As I say every year, I need Dragon*Con in my life. The guests, the panels, the excitement, and, of course, the many fabulous cosplayers and costumes! This year, my husband and I were Dipper and Mabel Pines from one of our favorite TV shows, Gravity Falls. We love it so much, we did a podcast episode on it!
Unlike most of our cosplay excursions, these were some of the easier costumes we've created. Dipper's hat and journal were from Etsy, and I already had a purple skirt, knee highs, and ballet flats lying around. Even the sweater went easier than expected, with a few eBay searches for neon pink turtleneck sweaters and a great DIY video guide (and free patterns!) for Mabel's shooting star sweater here. But, no matter how long I searched, I couldn't find any guide for making Mabel's signature grappling hook.
So, I set about to make my own, and after so many excited people wanted my picture with the grappling hook (because no other Mabel there had one), I wanted to share with you how I did it so your Mabel Pines costume can be complete too!
To Make Your Very Own Grappling Hook, You'll Need:
- A gun! (fake, obviously, but realistic)
- At least two plastic coat hangers, preferably black
- Stiff paper packaging (ex. a cereal box)
- Foam packing material (jewelry box insert
- Scissors, tape, and a hot glue gun
- Wire cutters (heavy duty, enough to break cleanly through your hangers)
- Paintbrushes and black paint (acrylic or latex will work- I used a latex semi-gloss to mirror the dull sheen of a gun)
*Note: the more components that are already black, the less work and painting you have to do.
1) Cut a rectangle out of your cereal box to roll into a tube to place around the gun's muzzle. You'll want the uncoated side on the inside, as paint will have a hard time sticking to that. Use the tape to secure it on the inside.
*Note: Depending on the thickness and length of your gun's muzzle, you may be able to use a toilet paper or paper towel roll for this step.
2) Now that you have a tube, trace the end of the tube onto another piece of the cereal box, and cut it out so you now have a circle that will completely cover one end of the tube where the grappling hook will be inserted. Use that circle shape to cut the same sized piece out of your foam insert.
3) For the grappling hook, use your wire cutters to cut out three equal pieces of curved plastic. Cut each hanger in half along the bottom rung, and then again right before the indentation for clothing straps.
4) Arrange and glue the three hanger pieces together along the long end, with the shorter curved ends fanning out into the hooks. Use as much glue as you like along the seams too - you can paint it later.
5) Poke a hole through the center of the paper and foam circle pieces from step two, through which the grappling hook will fit.
*Note: You'll want the paper tube around the muzzle to be long enough to cover the muzzle and at least a fourth of the grappling hook gun, so that your prop is stable and holds up to constant waving. Put it together without glue to make sure it looks right, and use another circle of foam inside if you're concerned about the grappling hook jiggling within the tube.
6) Place the tube around the muzzle and secure in place at the trigger by overlapping the corners and hot gluing them together.
*Note: You do not need to put glue on the gun at all, just on the pieces surrounding it. This attachment will be completely removable and remain intact, and thus able to go onto any prop gun you may need.
7) Place the foam circle inside the tube at the other end - glue to the inside of the tube as desired - and glue the paper circle on top of that. Again - use as much glue as you need to secure it at the seams.
8) Insert your three-hanger grappling hook through the holes in the paper and foam as far as you'd like. On mine, the ends are resting against the end of the barrel where the bullet would exit, for added stability. Trim down this portion of the hangers as needed for correct length, and once you're happy with it, hot glue it up.
9) Finally, the sharp points on the grappling hook are nothing more than cut out and folded bits of cereal box, hot glued into place around the ends of the hooks.
10) Give everything that needs it at least two coats of black paint, and you are now all set to take on Bill!
Happy DIYing, and feel free to comment below with questions, clarifications, or to show us how your grappling hooks turned out!
I'm so glad that my first novel ColorBlind is finally published! Whether you love your Kindle's compact versatility, or the comforting feel of a paperback in your hand, you can read my first novel in either form. It is my hope to see my novel in local bookstores around the southeast, and your purchases and reviews are what make that a possibility for the upcoming year. I love reading every review I receive, and I would now like to invite online reviewers, those that share their love of books with others on their blogs and websites, to review ColorBlind for free! I'd love to hear what you think, so if you, or someone you know, is an online book reviewer who likes books about magic, romance, and fairy tales, please share this post and click the picture above to request a free copy of ColorBlind!
