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…

art, art media, comics, illustration

Ink and nib testing.

Well, I did it. I went out and got some more Illustration paper, this time with Non-Repro-Blue lines (also called Non-Photo Blue, as they aren’t — or, weren’t — supposed to show up in scans, though with modern scanners, who knows); and Canson Bristol (Vellum) — the latter of which is supposed to be better for the use of watercolors in illustration. I also used the raw potato method to successfully eat off the lacquer coating on the outside of the Tachikawa nibs I recently obtained (a sampler set of 5) — though I also have a mirror-like Nikko set of 5 to which I can compare them.

Apparently, you just stick the nib into the potato past the cutout portion and let it sit there for 15 minutes. Longer than 15, and the Internet states that the nibs will start to rust.

I gave them a quick rinse and dry, each, then got to work. I tested the following nibs in this session:

Copic Multiliners are very precise, with little line variation.
  • Brause Blue Pumpkin nib
  • Tachikawa:
    • Spoon nib
    • Japanese nib
    • G nib
    • School nib
    • Mapping nib (hard)

I then tested these nibs out by writing and drawing on Illustration paper, with four different inks:

  • Blick Black Cat Waterproof India Ink
  • Tachikawa Jet Black ink
  • Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay Black India Ink
  • Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star Hi-Carb India Ink

…though I quickly surmised that of the nibs I had, I could see the most use out of the Blue Pumpkin nib, the G nib (both of which have relatively high ink capacity and relatively heavy, easily expressive line) and the Mapping nib (which has a low ink capacity and is on par — almost — with my Copic Multiliner 0.05, which is one size above the tiniest they make [which is 0.03]). The major difference between the Mapping nib and the fine Multiliners is the fact that you get much less line variation with the Multiliners. There isn’t much variation in the Mapping nib, either — but it’s noticeably there, in comparison. The Mapping nib is also subtly thicker when pressure is applied, in order to get that effect.

Out of all of these, I feel that the Black Cat and the Bombay inks allow the most easily expressive lines (though Tachikawa ink is good as well, particularly for me, with the G nib), though after the first go-round with all 6 nibs, I did just start using the Pumpkin, G, and Mapping nibs. The Black Star Hi-Carb ink would be great…but it’s thick, and still rather glossy, even after drying.

It also dries very quickly, and is difficult to remove from nibs with water, paper towel and Q-Tip, and rubbing. (Yes, I know that I can accidentally work-harden spring steel [making it brittle] by rubbing it. I didn’t want to give these a dunk in pen cleaner, though.) I also cannot really think of a good way to clean stuck-on, dried ink out of the inside of the (hollow) Mapping nib, without using pen cleaner, or one of those cone-shaped brushes you use to get food and debris out from within tooth gaps. Which…now that I mention it, is a good idea.

Because of the difficult cleanup, and the fact that the Bombay performed just as well, if not better than the Hi-Carb, I’d lean away from the Black Star and towards the Bombay (which has also been easier to source, for me). The drawback to both is needing to dispense the ink through an (included) eyedropper, onto the nib.

The Tachikawa ink was just as black and bold in the G and Pumpkin nibs, but its bottle has a much larger mouth and lower ink level, which makes it easier to dip the pen in there without dirtying the nib holder. It also dries matte, not glossy. The drawback to the Tachikawa Jet Black ink is that it’s not easy to find, though it can be sourced online.

Again, the major drawback of the Blick Black Cat ink is its lack of viscosity; it runs off the nib quickly (and also dries very quickly), meaning you have to reload it more often than any of the rest of these — though it may be on par with the Bombay ink, here. The upshot of Black Cat is that it’s easy to find and it comes in potentially huge quantities (I think I have a quart, which I’ve dispensed into a tiny watertight screw-top jar to dip into [I had to buy this, separately]). I can also dilute it and use it for tonal washes over the top of dried ink lineart, which is a nice bonus.

There are some issues with unevenness of tone with the Black Cat in my last test, however, which could be due to a number of things: too much water in the brush; not having let the paper absorb water first (to paint wet-on-wet instead of wet-on-dry); using a cheap synthetic brush instead of a natural-fiber one or a “thirsty” synthetic that doesn’t dump out its color all at once (like the Princeton Neptune line — which I haven’t yet tried, though I will); or the unevenness could be considerably attributed to the paper quality (and absorbency) itself.

