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?

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

The Neurotic Artist *shudder*

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

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

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

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

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

IT’S MY PROCESS, OKAY ;)

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

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

Yes.

I know that’s random.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

art, beadwork, career, libraries, work, writing

Tension: adult priorities, student habits

I’ve realized that I don’t have to start with words, if I want to make a story. Especially if I want to tell it using graphics. I have been looking through notebooks, and sketchpads, old blogs…records, you know. It may be that accessing the visual part of my brain may relate more of this (very internal) story than trying to code it into language, which sounds as though it goes against logic when I’ve historically used words over images to access inner realities.

But cartoons don’t have to be stereotypical. They often have been, but they don’t have to be.

Right now I’m dealing with the story in my mind growing more distant, and feeling more inconsequential, than I’m used to. I’m coming off of four days in a row of training at work, though (most of which was spent on-desk), which…makes it hard to get out of work-mode. I realize I have some anxiety about being the first (actually, now, second) point of contact for the public, but I’m getting more confidence around it. It’s also to the point where I don’t want to avoid the work, because I know that just makes it harder to engage again.

I guess it’s like fighting a phobia through exposure.

I also am finding…by giving this a chance, I’m also opening the possibility to convince myself that I like doing this. A lot of what I’m doing now is what I’ve been building up to over the last decade; what I’ve seen Librarians doing but have been forbidden to try (due to my job description). It’s not the end point, but it is nicer to be able to help people in many of the ways I couldn’t, over all those years.

Of course, it’s not as though my old work situation was perfect; but there are a lot of ways to approach work, and I haven’t found any of the various ones I’ve seen to be, “better,” yet. I’m talking here about workplace politics. It helps to be a bit agnostic about these, I’ve found. Although, granted, that’s probably (in itself) a position.

Anyway…didn’t mean to get into work stuff, but today was my last day of training (as has yet been scheduled). I’m finding that this is a really great job if you love to read. My biggest deficit at this point is likely dealing with Reader’s Advisory, as I have my own interests, and haven’t read a novel cover-to-cover in quite a while.

I should try that again.

My thing right now is wondering how much of my time that’s going to take up, outside of work but for the purpose of work. Of course…if I became a novelist myself, which…I would think to be beyond my capabilities at the moment: it would also be good training for that.

The program I attended in Undergrad really only prepared us for short-story writing. Novels are reserved for the MFA. (At one time, it seemed distant.)

And then…there is the obvious point of getting back to my Art as a generative measure for my writing, among other things. The issue, majorly, is…moving into a phase of my life where I have work, and then I have hobbies. The work is being a Library Assistant (for now). The hobbies are now primarily my writing, my art, and my beadwork. Reading also has to fit into there, somewhere; and Japanese language acquisition should also have some space, if I’m going to continue in a Public Library position. That’s on top of necessities such as cooking, driving, and exercise.

The question is what I cut out so I have time for my priorities, based on a future life path; and what to do if those priorities ever become dissatisfactory. There is also the question of what I am doing now, not what I want to or think I should be doing. What do I like to do as versus what I think I should like to do, based not on who I think I am, but who I am. It’s hard to gauge when I’ve had a schedule like I’ve experienced in the last two months (for the past four days, I’ve been working six hours a day…which is new, for me).

I’m aware this is a delayed entry into adulthood (“psh! Six hours a day?”), and that I’m lucky to have had so much free time for so long. At the same time, though, I have actually been working (even though some say being an Aide isn’t a, “real job,” which I now find to be an insult to Aides everywhere). I’ve also been in school for the vast majority of the time I’ve been employed, so I have had assignments, and things I had to do: at least to keep my GPA up, so that I could continue on to get my Master’s. That was so that I could be cleared to eventually become a professional on a national scale (note that the requirement for a Master’s in a Library- or Information-related field to be able to apply for Librarian positions, is an ongoing debate in the Library world).

Yes, that was stressful. But it’s over, and there’s only a necessity of doing it once.