*Please keep in mind - this offer is only for those who are actively reviewing books in some capacity, whether online or in print. To everyone else who just loves good books, I of course welcome your reviews wherever you purchase a copy of my book, from Amazon to Barnes & Noble. It is also not a solicitation for a favorable review - just because I give you the book does not mean you must give it five stars. As with all my projects, I appreciate your honest feedback on my work, and I hope you do enjoy it.*
I'm also on Instagram now! I like to save my Facebook page for the big stuff, but on Instagram, I share behind-the-scenes snippets of my life, from sketches of in-progress work, to my cats and their amusing antics, to art around town. I've only been on it for a month, but it's already so much fun to show you what's happening with me, and playing around way more than I should with the filters, so follow me for more pretty pictures!
I do love the recap articles that come out in January, detailing what were the best movies, songs, books, or games that came out the previous year. They give me a look into new stories I might not have seen yet, but I feel they do a diservice too - just because they were the best 2016 had to offer, doesn't mean they even grace your top twenty-five-of-all-time list. Not to say new books and authors don't deserve your attention, but maybe there are books from years past you've never heard about that deserve your love too. With that in mind, and in no particular order, presenting: The Books You Should Read This Year, INCLUDING Extra Options, starting with...
No doubt many of you have seen the beautiful cult classic The Princess Bride, a story of fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles, and you'll definitely stay awake - as amazing as the humor is in the movie, it is even more so in the book, with heaping amounts of dry wit as the supposed editor juts in evey now and again to annotate paragraphs of lovers reuniting because of all that kissing stuff he skipped when his father read it to him as a boy, and removed entire chapters where the queen packs up, travels on a diplomatic mission, unpacks, meets the foreign royals, then packs up, travels back, and unpacks again. Its wit is its greatest joy, and the conceit of the author annotating his own work as you read is just another layer of charm on top of the scenes and characters you know and love. Plus, you finally understand what Westley and Inigo are talking about during their sword fight atop the Cliffs of Insanity. A classic addition to your collection.
Another book turned movie, but far darker than Princess Bride. Be forewarned - be in a good place before you read this book. You'll still sink into tears and existential despair, but you'll be able to pull yourself out again afterwards. Having not seen the movie yet, I can only comment on the book, but it is a triumph of literature, as if all the gold awards on the cover weren't enough to convey that. It is the story of a boy becoming increasingly more alone in the world, with a domineering grandmother, a father a thousand miles away, and a mother slowly dying. The titular monster is equal parts intimidating and comforting, in only the way that coming to terms with the unfairness of the world can be, and this book pulls no punches with its stark and unflinching realism. The book's story came from author Siobhan Dowd, who succumbed to breast cancer before she could write A Monster Calls, and writer Patrick Ness and illustrator Jim Kay brought the book to life. This backstory only fuels this book more - while some books, for young adults especially, can wrap incurable diseases into moral lessons and seem insincere about the ravages of disease, this book is a spotlight on tragedy, told honestly and emotionally. Get ready to weep.
Robin McKinley is a treasure, and for those who love fairy tales told from fresh perspectives, look no further. McKinley embraces the logic of the worlds she creates wholeheartedly, but rather than excluding the reader with too much world-building and technicalities, she instead creates unique and relatable characters that we can follow and learn about the world naturally as the story progresses. Chalice is about Marisol, a beekeeper who is unexpectedly placed in a position of tenuous power and challenged to keep peace in a world that is threatening to break itself apart, literally. Marisol is an extremely likeable protagonist - rather no nonsense, but in a pleasantly practical way, she uses her own skills to help the land she loves, knowing no other way to do so and not content to simply do nothing because it might appear undignified to others. The book is full of elemental magic in its rawest form, bees as loveable as dogs, delicious variants of honey that make me want to try my hand at beekeeping, and it gives us a strong female character by her own nature as caretaker and healer, blatantly avoiding current YASF (young adult strong female) tropes of love-struck girl or kick-ass rebel. Sweet as honey, a must read for a summer day.
