calligraphy, psychology, writing

Recalling the reason to write

Continuing my run of entries with no pictures…I now have a new fountain pen, and ink. (For the fountain pen enthusiasts: this is a TWSBI Eco with dark purple ink and a Medium nib. So smooth.) It will help encourage me to keep up my habit of writing on a daily basis, which I’ve been doing for a couple of days now, offline. As I’ve been doing so, I’ve been reminded of the craft of writing, and how it is such a basic way of recording experience.

It’s kind of like drawing, but not. :) I wouldn’t say it’s of necessity less visual, but I get into more about the inner experience of existence and being than I can by drawing, which in my case is more like feeling surfaces rather than plumbing depths (and there I get into the tactile [as versus visual] aspect of drawing, which I hadn’t noticed before). Getting back to writing by hand is liberating, and I’m wanting to do it more. I used to fill up notebooks, especially as a teen; though then again, that was the age of IBMs and Netscape. There wasn’t as big a draw to the Web, for me, then.

It’s just so nice to be able to combine the tactile experience of writing, with the act of marking paper — surprisingly like drawing — and the experience of color and the ability to modulate how I write, how I form the words, and with whom (which pen, which ink; which are starting to have personalities, to me: helped by filling my standard Pilot Metropolitan Fine [used as my workhorse general pen right now] with blue-green ink, and my Medium Calligraphy pen with red-orange, which oddly enough coincides with basic graphic design principles).

Although a long time ago, I did start to practice calligraphy (which if nothing else, has improved my handwriting), calligraphy itself has not been an urgent draw for me. Maybe because of the cultural and historical associations with Germanic letters, and the connection of these to illuminated manuscripts and old official records. I think what I’m feeling, though, does tie in with the desire to add a decorative element to text, to ideas; to let the words blossom — to make symbols that mean things and to combine them into combinations I’ve never seen before, according to standard rules (grammar) which allow for it (or which I consciously break).

Of course, content also helps. When my writing is private, I get back to the seed of “why write?” which is missing on my blog. I mean, it’s really freeing to just write down what I’m feeling, knowing no one ever has to read it; just developing my own thoughts towards more advanced thoughts, and recording where I’m at, at any one time. There is no point to writing — for me, at least — never dealing directly with lived experience.

With me, my writing has pretty much always been intimate and personal, at least somewhat train-of-thought. I get into the “flow” state of creativity. When things are fragmented, I’m now trying to fill in the connections for you all, which are apparent to me but not necessarily to a reader who doesn’t have my experience. But there are things I would not feel open to sharing on the spur of the moment, online, without due consideration or commitment.

Words have power, that is; they have the power to change lives (for better or worse). The responsibility inherent in that is not something I’ve taken lightly, which is why, for years, I stopped writing. But the power of words to change lives is apparent, to me, from the connections I have made online in the past; people I would have never met, were it not for the Internet. And that — that is the reason that I decided to go into Digital Services, because I’ve met so many people online who have allowed me to explore my inner depths with them.

My mind and thoughts also routinely run deep — so deep that my grasp of the concepts I’m really talking about, is sometimes blurred — and it’s hard to clarify without records. With records, I can analyze things after the fact; I can have some degree of objectivity in the future toward what was entirely subjective, in the moment.

It is also…great to be able to elevate my life to a status where I can see it as something worth writing about. It’s something I don’t do to such an extent of intimacy, on this blog. I’ve remembered the reason for writing, that is.

It’s just great to be able to vent without having to actually have worked out whether it’s worth it to do so; or to acknowledge thoughts that would normally never be expressed in the course of civil life. Or to write things and then look at the words and ponder whether they’re really true, or if they’re skewed in some way. I write it; I see it; I get to ask, do I really believe that? Or, I get to start out with the self-agreement that I will write what comes to me, regardless of whether or not I know it to be true, as this will be an excellent opportunity to look back on later and gauge how, “on it,” I was at the time.

It’s been pretty great. Especially to validate real feelings I’ve had, which I know would be detrimental to social functioning, otherwise.

It’s good to be able to work things out. It’s good to be honest. And I’ll be doing more of it.

calligraphy, drawing, sequential art

crochet and playing with brushes

So I suppose it’s the time of year when I start thinking about what I’ll make or buy for people for Christmas.

