art, comics, creativity, fine arts

Content vs. technique; solidifying an identity

I just blew through the second half of a free online watercolor class that I started and then forgot about. Because I have (very) mixed feelings about it…I won’t say whose class it was. What I will say is that to me, it fell short on content. Technique was plentiful…but the themes tackled were very, “safe,” to the point that I was led to wonder why this person made art in the first place. To me, reproducing or creating “beauty” is no longer an aim in and of itself.

I am, however, biased in that I have been firstly a writer (and trained in Literature, on top of that — not Science Fiction or Horror [even as I might have wished]), secondly or thirdly an artist or illustrator (depending on where you place “beadworker” in that hierarchy, and depending on how you define “artist” or “illustrator”). I’m aware that content is not a high point in making jewelry. However, it is fundamental to Literature, and maybe I just am a “comics” person to the point that I hope to find it in Fine Art. Which means that I get disappointed frequently, I guess.

That is likely a good thing where it comes to my making a “comic” (bad art with a good story can often be forgiven; a bad story with good art, not so much)…but it’s disappointing when I know that I’ve worked in so many creative endeavors because there were things bursting to get out of me, and it seems that the person I had hoped to learn from, doesn’t appear to engage anything like them.

There’s this…or perhaps that she was intentionally making her tutorials so that we would just focus on technique. But then there’s the question of why we would want to do that in the first place, and how to adapt those skills to facilitate expression with content. I mean, you know, so it’s more than just something aesthetically pleasing. Of course, “aesthetically pleasing” does infer that there is some kind of content; maybe below conscious awareness; maybe lacking words.

But it’s kind of hard to relate to someone who draws experience from nature, when you’re in human-created environments a lot of the time, and they aren’t always nice to look at or inhabit. In such a case, obtaining art of nature feels like it could be escapism. And I’m not sure in what manner to value escapism (as versus engagement), in a time such as ours.

So…there was something good that came out of this, which is that I know more about where my own priorities lie, at present. Also, I didn’t pay any money for it. Just time.

The reason why I’m a bit disappointed is that I went back to the tutorials to see just how I might use the watercolors I do have…and this is entirely not what I want to be doing. It’s someone showing me what she does, and I barely see how that intersects with what I would do. As I originally looked at her work because she is known for working, “loose,” as I was constantly encouraged to do in my Art classes…I’m thinking that maybe it’s just not me to work loose, and never will be, and that it was a pedagogical mistake for my teachers to try and push me to work differently (or my mistake to listen to them). I mean, maybe that was just a view of a bunch of members of the Art Department (where I can’t trust that specific Art Department to be neutral, any more than I could trust the members of the English Department to be neutral).

I have started to look up some things on Illustration, which may be what I’m trying to find with this, as versus Fine Art. There is also the point that Illustration is devalued next to Fine Art (like Crafts are devalued next to Fine Art), and I’m starting to think it’s because Fine Art as a discipline doesn’t really know what it is or what it’s doing or why, at this point. After Modernism hit (I’m thinking Duchamp), causing people to question the very definition of Art…well, yeah. I’m not sure if we’ve fully recovered from that, yet.

Not intending to insult people who can make Fine Art, work, because I know sometimes it works, and sometimes it works spectacularly. I just didn’t find what I was looking for, with this last tutorial. Which, you know, it’s like what did I expect, it was a free class over the Internet. And I’ve paradoxically been able to realize the most about who I was, by accepting who I was not.

I guess the bright side of not knowing what Art is, is that then it opens the field to be more than what it has been, historically. I just wonder…to what extent learning from the past, won’t help. That doesn’t mean to avoid traditional media; but rather…if Art is becoming something more than what it has been, to what extent will learning what it has been assist us in creating what it becomes? And will learning what it has been allow me to recognize tradition and paradoxically, release me from trying to depend on it?

art, art media, comics, drawing, illustration, writing

The Neurotic Artist *shudder*

Well…let’s see. I have been able to play around with markers, a bit…though I still haven’t thoroughly tested them out on anything. What I have found is that Strathmore 300 Bristol Board (Smooth Finish) works well with Copics — though I actually found that out prior to trying it, by watching Youtube videos. :) Those things are fun.

