art, creativity, drawing, illustration, self care

Caterpillars

First of all, I want to apologize for not posting images, in this post. I could, but right now, they’re feeling kind of intimate (no, not in the way I expect the Internet to think). There are two images I have which are especially suitable for posting; however, I’m still in-process. I feel that if I post prematurely, I might disrupt my creative process. That’s why they aren’t here.

Today is Day 38 of COVID-19 Shelter-In-Place. Not that I’m complaining. I’d rather be here than have to worry about people coughing at work. Speaking of which, my parents and I all have an off-and-on mystery cough. Fun times.

I realize now that as I near the end of a project, I need to line the next project up, right afterwards. There always seems to be at least a day or two in which I basically stall and don’t know what to do with myself. I had been building up to a seminar on Monday (two days ago) which was basically…well, it was a seminar. Not a great one.

Yesterday (Tuesday)…for one thing, I can’t entirely remember it, but I was working on a design which…well, it’s cute. For some reason, I’ve got caterpillars on my mind.

As I was listening in on Monday, I started doodling (and writing in Japanese) in my notes, until the notes were basically all doodles. The day after, I was working with this design more…to the point that I have a colored design (which doesn’t look quite the same as the black-and-white version…I’m not sure what to do about this).

Right now, I’ve got a caterpillar character design, which grew out of some doodles I did in the Art program…and out of calligraphy practice strokes. I used to make this design and go, “ew;” recently, though, I’ve decided to go with the, “ew,” and see what I can make of it.

The sources of inspiration with this are twofold: one, the animated TV show Final Space, in which there is a character named Mooncake who is named after the main character’s pet caterpillar (from when he was a child). Two, when I was in second grade I had a pet silkworm (for as long as silkworms live).

It grossed M out, but was cute, to me. It would live in a tin and eat the mulberry leaves we had gathered for it. I remember it as being pretty big before it pupated, maybe 3″ long (but I was small back then, too). Silkworms are incredibly soft and fuzzy, especially as one would think all insects to be hard — so naturally, I spent a lot of time petting it. (I don’t think M wanted to touch it — 30-year-old memories, though.) I think there was some talk of my traumatizing it by giving it so much attention. :)

Mine died when I tried to help it out of its cocoon. There is a chemical process which has to happen when the moth is trying to come out. If it gets any help, that chemical process doesn’t happen, and it won’t survive. (No one warned me!)

I haven’t named the drawn character yet, which came from playing with design elements. Only later did I look at actual caterpillars. Luckily, actual caterpillars are so diverse that made-up patterns seem viable. I’m a little enamored with how he seems so fat and vulnerable, and how his ridges originated from hearts. The number of drawing skills I remember, still amazes me — from taking an idea from play, to plotting a line of action and center line, to breaking the image down into basic shapes, 3-D visualizing, visualizing foreground/middle ground/background, and introducing irregularity.

As eye-spots and symmetry are so much a part of this (I have trouble getting away from them), I thought it would be an interesting exercise.

What I have now is good, but it could be better; the majority of yesterday and last night was spent refining the images. By which I mean — redrawing things to see how they worked. The most successful of these had pencil underdrawings, though I still have the images from a more primitive stage.

Up next is likely seeing how a caterpillar would look if it was twisting itself around something, like a twig — in short, not drawing the subject as independent of its background, and not drawing it, “flat.” In doing so, I’m getting away from the original design, but the one that’s developing is more useful. The thing I’m having to do is abandon the original loop pattern that the rest of the caterpillar is based on. Not sure how I feel about that, aesthetically as versus from an engineering standpoint, but it works.

I may do a series of moths and/or butterflies, following this.

Otherwise…I need to get on making masks, again. Demand is high. I could wash what I haven’t used of my Fat Quarters, tonight…there are a bunch of them. I just wasn’t up to working on them today — instead, I got some apparently very poor-quality sleep. Would anyone blame me if I stayed up until 3 AM again tonight, sewing?

Mystery cough, though.

Working without a schedule is so…difficult.

art, craft, creativity, design, embroidery, garments, graphic design, illustration, needlework

Creativity channeled into clothing?

A snapshot of a very untidy desk.
This is what it looks like when I do things.

Okay, I…I have a confession to make. Instead of continuing on with coloring my sketches (which are still beside my bed, by the way), I’ve (re)started sewing. And embroidery. After doing some research on aniline dyes for reproduction work, I’ve decided to hold off on using them until I can get good ventilation or go outside to paint (and use gloves).

In the meantime, I’ll likely be using some combination of watercolors (“like that’s better?” you ask), watercolor pencil, and colored pencil, to color my illustrations. It won’t be as friendly to the scanner, but it will put me at ease (and possibly result in more durable images).

One of the symptoms of acute exposure to anilines, through inhalation or transdermal absorption, is hypoxia — or low levels of oxygen in the blood. With COVID-19 around…I want us all to breathe as easily as we can. From the research I’ve done, it looks like most serious complications from COVID-19 (aside from secondary infection) are from too little oxygen.

I don’t know if any contemporary viewer has looked back on the very old posts in this blog, but there is a blouse (Folkwear 111, “Nepali Blouse”) I first got the idea for…in 2010? I think the relevant post about when I finished the toile (muslin trial garment) is from last year. For about nine years, it had just been sitting around and periodically sticking me with the pins that were holding in the ties.

As recently as about this time of year in 2019, I had re-purchased and re-cut the pattern, with an eye, especially, to making it cover more of my body. Originally, the side slits came up all the way to my natural waist. Like, at my ribs. As a youth I had problems with feeling constantly unnecessarily exposed in my clothing. As I was going to make this myself, I decided to lengthen the panels and insert new panels behind the side slits (as versus wearing a wrap around my waist or a wrap skirt or chupa [yet; I’d have to make the latter], as the pattern suggested). I’ll have to design the exact panel dimensions as I come to them, as I have realized that my body does flare out below the waist, significantly.

Yes, I can do this without draping, by taking a circumference around the place where the hem should fall, and adding that into what I have ready to sew, then dividing it by two, to get a minimum panel width. But one thing at a time. The hemming is actually one of the last things to be done, and I can do it by hand if I need to.

I also went up a size over the past decade, and neglected to foresee this happening when I originally trimmed away the extra pattern paper in 2010. Of course, I had intended to complete the toile in less than nine years, as well. But, better late than never. The main issue, I believe, is not wanting to “destroy” a beautiful cut of fabric (which, in turn, calls into question what I feel is “destruction”…and thaaat calls up a certain phase of my life, where I realized that making anything means transforming it from something else — that means being willing to let go of that “something else”).

I don’t really have a great image of that one readily available…I’d have to look for it in my archives. It’s in the lower left corner of the photo at the top of this post, though, as well as in the upper left corner of the final image in this post. It’s basically a really beautiful blue-green batik with white lines and dots.

