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…

beading, craft, creativity, design, jewelry design, psychology, self care

Process over product?

Or, “process,” over, “hoarding,” maybe?

I began this post way too late to really be coherent, but after I had a jewelry design + construction session. I worked out a set of earrings in Onyx, Copper, and Hematite; and in trying to work out another set, formed the focal point of a necklace in Smoky Quartz, Citrine, and gold-plate.

Some other things have happened since then. I was contacted by HR, and now have some time set up to go back into work for training. I also was able to purchase some shoes which, hopefully, will help combat the tendency of my feet to hurt, these days. I’ll be wearing them around the house to see how my feet tolerate them.

I also have been notified that it seems I’m having a hard time coping with anxiety. So…it was possible that I would need to reschedule an appointment because of a surprise training session, but my appointment has been delayed at least twice already, making it now about four weeks past the time I initially agreed to return. I think it’s important that I not allow that to be pushed back any more.

It’s possible that making the jewelry helps take my mind off of other things that are going on in my life. I wasn’t in a great place, emotionally, when I made the earrings last night. There’s a certain energy that goes with them, which I didn’t find to be best for me today, when I was putting myself together this morning.

In particular, yesterday I had a lot of anger over a situation which occurred and — although I didn’t see it in quite these terms — others say it sounds like I was triggered, and continued to “seethe” afterward. So, what I made yesterday, looks “hard” to me, today.

Getting out of the “hard woman” role is one of the reasons I decided to stop comparing myself to women and aligning myself with feminine gender terms. Because if you’re a woman, it’s possible to be a hard woman…and if you’re a man, it’s possible to be a soft man. But if you’re female, and you look female, and want to be a soft man…it’s next to impossible to be seen that way. And when you’re not recognized that way, it’s very hard to maintain that identity.

And then I get angry, and I’m back into reinforcing “hard woman” territory, again. I don’t like being angry, or feeling forced into a role.

So then you get into identity erasure, and on top of that, not being given a chance to speak because of gender dynamics combined with racial dynamics. The bad thing about this is that at this point, I’m dealing with anger, regardless of whether I’m a man or a woman or other. And as I’ve learned, being seen as angry and black at the same time is not a combination that makes my life easier.

My issue…as it stands, is that I tend to get angry and stay angry over things that I see to be injustices, or systemic social patterns that I see to be wrong…which I may be more informed on, than most. I’m informed enough on it to know that focusing on it will likely lead to an early death from heart concerns or cancer. Sometimes it’s hard to let go of the problem when you want to fix it, and think that if you think about it enough, you could understand and fix it. Often, though, the stress just ends up killing people.

I mean, I come from a background where people allow each other space to speak. I come from a background where “Step Forward/Step Back” is a basic ground rule of discussion. “Step Forward” invites people who are otherwise silent to contribute to the conversation. “Step Back” asks people who are dominating the conversation to quiet down and allow other people to speak — even if there are silences.

It’s a way to address the effects of power inequalities in spaces where group members experience differing power levels or cultural norms of conversation. Otherwise, it’s known that those who are accustomed to higher levels of power may take over and direct the conversation, often even talking over other people to maintain control. This silences others, perpetuates the current power dynamic, and deprives the group of the generativity it could experience if everyone were contributing.

The obvious argument is, “contribute if you want to contribute,” but that assumes that I’m comfortable with my contribution conflicting with or destroying the current dynamic, in which I’m a lower-powered member.

Anyhow. Aside from witnessing another episode of, “let’s watch the status quo in action,” I was able to put together the beginning of a necklace. It features a couple of Citrine beads I got in high school and never used, because the drill holes were so uneven that they wouldn’t even take a 24-gauge wire. I do have a bead reamer, though, so I held the beads under cool running tap water and twirled the reamer with gentle pressure (backing it out when it jammed, so I wouldn’t snap it off) until I could actually see that the hole widened enough to take a wire.

