art, art media, career, drawing, LIS, psychology, self care, work

Soft graphite. Ooo.

It’s been a while since I’ve allowed myself the time to be on here. Gosh, what’s changed…?

My waking hours, for one thing. I’ve been turning in relatively early, waking up around 5:30 AM, staying up for about three hours, and going back to sleep. Then I wake up around noon…and possibly go back to sleep, for a few hours. Then get back up again for dinner. (Hey, I didn’t say it was healthy.)

I’m…feeling considerably better about my job, having started a book on anger management (which indirectly contributes to conflict management), and having begun to read in a book on Linked Data. I’m about halfway through the latter…and it is more technical than I had given it credit for. I have the rest of the weekend to get through it, which I’m thinking should probably be a priority, so that I can be informed at the same time as some of my peers.

But yes…neuroplasticity is a great thing. It’s good to know that I’m not necessarily stuck with the limitations I have, right now. I can see that the incident which caused me to rethink being in this job happened because neither I nor the other person had full control over our anger; the hostility expressed did not actually have anything to do with the person towards whom it was expressed; and the tension ramped up until we both aborted.

If, however, one of us can get control over our emotions, that can change the dynamic and the range of outcomes: particularly if the other person doesn’t know how to do anything other than fight. And that can help keep me feeling safer and more comfortable, in my current job.

Meaning…yes, it is work, but the work is being social. Some people thrive on that; I don’t. It’s good to know that, especially as so many Public Libraries want to hire “people persons.” I may, in short, be better off in an Academic Library environment (as so many people have told me), and/or as a Technical Services employee. But I don’t have to immediately think about getting a different job.

After having written this post, I believe that I should add MA or MFA in Fine Art to my list of things to consider, should I ever get into an Academic Library setting where I need a second Master’s. I’m related to someone who did Art as an undergraduate degree without going through Community College first; I did Art as an AA. He had more theory; I had more practice. But it’s enough to know that I could learn about Art History on my own, and try for at least an MA in that.

The prospect of having encyclopedic knowledge of Art History is appealing, though I do realize that the degree can take a very long time. It isn’t so bad if it’s subsidized. It also isn’t so bad if I do wind up with that encyclopedic knowledge!

As for what to do while I am awake…my little A5 journal is helping with that. I’m listing (and checking off) tasks. As of April 15 (four days ago, now — I started this post two days ago! what the hey?!), I completed (and washed and ironed) 9 face masks. With orders now in California and Hawaii (the two places I am usually found) making face masks often mandatory to go outside, it looks like I’ll need to make more of them. I’ve already had two separate occasions where I’ve been asked to make more; even if indirectly.

22-pencil set of Mitsubishi Hi-uni pencils, from 10B to 10H
“Hi-uni” pencils from Mitsubishi. Range: 10B to 10H!

I also — now that I know I’m not aiming to make comics (at least not professionally) — went and bought a set of art pencils. I can draw, “not-for-reproduction,” that is. I guess it’s the difference between Fine Art and Graphic Art. (I don’t know yet where Illustration falls in there, really; but it could be like the difference between Cataloging and Metadata Librarianship: you don’t really, “get it,” until you study it. Then you can kind of grok the difference between Subject Classification and coding in JSON-LD. Which…probably means nothing to most people who aren’t me. Moving on…)

I don’t know how I’m going to like the “Hi-uni” brand pencils. The reviews say they have less tactile “feedback” than the Faber-Castell 9000s I’ve otherwise been using (I think this refers to how well they grip the page) — but just the fact that the cores are different-sized according to the hardness of the lead, is alluring. (Softer cores are wider; harder ones, narrower.) Someone is paying attention to how the pencils are used, that is, and to the strength of the cores.

I’ve tried a lot of graphite pencils and sticks…how they feel to work with is just really variable. I’m not sure if it has to do with the qualities of the clays used for matrix, how old the clay is (I’m recalling the shattered pastel incident), or what (pencil cores are generally made of graphite plus clay, with the proportions determining hardness) — but graphite can be really nice or really…irritating. I’ve experienced my share of super-slippery pencils and graphite sticks that seemed to barely make a mark (even if they were supposedly soft)…to the point that I’m only going to go over some of the graphite crayons/sticks/pencils I’ve tried. And no, I’m not getting compensation for this. At frickin’ all.

Cretacolor Monolith woodless graphite pencil set, ranging from HB to 9B
These come in the Cretacolor MonolithBox — or did, when I obtained these (2016 or before). The blue 4B graphite stick is supposed to be water-soluble, but I’ve never tried it.

