art, technology

Solving technical difficulties

I had almost forgotten about those text-only posts about the drawing inks and watercolors! Well…let’s see. I do work over the weekend, but midweek I might have time for playing with this, some more. The drawback to posting (color) scans is that I have to use a machine with which I’m not highly familiar.

Then there’s the fact that I trained on Photoshop, but don’t want to pay $20/month to have permission to use it. I think I mentioned somewhere a while ago (maybe on a defunct blog) that I had been using PS Elements — until some update made it suddenly stop working. Was that intentional? I don’t know. But it didn’t make Adobe look good.

Of course, this is part of a long argument propounded by former Photoshop users. There are other solutions, but they take retraining, and their UX is often not as intuitive. Then there’s the fact that Adobe has probably made strides to make sure they get into the classrooms.

I do have half a mind to hook up my drawing tablet again. I took it off for my own reasons, but it reminds me that there are alternatives to Adobe. Not necessarily all open-source…not that open-source is bad, but I wonder what else is out there.

Having worked with watercolor paints recently made me realize something: one of my earlier instructors who was a Digital Illustrator, was right in that he said that digital art was made to emulate physical media, but it wasn’t a replacement for it. I haven’t been through all the art programs out there, but I wonder if anyone has replicated the blossoming of color that happens with good watercolor paint, in wet-in-wet painting. I bet someone has (it’s probably on a Mac, though).

Of course, if I’m photo-editing, I can probably do that better on the computer than in the darkroom (particularly because I don’t know how to process film, and the thought of developing photos has always put me a little on edge).

There is the possibility of getting a Mac tablet and Apple Pencil…but it’s seriously a lot of money. I mean, I’d have to work out a plan and timetable to save up for the thing, and I don’t even know if I’d like it. I guess that’s why there are Apple Stores.

Of course…if I’m going to do that, I could save up for a Mac first, and if I don’t like how the Apple Pencil works upon trying it out, I can apply the savings to a Cintiq. The price has gone down since I last checked.

(Really, Haru? You’re really entertaining this?)

Then there’s this stuff about scanning or photography.

This is kind of too much to think about, right now. I have, however, located a couple of models which would work…the question is…is it that important to me.

That depends on how much time I actually spend making artwork. It hasn’t been much, recently. If, however, I spent as much time painting as I did writing — trying to work on it every day, you know — that…that would be great.

And yes, I do need to give myself permission to make my life not all about my career. Though there is the possibility, I found yesterday…of helping to run the art displays at one or more libraries, which would give me valuable experience if I wanted to work in or run a gallery (and thus get back into the visual art world). It wouldn’t pay — it’s a volunteer position. But still…that’s really interesting, you know?

There is more I have to say about…languages. I realized the other night that while I may have been taught the basic mechanics of Spanish language, no one ever really encouraged me to do any recreational reading in Spanish, or to use the language outside the classroom. That (and the missionary angle of most of my teachers) has very obviously impacted my regard for it.

Also — I’ve realized that if I learn Spanish instead of Japanese — this would give me much more time to work on my Art. (I’ve also realized that the evangelical pamphlet that someone donated the other day, was likely written to be easy to read. I found a book by Neil Gaiman in the Spanish Children’s section the other day, which I couldn’t well read. I could read it well enough to know that it was likely disturbing.) ;)

Relearning Spanish also doesn’t mean that I won’t ever learn Japanese.

Anyway…it’s almost midnight, and I’ve got an early morning, tomorrow. More has happened…but I should get some rest.

beadwork, craft, embroidery, money, needlework, seed beads, self care, work

Apologies for the rhyming. Hamilton's infected my timing.

Today, I came off of my second day in a row of working eight hours. Not joking, that’s hard. Especially when you skip breaks, and have to get up at 7:30 AM on both days. (At least I didn’t take any shifts that had me getting off after 8.) Then I came back home and had to do things related to work and career (and getting a higher-paying job) which cost a stupid amount of money. Professional Development.

On top of that, I’m going to have to deal with driving school (that is, getting a license). And I didn’t get paid last period because I was not working, I was out and then sick. Before then, I was trying to cram in my hours because I knew I’d have to be off, and that I’d have no income for that period. I also thought I had to fulfill a set number of hours, but they didn’t tell me that I had already far surpassed them.


It’s hard to deal with the beadwork stuff when I barely wear jewelry as it is. Sometimes I intend to. Then I forget to care, and I stop, and my piercings get sensitive again. Actually — now that I think about it — I hadn’t been wearing jewelry to work because of sanitation concerns. Water under the ring, water under the bracelet, earring against the phone, earnut on the floor, necklace with a lanyard over it.

There’s that, and the fact that I keep wearing flannel because it’s so cold. I’m not yet used to mixing-and-matching the genders of my clothes, though I can see the need for another insulating vest which isn’t a puffer. Or, you know…like maybe some pink or mauve button-front shirts. That fit.

Tomorrow, I need to go see someone about the driving stuff. That’s going to be another stressor for the near future. Not to mention that I’m having a mini aging crisis.

Maybe I should be thinking about stuff I can do to de-stress, instead of trying to get all my problems out of the way as quickly as possible. I mean, no one’s really watching me to makes sure I read up on Reader’s Advisory, or finish any particular book, or learn to make a Public Library program. I do have time that can be mine.