I may also have the detraction of being over-educated, though that likely isn’t bad in any way other than having too many options. That in itself can also be a problem, though: I have heard of a study stating that the more options people have, the less satisfied they are with having settled on any one of them.

Maybe the painful choice here is in deciding whether to be an intellectual, or whether to be a maker (maybe I can be both). I caught all kinds of negative attention when I was young, partially because I was perceived as more intelligent than others. So although people like Cornel West and Malcolm Gladwell continually attract my attention and respect (though I still haven’t read anything by either of them, I’ve only seen the interviews), becoming like them…there’s a risk to it. Of course, though, most who think in public would know that, and have gone on beyond, despite it. Adults who still have the minds of children shouldn’t be permitted to control the lives of others, that is.

I still think it was cute when one of the kids I helped, commented that I was, “really smart,” because I knew about manga and could pronounce Japanese! (When kids are kids, and are supposed to be kids, it’s different.) I suppose it’s possible to be knowledgeable about a lot of things, yeah?

Maybe the problem actually is being multi-faceted — and being at a junction between consuming and producing, not knowing where to place my priorities. I have been writing this based on the assumption that I would need to either do one or the other, but reading broadly was recommended in my Creative Writing program. It would also enable me to write Nonfiction.

I also realize how important it likely is, to know a language which is not English: it means that one gets a window into how life is outside of the English-Only-speaking-world. That, in turn, is useful in building resistance to political propaganda. These things mean that:

  1. Library Work
  2. Reading
  3. Writing, and
  4. Learning Japanese (a life goal since Middle School)…

…are my core four things.

I am not sure to what extent I’ve just hit my limit, with beadwork. I can check my records to see when it was that I started to buy beads and make jewelry, again. The thing is, it’s an expensive hobby — and I don’t know that I’m committed enough to it to keep buying materials, or to deal with the legal end of it. Designing is one of those things that is fun, but I don’t need to be putting as much resources into designing as I have been — particularly as I still don’t know how to do all the basic beadweaving stitches.

I would still do micro-macramé, though. I just would. That means seed beads and cord. I have those. I think it’s just the gemstone and metal stuff that I see as unjustified.

So that’s:

  1. Micro-macramé
  2. Beadweaving

Drawing and painting can also be expensive, but they allow a greater latitude for storytelling (which was something I was purposely avoiding when using beadwork to get back into the creative process). When I was going back over my sketchbooks…I realized what I was doing when I was drawing from life. I was finding things that interested me, and then trying to express, via drawing, why they interested me. That, in itself, means that color is indispensable for my practice. This also means that markers and paints, in particular, ought to be something I really consider using — or, not throwing away, if they’re still good and usable.

Particularly: there are five media that I’m interested in at the moment:

  1. Pen and ink
  2. Alcohol markers
  3. Acrylic markers
  4. Gouache
  5. (Transparent) Watercolor

That also implies pencil and eraser, though I have those. These can all be combined with each other in order to make mixed-media standalone or sequential art pieces. So there, we have Language, Form, Line, and Color.

Anyhow, I’m reading back over this entry, and I’m thinking that my proposed activities look diverse enough! I wonder how this compares to past Priority lists…

…and what to do with everything else…

art, comics, creative writing, drawing, illustration, psychology, spirituality

I can’t believe it. I used the Copics.

I made one illustration before midnight last night, and…it really surprised me. I haven’t been drawing in a long time, so to have something turn out nice is almost entirely unexpected — even with all that time I spent as a kid doing illustrations. It also helped to watch Supergirl and be able to study people’s face shapes, out of nowhere.

I did see it when I began to overwork my drawing. I had to rescue it a little with acrylic paint marker (insofar as that was possible), though I’m certain this wouldn’t work if I were working professionally (the white didn’t have enough coverage). I need to remind myself that I don’t have to go all the way from white paper to black shadows, or to let my logic-brain screw up my pictorial-brain’s work. I mean, I’m pretty sure they’re different brain regions, and my logic-brain wants to help (but it’s not always wisest in this area [even though it thinks it is]).