The above is a brand of graphite stick that I do really like (Cretacolor MONOLITH), which would be perfect except for a couple of things. The first thing is the random hard bit one occasionally finds embedded in the stick while drawing, which incises the paper and leaves a permanent mark. I think the only way to get rid of these is to sharpen them out, but that leads to a lot of otherwise unnecessary sharpening (as versus just grinding the bit into the paper and hoping I never have to erase: the marks left may be white marks, after all, not black). The second thing is that because these are round and lacquered, they aren’t designed to facilitate using the entire broad side of the stick — just the side of the tip, and the tip itself.

An example of a different type of “graphite crayon” are the LYRAs:

LYRA graphite crayons in 2B, 6B, and 9B
LYRA graphite crayons in 2B, 6B, 9B.

In the right hands (generally speaking, not mine to date), these can be very delicate. However, because of the sheer size of these things (approximately 1cm wide), they’re great for working on huge images — like, ones you have to lay out on the floor or the wall because they’re too big for tables. I’ve found that I really don’t need something quite that hardcore — or, at least, haven’t, since I last dealt with the Art Department (though I did have a friend who absolutely would have used these). They also either need to be sharpened with a knife or a huge pencil sharpener (the latter of which, LYRA sells).

(No, I’m not responsible if you cut yourself with a knife trying to sharpen things.)

The nice thing about these is that there’s nothing to stop one from peeling off the wrapper and polishing one side down on newsprint, to use the broad side to draw with. (The shape is that of a hexagonal prism.) Of course, it’s also possible to find cheap little rectangular graphite sticks which are just fine for this, too — but those have been some of the more slippery/pale, and frustrating, incarnations of graphite that I’ve dealt with.

And no, I’m not entirely sure what to do about that, except not buy them. The thing is, the LYRA graphite crayons are a bit too long to use sideways; I’d end up breaking them into two or more parts. If, however, that would get me to use them (as versus keep them in a baggie for the future, as I have), I suppose it’s OK.

So the Hi-uni set I got (put out by Mitsubishi, of all corporations — and yes, I believe that’s the same as the car company: the logo matches) has 22 grades of graphite, ranging from 10B (softest) to 10H (hardest), with the extra two being HB and the ever-enigmatic F. I would have gotten every other grade from soft to medium (say 10B, 8B, 6B, 4B…to 2H or 4H), but it was significantly cheaper per-pencil to get the set. Also, the place that carried them was out of a number of pencils I would have liked to have gotten, open-stock.

I’ve just tested out the Hi-uni 10B…it’s super-expressive, and super-soft, even somewhat crumbly. I haven’t applied any image adjustments to the below, even though the sun is now going down…because of this, it looks dim.

Hi-uni 10B graphite marks, image un-adjusted
Without image adjustments

With an exposure adjustment applied, though, it’s super-high contrast. This may, actually, negate the need to work in ink, if I did want to make prints. (I’ve actually been watching a lot of The Owl House, which is a new cartoon show on Disney; if you look in the backgrounds, a lot of the lines of the surroundings are textured like this. Also, looking at Ducktales (2017), it’s pretty evident where the background artists used personal flourish in illustrating the characters’ surroundings. Ducktales (2017) has more of a brush-pen thing going on, though.) :)

Hi-uni 10B graphite marks, with Photoshop's exposure image adjustment
With Exposure image adjustment

And yes…it was hard to write with that pencil, especially given that I didn’t sharpen it to a point (as I knew it would be worn to a nub pretty much immediately). I had to keep rotating the pencil to keep those letters legible. The 10B is pretty creamy, as well…which has me wondering about the others.

One of the reasons I got the Hi-uni is the fact that I’ve got a lot of textured paper, which I haven’t been using. I’m particularly thinking of a Maruman Zuan sketchbook which I obtained in a Japanese-American market in Southern California (honestly, I probably could have obtained it in San Francisco’s Japan Center, if I’d looked). It has a really, really nice texture on it. It’s something I think I’ve been missing, recently…likely due to the fact that I’ve been working mostly with pen and ink, and on smooth paper.

There is also a pack of tinted Pastel paper I have…which allows one to use lighter-value materials on it as well (like, “General’s White Charcoal,” or white/tinted pastel). The only drawback is the absolute need to use fixative for those light marks (even though it will likely turn some of them clear). I have some. I suppose I could be considered lucky. But that stuff is noxious. Everyone who has ever suggested we try to use it, has noted its toxicity, and advised us not to breathe it in. Meaning: use a respirator, go outside, and don’t breathe the mist.

I’ve resorted to using Aqua Net before (it’s the paranoid guy’s fixative), which I can use in the shower as though it’s a spray booth: open the window, close the door, and evacuate while the solvent dissipates…but like I said. Noxious. Even Aqua Net in the amounts needed to “fix” a painting or drawing, smells horrible. I’ve also heard that it will yellow over time, whereas Artist’s fixative should not.