Embroidery, watercolor, or — actually — doing something with the beads I have, might help. I guess that when a person works part-time, there is that possibility of doing what one wants to do when off-work.

And I do have an urge to go out and get the tiny boxes I was after, before. My Czech seed beads, in particular…it’s hard to even think of using them, while they’re still strung. I do have some unused boxes. I’m just trying to figure out, now…how exactly I’m going to tell what’s what. Because I have a lot of odd-sized Czech seed beads, from 6/0, maybe up to size 16/0.* It’s harder to tell what is which size, when they aren’t all in a row. But I’ll have to cut them apart to use them, anyway.

It would be good if I could get back to my micro-macrame. The issue is that when designing from scratch, there is a period in there where things just aren’t working. The other issue is that working on one project generally leads to buying more beads to assist. Also…there’s the issue of the inevitable needle sticks and sore pinkies.

I am not sure how much longer I’m going to be beading. After all, the truth is that I don’t know what I’m doing when I’m prioritizing this. And I just bought something way outside of what I had outlined as my interests…but maybe embroidery will be soothing?

Something with needles. For some reason I like sharp precision instruments.

I’m not sure if that’s related to liking colors that I shouldn’t be touching.

IT’S “HAMILTON’S” FAULT, OKAY. Yeah, that one. The rap opera.

*actually, that’s pronounced “six-ought” and “sixteen-ought,” not “six-oh” and “sixteen-oh.” But I ought not think of it.

art, libraries, organization, self care

Priorities, Version 2

This is written in continuation of a prior post from November 1 about current priorities as regards my time and resources.

I’m thinking it may be of use to identify where current evidence suggests my priorities lie, prior to describing where I wish my priorities lay; and a map of how to get from one state, to the other.

  1. Work
  2. Writing
  3. Reading (in English)
  4. Organization
  5. Watercolors
  6. Rest

There are three possibilities I can see coming up which may compete for resources:

  • Driving lessons and practice
  • Ceramics classes/studio time (to start in Spring)
  • Silversmithing classes/studio time (to start in Summer)

I don’t see work reducing in priority too much, but learning to drive will likely cut into that. It’s a skill I need to know which is way overdue. Writing also will likely not reduce too much in priority. I’d like to read more. My focus on organization will likely slow down as things…you know, get organized. I’ve wanted to work on watercolors, more; I’ve also found someone giving free watercolor classes. And rest, well…that will come up as I get exposed to pathogens.

I haven’t been engaging Japanese language study pretty much at all, recently, which makes practice in writing…well…practicing writing wrong. Though I did today, out of nowhere, recall the kanji for “hand”: 手

There is also study for essentially Professional Development which I left off on, and should get back to: particularly, in Reader’s Advisory, Virtual Reference, and Online Searching. After that is done, it would help to start looking at materials for how to conduct Library programs.

I’m thinking the priority schedule will start to look something like this:

  1. Work
  2. Driving lessons and practice
  3. Reader’s Advisory study
  4. Writing (Art experiences, sexuality + gender)
  5. Reading (in English)
  6. Watercolor

I still want to add in Ceramics. I believe this will take time away from work, as my work schedule is likely to be more flexible than the Lab schedule. As the Spring quarter starts, my priorities may look more like this:

  1. Work
  2. Driving practice
  3. Writing
  4. Ceramics
  5. Watercolor

…and that’s mostly because I find I write more meaningfully when I don’t push myself to write. Watercolor may actually fall away if I’m also dealing with Ceramics.

You’ll notice “studying Japanese language” is missing. I’m just not sure where to put it:

  1. Work
  2. Driving practice
  3. Writing
  4. Ceramics
  5. Reading (in English)
  6. nihongo wo benkyou suru (studying Japanese language)
  7. Watercolor

I still feel kinda torn about the Spanish thing.

The other day, someone dropped off a pamphlet in Spanish that I could read well enough to know that it was an evangelical text. While I was happy to be able to decipher this (four years of programming was not wasted), the fact is, my being able to read an evangelical text is not a personal benefit.

Before I read Adolfo Best-Maugard’s A Method for Creative Design (originally composed in Spanish), which in turn was recommended by a teacher of mine (I’m pretty sure I know how she identifies, but I don’t know that I can write the term on — those of you who know what I’m talking about, know), there was nothing I was motivated to read in Spanish language. (I did, however, find an interesting Reference book on Latin American Literature in a nearby library, which piqued my interest.) I suppose that this would be a disappointment to my middle school and high school Spanish teachers, but the fact is that no one exposed us to books in Spanish, other than our textbooks. If my memory’s correct, we might have even read Pablo Neruda in English class, not Spanish — though that sounds too ridiculous to be accurate. I hope it’s not accurate.

I’m trying not to get into politics or religion, at the moment. Though español brings up issues with both, really strongly, and really negatively, for me. In a lot of ways.

If I were only going to use it within the U.S., that would be one thing…but I would expect relations with Latin America to be on the rocks right now.

The problematic parallel to rigidly gendered nouns in Spanish language is the hierarchy inherent to Japanese language. The way one person addresses another, or refers to oneself in context with that other, is dependent on the hierarchical relation between them. Though, I’ve mostly encountered respectful people when I have engaged with people in Japanese-American society. (Kids and teens, when I was the same age, don’t count.)

