art, technology

Solving technical difficulties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then there’s this stuff about scanning or photography.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

art, libraries, organization, self care

Priorities, Version 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I still feel kinda torn about the Spanish thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s also more practical…

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

Pen tinkering. Ceramics. Plus the hard stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s just that way.

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

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

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

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

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, career, comics, creativity, self care, self-publishing, work

Creativity and adulthood

It wasn’t that long ago that I took a chance on Ecoline transparent watercolors. I still haven’t gotten to use them. Bright side, I did eventually (tonight) get around to flushing and soaking my Pilot Prera — this is the calligraphy nib fountain pen which was filled with orange-red ink. It was drying out, and I realized I needed to do something before it dried out all the way. It’s not my goal to kill my fountain pens, and the Pilots tend to dry out more quickly than the TWSBI Ecos (though less quickly than the LAMY, which I’ve gotten rid of). The TWSBIs have a silicone O-ring under the cap, which screws on, whereas the Pilots just have caps that slide on.

I’ve intended to move back into sequential art, but either I’m getting distracted (likely by work, which I’m not sure anyone can call a “distraction”), or I’m just…adulting. I keep being called in for work on days I had designated as rest days. Which, I think, is why someone told me that I needed to have “boundaries” in this job.

Today I had to stay home or be miserable for seven hours — I chose to come home and sleep. Apparently, I’ve picked up some kind of bug (D thinks it’s a cold). It’s early enough in the cycle that I’m probably contagious. I’m pretty sure I must have picked it up yesterday at work…honestly the last few days are a blur, though. It’s like a day is missing in there and I’m not sure which one it is. Though I did get to see “Hamilton”. It’s possible that I got exposed that day on public transit, though that means it would have had to incubate for a few days.

I have been finishing reading a book on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, which is possibly a reason why I was sick, today. We’re all expected to give reviews or information on books in the library. I’m a little miffed that the author didn’t say what was actually going on with the water until 2/3 of the way through the book. What’s actually disappointing about the situation in Flint, as well, is that it could have been rectified by having A CHEMIST ON STAFF. Seriously. There are also a lot of other ways it could have been stopped, but it seems the government was determined to fail in this case.

Anyhow…I’ve been working a lot and reading a lot and my free time for art has suffered. That’s kind of annoying, considering that I have enough materials and am just lacking in time or prioritization. Something that could have mattered, though: I have been trying to fix up a different site online…I’m paying close to $200/year for it, and it’s been locked from the beginning. It was originally for my portfolio, but I have to do work if I want to make that part of it public (which doesn’t seem like the greatest idea). More likely is that I’ll be sectioning off that part of it and using the rest to play around with having a real website, as versus a subdomain at this one.

As I’m aging, that is, I am finding that my portfolio isn’t going to be a great strength — of much more use is the experience I’m getting, on the job. If I make a professional website and update it regularly, as well, it could be worth more than the portfolio.

I think I’m just going to have to either work my creativity into my job, though, or otherwise carve out time for it. I still have to figure out how many hours a week I want to work, and when and where I want to work. There are a couple of local places I hadn’t considered, until seeing how far (and potentially hazardous) it is to get to other branches. There are going to be at least two work sites within 10 minutes’ drive, and not being able yet to drive myself, this can matter.

Anyhow…my habits suggest that if I want to make comics, I should be reading more of them. I might also want to take a look at bookbinding resources. I have been taught how to make ‘zines, but unfortunately I don’t quite remember how to make a 16-page one out of one sheet of paper. That could just be interesting, if I didn’t want to sew the things together myself. It’s possible, that is, to make a large image and then have it printed on one sheet of paper, then cut and fold to create booklets.

Why would I do this? I’m not entirely sure. Especially given that unless the 16-page ‘zine is printed on a huge paper, I’m dealing with very little real estate where it comes to space on each page.

And yes, I do have an interesting idea to just print out a big long spiel on the back of that paper.