But at least graphite isn’t quite as vulnerable to smearing as charcoal or pastel…and there are also the oil pastels (which bind the pigment, instead of leaving it loose so that it needs a fixative), the most significant of which, in my mind, are the Neocolor I series by Caran d’Ache. I’ve used these before because they have brilliant colors and exceptional opacity. Now, whether they are still the same colors, today, if I were to find my drawings…that, I don’t know! What I know is that my yellows and reds showed up on top of black paper. I’m not certain how these would react to a fixative; though it may be that they wouldn’t need it. Nor do I know how they would intermingle with graphite.

My favorite pencils…well, if there could be a “favorite” brand, more than a brand more useful for one type of application or another…are the Faber-Castell 9000s (in the photo way down at the bottom of the post). However, I got these a very long time ago. I’m up for trying something different…and for giving myself something for making it through all those masks and studying! I’ve gotten to the point of realizing that not all art supplies are alike, which even applies down to the level of a pencil.

Random pencils
Case in point: the “ECO PENCILs” above, are Tombows. I was almost put off of graphite altogether, because of those little guys…they just feel a little slick to me, though they’re better than nothing.

The pencils in the above photo are mostly nothing special; the green pencil is a KIMBERLY from General Pencil Co. (the same people who make General’s Charcoal): I didn’t realize that the label was facing downwards when I took the shot. The Derwents are good in the hard and middle grades (I’m seeming to recall something about random hard bits in these, too), but I haven’t tried their softer ones (I was using the Faber-Castells for that job, at the time). The two Tombow ECO PENCILs, I avoid unless I’m being either experimental, or too lazy to look for my good pencils. I found them in Honolulu for like $1.25 each (or something) after I realized I had failed to pack any pencil whatsoever…which is not great when you want to do ink sketches with underdrawings. The Prismacolor TURQUOISE…I don’t really remember how it behaves, and offhand, it doesn’t stand out.

I’ve, today, been looking for a lost Faber-Castell PITT graphite stick in 9B or 10B — I don’t recall which. I haven’t been able to find it, though I did find (by surprise) a Koh-I-Noor TOISON D’OR 1900 8B pencil, back from the time when 8B was one of the densest graphite grades one could find (circa 2016 — you’d be lucky to find a 9B, and you would not find a 10B). It’s got a great feel on sketch paper — toothy, not slippery, and a velvety dense application. The thing about the TOISON D’OR is that this pencil has varnish which has in the past migrated to my fingertips…at least, if I didn’t dream that. I have trouble distinguishing fantasy and reality, sometimes.

No, I’m not kidding. I remember purple fingertips, but my memory can be unreliable.

Swatch and appearance of Koh-I-Noor brand Toison d'Or 1900 8B pencil
You know how hard it is to get the swatch and the pencil in focus at the same time?

This 8B TOISON D’OR also smudges very, very easily. That can be a good or bad thing, depending…though if I wanted total smudgelessness, I’d use ink. (Granted, that doesn’t always work!) There’s also the trick of laying down a piece of paper under your hand, if your habit is to rest your hand on your work: it keeps the side of your hand from turning black, and all your black points from turning everything else grey. I’m wondering if glassine paper is any better for this, seeing as how it’s basically like waxed paper…I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s an easy experiment. (Glassine paper is used to separate images which might become damaged from friction in storage, like pastel, charcoal, and graphite works. I’ve had to use it before, particularly when I needed to archive my work after the Art program ended.)

The other thing I’m pretty happy about is this:

Eraser kit containing eight different erasers and a pencil sharpener in a tin. Above it rest two short Faber-Castell 9000 2B pencils.

This is a kit I’ve been able to put together out of bits & bobs. The tin is from a craft store, about the size of a deck of Tarot cards; the pencil sharpener is from an artist supply. The erasers are (mostly) from a sampler pack found online, though I think the black Tombow MONO eraser, I got in Honolulu. The 2B Faber-Castell 9000s live in there with them, and they kind of sit around on my nightstand until I decide to use them.

As for anything in there that I liked by surprise? Yes. The “foam” erasers. I don’t even know what they are. They just work really well. :) The one on the upper left reads “SAKURA KUREPASU” on the side, which I’m thinking refers to Sakura Cray-Pas, the manufacturer. Interestingly enough, the ARCH foam eraser also reads, “SAKURA KUREPASU”.

Phew! That’s a lot about pencils! And I just realized, I didn’t even get into stick erasers…or eraser shields (the latter of which, make life so much easier). Or tortillions and blending stumps. Or mechanical pencils and lead holders. But if I’m going in a more fine-art direction than a graphic one…that stuff may come up (granted that I have only seen the fabled lead holder, not ever used one).

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.