career, creative writing, libraries, LIS, psychology, writing

Hypergraphia?

Given that my last hard-copy journal entry was titled PPP (Pretty Poor Productivity, which I could easily manipulate into an acronym emphasizing more completely my frustration), it seems surprising that I would come back to the blog instead of doing classwork. Especially as we’re getting set up for another heat wave, to begin tomorrow.

I’ve been intending to get my non-deliverable homework done by the end of the night, as I don’t foresee using the computer in the daylight hours between tomorrow and Monday. I also don’t want to fall behind; it’s disheartening. Tomorrow can be used to catch up on my reading (I only have 20 pages).

Beyond that, though: there’s more to be done, really, than putting one foot in front of the other. Long-term…we’ve just made a decision which may turn out to be momentous in its impact on our lives, though it’s a fall-back position. I won’t get too far into it (in public or at this time, at least), but I wanted to note it.

Right now, I’m feeling distracted. I’ve just gotten through cleaning up a bunch of stuff in the craft area; M is there now, cleaning up her things. I have been…likely distracted since a second round of paints arrived, and then there are the pens I have been talking about, which have been getting attention since maybe Thursday? Then there is the language training thing, which isn’t bad…but if the backup plan goes through, I just might be able to take in-person classes, after COVID is no longer an issue. If that ever happens.

And yes, I do suppose it’s possible that I’m a bit depressed. It’s kind of hard, not to be.

I mean, it’s kind of like, “Where am I going with my life?” I know I have strong English skill and Art skill…and some Computer-oriented skill. But I’ve spent the last 10 years figuring out what I don’t want to do, following a career path that I knew nothing about when I chose it, because of a Vocational program which — other than helping finance my schooling and giving coaching for how to apply for jobs — really may not have been all that great?…

It was good to get me into my first job. That doesn’t mean much, though, except that now I have a track record and people who know me.

The major issue for me, if this fall-back position goes through, is going to be figuring out what to do for money. Especially considering that there may not be many non-service-oriented jobs in the area. Now that I’ve mentioned that, you may realize what I’m talking about…

…and it may be more worth it for me to do some reading on psychology and anger management, and try and adapt to the world, instead of being upset when people fail to live up to my expectations (which, with the general public, is a regular-enough occurrence).

If nothing were to change, I’d be seriously considering writing and art as venues within which, to sell my labor. I suppose I can still do that. It’s just that — and this is something I’ve been dealing with for a long time — working creatively feels like a waste of my intellect.

I think I’ve gone over that in my private journal, though. It could well hold for any job, though: that working as one little cog in a machine is simpler and a waste of my talent, when I could be working on my own projects.

So maybe I really should look at being self-employed.

I’ve been having a recurring series of dreams about going back into Undergraduate training and into the Hard Sciences like I thought I would as a teenager. I just feel like I could be helping to cure diseases or something, and instead, I’ve been dealing with random hostile **** being a front-line service worker.

But — as I have been learning with XML/XPath/XSLT — if I know from the outset that I don’t like the classes, what makes me think that I’ll like the work that the classes are training me to do? What makes me think, “it gets better?” Being “cool” doesn’t get very far when I seriously have to deal with work that I dislike (and Computer Programming, I’ve found, I dislike).

The most obvious opening, for me, is becoming an author or writer or Lecturer or Professor at the University level…that’s possible, and it’s even…interesting. But that’s going back into Academia. Do I really want to do that?

When the alternative is service work or computer work, the answer is yes; when the answer is art work or writing…there’s actually a complication which occurs.

Seriously, though: do I really want to put in another 2-4 years of work to gain an MA or PhD?

(If the question is if I would do that for an MFA, the answer is an emphatic, “yes”; but then I have to pick a field. Creative Writing, or Drawing and Painting?)

And then there is the possibility of studying Japanese Language and Literature, which…I would seriously, like to do. At least, from here, I think I would like to do it.

And if I’m doing that, I might as well work in a University Library and get free tuition. Getting an additional Master’s would clear me to work in the position of an Academic Librarian, pretty much anywhere. Would I really like to do that, though (especially given that Academic Librarianship also involves teaching at the University level)?

That is — am I actually OK with going through the process of gaining tenure, or traveling around until I can do so?