No, I didn’t intend to be gross about that. (I edited before posting.) Quiet, you. :P

Anyhow…it was easier than I anticipated, and left a cleaner drill hole than I anticipated. Another reason to ream a drill hole under running water is that it captures free particles of silicon dioxide, which I would expect to be hazardous to the lungs unless contained in something like water.

I’m thinking of using a wire-wrapping technique to wrap a teardrop-shaped cabochon of Smoky Quartz with Rutile inclusions. I’m not entirely sure right now, how I would do it; I just know that it’s possible. Maybe I should get some square wire to practice on, and, you know, see if I am better off making the earrings. :)

I also don’t quite know where I’ll find more Citrine…at least, in non-spherical shapes. The two specimens I have now, I bought loose — because, if I’m recalling correctly, they cost around $4 or $5 each. The entire strand was just an exorbitant price, for a teen (remember, I bought these in high school).

What’s weird is that both Smoky Quartz and Citrine are commonly colored by heating and/or irradiation, which…it’s just weird to me. Don’t mind me. They’re supposed to not be radioactive at point of sale, which I can just hope is true.

Anyhow, right now it’s mid-October, so the Bead Show will be here in about a month — if I can save up enough money to wait to buy a gorgeous Citrine strand, then. That, in turn, depends on how much I work, or am allowed to work (or how much I sell! I’m not overly attached to either of my last pieces, but I do need to document them — including cost of production).

What I’ve found is that I do really love making things, but I’m not too attached to the little pieces of jewelry I have after I’m done making them. One of my friends was telling me that she was addicted to the process of making, but then has all these things that pile up after she’s done, that she has to get rid of. I’m kind of feeling like that. Certainly, at the time I began this post, that’s how I was feeling. I mean, what I made is nice — but I can do better, and I will. And I want to see that. And…income from selling what I’ve made will help me see that.

I also got a gaiwan today (a little teacup-brewer). It isn’t as pretty as I would like, but it is a porcelain gaiwan, I can upend it comfortably, and it didn’t come with a Prop 65 Warning on carcinogens. At this point, I don’t know how much more I can ask for…

career, libraries, LIS, planning

Taking stock

Well, all things have their ups and downs. Right now…we’re fine. My shitajiki (pencil board) came in the mail today (seriously, where am I supposed to find these outside of Japantown — in a specific size, no less), and I found my old Bullet Journal. Training for my new job starts on Monday. I haven’t decided which backpack or bag to take with me, yet…though I did try on six pairs of slacks, and found all of them fit. That’s good.

Actually, it’s really good that a lot of things, fit. My biggest problem at the moment is shirts (I have two dress shirts I love which are a little small now), but that isn’t a huge issue. I will also likely need “business casual” shoes, though at the moment I can’t tell how long I’ll be on my feet — so I don’t quite know what to do, there. The Internet says that modest sneakers can be business casual. I have a set that I had been wearing around the house because of an injury, but that’s basically healed now, so maybe I can work with those?

This is kind of…well, I guess one could say it’s a little stressful. If I didn’t have as much time to think and anticipate as I do, it might not be as tense. It also wouldn’t be as tense if they hadn’t told me the dress code only half a week before the start of training.

Well, and starting out full-time and going for a number of weeks in that manner…I don’t think I’ve ever worked a complete eight-hour day (seven hours; maybe), so it will be an experience; and I might well not be able to do much other than eat, sleep, do laundry, and take care of hygiene, outside of that. But I’ll see what happens. Maybe it won’t be so bad.

I also got help with applying for a non-Library position (in Archives & Records) at my last vocational meeting — they want Library experience, which this new job will supply better than my last one. So, even if I find out that being a Library Assistant or Librarian isn’t where I’ll be happiest, there are options outside of these positions. I know now to look for skills and job functions rather than titles, as well.

Here, at home, we’ve been cleaning up. What that means for me is that I’ve been going through my clothes, and through my scattered things like books and beads, vacuuming and dusting. I’m trying to get things into some kind of order before next week hits. I will have weekends off, though: I guess I’ve got to remember that.

