art, art media, comics, illustration

Ink and nib testing.

Well, I did it. I went out and got some more Illustration paper, this time with Non-Repro-Blue lines (also called Non-Photo Blue, as they aren’t — or, weren’t — supposed to show up in scans, though with modern scanners, who knows); and Canson Bristol (Vellum) — the latter of which is supposed to be better for the use of watercolors in illustration. I also used the raw potato method to successfully eat off the lacquer coating on the outside of the Tachikawa nibs I recently obtained (a sampler set of 5) — though I also have a mirror-like Nikko set of 5 to which I can compare them.

Apparently, you just stick the nib into the potato past the cutout portion and let it sit there for 15 minutes. Longer than 15, and the Internet states that the nibs will start to rust.

I gave them a quick rinse and dry, each, then got to work. I tested the following nibs in this session:

Copic Multiliners are very precise, with little line variation.
  • Brause Blue Pumpkin nib
  • Tachikawa:
    • Spoon nib
    • Japanese nib
    • G nib
    • School nib
    • Mapping nib (hard)

I then tested these nibs out by writing and drawing on Illustration paper, with four different inks:

  • Blick Black Cat Waterproof India Ink
  • Tachikawa Jet Black ink
  • Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay Black India Ink
  • Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star Hi-Carb India Ink

…though I quickly surmised that of the nibs I had, I could see the most use out of the Blue Pumpkin nib, the G nib (both of which have relatively high ink capacity and relatively heavy, easily expressive line) and the Mapping nib (which has a low ink capacity and is on par — almost — with my Copic Multiliner 0.05, which is one size above the tiniest they make [which is 0.03]). The major difference between the Mapping nib and the fine Multiliners is the fact that you get much less line variation with the Multiliners. There isn’t much variation in the Mapping nib, either — but it’s noticeably there, in comparison. The Mapping nib is also subtly thicker when pressure is applied, in order to get that effect.

Out of all of these, I feel that the Black Cat and the Bombay inks allow the most easily expressive lines (though Tachikawa ink is good as well, particularly for me, with the G nib), though after the first go-round with all 6 nibs, I did just start using the Pumpkin, G, and Mapping nibs. The Black Star Hi-Carb ink would be great…but it’s thick, and still rather glossy, even after drying.

It also dries very quickly, and is difficult to remove from nibs with water, paper towel and Q-Tip, and rubbing. (Yes, I know that I can accidentally work-harden spring steel [making it brittle] by rubbing it. I didn’t want to give these a dunk in pen cleaner, though.) I also cannot really think of a good way to clean stuck-on, dried ink out of the inside of the (hollow) Mapping nib, without using pen cleaner, or one of those cone-shaped brushes you use to get food and debris out from within tooth gaps. Which…now that I mention it, is a good idea.

Because of the difficult cleanup, and the fact that the Bombay performed just as well, if not better than the Hi-Carb, I’d lean away from the Black Star and towards the Bombay (which has also been easier to source, for me). The drawback to both is needing to dispense the ink through an (included) eyedropper, onto the nib.

The Tachikawa ink was just as black and bold in the G and Pumpkin nibs, but its bottle has a much larger mouth and lower ink level, which makes it easier to dip the pen in there without dirtying the nib holder. It also dries matte, not glossy. The drawback to the Tachikawa Jet Black ink is that it’s not easy to find, though it can be sourced online.

Again, the major drawback of the Blick Black Cat ink is its lack of viscosity; it runs off the nib quickly (and also dries very quickly), meaning you have to reload it more often than any of the rest of these — though it may be on par with the Bombay ink, here. The upshot of Black Cat is that it’s easy to find and it comes in potentially huge quantities (I think I have a quart, which I’ve dispensed into a tiny watertight screw-top jar to dip into [I had to buy this, separately]). I can also dilute it and use it for tonal washes over the top of dried ink lineart, which is a nice bonus.

There are some issues with unevenness of tone with the Black Cat in my last test, however, which could be due to a number of things: too much water in the brush; not having let the paper absorb water first (to paint wet-on-wet instead of wet-on-dry); using a cheap synthetic brush instead of a natural-fiber one or a “thirsty” synthetic that doesn’t dump out its color all at once (like the Princeton Neptune line — which I haven’t yet tried, though I will); or the unevenness could be considerably attributed to the paper quality (and absorbency) itself.

The good part of having tested these four inks above, however, is that I now know that they are all waterproof after a relatively short time (what felt like less than an hour). I went over my tests with clear water, and then various black wet media (all diluted to grey with water and painted wet-on-dry on Canson Fanboy Illustration paper, with an inexpensive flat synthetic brush):

  • Ecoline Black “liquid watercolor”
  • Yasutomo Sumi Ink
  • Blick Black Cat Waterproof India Ink
  • Holbein (HWC) Lamp Black watercolor (tube)
  • Winsor & Newton (W&N) Mars Black watercolor (tube)
  • Pilot Iroshizuku Take-Sumi fountain pen ink
Sample swatch with colors in the same order as listed above.
Drawing Ink: Black Star Hi-Carb. Nib: Brause Blue Pumpkin (Steno 361).

