art media, organization, painting

Seeking myself out

Today was spent eliminating excess — and organizing remaining — art materials. I also finally made it into the office to view and organize the altar area; this led to looking over the bookshelves and attempting to see what parts of those shelves I used, and what I didn’t. Like, things I would read, as versus things that were taking up space. Did I know I had so many craft books? (No. No, I did not.)

I’m still not sure what to do about the books I’ve made extensive notes within. Do I just keep them for the rest of my life?

There are a lot of books I want to read, that I just haven’t. I haven’t had time to, or I haven’t included the memory of them in the floor plan in my head. :) I also have almost a full shelf of books for studying nihongo, to read.

My big fear is that I’m going to end up talking like Siri because of learning mostly from books. There is a pitch/intonation thing going on in Japanese language which it doesn’t seem people think is very relevant; basically you learn it by listening and mimicking. One of my undergrad textbooks tried to demarcate intonation with symbols…but that wasn’t easy to decipher.

My fear is that I’m going to have to travel to the City to take classes so that I can learn the correct way to speak. That’s at least 45 minutes away, several days a week. But, I should remember, there is also the option of a Japanese Cultural Center. No, I didn’t intend to rhyme.

I know I keep going back and forth between Japanese and Spanish. Basically, Spanish would be a lot easier for me because I took four years of it as a youth. It would also be more useful, where I currently live. But there are significant and personal cultural reasons for me to learn Japanese, despite functionality being much more distant than facility in Spanish. It’s kind of like questioning whether to do the easy and useful thing which I have personal (post-colonial) psychological barriers to; as versus the hard thing that connects me with a deeper understanding of my cultural heritage, which I’ve wanted to do since I was a child.

Today I was cleaning out my art stuff. We’re basically getting rid of what we no longer use. I’ve marked most of my pastels for the Center for Re-Use, though I kept some of the collection…the ones that didn’t seem too dried out, and which I knew were relatively safe. These are Conté, Carré, and Prismacolor NuPastels where it comes to the hard pastels; and Rembrandt soft pastels, plus a couple of open-stock Blick soft pastels.

When I say, “dried-out,” I mean that I’ve had a pastel stop being able to draw, incise the paper instead, and literally shatter like a plate on being dropped, before. It’s likely because the pastel I’m thinking of (a Rembrandt, which I consider a less-risky company, though some may differ; there are issues of potential contamination of carbon black, and the ever-present Titanium White scare) is kaolin-based; kaolin is a form of clay. It would explain why those pastels were so incredibly soft when I got them (touching them would make them draw on you), and why they eventually stopped working. I did find today, though, that if they’ve been stored inside a plastic bag, they’re less likely to die.

There are also some charcoals and General’s White Charcoal in my “Dusties” kit (they make dust), though I’m still paranoid about not knowing what “General’s White Charcoal” is made of. I don’t think it’s charcoal. So far as I know, it’s a trade secret. It doesn’t help the paranoia to know that Flake White (lead-based) is still in use as a pigment in oil painting. So far as I know, though, Flake White would be a warmer shade of white than is the White Charcoal.

I also let that Blue Pumpkin nib which I used to test black inks (and a white ink), the other day, soak in pen cleaning solution. I wasn’t prepared to see all the stuff that came off of it! (I put it in one of the little clear polystyrene vials I got for bead storage.) But I do know now that the white India Ink I have (Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay) is basically the most suitable thing in my present arsenal where it comes to white highlights or corrections over marker.

Beyond that, it’s the most useful thing I have to draw in white, with high detail, on a dark surface (I used Strathmore Artagain black paper). I just haven’t tried it on translucent marker paper yet. The paper or board used as a surface for those potential marker (or ink) drawings, will likely limit my options.

I also have Daler-Rowney Pro (Process) White, but that stuff is so thick (basically a paste) that it needs to be stirred and diluted before use. I’m thinking maybe that was intentional (as regards monetary value and compact packaging), but I wasn’t expecting it not to work out of the package with either a dip pen or a brush. Of course, maybe I should just treat it as a watercolor paint, scoop some out to work with, and then work water into it with a paintbrush. That seems to be the most logical next option, if I’m trying to test all my white inks and paints for opacity (other than known Zinc White, because I know Zinc isn’t opaque).

That, in turn, is happening because I’ve realized that white acrylic ink markers lack precision and opacity where it comes to being used as correcting pens. I still haven’t tried the needle-tip Posca that I’ve seen, but…well, markers. They aren’t as versatile as paints or inks used with brushes or dip nibs; at least, not without blending.

I’ve also found that a size 0 round paintbrush isn’t that small. At least, sometimes. But my 2/0 (two sizes below 0) is freakishly small. No, I don’t know if paintbrush sizes are standardized.

Anyhow…I’m still not certain what’s happening with the acrylic colors. I could paint in acrylic; it’s just that I’m not driven to do so, relatively. The fact also remains that I don’t have a wide variety of brushes to use with acrylics (a lot of long, narrow flats, some fans, and some filberts, plus the gesso brushes)…though I do like hog-bristle better than most of the synthetics I’ve used (some of which I outright hate — I mean, they squeak and chatter across the surface).

The problem in my case is that I don’t like using stiff (or blunt) brushes…and stiff brushes are needed to stand up to heavy-body paints. Most of our acrylics are heavy-body, whereas I’m known for using even heavy-body acrylics so that they appear to be transparent watercolors. I guess that should tell me something.