The top photo…is what my (new) sewing area looked like, today. Last night I felt like stitching but not like ironing, so I started dealing again with embroidery. Showing what I did would make me a bit nervous, though it is in the bottom center of the top photo (I was playing and screwed up more than a few times), so here’s some eye candy:

DMC embroidery floss in different colors with a pair of brass scissors on them.
Sometimes too many colors are as bad as too few…on the center right is a ball of perle cotton.

As you can see…I am a color nut, so I have collected a lot of different colors of stranded embroidery floss. There are also some, particularly in the orange/pink/violet range, that aren’t in this photo, due to having been separated out for practice. I do have a photo, below:

More DMC embroidery floss on a wine-colored piece of fabric bound in an embroidery hoop.
Yeah, some of them are hiding…particularly a pinkish orange, at the bottom, there.

Last night I was working with perle cotton, as well. The difference in texture and body between the two different thread types is fairly…well, weird. The floss is much flatter and softer, while the perle defines knots well, is lustrous, and doesn’t crush. Right now I’m using a small embroidery needle for both (I forget the gauge).

I’m thinking of trying to incorporate embroidery into the final blouse design, though that will necessitate either appliqué, or working on the panels before assembling the blouse.

Right now, my major source of fine perle cotton thread isn’t safe to visit, so I’ll have to hold out until we can start moving around again, to get more colors of that. I’ve also had a pretty hard time figuring out what ground color fabric to use (right now, I have some Kona cotton solid Fat Quarters [pre-cut 1/4 yards of fabric], muslin, and a limited stash of nice fabric along with a ton of Fat Quarters for quilting practice — and I can’t even begin to say how much easier it is to cut simple shapes with a quilting ruler, cutting mat, and rotary cutter, rather than pinning all the pattern pieces down one by one and cutting them out with scissors), even though at this point I’m just experimenting. I’m seeing what I can do and can’t (–yet), and what looks nice, and when and how to mark guidelines.

I’m anticipating using that pink and violet+blue fabric in the top of the next photo (heh heh I’m re-learning Photoshop, heh heh), as inserts and accents in the Nepali blouse. I realized that since both of these fabrics are batiks, that could unify them (as versus trying to make an analogous color scheme with a different fabric). I have another batik I was going to use (turquoise and green), but it’s seriously much heavier than the main body fabric (nearly to the point of felt or light denim)…and I’m pretty sure it’s a Fat Quarter, whereas I have more of the pastel batik, because I actually bought it off a bolt.

Folded fabric and miscellany in front of partially-opened blinds.
Photoshop 2020 made adjusting this image a lot easier.

The above shows two of the nicer fabrics I’ve got lined up (with the Nepali blouse pieces cut out and marked, at the upper left — I’m trying not to move them until I’ll use them, to preserve the chalk and Saral paper marks). I’m still not really sure what to do with the pink one; it’s super light. I got it to make a hair wrap (likely it was either that, or curtains), but the thing is, it has a very clear top-to-bottom pattern orientation, and to wrap my hair I’m most likely to need either a long piece or a triangular piece.

I’m also not clear, exactly, on how large my head scarves actually are. It’s been a very long time since I’ve worn one. (Actually, I am pretty sure I can’t remember having covered my hair in the last 6 months, because of work.)

I think I may have avoided making it into a scarf because it was too narrow, or too short…though I suppose I could make a ruched waist wrap (or line something). There’s nothing that says I can’t, after all. Of course, though…chances are that it would creep up my waist while my pants fell down, and not do much.

This is why I want to sew. It’s also why I had to buy suspenders, because some designer — who was good at drafting patterns so that they fit female bodies — didn’t force the clothing company not to use stretch fabric with their dress pants with no belt loops, so now the pants stretch out when worn, and use that stretch to gradually slide down.

Like anybody wants that in their professional attire.

Though — I just did get an idea for a belt that goes under clothing and attaches with clips to the tops of pants, skirts, etc. That could be interesting to work out…

Yeah…I think that’s why I want to sew. I have an aesthetic that is unaddressed. I’d forgotten about that.

Is that the same reason I got into beadwork? Why did I get into beadwork in the first place, anyway? That was so long ago!

By the way, I started back in on this because of seeing the projects of some knitters on my feed. That made me think it was a good idea to knit, if one could reach said levels of skill…and then I actually visited Ravelry and realized that I’m nowhere near that level of skill. Anybody who has tried to knit and has gotten past the beginning stitch modifications (K2tog, SSK, YO), likely knows what I’m talking about! There are beautiful projects that can be made, but first getting a handle on the basics is necessary. I’m not sure I’d be able to tolerate not knowing what I’m doing, long enough to make it to the place I want to be.

Then I wandered over to the fabric stash and started mechanically going through things. Just sorting through fabrics. Then looking at the pattern pieces for this project, which I’d already cut out. Then looking at how much marking and cutting was left to be done. To the credit of my former self, I had set things up already so that it was easy to mark and cut the few things I needed to. Whether the batik pattern lines up correctly, has yet to be seen, but I’m not going to worry about that now.

I also have at least one project that can go with it, which I’ve already started. Then I decided that I wanted to try again. Because I want to add those to my repertoire. And I had set up the desk (see first image) as a sewing station.

I guess that’s a pretty hard-core example of karma in action…

I’ve already made this, once. The difficult part is actually in pattern design alteration — or in thinking about design alteration without actually doing it. But if there’s skill and experience gained for trying, is there anything of matter lost in exchange? (Besides money and time, which are both valuable. But I want the skill. Ready-to-wear clothing vexes me, all too often…)

Ah! The last thing! I’m pretty sure I’m going to keep my Photoshop subscription (it’s so much easier for me to use than what I was using [no, they didn’t pay me to say that, but you can see I actually got some images up here, this time]) — as for the rest of Creative Cloud (CC), I’m not sure I need it — especially not if I’m not doing comics. The reason to keep it would be to train on it, in case I have to take up a role in writing or producing copy, blogs, videos, brochures, graphic design, etc.

If I want to go into a production job, I may as well commit to CC and stop paying the stupid high extra fee every month for being noncommittal. If that’s not the case, I can stick with Photoshop and not pay extra for the rest of CC. I haven’t figured it out yet, and I’ll probably give it another month and see where my illustrations go. If I stick with them, that’s a reason to keep it. If I start taking tons of photos and playing with Graphic Design, that’s another reason. (I actually found a Macro setting on my digital camera, today; I don’t remember ever seeing that, before.)

Then there is the issue of classes. I need to investigate further, but right now…I am thinking of going for a Cataloging or Metadata position. That will likely put me into an Academic Library or an Archive…I’m thinking, actually, of taking an internship either before or right after my probation is up (it increases employability and helps build experience). I should be able to complete all my classes by the end of Spring 2021, as I’ve found a place which gives information on two topics I’d need, in one class series, more focused, and for less money than I’d pay at the University.

I’ve also been advised that knowledge of a second language is in demand, so I’m encouraged to continue with that (I narrowly avoided having to pay for this out of pocket)…and there’s a verifiable crossover between Tech and Cataloging these days, so I may not have wasted my training by aiming for Digital Services.

