art, book arts, creative writing, drawing, graphic design, psychology, self care

Sparked

I’m not entirely sure what happened, except that I recalled — after having had a mood crash not even two weeks out of classes — how much I had been doing before that class started in order to keep my mood stable. In particular…writing, and art. And not just “writing” as in “journal writing,” writing as in Fiction writing: particularly, literature. I was trained in Literature, but…let’s just say that what I have to say about the world could be construed as libel if I should hold too close to reality (but not yet close enough).

Last night I realized that what I might be seeking in that area was SF/F, or for the uninitiated, Science Fiction and Fantasy. I’ve…had a very long relationship with the latter, not knowing it was the latter. Kind of like I was writing a gender-nonbinary character long before I had ever heard of nonbinary gender. Not to get stuck on that — I have gotten tired of Middlesex and Left Hand of Darkness supposedly being about gender — but…I can see where this (writing) could sustain me for a while, at least, psychologically.

There are two large places where my desire to write is being hampered. The first is with not reading enough. Fiction, I mean. I have what is, by now, the same old story rattling around in my head which I have not set toner to paper to, yet. This is mostly because it’s underdeveloped, and a good portion of that lack of development has to do with its being “a nice fantasy” without real-world problems being interjected into it. I haven’t, that is, wanted to burden my characters with suffering of the kind I have experienced. Although that, overall…if I hold to that, it could lead me to some interesting worldbuilding places.

“That,” meaning, my own experience with trying to find enough pleasure in life to willfully drive it to continue…and then the relief from medication with antidepressant action which concomitantly has at times felt…false? The problem is that the pain seems real even though it’s a symptom of a known psychiatric disorder; a problem with wiring and connectivity and feedback, if you will. Runaway focus on pain like tracks ground into hard dried mud. The issue is that the thing I have the most pain over is the state of the world, and that is something I cannot, “fix.” Because I can’t fix it, I have to do what I must so that I survive, despite it. Outwit the thanatos.

In my case, I’ve opted for psychiatric medications over street drugs or suicide: over street drugs, because I was told that going on them would be the worst possible thing I could do for myself. Over suicide, because suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. At least, they say it’s temporary. People being ****heads, though…that’s kind of a permanent problem, I think.

I also know that death is likely to come far too early for me. If things are going well, that is, and life remains worth living. We do tend to hope that things will go well…

The second place where I’m sabotaging myself has to do with creating worlds and relationships which are more hospitable to life than this reality…which in tandem with my tendency to depression, means that I can prefer living in that world to living in this one. And I know that, and that is a problem. Or maybe knowing it means that I can guard against growing closer in my proximity to self-annihilation, while still receiving the benefit of rest which fantasy can harbor.

Of course, it does also seem that a whole LOT of people are close to self-annihilation right now. Not going to lie.

Anyhow, D had me (re-)watch a program on bookbinding, tonight, which got me curious enough to make a small maquette of a binding design. It’s really nothing…huge. :) Simply a way to take a horizontal format and place it on a shelf so that the spine still shows the title, author, publisher, without sticking so far out of line that it becomes problematic to store. As a person who used to shelve books — A LOT of books — and have heavy art books occasionally try to fall on them, I know that this is a fairly perennial problem. You don’t want to be in the Arts & Music Folio section when an earthquake hits, let me just say (although places which actually do have Folio sections are likely to be safer, due to specialized shelving units).

This is actually a reason I was driven to learn Japanese language: I had mostly been exposed to manga, not English comics. The entire flow of the page is different in manga — more often vertical in nature, and from right to left. This makes sense for Japanese language, which can be written vertically, and read from right to left when in that vertical format. It remains a problem for the English-writer who is inspired by manga but cannot write legibly and vertically at the same time. This is where wide-format books come into play, as English runs horizontally.

So basically: I now have puzzled out that three columns of 2×4 units (horizontal x vertical) for each page, laid out horizontally, makes a total spread of 12×4 units which can be used variously as a relatively standard-appearing comic grid (when divided into 2×2 squares), six columns of text, or text interspersed with images — the last two of which, I think I’m going to be using.

This is a different way of thinking about things, but it should afford me some rest from having to draw out an entire world, along with granting me the capability of inserting images by design. It also should give me the chance to play with InDesign…if I really cared that much about it. However: I have the materials for this. I know what has to be done. The next step…hmm. Hadn’t thought about the next step.

I believe it would be scriptwriting, possibly combined with storyboarding. I did start to take a class in this, but there were crazy high race tensions in that class, probably because the instructor was trying to seem anti-racist and…I don’t think they knew the point of anti-racism. Depicting diversity alone isn’t anti-racist. Trying to be anti-racist so you look more woke on the street isn’t the point of…

Let’s not go there. Wusa.

