Kolorful Palette: Slaving away [Hwajeong]
Here’s another drawing from Hwajeong, and next week the kids will be all grown up as we transition into the main adult storyline. That’ll give us a chance to get an overall clear picture or whether or not it’ll be worth the ride. The looong ride.
In the meantime I thought it would be worthwhile to draw some actual kids, especially since children in sageuks tend to live such dramatic lives and there’s a reason so much time is typically spent on backstory. I suppose it’s even true of us modern commoners with mundane lives that childhood is extremely formative, so imagine what a difference mining sulphur on a live volcano would make to our adult selves. And people say high school is stressful.
This particular drawing is from when an overwrought Princess Jeongmyeong collapses on said volcano, and ends up getting both herself and her little slave buddy beaten when she doesn’t get up. Another slave, Ja Gyung, steps in to save the day and tells the slavemaster that they’re his responsibility, but when he lifts her up he doesn’t offer help or condolences. Instead he threatens to kill her if she gets a fellow slave hurt again. Talk about about a wakeup call!
Even though my brain tells me that a child being sold into slavery is a horrible thing, I honestly felt more relief than sympathy at the princess’s plight in this episode. I practically wanted to cheer at the thought of her getting a reality check and growing up. It’s not her fault that she doesn’t even know what money is and has been coddled all her life, but that doesn’t make me cringe any less when she acts with naivety and superiority. The palace life may be a lot prettier than a slave-mine on the surface, but beneath all the finery and pomp it’s a cruel and nasty place that the princess is nowhere near equipped to deal with and survive. This scene made me confident that by the time she returns to Joseon she’ll be strong and street-smart, and that’s going to be important if she wants to play at politics with the best of them.
I went with my old standby of digital watercolors for this scene since it seemed to suit the slightly washed-out color palette, and I’m not displeased, but I wish I had further diluted the colors and made it feel even more watercolor-esque. Once again I also wish that I had been more messy or impressionistic, but that’s a neverending battle. I need some sort of pill to make me less anal. Or perhaps I need to drink and draw. That’s probably what Monet did.
So far my feelings for this drama have been pretty up and down, but I often have mixed feelings about backstory episodes. My impatience is probably my greatest enemy, but I also think it’s been a struggle to really connect with Hwajeong due to the massive cast size. I find keeping track of three or four ministers’ scheming challenging enough, but in this drama it feels like there’s somewhere between thirty and infinity of them. Whatever the number, the screen time is so split that there has been little time for any truly compelling relationships to form.
Gwanghae himself is easy to sympathize with, but he’s so manipulated and puppeteered that he doesn’t come across as particularly charismatic which makes him less enthralling to watch. I think that will change though, and meanwhile I do appreciate how well this drama reflects how little power political leaders often really have. Once Hwajeong gets settled into a timeline and the story can gain a little more focus, I think the stage is well set for great characters and intrigue, so I’m hoping the writers know what they’re doing and don’t rely too much on the fantastic cast.
Overall though, I’ve really enjoyed these early episodes and have been frequently impressed by both music and setting. What do you all think? Is this a drama I should keep drawing? It’s always much more fun to draw shows that you readers are watching, and there’s the added bonus of it opening a space for occasional discussion when a particular drama isn’t being recapped. I’m admittedly not up to speed with many of the currently airing dramas. What are your favorites?
- Kolorful Palette: Family ties [Hwajeong]
- Hwajeong: Episode 1
- Hwajeong teases court politics and intrigue
- Cha Seung-won dons his villain’s hat for Hwajeong
- Kim Jae-won goes up against Cha Seung-won in MBC’s Hwajeong
- Han Joo-wan drops weekend drama Bluebird, joins MBC sageuk Hwajeong
- Seo Kang-joon up for first lead role romancing Lee Yeon-hee
- Cha Seung-won courted to join Lee Yeon-hee in MBC sageuk
- Lee Yeon-hee up for historical palace melodrama