The other thing: online tools for Cataloging. I’ll wait to subscribe to these, if I ever have to go that route (rather than having my employer provide access). As I may have said, they run about $850 together for a year, and I may not even need one of them (if I take a job in Academia). I also won’t need them if I take a turn towards a creative or production job.

And I need to rebuild my ePortfolio. I took it down because I wasn’t ready to run a website. I have all the copy, but I can make it better.

I should really, seriously, take a look at all the services I’m subscribed to, as well…

art, drawing, illustration, self care

Tired of this

Don’t get me wrong: it’s nice to be (presumably) uninfected, and to (presumably) not infect other people. The problem is, for me especially, maintaining some semblance of normalcy or productivity when I’m stuck at home — and trying to figure out what to do if I’m forced not to be. I’m germ-phobic on a good day, and living with people over 65. And there’s always the chance that I could be asked to come in to work (though it hasn’t happened yet, thankfully).

I mean, from a young age, I’ve had to learn how to ration out my hand-washing so that my hands don’t crack and bleed (and my tooth-brushing so that my gums don’t recede any more). It’s been that bad. Before I got released from work, my hands had started to crack, from chemical exposure and frequent washing. I found out just where the crack was, earlier today (or was it yesterday?), after it had healed.

For the past couple of days, my family and I have been practicing exercise and wellness skills in the early afternoon. This does help — especially when what I might otherwise be doing, is sleeping. (I’ve been sleeping way too much!)

Because I’ve found that drawing seriously alleviates feelings of anxiety for me, I’ve been doing a lot of drawing. So far, I’ve gotten one of these to the inking stage and ready to color…and three in the pipeline (though I may erase one if I can’t find a way to save it — it’s getting pretty far into fantasy territory), plus the ones on Sketch paper with which I can’t use liquid inks (I am thinking markers might work for them, so long as I layer scratch paper behind the drawing to absorb excess alcohol ink).

The thing is, with the newer drawings, I’ll be coloring with the Ecoline “liquid watercolors” (I assume they’re aniline dyes and not pigmented watercolors, as they’re fully transparent), and I don’t know yet how they’ll behave. Heck, I don’t even know how the newer ones will look — I got four or five new ones from the art store, before the area shut down.

This, just most likely, calls for some experimentation.

The funny thing is, having been out of Figure Drawing since 2016, and still remembering how different underlying anatomical elements join together. I could get into it, but it’s probably best shown and not told.

I am still not certain whether to record things after my pencil work is done, before inking and erasing the underlying sketch. I know that this is likely the safest way of doing things. Then I could show works-in-progress, so you don’t have to imagine them. But, I mean, I have so many little jump drives, and I only know what’s on the few that I’ve labeled. My “Images” jump drive, with data up through 2016 (when I ended the Art program at community college) is basically full.

Maybe it’s a good time to do inventory? Not that I want to…

I suppose, as notes to myself, I can comment on the quality of the paper and pencils I’ve been using. For the initial drawings, I’ve been using either a 2B Faber-Castell 9000 graphite pencil, or a Pentel Kerry mechanical pencil (using the lead it came loaded with — which I am guessing is likely HB). I appreciate the Pentel leads for their easy erasability, though as I likely have said before, I have a backstock of Pentel Hi-Polymer HB leads in 0.5 mm, from before the year 2000. They do smudge, but they clean up easily (especially by dabbing with a kneaded eraser, which keeps things from smearing). I also purchased a pack of (fresh) Pentel Ain Stein leads in 4B. We’ll see how they do.

As a note: at least in the late 1990’s, not all lead sizes were interchangeable between brands (so Bic leads wouldn’t necessarily work with Pentel housings, if I recall correctly — or it might have been the other way around), though that may have changed in the last 20 years.

The Kerry is just a higher-end housing for a Pentel 0.5 mm lead (in this case; it also comes in 0.7 mm). I got it partially to see if I could get myself to use pencil at all, again. It seems to have worked. When I was talking about being totally put off by pencils, I was using very inexpensive Tombow pencils which I bought simply because they were available, and I had forgotten to pack any good ones. The Tombows (in B and HB) were fairly slippery…I didn’t really like them, and failed to recognize that not all pencils are the same.

I use the Faber-Castells when I don’t want surgical precision, or when I want moderate line variation, depth, or width. They also feel more velvety than using mechanical pencils. Out of all the pencils I’ve used, my Faber-Castell 2Bs (I have a couple, probably because I misplaced one at one time; they’re both worn) are the ones which have actually been used to the point that they fit inside the tin holding a pencil sharpener and most of my sample pack of erasers. (I also have extra Staedtler Mars Plastic erasers from the same period at which I got the Pentel leads — they still work, but due to space considerations, they aren’t with the sample pack.) Meaning…these Faber-Castell pencils are between about 4″ and 5″ long. They didn’t start out that way.

I do still appreciate these pencils. I actually have a bit of a softness range in the Faber-Castell 9000s; I think they go up to 8B (with at least a 9B in Faber-Castell PITT graphite crayon), but I haven’t had to use the deeper ranges since ending the Art program (where I had to use several different hardnesses in the same image, for depth: softer pencils mean deeper color). For just penciling in underdrawings for wet-media illustrations, the 2B is fine, though, and erases quite well.

(The place where this gets sticky is when you’re doing an underdrawing for dry-media work: indenting the paper by using too firm a hand or too hard a lead, will leave a mark in the final image! Using too soft a lead, on the other hand, means it may be hard to completely erase. I find 2B to have a nice balance between erasability and visibility, though YMMV.)

Now so far as paper goes…I’ve been using Fabriano Mixed Media paper and Canson Fanboy Illustration paper. I am much more impressed with the former than with the latter, even if it is largely because the Fabriano is a much cleaner white than the Canson, and because the Canson feels slightly rougher (that is, slightly closer to newsprint — newsprint is, basically, the cheapest of the cheap paper anyone could devise, useful for learning but not in any way archival). As an aside: I recognize Fabriano because we used that brand all the time in Figure Drawing class — they make really nice tinted papers, for charcoal and pastel.

The Fabriano is also made for reproduction with a standard scanner, at 8.5″x11″, while the Canson is a more standard (for art papers) 9″x12″. The latter introduces issues with a scanner that can’t accommodate more than a legal-sized paper (8.5″x14″).

I’ve also done some tests with the Fabriano paper + Ecoline colors…I haven’t done it for the Canson, yet. That might be my next project.

I mean. Seriously. An excuse to play with colors on paper, with no end goal other than seeing how they behave? A few months ago, I would have jumped at this! Right now, though, I seem to be into a drawing/narrative kick…

I also haven’t moved to attempt work on Bristol board, yet, though I have some that I can try out. I know for a fact that I already have Strathmore Vellum Bristol 400 series (and a limited amount of 300, but I don’t know the surface finish offhand), and I found Canson Vellum Bristol recently at the art supply store, as well (though it wasn’t 2-ply, which is what I was seeking).