The good part of having tested these four inks above, however, is that I now know that they are all waterproof after a relatively short time (what felt like less than an hour). I went over my tests with clear water, and then various black wet media (all diluted to grey with water and painted wet-on-dry on Canson Fanboy Illustration paper, with an inexpensive flat synthetic brush):

  • Ecoline Black “liquid watercolor”
  • Yasutomo Sumi Ink
  • Blick Black Cat Waterproof India Ink
  • Holbein (HWC) Lamp Black watercolor (tube)
  • Winsor & Newton (W&N) Mars Black watercolor (tube)
  • Pilot Iroshizuku Take-Sumi fountain pen ink
Sample swatch with colors in the same order as listed above.
Drawing Ink: Black Star Hi-Carb. Nib: Brause Blue Pumpkin (Steno 361).

I’m going to have to do some more experimenting with these colorants, as I had significant issues with uneven water flow as the media dried. This was most pronounced with the Yasutomo Sumi ink, the Blick Black Cat, the Holbein Lamp Black, the W&N Mars Black.

This majorly leaves the Ecoline and the Pilot Take-Sumi (first and last color, above), which both lean relatively blue…and may be dyes, not pigments. I know that the Pilot ink should not be water-resistant. I’m not sure about the Ecoline, yet: I still have yet to go over a painted area with a wet brush to try to lift or dissolve the grey.

On top of this, the Ecoline and the Take-Sumi, are both pretty much transparent. As for whether they’re archival…I don’t know. That would take some long-term testing, to figure out.

As I look at this, the Ecoline (with my current screen settings) looks most true-to-life, without adjusting the color using an image editor. The Ecoline also promises a better way to get consistent coloration between print and digital, as it is dispensed drop by drop. Watercolors, on the other hand…are much harder to predict.

This scan missed a lot of subtleties in the original image, particularly dark but non-black tones, and light tones.

What I will say is that I eventually got my smoothest color laydown in this batch of trials with the Holbein Lamp Black, once I had gone through one pass with my paintbrush, then re-wet the bristles and painted back onto the paper. I’ve got to remember that. I’m not sure why it’s less textured than the W&N Mars Black, especially as Holbein watercolors are formulated to hold brushstrokes; I just know I got the flattest color dispersion, here. To me, that’s something I’m presently aiming for.

However: I had only tested the two watercolors (at the time of this post).

Increased visibility + increased texture with Dodge & Burn.

I am surprised that the light grey of the HWC wasn’t fully picked up by the scanner. Using the Dodge & Burn tool in GIMP 2 did make the grey a bit more visible, but also increased graininess in the image. I can only use it very sparingly without seeing a bunch of digital artifacts.

The other thing I can say is that all four of the inks which I made lines with, initially repelled pretty much all of the colorants I put on top of them. That’s likely due to the fact that they’re waterproof. However, the glows around the lines self-resolved prior to drying, for most samples; with the Black Cat and the Tachikawa Jet Black inks faring the worst in the long run.

Updates intended to come to the blog (not all in this post):

  • Painting wet-on-dry with various colorant media on Fanboy Illustration paper
  • Painting wet-on-wet with same
  • Testing water-resistance/liftability of different colorants on Illustration paper
  • Experimenting with “thirstier” and natural-hair brushes — is there an improvement?
  • Preparing and testing other nibs (Nikko, Speedball, any other Brause, etc.)
  • Testing archival qualities of all six colorants (should take a while)
  • Testing Canson Vellum Bristol Board
  • Testing Strathmore Bristol Board
  • Testing watercolor papers with pen & ink…

I’m not getting any kickbacks or compensation for doing any of this. It just interests me.

art, art media, illustration, self-publishing

I actually drew tonight…a lot…but no upload yet

What’s interesting is that almost as soon as I start developing material, and it starts looking good (and workable), I also start wondering if it is okay to show works-in-progress or developmental artifacts. The answer to that question may lie in whether I’m wishing to self-publish on a small scale, thus maintain total creative control over the venture; or to go to an established Publisher with the story.

As I doubt this story would be easy to sell to a publisher, however (its main audience is niche [gender and sexual minorities, particularly if they’re also People of Color, also particularly if they have experience within transgender circles…all of which will probably make this hard to sell — or a blockbuster]), that’s a step forward in freeing me up to display my work on it. If I did show my work on it and then later wanted to publish with a Publishing House, that could complicate contract negotiations.