I guess if I want to see if it’s worth it to learn Spanish, I could reach out and start reading some kids’ materials, or something…I’ve heard that it isn’t best to try and learn multiple languages at the same time.

Just…I don’t want to have wasted those four years! And I’m so close!

It’s also more practical…

art, ceramics, personal, self care, self-publishing, writing

Pen tinkering. Ceramics. Plus the hard stuff.

Last night I was having issues with my new TWSBI ECO stub-nib fountain pen hard-starting and skipping (that is, not writing well). Today I looked up possible reasons…and I think what happened is that the pen had likely rolled in my hand, causing me to write more with one corner of the nib than the other. This, plus the pressure I used to try and get it to write correctly, pushed the nib out of alignment with the feed. I could see it today with my 10x loupe. (I originally got the loupe for Geology classes. This is another occasion on which, I’m glad I never tossed it.)

I nudged everything back into position (this nib and feed are looser than on my initial ECO [a Medium nib], but that’s likely because when I tried to adjust the Medium’s nib and feed, it was dry, thus unlubricated and fragile). We’ll see how it works.

Last night I realized that if I flooded the feed with ink by manually advancing the plunger in the ink reservoir to expel all the air, I could get it to write again. But I really shouldn’t have to do that.

It’s like a puzzle in a pen. Anyhow, that’s just part of what I came here to write about.

As I may have mentioned…we’re getting rid of things over here. Last night as well, M had separated out a bunch of glassware and ceramics from storage, and told me to pick out anything I wanted to keep.

There is a small stoneware vessel, black and gunmetal glazed, which I made in high school…it’s about 4″ wide, maybe 2″ high. I don’t know what I’d use it for, but it’s beautiful. I washed the dust off of it and dried it…and holding it later, still warm from the water, I found another beauty to it: because I made it with my own hands, it nestles down right in my own hands. Still.

Apparently, my hands were fully grown when I made this pot. :)

I wasn’t expecting to find beauty in a tactile form…but once I did, I rescued two of my other pots…a pinch-pot and another which I had thrown, both from high school. This was to remind me of the beauty I could create with my hands.

I’m not in love with the decoration on those two — both of the latter are painted with underglaze and fired with a clear crackle glaze on top. The crackle glaze doesn’t make for a great surface feel. They’re…from early on in my development. But I kept them because they’re good as examples of form. I also kept the black and gunmetal piece because it’s just beautiful.

In the near future, I should be cleared to practice ceramics, again. There’s a place I can go which has a lot of time devoted to ceramic making, and will fire my pieces for me. As the major expenses (and barrier to making) ceramics are in the kiln, wheel, and stable wedging tables…it’s a big help. (Well, I don’t know if the wedging table is really a big expense. I know it’s hard to find something suitable; clay is a fairly sturdy material to be pushing around on top of it.)

So I am hoping to get back into this. Even though it will probably mean having to go back to routinely moisturizing my hands. :) If M and I do both get back into it (she also has taken years of ceramics classes), there’s the possibility of getting a wheel and kiln, ourselves. I know she has thought about it. So have I.

I think, at least, a kiln would make me feel safer than a torch. Though, the same place that does the ceramics, also gives Jewelry classes (both basic beadwork, and Silversmithing). I have a couple of semesters of Silversmithing practice under my belt; it would be interesting to get back into it without worrying about explosions or accidentally burning the building down.

Or maybe I should say, there will be other, more experienced people, around to help prevent those outcomes. And it won’t necessarily be my fault, if it happens. As a third benefit, I’m pretty sure the Fire Department has been called out there, before.

I also, last night, began writing again about gender and sexuality in a hard copy. As a note to myself, it’s in the pink journal…

I made the connection between avoiding making myself vulnerable and the reactions I’ve gotten in the past because I have made myself vulnerable, particularly from M, and also the Internet.

It makes sense not to go into some of this stuff with her. I think she may appreciate it, if I didn’t. She just isn’t the greatest person to talk to about emotions…she’s more action-oriented, and doesn’t know what to do if I’m talking to her about something she can do nothing to fix. She also is quick to snap to judgment…even if she doesn’t understand the situation. I don’t want to be exposing new tender baby shoots of ideas to that.

I had thought that when I had finally figured out my identity, that was it; I was done; I could stop working on it and obsessing over it, and move on with the rest of my life. But, in reality: the story doesn’t end when you figure out who you are. It is an answer, but life goes on, and along with it, the story continues.

And sometimes…what you think you’ve figured out, isn’t the whole story. (Such as: “I’ve figured out who I am; now how do I interact with the world?”) Or the answer isn’t sufficient to last you your entire life. You find out that the categories you used to figure yourself out as a youth were flawed, or you realize that the way a person looks has little to do with the person they are beneath (but much to do with their experience), which revolutionizes the way you think about people. Or you realize maybe you can be attracted to a range of people, despite being celibate. Or maybe gender isn’t always (or perhaps, ever) the prime qualifying category you love in others.

It’s just that way.

At this point, I kind of wonder about the efficacy of working in a fictional format…as versus a blog one, or a semi-autobiographical one. It’s one of those things you’ll want to know before you post anything online. :) Basically, posting it verbatim online counts as publication, and will take First Publication Rights away from others, which are generally what traditional Publishers seek to acquire from an author before publishing a work. They tend to want to be the first to bring it to the world — though there are exceptions.

