delivers a massive blow to their everyday life by taking Lacke's life and, in a way, Virginia's life. Jocke has been planning to move to the country side, and have two cabins build, one for him and one for Virginia. He came to a conclusion that they could never be a couple in traditional sense, but they both enjoy each others company and like each other enough to stay 'together'. And once again I'm saddened by the fact that they loose another member of their 'gang'. It's very Scandinavian of Lindqvist to remind us that life is fleeting, and anything can end it sooner than it began. The presence of death is a very popular subject in Scandinavian works. I don't know why, so please don't ask me. (maybe it's the melancholy factor?).

Eli has been very busy when she finally founds Håkan in a hospital. He is very much alive but badly disfigured, hence he has been able to conceal Eli from the authorities. Håkan asks Eli to end his life, but right before Eli can finish the task, someone comes in forcing her to stop so she leaves. Håkan leaps of the open window, killing himself in the process. Naaah I'm just kidding, he doesn't die, instead he later turns into a middless vampire who is fueled by his obsession with Eli. Bad people always get what's coming to them. Oh the irony!

Back to Oskar. He has already began to fall in love with Eli, when he discovers that she is a vampire, and the man he once saw was 'the ritual murderer' who supplies Eli with blood. PLOT TWIST. Eli explains that she is not in fact a girl, but a boy named Elias and he was castrated during his turning ritual. He wears girl's clothes to disguise himself. Oskar bolts, but later decides to stick with the only friend he has ever had.

Eli, 'shunned' by Oskar, goes to the air-raid shelter and meets Håkan by chance. Håkan in his insane tantrum hurls himself at Eli and tries to force sexual intercourse on him. Eli fights Håkan off and managed to lock him in a..basement? Another room in the air-raid shelter? Eli leaves and we learn that Tommy is now locked in the room with the senseless Håkan. Håkan is later killed by Tommy in rather traumatizing way (Tommy slowly beats Håkan to a bloody pulp, literally).

Back to Oskar. He is now convinced that he wants to remain friends with Eli, even though Elias is a boy and a vampire. He sneeks in to Eli's apartment and finds him sleeping in a bath tub filled with blood. Oskar goes to sleep on the sofa. Later Jocke walks in and attempts to kills Eli. But Oskar wakes Eli up and Eli kills Jocke. I'm now feeling very passive-agressive about this. Here we have a ten-year-old wee monster boy who totally fucked up 3 people's lives. Not to mention the other three who are now left grieving for their lost friends. Eli has no idea what he has done. Although he is becoming a little more thoughtful because for the first time Eli goes to buy blood. Before Håkan caught him, he bought and drank little bit of Tommy's blood. So we can assume that Eli is trying to make an effort not to kill for food anymore (that's how we vegetarians feel. Why are there so few of us still?). Still to me Eli is really uninspired and impersonal character. Actually I find him the most boring character in the book. I groaned a little when ever the story followed Eli. It's clear that he is emotionally and personally constipated character who finds loneliness oh-so-killing. Really --_-- there isn't a single vampire/monster in stories who isn't tormented by loneliness (well except Mr. Hyde). And somehow some of the other writers are able to get past that little quirk, giving us interesting vampires. Buuuut.... Lindqvist kinda dropped the ball with Elias. He is not interesting because he has no personality! Sure it's endearing to watch Eli and Oskar become friends, and it's even more endearing and heart warming since Oskar had no friends before. But it doesn't change the fact that Elias is an impersonal monster and nothing more. Although it is releaving to see Oskar make true friends with somebody at last.

Oskar has been 'training' to stand up for his bullies and his friendship with Eli gives him new courage to finally fight back. He manages to really hurt the worst bully and accidentally sends their classroom on fire (Oskar sneaks in to the school one night and burns the bullies' desks plus half the classroom by accident). The next day Oskar goes to the school in the evening to workout with his gym teacher and fellow students. The bullies sneek in and knock down the teacher. They proceed to burn and drown Oskar in the swimming pool (indoors). While the other kids watch Oskar is nearly killed BUT LUCKILY Eli bursts in, rips the bullies' heads clean off and takes Oskar with him. One the last page, Oskar is travelling (I forgot where he's going) with Eli's stuff and money and we get a hint that Eli is waiting for him at his destination.