I’ve also got to remember that there’s always a next picture, and it won’t necessarily be worse. :)

I found that the Copic Ciao line that I had in Cool Grey was almost enough for the illustration I did, which is nice because the Ciaos are the least expensive of any of the Copic markers (not including their fineliners, which they call Multiliners). I also…realized that I may want to use Copic Multiliners regularly, as I’ve found the tips on Sakura Micron pens to widen (fray) with use, making the grading of their nib sizes misleading. I haven’t often used the Copic Multiliners, though, so I’m really not sure if they’ll hold up better over time. I do think, though, that the Multiliners get finer than Microns run (either that, or my tiny Multiliners are drying out).

What I do know is that Copic does have a line of refillable (not disposable) fineliners (Multiliner SP) which allow replacement of the nibs. That…is attractive, especially as I know how a fineliner with a broken nib works, and also what happens when the pens get old and dry out (and then I have to throw them out and get new ones, which isn’t very environmentally-friendly).

After having watched some of an episode of Long Island Medium which caused me to remember a story I had forgotten, I have gotten back to doing comic art and taking notes on story. It seems I also have a relatively good workflow going on, which caught me off-guard.

I’ve begun using a sketch journal, and — another surprise — I’m liking it. That’s also unexpected — in addition to needing: scissors, narrow washi tape, translucent marker paper, a copier, (just) a 2B pencil, an eraser, and a glue stick. (Well, I didn’t really need the copier, it just helped give me permission to work and possibly mess up my drawing. Having the extra copy made it easier to keep working.)

What I did was draw in my pencil art (outlines), then tape a piece of marker paper over the top, work through that paper to lay in my inks, take a photocopy of my inks, then lay in greyscale markers for value rendition (lightest color first), and work over the top to regain lost highlights with opaque white acrylic pen (not opaque enough). Then I glued down the photocopy of my inks without marker, on the facing page. (In the future, I might want to deal with this on Mixed Media paper — after I have the confidence to know that even if I do destroy what I’ve done so far by working further on it, I’ll still be able to work the drawing over again.)

What I didn’t realize until last night is that if I’m working through both marker and sketch paper, these two together are enough to annul the bleeding of the Copic marker (which normally will leak through a sketchbook page, fairly immediately). That’s basically because the Copics are alcohol-based. All of the solvent-based markers I’ve ever used (as versus water-based), have immediately soaked through most papers. That includes alcohol and xylene. There are also oil-based markers, though I only got one of those to work one time, on one project (I was drawing with an oil-based Sharpie on some sort of plastic sheeting, and couldn’t get it to work at any other time).

The narrative I remembered likely explores the main reason why I stopped writing fiction. Looking back on it, I just overthought things and freaked myself out to the point that I couldn’t tell the difference between imagination and reality, or between intuition and my discursive mind running amok. Because of this, I think, it has been quieter: if I were a spirit and was just confusing the heck out of some kid by communicating with her, I might withdraw too (even if I did love her, and at this point I have some clue of who it is I’ve been dealing with).

So when a person is dealing with energetic sensitivity, the conflict of not being able to distinguish between fantasy and reality can be amplified. The task arises of needing to tell an inner narrative, fantasy, anxieties, desires, and insights apart from an objective reality containing things that one may not understand, and which most people can’t make sense of.

And then, yeah, there’s the question of how I get that into a fictional format, in order to release myself from the constraints of memoir. Even as much as I know it isn’t my job (or possibly obligation), I think I do have some reservations about causing others to, “lose face,” though I didn’t think about it in that way until recently. In that sense, I mean, it could be a cultural thing where I’m uncomfortable telling the world about the faults and imperfections of people around me (although I’m sure it would be apparent that I’d also be showing you mine, as well: the difference is, it’s my choice and my business if I do the latter — the former is much messier).

I also don’t have to be sure that a thought is true before writing it, if I’m writing fiction. Which…may be part of the reason any fiction exists?