If I showed my work, however, and then self-published…I could build up recognition prior to release. And possibly earn more using POD (Print On Demand) than I would earn with a Publisher. Plus, I’d keep my rights…which is kind of in line with writing the script and doing the art, myself.

So it isn’t…a wholly negative thing, to show the work. Especially not, if showing it helps me produce more of it (or if showing it lets people know I’m working on it, and they get interested). While I’m trying to forget the emphasis on images as proof of existence, I grew up with that. Unfortunately. :)

The major barrier here would be that if I self-published, it wouldn’t count if I wanted to use the book(s) as evidence to be admitted to a Creative Writing MFA program. But do I really need that? In any case, doing the work — any work at all, even if (or maybe especially if) self-guided — is probably better training than taking classes on doing the work, at this point. (I mean, seriously; I have one Master’s degree; unless I want to be an Academic Librarian, I can stop the formal education process, and get back to work!)

An MFA is, especially, a lot of money to invest, and I already did a BA in the subject. I might essentially be repeating classes, that is. Getting back in would majorly be to make Publishing contacts…which I could do another way (or probably other ways, in the plural).

The MFA in Creative Writing also doesn’t really matter unless I do go into Publishing or into Teaching, as versus Librarianship. In Publishing, I might not need it (with a BA in Creative Writing, and an MLIS, already). In Teaching? I have never tried Teaching.

Just a bit ago, I thought up the fact that I could try to lead free Creative Writing seminars within a Library position. The idea of helping people who love to read find their own voices (instead of just reading the words of others), is alluring. But I have no practical experience, and I don’t know if I’d enjoy the reality of it.

I’ve always been amazed at how some teachers can find positive bits to comment on, on the spot, after anyone from their class reads their writing aloud. I’m not sure I could do that; at the same time, I don’t want to crush someone who is proud of what they can do, just because I can see things to work on. (There are always things to work on, especially if what is written is just a first or second draft.)

Of course, there’s the Iowa Writer’s Workshop…but, it’s Iowa. (I have a hard time with cultural isolation. It was hard enough enduring Central California. And that was California.) I attended undergrad in San Francisco, and even there, the English program’s conservatism (as versus the Creative Writing program’s comparative brilliance) tried me. I don’t know what was up with the English Department, seriously. Whoever was hiring must have just had their own vision for what the place should be, which didn’t align with mine.

But I’ve experienced cultural isolation (if not institutional racism) in pretty much every higher-education scenario I’ve encountered, except for Junior College. The same thing — in Iowa, on top of it — doesn’t sound better.

This rumination does make it clearer, though: it’s likely more to my benefit to show my work, than not. Actually, it’s more to my benefit to do whatever I can to make sure I keep making more work, than not. If it takes showing my work to keep me engaged and accountable, that’s something to keep in mind.

The only issue is becoming public…like, really public. That, in turn…is going to mean dealing with people disagreeing with my existence and voice. But hey — it’s my existence. Others’ opinions on that pale in relative importance. And they should pale in power. To do otherwise means that their opinions and their existence are both more important than mine. And that’s a power grab.

In any case…I think I can move forward on this. It’s interesting to see my character’s faces again after so long, and to rediscover recurring characters which I didn’t know were going to hang around, when I first drew them.

So, tomorrow, I might be getting a couple of things…I’m just not sure if I should(!), or if I should try what I have first, before determining if I need anything more.

Right now I’m aiming for an initial run of images using dip pen and black ink, or black Copic fineliners, then going over that with either diluted black watercolor, or diluted black ink, to put in greys. There are three different black watercolors I can try: Mars, Ivory, and Lamp. They all have different colors, and different working properties, from each other. I’m thinking Ivory Black is the best one to use if I want to be able to lift the color…from what I recall it doing, before. (Lifting, that is, when I didn’t want it to.) Mars would probably be best if I don’t want the black pigment floating away.

Then, I also have Yasutomo’s (non-toxic) liquid Sumi ink, the Black Cat ink, and Iroshizuku’s Take-Sumi (which isn’t waterproof). Just thinking about it right now…I know that the Yasutomo Sumi and the Black Cat work well in dilution. I also know that the Yasutomo Sumi doesn’t move, even if I wet it again — which may be reason enough to use it.

Today I found that it was much less intimidating to draw in a sketchpad, than on Illustration paper…and I wanted to draw something with content, not just lines to test whether the ink is going to move. That means, tomorrow, I should test the Kuretake ink along with the Black Cat and the Black Star Hi-Carb (and I can try out those new dip nibs)…I’ll need a new lighter, though, to burn off the lacquer. That, or a non-food-safe pot to boil off the lacquer. Or a raw potato to stick the nibs into, to dissolve the lacquer. Which I might have.