Anyhow. Scriptwriting, storyboarding. In working with a grid format, I would be imposing some limitations on myself, as in how long I can take to complete a thought, or what I’d need to put in place so the reader turns the page. Also: font size. Though I’m thinking of hand-lettering. (I do have an Ames Lettering Guide…)

I also need to be reading, more. At this point, I am wondering how much reading is going to take me away from the beadwork, and whether I’ll realistically be able to juggle reading, writing, beadwork, and library science. It seems I should be able to, at least so long as I don’t have a paying job…and developing skills in InDesign and Photoshop…that will be worth it, especially if I start looking for gig work as a writer.

Gosh, I…forgot I’d be writing all this…!

Maybe it would be best to work it out in text, first, and draw alongside, then see which one comes out as more dominant…

art, color, drawing

In the middle of the night…

I suppose that once you photograph a pencil drawing, it does show you where you could have stood to use a harder lead…note that the version of the drawing I’ve posted here is a PNG. It’s going to look bizarre if you download it, as I edited out the background in order to make the background match the background of this blog. (It even looks bizarre on my machine, if I try to look at it as a standalone file.)

It could be worth it to me, to enhance the original file and then retry the process I underwent to select and then paste the image information…

Last night I realized I couldn’t sleep, even though I had gone to bed early enough. I had been thinking about the last painting I did and how it reminded me of a cave with water. That, in turn, reminded me of cenotes, which are water-filled sinkholes — limestone caves with caved-in skylights — which occur in the rainforests of Mexico.

Drawing from within a cenote, or underground lake, within a limestone cave. Green vines drop from the skylight, and stalactites hang from the darkness on the right.
This really wants color.

From what I know, these have been known to be gates to the underworld. It’s not the same thing as a Hell, as the other world isn’t necessarily a site of suffering. Because of their association with the underworld, though (and likely also because their mythos of reference is not Christian), they are rumored to have been places of human sacrifice. They also seem to have served as sources of clean (fresh?) water.

The eerie thing about cenotes — aside from the otherworldly blue color they often have — is that they tend to be very, very clear and beautiful. From the surface, they’re basically holes in the ground into which one can disappear into if one isn’t careful. The underground lakes are connected through underground waterways which people are known to have perished in while exploring.

Basically, since the caves are limestone, they have been dissolved away by the rain. The edges of the skylights can harbor hanging gardens; even sometimes, waterfalls.

If I were to re-learn Spanish, researching the cenotes and their Mesoamerican connections would be among my strongest reasons.

I came up with this design while thinking of what I saw in the painting I did the other night. I made a simple sketch in my sleep journal, then got up and sketched the whole thing out in a Wet Media sketchbook with Hi-Uni soft graphite pencils. (Mostly, the very soft ones.) It’s not the same as it is in my mind, without color.

The water should be a Cobalt Turquoise Light, with greenery hanging down from the top, the sunlight filtering through the closer vines; then the cave itself is white with a glowing bluish cast from the lit portion of the water, and whitish reflections on its roof (lifted paint?) from the surface of the water, and shadows setting off whitish/yellow stalactites and stalagmites.

I’m not certain of next steps as regards watercolor — planning the layers may take some work — but having this quick sketch should help. (I had intended just to sketch various thumbnails, but I got a full-size drawing out of this!)

Right now, I’m trying to break out of realism and back into imagination…I’m unsure to what extent I will or won’t use visual references. Reflected light off of water, I clearly need to research; but types of plants? Photos from within cenotes (even though my composition seems fine right now)? What got me to this point last night was really being inspired by a watercolor book I seem to have last used, several years ago (if the bookmark is any indication)…

art, comics, creative writing, drawing, illustration, self care, sequential art

The things that bring me joy…?

Today has been another day in which M has encouraged me to think about what I really want to do, regardless of whether it pays, or not. I feel…kind of silly for what my mind snapped to, first…but it might have to do with the ethnic identity stuff that I’ve only started to become really conscious of, within the last 5 years. I’ve just recently started diving back into Japanese language study, again. I feel silly because so much of it is so basic.

If I hadn’t left my first Undergraduate University to eventually major in Creative Writing…I most likely would have majored in Japanese Language and Literature: I had a start. I’ve realized recently that my primary interface with the rest of the world (outside of family) is text-based. Having Japanese language skills opens another door onto the world that I only have really had a taste of, in English. I’ve only seen what others have seen fit to carry over into English, or which English speakers have produced.

My main issue has been what I can do with Japanese Language and Literature, other than teach Japanese…or work in a place where my bilingual capacity would be needed and appreciated, like a Japanese food store (have you tried to read the cooking instructions on any all-Japanese packaging?) or tool shop, for example. Or, I could be a translator — although face-to-face translation might be difficult for me because of social issues (race, gender, etc.) combined with obviously not being an extrovert.

However…I’m seeing more openings for the possibility of bridging cultures, now. I’m extremely grateful for the influx of materials and culture from the middle and other side of the Pacific. It’s not out of the picture that sometime in my life, I may wish to travel or stay in one of those places. Not necessarily in Japan, but somewhere safe. Not crazy (like this place is, right now), but if I could find a place to settle in peace, it would be nice. Japanese language plus English would at least give me a couple of routes where I might be able to be literate and function, overseas.