The store also carried Canson “Plate” finish Bristol board (I think this was 2-ply), though I’m a bit concerned about how liquid media is going to behave on top of something so smooth (almost to the point of Yupo): it seems much more suited to marker and fineliner, or pen and ink — not anything with a brush. I could be mistaken, though — and, I still haven’t tried my little pack of Yupo. They just feel similar, though obviously Yupo is a synthetic surface, while Bristol is (presumably) not.

The thing I do know about that Plate-finish pad is that it was huge and expensive. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if it’s good, but not to know what I’m getting into? It’s more worth it to buy one sheet of the stuff, cut it down, and then experiment on it.

As for any stories being told…they are coming through, but they’re coming through, visually. And they’re the beginnings of stories. This is what it was like for me before I began writing in earnest: drawing, and letting the stories seep out through my imagery. It was only eventually that the stories became too large and complex to handle through that mode of thought, and I moved to word processing. Which, I can tell now, is at least one step removed from being able to convey what’s happening, visually. I mean, words are more abstract.

Which is funny to say, but not hard to imagine, when you’re dealing with topics for which words are inadequate…

career, illustration, LIS, personal, planning, self care, work

Priorities…

Huh. Well…today was the second day of COVID-19 isolation. I spent much of today asleep because of having a gritty throat, last night — it just wasn’t worth it to get up, like normal. Of course, that means that I really don’t know how much I’ll sleep, tonight. For what it’s worth, I don’t think what I got a touch of (which is probably the same thing M is fighting off) was the coronavirus — a wet cough isn’t what one gets with that, and I don’t have a fever.

What is weird is that over the last month or two, I’ve been accumulating materials that I can now, use. So I have some time to get stuff done. Largely, reading: I should get through my reading on Virtual Reference, and Online Searching, at the least. Reader’s Advisory, and possibly Library Programming, I can get into after I look over the first two books. (I will likely not need to know about Programming any time soon, though. Maybe not ever, at this point.)

Last night, I was busy planning classes. The upshot? I can complete all of them by next Spring, and at that time get on with finding a job as a Cataloging or Metadata Librarian. The downshot? I’ll have less free time and less money. However, at the end of it, I’ll have the skills to gain an entry-level job as a Cataloger…at least, it would seem. I should be scanning job ads for these positions, and look for any additional qualifications I’d need.

On top of that…I’ll want to get back to developing my portfolio online. That’s already set up; I’m just updating it, now.

I’ll also want to continue with Japanese language study. That will likely be important, especially if I’m dealing with an Academic Library position. I have a number of books I can use, and a number of online sites to help.

I can also review my HTML and CSS, as I’ll need the coding skills in my not-too-distant future.

That’s…pretty much, enough. As for what I’m doing during the rest of the time…I realize that I could work on the blouse I haven’t been working on for months, if not years; I could also work on quilt piecing or embroidery or illustration. But that’s, seriously, just to relax. Aside from the illustration, it doesn’t really go anywhere — unless I want to be employed by a fabric store, likely again in a public service capacity (which is what I’m trying to get away from).

Given that, some low-commitment stuff like embroidery actually sounds good.

I will definitely be continuing with my writing, but that will mostly be offline and by hand, so I won’t have to constantly weigh whether what I’m writing is worth (the risk of) publishing, or not.

As for whether I’m going to continue with my Adobe training (or subscription)…I’m not sure. It’s a significant financial drain, and it’s useless except for publishing images online or in print (or teaching myself Graphic Design). It also depends on what I do on my own in my free time. It’s possible I could create some PDFs to distribute, here…which might be fun. It would also give me some practice in working with Adobe CC — in case I do end up needing to get back to my roots in writing, and learning how to professionally edit. This is useful.

I’m hoping, however, that I won’t have to get back to Creative Writing as a career. I’ve spent the last 10 years building a place in the Library world. Although Creative Writing is good as an avocation and is complementary to needing to read as a Librarian, depending on it for my livelihood is more risky — and a lot more work for less return, I suspect — than I would like. If, however, I remained a part-time Library Assistant (and not a full-time Cataloging or Metadata Librarian), it could be a useful and enriching addition to my repertoire.

I kind of feel like I need a map, for this…what kind of map, though, I’m not sure. I do have huge paper and markers, though. :)

I also I have an as-yet-unused daily planner. It would be useful to try and plan out the coming days and weeks, possibly using Bullet Journal notation…

art, design, illustration, self-publishing, sequential art

Trials with Adobe CC

So, I’ve been tinkering with Adobe CC tonight and relearning Photoshop (PS). I also, from there, started tinkering with Illustrator (AI). What I can say is that I’m starting to be able to piece together what might be a workflow for a graphic novel — or, at least, the digital art and compositing part of it. (I would need to make the lineart first [keeping scale in mind], then either color it, or scan it in and digitally color it; then correct the image; then export that and work the paste-up piece by piece in Illustrator; then, I’m assuming, export that in some form into InDesign before printing.)

I’m also seriously considering working the art to fit on a larger page than 5″x7″ (like 8.5″x11″ or 7.5″x10″ after trimming), mostly because it would allow for better image display and larger fonts. Plus, a contact has referred me to a professional scanner and printer, so I don’t really have to worry about finished page size (at least, if I’m willing to forgo image bleeds [where the images run off the edge of the page]).

Of course, I do need to get back to work on the script, but recently I’ve been trying to figure out what I’ll do once I can get that at least decently completed. The script, the drawing, though: those are the fun parts. Going to efforts to relearn the software will make it, I hope, easier to do the compositing — or, at least, not uncomfortable.

The good news is that Photoshop is easy to remember for me, due to the fact that I actually trained on it — even if it was over a decade ago. Illustrator isn’t difficult, after I recalled the tools from PS; they use many similar icons. I had thought that I would be able to use the Pen Tool in Illustrator (or PS) to create color fills; however, the shapes I’m using are so complex that I wonder whether I’m just going to end up using my real inks and brushes (after first having scanned an archival .TIFF file of the artwork), then touching up with something like the Spot Healing brush; or coloring the whole thing using PS brushes, in a way that would appear similar to Charmy’s Army.

Hmm.

I know I’m leaning towards working the sketches over with ink in hard copy…but yes, I need to work on the script, first; then deal with character design, do some sample pages, and from there, settle on page dimensions (I’m still not sure whether to use standard U.S. comic dimensions — I don’t like them at all, but they’re industry-standard, here).

Then there is, again, the question of: if I’m putting all this work into it, is it not the case that I would want to take it to a professional Publishing House (to recoup my time and effort and investment of resources)? If so, why?

The major issue is that I’d lose a lot of control (for example, they may want to pair me with a professional artist — who likely wouldn’t understand the content like I would, or could introduce their own content [which, depending on their angle, could easily derail the message]), and it would also likely go into editing after being finished.

If I went the self-publishing route, I wouldn’t have to worry about that.