Of course…there’s also the question of whether one wants to publish their work in book format, or in ebook or PDF format, or as part of a website or blog. That’s a really big question, though; not one which I feel confident about tackling in public, at this point in time. What I will say is that…I’m leaning towards the blog format, right now. Tentatively.

I know that it’s easier for me to write articles, than it is to think about tackling a long, integral whole that I keep secret until some future time at which I sell my intellectual rights to the work. It’s fairly certain that I won’t make a fantastic amount of money off of it, but I didn’t get into writing to do so.

It’s more important to me to reach people who need to hear from my experience and perspective, to help them figure out where they stand in this whole diverse world. Because it really is diverse; moreso than I ever could have really imagined, as a youth.

color, personal, psychology, writing

Writing with a purpose

I’ve gotten to the point where it’s hard to look at my blog and see that it hasn’t been updated for days. Some of that work is going offline — a lot of it, actually — but still…I feel isolated without my writings. It’s not like I can carry all my journals and pens around with me everywhere, though. In addition to the bulk, I don’t want to lose it. But I’m one of those freaks who thinks information is valuable.

I’m kind of wondering if I should start writing about risky things (intimacy, sexuality, gender variance, emotional pain, trauma, fears), in order to jump-start the content portion of my writing. I’m thinking that I keep concentrating on my handwriting and the form of my words, just to keep writing about anything, and because it isn’t emotionally vulnerable. I started off this post that way, and eventually wandered off into gender topics…

That is, I think I’m avoiding vulnerability, and that’s why it’s difficult to read fiction (I recently started reading Middlesex, 16 years after I bought it, which later incited crying from some childhood memory) or paint (which may force me to acknowledge an inconvenient gender and sexuality) or write (which will allow me to express parts of myself I’m not comfortable with and which don’t fit into my self-concept).

Of course, I can see someone about this, at the end of the month.

It’s just weird, though: getting to the age where taking risks is actually…risky (like, “can affect my livelihood”), is a different thing than being young and not knowing any better. I suppose if I’m lucky, I’ll make it to the age where I can be one of the cool old ladies who doesn’t care what anyone thinks.

From what I can tell…at work, it is being acknowledged that I’m different and that it’s OK to be different. I kind of straddle the line between butch lesbian and queer transgender male (not necessarily man-identified: and note, I am using the term “queer” in the U.S. reclaimed and subcultural sense [meaning not-cisgender and/or not-heterosexual] — not any pejorative sense with which it is used elsewhere in the world), which…well, it’s the only time in my life that I’ve been able to really not-hide that. Also, not-define it, which means not-over-defining it, meaning that I get that leeway to be who I am and show who I am, instead of trying to put it into words which inherently do violence to my being.

I’d learned not to talk about this stuff, online. I used to, but that was back when I didn’t have a community or support system. I do realize I could transition, you know, take testosterone. But there are more drawbacks than positives to that. If I were 23 again and didn’t think I was going to live to 30, so I would only be living with bi-weekly injections for 7 years, it might be an option. But the clear point is that I don’t consider myself a man or a woman (though I’m probably closer to the latter than the former). I’ve also passed the date by which I thought I would be gone, and am busy building the rest of my life.

Taking testosterone means coming out to everyone, and changing in front of everyone. And I won’t even be a man at the end, because that depends on the psyche, not the body. I could see doing it if I were transsexual, but I’m not. And it still won’t give me what I want. I just want to be fully male; I don’t want to be in-between, and I don’t want a feminized mind in a body that makes people expect me to be a man. Nor do I want my body torn up by surgery, because the options I have leave a lot to be desired.

The option I have — if I want to be fully myself — is to take testosterone and be seen as an openly gender-nonbinary trans* male. The thing is, “nonbinary” is only understood by a small fraction of the population, right now. There is even hostility within the trans* community towards nonbinary people (some trans* people who consider themselves fully men or fully women resent us for existing both because they can’t understand us, and because they see it as making things harder for them), so that also takes away a source of support.

I’ve been doing some experiments with color and handwriting as relates to my pens. I’ve found that I have to give myself permission to like things (like colors) that are seen as traditionally feminine. When I told M this, she shot back with incredulity: “You mean you don’t like things just because you see them as feminine?” I had to clarify that the case was more that I had been pushing those things away because I didn’t like how I was treated when I was associated with them. But I found I liked some of those things, anyway. And so I was giving myself permission to acknowledge it. (Also part of this thought stream, but one which I’m not sure I ever got to voice to her: I was acknowledging that I questioned whether cis women [as versus, say, men] ever had to give themselves permission to be feminine; this could be construed as evidence against my being cis.)

She seemed to accept that.

What I’m learning from M is that I think she’s gender-blind. She told me that there was no masculine or feminine except in my mind. I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. I’m also pretty sure that what she says doesn’t override what I think just because of her relation to me. In the ink-color experiments…there are some colors which have been designed to be gendered either masculine or feminine. Like literally, designed to evoke that point. Intentionally. I can tell. I don’t know that she can (or at least, that she can acknowledge that she can).