The Bristol board is basically absorbent, which I think works in favor of blendability with these markers. I have also observed, however, that there is a color shift between the times the paper is saturated with ink, and the time at which the solvent has evaporated off (it gets brighter). I also have Fabriano Mixed Media paper, which is heavy like Bristol board. From a short observation, it appears…well, the colors appear brilliant. I had been using Bienfang Graphics 360 Marker Paper (thin and translucent), for what I had been doing in my sketchbook. That is, draw in pencil roughs, overlay, draw in inks, photocopy, color.

I…have not seen what the underlying drawing (beneath the Copics) actually looks like underneath the Bienfang, though! I wouldn’t be surprised if it were unusable as a rough sketch, at this point: Copics bleed. Seriously, they bleed. Not so much to the side (like Chartpaks, which dependably spread so that you learn to color a couple of millimeters inside the lines), but down into the paper. So if the ink got underneath that marker paper…even though the marker paper is supposed to discourage bleeding…it could seriously mess up an image (which I thankfully didn’t have to deal with, the last time I used this workflow).

The obvious answer to this is to take up and reposition what is — in effect — the cel, before coloring it, as the pencils basically serve as a backup device if the inks go awry. If the inks go fine, the photocopy of the inks serves as a backup device to coloring — in case something gets messed up in the coloring. There’s no sane reason to leave it taped down so that the pencils get ruined by the markers, except that the aesthetic of the pencils showing through, adds something to the piece. Which…would be for me, I take it, and anyone else who looked in my sketchbook.

Have I been doing computer-generated graphics for too long? I seem to have too many fail-safes in place. The answer to this dilemma in a CG environment is to save prolifically, under multiple filenames, so that if something gets ruined I have a backup copy of the last usable form. That…hasn’t been so much of an issue, though, at least so far (though maybe I should expect it to be an issue, then I can get back on with experimenting).

IT’S MY PROCESS, OKAY ;)

Anyhow…I do have a light box, which would be the step I would go to if I needed a new copy of the inks — on good paper. Not photocopying paper, but paper that is meant for markers. At this point, I don’t know how old the bulb is, in there, but it’s at least a psychological option, at this point. Otherwise, I’d be tracing off a window. (The sun comes up once every day…right?)

I also have a hypothesis about the function of storytelling: it enables us to practice psychological adaptation to presently unforeseen circumstances (or conditions) before they occur.

Yes.

I know that’s random.

In any case…I’m curious to see what would happen if I did all this work on one surface (like the Bristol board or the Mixed Media paper). I haven’t yet attempted it, though the possibility is attractive for the reason that I could use limited amounts of wet media (watercolors, inks) on those surfaces, in addition to or in lieu of markers.

A very long time ago I had a vial of Daler-Rowney Pro White (an opaque white watercolor; “Pro” is short for, “Process,” like Process Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, or Black [Printer’s inks]; a.k.a., “Process White”), which I could never get open except maybe once, because the lid had cemented itself onto the jar. I got a new jar of this, though, which I can open, and this stuff — I know — is very opaque. It’s kind of awesome, but I haven’t used it, certainly, for years.

The upshot of using the heavier papers, though, is the chance to be able to add in opaque white highlights without being limited to a Gelly Roll pen or a fine-tipped paint marker (which have both been a little translucent for my tastes). White gouache also works, though I haven’t tried all of these next to each other to see which is best.

I should do that when I get the chance. Right now I have Holbein Permanent White and Zinc White. Zinc is more translucent than Permanent (Titanium), though I wouldn’t know that without having major troubles with Titanium White in a painting class (how to lighten a color without either greying it out and blocking the undertones, or changing its hue to lean yellow), which Zinc White would have relieved.

I…am aware, or am coming to awareness, that I now do have the option of taking upper-echelon Art classes…and paying for them myself (no FAFSA needed), and holding down a job at the same time. (It sounds crazy, but one of the upshots of my job as it stands, is flexible scheduling.)

In any case, I can try these both with brush and with dip pen, though I don’t know how adequately a dip pen will work with anything seriously opaque; nor would I know how to clean it out of any nib which consisted of more than one piece of metal (like cartooning nibs and some broad nibs). I’m thinking of trying something pointed, at first, just to see if it works, and how it works.

Other than that, I’m thinking this is a good place to leave off, for the night. I’ve got something coming up very soon, though I’m not sure about the amount of money I’m willing to put out for it. It is something I’ve been looking forward to, though, for a while. I’m just not totally certain of where in my self-imposed hierarchy of importance, it stands.