I also believe that part of what I’m dealing with is influence from East Asia through my family and what of culture has filtered through to me in English; but not knowing in-depth any East Asian languages, and having my earliest cultural contact on my Japanese-American side being Nisei (second-generation) — meaning she was missing important information — I’m missing the representations of people who may be more like myself than I imagine, in their own words. Not that I have any pretensions of being especially Japanese-from-Japan.

I know I have been raised in California. My cultural background is thus, hybrid. But there is a lot that has been passed down to me through family, and some things (like how to tie an obi) that haven’t been.

I believe I rejected wearing a maru obi at a young age because it restricted my movement. (Rage at constricting, restricting, and unnecessarily revealing clothing, has been a theme throughout my life.) Of course, the other Japanese-American kids at school probably knew I was half-dressed when I wore kimono to school improperly. My family — my nuclear family — however, seriously didn’t know better, and I suspect that my grandmother not letting me know how important an obi was, was based in passive aggression. (There were race tensions.)

In any case, I still don’t know how to properly wear a yukata (most kimono available here are either yukata [cotton summer kimono], or vintage formalwear) although I have acquired a book on it. Something like a haori or hippari (both are kinds of jackets) would be of more use here, though. Particularly, a hippari: the culture is too casual for something like a formal black haori, unless we’re going to a play or something.

On top of having so many gaps in my knowledge of family (and my own) background, is my awareness that the society I live in now isn’t the best society in the world, just because I happen to live in it. (As well, I’m aware that my ethnic background isn’t the best thing in existence, just because it’s mine…and that my beliefs aren’t necessarily true, just because they’re mine.) So…I see ideas from elsewhere, and I get curious.

It’s nice to see something different! That may be an American appreciation of diversity talking, but it’s one of the things about metropolitan American culture in which I find value.

I had to stop this post a couple of hours ago because I was getting into how I might use the skill to support myself, and totally lost interest in this entry. To be brief: book translation. To move on…?

Earliest loves. First loves.

I still have an urge to make comics. I don’t know why. I don’t know if I’d still like it if I were doing it. My issue is that…a lot of the things I feel, I feel very intensely, and so it’s hard to tone it down, sometimes. (Not toning it down, makes it difficult to sit with those feelings.) I also don’t have a lot of social interaction, which makes trying to describe social interactions as a method of explication, difficult. Third, there are a lot of potential pitfalls in the graphic novel genre.

It’s easier to communicate ideas; but there’s also the risk of creating stereotypes, which no one can (or, perhaps, should) live up to. Then you’ve got kids drawing their eyes in extra big to look like the characters, and it just…it shouldn’t be about the images.

We’re more than what we look like; what we look like doesn’t dictate who we are; and real people aren’t idealized sketches. Real people aren’t the hype; they aren’t the conglomeration of the perfect character design and the perfect voice and the perfect hair and the perfect clothes to suit a certain concept. The strength of the narrative isn’t even always about the individual characters, but it can be about how those characters interact, and the world they’re in, and what they co-create.

But…I should try getting back to this. I did just purchase an apparently Non-Photo-Blue mechanical pencil (this disappears on scanning, or can be selected out digitally), and a couple of fat Copic Multiliners for dense blacks. The reason to use the Copics rather than the Pitt Brush Pens (they seem to perform in parallel, from what little I’ve tried to do with them) is that I know that black Pitt ink (only black, so far as I know) does shift a little, under water. Copic, shouldn’t (none of my other Copic Multiliners, do) — but I haven’t tested the heavy ones, yet.

I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve realized that I can work pencils, I can ink; but I still haven’t gotten to the point of putting in graphic shadows, or color/shading.

I do, as well, have both a tablet and Photoshop. Not that I really want to try and produce screentones in Photoshop (or Illustrator — and not that I’ll necessarily need to), but I’ve wanted to make comic art. It’s the reason I have both of these resources. Once I actually make some images to work with, I can get Illustrator, again…but right now, it’s superfluous. I’m not to the page-layout point yet. I’m still in the Concept Art/Design/Scriptwriting phase.

And that’s OK.

My major issue is going to be whether and how to work with color…though I could do monochrome or duochrome, easily…which could be interesting. If I get deep enough into it…huh. I have just found, really, that I might want to use earthtone watercolor, as versus Copic. The Warm Greys I see, aren’t really “warm” enough, for me…and Copics are too expensive to settle for something I don’t want.

Perhaps Ultramarine + Raw Umber? (Is that latter one, the right name I’m recalling?) The two colors together create a neutral grey shade, but lean a little left or right, and you get…chromatic greys. They can be beautiful, and with these you can tip the color balance warm or cool, depending on which pigment is stronger. (It is ironic that Ultramarine Blue — at least my French Ultramarine — would likely be “warmer” than Raw Umber, because it leans violet…but then you add in Burnt Umber, and man…! I’m not sure what it would do [Burnt Umber is an earth red, while Raw Umber is bluer with yellow tones], but I want to try it!)