It might be growing, right now. Hmm…

art, art media, comics, creativity, sequential art, writing

Getting back to where I was before

Not to reference a certain transphobic Beatles song, but I’ve decided recently to try and do what I want to do (within limits), rather than…abandoning my former line of practice.

Specifically: I’m planning on giving Illustration another shot, and picked up a number of dip pen nibs that I have never used before. They’re Japanese ([Nikko, Tachikawa] with a couple of Brause nibs [which I think are German]), so they will likely perform differently than my Speedball nibs (I believe Speedball is a U.S. company). I also found Tachikawa dip-pen ink for sale. All of this stuff, I can test out. It will be interesting.

I haven’t yet gotten back to working on my script or in my Creative Writing journal, though I can; likely, should. The tension between doing sequential art and doing literature had basically stopped me. Too many possibilities?

On top of that, there’s that whole thing where I get intimidated away from being creative, even though that’s really something I — at least think I do — well. But right now, I’m feeling the graphic novel thing again. I’m going to try and work on the script. EVEN IF that means I end up having to use transparent inks, a.k.a. “liquid watercolors”. They aren’t my favorite medium, but they’re guaranteed to be transparent (as versus FW Acrylic Inks — not to mention regular watercolors — which may not be entirely transparent, depending on the pigments used).

On that note, I should see how they perform on Bristol board or Mixed Media paper. I still haven’t broken into my Arches, but I did get a mechanical pencil which should enable me to erase my underdrawings, pretty well. I realized a short time ago that even though regular pencils had been on the outs with me, I did appreciate drawing with mechanical pencils, because of their erasability. Right now I am still working on a backstock of Pentel Hi-Polymer Lead, that I obtained in High School. It erases easily, but smudges. I guess I’ll just have to see if it also degrades over time.

The Tachikawa ink is also supposed to be good at not fading under erasers, and being waterproof. A while back I got an eraser sampler, but to date, have only used one of them. I’ll get to try out the rest, fairly soon.

As for reading…well, I found an interesting book at the library that talks about the Publishing Industry and what authors need to know to increase their chances of being published. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily include indy comix artists…I’ll have to start reading (and studying) comics, too. I’m not familiar enough with the field, or with page composition — especially, page composition using English language. (Manga, in their native languages, can have vertical or horizontal alignment of the words, which make the pages flow differently.)

And…yes, I do realize that comic authorship is going to be more of a challenge for me, than literature. But I think I can handle it. The main issue seems to be…what I’m motivated to do, rather than what’s easy; which is a familiar question. Overly familiar.

Then there’s the fact that this project is…such fantasy. And I can get lost in fantasy.

The fact is, though: I know myself much better now, than I used to.

There is also the fact that I don’t know how much I would like illustrating the conflicts in this story. There’s the Fine Art camp, where people are making things to bring beauty into the world; there’s the Literature camp, where people describe and work out conflicts in words. Conflict implies…well, disagreeableness. Literally.

But I guess in every project, there’s what you want to do, and what you don’t want to do. It is possible to just refer back to what happened in the backstory, without actually illustrating it. That…doesn’t seem like the strongest approach, though.

Eh. I’ll have to think on it. I may be able to work it out, somehow, through writing and editing the script.

And, I guess, in the meantime…it wouldn’t hurt to try to draw, again!

“You say whaaat? You’re considering making a graphic novel and you haven’t been drawing?”

“Yes, that’s what I’m saying.”

I want to draw, but I don’t see a reason to aim for traditional subjects (flowers and plants, excepted — and this is for a reason I know). This might, at least, get me drawing, again…

I should also mention that I filled one of my fountain pens with Take-sumi (black) ink…and it has got me questioning whether I’d appreciate Platinum Carbon Black ink, in a pen. However…I’ve got to think on it. It might be just as well, or better, to invest in some Copic Multiliner SPs (these are the refillable ones with interchangeable nibs)…

art media, paper crafts, self care

Books and reading. Ecology, health, and…origami?

The last two days have been relatively chill. I had another two hours of driving instruction today, which went much better than the previous session. What has helped, as well, is reading. I’m not sure why, but it does calm me down a bit.

