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.
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.
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:
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.
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.) :)
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.
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.
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:
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).