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.


organization, sewing, storage

Housekeeping + Nepali blouse contemplation.

I intended last night to clean off the craft table today, so that I could use it for drawing or sewing. It didn’t happen. Basically, nothing of note happened until this evening, when I was able to complete my homework in half an hour (I expected it to be much harder than it was).

Right now we’re into Monday morning. Staying up isn’t really good for me (it took me years to regulate my sleep cycle to the point of functionality), but if I slept until evening, there’s a case to be made for not going back to sleep when I’m not tired. (There’s also a case, however, for not watching a computer screen this late at night: the blue light mimics daylight, and messes with melatonin release.)

I also know the key to readjusting my sleep patterns now, which is to take medication before the deep night…it slipped my mind until about midnight, tonight. That means I may be lethargic until late afternoon, tomorrow.

When you can predict this stuff, it’s easier to deal with it.

Tomorrow, it would be good to get back to studying (if I can handle it — I know avoidance was a reason for me to sleep, today [and it’s good for me to know that, and not be in denial about it]). I was able to get the 2nd edition of a book on Reference Interviewing (2019 edition!), in case I want to study before any job interviews.

Otherwise…the place needs to be cleaned up. Not just the craft table, but my bedroom and my office and my art storage area. The office in particular, needs to be made into a place that is able to be lived in; right now, it’s pretty sterile (there are minimal distractions, as I used to study in there).

That might actually be cathartic. The major issue I can see is dealing with the desk…it’s too high for a regular desk, as it was made to hold a monitor. Then, there’s a chair in there which is really comfortable, but doesn’t tuck in. The whole setup is kind of chaotic. I’m not sure what to do about it.

Then there are the meditation pillows and the “altar” space (from when I was interested in “mindfulness” meditation for health). The altar space has a low table I can sit at and draw, but it’s sitting on the floor…which I used to do all the time as a kid, but I’m not sure I’m up to it, as an adult.

There are four bookcases in that room, too — three of which, I’m using. I’m reluctant to move some of the stuff, though, out of concern I won’t be able to find it again. It makes sense to file it away, now — at least since I’ve completed my University work. I do have a vertical file, which I am thinking holds materials from my undergraduate days, but it’s not current. I could check and see what I can shift…but it likely isn’t going to be fun. Getting rid of archives is one of those things that makes me want to read everything to make sure it’s obsolete…even though that’s a monumental task.

Anyhow…I also have a ton of work to do with the craft table. There’s just stuff piled on stuff and beads and markers sitting out, etc. It would be different if I were doing something with the beads, but I’m not, and they’re just taking up space. It also doesn’t make sense to continue to accumulate the beads, if I’m not doing anything with them.

As for the bedroom, I need to vacuum and dust, at the least. My Dwarf Umbrella plant blew over the last time I opened my window — it still needs repotting (if it doesn’t already have a fruit fly infestation — I killed one in that room, last night). I also have a number of almost-empty storage containers that I may want to move into a storage room (or maybe they could hold some beads, in the art storage area?).

After I’ve listed all of that, it makes sense why I would find this more urgent than sewing, although I’m of half a mind to make the Nepali Blouse pattern, unaltered. I added in a good maybe 8″ to the front and back panels (I don’t like showing midriff unless I’m exercising), without realizing that this significantly alters the sewing line…and requires panel inserts.

So the collar and upper areas of that pattern are fine, great, even. It’s the length of the thing, and the width of the sleeves, that I don’t like. However, if I wore this with a wrap skirt, it’s a non-issue (as the wrap skirt covers me up to the bottom of my rib cage).

After I deal with cleaning this place up, maybe I’ll go back to that…with the idea that I can alter the piece if I want to, but I don’t have to. I probably won’t be able to tell whether it’s even a good idea, until I get to a certain stage of construction and can try it on. At that point, I can fold the front and back panels until I reach the optimal length, and then stitch over them.

Right now, I’m really tired! It’s after 1:30 AM here; I should get some rest.