Hah — I just got the parallel between sosaku hanga (creative prints) as versus shin hanga (new prints) in 20th c. Japan. Sosaku hanga stressed the role of the artist in all stages of production, whereas shin hanga were produced by teams of artisans, having been designed by one person (I’m pretty sure?).

Ah — it’s late; I should get off of here and get some rest. I think I’ve answered most of my own questions, already…

art, art media, comics, illustration

Ink and nib testing.

Well, I did it. I went out and got some more Illustration paper, this time with Non-Repro-Blue lines (also called Non-Photo Blue, as they aren’t — or, weren’t — supposed to show up in scans, though with modern scanners, who knows); and Canson Bristol (Vellum) — the latter of which is supposed to be better for the use of watercolors in illustration. I also used the raw potato method to successfully eat off the lacquer coating on the outside of the Tachikawa nibs I recently obtained (a sampler set of 5) — though I also have a mirror-like Nikko set of 5 to which I can compare them.

Apparently, you just stick the nib into the potato past the cutout portion and let it sit there for 15 minutes. Longer than 15, and the Internet states that the nibs will start to rust.

I gave them a quick rinse and dry, each, then got to work. I tested the following nibs in this session:

Copic Multiliners are very precise, with little line variation.
  • Brause Blue Pumpkin nib
  • Tachikawa:
    • Spoon nib
    • Japanese nib
    • G nib
    • School nib
    • Mapping nib (hard)

I then tested these nibs out by writing and drawing on Illustration paper, with four different inks:

  • Blick Black Cat Waterproof India Ink
  • Tachikawa Jet Black ink
  • Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay Black India Ink
  • Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star Hi-Carb India Ink

…though I quickly surmised that of the nibs I had, I could see the most use out of the Blue Pumpkin nib, the G nib (both of which have relatively high ink capacity and relatively heavy, easily expressive line) and the Mapping nib (which has a low ink capacity and is on par — almost — with my Copic Multiliner 0.05, which is one size above the tiniest they make [which is 0.03]). The major difference between the Mapping nib and the fine Multiliners is the fact that you get much less line variation with the Multiliners. There isn’t much variation in the Mapping nib, either — but it’s noticeably there, in comparison. The Mapping nib is also subtly thicker when pressure is applied, in order to get that effect.

Out of all of these, I feel that the Black Cat and the Bombay inks allow the most easily expressive lines (though Tachikawa ink is good as well, particularly for me, with the G nib), though after the first go-round with all 6 nibs, I did just start using the Pumpkin, G, and Mapping nibs. The Black Star Hi-Carb ink would be great…but it’s thick, and still rather glossy, even after drying.

It also dries very quickly, and is difficult to remove from nibs with water, paper towel and Q-Tip, and rubbing. (Yes, I know that I can accidentally work-harden spring steel [making it brittle] by rubbing it. I didn’t want to give these a dunk in pen cleaner, though.) I also cannot really think of a good way to clean stuck-on, dried ink out of the inside of the (hollow) Mapping nib, without using pen cleaner, or one of those cone-shaped brushes you use to get food and debris out from within tooth gaps. Which…now that I mention it, is a good idea.

Because of the difficult cleanup, and the fact that the Bombay performed just as well, if not better than the Hi-Carb, I’d lean away from the Black Star and towards the Bombay (which has also been easier to source, for me). The drawback to both is needing to dispense the ink through an (included) eyedropper, onto the nib.

The Tachikawa ink was just as black and bold in the G and Pumpkin nibs, but its bottle has a much larger mouth and lower ink level, which makes it easier to dip the pen in there without dirtying the nib holder. It also dries matte, not glossy. The drawback to the Tachikawa Jet Black ink is that it’s not easy to find, though it can be sourced online.

Again, the major drawback of the Blick Black Cat ink is its lack of viscosity; it runs off the nib quickly (and also dries very quickly), meaning you have to reload it more often than any of the rest of these — though it may be on par with the Bombay ink, here. The upshot of Black Cat is that it’s easy to find and it comes in potentially huge quantities (I think I have a quart, which I’ve dispensed into a tiny watertight screw-top jar to dip into [I had to buy this, separately]). I can also dilute it and use it for tonal washes over the top of dried ink lineart, which is a nice bonus.

There are some issues with unevenness of tone with the Black Cat in my last test, however, which could be due to a number of things: too much water in the brush; not having let the paper absorb water first (to paint wet-on-wet instead of wet-on-dry); using a cheap synthetic brush instead of a natural-fiber one or a “thirsty” synthetic that doesn’t dump out its color all at once (like the Princeton Neptune line — which I haven’t yet tried, though I will); or the unevenness could be considerably attributed to the paper quality (and absorbency) itself.

The good part of having tested these four inks above, however, is that I now know that they are all waterproof after a relatively short time (what felt like less than an hour). I went over my tests with clear water, and then various black wet media (all diluted to grey with water and painted wet-on-dry on Canson Fanboy Illustration paper, with an inexpensive flat synthetic brush):

  • Ecoline Black “liquid watercolor”
  • Yasutomo Sumi Ink
  • Blick Black Cat Waterproof India Ink
  • Holbein (HWC) Lamp Black watercolor (tube)
  • Winsor & Newton (W&N) Mars Black watercolor (tube)
  • Pilot Iroshizuku Take-Sumi fountain pen ink
Sample swatch with colors in the same order as listed above.
Drawing Ink: Black Star Hi-Carb. Nib: Brause Blue Pumpkin (Steno 361).

I’m going to have to do some more experimenting with these colorants, as I had significant issues with uneven water flow as the media dried. This was most pronounced with the Yasutomo Sumi ink, the Blick Black Cat, the Holbein Lamp Black, the W&N Mars Black.

This majorly leaves the Ecoline and the Pilot Take-Sumi (first and last color, above), which both lean relatively blue…and may be dyes, not pigments. I know that the Pilot ink should not be water-resistant. I’m not sure about the Ecoline, yet: I still have yet to go over a painted area with a wet brush to try to lift or dissolve the grey.

On top of this, the Ecoline and the Take-Sumi, are both pretty much transparent. As for whether they’re archival…I don’t know. That would take some long-term testing, to figure out.

As I look at this, the Ecoline (with my current screen settings) looks most true-to-life, without adjusting the color using an image editor. The Ecoline also promises a better way to get consistent coloration between print and digital, as it is dispensed drop by drop. Watercolors, on the other hand…are much harder to predict.

This scan missed a lot of subtleties in the original image, particularly dark but non-black tones, and light tones.

What I will say is that I eventually got my smoothest color laydown in this batch of trials with the Holbein Lamp Black, once I had gone through one pass with my paintbrush, then re-wet the bristles and painted back onto the paper. I’ve got to remember that. I’m not sure why it’s less textured than the W&N Mars Black, especially as Holbein watercolors are formulated to hold brushstrokes; I just know I got the flattest color dispersion, here. To me, that’s something I’m presently aiming for.

However: I had only tested the two watercolors (at the time of this post).