But that sounds sweet, guys. That really sounds, sweet.

Like hella effin’ sweet. I’d learn to read and write in Japanese, and my reading can enhance my writing, and I’d get to help the University kids, and live in University towns for the rest of my life.

I might also be able to focus on comparative literature; at least, after that’s over. Though Comparative Literature has never really been my goal, I’ve read into at least one book (Articulations of Difference: Gender Studies and Writing in French), which was what originally whet my appetite for non-English writing.

I can’t believe it. I found a bright spot! Through writing! I love writing! :D

There are also accelerated courses at the place I’m looking at, which sounds so good! And I could get to teach at the University level, about something I’m actually interested in!

At the beginning of this post, I typed “Hypergraphia” as the title. That’s basically due to the fact that I’m just pretty obsessed with writing, as I can tell from yesterday. “Hypergraphia” is a psychological term for the compulsive desire to write. I’m pretty sure it’s what was getting me through my Creative Writing training, when I felt like writing was one of the only constants in my life. It’s also likely what I was going through, as a teen.

Of course, though: if I had a mental condition which was causing me to write compulsively, and then that condition is treated and no longer rules me…the question is, what do I do with my life, then?

Learn another language? ;) Read a whole lot? Journal? Get back to writing for its benefits without letting it drive me into the ground?

I’m feeling so much better. I’m going to end this, here…

art, career, creativity, libraries, money, psychology, writing

Rediscovering myself

Or: maybe getting degrees in Art and Creative Writing, weren’t unfortunate mistakes.

It has been almost seven months since I last set foot in a Library as an employee. With that amount of time away, it has become fairly apparent to me that Librarianship is not my life’s work. It’s a way to stay housed, fed, and clothed. It’s also a way to earn enough money to work on my art, have time and reason to read literature, and have enough resources left-over for a computer.

But it’s not my life’s work. It was never meant to be. It finances my life’s work, the latter of which, I was meant to get back to after I finished my degree.

Today, I did something (else) personally significant. (The first thing was to get back to my art, which required breaking through an environmentalist barrier [or alternately, excuse] which may have only been significant, to me.)

I began again to read fiction. Specifically, I’ve had Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides facing me on my bookshelf for months. I stopped reading it at the point I realized that the main character’s intersexuality was being blamed on an episode of incest. Yeah, that could be…rather insulting. I guess it’s what happens when an author feels the need to explain every point of the story logically, even when they don’t understand the situation or the mechanisms pertaining to it.

(I should disclose that I don’t actually know that incest is not the vector that leads to intersexuality, but I strongly suspect it isn’t.)

I need to be sure not to mimic, that.

Anyhow…I started back in on this, trying not to judge it too harshly. It’s been going relatively well. Cal is a sensitive-enough narrator that it’s easy to empathize with him and put the author’s construction of the scenario out of my mind.

I’ve had a thing against fiction ever since the English Department tried to initiate me into multiple doctrines I disagreed with, in Undergrad work. I think they were trying to prop up their opinions/value systems/historical illusions/current delusions with the use of Fiction, while seeming to forget that Fiction is usually fabricated of what many authors would overtly call, “lies.” Having been raised to be an extremely conscientious and honest person, this was incompatible with my outlook and with my ethics.

Well, I found something else that was compatible with my ethics (wanting to sustain a comfortable living while not charging money), and that was Librarianship. Or, so I thought.

I didn’t quite realize how extremely political the situation I was getting myself into, was. It’s not like I don’t consider myself left-wing. I’m solidly left-wing. However, I see people behaving as though they are left-wing, even with multiple layers of hypocrisy (and doormat) riddled over the top of that, because (it seems) they want to feel as though they are “good” people. And they seem to think that their politics make them, “good.” It’s as if they can’t have a positive self-image unless they believe something about themselves that is not only unhealthy, altruistic and unrealistic, but at its root false and untenable.

That is, politics can help lead people to places of inauthenticity, and lack of self-esteem and fear of self-knowledge, can bind them there.