But what I’ve found is that I like the brighter colors better, roughly speaking. There are some that are terrible regardless of gender (by, for example, being unreadable); but the colors I thought I wouldn’t like, now look better than some of the alternatives. Particularly, Pilot’s Tsukushi — a dirt-brown color — I’ve found that I basically hate. I got it because I wanted to see what it would look like or feel like to write in a more subdued or neutral tone. I assumed it was aimed at men, whereas another color — Murasaki-Shikibu — obviously was aimed at women, both from its hue (an intense violet) and its naming (for a female author of the Heian era, the latter of which is noted as a brief time of peace in Japan’s history, and widely [among Japanese] considered feminine).

I also have been on a pink and red kick, because as long as I’m female, that means that the pink and red are allotted to me via my culture and ethnic background. For me, being seen as a female person (女の人) in Japanese culture is different than being seen as a “girl” in popular U.S. culture (which often feels dehumanizing and infantilizing to me). It’s like I prefer being referred to as a, “daughter,” than as a, “son,” but bristle at “girl,” and sometimes feel the need to qualify, “woman.” (“If you just mean by that, ‘adult female,’ then yes, I am an adult female [without implying anything about what an adult female is or should be].”) “Boy,” and, “man,” aren’t even on the table anymore.

If you had looked at me fifteen years ago, I would have been way more conflicted about liking pink. I would have been more conflicted all around, really. I also would have had a lot of shame around being gender-nonbinary, because I had known very few nonbinary people. At the time, I wanted to be a man. I now know that isn’t going to happen, simply because if it could happen, it likely would already be happening. Some things I just have to make peace with. And, you know, it helps to root out some of that internalized misogyny, too.

I wouldn’t call what I have been doing, with the inks and pens, calligraphy. It really isn’t fancy; I haven’t designed it that way. But I have at least three different handwriting styles that I can see, which appear depending on whatever writing instrument I’m holding. I have, that is, a different script depending on whether I’m using a Fine or Extra-Fine nib, a Flex nib, or a Broad or Stub nib. I might also have a different hand with a gel pen, though that struck me as a surprise when I saw how I was writing (about a month ago). Having different hands with different tools might be apparent just from logic, but I didn’t realize until last night how heavily the tools influenced my letter-forms. (Might there be something to be said for context-sensitive adaptation?)

In addition, for some inks, I’ve needed to find the right paper. There is a cross-grid notebook I have; like a dot-grid, but with little crosses instead of dots or lines. These crosses are distracting with my normal (Fine to Medium and Flex nib) pens, but they really fall into the background with a broad or stub nib. As well, the paper doesn’t absorb the ink from the Murasaki-Shikibu-loaded stub nib pen, so the color remains vibrant.

I’m running low on time, here. In another entry, or in the future, maybe, in my notes — I should get back to the question of whether I’m actually asexual or just celibate. The truth is that I don’t know, however:

There’s just a lot of stuff that comes up when you’re female and people think you are sexually active (and not with a man), which can be sidestepped when you aren’t, and have no intention to be. But maybe I need to look at issues of guilt around being harangued as, “lesbian,” as a youth (like any of those kids knew what they were talking about — I doubt even most adults know anything about the content of their hate speech). That is…it’s very easy for someone who is female and attracted to women, to be made to feel like a predator because they’re attracted to someone who is a woman…whereas, if one is male, it’s supposed to be a good thing, I’m thinking. Even if it actually is predatory (or otherwise stupid) behavior.

That kind of polarization is one of the things I grappled with as a very young adult, who was beginning to realize that gender diversity existed. I haven’t dealt with that so much, recently. However…the question of whether I’ve identified as asexual (and lived as celibate) because of not wanting to be seen as a disgusting creep, is one worth exploring. Maybe not here, just yet; but, still.

I mean, I seriously know what it’s like to have men whom I’m in no way interested in or attracted to, try to force their way into my life. If I reverse that, maybe I can see why some people have responded as they have, to me. Only, it’s like one in 15 will actually even have the potential to be interested, if I’m remembering that figure correctly…

Then, there’s the question of how much the exterior really matters…

art media, organization, painting

Seeking myself out

Today was spent eliminating excess — and organizing remaining — art materials. I also finally made it into the office to view and organize the altar area; this led to looking over the bookshelves and attempting to see what parts of those shelves I used, and what I didn’t. Like, things I would read, as versus things that were taking up space. Did I know I had so many craft books? (No. No, I did not.)

I’m still not sure what to do about the books I’ve made extensive notes within. Do I just keep them for the rest of my life?

There are a lot of books I want to read, that I just haven’t. I haven’t had time to, or I haven’t included the memory of them in the floor plan in my head. :) I also have almost a full shelf of books for studying nihongo, to read.

My big fear is that I’m going to end up talking like Siri because of learning mostly from books. There is a pitch/intonation thing going on in Japanese language which it doesn’t seem people think is very relevant; basically you learn it by listening and mimicking. One of my undergrad textbooks tried to demarcate intonation with symbols…but that wasn’t easy to decipher.

My fear is that I’m going to have to travel to the City to take classes so that I can learn the correct way to speak. That’s at least 45 minutes away, several days a week. But, I should remember, there is also the option of a Japanese Cultural Center. No, I didn’t intend to rhyme.

I know I keep going back and forth between Japanese and Spanish. Basically, Spanish would be a lot easier for me because I took four years of it as a youth. It would also be more useful, where I currently live. But there are significant and personal cultural reasons for me to learn Japanese, despite functionality being much more distant than facility in Spanish. It’s kind of like questioning whether to do the easy and useful thing which I have personal (post-colonial) psychological barriers to; as versus the hard thing that connects me with a deeper understanding of my cultural heritage, which I’ve wanted to do since I was a child.