The question for me is whether or not getting a wider variety of brushes would help me transition back to canvas and acrylics. I’m leaning towards, “no.” At the same time, M and I have accumulated a lot of acrylic paint over the years. On top of that, I have no way of knowing which of those tubes are structurally sound, without trying to open them and potentially having a chemical spill on my hands — literally. (Liquitex tube paints, in particular, I know to have lids and necks that will sometimes fail. Like the cap unit will peel away from the rest of the tube. Then again, I have no idea how old those tubes were, individually.) That means that I have no idea how much usable paint I actually have.

If there were anything which could draw me back to painting in acrylics, it would probably be the chance to work with opaque colors, in large scale, and to work out an underdrawing and underpainting before ever beginning — and to edit, in-process. There’s also the chance to save a canvas by just gessoing over the whole thing if I don’t like what I have.

But I can work with opaque colors by using gouache; I can use large brushes (and large papers) in watercolor. The rest of it seems particular to working with canvas or panel, gesso, charcoal/pastel, easel, and acrylic glazing medium. I know the process.

I guess that — like learning Spanish language (I had a choice of Spanish or French; I would rather have had a choice between Japanese, Cantonese, or Mandarin, the latter two of which, I could actually use) — is another one of the things that I did because I had to, not because I particularly had a great desire to. It was a learning experience.

The thing that really bothered me when I was taking painting classes was the fact that the act of painting would basically grind down my hog-bristle brushes. I’m thinking this was from the marble dust in the gesso, or from painting on rough plywood panel. It’s something I haven’t experienced with any other type of paint — though granted, I’ve only worked with water-based paints, not oils.

I was told to save the good brushes for oils, because oils don’t do the same thing. The wear on the brushes could also have been from the fact that I was using student-grade gesso. I don’t think I’ve ever used professional-level gesso. I’ve seen it. I just don’t think I’ve ever bought any — with the possible exception of once purchasing Golden. Not sure.

The other thing about getting rid of a lot of this stuff…a lot of it is about prioritization and considering who I actually am, and what I actually want. Not in an abstract way, and maybe not even in a way that compromises anything to the vicissitudes of present reality…though I’m getting abstract.

What I mean is that I’m fairly certain I know what I want. I also know where wanting those things gets inconvenient. From age, I know that I’m unlikely to stop wanting what it is that I want, just because it’s inconvenient; rather, I’ll likely end up halfway chasing those inconvenient things for years on end (like buying book after book on learning Japanese, as a symbol to myself, and not reading them), while I waste time and energy and brain space paying lip service to what the world tells me I should want, instead.

So I should just do what I want, and be who I am. That’s the fastest route to attainment.


art, art media, color, illustration, painting

Watercolors and testing and pigments and inks

I’ve been doing experiments with watercolors…and, I think, I’m on the right track where it comes to what I want to be doing. I’m much happier with inks and wet media than with pencils (I still haven’t been brave enough to break back into the pastels, due to the dust factor). I’ve also been experimenting with inks and “transparent watercolors” (specifically the Ecoline brand, which I had been lusting after, probably for over a year).

The Ecoline stuff hasn’t been going wonderfully, but it’s good that I know that there are more suitable materials than this (for me) out there. I’ve been looking at transparent liquid watercolor (which I assume are aniline dyes) as a sort of middle ground between markers and painting. Right now, I think that’s pretty accurate, and is likely the reason why there are so many pre-mixed colors. I still haven’t extensively tested Dr. Ph. Martin’s Radiant Liquid Watercolor, or their Hydrus. At this point, I’m not entirely certain I will. These liquid things, I’ve read, tend to fade more easily than pigmented paints. Of course, that doesn’t matter if you’re working for reproduction.

If I do get back into comic, or, more pointedly: illustration work, the Ecoline is suited. It’s reliably transparent (at least, with the six colors I’ve been using), so any dark line work won’t become clouded by overpainting. (I also have tried Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star Hi-Carb India Ink with this, which I can get into later. Long story short: it works better with Ecoline than Blick Black Cat, due to the fact that Black Cat repels water and the Ecoline.) However, when using the Ecoline colors like regular watercolors, they are incredibly thin. I believe this is due to the amount of water carried in my brush — I didn’t dry it after rinsing and before dipping it into the dye on my palette, so the color became diluted.

I would probably want to use one of those palettes with tons of tiny wells (I should photograph this if I still have mine; I’m not sure if my meaning is coming across) if I used this for illustration work, as well: the “liquid” part of this means that the dyes really…they really get messed up if one is dipping around and mixing colors, and rinsing the paintbrush and not drying it off afterward. Worse so, than regular tube or pan watercolors. There’s just no going back once you get cyan in your magenta. It just isn’t happening. :) Just kiss that magenta goodbye and say hello to violet. Seriously.

That may, in fact, be why the Ecoline watercolors are so varied as to the formulations in their bottles: they may be more of a pain to mix than bargained for. I am, however, now curious about their effect if used as drawing inks…I have a couple of old bamboo drawing pens which I can try. Of course, though…at least one is stained with sepia. I’d probably want to separate out what I dip that pen into.