I’m going to have to do some more experimenting with these colorants, as I had significant issues with uneven water flow as the media dried. This was most pronounced with the Yasutomo Sumi ink, the Blick Black Cat, the Holbein Lamp Black, the W&N Mars Black.

This majorly leaves the Ecoline and the Pilot Take-Sumi (first and last color, above), which both lean relatively blue…and may be dyes, not pigments. I know that the Pilot ink should not be water-resistant. I’m not sure about the Ecoline, yet: I still have yet to go over a painted area with a wet brush to try to lift or dissolve the grey.

On top of this, the Ecoline and the Take-Sumi, are both pretty much transparent. As for whether they’re archival…I don’t know. That would take some long-term testing, to figure out.

As I look at this, the Ecoline (with my current screen settings) looks most true-to-life, without adjusting the color using an image editor. The Ecoline also promises a better way to get consistent coloration between print and digital, as it is dispensed drop by drop. Watercolors, on the other hand…are much harder to predict.

This scan missed a lot of subtleties in the original image, particularly dark but non-black tones, and light tones.

What I will say is that I eventually got my smoothest color laydown in this batch of trials with the Holbein Lamp Black, once I had gone through one pass with my paintbrush, then re-wet the bristles and painted back onto the paper. I’ve got to remember that. I’m not sure why it’s less textured than the W&N Mars Black, especially as Holbein watercolors are formulated to hold brushstrokes; I just know I got the flattest color dispersion, here. To me, that’s something I’m presently aiming for.

However: I had only tested the two watercolors (at the time of this post).

Increased visibility + increased texture with Dodge & Burn.

I am surprised that the light grey of the HWC wasn’t fully picked up by the scanner. Using the Dodge & Burn tool in GIMP 2 did make the grey a bit more visible, but also increased graininess in the image. I can only use it very sparingly without seeing a bunch of digital artifacts.

The other thing I can say is that all four of the inks which I made lines with, initially repelled pretty much all of the colorants I put on top of them. That’s likely due to the fact that they’re waterproof. However, the glows around the lines self-resolved prior to drying, for most samples; with the Black Cat and the Tachikawa Jet Black inks faring the worst in the long run.

Updates intended to come to the blog (not all in this post):

  • Painting wet-on-dry with various colorant media on Fanboy Illustration paper
  • Painting wet-on-wet with same
  • Testing water-resistance/liftability of different colorants on Illustration paper
  • Experimenting with “thirstier” and natural-hair brushes — is there an improvement?
  • Preparing and testing other nibs (Nikko, Speedball, any other Brause, etc.)
  • Testing archival qualities of all six colorants (should take a while)
  • Testing Canson Vellum Bristol Board
  • Testing Strathmore Bristol Board
  • Testing watercolor papers with pen & ink…

I’m not getting any kickbacks or compensation for doing any of this. It just interests me.

art, art media, comics, creativity, sequential art, writing

Getting back to where I was before

Not to reference a certain transphobic Beatles song, but I’ve decided recently to try and do what I want to do (within limits), rather than…abandoning my former line of practice.

Specifically: I’m planning on giving Illustration another shot, and picked up a number of dip pen nibs that I have never used before. They’re Japanese ([Nikko, Tachikawa] with a couple of Brause nibs [which I think are German]), so they will likely perform differently than my Speedball nibs (I believe Speedball is a U.S. company). I also found Tachikawa dip-pen ink for sale. All of this stuff, I can test out. It will be interesting.

I haven’t yet gotten back to working on my script or in my Creative Writing journal, though I can; likely, should. The tension between doing sequential art and doing literature had basically stopped me. Too many possibilities?

On top of that, there’s that whole thing where I get intimidated away from being creative, even though that’s really something I — at least think I do — well. But right now, I’m feeling the graphic novel thing again. I’m going to try and work on the script. EVEN IF that means I end up having to use transparent inks, a.k.a. “liquid watercolors”. They aren’t my favorite medium, but they’re guaranteed to be transparent (as versus FW Acrylic Inks — not to mention regular watercolors — which may not be entirely transparent, depending on the pigments used).

On that note, I should see how they perform on Bristol board or Mixed Media paper. I still haven’t broken into my Arches, but I did get a mechanical pencil which should enable me to erase my underdrawings, pretty well. I realized a short time ago that even though regular pencils had been on the outs with me, I did appreciate drawing with mechanical pencils, because of their erasability. Right now I am still working on a backstock of Pentel Hi-Polymer Lead, that I obtained in High School. It erases easily, but smudges. I guess I’ll just have to see if it also degrades over time.