But hey, future me: if you find a strand of 8mm blue Apatite beads, get them.

libraries

Reading ’til I get sick

So…let’s see. I want to get back to my art. I haven’t drawn much within the last few days, which is kind of surprising, after all that worry about getting Copics in colors. What I have been doing is reading. A lot.

Right now I’m in the middle of several books, though the anchor is Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond. While I was reading that, I got curious about exactly what made the Flint River acidic (was it natural, or human-caused?), so I found a book on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan — The Poisoned City, by Anna Clark. I also have begun reading The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin.

There are a bunch of other things that have popped up as curiosities as a result of reading Collapse, The Sixth Extinction, Conversations on Writing, The Left Hand of Darkness, etc. For example, I have here a book titled Bad Water by Robert Stolz about an ecological crisis in Japan between 1870 and 1950.

I haven’t looked for Bad Water in libraries, due to the fact that I already own a copy (I believe I found it in a Japanese bookstore, and not in Honolulu)…but the main issue explored was the phenomenon of acid mine drainage, and what happened to the people downriver of a mine when dissolved heavy metals from that drainage contaminated the water they cooked, fished in, grew their crops in, drank, and bathed with. To the best of my knowledge, this is where the term itai itai (“it hurts, it hurts”) originated, as a name for a syndrome that causes decalcification of the bones to the point that they crumble under the weight of the body.

But I haven’t read all the way through the book, yet. It just seemed to fit with — particularly — Collapse, as a human-generated phenomenon that caused an ecological collapse which ended up impacting (and killing) people. Diamond calls it, “ecocide.”

Then there is the entire “fracking” controversy…which I don’t feel ready enough to speak about at this point, but essentially fracking (or “hydraulic fracturing”) is a way to remove natural gas from underground which can make the groundwater toxic. Whether this should even be allowed, is a politically charged conversation in the U.S. On one hand, it reduces dependence on foreign oil reserves. On the other, it can destroy supplies of freshwater.

It does remind me of cyanide heap leaching, which is a way of extracting gold from low-grade ore which causes massive destruction of the environment. The cleanup of this is so expensive that it’s often abandoned and left up to the Federal government. I learned about this in one of my Metals (Jeweling) classes, and it basically (on top of low pay rates, relatively high hazard levels, and necessitation of certain levels of bodily function [e.g. fine motor skills, clear vision]) made me not want to be a Jeweler.

On a different note, I’ve also begun reading Le Guin’s fiction. I have with me The Left Hand of Darkness and The Lathe of Heaven, though I haven’t started the latter. Le Guin, in Conversations on Writing, at least implies, if not outright states, that Virginia Woolf was a large influence on her (from the number of times Woolf is mentioned). This has gotten me curious about giving Woolf’s Orlando a second chance (whereas its opening scene was enough to disgust me, as a younger and more sensitive person). I also have a copy of Middlesex. All three — Orlando, Left Hand of Darkness, and Middlesex — feature gender-shifting. It’s possible that I could use these as the beginning of a reading list.

I’m also reading about Reader’s Advisory service, which is something that library schools tend not to address. That, in turn, is why I’ve begun reading fiction again…I need to know this stuff! I wasn’t doing constant recreational reading during my time as a Library Aide, so I have some catching up to do.

What’s interesting is that the first chapter of Left Hand of Darkness is what has stuck in my mind, the most (out of everything I’ve read recently). It probably has to do with the fact that reading fiction takes co-imagining of the situation described by the text, for the text to actually function.

So…yesterday (Wednesday) I was home and asleep for most of the time, after having stayed up late on Tuesday night (and into Wednesday morning), reading. Particularly…I felt towards the end of Tuesday night that I was starting to get sick with something (coughing, sneezing, nose-blowing), so I stayed home on Wednesday, and slept in, today (Thursday).

Yeah — I really need to regulate my sleep, better.

libraries, work

Passing training!

I’m writing in, not because I’m feeling it, but because some significant stuff has happened, and I think I “should” record it. Yesterday was my first day of work as an official Library Assistant. I completed my training on Halloween, and have to cover a set number of Sunday shifts before the end of the year. It just happened that my two options were both places that I had never even visited, before, so…finding my way around was a bit difficult.

I’ve also been reading, but haven’t yet set up a schedule for Japanese language study — reading and writing, and then speech. Right now I’m on The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert, and Collapse by Jared Diamond (of Guns, Germs, & Steel), which are remarkably similar so far. The first is about extinction as it focuses on species, while the second is about extinction as it focuses on human societies.