Right now I’m reading What the Eyes Don’t See, by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, to get another angle on the Flint, Michigan issue from 2014 (aside from The Poisoned City, which was my introduction to literature on water quality and attendant government corruption in the U.S.). I started it today, and I’m about 1/5 of the way through.

I’m also in the middle of a book called Amity and Prosperity, by Eliza Griswold, which is about fracking in the Appalachians and the plight of residents who had sold their mineral rights, and subsequently lost their clean groundwater and clean air along with their property value, which made it so they didn’t have the resources to leave.

All of these books reveal how the EPA has recently not done its job. Ostensibly — I haven’t heard or read an official announcement — I would think part of that job would be to protect public health. If one were to believe the books and the people the books are about and written by, there’s a lot of evidence that it isn’t doing that. What is it (or has it been) doing? Apparently, trying to cover up what it isn’t (or hasn’t been) doing.

On a lighter note, I’ve also begun reading Origami Design Secrets by Robert Lang, which is basically about how origami is an expression of mathematics as well as design. It’s a relatively huge book (basically a textbook and also a workbook), which I would think could be used in Math classes.

Before I began this entry, I pulled a bunch of the old — really old, really cheap — origami papers I have, and brought them with me to the bed. I’ll have to use the lap desk if I fold them in bed, but it may allow me the comfort of being at least partially warm.

The books I was reading prior (Collapse, by Jared Diamond; and The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert), I’ve basically stopped. I can’t really say why except that I can’t really do anything about us being in the middle of a mass extinction, and by myself, I can’t do much if this country or world decides to self-annihilate.

It may be more worth it to focus on the way out of the problem as versus bemoaning the existence of the problem in the first place, or focusing on possible metaphysical hell scenarios that come with the combination of spirituality plus guilt. It’s easier to just admit we don’t know what happens after death, than it is to fabricate a nightmare about what will happen if we don’t do things right. And in this, there is a difference between what science and data tell us is possible, and stories our imaginations have wrought…which often cannot happen in reality because they violate the rules of logic, or presuppose factors that don’t exist.

On possible solutions, there is a book that caught my eye called Drawdown, by Paul Hawken, which is about ways to help pull carbon dioxide out of the ecosystem in order to reverse global warming. I haven’t read it yet, but it has reminded me that with the pace of change in technology; and with funding, invention, research, and quick action; things may not be as hopeless as they seem.

I say, “quick action,” because I’ve also been reading With Speed and Violence, by Fred Pearce, which is about the way climate change over much of Earth’s history has not been slow and gradual, but sudden and at times extreme. The reason it seems to us like it would be slow and gradual, is basically that humans haven’t been around long enough to witness (or witness and remember, at least) the changes — barring issues like the Mt. Tambora eruption (if it can be called that, more than an explosion) of 1815, which caused the “Year Without Summer.” There is a book about this that I know of (I believe it was the one by Klingaman and Klingaman). The person who told me about it didn’t have anything good to say. :)

As for how I learned about Tambora…that may have been from Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond — the same person who wrote Collapse. I can’t be sure about that, though, due to the fact that I read Guns, Germs, and Steel in undergrad, and that was around two decades ago. (I honestly don’t even know if we still have the book.)

Presently, there are issues like changing ocean currents, melting polar ice, and changing weather patterns, which could wreak havoc if they were to happen suddenly, unexpectedly, and before we could adapt. The major issue, as I see it, is famine. When that’s on a global scale, it gets really scary. When there’s a shortage of natural resources, what tends to happen is war.

I learned from a separate source that melting permafrost could release now-frozen methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a much stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. If this occurred…it could be really bad, depending on how much is released. The major decisive factor is whether we reach the point where global warming leads to more greenhouse gas release, which leads to more warming and more release, etc. As a runaway cycle, it could mean the end of life here as we know it: and we shouldn’t treat this planet as disposable, like we’re going to find another one…which is what it looks like the Space program is seeking.

We don’t want a repeat of what happened to Venus, which has a thick atmosphere of mostly carbon dioxide, extremely high atmospheric pressure, sulfuric acid rain, and surface temperatures hot enough to melt lead. (I know there are extremophile microbes which give me hope that some life might be able to adapt and survive, but the ones I’m thinking of live in volcanic vents, and I don’t know that those get to the +850° F surface temperatures that exist on Venus.)

While Venus may at one time have been able to support life, the chances of that now appear slim.