I don’t have any scans for you today. I’m still trying to figure out what degree of anonymity or exposure I want, online. If I showed you what I drew, my style would be recognizable across handles. There is also the issue of First Publication Rights…which makes writing for print publication different from writing on my own blog (unless I self-publish a web series or something…I’d rather do print, honestly).

Right now what I’ve got is just practice, so it’s not really a big thing. But as a bottom line, putting something on the Web means I lose control of it. I know that from having published images online, before, so this time around I’m being more reticent and deliberate.

The Web can also be a very strange place, but I’m sure we all know that. :)

art, drawing, graphic design, technology

Handwriting to drawing to painting

I’m not sure how much or whether I have mentioned on this blog, a thought about the interrelatedness of writing by hand, and of drawing. It’s something that was reinforced for me when visiting an art store today and emerging with a couple of little markers.

Whenever I start drawing, it seems kind of inevitable that I would be drawn into practicing my handwriting in Japanese language. I have a relatively solid grasp of kana (phonetic characters) and a very introductory knowledge of kanji (ideographic characters). The thing is…it’s very, very tempting to try and practice getting stroke quality, size, type, proportion of each character in such a way as it becomes beautiful at the same time as it contains meaning.

Of course, this is likely related to my interest both in Graphic Design and calligraphy, painting, and some spiritual bents such as Zen Buddhism. The last three, in particular, are very related historically in an East Asian context, along with poetry. I wouldn’t have known that without having researched the topic of art and writing within Zen, for a graduate project…but I’m fairly sure that this also pre-dates Zen and goes back to the literati in ancient China.

Okay, and that gets really complicated, with the introduction of Buddhist dharma (way of existence) into China, and the mixture of Buddhism and what are now called Daoism, Confucianism, etc. That was introduced into what is now Korea and from there, Japan, though there were multiple transmissions. (Buddhism is not native to East Asia; so far as I know, it originated in South Asia [now India], and traveled through Central Asia into China — but my sources are skewed due to the fact that I currently can only read English-language versions of the history of this. English-language versions of, “what Buddhism is,” by people who only know other English-language versions, are generally imperfect at best, warped and misunderstood, at worst.)

My point is basically that there’s a large historical precedent for my interest in this, and that I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these values were passed on to me by the cultures of family and friends (at the least). To get deeply into that goes into some personal spiritual beliefs (or lack of them), which I’m not even all the time sure on (see the Dao De Jing/Tao Te Ching for a reference to why I may not talk about this — it’s a short work), but it gives me some stability. An inkling of it.

Anyhow…I read somewhere that the expression of the writer/artist with ink and brush was supposed to be a reflection of the one who wrote it, although at times an artist would get someone else to do the calligraphy for him. (Most of what I’ve read goes over male artists/poets/calligraphers; that doesn’t mean they all were, but it’s what I’ve seen.)

I believe that it is because of the high value placed on literacy and writing in at least Japan, that the language has turned out as beautiful (and complex) as it is. There are thousands of kanji (ideographic symbols borrowed from Chinese language) to learn to read and write, though there are also patterns within the kanji (like their formative elements, or “radicals”) that give clues to their meanings and readings.

I did start this post talking about the interrelatedness of writing by hand and of making art. My concern is that when people shift from writing with their hands, to writing by typing — only — that the practice which allows drawing to grow from writing, and painting to grow from drawing, is avoided. I do have some concern over the fact that most of us — unless we make a conscious effort otherwise — will likely be writing mostly by using a keyboard, and facing a computer screen. Not by hand, with paper (or any surface) and whatever instrument you use to write with, which could be pencil or marker or pen or brush or charcoal or something else. Something that will make a mark. Anything that will make a mark.

There’s a freedom to any of the latter in that you can express yourself not only in how the text is encoded, but in how it is drawn, and also that you can draw other things that are not letters or punctuation! My drawing, really, started in the margins of my notes and writings for school, as a young teen. I got bored. I found a way to express myself which no one could take away from me, without also taking away my learning tools.