Today I was cleaning out my art stuff. We’re basically getting rid of what we no longer use. I’ve marked most of my pastels for the Center for Re-Use, though I kept some of the collection…the ones that didn’t seem too dried out, and which I knew were relatively safe. These are Conté, Carré, and Prismacolor NuPastels where it comes to the hard pastels; and Rembrandt soft pastels, plus a couple of open-stock Blick soft pastels.

When I say, “dried-out,” I mean that I’ve had a pastel stop being able to draw, incise the paper instead, and literally shatter like a plate on being dropped, before. It’s likely because the pastel I’m thinking of (a Rembrandt, which I consider a less-risky company, though some may differ; there are issues of potential contamination of carbon black, and the ever-present Titanium White scare) is kaolin-based; kaolin is a form of clay. It would explain why those pastels were so incredibly soft when I got them (touching them would make them draw on you), and why they eventually stopped working. I did find today, though, that if they’ve been stored inside a plastic bag, they’re less likely to die.

There are also some charcoals and General’s White Charcoal in my “Dusties” kit (they make dust), though I’m still paranoid about not knowing what “General’s White Charcoal” is made of. I don’t think it’s charcoal. So far as I know, it’s a trade secret. It doesn’t help the paranoia to know that Flake White (lead-based) is still in use as a pigment in oil painting. So far as I know, though, Flake White would be a warmer shade of white than is the White Charcoal.

I also let that Blue Pumpkin nib which I used to test black inks (and a white ink), the other day, soak in pen cleaning solution. I wasn’t prepared to see all the stuff that came off of it! (I put it in one of the little clear polystyrene vials I got for bead storage.) But I do know now that the white India Ink I have (Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay) is basically the most suitable thing in my present arsenal where it comes to white highlights or corrections over marker.

Beyond that, it’s the most useful thing I have to draw in white, with high detail, on a dark surface (I used Strathmore Artagain black paper). I just haven’t tried it on translucent marker paper yet. The paper or board used as a surface for those potential marker (or ink) drawings, will likely limit my options.

I also have Daler-Rowney Pro (Process) White, but that stuff is so thick (basically a paste) that it needs to be stirred and diluted before use. I’m thinking maybe that was intentional (as regards monetary value and compact packaging), but I wasn’t expecting it not to work out of the package with either a dip pen or a brush. Of course, maybe I should just treat it as a watercolor paint, scoop some out to work with, and then work water into it with a paintbrush. That seems to be the most logical next option, if I’m trying to test all my white inks and paints for opacity (other than known Zinc White, because I know Zinc isn’t opaque).

That, in turn, is happening because I’ve realized that white acrylic ink markers lack precision and opacity where it comes to being used as correcting pens. I still haven’t tried the needle-tip Posca that I’ve seen, but…well, markers. They aren’t as versatile as paints or inks used with brushes or dip nibs; at least, not without blending.

I’ve also found that a size 0 round paintbrush isn’t that small. At least, sometimes. But my 2/0 (two sizes below 0) is freakishly small. No, I don’t know if paintbrush sizes are standardized.

Anyhow…I’m still not certain what’s happening with the acrylic colors. I could paint in acrylic; it’s just that I’m not driven to do so, relatively. The fact also remains that I don’t have a wide variety of brushes to use with acrylics (a lot of long, narrow flats, some fans, and some filberts, plus the gesso brushes)…though I do like hog-bristle better than most of the synthetics I’ve used (some of which I outright hate — I mean, they squeak and chatter across the surface).

The problem in my case is that I don’t like using stiff (or blunt) brushes…and stiff brushes are needed to stand up to heavy-body paints. Most of our acrylics are heavy-body, whereas I’m known for using even heavy-body acrylics so that they appear to be transparent watercolors. I guess that should tell me something.

The question for me is whether or not getting a wider variety of brushes would help me transition back to canvas and acrylics. I’m leaning towards, “no.” At the same time, M and I have accumulated a lot of acrylic paint over the years. On top of that, I have no way of knowing which of those tubes are structurally sound, without trying to open them and potentially having a chemical spill on my hands — literally. (Liquitex tube paints, in particular, I know to have lids and necks that will sometimes fail. Like the cap unit will peel away from the rest of the tube. Then again, I have no idea how old those tubes were, individually.) That means that I have no idea how much usable paint I actually have.

If there were anything which could draw me back to painting in acrylics, it would probably be the chance to work with opaque colors, in large scale, and to work out an underdrawing and underpainting before ever beginning — and to edit, in-process. There’s also the chance to save a canvas by just gessoing over the whole thing if I don’t like what I have.

But I can work with opaque colors by using gouache; I can use large brushes (and large papers) in watercolor. The rest of it seems particular to working with canvas or panel, gesso, charcoal/pastel, easel, and acrylic glazing medium. I know the process.

I guess that — like learning Spanish language (I had a choice of Spanish or French; I would rather have had a choice between Japanese, Cantonese, or Mandarin, the latter two of which, I could actually use) — is another one of the things that I did because I had to, not because I particularly had a great desire to. It was a learning experience.