I wanted to note that the crochet scarf pattern that I’ve named “dark waves” over on another website, could be good for someone’s Christmas present.  I don’t know if I would actually be able to finish it before Christmas, though — at least, working with a fine gauge, I’m unsure.  Basically I was thinking that I’d be able to work on this and it didn’t matter if I liked dark purple anymore or not, because it would be going to someone else.  ;)

Anyhow.  Also to update on the playing around with watercolors, ink and brushes:

I’ve “recently” (as in within the past two or three months…I think) obtained a set of watercolor brushes that I’m really happy with.  I’m using the Winsor & Newton Cotman brushes, primarily.  These have been mixed with some other brands; though I can’t recall the specific brands offhand, besides Princeton Art & Brush…which works differently because the bristles are of a different degree of stiffness than the Cotmans.

I basically have a bunch of small round brushes and a small flat…the Cotmans I like, because they come to a reasonably fine point, at least in my judgment, and the larger sizes have bristles long enough to contain a good ink load.  (Only complaint I have is that the bristles on my smallest — an older brush — have splayed a little, causing random additional lines; and the bristles aren’t very long.)

Last time I was experimenting with them, I was using a jar which contained some Yasutomo Sumi ink (I know, pre-ground ink is not the best way to go about things, but it’s available).  The jar…last time I used it, it had a skin of dried ink that fell into the bottom that I had to pull out so it wouldn’t gunk up my brush.  I need to remember to clean the jar out.

I have a couple of pads of Bristol now to work with — I’m using the 300 series until I want to do something serious, then I can use the 400.

I’ve eased off of attempting the Japanese calligraphy, once I saw that I had a difficult enough time writing basic phonemes in ballpoint so that they look right…

…yeeeah.  The Japanese study hasn’t been coming along well, because I keep forgetting about it.  Reading books on Japanese calligraphy and Chinese brush painting, however, has been good to show different ways to *hold* and *use* a brush.  The grip one uses on a brush drastically changes the quality of mark one can obtain from it.

But yes; I did find that the entire Oriental calligraphy thing would require a different set-up than I have; and in that field, I’m working uphill because of my limited knowledge of how to write in the language anyway.  But the information of learning different ways to *use* what you have (and as I’ve read, Chinese brush painting, at least, draws off of calligraphic strokes in order to create an image) — that’s actually really valuable, even if you’re illiterate in all Asian languages.  :)

As for what I’m doing artistically, otherwise: most recently I did a series of sketches while trying to get to sleep.  Don’t know if that counts.  ^_-  But I did find that the Staedtler fiber-tipped pen I was using (.3) can create a variety of line widths, depending just on how hard it’s pressed, and how slowly or quickly one moves it.  I should try that with the Microns and see how it works…

The art get-together I’ve been trying to plan with a friend just isn’t happening.  Not entirely sure why, other than that maybe they just aren’t into it anymore.  Or I intimidate them or something.  I don’t know.

As regards ink and quality of ink — I have now tried Higgins Eternal, and I prefer Higgins Calligraphy.  Eternal is not a very dark black, it’s more of a very dark bluish grey — which probably doesn’t matter if you’re making work for graphic reproduction, as the blacks can be digitally darkened.

The Higgins Calligraphy ink is the black that I personally prefer — in pens, the closest thing I can find to it happen to be the Pitt fiber-tipped and brush pens.  I haven’t tried Copic or many of the other fineliners, though, so that should be taken with a grain of salt.

calligraphy, drawing, graphic design, illustration

leaning toward graphic art

I meant to make this post last night but somehow got sidetracked…

I tried experimenting with my NuPastels.  What it’s told me is that I probably don’t want to be working with pastels so much at this point in time.  My first mistake was using vine charcoal.  It’s been years since I used vine charcoal, so while I was expecting it to smudge, I wasn’t expecting it to have no adhesion whatsoever to the paper.  Which meant that when I was trying to blend colors with my fingertips, the colors kept becoming dirtied with the charcoal, and I kept wiping white areas into the drawing by touching the vine charcoal areas.