{EDIT, 9-1-2020: I was thinking of Burnt Sienna as an earth red; Burnt Umber is a rather plain brown.}

(For that matter, if I’m using watercolor, I have an entire arsenal at my disposal…though maybe limiting my palette could be useful, in the beginning.)

I could then clean this up in Photoshop (which might be easier than trying to block in color, digitally).

As for anything else…I want to be reading more, so that I have things to write about.

Sequential art plus writing plus reading plus Japanese? Is that what I want to be doing?

(I did mean to get into the fact that I’m attracted to working with color for some reason, but I don’t know why, and haven’t been able to place the venue for its uses…)

It certainly sounds like this is what I want. Even though part of me thinks it sounds childish, just because I’ve wanted to make a, “comic,” since I was in 9th grade (at the latest).

And, I suppose, I should not be afraid of, “illustrative,” styling…I just have to remember that I wasn’t given the gift of creativity simply to replicate reality…

God. I have the materials, and the time, and the preparation, to do this (well, mostly)…

…and I have The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Graphic Novels, here! (Just in case I want to research how other people have done stuff…)

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, art media, career, drawing, LIS, psychology, self care, work

Soft graphite. Ooo.

It’s been a while since I’ve allowed myself the time to be on here. Gosh, what’s changed…?

My waking hours, for one thing. I’ve been turning in relatively early, waking up around 5:30 AM, staying up for about three hours, and going back to sleep. Then I wake up around noon…and possibly go back to sleep, for a few hours. Then get back up again for dinner. (Hey, I didn’t say it was healthy.)

I’m…feeling considerably better about my job, having started a book on anger management (which indirectly contributes to conflict management), and having begun to read in a book on Linked Data. I’m about halfway through the latter…and it is more technical than I had given it credit for. I have the rest of the weekend to get through it, which I’m thinking should probably be a priority, so that I can be informed at the same time as some of my peers.

But yes…neuroplasticity is a great thing. It’s good to know that I’m not necessarily stuck with the limitations I have, right now. I can see that the incident which caused me to rethink being in this job happened because neither I nor the other person had full control over our anger; the hostility expressed did not actually have anything to do with the person towards whom it was expressed; and the tension ramped up until we both aborted.

If, however, one of us can get control over our emotions, that can change the dynamic and the range of outcomes: particularly if the other person doesn’t know how to do anything other than fight. And that can help keep me feeling safer and more comfortable, in my current job.

Meaning…yes, it is work, but the work is being social. Some people thrive on that; I don’t. It’s good to know that, especially as so many Public Libraries want to hire “people persons.” I may, in short, be better off in an Academic Library environment (as so many people have told me), and/or as a Technical Services employee. But I don’t have to immediately think about getting a different job.

After having written this post, I believe that I should add MA or MFA in Fine Art to my list of things to consider, should I ever get into an Academic Library setting where I need a second Master’s. I’m related to someone who did Art as an undergraduate degree without going through Community College first; I did Art as an AA. He had more theory; I had more practice. But it’s enough to know that I could learn about Art History on my own, and try for at least an MA in that.

The prospect of having encyclopedic knowledge of Art History is appealing, though I do realize that the degree can take a very long time. It isn’t so bad if it’s subsidized. It also isn’t so bad if I do wind up with that encyclopedic knowledge!

As for what to do while I am awake…my little A5 journal is helping with that. I’m listing (and checking off) tasks. As of April 15 (four days ago, now — I started this post two days ago! what the hey?!), I completed (and washed and ironed) 9 face masks. With orders now in California and Hawaii (the two places I am usually found) making face masks often mandatory to go outside, it looks like I’ll need to make more of them. I’ve already had two separate occasions where I’ve been asked to make more; even if indirectly.

22-pencil set of Mitsubishi Hi-uni pencils, from 10B to 10H
“Hi-uni” pencils from Mitsubishi. Range: 10B to 10H!

I also — now that I know I’m not aiming to make comics (at least not professionally) — went and bought a set of art pencils. I can draw, “not-for-reproduction,” that is. I guess it’s the difference between Fine Art and Graphic Art. (I don’t know yet where Illustration falls in there, really; but it could be like the difference between Cataloging and Metadata Librarianship: you don’t really, “get it,” until you study it. Then you can kind of grok the difference between Subject Classification and coding in JSON-LD. Which…probably means nothing to most people who aren’t me. Moving on…)

I don’t know how I’m going to like the “Hi-uni” brand pencils. The reviews say they have less tactile “feedback” than the Faber-Castell 9000s I’ve otherwise been using (I think this refers to how well they grip the page) — but just the fact that the cores are different-sized according to the hardness of the lead, is alluring. (Softer cores are wider; harder ones, narrower.) Someone is paying attention to how the pencils are used, that is, and to the strength of the cores.