Or to default to 8.5″x11″ paper and forgo bleeds (printing to the edge of the page), then write and insert images and have that printed out and perfect-bound like a college Reader.

…I should get back to sleep. I can feel it.

art, comics, creativity, fine arts

Content vs. technique; solidifying an identity

I just blew through the second half of a free online watercolor class that I started and then forgot about. Because I have (very) mixed feelings about it…I won’t say whose class it was. What I will say is that to me, it fell short on content. Technique was plentiful…but the themes tackled were very, “safe,” to the point that I was led to wonder why this person made art in the first place. To me, reproducing or creating “beauty” is no longer an aim in and of itself.

I am, however, biased in that I have been firstly a writer (and trained in Literature, on top of that — not Science Fiction or Horror [even as I might have wished]), secondly or thirdly an artist or illustrator (depending on where you place “beadworker” in that hierarchy, and depending on how you define “artist” or “illustrator”). I’m aware that content is not a high point in making jewelry. However, it is fundamental to Literature, and maybe I just am a “comics” person to the point that I hope to find it in Fine Art. Which means that I get disappointed frequently, I guess.

That is likely a good thing where it comes to my making a “comic” (bad art with a good story can often be forgiven; a bad story with good art, not so much)…but it’s disappointing when I know that I’ve worked in so many creative endeavors because there were things bursting to get out of me, and it seems that the person I had hoped to learn from, doesn’t appear to engage anything like them.

There’s this…or perhaps that she was intentionally making her tutorials so that we would just focus on technique. But then there’s the question of why we would want to do that in the first place, and how to adapt those skills to facilitate expression with content. I mean, you know, so it’s more than just something aesthetically pleasing. Of course, “aesthetically pleasing” does infer that there is some kind of content; maybe below conscious awareness; maybe lacking words.

But it’s kind of hard to relate to someone who draws experience from nature, when you’re in human-created environments a lot of the time, and they aren’t always nice to look at or inhabit. In such a case, obtaining art of nature feels like it could be escapism. And I’m not sure in what manner to value escapism (as versus engagement), in a time such as ours.

So…there was something good that came out of this, which is that I know more about where my own priorities lie, at present. Also, I didn’t pay any money for it. Just time.

The reason why I’m a bit disappointed is that I went back to the tutorials to see just how I might use the watercolors I do have…and this is entirely not what I want to be doing. It’s someone showing me what she does, and I barely see how that intersects with what I would do. As I originally looked at her work because she is known for working, “loose,” as I was constantly encouraged to do in my Art classes…I’m thinking that maybe it’s just not me to work loose, and never will be, and that it was a pedagogical mistake for my teachers to try and push me to work differently (or my mistake to listen to them). I mean, maybe that was just a view of a bunch of members of the Art Department (where I can’t trust that specific Art Department to be neutral, any more than I could trust the members of the English Department to be neutral).

I have started to look up some things on Illustration, which may be what I’m trying to find with this, as versus Fine Art. There is also the point that Illustration is devalued next to Fine Art (like Crafts are devalued next to Fine Art), and I’m starting to think it’s because Fine Art as a discipline doesn’t really know what it is or what it’s doing or why, at this point. After Modernism hit (I’m thinking Duchamp), causing people to question the very definition of Art…well, yeah. I’m not sure if we’ve fully recovered from that, yet.

Not intending to insult people who can make Fine Art, work, because I know sometimes it works, and sometimes it works spectacularly. I just didn’t find what I was looking for, with this last tutorial. Which, you know, it’s like what did I expect, it was a free class over the Internet. And I’ve paradoxically been able to realize the most about who I was, by accepting who I was not.

I guess the bright side of not knowing what Art is, is that then it opens the field to be more than what it has been, historically. I just wonder…to what extent learning from the past, won’t help. That doesn’t mean to avoid traditional media; but rather…if Art is becoming something more than what it has been, to what extent will learning what it has been assist us in creating what it becomes? And will learning what it has been allow me to recognize tradition and paradoxically, release me from trying to depend on it?