So, right now, the back-to-school sales are in effect; I used the opportunity to purchase a high-end palette (which I’ve wanted since at least 2016) at something like 60% off, which…I mean, it’s nice, but do I need it in addition? I’ve been using a Mijello palette recently — it’s where all my dried paints are — and have found that the position of the paints may not matter as much as I thought it did (so long as I know what went, where). It’s also nice to have a well that is at least 3/4″ wide, as I can fit a wide wash brush in there. Comparatively, I’d have to get an empty full-size pan to do the same, and I’m not convinced the experience would be similar, due to the corners and depth of standard pans.

Have I just grown to appreciate the Mijello’s pan design over the organization of my colors? Possibly. It helps that I haven’t painted en plein air in a very, very long time. However: the design of the Mijello also keeps it from being convenient as a plein air palette, so it’s like a, “chicken or egg,” thing.

Of course, if I take out the Winsor & Newton (W&N) Burnt Umber rock which keeps knocking around in there and getting dried-up Burnt Umber pieces in my precious clean yellows…it is likely to be more appealing to use. W&N Burnt Umber separates from its well after it has dried and rattles around inside the closed palette, hence why I call it a “rock.” I hear that Viridian does the same thing (which is why I have four different versions), though I can’t remember if it has yet happened to me. It would have been in a very old palette, like my Mijello Silver Nano. I discovered that having wells on the roof of a palette which is bordering on non-stick (it’s anti-microbial, hence “Silver Nano”), doesn’t work that well.

Recently, I was able to obtain a Da Vinci Cobalt Blue which disperses much better (to my tastes) than the Winsor & Newton Cobalt Blue I had before, which had basically made me not want to use the pigment. Like at all. Or ever again.

The Da Vinci Cobalt Blue, though…when mixed with Ultramarine Violet or Ultramarine Pink, it makes really lovely soft violets (and I rarely use the word, “lovely”). These violets are much softer than Dioxazine Violet, which is so powerful that it can be difficult for me to use.

I’ve just now discovered the Da Vinci paints. I’ve actually…just recently realized that it isn’t to my benefit to have brand loyalty where it comes to any one tube watercolor manufacturer. Paints vary in quality, but they vary within paint brands — like M. Graham & Co. Ultramarine Pink vs M. Graham & Co. Viridian; not to mention between lines within brands — like W&N Cotman (student grade) vs. W&N Professional; as well as between paint brands, like Sennelier vs. Daniel Smith vs. Da Vinci.

So Da Vinci and Daniel Smith could both put out their own versions of Viridian and Prussian Blue, and one may judge the Daniel Smith Prussian Blue to be far superior to the Da Vinci (or indeed, any other Prussian Blue one has tried), while the Da Vinci Viridian is far superior to the Daniel Smith Viridian (or any other Viridian one has tried). I don’t know exactly why this happens; I just know that it does. But one of my artist friends did tell me a while back, that paint consistencies differed, depending on the pigments in them.

So…I am not certain there is any way to really tell what paints one likes, other than trying them out. I did go and buy like four different types of Prussian Blue and Viridian from different lines, so I indeed can (and likely should) show you my results. Viewing that may save the reader here money in the long run, though unfortunately, I didn’t check for blogger reviews of these paints, before going out to try them. So now I have like three extra tubes of each color, having picked out the paint that I love the most.

Unfortunately, I still don’t know how to record and upload video, so I can’t show you how the colors race away from the brush (wet-in-wet) with each of the colors I like. That doesn’t happen, with the others. It’s something I look for, which doesn’t happen predictably; and I’m not even certain yet if it happens repeatably, with the exact same pigment, manufacturer, and paint line.

I should send the other paints on for re-use. After I record my experiments, and make sure I have all my names in order. I’m sure that someone is going to appreciate the fact that they’ll be able to at least try out the paints for free. It’s not like they’re awful or unusable; they just aren’t things that I prefer. Having good paints just greatly enhances the experience of painting, for me.

I’m also getting more relaxed around the toxin factor of working with these paints. I just need to keep myself clean, and I’ll be OK. Today I went and replaced an Aureolin (Cobalt Yellow) despite the fact that I know it’s very toxic, because nothing else I’ve tried, mixes greens quite like it. Of course, I know there must be at least 9 or so different commonly used chemical formulations for yellows in watercolors. I assume they all have their own different mixing properties (and precautions…which is why I don’t use Nickel Azo Yellow — I’m already sensitized to Nickel).

There is also the fact that I’m using Chromium colors as well as other Cobalt salts, in other places in my palette. Both Chromium and Cobalt are heavy metals, and toxic. I have historically stayed away from the Cadmiums (generally red through yellow, though I’ve seen “Cadmium Green”), though at this point I might be getting a little less paranoid about them. Basically, any heavy metal salt I can absorb through my skin (that is, any water-soluble salt with a heavy metal component) is something I don’t want to deal with. Something I have to ingest to be poisoned by, though? I am a clean person to the point of dysfunction. And I have at least one nail brush. I’ll be fine.

I also spent years trying to find suitable replacements for the Cadmium family of pigments, which led me to the Pyrrole colors (these can be genuinely awesome, though inconsistently named [“Pyrrol Scarlet” and “Scarlet Pyrrol” are two different pigments — and two different hues — in two different brands]) and the Hansa colors (M. Graham’s Hansa Yellow is still one of my favorite paints). But I’ve spent, literally, years talking about Cadmium-based paints…right now, though, I feel like I should do more research before getting back into the whole paranoia thing I had before.