The sad thing is that in my journey through both undergraduate and graduate work, I’ve found myself bouncing back and forth between professors so conservative I’ve wanted to intentionally shift the ground under their feet, and professors (and some co-workers) so “liberal” that I had a hard time taking them seriously. Especially when I was living at my first University…I found it troubling when the University itself tried to be so “liberal” that staff made stupid decisions and seemed to dare anyone to challenge them (lest the challenger be seen as a conservative bigot; and not, for example, a concerned member of the primary University community, which should have been the students).

In any case: I did begin to read again, today. You could call it “recreational” reading, or you could call it study of the craft of literature. It’s probably both. I realized that if I did want to write fiction (and a lot of the ideas I have do suit themselves better to the provisional-belief model of fiction, rather than the cemented, well-thought-out, realistic [or, irresponsible] ideals of nonfiction), it would help to have some recent, real-life examples.

It would also help for those examples to be taken from published monographs, and not — for example — short stories of the type published in Literary Magazines. The latter are much less of a time and emotional investment, but they are also generally of lower quality than full-length books, due to the fact that many writers get their start in Literary Magazines. LitMags are designed more to show you the next new up-and-coming authors; not necessarily, finely-honed professional pieces.

I’m hoping that this time when I’ve gotten into fiction, I’ll be able to put out of my mind the politics of the authors. This is with the hope that I also will be able to put self-judgment out of my mind as I write my own work. A major reason I stopped writing: I had tried to analyze my own writing as I would analyze the writings of anyone else I had read…and I got a rather disturbing picture.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that my analysis was, “true,” or, “fact.” There are always multiple valid ways of interpreting the same text (though the interpretation often says more about the interpreter than the text s/he is interpreting — when both are the same, however…). It means that my then-self-destructive mind was able to weaponize it as something with which, to take me down.

Of course, back then, I was very young. I didn’t know how not to overthink things. I also wasn’t at the age where I could set self-judgment aside for the sake of expression. There’s a point one reaches in one’s life where one realizes that there are always going to be spots in one’s character that one dislikes. That doesn’t mean one should stop living. To do otherwise is perfectionism, and perfect is the enemy of good.

Seriously. That kind of sums up everything of the place I’m at, right now.

So, I’m back into reading, which should help me get back into writing. I’m also back into art; specifically, painting and drawing. I feel…like this is where I’m supposed to be. And it doesn’t have to be a holy calling, like I dreamed it was when I was a youth. It’s just what I’m good at, and what I’m drawn to. It’s what I actually want to do; what I would do if money were not an issue.

When my XML instructor mentioned practicing with XSLT during all of our down time, I knew it was not what I wanted. My free time has been pre-established as creative time. My priority is creativity, not coding.

I don’t want to get into a place where I have to spend my entire life circling around computers, cataloging, classification, indexing, abstracting, coding, technical writing, etc., all of which seem to center around obeying rules. I don’t want the need for money to cause me to forget who I am and stop me from creating.

I don’t want, that is, to become a non-creative person, or to be pushed into that lifestyle because I’m afraid to strike out on my own.

Right now…I’ve just given myself long enough (two weeks) without too much pressure, to see what I really want to do. Of course…I have two classes going. I’m thinking of dropping the nonessential one — the one that ends in three weeks — and foregoing the technical certificate I had planned on obtaining. We’ve been talking at my house about how the threat of death that could come at any time, causes one to think about what one really wants to do with the time they do have.

Apparently, that’s entirely appropriate. My thought is that I don’t want to go out of this world having spent all of my life doing schoolwork; constantly preparing, never putting my skills to use. Even when I’ve gotten the chance not to do schoolwork, I’ve chosen to do it.

But…in reality, I may be better off using my skills at Writing and Art to piece together a living, than becoming an Information Professional. Without a doubt, the return is less. But I might actually be happy in aligning my interests and my activities; as versus compromising my values for the sake of income which I then can’t enjoy, because I’m too busy with my current work and Professional Development to develop my own set of creative skills.

Language. Reading. Art. Writing. Stories. These are themes I see which…I’m relatively motivated around. They’re things I honestly take pleasure in, even with the psychological risks. I’ve realized that if I can boost myself to the point where I am not afraid to make things from my own experience, and to say what I think; to depict what I wish, regardless of whether there is historical precedent; I may be equipped to take this path on. And, possibly, succeed at it.

