drawing, fine arts, painting

Books, and finding more stashed paints

Last night I remembered the location of my stash of gouache which I used in my color class.  I went and dug it up, and along with the gouache I found a good little stash of more watercolors.  These are Utrecht brand.

I intended to try out the Utrecht stuff this morning, but personal story aside, I wasn’t able to.  What I do know is that I have some (more) Viridian and a supply of Cadmium Red and Yellow, plus Cobalt Blue.  Thing is that I don’t really want to touch either the cadmium formulations or the cobalt formulations — both of them are toxic and can be absorbed through the skin (as I said before, “Cadmium Yellow Hue“, for example, is not the same thing as “Cadmium Yellow”, and is less toxic).  I had enough of a concern when the water splashed me last time, and the paint was labeled “non-toxic”; I don’t need to be worrying about cadmium or cobalt poisoning.  Especially when I use my hands to clean out my brushes.

But from the base that I have now, I can look at filling out a range of colors.  The paints are, at the moment, somewhere away from the computer, and I’d rather not dirty my hands with them right now…I believe we have a Quinacridone Red (violet-leaning) and I think there was a Permanent Rose in there somewhere.  That gives me two cool tone reds.  The warm tone I’ll have to purchase, because I don’t want to use Cadmium Red.

I believe the pair of reds I was supposed to get for my class were Scarlet (orange overtone) and Crimson (violet overtone).  I’ll need to look at how Quinacridone Red and Perm. Rose compare to Crimson.

There was a Gamboge (yellow) lying around here, but the color is too muted for my purposes — it looks ocher-ish.  I think I’m looking for a Golden Yellow and a Lemon Yellow, in place of either the Gamboge or the Winsor Yellow.  Keeping in mind that the Reeves Lemon Yellow is accessible.

Then there are the blues — and I know for a fact that we have a usable Ultramarine…I’d still have to buy a Phthalo Blue.

So, in order of necessity:

  1. Phthalo Blue
  2. Scarlet
  3. Golden Yellow
  4. Lemon Yellow

So those are mostly warm-leaning tones.

And yes, I did intend to try out the other Reeves colors in addition to the Utrecht colors (which I was reminded of on recalling the Phthalo Blue).

I think that the only other colors I am on the fence about are Sap Green and the earth tones.  Or, tones to mix with other tones to dull them down in a reasonably-controlled manner.  I think Raw Umber was key in that (a mix of Raw Umber and Ultramarine?), though my memory on that point is foggy; I’d need to see the hue to know if that’s the right name.  Mostly I believe we were mixing complementary hues to make chromatic greys.

Today I’ve been reading through a book that someone bought for me called Watercolor 101.  It looks easy enough.  I think that the reason it’s been sitting unused on my shelf so long is that it looked easy enough to be boring.  But it allows the play that I’ve been doing with the watercolors anyway; it just gives more ideas and techniques that otherwise wouldn’t have occurred to me.  What it does say is that I need to find a high-quality cotton rag paper (which won’t fall apart when fully saturated) to play with…and I would not have guessed that I’d need a rag paper to play on.

At dinner I was also looking through a book I bought a year or two ago called Art of Drawing:  The Complete Course.  I think when I was reading this book before, I stopped a page or two before the end of the dry techniques section.  It reminded me of how much I like to play in soft pastels (which, I read, are used to introduce painting to art students).

The major reason I haven’t used soft pastels or chalk since my days in drawing classes is that they’re messy, and once the pigment is breathed in, it stays in one’s lungs instead of breaking down like charcoal (says my old drawing instructor).  So it’s really not a good thing to inhale the dust, and when you’re working, it’s best to tap the dust off of your drawing board and wet-mop the dust up after you’re done.  Of course, though, drawing class was full of people blowing the dust off of their drawing boards…particle masks help, in that situation.  Otherwise, it can get difficult and anxiety-inducing (if you’re like me) to breathe.

In the sense of Prismacolor NuPastels, as well (which may qualify more as “chalk” than “soft pastel”), they’re staining.  I can clearly remember blending colors with my fingers and my fingers being stained blue for a good while after that — no amount of scrubbing would get the blue out.  Everything else washed out.  Not that.  :)

Yes, it made me all proud to be wearing stained fingertips like I was a “real” artist (^_-), but it’s a little worrisome to me as well — because I assume that anything which stains me will be absorbed into me.  Though I do think that NuPastels are supposed to be non-toxic (or as the case may well be, “less toxic”).

Of course, that’s not necessarily the case for the higher grades of soft pastel or chalk.  I would be extremely wary, for example, of a malachite pigment in a soft pastel.  Not to say I don’t think it would be beautiful.  It would be very beautiful.  But that doesn’t mean I want to be rubbing it into my skin.  (Malachite is a soft, intensely green mineral which I’ve been told, contains asbestos fibers…)

I want to pick up a book on painting so that I can see the difference between the mindsets of painting and drawing.  Because pastels can be used to paint, and inks and watercolor can be used to draw (with brushes, even!).  So what then distinguishes painting from drawing, if not the medium?  Art of Drawing acknowledges that drawing is different from painting in a way that is not medium-dependent, but so far as I’ve read, they never go deeply enough into painting to really elucidate what the difference is between painting and drawing.  They simply define “drawing,” without defining “painting.”

So far as I can tell, the use of line (or markmaking), value gradations (as in wash or chiaroscuro), and monochrome distinguishes drawing.  I know now that I want to use color — it makes things come alive.  But you can draw with color as well, so again things become blurred.

I want to know whether I want to pursue painting or drawing, and it’s hard to know that when you don’t know the definition of one of the two categories.  I suppose it did take me a while, though, to learn just what made an image “graphic” (as in “graphic design”), and that just took a lot of exposure and absorption and experience…

The last part of this entry is just to note that I’ve realized the use of “springiness” in a given brush.  The Richeson synthetic flat brush that I mentioned yesterday has a good amount of spring to it.  The Chinese and Japanese brushes that I have used, which are natural-hair, not so much.  So it can be harder to get a good amount of line variation out of them.

I have a high-quality round synthetic brush here which is very springy.  Though I didn’t use it last time I was playing around with watercolors (it is one of those brushes which is so nice you don’t want to use it, for risk of messing it up), I’m sure that I’d be easily able to achieve a wide range of line variation with it.  It’s something to try next time.