It’s kind of like, if you know what it does and how it gets into you, then just don’t do things that would let it get into you. This is why I have been wary of the pastels: it’s much harder to contain dust. I think it’s also why I’m getting better with the paints: at least with the paints, nothing gets airborne or ground into my skin. Also: paints are mixable. And the essence of paint, for me at least, is color. As someone who is enamored with color and has been frustrated with contact points which I can’t change, it seems to be a good medium.

I mentioned the Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star Hi-Carb ink, earlier in this post. It’s…really, pretty great. Waterproof, doesn’t move under water or Ecoline. (I didn’t care enough to try Copics.) It also doesn’t repel Ecoline, which is what the Black Cat, did. I haven’t yet tried it with the tube watercolors, and I’m seriously not even sure that I should…but if the goal is to do my own thing with the art (and stop deprecating myself for not being like other artists), I might try it.

In the coming days, I’m hoping to get some of this stuff photographed or scanned so that you can see what I’m talking about; just words, can’t get everything across. In particular, I should show you those Viridian and Prussian Blue tests, though I’m going to do them over again. And no, it will not be on Arches paper. ;) Though I have some, now. I have some, and I have realized that it’s worth working with correctly, so I got some kraft tape and a soaking vat and some sponges and an impermeable board, to properly stretch the paper. Time to get serious.

Disclaimer: No one paid or otherwise compensated me to write this. I got nothing free. What you do with this information is your responsibility, and I gain nothing personally from it.

art, craft, creativity, food, needlework, painting, paper crafts, personal, sewing

Switching between modes?

Now that I know there are no additional assignments for my course and the end is in sight, I’m feeling a good deal better about it. For the past few days, I’ve been chipping away at this, trying to get it done before I need to. The bright spot here is that I’m now ahead of schedule, to the point that I can relax a bit.

By next Friday, I hope to be totally done, though through Tuesday (it’s currently Friday), I’ll have at least half-day commitments.

I’ve decided to use library computers for my ongoing job research; at least, where it comes to accessing previously unknown websites. Although I’m using a relatively high amount of security on my computer, I encounter enough broken links to make me cautious. (Actually, the cautiousness pre-dates the security — it was just validated by my need to keep myself online while I was in school.)

I’ve also written my last thank-you note from Graduation. :) That was more fun than I expected…I got to draw with translucent and opaque markers on top of a printed card. I also included one of my tatted butterflies (which seemed to legitimate the process of having made it). So the paper-crafting…I’m wondering about combining it with sewing. I don’t know how that would eventually work out, but I got the idea by using one of my awls to punch holes in the card, in order to tie on the butterfly (which I did with a needle and thread).

I really really really want to do something with a needle and thread. I’m not sure whether this will be hand stitching (like quilting or garment work), or embroidery — or beadweaving — though maybe I shouldn’t categorize it, at this point. Maybe I should just start piecing things, or embroidering samples to be stitched together later. I did see some really nice counted-thread needlework at the State Fair which encompassed shapes (curves) that I didn’t expect; but I’m not sure I’m that precision-focused.

What I did do today was practice my tatting. I’m still working on combining rings and chains, and haven’t yet had to restart my current sample (though I want to do it in pink and red instead of ecru and green). I’ve learned to watch for having put in the correct number of double stitches and picots before closing loops, and to keep from inadvertently catching threads within those loops before closing them. Because the pattern I’m working with now always has four double stitches before a picot (loop) or a join or turn, it’s easy to remember. And I am getting better — my hands mostly remembered the motions.

The really good point about this? I’m using DMC #5 perle cotton, which comes in tons of colors and is super cheap, so I don’t feel bad about using up expensive thread while learning. Really, the most expensive things are the tatting shuttles, and they’re reusable.

Since Wednesday, I haven’t physically worked on painting at all (unless you consider buying pads of quality watercolor paper, work; I’ve learned not to), though I have watched some instructional videos on painting. I suppose it’s easier to keep doing something I’m already doing (working on the computer), than it is to switch modes into something else.

However…let’s see. What have I been doing for the last three days?

So Wednesday, I was basically studying. Yesterday (Thursday) I did some produce shopping, specifically after things I could cook and eat, which weren’t sweet. Today (Friday) was the gym, and cooking. That was long beans with mild (Italian?) sausage, onion, green onion, a little hoisin, a little soy sauce, and a little sesame oil. It turned out surprisingly well, though D suggests using ground pork next time, so that I can tweak the seasonings myself (instead of having to deal with the sausage, which had some surprising flavors of salt and anise — although I have had Chinese recipes with star anise before [like Red-Cooked Chicken]).

I still need to shower, wash my clothes, and maybe change my sheets. Tomorrow, I might be able to hit the Farmer’s Market for stone fruit. We bought maybe 10 lbs. (D estimated) of stone fruit last week, and I’ve eaten the majority of it (that is, I haven’t had to toss much moldy fruit from that batch). That has had some odd consequences for my digestion and my weight, but I haven’t gotten upset stomach, yet. (That can happen.) The thing about Farmer’s Markets is that they have fresher and riper fruit than most of the stores.

I picked up some kale and Savoy cabbage to cook with bacon; I also bought materials for mushroom chicken (yellow, zucchini, and white zucchini squash; we have the mushrooms and frozen chicken breast). I’m thinking the kale is going to be the next thing to become unusable, though, meaning I should probably aim to prepare it as soon as feasible. (It generally just gets wilted and mildewy [fresh kale should never smell like mildew at the store], but it’s easy to replace.) The Savoy cabbage is the regular Savoy (a compact head), not Salad Savoy (a blossom-looking thing), so it will likely last longer.