As for Ursula Le Guin’s On Writing, I did finish it, and that kinda snarky quip I remembered (that if people didn’t want to be written about as doing bad things, then maybe they should be better people), wasn’t her. I think a lot of the value of that book, since I haven’t to recollection read any of Le Guin’s stories (other than The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas and possibly some other shorter works — searching “le guin bibliography” did bring up a page with at least many of her works), was the tracing of her influences. It’s good to read who writers read, sometimes, especially if you like them (or think you might; or they’re in your world, somehow, as someone influential).

I still remember that someone recommended Stephen King’s On Writing, which…I read a small portion of in a bookstore, and very quickly determined that I didn’t want to read any more of it. From what I saw, he has a very “masculine” view of the world, which I don’t really need to expose myself to.

But then, I never really read anything of his, either; I just know that he’s a prolific writer who bases a lot of his work on dreams. And has had his stuff made into movies and TV series…though from what I’ve seen, I’m not really a fan. I think he was recommended to me because I do have to deal with a lot of dreamscape-type stuff in my own work…but I’m still getting out of a masculinist framework of Hemingway’s sort. I also have my own toxic masculinity to deal with; I don’t want to reinforce it.

There are just some books like that, where they’ve been recommended, and I flip through them and can quickly see that the “energy” of the book is just way too intense for me to tolerate. When that’s not grounded in anything real or of consequence (like an author whose name I shall not mention who obviously recalls for me, descriptions of Oppositional Defiant Disorder), it just puts me off. Same thing happens when something routine (like minority characters being understandable as human) is seen as extraordinary due to the time period or prejudice of the author or narrator. I can accept the latter, but some discoveries are so basic to me that I…really lose interest.

It goes back to the fact that there is no one universal, “good book,” that everyone will like. Although reader’s advisory questions often start off with, “I’m looking for a good book, what do you think is a good book,” not, “I’m looking for a book that I will like.” The latter obviously brings in the reader’s subjectivity, and that’s not always easy to navigate, especially when it becomes thoroughly obvious that the Adviser and and the Reader are such different people, that connection (let alone understanding) is difficult. What I would like is not necessarily what you would like. We both need to understand what you’re looking for before we embark on looking for it…

At least I’m reading again, and I can kind of get a sense of a book by flipping around in it, or reading excerpts in addition to reviews. I can also do some studying in my off time, though I know people told me not to worry about that…but also that I was encouraged when I showed that I did actually do my own work to fill my own knowledge gaps…

art, beadwork, career, libraries, work, writing

Tension: adult priorities, student habits

I’ve realized that I don’t have to start with words, if I want to make a story. Especially if I want to tell it using graphics. I have been looking through notebooks, and sketchpads, old blogs…records, you know. It may be that accessing the visual part of my brain may relate more of this (very internal) story than trying to code it into language, which sounds as though it goes against logic when I’ve historically used words over images to access inner realities.

But cartoons don’t have to be stereotypical. They often have been, but they don’t have to be.

Right now I’m dealing with the story in my mind growing more distant, and feeling more inconsequential, than I’m used to. I’m coming off of four days in a row of training at work, though (most of which was spent on-desk), which…makes it hard to get out of work-mode. I realize I have some anxiety about being the first (actually, now, second) point of contact for the public, but I’m getting more confidence around it. It’s also to the point where I don’t want to avoid the work, because I know that just makes it harder to engage again.

I guess it’s like fighting a phobia through exposure.

I also am finding…by giving this a chance, I’m also opening the possibility to convince myself that I like doing this. A lot of what I’m doing now is what I’ve been building up to over the last decade; what I’ve seen Librarians doing but have been forbidden to try (due to my job description). It’s not the end point, but it is nicer to be able to help people in many of the ways I couldn’t, over all those years.

Of course, it’s not as though my old work situation was perfect; but there are a lot of ways to approach work, and I haven’t found any of the various ones I’ve seen to be, “better,” yet. I’m talking here about workplace politics. It helps to be a bit agnostic about these, I’ve found. Although, granted, that’s probably (in itself) a position.

Anyway…didn’t mean to get into work stuff, but today was my last day of training (as has yet been scheduled). I’m finding that this is a really great job if you love to read. My biggest deficit at this point is likely dealing with Reader’s Advisory, as I have my own interests, and haven’t read a novel cover-to-cover in quite a while.