I’ve tried a lot of graphite pencils and sticks…how they feel to work with is just really variable. I’m not sure if it has to do with the qualities of the clays used for matrix, how old the clay is (I’m recalling the shattered pastel incident), or what (pencil cores are generally made of graphite plus clay, with the proportions determining hardness) — but graphite can be really nice or really…irritating. I’ve experienced my share of super-slippery pencils and graphite sticks that seemed to barely make a mark (even if they were supposedly soft)…to the point that I’m only going to go over some of the graphite crayons/sticks/pencils I’ve tried. And no, I’m not getting compensation for this. At frickin’ all.

Cretacolor Monolith woodless graphite pencil set, ranging from HB to 9B
These come in the Cretacolor MonolithBox — or did, when I obtained these (2016 or before). The blue 4B graphite stick is supposed to be water-soluble, but I’ve never tried it.

The above is a brand of graphite stick that I do really like (Cretacolor MONOLITH), which would be perfect except for a couple of things. The first thing is the random hard bit one occasionally finds embedded in the stick while drawing, which incises the paper and leaves a permanent mark. I think the only way to get rid of these is to sharpen them out, but that leads to a lot of otherwise unnecessary sharpening (as versus just grinding the bit into the paper and hoping I never have to erase: the marks left may be white marks, after all, not black). The second thing is that because these are round and lacquered, they aren’t designed to facilitate using the entire broad side of the stick — just the side of the tip, and the tip itself.

An example of a different type of “graphite crayon” are the LYRAs:

LYRA graphite crayons in 2B, 6B, and 9B
LYRA graphite crayons in 2B, 6B, 9B.

In the right hands (generally speaking, not mine to date), these can be very delicate. However, because of the sheer size of these things (approximately 1cm wide), they’re great for working on huge images — like, ones you have to lay out on the floor or the wall because they’re too big for tables. I’ve found that I really don’t need something quite that hardcore — or, at least, haven’t, since I last dealt with the Art Department (though I did have a friend who absolutely would have used these). They also either need to be sharpened with a knife or a huge pencil sharpener (the latter of which, LYRA sells).

(No, I’m not responsible if you cut yourself with a knife trying to sharpen things.)

The nice thing about these is that there’s nothing to stop one from peeling off the wrapper and polishing one side down on newsprint, to use the broad side to draw with. (The shape is that of a hexagonal prism.) Of course, it’s also possible to find cheap little rectangular graphite sticks which are just fine for this, too — but those have been some of the more slippery/pale, and frustrating, incarnations of graphite that I’ve dealt with.

And no, I’m not entirely sure what to do about that, except not buy them. The thing is, the LYRA graphite crayons are a bit too long to use sideways; I’d end up breaking them into two or more parts. If, however, that would get me to use them (as versus keep them in a baggie for the future, as I have), I suppose it’s OK.

So the Hi-uni set I got (put out by Mitsubishi, of all corporations — and yes, I believe that’s the same as the car company: the logo matches) has 22 grades of graphite, ranging from 10B (softest) to 10H (hardest), with the extra two being HB and the ever-enigmatic F. I would have gotten every other grade from soft to medium (say 10B, 8B, 6B, 4B…to 2H or 4H), but it was significantly cheaper per-pencil to get the set. Also, the place that carried them was out of a number of pencils I would have liked to have gotten, open-stock.

I’ve just tested out the Hi-uni 10B…it’s super-expressive, and super-soft, even somewhat crumbly. I haven’t applied any image adjustments to the below, even though the sun is now going down…because of this, it looks dim.

Hi-uni 10B graphite marks, image un-adjusted
Without image adjustments

With an exposure adjustment applied, though, it’s super-high contrast. This may, actually, negate the need to work in ink, if I did want to make prints. (I’ve actually been watching a lot of The Owl House, which is a new cartoon show on Disney; if you look in the backgrounds, a lot of the lines of the surroundings are textured like this. Also, looking at Ducktales (2017), it’s pretty evident where the background artists used personal flourish in illustrating the characters’ surroundings. Ducktales (2017) has more of a brush-pen thing going on, though.) :)

Hi-uni 10B graphite marks, with Photoshop's exposure image adjustment
With Exposure image adjustment

And yes…it was hard to write with that pencil, especially given that I didn’t sharpen it to a point (as I knew it would be worn to a nub pretty much immediately). I had to keep rotating the pencil to keep those letters legible. The 10B is pretty creamy, as well…which has me wondering about the others.

One of the reasons I got the Hi-uni is the fact that I’ve got a lot of textured paper, which I haven’t been using. I’m particularly thinking of a Maruman Zuan sketchbook which I obtained in a Japanese-American market in Southern California (honestly, I probably could have obtained it in San Francisco’s Japan Center, if I’d looked). It has a really, really nice texture on it. It’s something I think I’ve been missing, recently…likely due to the fact that I’ve been working mostly with pen and ink, and on smooth paper.