Robin McKinley is one of my favorite authors ever, and the first book of hers I ever read was Beauty, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Twenty years later, she returned to the fairy tale to write Rose Daughter. Both are amazing retellings - Beauty definitely younger in its tone and audience, but just as enchanting, and it holds a special place in my heart. Rose Daughter expands on that with expansion on the magic and enchantment at play, and giving Beauty a knack for gardening, which got me to plant my own rose bushes. Both worth a read.
I held off as long as I could in placing a graphic novel on this list, not because I don't like them - on the contrary, graphic novels are a unique medium for storytelling that I devoted an entire shelf of my library to, and where I first head when walking into McKay's - but because a lot of readers look at them as less than literature, as though the addition of pictures makes the story less meaningful or mature. I have a lot of favorite graphic novels, but this one has a beautiful message about art, the artist, and the audience that, as an artist myself, really struck a cord with me, as well as making the accompanying illustrations all the more necessary. The main protagonist, in a desire to fuel his art, makes a deal with Death that gives him the power to sculpt anything with his bare hands, but only has 200 days left to live. The Sculptor manages to touch upon both the pride of artists and young people, struggling to make their message heard in a growing sea of indifference. However, where other stories like this craft the characters as brave rebels who are righteous in their quest to live in the moment and answer to no one, here they are all too flawed, rejecting help, refusing to compromise, and yet even as they self-destruct, you sympathize with their plight to be themselves and share that with others instead of compromising their vision. It has mature themes, so younger readers - tread lightly, but its adult nature is what makes it so compelling to those dealing with their own life's journey and the choices they've made and must deal with now.
If you are not familiar with Markus Zusak, you should be. One of the finest writers of our time, his books, while classified as young adult, are some of the most moving pieces of literature available, dealing with life, death, and purpose. After reading some of his other work, I picked up I Am The Messenger, and while it maintains its great narrative voice, it is unlike his other works. Our protagonist is living a very average life of until the day he accidentally stops a bank robbery, and recieves a mysterious ace card in the mail. From there, he is sent on mission after mission across his town, changing the lives of those around him. I do not want to give away too much after that, because this book is one of experience, not plot points. You completely slip into the skin of the main character, see what he sees, feel the looming unknown presence sending him the messages and the wonder if it is using him for good, or evil. The emotions are what you'll remember long after you've finished this book.
It will take you years to read this book, and I mean that in the best way possible. This is a collection of 100 stories by Ray Bradbury, one of the most preeminent storytellers of all time. The man wrote unceasingly - novels, short stories, screenplays, scripts - and before his passing, he chose 100 of his most famous and influential stories to fill this collection. Nearly 1,000 pages long, this is meant to be sipped and savored over time. I haven't finished it yet, and I look forward to those dark, dark nights when the wind won't let me sleep, and I pull down this book to keep me company. A few of my favorites that perfectly sum up Bradbury's works - Death and the Maiden, The Whole Town's Sleeping, and The Illustrated Man.
The description of this graphic novel sells it more than I ever could. I would have recommended it based on summary alone without ever cracking the cover, but I'm so glad I did: RASL is a gritty, hard-boiled tale of an inter-dimensional art thief and ex-military engineer who discovers the lost journals of Nikola Tesla, and must flee through time and space, on the run from dark government forces, to keep humankind's greatest and most dangerous secret safe. You can't help it - you have to read it now.
Definitely for a mature audience, The Bloody Chamber takes the darker natures of our fairy tales and folklore, and multiplies it. Blood, sex, and magic culminate in this collection of stories by Angela Carter, with retellings of Beauty and Beast, the werewolf myth, Bluebeard, and more from a more feminist standpoint. The titular story is very deliciously dark, but my favorite has to be "The Tiger's Bride" which, if you're familiar with my favorite fairy tale, should be no surprise.
I would be very remiss if I didn't recommend you read ColorBlind this year. A retelling of the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast, but with a bit of twist - the story is told from both the perspective of Beauty's older sister, and the Beast himself. The castle in the woods, the rose, enchanted objects and more are kept from the original, while looking at previously unexplored territory, like the relationship of the sisters and their father, the agony of the Beast's duality, and an exploration of the difference between duty and love. I recommend it highly for fans of magical worlds, fairy tales, and true love, and if you still aren't sold, you can read the first chapter HERE.