After I left the NuPastels for another time…I started drawing in large format with a set of graphite sticks I have.  I believe their brand is Cretacolor Monolith.  I was impressed with these — the tin runs from HB to 9B, and even the HB smudged well, and using the 9B and my Pitt 9B graphite stick (which is slightly closer to black), I was able to attain a good range of tones from light to dark.  Basically, white to almost black.  It was also easier to cover large areas of dark value easily, by using the edge of the graphite stick.  And then I could highlight with an eraser, as the graphite — at least the HB — is very easy to erase, even when used heavily.

Plus then there’s the point of the stick for drawing in detail, and I have a set of freaking tortillons which keep squeaking on the paper and not blending very well (though I did learn how to grind fresh tips on one of these, last night).  The thing I’m missing is my triangular eraser.  I have no idea where my triangular detail eraser went.

I did end up doing a graphic-novel-style character drawing…which is one of my fallbacks when I don’t know what to draw.  I need to work on things which are not people, though, really.  That factor alone is a big reason I haven’t been doing graphic-novel work.  (Though I probably shouldn’t go too deeply into that.)

After I had experimented on these two counts, I used a white calligraphy ink that I had stashed, on top of a rubbed-in charcoal ground.  The ink was very thick and very white.  I used the glass pen that my late grandmother bought for me, which I normally don’t use anymore, because the nib grinds down every time I use it.  But the upshot is that it’s easy to clean — the nib is cylindrical.  I think, though, that that particular calligraphy ink might be best used with a brush, due to its thickness.  I didn’t want to use it with a metal calligraphy nib, because I didn’t want to ruin the nib.  (Calligraphy nibs are two pieces, and it’s difficult to clean the areas where the flats of the pieces touch each other.  I have a jar of Higgins Pen Cleaner, but I don’t know if it will work on an ink that may have some acrylic in it.)

But what that, and subsequent experimentation with a calligraphy nib showed me, though, is that I probably want to get back into calligraphy.  I should probably look for a better book on it.  There’s just a graphic quality to calligraphy that I really, really like.  I also wanted to note that I did also use my glass pen with Higgins Waterproof Black Calligraphy ink, which I believe is the blackest ink I have — and I really liked the results.  So I may be attempting to learn to draw with metal-nibbed pens in the near future.

Doing a quick search, I find a note from 2007 that says Higgins Eternal is fully pigmented ink, while the Calligraphy ink has dye…meaning that the Eternal is more likely to be lightfast.  I’m not sure that in the past I’ve run across a selection of inks where Eternal has actually been on the shelf (as opposed to sold out).

And at this point I believe I’m closer to an illustrator or designer than to a fine artist.  From my work yesterday it’s apparent that markmaking is one of the things I really find enjoyable, high-contrast markmaking in specific — which leads me to believe that drawing (markmaking) and graphic elements are one of the things that really get me going.  And calligraphy seems closer to graphic design than to fine art.  That, combined with my recent work with felt-tip pens and brush pens…also points me in the direction where it seems that I’m drawing with liquid media, not painting with it.

And that in turn really helps me narrow down my options to what I’d be most likely to enjoy.  And if we are loosely considering the possibility of one day going to art school (as I suppose could happen), it’s good to have some direction, prior to entering.

It was refreshing to be able to work on a large format again, and to be able to use my arm gesturally, and vary my grips on my drawing implements.  That’s something I’ve been missing while working in small-scale.  The work I did yesterday shows me where my interests lie, so I’m glad I did it.

calligraphy, creative writing, writing

Wanting to write and not type right now…

Hmm.  I’m sitting here at the computer and thinking that maybe what I want to actually be doing is writing out my thoughts in hard copy.  By that I mean I’m wanting to get a blank book and just start writing in it.  I think I may have one set aside for that purpose.  I know I have a mostly-blank notebook.  Of course, knowing myself, I notice the desire to want to use a special (pigment-based) pen for this so I know it won’t fade.  I just wish it didn’t make me sound so snobby.  ;)

There’s just something about writing things out by hand which appeals to me more than typing.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s related to my drive to create art.  I know that it’s related to my wanting to learn Japanese and be able to use kanji in addition to the phonetic kana.  And it’s probably related to wanting to learn calligraphy.  When you write by hand, it does seem like a work of art itself.  And of course when you write on the computer, it’s faster and more efficient; but when your computer fails, it’s gone, unless you backed it up.  There just seems to be something evanescent about writing done on a computer.  Maybe it’s the way the letters appear out of nowhere and are gone just as fast.  I don’t know.  Maybe I just need to get a better set of fonts or something.