I should try that again.

My thing right now is wondering how much of my time that’s going to take up, outside of work but for the purpose of work. Of course…if I became a novelist myself, which…I would think to be beyond my capabilities at the moment: it would also be good training for that.

The program I attended in Undergrad really only prepared us for short-story writing. Novels are reserved for the MFA. (At one time, it seemed distant.)

And then…there is the obvious point of getting back to my Art as a generative measure for my writing, among other things. The issue, majorly, is…moving into a phase of my life where I have work, and then I have hobbies. The work is being a Library Assistant (for now). The hobbies are now primarily my writing, my art, and my beadwork. Reading also has to fit into there, somewhere; and Japanese language acquisition should also have some space, if I’m going to continue in a Public Library position. That’s on top of necessities such as cooking, driving, and exercise.

The question is what I cut out so I have time for my priorities, based on a future life path; and what to do if those priorities ever become dissatisfactory. There is also the question of what I am doing now, not what I want to or think I should be doing. What do I like to do as versus what I think I should like to do, based not on who I think I am, but who I am. It’s hard to gauge when I’ve had a schedule like I’ve experienced in the last two months (for the past four days, I’ve been working six hours a day…which is new, for me).

I’m aware this is a delayed entry into adulthood (“psh! Six hours a day?”), and that I’m lucky to have had so much free time for so long. At the same time, though, I have actually been working (even though some say being an Aide isn’t a, “real job,” which I now find to be an insult to Aides everywhere). I’ve also been in school for the vast majority of the time I’ve been employed, so I have had assignments, and things I had to do: at least to keep my GPA up, so that I could continue on to get my Master’s. That was so that I could be cleared to eventually become a professional on a national scale (note that the requirement for a Master’s in a Library- or Information-related field to be able to apply for Librarian positions, is an ongoing debate in the Library world).

Yes, that was stressful. But it’s over, and there’s only a necessity of doing it once.

I may also have the detraction of being over-educated, though that likely isn’t bad in any way other than having too many options. That in itself can also be a problem, though: I have heard of a study stating that the more options people have, the less satisfied they are with having settled on any one of them.

Maybe the painful choice here is in deciding whether to be an intellectual, or whether to be a maker (maybe I can be both). I caught all kinds of negative attention when I was young, partially because I was perceived as more intelligent than others. So although people like Cornel West and Malcolm Gladwell continually attract my attention and respect (though I still haven’t read anything by either of them, I’ve only seen the interviews), becoming like them…there’s a risk to it. Of course, though, most who think in public would know that, and have gone on beyond, despite it. Adults who still have the minds of children shouldn’t be permitted to control the lives of others, that is.

I still think it was cute when one of the kids I helped, commented that I was, “really smart,” because I knew about manga and could pronounce Japanese! (When kids are kids, and are supposed to be kids, it’s different.) I suppose it’s possible to be knowledgeable about a lot of things, yeah?

Maybe the problem actually is being multi-faceted — and being at a junction between consuming and producing, not knowing where to place my priorities. I have been writing this based on the assumption that I would need to either do one or the other, but reading broadly was recommended in my Creative Writing program. It would also enable me to write Nonfiction.

I also realize how important it likely is, to know a language which is not English: it means that one gets a window into how life is outside of the English-Only-speaking-world. That, in turn, is useful in building resistance to political propaganda. These things mean that:

  1. Library Work
  2. Reading
  3. Writing, and
  4. Learning Japanese (a life goal since Middle School)…

…are my core four things.

I am not sure to what extent I’ve just hit my limit, with beadwork. I can check my records to see when it was that I started to buy beads and make jewelry, again. The thing is, it’s an expensive hobby — and I don’t know that I’m committed enough to it to keep buying materials, or to deal with the legal end of it. Designing is one of those things that is fun, but I don’t need to be putting as much resources into designing as I have been — particularly as I still don’t know how to do all the basic beadweaving stitches.

I would still do micro-macramé, though. I just would. That means seed beads and cord. I have those. I think it’s just the gemstone and metal stuff that I see as unjustified.

So that’s:

  1. Micro-macramé
  2. Beadweaving

Drawing and painting can also be expensive, but they allow a greater latitude for storytelling (which was something I was purposely avoiding when using beadwork to get back into the creative process). When I was going back over my sketchbooks…I realized what I was doing when I was drawing from life. I was finding things that interested me, and then trying to express, via drawing, why they interested me. That, in itself, means that color is indispensable for my practice. This also means that markers and paints, in particular, ought to be something I really consider using — or, not throwing away, if they’re still good and usable.