What books do you recommend for the new year? Feel free to comment below with your favorite book, or what you thought of the list above, and be on the lookout for more to come as 2017 continues!
I know the idea of New Years Eve and the resolutions thusly made is silly in theory - nothing changes between 11:59 PM on December 31st and 12:00 AM on January 1st besides our own interpretation of time on this spinning blue-green sphere in space. What was in 2016, will be in 2017, and you can commit to change any day of the year. To heap all that importance on one moment in time is asking for lost commitments and failed decisions.
And yet, every time the new year comes, I'm excited and happy, not just because of nebulous future goals, but because I can look back and examine a definite period in my life. Yes, I love weirdly organizational activites - I eat my Skittles one rainbow at a time so no one color runs out first, and measure a good vacation by how many piles of miscellaneous brik-a-brak around my house finally disappeared. But it's a good way to start the new year - to see what you accomplished, and what you can still achieve.
To that end, here are a few things to consider this January, amidst pumping yourself up to go the gym three times a week and substitute a whole meal for granola and kale:
1 - Decision fatigue is real.
This is a fairly recent discovery for me, but I'm sure you've all felt this before - all your carefully constructed to-do lists you form in the morning fall flat and un-checked by nightfall. Your important, big decisions should be made in the morning, when your brain is strongest at it, because the more decisions you make thru the day, the less thought-out and impactful they'll be. Check out Cracked's video on it for some helpful tips on fighting decision fatigue, but what most impacted me was not fretting small decisions. It's inspired me to redesign my days, whether working or not, and that taking a break with an episode of Steven Universe or Gilmore Girls is not a terrible waste of time, but neccessary recharging of your brain's batteries. Decide, do, and don't regret.
2 - Keep your resolutions secret.
Some of you may have heard a wrote a book that got published this past year - no big deal, except, it is a huge deal. Writing a novel, writing a good novel, was a seven year task for me. Editing and publishing took the better part of one year alone. And I shared this journey with no one except my very closest friends. There are a few reasons for this - I could trust these people to give me good critiques and advice when I showed them the novel in-progress, of course, but the biggest reason I kept it hush-hush was that telling everyone around you you're going to write a novel, learn how to play guitar, start a podcast, lose twenty pounds, or whatever time-intensive task you wish to complete, gives you the mental high that you would get by actually doing what you said you would do. The more you tell others and get positive feedback on your decision, the less your mind feels it actually needs to work on this task, because you've already gotten the appreciation without having to actually do it. So, if you do make a year-long resolution, only share it with the close few that can help you make it happen. When you actually achieve it, that's the time to share with the world. By the way, read ColorBlind - complex relationships, immersive fantasy world, just the best writing.
3 - Learn what made last year great, then replicate.
As an artist, every new year I have to go back thru piles of invoices, receipts, and calendars to get everything ready for tax season. This puts me in the unique position of travelling back in time and remembering all the things that happened over the last year. Even if you don't have to do this, I recommend it. I travelled again through the trips I took, photos of people I met, my art on display, the kids I taught. Social media, to me, is served best as a recounting of years past, a digital scrapbook and I encourage you to try it too, even if 2016 was terrible for you like it was for so many. You'll find and remember the good moments, no matter how sparse, and then you can find it again. Your hiking trip where you found a beautiful leaf on the path, game night with friends you don't see so much, that movie that touched your mind and heart - all these things can be recovered and retried in the new year, along with new fun things you'll remember in 2018.
I look forward to more art and more fun in 2017, and I hope you all take this sentiment to heart moving forward:
Just in time for Cyber Monday, please enjoy the release of the e-book version of my first novel, ColorBlind, on Amazon! I'm so excited to have it available this holiday season, and I can't wait to hear what you guys think. For those (like me) who don't have Kindles and/or appreciate the feel of a physical book in your hand, don't despair - print versions are on the way, and will soon be available for purchase online and (hopefully) some local bookstores. It's been an awesome journey, and I'd like to thank Old Sins for publishing, as well as my husband, mother, and best friend for being loyal readers and unflinching editors on this many year journey. Please buy, read, and enjoy.
When I'm not illustrating, I like to use my artistic skills for local businesses. Most times, that comes in the form of social media marketing, but sometimes I get the chance to add a fun facet to an already existing brand, build a logo from the ground up, or even create the brand itself from scratch. This week, I have four finished examples I want to share, as well as the process behind each one.