The only reason I took up a job in the Library (besides the fact that I didn’t want to be constantly told I didn’t belong; little did I know how much the social difficulties of still being constantly automatically slotted would impact me) is that I thought it might encourage me to read, which would encourage me to write.

I still have neither witnessed nor ever taken part in a successful Reader’s Advisory interview. (Not that I didn’t try.) That is…Fiction collections in the Library in which I used to work, are relatively opaque. They never became less so. The best bet I have of getting into the modern literary world, is just to start reading. Middlesex may be as good a place to start, as any.

In this period of release…I realize how fundamental it is to me, to write. I realize I gain intrinsic pleasure from writing, and from painting and drawing — at least, when I do it in my own way. That feeling: of doing something I want to do, that I honestly derive joy from, that I’m better off for after having participated in the work; is missing in my career. I wouldn’t know what I wanted to do, without having extended time away from work…and being able to choose my actions, in reality. I’m aware it’s a privilege that most don’t get.

But this isn’t over, yet. I just need to make my own way. I hear that, as intimidating as it is, it’s not unusual…

art, color, painting, self care

Sleepiness and swatch tests

Aw, man! Okay, so…my sleep schedule is bizarre, but maybe it won’t have to be, for much longer. It looks as if the heat wave has broken. Today the skies were gray instead of orange; that is an improvement. I also had to get out of bed in the middle of the night to change clothes, because it was so cold. Right now I’m writing this from bed in full pajamas, because it’s so cold.

Which is weird, when three days ago it seems like it was over 100° F. Right now, it’s 64° F, outside.

And I’m tired, even though I slept over 12 hours. It could be eye strain — I don’t think I’ve had a change in lens prescription in years. (I had to put off an optometry appointment because of the pandemic.) It could also be related to the smoke, or the fact that I am working at night and sleeping through the morning (although I went to bed before midnight last night, and woke up like it was morning, two hours later. Then I conked out at 3:30 and slept into late afternoon). It could also be because I missed the medication that I take for wakefulness…because I slept until 3:30 PM. That’s kind of a Catch-22, isn’t it?

A photo of four different Daniel Smith paints in various shades of green.
These watercolors are the four swatches in the top right of the immediately following image:

Anyway, my green paints and two new brushes came yesterday! :D I had to limit myself — out of enthusiasm, I have a tendency to overbuy (especially when I can’t see or test what I’m buying)…although now I know that painting is likely a good thing for me.

I have found that art is particularly…what’s the opposite of crazy-making? (“sane-making?”) “grounding?” for me. I’m finding watercolor to be also a relatively rewarding pastime in itself.

For some reason, I’m really into color; I can’t explain why, though…aside from the ability to witness how colors mix and merge. Painting has been an organic outgrowth of drawing, for me. I couldn’t cleanly, densely, and easily mix and dilute colors in drawing (the closest I’ve come to that is with markers), and nor could I have total freedom over the size and shape of my color applicator. That all changes, with painting.

A sheet of paper which contains all watercolor paints I might currently use, along with a freeform painting at the bottom right corner.
The left three columns are what is on my palette right now. Everything else either isn’t, or is a retry at getting a good gradient (or, in the case of French Ultramarine, a comparison with the other Ultramarines).

There’s something about the ability to achieve solid blocks of color and fluid gradients, that I really like. Also, the tactile issue is something that my sibling brought up — which could be why I’m not as drawn to computer art. The above swatches (and the little play painting in the corner) were all done with a Neptune #6 round brush. It’s really soft, and holds a lot of water. It will also soak up water if you dry it out a little before touching it to a pool of extra paint on your paper. For most of these, I was using the belly of the brush, not so much the tip.

I haven’t intentionally altered any of the colors here, though the light coming in the window was so yellowish and dim that I had to turn on overhead lighting today (when I took these photos and swatched out the four new greens in the upper right corner).

Right now I have about 45 colors which I’d consider using (there are some in the photo which are used twice). Of those swatched here, I’d eliminate W&N Mars Black (fifth column, third row) as Holbein Lamp Black (third column, seventh row) is smoother; and M. Graham Scarlet Pyrrol (fifth column, sixth row), as it granulates, and is very close to Winsor Orange – Red Shade (second column, third row).