It’s one thing for I, myself, to die. It’s another thing to take most of the world out with me. Of course, there’s not all that much I can do as one person, but there are some things. Actually talking about it to forward the conversation, may be one thing…as well as educating myself so that I can act, when needed.

And, of course, taking care of myself, so that I don’t self-destruct before I can be of any use.

Although it does feel a little funny to get back to origami after having left off of it as a child…I know for a fact that I can connect it to both quilting and the creation of mandalas. I don’t know quite why, though. I’m hoping that the huge book I got will shed some light on the underlying order.

Plus, it’s just great to see a textbook on paper-folding. :)

I also, though, tonight got the urge to paint, again. That’s, generally speaking, a freer process than consciously utilizing or being constrained by mathematics or language. I don’t have a project lined up, except maybe testing out those Prussian Blue and Viridian paints from separate lines (so that I can donate the tubes I’m not going to use).

And yes, I do have mixed feelings about even this. Given that this post has been about water quality and ecology, I am sure the painters in my audience know what I’m talking about. The way paints are still made, though, it would be…very difficult to insist on using a totally non-toxic palette. When I go there, what first present themselves are inferior pigments, of the like of Prangs. Even there, though; what is harmless to humans is not necessarily harmless to everything else.

I haven’t worked it out, yet. I haven’t worked out whether it is even possible — at all — to live without harming another being. Though, it might be possible to live without harming another being, intentionally…that is, never intending to harm another.

And then we get to the ants and roaches and things of that sort…and we get to never intending to inflict suffering upon another, as versus never intending to harm. Or we question what, “harm,” means.

I’m sure I could get into some more mental gymnastics, here, but this is the major reason I’m not Buddhist.

No. Really.

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.

art, art media, drawing

Testing black drawing ink

I started writing this post on the 1st of January, but was too wiped out from the day to be able to do much more than type an apology for no pictures, and leave the draft until the next day. Well, it’s the 4th, now, about to be the 5th, in several hours. I still haven’t taken scans or photos, but if I wait until I do that, it may well be a week or so more until I get around to it.

I do have the energy to write, today; actually, I’ve just gotten through cleaning and vacuuming both my room and my bathroom (not yet including the shower). This has brought my attention (again) to the need to actually organize both my desk and nightstand, as I’ve just reorganized the vanity. The materials in my desk, that is, are likely over a decade old. The materials in my nightstand…a lot of that stuff can go somewhere else, because I’m not using it.

Anyhow — on the 1st, I reminded myself to check notes I had made prior, while meditating on wanting to do art, but not particularly being enamored with the graphite-pencil medium which I’ve overlearned. One of the most basic things I could have done (and did do) would be to singe a nib or more, and test out a number of black inks I have, for waterproofness and Copic-proofness. (Copics are a brand of marker used in illustration, particularly in comics…which mattered more before I abandoned the effort to make comics, and turned back more towards waterbased painting, in combination with ink work.)

Just to let you know, a lot of these inks I have are super-old, possibly from before the year 2000. The ink formulations have likely changed since that time. I’ve used them since then, but because of not entirely knowing what to do with the dip pen nibs (they have to have the anti-rust coating eaten or boiled or burned off of them somehow, or they do not hold ink [I learned this later — for some reason, Speedball seems to assume one knows this already]), my development has been stalled.

It would likely help if I got a non-food-safe pot to boil them within, en masse — like the non-food-safe butter knives for separating sheets of watercolor paper, or the non-food-safe spoon(s) for transferring block prints. I just haven’t really been committed enough to buy something like that.

To be short, three inks went immediately in the garbage because of failed performance (strong feathering, non-black color). These may have just been too old, but in any case, they were useless. These were Higgins Black Magic and regular Higgins Black. The third — I forget the brand (it may have been Pelikan) — I got from a relative. In any case, it wasn’t ink anymore, and it was so old that I believe I know what art store it came from (the price tag is distinctive). That art store is no longer in existence, and hasn’t been since the early 2000’s, if I’m recalling correctly.

For all of the tests, I was using a freshly-singed Blue Pumpkin nib, which is basically a flexible steel spoon-shaped nib which has been treated to turn blue. Of course, you also need a nib holder. I really have no recollection of the brand of the nib holder I used (it has a wooden handle and metal clutch); I just know it fits that nib, and it works.