EDIT: Actually, mushroom chicken with rice, sounds good for tomorrow’s dinner.

And, right: I got Poblano chiles and onion, to try and make rajas. I found out when making corn salsa last week, that scorched Poblanos with the skins peeled off are really delicious. You just take the seeds and ribs out and put them face-up under the broiler until the skin blisters and darkens and pulls away, then you can take the skin off (after they cool)…and the chile tastes excellent, just like that. I was really surprised. Rajas, as I’ve gotten them in restaurants, have Poblanos and roasted onion, though I am not sure how to do the onion, yet; I’m planning to try and broil them with the Poblanos.

On a wide scale, I’m looking at the probability of switching between modes of thought and behavior, moreso than now. I’m wondering if it will be possible to do detail and system-oriented technical work for my job, and not let that have an effect where I’m impacted in my creativity, at home and in my art. I mean, actually, work on not letting that have an effect, as a goal, and reason to pursue the Art.

Maybe my art can be my time to break loose from systems and precise, regimented thinking.

Well — there’s also a gradual transition here from being a student, into becoming a fully-functioning adult…which is a place I haven’t fully occupied, before. That is a good thing (the former, not the latter)! I mean, if I look at what I’ve been doing today, it’s normal life stuff. That hasn’t been “normal” for me, for a long time, if I’ve ever even been in a place like this, before…

art, career, creativity, fine arts, painting, psychology

Other people and their rules ;)

I think I’ve been learning some stuff about myself, particularly through the observation of workplace dynamics; and getting into both Cataloging and watercolors — and realizing what strengths each draw off of. It’s kind of instructive, actually, getting to know where people are coming from, which gives insight into why they say what they do.

One of these people is an artist, and the other is very focused on rules and propriety. Though they’re both very social, the tension between them is hard to ignore. In turn, I can see this as an outward reflection of my own tendencies (especially where it has been obvious they have each connected with and encouraged me in areas in which they specialize, or want to specialize).

I recently signed up for a Watercolor class in order to invest some time in my right-hemispherical thinking. I mean: I’ve done this for work. Why wouldn’t I do it for myself? (As a side note, it was much easier to get back to work on the Cataloging homework, after I had done this.)

A large issue I’m dealing with in my Art is the perceived need to plan, and killing spontaneity. I’m pretty sure this has to do with trying to pigeonhole and rationalize everything and make it methodical and rule-bound and systematic, which is a tendency encouraged by my study and my work. I’m trying to get away from it, though it’s difficult.

It may be made more difficult by medication which brings the rational part of my mind forward. When I was younger, unmedicated, and dealing with a couple of different diagnoses, it was much easier to be creative. Right now, though, I’m trying to work through a block, which makes it hard to even sit down to paint. I know I could be doing other things with my time, on which I would get more of a monetary return…but then the question is, does everything in life have to be directly about money? Or business? Or survival?

I guess that’s what a semester of Microeconomics will get you. That, in turn, descends from a dream of being able to make a living doing what you love. Making money off of what you love means monetizing it; meaning either you’ve gotta get creative and you’ve gotta have a lot of hope, (or be married or independently wealthy,) or it’s probably not going to happen.

Or, I could just be negative on this point. What I see is that being a professional artist entails a lot of risk — more risk than I’m willing to bear. From what I hear, it’s also hard to repay art-school loans, because of low returns after graduation.

Then there’s the question of why I wouldn’t invest in myself and my own happiness, and what I want to do in my life, besides work. It’s kind of obvious why I would want to take a watercolor class, because I could use assistance in restarting. However, I don’t think that community college is the way to go, this time.

For one thing, I’ve already gotten an AA in Art…though I could take higher levels of Watercolor and get back into Drawing, I’m not sure of the use of that without access to upper-division and Master’s levels of work. There’s also the question of where or how I would use the skills, which makes the cost of tuition seem unreasonable. In addition to that, I haven’t heard anyone say how much they appreciated art school (not community college, but art school); the ones I’ve known (college instructors) seem to think that it put in too many barriers between them and what they wanted to create.

I know that in my case, there were a lot of personal preferences passed down from my instructors’ instructors, that got emplaced as gospel for the entire class…which started as just one person’s personal preference. I mean, I heard a lot of stuff (I’m paraphrasing, here) like, “paint from life, not from a photograph,” “always paint the edges of your canvas,” “loosen up,” “what are you afraid of,” “don’t make sketchy marks, find a line and commit to it,” “don’t draw anime in that teacher’s class,” “don’t use opaque white in watercolors,” “draw the entire image at once, not one section at a time,” etc.

To people who know what the art-speak above means, it might be seen as helpful, even if just because it’s culturally ingrained; however, what is unhelpful is the fact that your students (especially at community-college/lower-division undergraduate level) may not understand that art-speak; and all these rules that you’re giving them, should they take them to heart while not understanding them; why you said them; what you meant; what the history is behind what you meant; or how to do what you’re asking them to do; are likely to impede what would otherwise be their natural growth. Growing on their own may cause them to shed what you see as bad habits, in the future, by themselves. But your discouragement and insistence that they be masters now, risks freezing their process so they never reach that point.