Increased visibility + increased texture with Dodge & Burn.

I am surprised that the light grey of the HWC wasn’t fully picked up by the scanner. Using the Dodge & Burn tool in GIMP 2 did make the grey a bit more visible, but also increased graininess in the image. I can only use it very sparingly without seeing a bunch of digital artifacts.

The other thing I can say is that all four of the inks which I made lines with, initially repelled pretty much all of the colorants I put on top of them. That’s likely due to the fact that they’re waterproof. However, the glows around the lines self-resolved prior to drying, for most samples; with the Black Cat and the Tachikawa Jet Black inks faring the worst in the long run.

Updates intended to come to the blog (not all in this post):

  • Painting wet-on-dry with various colorant media on Fanboy Illustration paper
  • Painting wet-on-wet with same
  • Testing water-resistance/liftability of different colorants on Illustration paper
  • Experimenting with “thirstier” and natural-hair brushes — is there an improvement?
  • Preparing and testing other nibs (Nikko, Speedball, any other Brause, etc.)
  • Testing archival qualities of all six colorants (should take a while)
  • Testing Canson Vellum Bristol Board
  • Testing Strathmore Bristol Board
  • Testing watercolor papers with pen & ink…

I’m not getting any kickbacks or compensation for doing any of this. It just interests me.

art, art media, illustration, self-publishing

I actually drew tonight…a lot…but no upload yet

What’s interesting is that almost as soon as I start developing material, and it starts looking good (and workable), I also start wondering if it is okay to show works-in-progress or developmental artifacts. The answer to that question may lie in whether I’m wishing to self-publish on a small scale, thus maintain total creative control over the venture; or to go to an established Publisher with the story.

As I doubt this story would be easy to sell to a publisher, however (its main audience is niche [gender and sexual minorities, particularly if they’re also People of Color, also particularly if they have experience within transgender circles…all of which will probably make this hard to sell — or a blockbuster]), that’s a step forward in freeing me up to display my work on it. If I did show my work on it and then later wanted to publish with a Publishing House, that could complicate contract negotiations.

If I showed my work, however, and then self-published…I could build up recognition prior to release. And possibly earn more using POD (Print On Demand) than I would earn with a Publisher. Plus, I’d keep my rights…which is kind of in line with writing the script and doing the art, myself.

So it isn’t…a wholly negative thing, to show the work. Especially not, if showing it helps me produce more of it (or if showing it lets people know I’m working on it, and they get interested). While I’m trying to forget the emphasis on images as proof of existence, I grew up with that. Unfortunately. :)

The major barrier here would be that if I self-published, it wouldn’t count if I wanted to use the book(s) as evidence to be admitted to a Creative Writing MFA program. But do I really need that? In any case, doing the work — any work at all, even if (or maybe especially if) self-guided — is probably better training than taking classes on doing the work, at this point. (I mean, seriously; I have one Master’s degree; unless I want to be an Academic Librarian, I can stop the formal education process, and get back to work!)

An MFA is, especially, a lot of money to invest, and I already did a BA in the subject. I might essentially be repeating classes, that is. Getting back in would majorly be to make Publishing contacts…which I could do another way (or probably other ways, in the plural).

The MFA in Creative Writing also doesn’t really matter unless I do go into Publishing or into Teaching, as versus Librarianship. In Publishing, I might not need it (with a BA in Creative Writing, and an MLIS, already). In Teaching? I have never tried Teaching.

Just a bit ago, I thought up the fact that I could try to lead free Creative Writing seminars within a Library position. The idea of helping people who love to read find their own voices (instead of just reading the words of others), is alluring. But I have no practical experience, and I don’t know if I’d enjoy the reality of it.

I’ve always been amazed at how some teachers can find positive bits to comment on, on the spot, after anyone from their class reads their writing aloud. I’m not sure I could do that; at the same time, I don’t want to crush someone who is proud of what they can do, just because I can see things to work on. (There are always things to work on, especially if what is written is just a first or second draft.)

Of course, there’s the Iowa Writer’s Workshop…but, it’s Iowa. (I have a hard time with cultural isolation. It was hard enough enduring Central California. And that was California.) I attended undergrad in San Francisco, and even there, the English program’s conservatism (as versus the Creative Writing program’s comparative brilliance) tried me. I don’t know what was up with the English Department, seriously. Whoever was hiring must have just had their own vision for what the place should be, which didn’t align with mine.

But I’ve experienced cultural isolation (if not institutional racism) in pretty much every higher-education scenario I’ve encountered, except for Junior College. The same thing — in Iowa, on top of it — doesn’t sound better.

This rumination does make it clearer, though: it’s likely more to my benefit to show my work, than not. Actually, it’s more to my benefit to do whatever I can to make sure I keep making more work, than not. If it takes showing my work to keep me engaged and accountable, that’s something to keep in mind.

The only issue is becoming public…like, really public. That, in turn…is going to mean dealing with people disagreeing with my existence and voice. But hey — it’s my existence. Others’ opinions on that pale in relative importance. And they should pale in power. To do otherwise means that their opinions and their existence are both more important than mine. And that’s a power grab.

In any case…I think I can move forward on this. It’s interesting to see my character’s faces again after so long, and to rediscover recurring characters which I didn’t know were going to hang around, when I first drew them.

So, tomorrow, I might be getting a couple of things…I’m just not sure if I should(!), or if I should try what I have first, before determining if I need anything more.

Right now I’m aiming for an initial run of images using dip pen and black ink, or black Copic fineliners, then going over that with either diluted black watercolor, or diluted black ink, to put in greys. There are three different black watercolors I can try: Mars, Ivory, and Lamp. They all have different colors, and different working properties, from each other. I’m thinking Ivory Black is the best one to use if I want to be able to lift the color…from what I recall it doing, before. (Lifting, that is, when I didn’t want it to.) Mars would probably be best if I don’t want the black pigment floating away.

Then, I also have Yasutomo’s (non-toxic) liquid Sumi ink, the Black Cat ink, and Iroshizuku’s Take-Sumi (which isn’t waterproof). Just thinking about it right now…I know that the Yasutomo Sumi and the Black Cat work well in dilution. I also know that the Yasutomo Sumi doesn’t move, even if I wet it again — which may be reason enough to use it.

Today I found that it was much less intimidating to draw in a sketchpad, than on Illustration paper…and I wanted to draw something with content, not just lines to test whether the ink is going to move. That means, tomorrow, I should test the Kuretake ink along with the Black Cat and the Black Star Hi-Carb (and I can try out those new dip nibs)…I’ll need a new lighter, though, to burn off the lacquer. That, or a non-food-safe pot to boil off the lacquer. Or a raw potato to stick the nibs into, to dissolve the lacquer. Which I might have.

It might be growing, right now. Hmm…

art, career, comics, creative writing, illustration

So scripts are easier to write than prose

…At least, so far. I have three solid pages of comic scripting to lean on in my drawing practice, and I’m very glad that I drafted out the core synopsis — though now I realize how limited it is. I’m wondering if working back and forth between image and text will help develop the story…my intuition says yes.