Particularly: there are five media that I’m interested in at the moment:

  1. Pen and ink
  2. Alcohol markers
  3. Acrylic markers
  4. Gouache
  5. (Transparent) Watercolor

That also implies pencil and eraser, though I have those. These can all be combined with each other in order to make mixed-media standalone or sequential art pieces. So there, we have Language, Form, Line, and Color.

Anyhow, I’m reading back over this entry, and I’m thinking that my proposed activities look diverse enough! I wonder how this compares to past Priority lists…

…and what to do with everything else…

art, comics, creative writing, drawing, illustration, psychology, spirituality

I can’t believe it. I used the Copics.

I made one illustration before midnight last night, and…it really surprised me. I haven’t been drawing in a long time, so to have something turn out nice is almost entirely unexpected — even with all that time I spent as a kid doing illustrations. It also helped to watch Supergirl and be able to study people’s face shapes, out of nowhere.

I did see it when I began to overwork my drawing. I had to rescue it a little with acrylic paint marker (insofar as that was possible), though I’m certain this wouldn’t work if I were working professionally (the white didn’t have enough coverage). I need to remind myself that I don’t have to go all the way from white paper to black shadows, or to let my logic-brain screw up my pictorial-brain’s work. I mean, I’m pretty sure they’re different brain regions, and my logic-brain wants to help (but it’s not always wisest in this area [even though it thinks it is]).

I’ve also got to remember that there’s always a next picture, and it won’t necessarily be worse. :)

I found that the Copic Ciao line that I had in Cool Grey was almost enough for the illustration I did, which is nice because the Ciaos are the least expensive of any of the Copic markers (not including their fineliners, which they call Multiliners). I also…realized that I may want to use Copic Multiliners regularly, as I’ve found the tips on Sakura Micron pens to widen (fray) with use, making the grading of their nib sizes misleading. I haven’t often used the Copic Multiliners, though, so I’m really not sure if they’ll hold up better over time. I do think, though, that the Multiliners get finer than Microns run (either that, or my tiny Multiliners are drying out).

What I do know is that Copic does have a line of refillable (not disposable) fineliners (Multiliner SP) which allow replacement of the nibs. That…is attractive, especially as I know how a fineliner with a broken nib works, and also what happens when the pens get old and dry out (and then I have to throw them out and get new ones, which isn’t very environmentally-friendly).

After having watched some of an episode of Long Island Medium which caused me to remember a story I had forgotten, I have gotten back to doing comic art and taking notes on story. It seems I also have a relatively good workflow going on, which caught me off-guard.

I’ve begun using a sketch journal, and — another surprise — I’m liking it. That’s also unexpected — in addition to needing: scissors, narrow washi tape, translucent marker paper, a copier, (just) a 2B pencil, an eraser, and a glue stick. (Well, I didn’t really need the copier, it just helped give me permission to work and possibly mess up my drawing. Having the extra copy made it easier to keep working.)

What I did was draw in my pencil art (outlines), then tape a piece of marker paper over the top, work through that paper to lay in my inks, take a photocopy of my inks, then lay in greyscale markers for value rendition (lightest color first), and work over the top to regain lost highlights with opaque white acrylic pen (not opaque enough). Then I glued down the photocopy of my inks without marker, on the facing page. (In the future, I might want to deal with this on Mixed Media paper — after I have the confidence to know that even if I do destroy what I’ve done so far by working further on it, I’ll still be able to work the drawing over again.)

What I didn’t realize until last night is that if I’m working through both marker and sketch paper, these two together are enough to annul the bleeding of the Copic marker (which normally will leak through a sketchbook page, fairly immediately). That’s basically because the Copics are alcohol-based. All of the solvent-based markers I’ve ever used (as versus water-based), have immediately soaked through most papers. That includes alcohol and xylene. There are also oil-based markers, though I only got one of those to work one time, on one project (I was drawing with an oil-based Sharpie on some sort of plastic sheeting, and couldn’t get it to work at any other time).