Although it may seem that Lindqvist is dragging the story and the stuff that happen don't really mean a thing, they really are building towards a bigger conclusion. I know, I know it can get frustrating to read about characters like Tommy's future stepfather (it's funny, after killing Håkan Tommy probably turned religious like his mother and future stepfather me thinks ;D), but believe me when I say that Lindqvist makes interesting story structure and..umm inner dialogue. The characters think a lot, but fear not, Lindqvist's style makes it an interesting read. However what I really liked about this story was its sense of reality. When I told my BFF about this book he immediately dissed it because it didn't seem to make any sense to him at all. Perhaps the monster Håkan isn't that realistic, but when Oskar tries to befriend Eli, or when he is thinking to himself that he can't afford new winter shoes this year either, it's these bits that make the story so realistic. Plus I really really like the setting, that the story is based in Sweden and not some place else (ALTHOUGH it is such a cliche of the writer to situate the story in his/her home country) Like I said before, all the people in the book get more or less involved with each other. It's quite fascinating to read how their lives become entangled. 
I know that Lindqvist is trying to build this idea of every character in the book being a victim, but I am more interested in how the character influence each other's lives.

As far as vampire books go, this is the best one I have read. And you should know that I have read MANY, repeat, MANY vampire books. Låt den rätte komma in (Let the right one in) doesn't scream 'vampire', which may dissapoint some people, but come on, how many actually good vampire books have you read? Come at me bro, how many!!??
This story is daunting, it's thrilling even scary at times, plus you can't denye the fact that every single character in the story could exist in real life (even Elias if you choose to believe in vampires). All in all I was not dissapointed with this story. Lindqvist's writing style is interesting and he doesn't do the 'say it figuratively' thing that has taken hold of many writers *caugh* (British house mom with SM fantasies) *caugh*. In fact I think you'll find that Lindqvist's style differs from anything you have ever read before. That have been said, I really enjoyed this book and I'll most likely read it again.

Hope you enjoyed my review on Låt den rätte komma in and stay tuned for the artist of the month.

Cheers and byes!


perjantai 3. elokuuta 2012

Artist of the Month (July): Tove Jansson.

It's seemingly impossible to find a person in Finland who does not like the Moomins.
No matter if you like the Moomin story books, or the comics or the animation series there is something for everyone in the Moomin publication. I'm not a complete greenhorn when it comes to the Moomins. I have read the picture books and the comic strips. I once visited the Moomin museum and still watch the animated series. Not to mention I collect Moomin mugs and have a set of Moomin linen (omg the Moomin linen sets are so a-may-zaah! There are so many you can choose from). Yet there is still so much to learn from the Moomins (like read the story books).

Dancing Moominvalley.

July's artist is one of Finland's national treasures, Tove Jansson. Artist, illustrator, writer, doctor of philosophy and creator of Moomin, Tove Jansson was born into an artist family in Helsinki on August 9th 1914. Jansson's mother Signe Hammarsten-Jansson was an illustrator and her father Victor Jansson was a sculptor, her two brothers became artists later on. Tove's family was part of a minority group of Swedish speaking Finns, which is why she is most often refered to as 'Swedish-Finnish' however her nationality was always Finnish. 
According to my research, Jansson drew her first Moomin sketch on the wall of their outhouse, but this proto-Moomin was thin and ugly and had devilish kind of tail (not the puffy one we're used to). Under the proto-Moomin she wrote 'Kant' as revenge on one of her brothers (she had lost a philosophical quarrel to him). If my memory serves me correctly, evidence of that outhouse Moomin exists, I just couldn't find any images.
It wasn't until the late 1930's when the proto-Moomin appeared again as part of Jansson's signature on her political cartoons.

In 1930 Jansson went to study at the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm. After graduating in 1933 she moved back to Helsinki to study at the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts. Jansson kept herself very busy studying and after completing her four years of studying in Helsinki, she moved to Paris to study at L'École d'Adrien Holy and L'École des Beaux-Arts. Personally I am amazed by how hard she studied for almost a decade. Even during her education period, she managed to display artworks in exhibition. I can only imagine how much time and effort she put into her education and promoting her art. It seems that Jansson was a very dedicated, blossoming artist from very early on.

Although, Jansson had began her 'career' even before she went to art school. In 1929 she worked as a cartoonist for the Swedish language magazine Garm and this relationship with Garm lasted for over two decades. Her cartoons were mostly political and she achieved a brief international fame with her drawing of Adolf Hitler. She worked with other smaller productions too, drawing them a cartoon or an illustration every now and then.

Moomin and the Comet.
Jansson's first Moomin book The Moomins and the Great Flood was written in 1945. This new Moomin, Muumipeikko (Moomintroll. I refuse to call them by their translated names), had now gained weight and reached his round bluish-white appearance we are familiar with. The Moomins origin story is rather funny xD When Tove was living with her Swedish relatives in Stockholm, her uncle tried to stop her from pilfering food by saying that a 'Moomintroll' lived in the kitchen closet. It would breath cold air on people's necks if they tried to pilfer food. Needless to say, Jansson was very inspired by her uncle.
Muumipeikko (Moomintroll) is the imaginative, benevolent main character who is always off to look for an adventure. Muumipeikko and Muumimamma (Moominmamma) are the primar characters of the Great Flood book, but there would be several principal characters in the later stories. It would take two more Moomin books to make Jansson internationally famous. Comet in Moominland 1946 and Finn Family Moomintroll (or The Magician's Hat) 1948 were the cornerstones of Jansson's success. 

