art media, comics, creative writing, creativity, sequential art, tatting

Stories and creativity

Sorry for being offline for a bit (about a week, for this blog). There’s been some stuff going on…though I don’t trust myself to remember a week’s worth of history, all right now. The good news is that I did complete my Dewey course, fine. Of course, though…the new course also just started, and I’m not particularly in the mood to study, right now. It is the third course of four that I have planned, and should help me if I need to do original cataloging of items in a College or University library (I’m interested in working at a Community College library as an introduction to Academic Libraries).

The other day, a work friend and I were talking about beadwork, particularly bead embroidery and loomwork. I have kind of gotten excited about the prospect of sharing bead-related joys with a friend. I would like to take some beads in to show this person…the thing is that I’m dealing with a number of impulses for media in which to create. I have tatting — which is new to me; beadwork; embroidery; sewing; and markers.

Ah! That’s right! I bought a set of alcohol markers recently. They’re basically artist-quality, though I went through the set and divided the cost into the amount. They’re Blick brand, and work relatively well. They did cost $44 for the set, but there are 24 markers in the set, meaning that each marker is $1.83 — a very good cost for the quality of these, at least if the tips of the brush tips don’t end up breaking off. (Generally, one can buy artist and illustration markers for between $3 and $5 each, open-stock).

The major thing with these is that I need to erase graphite underdrawings before going over them with markers. Otherwise, the graphite smudges. I was using marker paper for my trials, though, which means that the graphite had very little to cling to. Also, it helps when your fineliner has time to dry before you overlay it with marker!

I have a premise for a graphic novel series, though I’m still not sure of the primary conflict and range I should undertake for it. There are a few different stories I have in me: one is about mental illness, one is about intra-family racism, and one is about gender variance.

So…that’s a lot. I don’t think I’ll be able to pack it all into one story. I also don’t think I particularly should try to pack it all into one story, though I could link them all by putting them in the same universe (and have series crossovers or spinoffs). Right now, the story I have foremost on my mind is the one about experiencing mental illness, being unable to distinguish “fantasy” from “reality,” learning how to function, and the sacrifices that come with functionality.

The biggest problem I can see here is people asking how I know what I do; but that’s not really their business. There’s also the issue of what happens if I start to have an impact. I have not seen many books focusing on the inner experience of mental illness, at this point, but then again — after I graduated with my BA, I basically stopped reading fiction.

Ah, I also really want to get back to learning Japanese language. I have been exposed to animations and comics coming out of Japan (the challenge of reading them made them more interesting); also, selected comics like Deadpool or Trinity (though the latter was nonfiction, about the invention of the nuclear bomb).

Anyhow, I think I feel okay with getting back to my study, now. I’m feeling a lot better about it.

calligraphy, drawing, sequential art

crochet and playing with brushes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

creative writing, graphic design, illustration, sequential art

underlying components of good character design vs. good writing

This is just a note to myself as regards the graphic novel issue.

I’m not entirely certain how deeply I should get into this, but I happened to check out a copy of X-Men:  Eternals a while ago.  Attempting to read this made it clear to me why the X-Men movie series was so heavy-handed and apparently one-sided.

I don’t have a great amount of literacy in graphic novels — I can recall reading Bone and Blade of the Immortal; and Generation X before the franchise-wide reboot of the X-Men series (which really ticked me off), plus a couple of more mainstream Japanese things like Fushigi Yugi (which I didn’t particularly enjoy, much as I didn’t enjoy Tenchi Muyo! [though I only saw the latter in anime]) and Neon Genesis Evangelion (which I got into because of the anime).

Then there are the series which I picked up even though I was at the time fairly illiterate in Japanese, like Inu Yasha and Bastard!, along with Yuu Yuu Hakusho (the flame-like banter in which I was not entirely aware of, until I happened to read some of it in English translation), and which I incidentally only got into because of the doujinshi (and because I was at the time learning to read Japanese).

What I’m thinking is that the same traits which can make a person a great character designer can also cripple them when it comes to good writing.  I’m not saying this is true across the board — it’s just something which has come up in specific regard to my own trials with trying to script establishing scenes in “graphic novel” formats, and I see it reflected in what I read going on with X-Men:  Eternals.

If you’re designing a character so that all elements of the character attempt to describe that character in a visual manner, that is fine.  But reality doesn’t work that way.  In reality, the way people look does not always (I would say often does not) relate to who they are.  This may not be quite as easy to see when the makeup of society is more or less homogeneous.

But when you have multiple minority categories in a society, and these minorities have strength in numbers and voices in regard to their own portrayal, it makes it clear that the thoughts which come to someone’s mind because of the way people look is not equivalent to who those people actually are.  This is especially clear if you happen to be one of those minorities and you happen to see how people constantly misread you (in addition to misreading your family).

This is a way in which my own philosophy diverges from what I’ve seen…whether we are looking at older American comics or whether we are looking at the less-complex graphic novel material coming out of Japan.  What people look like is not equivalent to who they are.  Of course there are materials coming out of Japan which acknowledge this (for example, in Legend of Zelda:  The Windwaker, in which the fairy who accompanies you acts like someone who would ordinarily be drawn as a big, tough male character who had the burliness to back up his language — but this is used to [actually, quite delightful] comic effect).

What I’m trying to get across is that in a good piece of writing, it’s very often the case that characters are not one-sided.  Characters are complex and have many different layers.  They’re often not surface-readable — you don’t immediately know what their role is just because you can see what they look like.  In graphic design, and I believe likely in character design, the goal is the opposite:  to be able to look at an image and glean a more or less solid idea of the intended communication fairly immediately, just from the visual elements of the composition.