Aside from these things…I’ve remembered how much I’ve enjoyed reading, from having made it through Best-Maugard’s A Method of Creative Design. Even though it is a translated work, and thus…likely simplified in its language, I have found that I really appreciate these cross-cultural works. It’s something I’ve liked in Essentials of Buddhism: Basic Terminology and Concepts of Buddhist Philosophy and Practice, and in Articulations of Difference: Gender Studies and Writing in French. I’m not entirely certain what that tells me, except maybe I have metropolitan taste?

Yeah, that doesn’t sound right…maybe the answer is more that I really love Comparative Literature as a field? (Or, I love the people who love Comparative Literature enough to major in it?) Although I didn’t really do Comparative Literature in Undergrad — so I’m not sure. I do recall enjoying one or another Russian Classics author in my English Literature program, but I can’t remember if that was Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, or someone else. I think my sibling mentioned that maybe I liked translated works because they were quality enough that someone chose to translate them, which makes sense.

Anyhow…once I get trained, if I devote myself fully to this position and career path, it can’t help but assist me if I take the time to read things that I’ve wanted to read and haven’t had the chance to (like The Sixth Extinction). I mean, for about the past three years my time has been cut down by having had to study: first for the Master’s program, and then for my Cataloging and coding courses. Understandably, I think, I didn’t want to fill the rest of my time with additional study towards becoming a Librarian, especially when I wasn’t certain that it was what I really wanted to do with my life.

But wait, you say: I thought you got the Master’s because this is what you really want to do with your life?

What I can say to that is that I had an opportunity to do this and took it, knowing that if I waited too long, the chance might not come again. It doesn’t mean I’m all about libraries at this point…although I’m probably more about libraries than most people. :) The biggest issue that stands between myself and Librarianship is whether and how much I enjoy working with people, which seems to be the majority of at least a Public Librarian’s job (or at least for those who work in User Services).

And that… I can’t tell that until I’ve tried.

And I’m about to try.

It’s kind of freaking me out a bit, but it should show me whether I do really want to go into Technical Services (this includes Cataloging, Classification, Metadata, Web Development, and Collection Development) or into a non-Library position helping classify and organize (and likely, help retrieve and provide access to) materials.

There’s also the chance that this will give me a needed push into an area I’m not as confident in, and that the challenge itself will energize me. It’s possible. I say that because I’ve seen it happen in me before.

My last day at work, the first open day of the library after a two-day shutdown for Labor Day, saw me running around trying to get as much done at Circulation as I could, because I knew we were behind and I knew this would be the last chance I would get to help, as a Shelver. When there’s too much work, I kind of switch into game mode and try and see how much I can do, how well, and how quickly; according to a standard set of priorities, and keeping track of my stamina and how much time I have left in the day. There’s no chance to give up: I just have to keep plugging away at it, because I know that anything I can get done, will help.

There’s also a book I was guided to a while ago called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, which I never really finished. Maybe it would calm me, to get back to that. I’m not sure if it can happen, but I’ve been told that it seems I’m coming out of my shell. Can shy people turn into extroverts? I know someone who says it is possible, because it happened to him (although he’s the second person I’ll know who says they are [or were] really shy, who doesn’t seem that way, to me).

Not to mention that I should likely be gradually taking a tour of the Library website.

Tomorrow (technically, later today), I’ll be getting some larger shirts. Also…we need to get some little doodads so that my dresser drawers don’t fly open during earthquakes.

Yeah, I should…I should get some sleep, shouldn’t I?

creativity, design, fiber arts, jewelry design, self care

Difficulties in creative process (expected and not)

Last night, I had the opportunity to think out loud about what’s stopping me from moving forward with creating. I was aware that I am very good at divergent thinking — that is, developing and imagining many options that I could do, and preparing to do them. When it comes to narrowing down those many options to focus on an end product, I’m not as great.