The narrative I remembered likely explores the main reason why I stopped writing fiction. Looking back on it, I just overthought things and freaked myself out to the point that I couldn’t tell the difference between imagination and reality, or between intuition and my discursive mind running amok. Because of this, I think, it has been quieter: if I were a spirit and was just confusing the heck out of some kid by communicating with her, I might withdraw too (even if I did love her, and at this point I have some clue of who it is I’ve been dealing with).

So when a person is dealing with energetic sensitivity, the conflict of not being able to distinguish between fantasy and reality can be amplified. The task arises of needing to tell an inner narrative, fantasy, anxieties, desires, and insights apart from an objective reality containing things that one may not understand, and which most people can’t make sense of.

And then, yeah, there’s the question of how I get that into a fictional format, in order to release myself from the constraints of memoir. Even as much as I know it isn’t my job (or possibly obligation), I think I do have some reservations about causing others to, “lose face,” though I didn’t think about it in that way until recently. In that sense, I mean, it could be a cultural thing where I’m uncomfortable telling the world about the faults and imperfections of people around me (although I’m sure it would be apparent that I’d also be showing you mine, as well: the difference is, it’s my choice and my business if I do the latter — the former is much messier).

I also don’t have to be sure that a thought is true before writing it, if I’m writing fiction. Which…may be part of the reason any fiction exists?

I don’t have any scans for you today. I’m still trying to figure out what degree of anonymity or exposure I want, online. If I showed you what I drew, my style would be recognizable across handles. There is also the issue of First Publication Rights…which makes writing for print publication different from writing on my own blog (unless I self-publish a web series or something…I’d rather do print, honestly).

Right now what I’ve got is just practice, so it’s not really a big thing. But as a bottom line, putting something on the Web means I lose control of it. I know that from having published images online, before, so this time around I’m being more reticent and deliberate.

The Web can also be a very strange place, but I’m sure we all know that. :)

art, drawing, graphic design, technology

Handwriting to drawing to painting

I’m not sure how much or whether I have mentioned on this blog, a thought about the interrelatedness of writing by hand, and of drawing. It’s something that was reinforced for me when visiting an art store today and emerging with a couple of little markers.

Whenever I start drawing, it seems kind of inevitable that I would be drawn into practicing my handwriting in Japanese language. I have a relatively solid grasp of kana (phonetic characters) and a very introductory knowledge of kanji (ideographic characters). The thing is…it’s very, very tempting to try and practice getting stroke quality, size, type, proportion of each character in such a way as it becomes beautiful at the same time as it contains meaning.

Of course, this is likely related to my interest both in Graphic Design and calligraphy, painting, and some spiritual bents such as Zen Buddhism. The last three, in particular, are very related historically in an East Asian context, along with poetry. I wouldn’t have known that without having researched the topic of art and writing within Zen, for a graduate project…but I’m fairly sure that this also pre-dates Zen and goes back to the literati in ancient China.

Okay, and that gets really complicated, with the introduction of Buddhist dharma (way of existence) into China, and the mixture of Buddhism and what are now called Daoism, Confucianism, etc. That was introduced into what is now Korea and from there, Japan, though there were multiple transmissions. (Buddhism is not native to East Asia; so far as I know, it originated in South Asia [now India], and traveled through Central Asia into China — but my sources are skewed due to the fact that I currently can only read English-language versions of the history of this. English-language versions of, “what Buddhism is,” by people who only know other English-language versions, are generally imperfect at best, warped and misunderstood, at worst.)

My point is basically that there’s a large historical precedent for my interest in this, and that I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these values were passed on to me by the cultures of family and friends (at the least). To get deeply into that goes into some personal spiritual beliefs (or lack of them), which I’m not even all the time sure on (see the Dao De Jing/Tao Te Ching for a reference to why I may not talk about this — it’s a short work), but it gives me some stability. An inkling of it.

Anyhow…I read somewhere that the expression of the writer/artist with ink and brush was supposed to be a reflection of the one who wrote it, although at times an artist would get someone else to do the calligraphy for him. (Most of what I’ve read goes over male artists/poets/calligraphers; that doesn’t mean they all were, but it’s what I’ve seen.)

I believe that it is because of the high value placed on literacy and writing in at least Japan, that the language has turned out as beautiful (and complex) as it is. There are thousands of kanji (ideographic symbols borrowed from Chinese language) to learn to read and write, though there are also patterns within the kanji (like their formative elements, or “radicals”) that give clues to their meanings and readings.