The Tachikawa ink is also supposed to be good at not fading under erasers, and being waterproof. A while back I got an eraser sampler, but to date, have only used one of them. I’ll get to try out the rest, fairly soon.

As for reading…well, I found an interesting book at the library that talks about the Publishing Industry and what authors need to know to increase their chances of being published. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily include indy comix artists…I’ll have to start reading (and studying) comics, too. I’m not familiar enough with the field, or with page composition — especially, page composition using English language. (Manga, in their native languages, can have vertical or horizontal alignment of the words, which make the pages flow differently.)

And…yes, I do realize that comic authorship is going to be more of a challenge for me, than literature. But I think I can handle it. The main issue seems to be…what I’m motivated to do, rather than what’s easy; which is a familiar question. Overly familiar.

Then there’s the fact that this project is…such fantasy. And I can get lost in fantasy.

The fact is, though: I know myself much better now, than I used to.

There is also the fact that I don’t know how much I would like illustrating the conflicts in this story. There’s the Fine Art camp, where people are making things to bring beauty into the world; there’s the Literature camp, where people describe and work out conflicts in words. Conflict implies…well, disagreeableness. Literally.

But I guess in every project, there’s what you want to do, and what you don’t want to do. It is possible to just refer back to what happened in the backstory, without actually illustrating it. That…doesn’t seem like the strongest approach, though.

Eh. I’ll have to think on it. I may be able to work it out, somehow, through writing and editing the script.

And, I guess, in the meantime…it wouldn’t hurt to try to draw, again!

“You say whaaat? You’re considering making a graphic novel and you haven’t been drawing?”

“Yes, that’s what I’m saying.”

I want to draw, but I don’t see a reason to aim for traditional subjects (flowers and plants, excepted — and this is for a reason I know). This might, at least, get me drawing, again…

I should also mention that I filled one of my fountain pens with Take-sumi (black) ink…and it has got me questioning whether I’d appreciate Platinum Carbon Black ink, in a pen. However…I’ve got to think on it. It might be just as well, or better, to invest in some Copic Multiliner SPs (these are the refillable ones with interchangeable nibs)…

career, creativity, self care, spirituality, technology

Creativity and awareness.

For the past three days, I’ve been having issues with lethargy, and late today I realized what may be causing it. Hopefully, tomorrow won’t be as bad. I’ve just been through a couple of days of early-morning work and an early-morning class…I need to prepare for this, better.

I did reach the point, yesterday, of becoming annoyed enough with the books and magazines and catalogs laying around everywhere, to put them away. At this point, I know that I do want to rearrange them. The major issue is the fear of not being able to find anything after they have been rearranged.

There is also the possibility of getting a long and low bookshelf. Because of earthquake concerns (I’ve lived through two major earthquakes: Loma Prieta [1989] and Northridge [1994]), the tall bookcase that I have, which has most of my books on it, isn’t in my bedroom. There is too much of a danger of it falling over, either onto the bed or into an escape route.

However, there is another reason the books aren’t here: it’s dust. Apparently, because I spend so much time in the bedroom (asleep), things collect dust quickly. This isn’t so much of an issue for the office, which is where I have a few bookcases in use…most of them are storing things I haven’t immediately used, however, like my Writer’s Thesaurus, and various anthologies from my undergrad degree.

A while ago, I did start going through things to figure out which books I really wanted and would use; but after filling a couple of boxes (and clearing a couple of shelves), stopped. Maybe I need to get back to that.

If I can clear a deep shelf, I can move the majority of my craft books, “to keep,” back down there. The issue is that most of them are too tall to fit on the shelf they’re on, currently. To be honest, I can’t even recall why I put them there, except to sort them away from their default position.

When you work in a library, you learn that location can be imbued with meaning. It is possible for me to use that space as a library, considering that the computer no longer has to live there, and that what is there is basically now an archive.

It would make sense for me to go through my images and work, though I think all of that stuff is already backed up to an external hard drive. I just don’t live in that room as much as I used to. I also do have a low (“altar”) table with floor pillows and the like, from the time when I was meditating.

I really don’t know if I’d like to get back to that; I’ve already been through the disillusionment thing with Buddhism (that being my realization that Buddhism is an organized religion run by people who have politics and faults, and that it may not be “true”), but I also have a non-denominational meditation book that I could deal with, if I wanted to. (I got it years ago when I read a bit of it at the library and knew I would want to read it, even if it got deleted.)

As part of my illness “recovery”, I am supposed to be exercising and meditating in order to reduce my dependence on medication, and abate some of the side effects. It’s been a long time since I could even think about doing that, however — I had to get through grad school. It’s also really a pain to sit seiza (on one’s knees) or in Lotus (half-Lotus?) position on the floor, for long periods of time. I suppose it does connect me with the past; I just don’t particularly know if it’s something I even want to be associated with, anymore.