Coincidentally, it was also close to that time at which I started to learn kana. I was into anime, particularly Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon, and I wanted to know how to read the text in the Japanese-language books I had to accompany the series. This was also, particularly, because I knew there were a number of seasons and movies (most of them, actually) which had not been translated into English. The only contact I had with these movies and series were the anime books (these must have a name; they’re an entire genre) and untranslated VHS tapes which I found through local venues.

I’m guessing that for me — at least, right now — writing in Japanese is closer to art, than writing in English. That is changing a bit, as I experiment with incorporating more cursive into my handwriting (which inevitably makes it messier than my regular [legible] print; or my regular cursive, where my “r”s are a bit…hard to identify). It’s probably also because writing in Japanese is less familiar to me. But I think I need a bit of a challenge in my reading — and not from English sentences being indecipherable. (It happens in college readings, sometimes. I’ve had textbooks like this. I’m not kidding. SENTENCES WHICH MAKE NO SENSE.)

I have, off-and-on, heard arguments or concerns about Japanese youth losing the skill of reading because of the popularity of manga (comics). I’m not so much concerned about that at this moment, but rather the loss of artistic skill and development which may loom because of a digital revolution in which no one can even write (well) by hand, anymore. It’s already a given that a lot of schools in the U.S. no longer teach how to write in cursive, making the reading of things like old ledgers written in Copperplate script, difficult to read. (I can barely read Copperplate. How much worse must it be for kids who didn’t learn cursive in Kindergarten?)

I also wonder how much I have bought into that in the past, because I did have to spend so much of my time in front of a screen. Something that no one told me, though, is that going to school online does mean that you have to take copious notes (even when the Professor gives handouts). Which are best done by hand. It’s hard when you haven’t written quickly and legibly in a very long time. And, I’m finding, it’s likely harder to draw when you haven’t written by hand at all in a very long time.

I’ve been writing by hand recently, though (which I’ve referenced in earlier posts here), and…it is easier to edge back into mark-making by just trying to write correctly in Japanese. I am not entirely certain why, except for the fact that I now can tell when they’re right (or at least when they’re beautiful), and when they aren’t. I do believe that a lot of that is due to my art training. Before someone close to me dropped out of Japanese-language class, the teacher saw my writing trying to help them on their homework, and said I had “nice handwriting.” So…I don’t know what that’s worth, except that I know I’m not going way into calligraphic territory. It’s legible. That’s good.

So far, I’ve not personally focused on this Inktober thing, but it is kind of inspiring to see all the works people are doing. I’ve also been able to get into acrylic paint markers…which, alongside my Pitt pens and alcohol markers…they’re alluring because of the use of color, for one thing. Opacity also helps, and it’s absent in other water-based and alcohol-based markers. I wouldn’t consider myself into graffiti in any way, but there’s something in the graphic qualities of marker that’s there for me.

I’m thinking that if I get deep enough into this…work in paint may come easier to me. I realized that Acryla gouache is what I was seeking, in a hybrid between acrylics and watercolors which I could utilize on paper without abusing my watercolor brushes (gesso is rough) — say for miniatures. (I still love Shahzia Sikander.) There’s also the possibility of using gouache mixed with acrylic glazing medium, or the (gasp!) use of transparent watercolors mixed with gouache.

I haven’t tried any of that yet, though they’re all creative possibilities. Right now what I have to deal with is how to get my markers out so I can see them, and how to combine transparent, opaque, and permanent inks…

…and paints. If I try, I’ll find out what works, and what doesn’t. As I’m learning, a lot of art (or at least design), seems to be about that. That, and not getting hung up on what other people say art should be…

art, craft, design, libraries, LIS, seed beads, self care, work

The importance of weekends

Today marks the last day of my first experience of working a 40-hour week. As long as I take care of food, water, hygiene, breaks, and sleep, I can make it. I really just need to care for myself, physically. It also helps to have family to help with food preparation.

Now that I have two days to myself, I’m also wondering how to spend it. Not to reference “Phineas & Ferb” or anything, but it’s a legitimate question. I have a binder full of stuff I can read, I need to figure out if I have any potential benefits, and I can review my notes.