There were three inks I tried which were not waterproof at all. These were Higgins Eternal, Higgins Calligraphy (“waterproof”), and Parker Super Quink. Of the three, the Parker dissolved most readily in water once dry. Interestingly enough, it was totally Copic-proof, and didn’t smudge under a Copic blending marker. I’m thinking that the solvent in Copics is majorly alcohol (which makes covalent bonds instead of ionic), but I haven’t checked the Materials Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) to be sure. Higgins Eternal was the next most water-soluble, followed by Higgins Calligraphy (“waterproof”) ink. Higgins Eternal is Copic-proof. Higgins Calligraphy is not.

That being said, if I were going to have an ink which I wanted to smudge under water, or if I had an application where I wouldn’t be using either water or marker on top, the three inks actually flow well and have a nice consistency and depth. The Parker ink leans more blue when dissolved than the Eternal, which is more brownish. I wouldn’t really use the Higgins Calligraphy in an ink-and-wash application, though, as it dissolves so weakly that it looks more like a mistake.

This leaves three inks: Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Ink, Speedball Super Black India Ink (of which I have both ultra-old and newer-but-still-old formulations), and Blick Black Cat Waterproof India Ink. Of the three, I was surprised to find that the Black Cat was the clear winner in both waterproofness and Copic-proofness, refusing to budge under either, after drying for about eight minutes. There’s not much more I can say, than that. It was thinner than all of my other functioning inks — the ones I tested, that is — which I didn’t totally love, but I realize that my other inks may only be thicker because they’re older and have lost fluid to evaporation.

Ph. Martin’s Bombay also performed decently, but was fairly thick (almost the consistency of acrylic ink), and left my pen more prone to “railroading” (where the tines of the nib split and made two fine lines rather than one wide line). Granted, this could be due to my skill level with dip pens — possibly the angle at which I held the pen — as things stand, now.

Also, a note: because the Ph. Martin’s Bombay (distinct from their “Hydrus”, which looks similar) was in a dropper-style bottle, I had to drip the ink over the nib, as versus dipping it into the inkwell (which had a narrow mouth, to boot). I’m not certain, but I think the Bombay is meant more for brushwork than for dip pens; the bottle was certainly designed that way.

Both Speedball Super Black formulations had either fixed to noticeable dispersion under both water and Copic, in a manner that makes me think that maybe the ink just didn’t dry long enough, or I gouged out my Bristol board with my nib in a way that made the ink take longer to dry. I did one test on Fabriano Mixed Media paper; another on Strathmore 300-Series Smooth Bristol board. On the Fabriano, the new formulation smudged under water after 30 minutes of drying, while the old formulation was fixed under water, after 10 minutes. On the Bristol, the old formulation smudged under Copic (but not water) after 45 minutes, while the newer bottle was fine with both Copic and water, after 45 minutes.

The paper does make a difference. With a sharp-tipped tool like the Blue Pumpkin nib, outcomes are more predictable when drawing on Smooth-finish Bristol board, as versus the Vellum-finish Bristol board I also tried (this was a 400-Series), or the Fabriano Mixed Media paper. The latter two just have so much texture that the tip of the nib tends to get bumped around while you’re trying to make a line. There’s also the feeling, on more textured papers, that you’re making an incision into some soft, pillowy top. It’s not always pleasant.

I tried all three because I would try these for mixed-media projects which may include ink and watercolor. I do know, however, that gouache in particular has a hard time sticking to Bristol board (from one of my first Art classes) — I don’t remember right now which series that was (300-Series is cheaper than 400-Series), but I remember the paper feeling kind of smooth. I did just go and check, and it feels like it was probably a smooth finish (and cheap, for a Bristol board).

The hangup with using a smooth and absorbent board like that is that the gouache forms a skin on top of the board which can be accidentally lifted if too much water is applied later — which I experienced as a very entry-level painting student. I haven’t found a way to come back from that, yet. I also haven’t tried transparent watercolors on Bristol, mostly because it seems sacrilegious. I do have actual watercolor paper for those things, though I haven’t tried the Arches I’ve gotten — mostly due to fear of messing it up.

But it does seem counterproductive to buy good art supplies and then not use them because I’m scared I’ll make mistakes. Mistakes are the essence of learning — not to make mistakes is to avoid learning.

Getting back to that pencil vs. liquid media thing: I did find it kind of refreshing to be able to use pen and ink. There’s just something about the slipperiness of an HB pencil which is a real turn-off for me, these days. The scratchiness plus density plus liquid quality of a dip pen does remind me of the fountain pens I’ve been using for journaling; it’s just that I can use actual pigmented inks with dip pens. Fountain-pen inks are mostly dye-based, as pigments can clog up fountain pens very easily.