Generally, I tend to prefer paints that have even dispersion and good flow…there are a number of paints I have which didn’t make it to this sheet, because of weird formulations causing a lack of leveling, or poor flow, or grains where I don’t want them, etc. This is just personal preference, however.

Gah, I’m tired. :) (Maybe I can go to sleep and wake up refreshed in 2-3 hours?)

Oh, right. I wanted to show you the Daniel Smith dot card swatches. The below were done with a very small flat…probably a Robert Simmons’ Sapphire, but I’m not sure and am too tired to look, right now. :) You can probably tell that I was tending to use too little water on my brush, for most of these…

Most of the Daniel Smith dot card set, painted out onto a sheet of paper.
Most of a Daniel Smith dot card (168 dots). I probably painted out more like 120 swatches (talk about tedious. No, I haven’t counted them.) There were four cards in the set, and I worked with approximately three.

I’ve swatched out everything here except for the special colors (like the Duochromes, etc., on the fourth card) and colors which I expressly knew were associated with asbestos (Tiger’s Eye, Burnt Tiger’s Eye [though I believe that in Tiger’s Eye, quartz has replaced the asbestos component], and Serpentine). I did, however, swatch out Kyanite, even though I know it’s fibrous by nature (I am not sure, but I don’t think it’s related to asbestos). I was curious. :)

What I find interesting about a lot of these is that a number of the gem colors (I suspect they’re PrimaTeks) are sparkly — particularly, Sugilite Genuine — though maybe I just got a lucky sample.

If I was going to add to my palette, swatching out both of these was a good idea, to avoid overlaps…a tedious, painstaking, good idea. :) It’s very apparent to me right now that I have a high-key palette going already…so maybe I shouldn’t really worry too much about getting bright colors. (I can always mix them down; there’s also the fact that the paints I’m using often seem to dull as they dry.)

As for the brushes…I ordered two, both Robert Simmons White Sable. One was to replace M’s very old and worn 1/2″ flat, the other was to replace a #8 Robert Simmons Sapphire flat that I killed, somehow. (The ferrule is loose. I only know of one way that would have happened. Never leave your brushes standing in water!)

Okay, I believe…that I am going to sleep now…

art, color, drawing

In the middle of the night…

I suppose that once you photograph a pencil drawing, it does show you where you could have stood to use a harder lead…note that the version of the drawing I’ve posted here is a PNG. It’s going to look bizarre if you download it, as I edited out the background in order to make the background match the background of this blog. (It even looks bizarre on my machine, if I try to look at it as a standalone file.)

It could be worth it to me, to enhance the original file and then retry the process I underwent to select and then paste the image information…

Last night I realized I couldn’t sleep, even though I had gone to bed early enough. I had been thinking about the last painting I did and how it reminded me of a cave with water. That, in turn, reminded me of cenotes, which are water-filled sinkholes — limestone caves with caved-in skylights — which occur in the rainforests of Mexico.

Drawing from within a cenote, or underground lake, within a limestone cave. Green vines drop from the skylight, and stalactites hang from the darkness on the right.
This really wants color.

From what I know, these have been known to be gates to the underworld. It’s not the same thing as a Hell, as the other world isn’t necessarily a site of suffering. Because of their association with the underworld, though (and likely also because their mythos of reference is not Christian), they are rumored to have been places of human sacrifice. They also seem to have served as sources of clean (fresh?) water.

The eerie thing about cenotes — aside from the otherworldly blue color they often have — is that they tend to be very, very clear and beautiful. From the surface, they’re basically holes in the ground into which one can disappear into if one isn’t careful. The underground lakes are connected through underground waterways which people are known to have perished in while exploring.

Basically, since the caves are limestone, they have been dissolved away by the rain. The edges of the skylights can harbor hanging gardens; even sometimes, waterfalls.

If I were to re-learn Spanish, researching the cenotes and their Mesoamerican connections would be among my strongest reasons.

I came up with this design while thinking of what I saw in the painting I did the other night. I made a simple sketch in my sleep journal, then got up and sketched the whole thing out in a Wet Media sketchbook with Hi-Uni soft graphite pencils. (Mostly, the very soft ones.) It’s not the same as it is in my mind, without color.