I don’t have a lot of time to write here tonight; there are too many other things competing for my attention, like the copy of The Artist’s Way I found earlier.  But I should probably note this down.  Maybe I should use the unlined book I have so that I can draw and write in the same book?  Heh — I’ll go and look through my blank books now and see which one I dedicated to creative writing…

calligraphy, illustration, writing

notes on materials and recurrence of a beloved character

Just a quick post here, as I’m running a slight fever and should get some rest.

I did some sketches and writing today. The sketch I was able to ink was just in HB pencil and gone over with my black Riso marker. The felt “medium” nib was what I was looking for, if I was going to be making sketches to reduce in scanning, and wanted bold black lines. But the “fine” felt nib wasn’t all that much finer than the medium one. Alternately, the Micron Graphic 1 makes about the same line width, but the nib seems more fragile, and I don’t know if the color is as rich. I think the final factor in this will be which one withstands the alcohol markers the best, or which one I can reliably buy.

I also did some practice writing in a Faber-Castell Pitt brush pen, with very light pressure. I don’t know how the nibs are going to age, but fresh, they’re pretty good for lettering. Which I suppose is good when you realize that they aren’t what you’re looking for as regards hatching, or at the moment, for things other than lineart. I think I have a black one of these (which is a very dense, warm black), but I’m going to have to look for it. This one would also be good for lineart, as it makes a bold and somewhat variable line.

Other than that…I have a certain older (aged) character whom I’ve isolated my psyche from in the past. This was mainly because I’d become somewhat ill at ease with older characters seeking the attention of younger characters — and this judgment is based on a certain acquaintance I’ve (unfortunately) made in reality. Not to say that judgment is accurate. Today, after the last week of looking over sketches…I realized that being older doesn’t equate to being the …to be succinct, “dirty old man” that I’ve had to deal with in my life. For all I know, this character — the written character, that is — could be someone of my generation who is still alive in the future. Which gives a very different outlook on the concept of being aged.

The person I know IRL was shaped by his culture and time. I heavily suspect him of being racist and sexist (at the least — what I know is that he interacts with people based on what he thinks they are, which is based on their appearance), but this is something which occurs when someone is inundated at a vulnerable age by a racist and sexist and heterosexist environment, and never really has the insight to question the messages they’re receiving from whatever limited quarter they think is worth listening to. An older male who both has more insight (and wider range) than this one and who has been inundated in a different environment may turn out much differently. Which then means that they would conduct themselves differently, and they would have more options when it came to social settings.

Of course, this then leads to worldbuilding questions and alternate history or alternate reality. What specifically came to mind was the level of ease of physical mobility (allowing people to be exposed to other cultures, beyond just the “ooh that’s exotic” titillation that I suspect said acquaintance has felt, as ease of travel leads also to potential ease of immigration) and the level of ease of communication outside of one’s home culture (as via Internet or IRL social settings)…because I think that these are factors which allow a greater level of sophistication in social development as regards dealing with people who are different from oneself. And that’s something my character is really, really going to have to have in order not to become like the guy I know, who I perceive as being attracted to a younger person because of what he psychologically associates with her appearance (and additionally, because he can manipulate her without her full knowledge).

I’m deleting some contents here because they’re controversial and I don’t need angry comments. I’ll keep them for my own records — I know what I’m meaning to reference; it’s probable that the text won’t carry the entire message.

I drew this character again today — and felt as though I could make him anyone again — for the first time in months.

book arts, calligraphy, illustration, writing

Symbols over realism

Alright, so the rest of this is just a note to myself about the uses of pictograms, ideograms, written language, and their relations to drawing.

(Apologies, I’m being distracted by something in the next room.)

My discovery the other night is that I realized that a lot of my draw to writing is because of the nature of using graphics to symbolize ideas. I discovered this partially via copying over the ideograms that I’d designed for this comic project (which, to be clear, I’m not as of yet set on illustrating in comic format — it could well translate to an entirely written, or written and partially illustrated work — only it would not be for children).