There is also a pack of tinted Pastel paper I have…which allows one to use lighter-value materials on it as well (like, “General’s White Charcoal,” or white/tinted pastel). The only drawback is the absolute need to use fixative for those light marks (even though it will likely turn some of them clear). I have some. I suppose I could be considered lucky. But that stuff is noxious. Everyone who has ever suggested we try to use it, has noted its toxicity, and advised us not to breathe it in. Meaning: use a respirator, go outside, and don’t breathe the mist.

I’ve resorted to using Aqua Net before (it’s the paranoid guy’s fixative), which I can use in the shower as though it’s a spray booth: open the window, close the door, and evacuate while the solvent dissipates…but like I said. Noxious. Even Aqua Net in the amounts needed to “fix” a painting or drawing, smells horrible. I’ve also heard that it will yellow over time, whereas Artist’s fixative should not.

But at least graphite isn’t quite as vulnerable to smearing as charcoal or pastel…and there are also the oil pastels (which bind the pigment, instead of leaving it loose so that it needs a fixative), the most significant of which, in my mind, are the Neocolor I series by Caran d’Ache. I’ve used these before because they have brilliant colors and exceptional opacity. Now, whether they are still the same colors, today, if I were to find my drawings…that, I don’t know! What I know is that my yellows and reds showed up on top of black paper. I’m not certain how these would react to a fixative; though it may be that they wouldn’t need it. Nor do I know how they would intermingle with graphite.

My favorite pencils…well, if there could be a “favorite” brand, more than a brand more useful for one type of application or another…are the Faber-Castell 9000s (in the photo way down at the bottom of the post). However, I got these a very long time ago. I’m up for trying something different…and for giving myself something for making it through all those masks and studying! I’ve gotten to the point of realizing that not all art supplies are alike, which even applies down to the level of a pencil.

Random pencils
Case in point: the “ECO PENCILs” above, are Tombows. I was almost put off of graphite altogether, because of those little guys…they just feel a little slick to me, though they’re better than nothing.

The pencils in the above photo are mostly nothing special; the green pencil is a KIMBERLY from General Pencil Co. (the same people who make General’s Charcoal): I didn’t realize that the label was facing downwards when I took the shot. The Derwents are good in the hard and middle grades (I’m seeming to recall something about random hard bits in these, too), but I haven’t tried their softer ones (I was using the Faber-Castells for that job, at the time). The two Tombow ECO PENCILs, I avoid unless I’m being either experimental, or too lazy to look for my good pencils. I found them in Honolulu for like $1.25 each (or something) after I realized I had failed to pack any pencil whatsoever…which is not great when you want to do ink sketches with underdrawings. The Prismacolor TURQUOISE…I don’t really remember how it behaves, and offhand, it doesn’t stand out.

I’ve, today, been looking for a lost Faber-Castell PITT graphite stick in 9B or 10B — I don’t recall which. I haven’t been able to find it, though I did find (by surprise) a Koh-I-Noor TOISON D’OR 1900 8B pencil, back from the time when 8B was one of the densest graphite grades one could find (circa 2016 — you’d be lucky to find a 9B, and you would not find a 10B). It’s got a great feel on sketch paper — toothy, not slippery, and a velvety dense application. The thing about the TOISON D’OR is that this pencil has varnish which has in the past migrated to my fingertips…at least, if I didn’t dream that. I have trouble distinguishing fantasy and reality, sometimes.

No, I’m not kidding. I remember purple fingertips, but my memory can be unreliable.

Swatch and appearance of Koh-I-Noor brand Toison d'Or 1900 8B pencil
You know how hard it is to get the swatch and the pencil in focus at the same time?

This 8B TOISON D’OR also smudges very, very easily. That can be a good or bad thing, depending…though if I wanted total smudgelessness, I’d use ink. (Granted, that doesn’t always work!) There’s also the trick of laying down a piece of paper under your hand, if your habit is to rest your hand on your work: it keeps the side of your hand from turning black, and all your black points from turning everything else grey. I’m wondering if glassine paper is any better for this, seeing as how it’s basically like waxed paper…I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s an easy experiment. (Glassine paper is used to separate images which might become damaged from friction in storage, like pastel, charcoal, and graphite works. I’ve had to use it before, particularly when I needed to archive my work after the Art program ended.)

The other thing I’m pretty happy about is this:

Eraser kit containing eight different erasers and a pencil sharpener in a tin. Above it rest two short Faber-Castell 9000 2B pencils.
Erasers!

This is a kit I’ve been able to put together out of bits & bobs. The tin is from a craft store, about the size of a deck of Tarot cards; the pencil sharpener is from an artist supply. The erasers are (mostly) from a sampler pack found online, though I think the black Tombow MONO eraser, I got in Honolulu. The 2B Faber-Castell 9000s live in there with them, and they kind of sit around on my nightstand until I decide to use them.