The water should be a Cobalt Turquoise Light, with greenery hanging down from the top, the sunlight filtering through the closer vines; then the cave itself is white with a glowing bluish cast from the lit portion of the water, and whitish reflections on its roof (lifted paint?) from the surface of the water, and shadows setting off whitish/yellow stalactites and stalagmites.

I’m not certain of next steps as regards watercolor — planning the layers may take some work — but having this quick sketch should help. (I had intended just to sketch various thumbnails, but I got a full-size drawing out of this!)

Right now, I’m trying to break out of realism and back into imagination…I’m unsure to what extent I will or won’t use visual references. Reflected light off of water, I clearly need to research; but types of plants? Photos from within cenotes (even though my composition seems fine right now)? What got me to this point last night was really being inspired by a watercolor book I seem to have last used, several years ago (if the bookmark is any indication)…

art, color, painting

“Living Water.” Abstract.

Okay. I’m so wiped out that I’m not sure what I’ve been doing since I woke up…anyhow, this is a non-adjusted image of what I was doing, last night. I’m kind of surprised the purple dropped back as much as it did, in this photo.

Abstract watercolor painting in blue, yellow, and violet.

As mentioned in my last post, I need to find ways of producing more intense deep greens. I started this painting out planning on a mostly subdued palette of Ultramarine and earth tones (Raw Umber, Yellow Ochre), but then Prussian Blue snuck in there, and Dioxazine Violet, and they helped so much that it just kind of spiraled. I even ended up highlighting with Hansa Yellow, at the end. I think that the yellow here is mostly Isoindolinone Deep (which has orange tones which dulled out the greens), but I’m not sure. I’m kind of too tired to verify it.

At various times while I was working on this, I found myself seeing a tornado, then the inside of a cave looking out towards the sunlight, then a scorpion’s tail throwing a ball of water.

No, I don’t know how much my current reading (Bad Water, by Robert Stolz; I wouldn’t recommend it at this time, it’s mostly about politics) is influencing this.

I know I should have 2.5 more hours of natural light, but I think I’m going back to sleep. :) It’s not like I have to go to work, tomorrow…

art, art media, painting, self care

“Actually having painted”

Today, I did something personally significant. I worked on a painting. Even though I had intended it to just be tinted test paper, on top of which, I’d draw…it turned into way more than that. I’m not sure if it’s going to stay in one piece, either: I have a mind to cut it into strips and rearrange it in a staggered manner. I’ll try and photograph it before I do, though; it’s almost midnight, so my lighting leaves something to be desired, right now.

Judgments aside, this was the first time I had allowed myself to work with my paints again, in months (if not years). There are some things I did learn…one of which is that I actually do love color, and have more fun with color, even though it’s more risky than doing everything extremely muted. Another is to be careful when trying to mix green with an opaque-leaning dull yellow (Isoindolinone Deep? I hate having so many similar yellows) and Prussian Blue, which is a dull greenish blue. (HAHA mud, HAHA.)

I was trying to make a deep, rich green, but there was too much orange in the yellow and it turned more Olive. A little more Prussian Blue and I got a nice coniferous tone (basically Prussian Blue with a hint of yellow — there wasn’t enough orange to ruin it in that mixture), but it wasn’t quite what I was going for.

Okay, but seriously, it was a lot of fun. I did stay away from Aureolin because I still have some paranoia about pigment toxicity, and Aureolin can be absorbed through the skin (acute transdermal exposure can cause itching; as for what else it does, it doesn’t matter for me, because I can’t undo my exposure — all I can do is prevent more exposure). Aureolin is also apparently severely toxic when ingested, but I make sure I don’t have paint on my hands when I eat or floss or touch mucous membranes. Yes, that means to wash your hands before you use the toilet (as well as after).

I also learned quite a bit about hard and soft edges, and what happens when you drop a color into another, currently-wet color. And how hard brushstrokes can look out of place in a diffuse composition with a lot of wet-in-wet work.

For all of my session today, I was using natural-hair, Yasutomo sumi-e brushes. Only two; and the second one initially happened because I was trying to mix green without dirtying the blue, or washing all the yellow off of my main brush.