The major issue I’m having with the script is narration: lots of narration. (I’m very proficient at revealing story and character through monologue.) However, there are other ways to convey the same information. The thing about scripting, though, is that it’s minimalistic; so I didn’t have to craft a bunch of flowery prose for what is basically the next step up from an outline.

Working between image cues and words…I might be able to turn some words into images, or convey what the words convey, visually. What I’m getting at may not be really making a lot of sense right now, but please give me some leeway — it’s 1 AM here.

I’ve decided to keep some violence in this version, even though I’m not a fan of violence. Without it…the story feels like it’s a bit fluffy and seeking goodwill from the majority by downplaying the consequences of being different. With it, however, it’s solidly geared towards an adult audience, though I have at least two characters of complicated gender, now. That stuff didn’t really come into its own here, except within the last 20 years. (I do know, however, at least two seniors of complicated gender.)

I have actually finished reading the book I mentioned before, on getting published: this was The Business of Being a Writer, by Jane Friedman. There is a ton of information in this book, though I would say it probably is geared toward an English-speaking U.S. audience (and of that audience, particularly New Yorkers). I haven’t checked out all the leads in it personally, though (for one thing, there are too many to do so in such a short time), so I can’t be sure.

That book, however, led me to What Editors Do: The Art, Craft, & Business of Book Editing, edited by Peter Ginna, which looks like it will be pretty interesting. It is basically an anthology in which the writers are Editors, and gives a window into what being an Editor could be like (with the caveat that these roles are wildly varied). I’m not far into it, yet.

Now that I mention that…I think I’ll read some more before sleeping, and plan on doing some illustration work for tomorrow. Working intensively with text really makes me want to break out of it some way, and it could be the thing to spur me on to getting back to my artwork…

art, comics, craft, creative writing, drawing, illustration, sequential art

Needing to focus…

“Focus,” that is, on which projects I want to work on, now. There is the issue of where to put my resources so as not to overwhelm myself. It wasn’t long ago that I was looking at embroidery (I still am)…and then at quilting and sewing. A helper at a quilt store nearby introduced me to English Paper Piecing (EPP), which I’ve been browsing about, tonight.

If I did work with EPP…I would either be using a trapezoidal (EDIT: wait, no, just quadrilateral) pattern I made up myself (though I’ve seen something like it [along with a bunch of other stuff] called “Whirligig” [“Whirlygig?”] online), or hexagons with trapezoid borders. The latter might be…well…more systematic and predictable. I know a place where I can get whole hexagonal pattern pieces and then cut them up to make a modularly-edited quilt. (Is that a term?)

The Whirligig pattern that I’m thinking of, by the way — if I’m remembering it correctly — is made of an origami-paper square which is folded so one corner meets the midpoint of the side it’s folding towards. Unfold it, then turn the paper 1/4 turn and fold the other three sides in the same manner, turning it in the same direction each time. When you unfold it, you’ll have a cross in the center of the paper marking the midlines (which you can ignore), and four other lines which — if you cut across all of them — will give you the pattern I have.

If you, instead, fold the paper so that the parallel lines touch (it helps to mark the midpoint on one side before going to fold the other), you’ll get a Whirligig without a center square. If you then arrange these symmetrically, you should get a repeating, borderless hourglass motif.

Right now when I look at my quilt square that I did — likely years ago (time flies when you’re not a kid anymore) — there’s a cross going by the interior borders, and a square in the center. So when these pieces are placed as I placed them, you get a lozenge border contrasting with an hourglass border — I think (depending on color placement and where you focus; it’s easier to visualize with the little colored paper pieces here) — which are filled in with solid blocks.

Of course…it’s easier to envision when you have the pattern pieces in front of you. I don’t have the original pattern next to me right now. I had to go and get a paper to fold so that I could report accurately what I did. Something in me remembers, but it’s not the part of me that is good at writing. :)

But I’m curious as to whether I should do this project, now, just because it’s mine. I do have plastic sheeting to make templates (from the paper prototypes). I got it for this. I just left off of the project, I think, because of the whole demand for precision (flatness requires precision) and the question as to why I was hand-quilting it instead of machine-quilting it. (There are lots of straight lines.) I’d either have to mark or eyeball a lot of pieces…whereas if I were machine-piecing this, I’d have a built-in guide in the plate below the needle.

The helper at the quilt store encouraged me to make a pillow cover as a starter project. I can, seriously, do a pillow cover. I can do lots of friggen’ pillow covers. In different colors, for different moods. :)

I guess I can also make pillows.

So, then, there is also the issue of embroidery. I picked up some more stuff for it, thinking that I’d use a new book I’ve bought (Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches), which…I haven’t used, so far. I’ve been flipping through it, a lot. But this…from what I can see, it’s a serious embroidery book. So when I’ve just relatively recently taught myself how to do Feather Stitch (which required deciphering what each pierce of the needle and wrap of thread would do), it can be a bit overwhelming. Luckily, I was able to find some more beginner-level stuff at the Library, one of which includes a pattern for a needle case. Which…I could use.

So we have that.

Otherwise, what am I working on? There’s the ‘zine thing, and the development for it. I’m probably still waiting to get back around to scanning, optimizing, and uploading my images of those tests with the black drawing inks, and the Ecoline “watercolors”. However…what I’ve learned is that bottled dip-pen drawing inks labeled “India Ink” are more likely to be waterproof. Just as a blanket statement. I am not entirely sure why; I just observed it as a pattern.

I’ve also really got to see whether I can use a dip pen on Marker paper (I’m thinking more along terms of Bienfang Graphics 360 Marker or Borden & Riley Layout [which is translucent], as versus Aqua Bee or Deleter paper [which is opaque; and that is if the Bee paper I’m speaking of is even still made]), or if I’ll need to use fineliners for the lineart, and markers otherwise. This matters because if the paper can take liquid media and dip pen, I can use everything I’ve got: ink and brush, pens, watercolor, etc. If it can’t, I’m limited to markers and fineliners (the latter of which I would also, actually, consider a type of marker).

The alternative is to work the art out entirely on a wet media paper: something like a smooth Bristol, or hot-press Watercolor paper, being my first thoughts, though “Mixed Media” paper might also be okay. I need to test it out. I should also remember that as long as the drawing is to scale, I can always digitally shrink it to fit (though the lines will also shrink).

A night or two ago, as well, I made a prototype model of the book binding I might be using. It kind of matters to know this, so I can size the images correctly as I make them. Right now I’m aiming for a 5″x7″ booklet, which opens up to 9.5″x7″. Since I don’t yet know how to bookbind with an awl and needle yet, it may (unfortunately) end up being stapled. But that assumes that I won’t learn the skill. (I do think I have cork board around here…)

There’s also the possibility of not worrying about the image alignment and sewing the volumes the normal way (Coptic binding?), which might be easier. Because of this, I’m going to want to print across all 5″ of each page (to give me leeway if I change my methods). It’s just that no critical data can go in the inner 1/4″, next to the spine. And the page order will take some rearranging, if I go the Coptic route. I can’t remember how many pages a “magazine” (a internal section) in Coptic binding is supposed to hold, but I can look it up. (Ah: 8, 16, or 32 pages.)