As for anything in there that I liked by surprise? Yes. The “foam” erasers. I don’t even know what they are. They just work really well. :) The one on the upper left reads “SAKURA KUREPASU” on the side, which I’m thinking refers to Sakura Cray-Pas, the manufacturer. Interestingly enough, the ARCH foam eraser also reads, “SAKURA KUREPASU”.

Phew! That’s a lot about pencils! And I just realized, I didn’t even get into stick erasers…or eraser shields (the latter of which, make life so much easier). Or tortillions and blending stumps. Or mechanical pencils and lead holders. But if I’m going in a more fine-art direction than a graphic one…that stuff may come up (granted that I have only seen the fabled lead holder, not ever used one).

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…

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, art media, drawing

Testing black drawing ink

I started writing this post on the 1st of January, but was too wiped out from the day to be able to do much more than type an apology for no pictures, and leave the draft until the next day. Well, it’s the 4th, now, about to be the 5th, in several hours. I still haven’t taken scans or photos, but if I wait until I do that, it may well be a week or so more until I get around to it.

I do have the energy to write, today; actually, I’ve just gotten through cleaning and vacuuming both my room and my bathroom (not yet including the shower). This has brought my attention (again) to the need to actually organize both my desk and nightstand, as I’ve just reorganized the vanity. The materials in my desk, that is, are likely over a decade old. The materials in my nightstand…a lot of that stuff can go somewhere else, because I’m not using it.

Anyhow — on the 1st, I reminded myself to check notes I had made prior, while meditating on wanting to do art, but not particularly being enamored with the graphite-pencil medium which I’ve overlearned. One of the most basic things I could have done (and did do) would be to singe a nib or more, and test out a number of black inks I have, for waterproofness and Copic-proofness. (Copics are a brand of marker used in illustration, particularly in comics…which mattered more before I abandoned the effort to make comics, and turned back more towards waterbased painting, in combination with ink work.)

Just to let you know, a lot of these inks I have are super-old, possibly from before the year 2000. The ink formulations have likely changed since that time. I’ve used them since then, but because of not entirely knowing what to do with the dip pen nibs (they have to have the anti-rust coating eaten or boiled or burned off of them somehow, or they do not hold ink [I learned this later — for some reason, Speedball seems to assume one knows this already]), my development has been stalled.

It would likely help if I got a non-food-safe pot to boil them within, en masse — like the non-food-safe butter knives for separating sheets of watercolor paper, or the non-food-safe spoon(s) for transferring block prints. I just haven’t really been committed enough to buy something like that.

To be short, three inks went immediately in the garbage because of failed performance (strong feathering, non-black color). These may have just been too old, but in any case, they were useless. These were Higgins Black Magic and regular Higgins Black. The third — I forget the brand (it may have been Pelikan) — I got from a relative. In any case, it wasn’t ink anymore, and it was so old that I believe I know what art store it came from (the price tag is distinctive). That art store is no longer in existence, and hasn’t been since the early 2000’s, if I’m recalling correctly.

For all of the tests, I was using a freshly-singed Blue Pumpkin nib, which is basically a flexible steel spoon-shaped nib which has been treated to turn blue. Of course, you also need a nib holder. I really have no recollection of the brand of the nib holder I used (it has a wooden handle and metal clutch); I just know it fits that nib, and it works.

There were three inks I tried which were not waterproof at all. These were Higgins Eternal, Higgins Calligraphy (“waterproof”), and Parker Super Quink. Of the three, the Parker dissolved most readily in water once dry. Interestingly enough, it was totally Copic-proof, and didn’t smudge under a Copic blending marker. I’m thinking that the solvent in Copics is majorly alcohol (which makes covalent bonds instead of ionic), but I haven’t checked the Materials Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) to be sure. Higgins Eternal was the next most water-soluble, followed by Higgins Calligraphy (“waterproof”) ink. Higgins Eternal is Copic-proof. Higgins Calligraphy is not.

That being said, if I were going to have an ink which I wanted to smudge under water, or if I had an application where I wouldn’t be using either water or marker on top, the three inks actually flow well and have a nice consistency and depth. The Parker ink leans more blue when dissolved than the Eternal, which is more brownish. I wouldn’t really use the Higgins Calligraphy in an ink-and-wash application, though, as it dissolves so weakly that it looks more like a mistake.

This leaves three inks: Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Ink, Speedball Super Black India Ink (of which I have both ultra-old and newer-but-still-old formulations), and Blick Black Cat Waterproof India Ink. Of the three, I was surprised to find that the Black Cat was the clear winner in both waterproofness and Copic-proofness, refusing to budge under either, after drying for about eight minutes. There’s not much more I can say, than that. It was thinner than all of my other functioning inks — the ones I tested, that is — which I didn’t totally love, but I realize that my other inks may only be thicker because they’re older and have lost fluid to evaporation.