I did start this post talking about the interrelatedness of writing by hand and of making art. My concern is that when people shift from writing with their hands, to writing by typing — only — that the practice which allows drawing to grow from writing, and painting to grow from drawing, is avoided. I do have some concern over the fact that most of us — unless we make a conscious effort otherwise — will likely be writing mostly by using a keyboard, and facing a computer screen. Not by hand, with paper (or any surface) and whatever instrument you use to write with, which could be pencil or marker or pen or brush or charcoal or something else. Something that will make a mark. Anything that will make a mark.

There’s a freedom to any of the latter in that you can express yourself not only in how the text is encoded, but in how it is drawn, and also that you can draw other things that are not letters or punctuation! My drawing, really, started in the margins of my notes and writings for school, as a young teen. I got bored. I found a way to express myself which no one could take away from me, without also taking away my learning tools.

Coincidentally, it was also close to that time at which I started to learn kana. I was into anime, particularly Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon, and I wanted to know how to read the text in the Japanese-language books I had to accompany the series. This was also, particularly, because I knew there were a number of seasons and movies (most of them, actually) which had not been translated into English. The only contact I had with these movies and series were the anime books (these must have a name; they’re an entire genre) and untranslated VHS tapes which I found through local venues.

I’m guessing that for me — at least, right now — writing in Japanese is closer to art, than writing in English. That is changing a bit, as I experiment with incorporating more cursive into my handwriting (which inevitably makes it messier than my regular [legible] print; or my regular cursive, where my “r”s are a bit…hard to identify). It’s probably also because writing in Japanese is less familiar to me. But I think I need a bit of a challenge in my reading — and not from English sentences being indecipherable. (It happens in college readings, sometimes. I’ve had textbooks like this. I’m not kidding. SENTENCES WHICH MAKE NO SENSE.)

I have, off-and-on, heard arguments or concerns about Japanese youth losing the skill of reading because of the popularity of manga (comics). I’m not so much concerned about that at this moment, but rather the loss of artistic skill and development which may loom because of a digital revolution in which no one can even write (well) by hand, anymore. It’s already a given that a lot of schools in the U.S. no longer teach how to write in cursive, making the reading of things like old ledgers written in Copperplate script, difficult to read. (I can barely read Copperplate. How much worse must it be for kids who didn’t learn cursive in Kindergarten?)

I also wonder how much I have bought into that in the past, because I did have to spend so much of my time in front of a screen. Something that no one told me, though, is that going to school online does mean that you have to take copious notes (even when the Professor gives handouts). Which are best done by hand. It’s hard when you haven’t written quickly and legibly in a very long time. And, I’m finding, it’s likely harder to draw when you haven’t written by hand at all in a very long time.

I’ve been writing by hand recently, though (which I’ve referenced in earlier posts here), and…it is easier to edge back into mark-making by just trying to write correctly in Japanese. I am not entirely certain why, except for the fact that I now can tell when they’re right (or at least when they’re beautiful), and when they aren’t. I do believe that a lot of that is due to my art training. Before someone close to me dropped out of Japanese-language class, the teacher saw my writing trying to help them on their homework, and said I had “nice handwriting.” So…I don’t know what that’s worth, except that I know I’m not going way into calligraphic territory. It’s legible. That’s good.

So far, I’ve not personally focused on this Inktober thing, but it is kind of inspiring to see all the works people are doing. I’ve also been able to get into acrylic paint markers…which, alongside my Pitt pens and alcohol markers…they’re alluring because of the use of color, for one thing. Opacity also helps, and it’s absent in other water-based and alcohol-based markers. I wouldn’t consider myself into graffiti in any way, but there’s something in the graphic qualities of marker that’s there for me.

I’m thinking that if I get deep enough into this…work in paint may come easier to me. I realized that Acryla gouache is what I was seeking, in a hybrid between acrylics and watercolors which I could utilize on paper without abusing my watercolor brushes (gesso is rough) — say for miniatures. (I still love Shahzia Sikander.) There’s also the possibility of using gouache mixed with acrylic glazing medium, or the (gasp!) use of transparent watercolors mixed with gouache.

I haven’t tried any of that yet, though they’re all creative possibilities. Right now what I have to deal with is how to get my markers out so I can see them, and how to combine transparent, opaque, and permanent inks…

…and paints. If I try, I’ll find out what works, and what doesn’t. As I’m learning, a lot of art (or at least design), seems to be about that. That, and not getting hung up on what other people say art should be…