And then we also have…that script I’m working on, which is somewhat fun, even if somewhat disturbing. When I get into a flow state, though, it’s really easy. Editing the script and composing the images, will be different.

I kind of think that’s enough on my plate, for now.

art, comics, creative writing, illustration, self care, self-publishing, sequential art

‘Zine dreams

Well…let’s see. We’re still rearranging the house. Bright spot: I may now have an area (extra desk, cart, and space) I can use for sewing. Somewhat-uncomfortable spot: I think a lizard may have gotten in. Not that they’re terrible or anything, but all they do is die…

I’m not sure that’s the best way to start a post, but you know. Best not to forget about the lizard. Last I saw it, it may have run behind the TV–!!

Right now…I do just kind of wonder whether I had a surplus of free time for so long that I’ve just been able to develop a number of different skills. I am thinking that if I were working on a different timetable…if I had to support myself, that is, I wouldn’t have had time to begin these practices, at all.

A number of days back, I realized that I could combine embroidery, applique, and piecework in order to make original artworks…this, though, has led to me finding my sewing stuff, my fabrics, and projects which I’ve intended to work on, but haven’t had the motivation (or memory) to do so.

I’ve also found a bunch of…old, completed or mostly-completed sketchbooks. In a couple of them, I was getting into things heavily enough that I had started to work out situations which stories could take place within…or actual stories. And characters. And drama. And page layouts. Seriously. How much more exciting is it when I’m not hesitant to make my characters feel?

On top of that, I have a lot of pencil character sketches which I could translate to marker paper. I know that working these out in black-and-white should be easy. I also know how Copics work, now, and a bit about their color ranges. There’s also the thing about working these out on heavier paper, or on Deleter paper. I have a fairly decent amount of the latter…but I still don’t yet know its properties (stability under water or light washes; how it takes alcohol marker, or dip pens; I think I remember using it before with Microns, but not Copic Multiliners, which I found out about later).

In short, going through my old art stuff reminded me of old and unfinished projects. Last night, I realized a method of binding that I could use to make comic pages with full bleeds (images running off the edge of the page), without needing to align printing on both the back and front of the paper. (Fold the paper at the center, bind the loose ends. One image, two pages.) That, then…that opens up a world of possibilities.

I also thought of writing and illustrating the thing for a small circle of friends here, and in ‘zine format, distributing it within small independent bookstores and ‘zine fests. From there, it can grow, or not. But it will have reached people I’ve most wanted it to reach.

I’ll also, then, have a portfolio piece. And I’ll be able to get this story out of my head.

Last night — after drinking an iced oolong in the middle of the night — I realized that I needed to get the core of the story down, and then build the rest of the story around it to support it. Then I realized that I did know the core of the story…which I eventually decided to take a moment to scribble down. One page. So much.

So today, I have the essential core of the story (plus some extraneous things). It is very…LGBT+ themed. I’ve learned over the years that it isn’t worth it to try and alter this story away from what it is (or what it has become, at least). I wonder if this generativity has come, also, from getting tired of writing the same things over and over in my journals.

The major thing is…graphic novel format feels more “alive” to me, somehow, than just text. At least so, when I make an effort to show emotion through my characters…and there are a lot of ways to do that. But I wonder if it’s worth it to try and illustrate the story as versus writing it out, first. Generally, so far as I know, at least; scripts come before illustrations. However, that isn’t always the case.

Doing the writing and art separately implies a division of labor between writer(s), who may not be able to draw — and illustrator(s), who may not write as well as they compose and create visual art. However, if they’re both the same person…that’s different. Jeff Smith, who wrote and drew the original Bone comics, was like this, though he started off with a blank page with a set number of panels, and basically drew the story as he imagined it.

Of course, he also started his own publishing house to get his work out there–!

Not to say I’d work exactly as he did — I don’t imagine that. However, the only person who needs to understand my process, is me. That means I don’t have to artificially separate generative tasks in the way I would if I were not currently aspiring to be an indy comic artist.

I do think that somehow, getting back into…this kind of gentle non-figurative stuff with letting myself be okay with just doing sewing, or embroidery, or abstract watercolor (and disregarding for now the possibly salient concept that all of these tasks have been accorded to women in the past) — it has also stimulated other parts of my mind.

Like the discursive part that doesn’t care if, say, when we’re talking about ghosts: what ghosts are, in reality; and whether I’m being accurate to reality, and whether life after death exists, and what paradigm to write from when writing about life after death, etc. That’s why fiction is here.

I also had to be okay with shifting away from my prior goals, to new ones. Yes, I know that I hadn’t planned on this, but I also know I can’t over-plan my life. Sometimes I just have to look at what I have the ability to do, with the resources I already have. I am looking at what I’ve already sunk resources into, and what I already know.

Sometimes…like with Japanese language, I’ve sunk monetary resources into it, but I haven’t used the materials much (at least, recently). On the other hand, with something like Spanish language, I’ve sunk (at least five) years of study and practice into it…to the point that I can understand some basic spoken or written Spanish, without help (like someone asking a clerk today how much an item cost). Because of this, the barrier to entry is much lower than with Japanese, which I spent at most one classroom year of time, studying and practicing.

I’ve also sunk time into Art training, including at least three semesters of Figure Drawing. It’s to the point that I’ve begun to envision at least skulls in three dimensions…and I find myself struggling with the idea of letting form slide for the sake of cartooning (although of course I can make cartoony versions of my characters’ images). The major difficulty I find right now with the concept of illustrating a ‘zine is the fact that there is so much drawing involved. (Do I know if I like drawing that much?) But my writing and vision may make up for present deficits in my skill level…which will rise as I practice, if I practice.

There’s also the fact that this story as it stands is finite. I know the ending already (I also noted it last night). That makes it easier to envision tackling.

Then there is stuff just to do for relaxation. I can’t focus on my career 24/7. It stresses me out too much, and makes me dread going in to work. I’m thinking of setting aside a set number of hours every week (3 to 6) for Professional Development activities, and not worrying about my progress, outside of those. Pretty much every time I go in to work, I’m gaining practical experience and getting closer to becoming a Librarian. That’s really what I need to be doing.

Reading materials on Chat Reference work or Library Programming will get me closer to that, as well, but they’re not things I really need to know now. Probably the thing that I most need to do out of all of it is to read up on Reader’s Advisory (though that only really impacts me at one branch), and reading up on how to handle difficult situations, like dealing with people who are hostile or inebriated, or people experiencing severe mental illness.

And yes — the driving lessons have started. My fear and tension is probably my biggest problem, and that should reduce drastically as I get more comfortable behind the wheel. Kind of like work, now that I think of it…