One of the exceptions to the rule is Platinum Carbon Black, which I haven’t tried — mostly because it’s a high-maintenance ink, requiring weekly cleanings to keep the pen in a functioning condition. I suppose I could put it in a Pilot Kakuno fountain pen and see where that leads, given that the Kakuno is notoriously inexpensive…and also that I do now have a bottle of Pen Flush. Then again, the Kakuno is one of those things where a person can experiment with things like nib tuning (my current Extra-Fine Kakuno scratches the paper much like a dip pen would, and it’s a little annoying), without losing too much on, “learning experiences.”

It’s also possible that the Kakuno only works with Pilot inks. I read the fine print in my Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen instructions the other day and did find that clause in there. I’m like, seriously? Seriously, Pilot? But then, my first Metropolitan still writes like a dream. I just happened to get a really nice ink the first time; different inks from the same line, feel differently on the page depending on I-don’t-know-what. One Metropolitan filled with Chiku-Rin (a yellow-green), that is, behaves differently (it’s more annoyingly slippery [to me, that is]) than the same nib size of Metropolitan filled with Ku-Jaku (a dark green-blue).

I’m just starting to get to the point where I’m identifying inks I actually like, and would voluntarily continue to use, over the long term. I’m also beginning to branch out into brands other than Pilot, which enable me to use inks other than Pilot’s.

Then, there’s the issue of whether I dislike graphite now because I know what charcoal feels like, and can do…the only drawback to charcoal is having to spray one’s drawings with fixative. That is a drawback; I’m just not sure how much it matters, in the long run.

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

The Neurotic Artist *shudder*

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


I know that’s random.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

art media, comics, creative writing, creativity, sequential art, tatting

Stories and creativity

Sorry for being offline for a bit (about a week, for this blog). There’s been some stuff going on…though I don’t trust myself to remember a week’s worth of history, all right now. The good news is that I did complete my Dewey course, fine. Of course, though…the new course also just started, and I’m not particularly in the mood to study, right now. It is the third course of four that I have planned, and should help me if I need to do original cataloging of items in a College or University library (I’m interested in working at a Community College library as an introduction to Academic Libraries).

The other day, a work friend and I were talking about beadwork, particularly bead embroidery and loomwork. I have kind of gotten excited about the prospect of sharing bead-related joys with a friend. I would like to take some beads in to show this person…the thing is that I’m dealing with a number of impulses for media in which to create. I have tatting — which is new to me; beadwork; embroidery; sewing; and markers.

Ah! That’s right! I bought a set of alcohol markers recently. They’re basically artist-quality, though I went through the set and divided the cost into the amount. They’re Blick brand, and work relatively well. They did cost $44 for the set, but there are 24 markers in the set, meaning that each marker is $1.83 — a very good cost for the quality of these, at least if the tips of the brush tips don’t end up breaking off. (Generally, one can buy artist and illustration markers for between $3 and $5 each, open-stock).

The major thing with these is that I need to erase graphite underdrawings before going over them with markers. Otherwise, the graphite smudges. I was using marker paper for my trials, though, which means that the graphite had very little to cling to. Also, it helps when your fineliner has time to dry before you overlay it with marker!

I have a premise for a graphic novel series, though I’m still not sure of the primary conflict and range I should undertake for it. There are a few different stories I have in me: one is about mental illness, one is about intra-family racism, and one is about gender variance.

So…that’s a lot. I don’t think I’ll be able to pack it all into one story. I also don’t think I particularly should try to pack it all into one story, though I could link them all by putting them in the same universe (and have series crossovers or spinoffs). Right now, the story I have foremost on my mind is the one about experiencing mental illness, being unable to distinguish “fantasy” from “reality,” learning how to function, and the sacrifices that come with functionality.

The biggest problem I can see here is people asking how I know what I do; but that’s not really their business. There’s also the issue of what happens if I start to have an impact. I have not seen many books focusing on the inner experience of mental illness, at this point, but then again — after I graduated with my BA, I basically stopped reading fiction.

Ah, I also really want to get back to learning Japanese language. I have been exposed to animations and comics coming out of Japan (the challenge of reading them made them more interesting); also, selected comics like Deadpool or Trinity (though the latter was nonfiction, about the invention of the nuclear bomb).

Anyhow, I think I feel okay with getting back to my study, now. I’m feeling a lot better about it.