This is in addition to all the would-be teachers on the Internet who have their own opinions and angles and judgments of other peoples’ work and process and why theirs is better (and, likely fortunately, I can’t remember what I was referencing, here — other than minor incidents). The issue is that if you take everyone’s opinions to heart, you just basically can’t do jack without doing it in some way that someone will call wrong, and you would accept it as wrong, because you’ve already decided to let those peoples’ self-serving opinions override your own judgments of quality. So then, taken to an extreme: if you internalized every criticism someone leveled on process online, you couldn’t ever do anything “right.”

Giving a list of forbidden practices instills a sense of inferiority in someone who is just trying to help themselves develop. There is a case for pruning back bad habits, but you don’t prune a sapling back until it’s a stick and expect it to flourish (though sometimes it happens, if you get one with enough life force).

And doing things, “right,” or, “according to the rules,” makes some people feel safer. As in Cataloging, which is an extremely regimented method of making sense out of content, with the dual aims of access, and uniformity. My coworker who is apparently into Cataloging has expressed a fondness for rules which I don’t share, except when they allow me to shift the blame of enforcing a rule (which I didn’t make) off of myself, onto Library policy. (Bureaucracy at work…)

An example — an easy one — is the question of whether motor vehicle accidents would still happen if everyone followed the rules of the road. Most people do, most of the time, which is probably why the roads aren’t more full of carnage. But there’s an assumption that if everyone followed the rules, no one would get hurt. Is it true? I’m not sure. (What I can be sure of is that it’s a good thing that most people follow most of the rules, most of the time, because it makes things largely predictable, except for the errant vehicles which pop up on a daily basis…)

Then there’s the question of whether some rules are justified, or impact certain groups more than others. For example, the question of whether two people of the same sex can marry, which disproportionately affects non-straight people; or the question of whether abortion is ever a morally justifiable option, which almost exclusively affects women (I say, “almost,” because there are female people who do not consider themselves women, and there are men who were born with female anatomy, who can still carry children).

In other words…questions of right and wrong are being brought up in my life, right now, I suppose. It’s clear to me that I do consider myself a very ethically integral person, but I also know that sometimes ethical integrity means breaking rules (as rules aren’t always neutral, beneficial, or morally justifiable; they’re just rules). Dealing with the Art, and the avoidance of the Art, along with observing the psychologies of my co-workers, and dealing with the possibility of becoming a Librarian, is bringing this up for me.

Though I’m pretty sure that systematizing my thought isn’t something that I want to aim for, at this point. After all, I’m not a machine…

color, creativity, painting

So…I did start painting, again.

It’s nothing much, and I don’t have photos to share at this time (nor am I rushing to photograph things this late at night); but I wanted to note that I actually have started watercolor painting, again. Yesterday, I broke back in with a number of semi-random color gradients and one of the Neptune round brushes I bought months and months ago, and didn’t prioritize time to try out.

The upshot is that the Neptune brushes are actually pretty sweet. Today I went and bought a number of specialty brushes from this line (bulk discount of over 50%) — by that I mean, not flats or rounds. It’s interesting to see how they perform. In particular, I’m interested in a 3/4″ wash brush which makes painting in watercolor almost feel like painting in acrylic, and a “dagger” brush which is cut at an angle, making it capable of tiny fine lines and broad swaths in the same stroke, while carrying and slowly releasing a heavy paint load.

My largest watercolor brush before having gotten the 3/4″ Neptune flat today, has been an ox-hair 1″ flat (I believe this was a Utrecht brush, from before the time at which Utrecht was acquired by Blick). The ox-hair holds a lot of water, so it’s great for wetting down sheets of paper; but it also holds way too much paint to be able to easily use for anything other than washes. It also…to the best of my memory, doesn’t have as much snap as any of my other brushes. It’s more like the soft, natural-hair rounds I used as a kid, that had no real point to their tips, and little recovery. (I believe these are called “camel-hair” brushes…but realistically, I have no idea what type of filament those were, other than natural hair: I could feel the one-directional nap of the hair’s scales.)

Of course, then, the most I was doing were little watercolors of fish with Prangs, and those little paint-by-number things that activate with water. :)

I actually had a conversation with M about her frustration that I haven’t gone as quickly back to painting as she would have hoped. It has been seven months since the work for my Master’s degree concluded. I find it not out of the realm of possibility that I’ve been slow to get back to this, in part, because I’m having to accelerate from zero.

I did not do any drawing or painting while I was working on my degree…and it’s tough to restart a creative practice, from nothing. It’s especially not reasonable to expect someone to return to the level they were at before they were forced away from their work, immediately upon concluding the thing that took up all their time (and which they are used to taking up all their time).

Anyhow…what I’ve been doing is largely trying to figure out how my brushes work, again, and how my paints work, again — and, you know, which paints I used where in my palette, as I stupidly did not make a palette sheet that was exactly correct and notated, during all the times at which I was painting out samples. So, for example, I had to color-match new swatches with Holbein Isoindolinone Yellow Deep, to know that it wasn’t Winsor Yellow Deep; or Winsor & Newton, “Indian Yellow;” or Daniel Smith Permanent Yellow Deep.

(I’ve gone to efforts to procure warm tones that are less toxic than cadmium pigments, so that’s why you’ll see me refer to various yellows and oranges, in particular, such as the Pyrrole colors and Hansa Yellows. I have not yet made my way into the duller colors such as the Perinones…I’m thinking it’s easy enough to dull down a color, though I’ve seen beautiful mixes made with colors like Perinone Violet and Transparent Red Oxide.)