The first is for E. Shaver, bookseller, a historic staple of downtown Savannah, GA. Last year, I started selling my "Reading is Sexy" totebags through them, and when I went down for a visit, I stopped in and, after talking with the owner about her products, created a sticker for their logo. It uses the same font from the exterior sign, and has a nice, classic feel, just like the bookshop.
The third logo is for a new furniture refurbishment business, and not only did I get to create the logo, I got to help create the name itself with the owners, a mother-daughter team, to reflect the old-made-new brand message, with a handcrafted and vintage feel as seen in the retro typewriter/printing press font.
The final logo I want to show you is one that took the most work, and the most collaboration, but came out quite stunning in the end. This is for The Shoppes at Fountain City Station, a brand new vendor market with a boutique feel, housed in the historic Station in downtown Fountain City. After a round of new design work featuring script fonts and flowers, the idea of incorporating the station's historic exterior signage into the logo itself was introduced, at which point I realized the font no longer existed, meaning I had to recreate the font. This unique challenge made this one of the more fun projects I undertook, simply for its new set of problems to overcome, and in the end, I got to still incorporate my fun script fonts and decorative features. If you stop by The Shoppes in the coming weeks to check out the logo, you can also check out my own vendor booth inside, filled with prints, blankets, carry-all pouches and more featuring my illustrations!
If you'd like to know more about these logos or the businesses mentioned, feel free to Contact Me!
Here's another in-progress look at the cover of ColorBlind, my most challenging, and most rewarding, project. You may have noticed - I'm a big believer in showing people the process. Animation comes alive when you see the rough pencil tests, paintings more visceral when you know their history - a final piece seems that much more impressive when you see the steps taken to reach that end product. To that end, instead of just saying you should read my book, I wanted to give you an actual taste of it so here, for the first time, is Chapter One in its entirety. I encourage you to read it and share it with others, and then, hopefully you'll be as excited for my book's release as I am. Enjoy!
I know you've all been wondering what my novel's title is, probably because I've been specifically avoiding it. Titling any work is always the most difficult part of art - if it doesn't immediately come to you, it can take hours, even days, of generating idea lists and poking around your thesaurus. It's had a lot of working titles, including an unspell-able, unpronounceable word - werifesteria - which means "to wander longingly through the forest in search of mystery" but I've since relegated that to the prologue, and instead gone back to one of the first titles the work ever had, which, following in the footsteps of Disney, was but a single bold adjective. I now give you the title...
Stay tuned for updates as the cover progresses, as well as a sneak peek inside at the first chapter!
I have very exciting news to share with you all - this year marks my return to DragonCon! After years apart, I just couldn't stay away any longer, and in conjunction with Old Sins, the publishers of "Jannah Station" I'll be part of two presentations over the weekend - one about the influence of non-Western fairy tales, and the other about the economics of magic. I always have fun at DragonCon, getting dressed up, doing live-drawing events, and meeting many of my favorite actors and artists, but this year will be even more special for me, as it will mark the release of my very first novel! You heard right - I've been working on a novel for many, many years, polishing it to perfection to share with you all. In the weeks leading up to DragonCon, I'll be sharing here and on my Facebook page snippets from the book, in-progress shots of the cover art, and the chance to win an autographed copy from the limited print run we're debuting at DragonCon!
There will be lots of amazing artists and crafters, food and entertainment at both events. Stop by my booth and pick up the new Elizabeth Kidder: Illustrator wristbands - slim and colorful and only $1, they're sure to brighten up your day, as well as your wrist!
I'll be selling prints, pillows, blankets and buttons of my pieces, as well as debuting the first three pieces in my newest series, "Bohemian Beasts." The snapshots below don't do them justice, so be sure to stop by one of my shows this weekend to see them in person, and grab something for yourself or another art lover in your life!
I will also be taking orders, so if there's a piece you love, but you want it on a t-shirt instead of a tote-bag, or a pillow instead of a print, I can help you there too! Hope to see you all there!
I'm Elizabeth Kidder, freelance illustrator currently located in Knoxville, TN. Please enjoy the site and Contact Me with any job inquiries or questions.