Ph. Martin’s Bombay also performed decently, but was fairly thick (almost the consistency of acrylic ink), and left my pen more prone to “railroading” (where the tines of the nib split and made two fine lines rather than one wide line). Granted, this could be due to my skill level with dip pens — possibly the angle at which I held the pen — as things stand, now.

Also, a note: because the Ph. Martin’s Bombay (distinct from their “Hydrus”, which looks similar) was in a dropper-style bottle, I had to drip the ink over the nib, as versus dipping it into the inkwell (which had a narrow mouth, to boot). I’m not certain, but I think the Bombay is meant more for brushwork than for dip pens; the bottle was certainly designed that way.

Both Speedball Super Black formulations had either fixed to noticeable dispersion under both water and Copic, in a manner that makes me think that maybe the ink just didn’t dry long enough, or I gouged out my Bristol board with my nib in a way that made the ink take longer to dry. I did one test on Fabriano Mixed Media paper; another on Strathmore 300-Series Smooth Bristol board. On the Fabriano, the new formulation smudged under water after 30 minutes of drying, while the old formulation was fixed under water, after 10 minutes. On the Bristol, the old formulation smudged under Copic (but not water) after 45 minutes, while the newer bottle was fine with both Copic and water, after 45 minutes.

The paper does make a difference. With a sharp-tipped tool like the Blue Pumpkin nib, outcomes are more predictable when drawing on Smooth-finish Bristol board, as versus the Vellum-finish Bristol board I also tried (this was a 400-Series), or the Fabriano Mixed Media paper. The latter two just have so much texture that the tip of the nib tends to get bumped around while you’re trying to make a line. There’s also the feeling, on more textured papers, that you’re making an incision into some soft, pillowy top. It’s not always pleasant.

I tried all three because I would try these for mixed-media projects which may include ink and watercolor. I do know, however, that gouache in particular has a hard time sticking to Bristol board (from one of my first Art classes) — I don’t remember right now which series that was (300-Series is cheaper than 400-Series), but I remember the paper feeling kind of smooth. I did just go and check, and it feels like it was probably a smooth finish (and cheap, for a Bristol board).

The hangup with using a smooth and absorbent board like that is that the gouache forms a skin on top of the board which can be accidentally lifted if too much water is applied later — which I experienced as a very entry-level painting student. I haven’t found a way to come back from that, yet. I also haven’t tried transparent watercolors on Bristol, mostly because it seems sacrilegious. I do have actual watercolor paper for those things, though I haven’t tried the Arches I’ve gotten — mostly due to fear of messing it up.

But it does seem counterproductive to buy good art supplies and then not use them because I’m scared I’ll make mistakes. Mistakes are the essence of learning — not to make mistakes is to avoid learning.

Getting back to that pencil vs. liquid media thing: I did find it kind of refreshing to be able to use pen and ink. There’s just something about the slipperiness of an HB pencil which is a real turn-off for me, these days. The scratchiness plus density plus liquid quality of a dip pen does remind me of the fountain pens I’ve been using for journaling; it’s just that I can use actual pigmented inks with dip pens. Fountain-pen inks are mostly dye-based, as pigments can clog up fountain pens very easily.

One of the exceptions to the rule is Platinum Carbon Black, which I haven’t tried — mostly because it’s a high-maintenance ink, requiring weekly cleanings to keep the pen in a functioning condition. I suppose I could put it in a Pilot Kakuno fountain pen and see where that leads, given that the Kakuno is notoriously inexpensive…and also that I do now have a bottle of Pen Flush. Then again, the Kakuno is one of those things where a person can experiment with things like nib tuning (my current Extra-Fine Kakuno scratches the paper much like a dip pen would, and it’s a little annoying), without losing too much on, “learning experiences.”

It’s also possible that the Kakuno only works with Pilot inks. I read the fine print in my Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen instructions the other day and did find that clause in there. I’m like, seriously? Seriously, Pilot? But then, my first Metropolitan still writes like a dream. I just happened to get a really nice ink the first time; different inks from the same line, feel differently on the page depending on I-don’t-know-what. One Metropolitan filled with Chiku-Rin (a yellow-green), that is, behaves differently (it’s more annoyingly slippery [to me, that is]) than the same nib size of Metropolitan filled with Ku-Jaku (a dark green-blue).

I’m just starting to get to the point where I’m identifying inks I actually like, and would voluntarily continue to use, over the long term. I’m also beginning to branch out into brands other than Pilot, which enable me to use inks other than Pilot’s.

Then, there’s the issue of whether I dislike graphite now because I know what charcoal feels like, and can do…the only drawback to charcoal is having to spray one’s drawings with fixative. That is a drawback; I’m just not sure how much it matters, in the long run.

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

The Neurotic Artist *shudder*

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

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

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

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

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

IT’S MY PROCESS, OKAY ;)

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

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

Yes.

I know that’s random.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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