This is probably the biggest main challenge I have to deal with where it comes to making, and it has to do with process. It’s easy for me to envision an initial end point (or multiple possible end points); where it comes to favoring one and then also being willing to relinquish it by actually starting and moving through the different stages of construction (which rarely ever reach that same end point), I have some issues.

I know that if I start, that is, I’ll have to give up the “perfect” idea that I had at the beginning, in favor of something I haven’t yet imagined. I find it likely not different from a young bird launching itself into flight; on a branch, there’s something to grasp, or hold onto — this being the dream, or the original idea. When you’re in the air, you have to keep beating your wings to keep flying, you’re not anchored, and you’re constantly having to respond to new challenges arising. You may reach the place you originally intended to go, or you may decide that there’s a better place to stop, on the way.

Part of trying to deal with anxiety around this is lowering the stakes, such as by opting first to try mounting a stone with fiber instead of with precious metal. Today I started trying to work a macrame mounting for my Amazonite cabochon (I will try and get some images in before long). There are a number of things that I learned while doing that.

First off, I’ll want to use my heavier weight C-Lon (0.5 mm diameter) in order to avoid tons of tiny and barely visible knots with the C-Lon Micro. Also, again, I find that I need to work on my tension. The people working the knots in the videos I saw were actually keeping their tension much looser than I was. They were also spacing the knots out, more…and, I find, I’m not putting the cross-bar of the lark’s head hitch into the same spot all the time. That means that some knots are way looser than others, and also that the knots are misaligned.

That may be helped by trying to soften the C-Lon up a bit before trying to knot with it. I’m thinking of running it along the side of an awl to try and break up the stiffness. I’m not sure it will work; I just don’t want to do it with the back of a scissors because I’m concerned about curling or damaging the fibers rather than just breaking up any bonding between the fibers. I know this stuff can get softer, because it’s really soft after I’ve picked a knot out of it. So it can be soft. If I can get it there, maybe it will flow better.

I also found that I’ll need to make the bezel wider than previously expected, though that may not be an issue. Too loose, and the stone may slip out (maybe), but too narrow and it’s an unusable ribbon. As well, as the knotting progresses, it’s extremely easy to unintentionally narrow the bezel, by using tension that’s just too tight. Once that’s done, it’s easy to unintentionally continue to use tension that’s just too tight.

To an extent, minor unevenness in tension (like among a couple of strands) may work itself out when tying on and tightening the bezel at the endpoint…but I haven’t gotten that far, yet. I can also tweak the tension and recover my width by pulling on my anchor cords, but that snugs all the knots together (which is not what I want, as it hides the stone).

The other major thing that I have to deal with which puts me back from starting, is my tendency to perfectionism (which you can see in the fact that I actually noticed the detail of the cross-bar of my lark’s head hitches not all being in line). I know that perfectionism can stop someone from beginning. I heard yesterday that the quickest path to perfection is not to aim for perfection. Because working is the only way of getting better: if you never begin to work, you never get better. Your skill level never increases, which is intangible; but matters as a benefit, in this case. It’s growth and production, versus stagnation and lack of production.

My issue, I think, is that perfection is not possible, so aiming for perfection is to aim for the impossible, and instead of attempting to attain the impossible and be met with inevitable failure, sometimes we just tend not to try. The latter is what I’m combating, though maybe I just need to lower my standards to something attainable.

There’s also the fact that I could just be unsure as to whether my flight feathers have grown in yet.

Perhaps, I could recognize that these will be my first two macrame bezels ever, so it’s unlikely that they’ll come out as though machined. On that point, it’s not even desirable to aim to have a final product that seems machined, so I’m questioning right now what exactly it is that I’m desiring.

On that point, I’m not even sure of the exact design of what is going to flow out of the pendant — and I won’t be able to tell until I can figure out what connection options I have. I can’t tell those, until I’ve constructed a preliminary bezel. Which is why I started trying to do so, tonight.

What’s happening right now, is research. I probably should be gentle with myself and not expect perfection. But at the same time, I should push myself to at least try to do something.