There are a lot of things in drawing that I haven’t been exposed to yet, and trying to realistically represent a place and give a sense of it is one of those things that I’m not sure I wholly enjoy. I get a lot out of it, in the sense of being pushed to visualize places I’ve never been; I know that. But I’m not sure I want to spend a lot of time on drawing a lot of irrelevant detail.

There’s something about the ideograms, though — I’m not sure if it’s their graphic simplicity and boldness, or if it’s because they’re representing an idea for which there are no words (the latter of which is very possible), but they appeal to me more than realism.

I suppose right now I’m just finding my place in the world of books, and that place is squarely not in the “realism” camp. I can see this from my last entry and from what I’m writing here now. I think I’ve just got to find a way to reconnect with it…what it was before college tried to train me away from mystical thought and to ground me in this reality.

Last night, I was thinking of creating at least a good number of pictograms and/or ideograms and incorporating them into my writing as text. I don’t know what publisher would go for that, though. Or how I’d do this, other than creating a font whose characters were my own symbols.

But it is pretty fun to try and use a calligraphic line while drawing kanji or kana. I ended up using rollerball and felt nib for most of the latter part of it, but I am slowly recovering my ability to write in Japanese.

book arts, calligraphy, illustration, writing

creative expansion

On looking for the binder which held my handsewing samples, I found a number of old notebooks. Two of them were sketchpads, to be more precise — and looking at what was contained therein and in some of the unused pages of my bound notebooks inspired me to work on my 2D art again.

This in turn got me to start reading Scott McCloud’s Making Comics again, and I went out and bought a set of markers today in greyscale (warm tone, not cool). I’ve been using these for a while since I got home today. They’re alcohol markers, but they’re a lot less smelly than the Prismacolors. They’re also a good deal more expensive than the Prismacolors, at list. As it was, it wasn’t so bad — about 50 cents more per marker than the Prismas, and I was able to customize what I was getting (instead of getting three black markers in with the Warm Grey Prismacolor set).

What I’d had before were Trias, but apparently Trias used to be good (which is how I first ran across them) and now a lot of people (including me) have problems with the newly designed markers drying out. I had to throw out three or four markers because they were unusable — to Tria’s credit, I got these a good while ago, but not everyone posting bad reviews with the same problem, had them sitting around for years.

Getting back into illustration…it’s brought up whether I want to write again. Due to factors I won’t get into here, it’s been easier for me recently to think of writing. As it is, I should have a good fund of material should I want to practice adapting prose or poetry to a graphic novel or “comic” format.

But I think that the most interesting thing to happen today was experimenting with one of my brush pens (I think it was a Staedtler Duo), trying to write nicely and more-or-less correctly, using kanji and hiragana. Then I started looking at the Japanese learning books I have here but haven’t been using, and realized what a short jump it was from drawing pictograms and ideograms to drawing pictures.

So I want to get back on the Japanese learning thing. I had a dream the other night about copying someone else’s handwriting to learn new ways of moving my hand in drawing. I do know that my own handwriting really only became very legible after I’d practiced writing in Japanese (not romaji).

Right now I’ve got several things going on: sewing, drawing, Japanese language study, the potential of writing again and possibly writing and/or drawing some short fiction. The religious study is still there, but fainter in import. Then there’s also the knitting and crochet, which ’til now I’ve been pretty dependent on for occupying my time.

I find it interesting how much more engaging drawing is when it isn’t just figures. As Scott McCloud said, don’t think of “backgrounds” as “backgrounds”; they’re your character’s environment. I suppose of course things would seem a little unhealthy if you subtract the character from everything surrounding them, and often the rest of their bodies from their face. ;) I tried adding an open window behind my test character, and the image was suddenly a lot deeper and a lot more interesting.

I’ve still got to practice with the new markers. But one more thing before I go to bed:

I really need to get some more of those Tombow markers. They’re freaking wonderful. I love the color. And they’re cheap and readily available. I figure the joy I derive from coloring with them, outweighs archival concerns over whether they’ll still be around in 20-30 years.

They’re just beautiful. I may be going back for more. Right now with the new markers (not Tombow), I’m just working with warm greys. But there’s more I can do, once I get my value studies down right.