That…that says something good, that I didn’t need a lot of brushes. Sumi-e brushes can be used on the side as well as with the tip, and I did really like the dry-brush effects I got on the edges of areas of color. (These round brushes have a core of stiff hair and a ring of softer hair around the outside.) I like using these because they’re relatively absorbent — it’s easier for me to control the amount of paint dropped onto the paper (or to suck up extra paint, if I dry the bristles first).

I do have other brushes to experiment with, but with the exception of other sumi-e brushes (including a hake in two pieces), they’re all synthetic.

I’ve found the Princeton Neptune line to be particularly nice (and the one Neptune Flat I have to be…exemplary, at least in comparison to the old 1/2″ flat intended for acrylics which I had been using), but I haven’t really played around with any of the three major brands I’ve gotten long enough to definitively state qualities, here. (The other two are Robert Simmons’ Sapphire, and Princeton Heritage 4050R.) I also have a couple of Princeton Lauren 4350R brushes, and one Robert Simmons White Sable which is…incredibly soft. I used it for makeup before I used it for painting (but don’t use it for makeup after it’s been exposed to professional-quality paint — again, many pigments are toxic).

Right now, I’m not sure whether to geek out about paintbrushes. I should practice more, first, so I can know (and not just speculate on) what I’m talking about.

Mostly, I had been depending on my Winsor & Newton Cotman flats at the time of my last experimentation, but I don’t think I’d opt for them, if I had to buy new ones. I used them for the most part because it’s just been exploratory practice, they make crisp shapes, they do hold paint, I like the way the flats feel on the page, and they’re familiar and cheap and easily replaceable in case of a loose ferrule.

Loose ferrules, in turn…mean the brush was in the rinse water too long, or too deep (with the water level resting above the end of the ferrule), and the handle got wet and expanded. Once that happens, it’s only a matter of time before the brush comes apart. (This could be an argument for acrylic handles, instead of wood.)

The drawback to Cotman brushes — particularly the flats, I’ve never been drawn to the rounds — is that they drop paint in a way that can be difficult to control (synthetics have this problem as a group, but some newer designs — like the Neptunes — are better at preventing this), and the ferrules loosen easily. Or maybe I’ve just been working them to death. In either case, it’s nice that they’re cheap and easily replaceable. It lowers the barrier of being afraid of destroying a really nice, expensive, brush.

So maybe these are great when you’re just starting out, and learning how long you can keep the brush in the water, and how high you can keep the water in your water cup. There’s generally a trade-off between having to change your rinse water frequently, and keeping your brushes safe. Unless, that is, you never let your brush sit in the water. No brush was left in standing water tonight, as I was only using two.

It also helps to have two rinse-water cups: one for the initial gross rinse of your paintbrush; the second to rinse out the (eventually contaminated) rinse water from the first cup!

Natural-hair sumi-e round and hake brushes — the ones you can get at Western art stores, at least, which are generally either Yasutomo brand or generic/store brands (Utrecht, Blick, etc.) — are also mostly inexpensive. I have seen some Chinese brands off and on in small art supply stores, but that was short-lived.

My Chinese ink-painting brush died sometime in 2016 or before (the bamboo housing cracked, so that the brush tip was held to the handle with glue and string). It was sad. But I used it.

Yeah, I guess I have been concerned about ruining nice things, haven’t I?

I did open a small hot-press Arches block, tonight. It’s the first time I can recall ever having painted on Arches (watercolorists know that this brand of paper is super-expensive, but also recommended, even [or especially] for novices), and…I’ve got to say, it was pretty nice. I was concerned about the pigment balling up on the surface of the paper, but that turned out not to be an issue (even though it looked like it would be — possibly because Ultramarine is a granulating pigment).

I have two other hot-press watercolor paper brands to try out; I believe they’re Fluid 100, and Fabriano. I started in on one of them tonight, but ended up pouring all my energy into the painting on the Arches, which quickly grew to the point that I realized I might have wanted to plan it out better (and not to have ever used black, even though I did so in the expectation of drawing with black and white pen, on top of it).

There’s also the possibility here of using gouache (opaque watercolor) instead of acrylic marker or gel pen. I’ve found I have enough gouache to last a while.

After having used Arches, I also have a little bit of an idea of what to expect…tomorrow, or as literalists would put it, later this morning…

And, note to self: don’t wear your computer (anti-blue-light) lenses when you’re painting; they change the color cast of everything you see…