I can also get back to my macramé; my seed beads and cord have been sitting out here for over a week (though they aren’t dusty yet), and I have a better handle on my design process, now: try different things. You won’t know what it looks like, unless you try different things. In this way, an idea develops from a rudimentary stab at embodying a concept, into multiple versions and pathways that you won’t be able to experience without seeing and feeling (and making) them in hard form.

Just thinking about possibilities isn’t going to work as well (if at all). Those thoughts are the seeds. The trials are the work; the trials are how things develop into reality. Without that, it’s all dreaming; no production, no creating.

And it is okay to work in Decorative Art. I realize that, now; and I also wonder whether the idea that it isn’t okay, is due to my Literature training (Fiction writing, I’ve found to be conflict- and message-driven), and my training in Fine Art (where we were always looking for underlying meaning behind our images).

It’s also okay to make things with my hands that aren’t pictures. Seriously. Craft is not below Art. It’s just a concept and practice that overlaps Art, though as to whether it is truly a different or separable thing (to me), is something I haven’t yet resolved. I did, however, read that most ancient art qualifies as, “Decorative,” now…I don’t know if you can know how good that makes me feel; that I’m not alone or isolated in wanting to make beautiful things.

Best-Maugard’s book, A Method for Creative Design, has helped with my design process — and I find design applies in both Art (for me right now, drawing) and Craft (for me, beadwork). I recently was able to obtain a used copy for about $25. The only drawback is that it came along with a previously unmentioned scent of tobacco smoke, and light though loving wear.

Journaling has also helped me keep track of (and account for) my own thoughts, though I highly doubt it would be as calming or helpful, if I made it to publish. I’ve noticed that I love my fine Pilot Metropolitan with green-blue ink and my calligraphy-nib Pilot Prera with red-orange ink. They kind of automatically help me apply graphic design principles to my writing, along with encouraging me to write by hand. If fountain pens aren’t used regularly, that is — and especially with those two, which I may only think because I’ve had them longer — the ink inside the converter (I’m not using cartridges) evaporates and concentrates. That’s not my goal, especially as my green-blue ink can turn almost black, when that happens.

At this time, I’m just wondering about the possibility of working 40 hours normally. Would I be able to do it? I’m hoping that I get the chance to find out. First, I have to get through this training, which will last for approximately the rest of the month. After that, I have six months of Probation…though I’m thinking everyone expects that to be a learning period.

I am glad to get out of being an Aide, though, primarily because Aide work is so physical, and I’m no longer a young adult. My body can’t handle what it used to. I also have a lot more to offer than my physical strength, and eye for detail and pattern recognition.

It will also be awesome to be able to read things that aren’t textbooks, again. And it will relate to my employment.

What I’ve noticed is that it is an almost completely different experience to serve in the Children’s Area, than it is to serve in the Adult Area…though I should be able to reflect further on that, later this weekend (I intend for it to be here, but it may not end up that way). I’ve only spent two hours so far in hands-on training in the Children’s Area…I just, well, have become in a way acclimated to being around kids from working as an Aide in a Public Library for as long as I have.

The major thing I’m thinking of is that I’ve known my share of Aides who do not like to shelve, or when they do shelve, they only like to shelve the Adult and Young Adult areas. Due to the local climate of my old library, the Shelvers were faced with a dilemma every time they worked in the Kids’ Section, which I don’t find to be of personal benefit to go into; but let it be known that I’ve found that library to be a bit unusual, now that I’m no longer there.

I’m just really happy that I get to help the kids in a way I couldn’t, before.

Maybe I should have picked up more jobs at different libraries before even applying for a position as a Library Assistant, but I’m here now. Multiple people have told me that I can’t live in the past, and just to do my best, moving forward. It applies with ergonomics; it applies with regretting not having become a Library Assistant sooner; and it applies with certain mistakes I’ve made in my history. I just can’t linger over those errors for the rest of my life; I’ve seen that happen in other people, and I realize that it keeps them from developing beyond it. Reliving those experiences over and over again for years or decades doesn’t, actually, help solve the problems they present.