The thing that really bothered me when I was taking painting classes was the fact that the act of painting would basically grind down my hog-bristle brushes. I’m thinking this was from the marble dust in the gesso, or from painting on rough plywood panel. It’s something I haven’t experienced with any other type of paint — though granted, I’ve only worked with water-based paints, not oils.

I was told to save the good brushes for oils, because oils don’t do the same thing. The wear on the brushes could also have been from the fact that I was using student-grade gesso. I don’t think I’ve ever used professional-level gesso. I’ve seen it. I just don’t think I’ve ever bought any — with the possible exception of once purchasing Golden. Not sure.

The other thing about getting rid of a lot of this stuff…a lot of it is about prioritization and considering who I actually am, and what I actually want. Not in an abstract way, and maybe not even in a way that compromises anything to the vicissitudes of present reality…though I’m getting abstract.

What I mean is that I’m fairly certain I know what I want. I also know where wanting those things gets inconvenient. From age, I know that I’m unlikely to stop wanting what it is that I want, just because it’s inconvenient; rather, I’ll likely end up halfway chasing those inconvenient things for years on end (like buying book after book on learning Japanese, as a symbol to myself, and not reading them), while I waste time and energy and brain space paying lip service to what the world tells me I should want, instead.

So I should just do what I want, and be who I am. That’s the fastest route to attainment.


art, art media, color, illustration, painting

Watercolors and testing and pigments and inks

I’ve been doing experiments with watercolors…and, I think, I’m on the right track where it comes to what I want to be doing. I’m much happier with inks and wet media than with pencils (I still haven’t been brave enough to break back into the pastels, due to the dust factor). I’ve also been experimenting with inks and “transparent watercolors” (specifically the Ecoline brand, which I had been lusting after, probably for over a year).

The Ecoline stuff hasn’t been going wonderfully, but it’s good that I know that there are more suitable materials than this (for me) out there. I’ve been looking at transparent liquid watercolor (which I assume are aniline dyes) as a sort of middle ground between markers and painting. Right now, I think that’s pretty accurate, and is likely the reason why there are so many pre-mixed colors. I still haven’t extensively tested Dr. Ph. Martin’s Radiant Liquid Watercolor, or their Hydrus. At this point, I’m not entirely certain I will. These liquid things, I’ve read, tend to fade more easily than pigmented paints. Of course, that doesn’t matter if you’re working for reproduction.

If I do get back into comic, or, more pointedly: illustration work, the Ecoline is suited. It’s reliably transparent (at least, with the six colors I’ve been using), so any dark line work won’t become clouded by overpainting. (I also have tried Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star Hi-Carb India Ink with this, which I can get into later. Long story short: it works better with Ecoline than Blick Black Cat, due to the fact that Black Cat repels water and the Ecoline.) However, when using the Ecoline colors like regular watercolors, they are incredibly thin. I believe this is due to the amount of water carried in my brush — I didn’t dry it after rinsing and before dipping it into the dye on my palette, so the color became diluted.

I would probably want to use one of those palettes with tons of tiny wells (I should photograph this if I still have mine; I’m not sure if my meaning is coming across) if I used this for illustration work, as well: the “liquid” part of this means that the dyes really…they really get messed up if one is dipping around and mixing colors, and rinsing the paintbrush and not drying it off afterward. Worse so, than regular tube or pan watercolors. There’s just no going back once you get cyan in your magenta. It just isn’t happening. :) Just kiss that magenta goodbye and say hello to violet. Seriously.

That may, in fact, be why the Ecoline watercolors are so varied as to the formulations in their bottles: they may be more of a pain to mix than bargained for. I am, however, now curious about their effect if used as drawing inks…I have a couple of old bamboo drawing pens which I can try. Of course, though…at least one is stained with sepia. I’d probably want to separate out what I dip that pen into.

So, right now, the back-to-school sales are in effect; I used the opportunity to purchase a high-end palette (which I’ve wanted since at least 2016) at something like 60% off, which…I mean, it’s nice, but do I need it in addition? I’ve been using a Mijello palette recently — it’s where all my dried paints are — and have found that the position of the paints may not matter as much as I thought it did (so long as I know what went, where). It’s also nice to have a well that is at least 3/4″ wide, as I can fit a wide wash brush in there. Comparatively, I’d have to get an empty full-size pan to do the same, and I’m not convinced the experience would be similar, due to the corners and depth of standard pans.

Have I just grown to appreciate the Mijello’s pan design over the organization of my colors? Possibly. It helps that I haven’t painted en plein air in a very, very long time. However: the design of the Mijello also keeps it from being convenient as a plein air palette, so it’s like a, “chicken or egg,” thing.

Of course, if I take out the Winsor & Newton (W&N) Burnt Umber rock which keeps knocking around in there and getting dried-up Burnt Umber pieces in my precious clean yellows…it is likely to be more appealing to use. W&N Burnt Umber separates from its well after it has dried and rattles around inside the closed palette, hence why I call it a “rock.” I hear that Viridian does the same thing (which is why I have four different versions), though I can’t remember if it has yet happened to me. It would have been in a very old palette, like my Mijello Silver Nano. I discovered that having wells on the roof of a palette which is bordering on non-stick (it’s anti-microbial, hence “Silver Nano”), doesn’t work that well.

Recently, I was able to obtain a Da Vinci Cobalt Blue which disperses much better (to my tastes) than the Winsor & Newton Cobalt Blue I had before, which had basically made me not want to use the pigment. Like at all. Or ever again.