I am not certain how to reconcile these two perspectives, but I wanted to make a note of the conflict.

drawing, illustration, sequential art, writing

minor update — overall, trying to work out how to express creativity

The initial reason I wanted to post here was to remind myself that the Pantone markers don’t smudge the Staedtler Duo brush marker I’d been using.  I didn’t try marking with a very light Pantone on top of a black Duo — not yet.  Major reason is that I don’t want to ruin my lightest Pantone.  But the Pantones are alcohol-based.  The Duos are water-based.  So it doesn’t seem to especially matter whether I ink first and then color, or color and then ink, as the solvents are different.  But I still have to really test that out fully.  I did also try using a (waterproof) Pitt brush marker for inking, and it isn’t as effective when it comes to variation in line width — or maybe I’m just too heavy-handed with it.

I did produce another image of a character I came up with a while ago; I was in the headspace of thinking about Sanatana Dharma while producing her image.  I have a working name for her now, though I probably shouldn’t share it, in case I start using it in anything that eventually goes public.  Before I get into anything else, I should say that I’ve had to hold the brush pens vertically to ink hair and to use the Duo for outlines.

I’m wondering how to balance out my creativity…to what extent I express what is going on in my mind — to what extent I draw and to what extent I write.  If I keep the story in my mind or if I draw it out or write it down.

I did find a copy of The Artist’s Way which I started looking over, though that is more of a course in reviving one’s creativity.  Apparently I got to the second section and stopped.

The other things I’ve been doing — I’ve designed an image for use as a stamp, and tried cutting it out of something which feels like a gum eraser.  I think it’s actually too soft to make a good stamp, as its surface rubs away too easily.  I can try with a larger image and my carving set from high school on something more like linoleum.

Then there was the drawing with the colored brush pens that I did while playing around on the phone, which more vividly resembles Graphic Design work.  But I’ve really got to go now — I can continue this later.

drawing, fine arts, painting, sequential art

amateur painting thoughts

Haven’t been working on the sewing so much, recently.  Too many pressures on my time and too many options, I think.

I did pick up a coloring book to work in — or at least to xerox the blank pages out of so that I can color on them.   :)  Given my fine motor skills, I could probably also reproduce them by hand with a compass and a pencil, eraser and pen.  I got this because I’ve been inspired to get back into 2-D art again, and it seems like a good start.  Right now I have a lot of colored pencils and drawing pencils, and almost a full spectrum of brush pens (I’m still lacking a [warm] yellow).  I just need to figure out a way to use them.

I also came into contact with a graphic novel recently, which has got me thinking on doing watercolor work again.  The thing is that, for one thing, it’s been so long since I’ve worked with (transparent) pan or tube watercolors that I’m not entirely confident that I still even *know* how  to use them.  I got a cheap pan set for about $6 (Aurora; the pans look unfortunately like Pez) to play around and experiment with as I get my legs back.  But I still haven’t used it.  I should also note here so I don’t forget:  I also have a small new jar of Process White for illustrations, and there are some older tube watercolors and a lot of my old gouaches here, plus the semi-moist Prang stuff from when I was a kid (which is, at least, free).  The gouache is likely to be more viable than the watercolor, but at least there’s the possibility of the option there.

Hmm.  So maybe for now I should put the sewing away, just so it doesn’t get dusty while I’m not working on it?  I need to wind a new bobbin, too.  The next step in the trial blouse is gathering up the sleeve caps, which is kind of intimidating.  But, tangent.

The hardest part of this for me at this point in my life is trying to figure out what to paint or draw.  I’m not a type of person who really wants to paint landscapes.  Still-lifes are all right, kind of boring, but good for practice.  I still haven’t found a place to settle as regards…well, my own style.  My illustration style is getting more settled, but to be realistic with that, I’ve been working on illustration-style drawing for well over a decade…  What I want to do is to be able to draw scenes out of my mind and draw or paint them; or to communicate an internal state visually (which can be totally non-objective painting).  If gouache didn’t lift so easily, it might be the perfect medium for this.  But as it is, unless I use some type of medium to alter the paint/water mixture (so it turns into “glaze”, I take it, though I’m not too familiar with this), it’s going to take more visual pre-planning than I’ve ever done before, just because you can’t paint lots of layers of gouache on top of each other without pulling up the underlayers.  And, of course, regular watercolors are transparent, so things like washes show through unless an opaque ground is painted on before the object in question.

Maybe I should be looking into acrylics instead of watercolors, eh?  The only problem with that is that…well, in the past I thought that you couldn’t paint on watercolor paper with acrylic, but now I’ve read you can?  I could try light work as with watercolor, but let the paint dry to a film and then work over it.  :)  Which actually sounds good…but I’d have to think about that.  I’m not too sure if I’d have to gesso watercolor paper, or not.

I could use the acrylic, to be short, like watercolor, but with the advantage of being able to work over an area very many times.  And I suppose I could just use the disposable palette.  In a tactile manner it seems as though it would be very different, using acrylic/oil brushes instead of the soft watercolor ones I’m used to.  And working on a textured base like canvas (as I could), instead of paper.  Hmm.  Or I could work on hardboard or canvas board…which is really not an option with watercolor, is it?

I never really got used to the idea of painting from light to dark, which is my major problem.  And I’m more spontaneous and fluid with my envisioning of my paintings or drawings, as versus having the thing planned out before I begin.  I know that after practice, I can get into the zone where I can see what I want to paint or draw before I make a mark; but that’s generally for localized areas.  And then sometimes things change as I’m drawing, or I can see that something’s not right, and I alter it; which then flows into a running narrative, which is a large part of why I’ve been interested in sequential art.

I almost named this entry so that it would have something to do with thoughts on color, but I suppose that is almost assumed when one is working with paint, isn’t it?

I should get some rest…my back is tensing.