My present consideration — as regards work — is whether to opt for more time on the Kids’ Service Desk, just because it’s more difficult, or whether to take the easy way out and stay mostly in the Adult section. I don’t know, that is, whether my Manager rewards risk-taking and growth (doing the hard stuff so that I can learn), or comfort and success with what’s already known (stepping a little out of my comfort zone, but minorly so; easing into the work). I might want to consult with her, on that; though I never have intended to be a Children’s Librarian.

It’s just a very, very different experience between the two Service Desks. I also know that most of the entry-level Public Librarian openings I’ve seen, have to do with Youth, Teen, or Children’s Librarian positions. I can’t do that without having experience working with kids; but, having experience in that area may qualify me for further work, there. Now do I want that?

I’ll have the opportunity to find out, won’t I? :)

As a final note, my Career person has told me that it’s hard to get a job just because you’ve taken classes in the subject. So I shouldn’t say that my MLIS was the end-all and be-all of being a Librarian; in fact, it was only the beginning, in a way that my current training is only the beginning. I’ve been told that it can take 6 months to become truly comfortable with Reference.

I…just think I am lucky to be working with such nice people. I’ve also found that there are many people around me who are in similar situations to my own.

It’s helping me.

art, craft, seed beads, self care, technology

Taking account: Humanities/Social Sciences/Arts/Crafts…yeah,

I’m not a Hard Sciences person, and I shouldn’t try to be one for the sake of being like my dad. I’m not him.

Today, instead of JavaScript training, it’s back to tiny tiny beads for me, and macramé. Micromacramé. Nanomacramé? ;) I have been using size 11° seed beads, 3mm Czech fire-polished beads, and C-Lon Micro, which are all very tiny, and kind of made for each other.

I didn’t even realize before breaking back into my 11°s that they’re basically about 2mm across. Using a pattern that looks like a macramé version of Daisy Chain (without the roundabouts), I’ve been able to tinker my way to a smaller version of what I was working on last with standard C-Lon and 8° beads. I don’t know if I’ve posted images of it here, yet — or if that was on an alternate blog (which is down, for now).

Right now I’m not even sure as to whether I should go back to Photoshop. I think I would post a lot more images if it were easier to modify them…though what I’m using now has a lot of options (and likely more technical options than at least PS Elements), it isn’t the most intuitive program. Its UX isn’t great.

I’ve been reading Adolfo Best-Maugard’s A Method for Creative Design (first published in 1926). It’s been interesting, though at this point (30 pages from the end of the book), I don’t think I’ll purchase it. There is some interesting content, but the book is based on a pretty idiosyncratic viewpoint which I’m not sure I buy into. I mean, it’s interesting to read, but whether I accept the author’s argument is something else.

There’s also this thing about the context of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s that seems to resonate with me. I wouldn’t be surprised if the author was influenced by Spiritualism, which was active around the same time period. Both reflect a desire to seek out what is common between all the world’s peoples, at an early stage of globalization.

Best-Maugard essentially analyzed world or “primitive” art and broke down many of the designs he found into simple constituent elements which could be rearranged into various two-dimensional representations. What’s disappointing for me about this book is that it seems he is only teaching a method based on one form — the spiral — meaning that there is a lot more that he holds back. I would have preferred a longer edition with fewer drawings, explaining or demonstrating further these other primitive forms. As it is, I haven’t so far seen him speak about the latter; only that they exist, and that he isn’t going into them.

Anyhow: as much as I appreciate the fine arts, and love the color mutability possible in painting…painting isn’t easy for me at this point. I’ve been attempting to get back into it…but for some reason…flowers aside, I’m not drawn to common subjects, like portraits or landscapes or figures. I just don’t see the point. I can appreciate art made with these subjects, but it’s not my art.

That could be me coming from a writer’s background, too. In writing, conflict and tension are the main drive behind the narrative: in fine arts, it seems people reproduce (or create) the placid and agreeable a lot of the time, and I haven’t been able to reconcile these two modes or methods.