Of course, this is me on the other end of over two decades of medication, and without a lot of the credulousness that I had, before it. It’s really clear to me that what I’m on quiets my mind, and seems to eliminate the need for creativity in trying to explain what’s happening. It’s very apparent, and has been, to me, that I move closer to an atheistic position when I’m on a higher dose of one medication in particular (which I’m on, now)…this being why I currently consider myself either a Pantheist or Panentheist, not Pagan or Buddhist. Hindu beliefs have been on the edge of my thought, but I’m not deep enough into studying them to particularly understand them wholly.

In any case…I probably need to explain Pantheism. Pantheism (not, “polytheism,” as the last person I tried to explain this to, assumed) is the belief that the Universe is divine and the body of the Divine. Panentheism believes that the Universe is the body of the Divine but that the Divine is also more. I don’t think too much about which camp I fall into, partially because it doesn’t really ultimately matter (reality and truth exist whether or not I acknowledge them); also because both sets of beliefs are pretty fringe.

But…I think this actually is the best explanation I can give for the way my mind works, when it comes to religion. I have more of a feeling of sacredness when I go into the mountains, than anything. It’s one of those, “this is beautiful and could easily kill me,” feelings. Definitely high-alert, definitely respectful. When you’re out someplace like in the Sierra, you know — or at least I’ve known — that if I die, it’s more than likely my fault (or the fault of someone with me, like when the idiot kids were rocking boulders in the talus pile) and not the wildernesses’.

As a kid, I wouldn’t get out into wild areas very often because family did not like being away from the comforts of civilization. Now that I’m older, I will have more of a chance to explore wild places on my own or with friends, but to be honest, it’s not something I seek. I don’t like putting my survival on the line for no reason.

Anyhow…one of the items on my altar table is a box with little tumbled stones and mineral samples in it. Sadly enough, this is about as close as I get to monoliths, right now.

There is also my little bunny fetish from when I was a kid. I was totally into bunnies as a kid. A “fetish,” in this terminology, is a stone that holds personal significance. Mine is a little black carved thing, from a Zuñi artisan whose name I’ve likely lost. However, given its source, and what I can remember, I believe it has been blessed.

I used to carry it around, which is what initially got me into fetish pouches, which is what got me into beadwork. But, back on topic: the rabbit fetish represents creativity.

Right now, I don’t know where I stand with that. I could activate and begin feeding and carrying this fetish again…but somehow that seems a bit creepy. :) Or metaphysical, at least.

I did read a couple of blog entries about not worrying about monetizing one’s passion (which, in this case, has been related to my beadwork). The reason I cleared off a great deal of the craft table is that I wanted to paint again…something I haven’t done in months, as I haven’t seen it as profitable. I didn’t know how to start, so I got out my “Dusties” box and started playing with graphite crayons and willow charcoal.

One thing I did learn: don’t be afraid to make apparently nonsensical details and unclosed lines when working abstractly. ;) They’re what make things interesting. :) I was also attempting not to fight the urge to follow the ghost lines that appear before I may trace over them.

On second thought, maybe I should be meditating. It may help me endure the terror I feel while creating long enough for me to actually make some things.

I’m pretty sure I want to use gouache in the near future, but I don’t entirely have a topic yet. Water, fire (or, “flowing things,” reminiscent of some Southeast Asian styles I’ve seen), and landscapes came up when I was working yesterday, though. Broken lines merge into negative space merge into organic overlaps. It happens.

And tools affect outcomes. Particularly, charcoal sticks are great at mark-making, but they can’t necessarily flood a page, and all of your color is black to grey.

I still need to test out my Sennelier Prussian Blue (transparent) watercolor against Daniel Smith Prussian Blue, the latter of which fades in intensity after months in direct sun. It will be weeks before I’ll see if there is any difference in permanence, though the sooner I swatch, the sooner I’ll know.

I’ve also realized that I should likely broaden my job search beyond the library field. The nature of what I’ve learned has applications in the wider tech and information fields, and though this is a bit terrifying, it means I have a potential way out of what is strictly the Library. Most people who are working…need to be creative in their job searches. I can do that, too.

There are several places where I can look for at least an interim job before dealing with libraries: fabric stores, bead stores, art supply stores, for three categories to start with. I’ve realized that my involvement with these things is okay, possibly even good, and may become useful.

It would also likely be good to continue on with my JavaScript course. I was looking over my books from my Library and Information Science program, and…I have a large number of tech-oriented books. If I want to be in a tech field, learning more technology is essential. It’s probably not wrong to be unsure at this point if I do want to be in a tech field…so long as I don’t let that stop me from doing what I do want to do, and trying out what might be helpful. If I hate it, that’s one thing; but personal uncertainty (do I want to be in Tech because D was in Tech?) is going to happen, regardless…