I am also realizing the inefficacy of Sap Green as used unmixed, and the beautiful mix I was able to make with Prussian Blue (a muted greenish blue) plus Green Gold plus a bit of Viridian. It’s as close as I’ve been able to come to a deep, jewel-tone green…and I love it. It’s so weird, because Green Gold is a very distasteful color (to me) on its own, but it renders gorgeous greens when added on top of either another green, or blue; maybe with a yellow added in at the end (granted there are different yellows). This outcome is the reason why I’m willing to try (in the future) the Perinones, and other colors I wouldn’t use on their own.

It’s also kind of funny how Cobalt Turquoise Light (the color of a tropical lagoon) makes a violet, together with Magenta. I’ve looked at other people’s mixing charts, but I don’t think I’ll be making one, as each mix really…is variable, depending on the ratios of two pigments to each other, and it only gets more complicated when you start mixing three or more colors. I can’t seriously suggest (even to myself) that one color is the final outcome of a mixture of any two paints.

Of course, though, unless I had practiced just straight color mixing (in a watercolor class, at the time), I wouldn’t have known that Phthalo Green with Permanent Rose made such a stunning array of colors!

And yes, I do feel silly for having so many different pigments when I could do with just three primaries; but I’m seriously really into color, and I find it one of the most interesting aspects of image-making. M kind of doesn’t understand this…I have a habit of collecting different colors in pretty much every art and craft medium I’ve used, with the exception of ceramics. I know it’s annoying.

It’s late for me here; I should really get some rest. I didn’t intend to sit here writing, all night…I just got into the color topic. :) I can kind of go on and on about color…so I’ll stop myself here.

I just want to add, as possible fodder for a future post, the way that painting can grow organically out of drawing…I know what I mean by that, and have some clue as to how it happened, for me. It’s tough to start back into painting, having been out of practice at even (!) drawing, for months or years…

painting, philosophy, psychology

Getting sick of English language

I’m not sure if it’s the effect of having had to read so much technical and academic writing (actually, it likely is), but I’m beginning to have a sort of dread toward reading in English. It’s also possible that my current vision is…well, I know it isn’t good, and that isn’t helping. I’ve just ordered a couple of pairs of new glasses, but still: my current prescription is the same as the last.

I’m not entirely assured that it’s accurate, particularly as it was done by a student, after a night where I stayed up much too late, devouring a couple of eBooks. So…I’m not entirely certain what was up with my eyes, that day. (My previous prescription was stronger than what the student would have given me, so she deferred to the prior prescription.)

Anyhow…it will be nice, once I’m able to read things for pleasure, again — without my eyes burning. The glasses I’m using now have anti-blue-light coating but no tint outdoors, after years of having gone with Transitions lenses…which normally have a slight tint, even indoors. It’s kind of tough to have no sunglasses which one can see through, let alone drive in…

Right now, for pleasure reading, I’ve got some stuff lined up on why evil exists (seen through a lens of biology — which is much less triggering than reading about failures of certain political projects), and the apparent human tendency to be delusional.

The annoying point is that the person leveling the claims to the latter only relates it back to religious faith, claiming that irrationality is religion’s fault. No, religion is an outgrowth of inherent human irrationality. On top of that, irrationality isn’t always a bad thing — I say as someone who has lived much of their life studying the Humanities: religion, philosophy, language, culture. (But I have to say that, or else my life so far has been wasted, you see.)

I’ve also had to deal with delusions, before. This is to the extent that I can now recognize the basis of it, in the normal human population. The biggest issue I can see as regards the danger of faith, relates to a kind of slippery-slope fallacy, which leads me to the question: If we are able and willing to believe one thing without proof (or in the face of vastly inherent improbability, keeping in mind that life existing is also apparently inherently vastly improbable), how many other things will we also accept as reality, without proof?

And for that matter, what counts as proof? When you’re a writer, the supposed magic behind the writing and organization of a work — I mean, writing and literacy does still kind of seem like magic to me, largely because I still don’t understand how learning works — it’s still a little far to claim that anything expressed in writing is of necessity, holy, because of the form of its transmission.

At the point of having reached the question of where we draw the line as to claims we accept as real without verification, I’m led to question the motivations behind the claims. I think in a normal debate, though, we would be worried only with the claims, not the motivation of the person making the claims. The question of qui bono is there, and that’s a good thing, but I’m thinking…it may be too limited for my purposes, which is to figure out the motivation behind claims and actions, instead of taking those claims and actions at face value (as though they came from a machine, or other logical source).

Although…that kind of gets into the question of why anyone writes, or says, anything; why we create meaning around ourselves in the world, even when we know that we’re only doing it because not to do it means facing the reality of what, before the advent of our being able to wipe out the majority of life on the planet, had been our temporality, insignificance, ignorance (we are so ignorant!), and fear, in the eyes of a hypothetical Nature. (Though, to look at it from a naturalistic perspective, we and this planet may still be insignificant; a sad loss, should we wipe ourselves [and our potential] out, but not one that has, to our knowledge, so far impacted other planetary life. Even if we had, our reach would be, of necessity, limited.)

The problem with assuming the source, here, to be logical: to assume that also means to recognize that sometimes it intentionally displays deception, with a potential for hostility that a machine (at this time) doesn’t have. When that part of the story is uncovered, it may feel safer to believe that the source is simply out-of-control and insane: an insane person (someone who is legally incapable of telling right from wrong) wouldn’t recognize what they were doing. They wouldn’t intentionally be evil.