One of the things that has struck me is that it’s possible my native method is more lexical; as stringing different colors of beads on colored thread and tying those threads together, echoes the form of language or parallel processing. It’s just a thought: I’m not even totally sure about it yet.

But one thing I realized today is that I really did not want to get back to my JavaScript training. I got to my course, looked at it, and decided to do something else. I know I focused on Digital Services in school, but I think the experience of training under that method has made it clear how little I like to interface with computers in computer-language. It’s not quite arcane; it’s more binary.

And the beads were staring me in the face (I bought maybe 14 little 7.5 gram vials recently: no point in getting a whole lot of any one color when I hadn’t seen them), and I had bought a lot of tiny C-Lon, so I just went and got the stuff out. No reason to get the stuff if I’m never going to use it.

For some reason…dealing with beads and cords and color…it’s relaxing. Whereas work on the computer is more often than not, tension- and anxiety-inducing. Not to mention that it’s likely in the process of destroying my eyesight.

Before going to an online Master’s program, I thought it would be OK to be on the computer more. But being intensively on the computer for 6+ hours a day is something I don’t think I could tolerate.

But really, the Digital Services path only really determined seven to eight classes out of the twenty I took.

Yeah, I guess that’s a lot. Like, a third.

Maybe what I need is really to decompress and stop taking classes for a bit. It would be ironic if taking these classes taught me that I didn’t like the subjects the classes were about.

It really wasn’t too bad, until I took Database Management and Fundamentals of Programming. Then…I was like, “what did I get into?” I also don’t have a Computer Science or IT background (or even a Hard Sciences one after high school, although I still love Geology and Astronomy), so I’m at something of a disadvantage in the digital field. I know that if I want to stay current in Web Development, it will take constant acquisition of new skills to keep up with the pace of technological change. I’m not sure that I care enough to actively choose to do that for the rest of my life.

Maybe that’s why the people in those positions get paid so well.

At this point, I’m clearer that I am a Humanities and Social Sciences person, although I don’t think Sociology is where I want to be. I attempted that for a couple of years in my undergraduate training. It was depressing.

Psychology was easier and more engaging, but I never really went deeply into it. History was amazing — particularly World History. I loved that: being able to fit pieces of thoughts together into a coherent image. I also loved Ethnic Studies, even though I took classes just different enough from my own position to be able to expand my view. Though I somewhat regret not having taken Japanese-American Literature, I also know that I’m immersed enough that nothing in an undergraduate class on it would have been new to me.

I also regret not having bitten the bullet and taken Japanese Language & Literature as my undergraduate major. I don’t regret having honed my English writing skills, but I am irritated that people devalue good writing so much. There is also the issue of being able to ever find work or a way of being in Japan in which I wouldn’t be exploited, being a dark-skinned female (kokujin, or “black person,” is still an accepted term in lieu of amerikajin, even if the “black person” is also “American”) with no plans on marriage or children…but yeah, insider stuff.

It was likely my experience with my birth family — and trying to be included in an Asian clique — which caused me to lean against learning Japanese language, though.

I could get further into that, but I won’t.

In any case…I’ve been finding people just kind of randomly on the Reader who do things that no one else does. Like the person who paints silk scarves, or the person encouraging me in tatting. There are a few of us who do regularly post on beadwork, but not many. I get many more “Likes” on my painting posts than on my beadwork posts…but that doesn’t mean I should work on my painting, instead.

Seriously. I think more people can just connect with painting, whereas bead weaving or beaded micromacramé is relatively niche (which is a good thing so far as niche markets are concerned, but)…

It’s just kind of tough to be disconnected. I should probably go out of my way to join a beadwork forum or two, though as my specialization is beaded micromacramé at this point…yeah, that’s…that’s kind of special. (I was inspired with the macramé bug by someone working with cords and gemstones, though what I do is much different from their work.)

I wonder if giving resources would help others get involved in the hobby? I’ve been reluctant to do so, for my own reasons…