The Da Vinci Cobalt Blue, though…when mixed with Ultramarine Violet or Ultramarine Pink, it makes really lovely soft violets (and I rarely use the word, “lovely”). These violets are much softer than Dioxazine Violet, which is so powerful that it can be difficult for me to use.

I’ve just now discovered the Da Vinci paints. I’ve actually…just recently realized that it isn’t to my benefit to have brand loyalty where it comes to any one tube watercolor manufacturer. Paints vary in quality, but they vary within paint brands — like M. Graham & Co. Ultramarine Pink vs M. Graham & Co. Viridian; not to mention between lines within brands — like W&N Cotman (student grade) vs. W&N Professional; as well as between paint brands, like Sennelier vs. Daniel Smith vs. Da Vinci.

So Da Vinci and Daniel Smith could both put out their own versions of Viridian and Prussian Blue, and one may judge the Daniel Smith Prussian Blue to be far superior to the Da Vinci (or indeed, any other Prussian Blue one has tried), while the Da Vinci Viridian is far superior to the Daniel Smith Viridian (or any other Viridian one has tried). I don’t know exactly why this happens; I just know that it does. But one of my artist friends did tell me a while back, that paint consistencies differed, depending on the pigments in them.

So…I am not certain there is any way to really tell what paints one likes, other than trying them out. I did go and buy like four different types of Prussian Blue and Viridian from different lines, so I indeed can (and likely should) show you my results. Viewing that may save the reader here money in the long run, though unfortunately, I didn’t check for blogger reviews of these paints, before going out to try them. So now I have like three extra tubes of each color, having picked out the paint that I love the most.

Unfortunately, I still don’t know how to record and upload video, so I can’t show you how the colors race away from the brush (wet-in-wet) with each of the colors I like. That doesn’t happen, with the others. It’s something I look for, which doesn’t happen predictably; and I’m not even certain yet if it happens repeatably, with the exact same pigment, manufacturer, and paint line.

I should send the other paints on for re-use. After I record my experiments, and make sure I have all my names in order. I’m sure that someone is going to appreciate the fact that they’ll be able to at least try out the paints for free. It’s not like they’re awful or unusable; they just aren’t things that I prefer. Having good paints just greatly enhances the experience of painting, for me.

I’m also getting more relaxed around the toxin factor of working with these paints. I just need to keep myself clean, and I’ll be OK. Today I went and replaced an Aureolin (Cobalt Yellow) despite the fact that I know it’s very toxic, because nothing else I’ve tried, mixes greens quite like it. Of course, I know there must be at least 9 or so different commonly used chemical formulations for yellows in watercolors. I assume they all have their own different mixing properties (and precautions…which is why I don’t use Nickel Azo Yellow — I’m already sensitized to Nickel).

There is also the fact that I’m using Chromium colors as well as other Cobalt salts, in other places in my palette. Both Chromium and Cobalt are heavy metals, and toxic. I have historically stayed away from the Cadmiums (generally red through yellow, though I’ve seen “Cadmium Green”), though at this point I might be getting a little less paranoid about them. Basically, any heavy metal salt I can absorb through my skin (that is, any water-soluble salt with a heavy metal component) is something I don’t want to deal with. Something I have to ingest to be poisoned by, though? I am a clean person to the point of dysfunction. And I have at least one nail brush. I’ll be fine.

I also spent years trying to find suitable replacements for the Cadmium family of pigments, which led me to the Pyrrole colors (these can be genuinely awesome, though inconsistently named [“Pyrrol Scarlet” and “Scarlet Pyrrol” are two different pigments — and two different hues — in two different brands]) and the Hansa colors (M. Graham’s Hansa Yellow is still one of my favorite paints). But I’ve spent, literally, years talking about Cadmium-based paints…right now, though, I feel like I should do more research before getting back into the whole paranoia thing I had before.

It’s kind of like, if you know what it does and how it gets into you, then just don’t do things that would let it get into you. This is why I have been wary of the pastels: it’s much harder to contain dust. I think it’s also why I’m getting better with the paints: at least with the paints, nothing gets airborne or ground into my skin. Also: paints are mixable. And the essence of paint, for me at least, is color. As someone who is enamored with color and has been frustrated with contact points which I can’t change, it seems to be a good medium.

I mentioned the Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star Hi-Carb ink, earlier in this post. It’s…really, pretty great. Waterproof, doesn’t move under water or Ecoline. (I didn’t care enough to try Copics.) It also doesn’t repel Ecoline, which is what the Black Cat, did. I haven’t yet tried it with the tube watercolors, and I’m seriously not even sure that I should…but if the goal is to do my own thing with the art (and stop deprecating myself for not being like other artists), I might try it.

In the coming days, I’m hoping to get some of this stuff photographed or scanned so that you can see what I’m talking about; just words, can’t get everything across. In particular, I should show you those Viridian and Prussian Blue tests, though I’m going to do them over again. And no, it will not be on Arches paper. ;) Though I have some, now. I have some, and I have realized that it’s worth working with correctly, so I got some kraft tape and a soaking vat and some sponges and an impermeable board, to properly stretch the paper. Time to get serious.

Disclaimer: No one paid or otherwise compensated me to write this. I got nothing free. What you do with this information is your responsibility, and I gain nothing personally from it.