The first Moomin books were adventurous, filled with danger, humour and supernatural events, spiced up with morality of the importance of family and love. The Exploits of Moominpappa 1950 is Muumipappa's personal story of his youth. Moominsummer Madness 1955 is about Moomins exploring an empty theatre and Muumipeikko and Niiskuneiti (Snorkmaiden) getting lost. Along with Moominland Midwinter 1957 came a change in style. These new Moomin stories were more realistic and psychological. Realistic in Moomin terms, not realistic realistic. The Midwinter story tells about Muumipeikko waking up in the middle of winter (Moomins sleep from November to April) and has to to cope in the new, strange world. Jansson's other books, Tales from Moominvalley 1962 (short stories), Moominpappa at Sea 1965 and Moominvalley in November 1970 deal with the same themes, isolation, fear of loss and fear in general.
Illustration from the Swedish translation of the Hobbit
After Moominvalley in November Jansson began to write for adults. The Summer Book 1972 is distinctly for adults though the topic is rather simple. It's about a young girl and her grandmother spending a summer on an island. In addition to her writings she illustrated Swedish translations of The Hobbit, The Hunting on the Snark (Lewis Carroll) and Alice in Wonderland. And it probably goes without saying that Jansson illustrated her Moomin books herself.

By 1952, the Comet in Moominland and Finn Family Moomintroll had been translated into English. Jansson was becoming rather famous which led a British publisher to ask if Jansson would like to draw comic strips about the Moomins. Evidently Jansson had already drawn a long Moomin comic loosely based on the Comet story for a Swedish newspaper. She accepted the offer and in 1954 started drawing the comic strip 'Moomintroll' for the Evening News. With her brother Lars Jansson, Tove drew and wrote (okay this info could be way off! One of my sources says that she spend 21 years drawing Moomin comics, whilst my other source says that she drew 21 long Moomin stories!) 21 Moomin comics. According to my research, Jansson wasn't happy at all drawing the comics. Drawing Moomin comics seemed fun and inspiring at first, but apparently Jansson grew tired very quickly. Working on the strip didn't leave her enough time to write or paint. Tight deadlines and lack of inspiration led Tove's brother to take over the strip which he continued until 1975.  The Moomintroll comic appeared in over 40 countries between 1954 to 1975. The Moomintroll comics are now available: The Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip Vol 1-5.

Comic strip from 'The complete Tove Jansson comic strip'. Volume 1.

Besides the Moomin novels, novels and Moomin comics, she wrote and illustrated four original picture books: The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My 1952 (I have this book! It's so awesome, it's like a peek-a-boo game, but it's a book), Who will Comfort Toffle 1960 (another  awesome book and a beautiful story. Note that 'Horray!' the 2012 celebratory Moomin mug features a scene from this book), The Dangerous Journey 1977 and An Unwanted Guest 1980. And not forgetting her semi-autobiographical book the Sculptor's Daughter  written in 1968.

Jansson's books are translated to over 30 languages, including several Theatre, Opera, Film and Tv adaptations. Jansson continued painting and writing for the rest of her life, although she rarely drew or painted the Moomins after the 1970's. She had a studio in Helsinki, but lived much of her life on a small island called Klovhary (near the town of Porvoo) with her female partner, the graphic artist Tuulikki Pietilä. Jansson died in Helsinki on the 27th of June in 2001 at the age 86.

Personally I really love Jansson's Moomin paintings. They are very colourful and practically radiate the positive and charming aspects of the Moomin characters and stories. 
Her painting style is really unique, from the colour choices to the look of the characters and items we can see how much her personal likings and imagination influenced her. When I was little I especially feel in love with the flowers I saw in the Moomin animated series. In the image above, you can see what I mean, those flowers are so pretty and unique! Especially the flowers in episode "Hurry Up Snufkin" (my favourite episodes are The Golden Fish, The Giant Pumpkin and The Vampire) seemed so special to a little girl (still do). I am very greatful that the animation series 'Tanoshii Mūmin Ikka' matches to Jansson's paintings perfectly. I watched a document about Jansson on christmas eve 2011, and in the document she said that she really didn't want the Moomins to be animated. However the Japanese were very persuasive and evetually she allowed them to make a pilot. As it turned out, Jansson liked what she saw very much and so 'Tanoshii Mūmin Ikka' was born. If you aren't too familiar with Jansson's paintings, the animation series is a great way to study her style. Even though Tv Tokyo made it happen, the look of the series is rather Jansson like. Well, all those who like Japanese art and stuff are able to see that the series is influenced by Japanese painting style, but personally I think the style of the series is more about honouring Jansson's style than trying to Japanise it. In Jansson's paintings we can clearly see the magical and secure world the Moomins live in. It's a place of happiness and innocence which Jansson's painting style convey's beautifully. Looking at this painting makes me think of my own happy childhood in Finland.
one of the most precious aspects of the Moomins is their plausibility. And personally I think every child should have the chance to live the life of a Moomin for a while. When I was a child, I did live like a Moomin briefly. I went out into my family's woods and picked flowers without a care in the world. I ate pancakes outside with my family and went rowing with my dad hoping that we'd find a desert island where I could find amethysts. In case you were wondering, Moominvalley is situated in the forests of Finland ;)