But I don’t really know what to think about this, anymore. I used to not think that evil was a thing. Then, you know, I lived a little — or came out of my denial a little — and some of the things I’ve witnessed kind of fit under that heading.

Before anyone guesses, yes, I have attempted to psychologically analyze my own writing, before. It’s a major part of why I initially stopped writing. :) (I am assuming that “psychological analysis” means something different and more generic than “psychoanalysis,” which was largely the realm of Freud and Jung, in the late 19th, into the 20th century.) It’s possible to be way too close to your own work to be able to work out why you said what, when; and then it is also possible to be so judgmental towards yourself that you think you know why, and that you need to stop that mess from coming out of you before you make the world an even worse place to live.

But, I think, everyone’s a mess, initially; and I don’t think anyone is really wholly exempt from being (or becoming) a mess. I guess that’s why lovingkindness exists, though I’ve never been too good at that. (I mean, seriously. Just…)

In any case, I started this off thinking that I really need to get back to painting. I am not sure of my motivations, except for the fact that so much of my life has had to do with language, recently, that I really just want to deal again with shape and color. (I’m not sure if “form” fits in there, seriously.) I just need to get back to my colors, and my brushes, and properly not worry about people claiming that I “saved” my painting with the addition of gouache. Just…no.

creativity, drawing, fine arts, painting, self care

Moving forward: arts.

I was actually able to visit an art store today, and not buy anything for myself. We’re planning on going out again, tomorrow, to a different art supply place…I’m kind of excited, though I look back on my own work and wonder if it is too naive. That’s not a thing I should be asking, though.

The thing is…I’ve done a lot of work with colored pencils, fineliners, and had begun to break into watercolor (with colored pencil and fineliner) by the time I was done with my community-college stint. I have a tendency to have a tight style, as evinced by my colored pencil work, and some of the sketches I made when younger, done in mechanical pencil (yes, with shading and all — I was not one to let a tiny point of contact, or monochrome drawing materials, stop me from making nice art).

I am thinking that trying to move away from the relatively tight style I’ve been to some degree stuck in, is counterproductive to getting (any) artwork done. Maybe, like I mentioned not so long ago, I need to stop letting other peoples’ judgments as to what I do, influence what I do (or don’t do). I may have really loved the art teachers who tried to get me to work more loosely, but that doesn’t mean that it’s particularly right (for me) to work more loosely, even if it’s right (for them).

For that matter, I could be overestimating my own tightness.

I suppose it depends on the media, as well — it’s much harder to be exact in acrylics or gouache or pastel, than it is in transparent watercolor or colored pencil (or marker, depending on its tip). I need to qualify that: it’s relatively easy to control what areas will get color, in watercolor; but not where that color flows, when working in certain manners (like wet-into-wet, or in washes).

Right now I have a family member who is getting into artist coloring books, and it’s reminded me of my kind of journey from dealing with coloring books as a little kid, through drawing and refining my own outlined images, and adding my own color to them. Right when I got my AA, I was starting to do work on my own that did not have dark outlining, though it was reserved for out-of-focus areas. Now, when I look at the prime example of this, I realize that the out-of-focus, complex area with no lines and defined by hue (color), and value (lightness or darkness) heavily contributes to the balance of the piece.

In fact, it does have lines: they’re just extremely light pencil lines (2H, if I’m right), which are nearly invisible in the finished painting.

I know that in school, it was discouraged for us to make drawings or paintings which were like coloring books…as for why, that may have been more about my teacher than about me. Kind of like the insistence on painting the border of the canvas. I didn’t care, and still don’t; and I have a right not to care, and also a right to never do it again (though I probably will — when I want to or when it matters).

But if I can encourage my family member to draw or paint or color just because they want to, why would I discourage myself for doing something beyond it? It’s too naive? No one should make art like that?

I haven’t seriously drawn or painted (more than design sketches, anyway) in quite a long time. Having been to the art store reminds me of all the image-making stuff I’ve put away because I don’t feel like I’m doing it “right”. But what is “right”? Whatever way I’m not doing it?

Maybe this is more about me than it is about people inferring I’m not doing things right (or not doing things the way they would do them).

For that matter…I know I have been discouraged from painting from photographs. I understand why, now: having an image pre-made for you discourages you from “altering” it or from interpreting things your own way, without a frozen reference. However…there are times when taking a picture is actually a good thing. It’s possible to get large images of small things with a camera. It’s not easy to do that using your eyes alone, especially when you would have to zoom in to two inches away from your subject, upside-down and at an angle, to get into proper viewing position to reference your painting.

And, right, you would have to buy the miniature rose.

I do gravitate toward (relatively) large images of small things.

For that matter, I’ve gravitated towards images of weeds, wild plants, peppers, chiles, onions, and tomatillos, in addition to succulents and flowers — tiny flowers, mostly.

No, I don’t know why, except they have nice colors and interesting forms (also, who expects an Anaheim pepper to show up in a still-life). Now that I think of it, it’s been rare for me to want to draw something large — the plaza in Japantown, and botanical gardens (landscape), being exceptions.

There are some plants in bloom here that I just noticed, today. One of them, I really love — it’s this overarching plant with big yellow blossoms — but it is usually full of bees. I’m not sure I want to stay under it, for too long. There’s another time a camera would save me.

My energy is waning, so I’ll sign off, here. I am thinking that I may work on some images, though I am still working on that last necklace, too. Maybe a change of pace is good?