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…