Alice in Wonderland

As a colour fanatic I prefered Jansson's colourful paintings over her ink drawings, until recently. In college I discovered just how special and imaginative Jansson's ink drawings and illustrations really are. Whilst her paintings are really tender, her drawings are wild. Personally I think Jansson was very gifted with black ink even before she started illustrating the Moomins. We can see how much attention she is paying to her drawing style. She literally creates a different shape and/or pattern for every element. What kind of pattern would indicate water? And how the trees look like? It's not hard to see that experiment and imagination fueled her to create such beautiful drawings. Not to mention she was very skillful with the medium. Trying-out techniques and styles was something Jansson was clearly very good at. Perhaps trying-out is not the right word. I mean that Jansson's previous drawings must have helped her develop her style until she established the style we now know her from. 'Moomin' (image below) is a great example of Jansson's exquisite drawing style and ability to grasp a feeling. She has perfectly captured the atmosphere of a cold winter night, when everyone else in the Moominhouse is hibernating, except for Muumipeikko. It's extra dark in winter and Scandinavians know how scary winter can be. To be alone in a big house, just snow and forest as far as the eye can see (then again, if the night sky is clear, then it's rather luminous outside). This drawing is a great example of how Jansson worked with black and white. She dared to leave huge areas white and to top that she was not afraid to draw some areas pitch black. It seems rather odd that Jansson choose to draw Muumipeikko almost black. I get it that it's the play of light and shadow in this drawing, it's just interesting to see the bluish-white Muumipeikko in different colour. Even in her comics, the Moomins are white, symboling their innocence I suppose, so it's very interesting to see a black Muumipeikko. The diversity of black and white in her drawings and illustrations is incredibly refreshing and daring. There aren't many artists out there who would be bold in enough to leave so many areas white. The Moomin drawings give us an idea of what great understanding Jansson had of shape and shaping things. 

In Finland the Moomins are a commodity. Arabia (Finnish interior design and ceramics brand) has been manufactoring Moomin dish ware products since the late 1950's. The very first moomin dish set featured Niiskuneiti (Snorkmaiden) and Muumipeikko (Moomintroll). But the real 'Moomin boom' had to wait until 1990 when everyone suddenly wanted to get their hands on Moomin dish sets and limited edition products. And lets just say that the limited edition products have become quite the collector's items. I, along regular buyers and collectors, collect Moomin dish sets. Well to be more specific, I collect Moomin mugs. So far I have 6, two of them are standing designs. The other 4 are limited edition mugs. I love all of my Moomin mugs very much =^.^= I'm not one of those who collect stuff and put them in the cupboard and keep them there until their value has tripled. I use my mugs on a daily basis, they make great tea cups <3 
However this year I'm making an exception. Since Helsinki is the design capital of 2012, Arabia launched a special celebratory Moomin mug featuring a scene from Jansson's book 'Who will comfort Toffle?'. And this is a mug I wanna keep in my cupboard and wait until its price has tripled. Naturally, I got two ;D One for myself to use everyday and one to put in the cupboard. It costs little under 25€ so maybe after 5-10 years my extra mug could earn me 300€ ;D Below a photo of my mugs and their info. Now off to buy 'Moominpappa' mug!

I'm so happy that there is so much information about Jansson on the internet. And if you are interested to learn more about Tove Jansson and see more pictures, go to It's a really good website =)

As some of you may now, there is a museum for the Moomins in Tampere. It features all kinds of Moomin stuff =) I have been to that museum once and it's about time I go again. There is also a 'theme park' for the Moomins' in Naantali called Moomin World (Muumimaa), I have never been there, but it looks cute =^.^=

I hope you enjoyed my review and so sorry I posted it late. Like I explained in my RANT RANT post, I was too busy at work so I couldn't complete this on time. Still I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it =D

See you very soon!