art, creativity, painting, psychology, spirituality

And that’s the way you develop.

Well, I did do something emotionally and psychologically significant, today. I used gouache. For a very long time, I had been hesitant to get back into making art, namely because the act of creation is a spiritual one, to me. I’m thinking I might have an inkling as to…how to manage that now, though.

In short: we co-create what we support. I had been concerned about the ramifications of image-making while I was still in the Art program…particularly because I made a dystopian painting (which I don’t like to look at; I think I know where it might be, but am not really wanting to see it right now) depicting some troubles which have come to pass. I would be surprised if all of them have…but either I’m really sharp and just not in denial about the state of the world, or there is something else going on.

I’m thinking that the second is more likely. I’m also…thinking that there’s a lot more going on than I know about (on both sides of this veil…I haven’t locked out the possibility of others), which it might behoove me to investigate.

One of the problems in co-creation is that people don’t realize they’re doing it. What we give attention to, what we celebrate: it creates what is made in the world.

This is me getting spiritual. It’s resounded with me since I started being okay with being creative again…which was needed, because of the mask thing. When I was making them, I knew that there were energies contained in them…I’m hoping that they can help support the people they’re for, or at least…if they need healing, help to heal.

So far, at least, everyone I know has seen my creative rebound as a good thing. Thing is, it comes with…it comes with stuff. Basically, stuff that I had trouble coping with, as a pre-teen and teen. I was sensitive; to the point that the sounds of our upstairs neighbors fighting, and the sounds of ambulances on the freeway at night, would trouble me.

Right now I’m wearing my ring…which I just resumed wearing, a number of days ago. I should have a timestamp on a message referencing the situation from when I was thinking about getting back into this, and got a go-ahead from my counselor. (The ring is a marker or reminder of my commitment.) I essentially have a number of beliefs which are real enough…but easily dismissed as, I don’t know, weird innately feminine stuff, or psychosis (meaning, “detachment from ‘reality’,” not, “wanting to kill people”). I don’t remember a lot of the terms used for mystics from the mid-to-late-1800s-on, though I’ve studied that era and that topic within that era.

There were a number of movements: Spiritualism, Theosophy, Anthroposophy…in addition to the blooming of the Western Mystery Tradition and Occultism, which led to the modern New Age and NeoPagan movements (though I see much less of the latter, these days, than I saw in the earlier 2000’s).

In any case…although I’ve come to recognize the output of some “New Age” publishers as commercially-based more than being grounded in intellectual rigor (though this is not necessarily the fault of the authors, more than a publishers’ underestimation of their potential market)…there might be something to the deeper currents, there. But one needs to be careful about what one takes as truth. Mistruths can lead to mistaken beliefs, which can then basically poison further inquiry into reality and its nature. You want to start with your feet on solid ground (for some reason, I’m wanting to continue that sentence with: “…not a sinkhole”).

Basically…and no, I haven’t read The Secret, and no, I don’t know if this is the premise, but: I’m thinking that what we imagine as our future lays tracks toward that future (regardless of the valuation we place on our imaginings). That means that if we’re invested in ignorance and greed and violence and horror and pain, if we repeat and reinforce those connections in our own bodies, we send a line out toward the set of futures that are built on that. If we imagine something else…we’re at least not drawing ourselves closer to what (it could be said) we don’t want to happen.

That doesn’t mean to be so focused on happy dreams that one is blindsided by horror and tragedy. That doesn’t mean to take risks for no reason. But that means that if we can’t imagine a better future, we can’t make a better future. Of course, “better” is subjective, especially if you’re deranged. But there are always fewer of those than there are, otherwise. And on the whole, we get through things like this.

My thinking is that this, “we”…it’s bigger than I’ve thought. And it includes those whose forms have been returned to the Earth, as well as those who never had forms here.

It makes me feel better. That doesn’t mean it’s true. But it’s plausible enough to explore.

Imagination wasn’t made to reproduce and reinforce what already exists. That’s my key out of my hesitance towards using my own creative abilities, I think. I have the ability to interpret and envision what I want to come into being; to break the banal cycle. And…I don’t have to do it literally or photographically. The energy is what matters.

I actually don’t even have to plan what I’m doing. The work grows on its own as it reveals itself.

A lot of this is getting in line with my subconscious (or unconscious) mind…which seems to know something about what it’s doing.

People say that creativity isn’t innately linked with mental illness, as there are creative people without mental illness, and mentally ill people who aren’t creative. I happen to be a person, though, who can’t be creative (now) unless I allow myself to be. Allowing myself to be entails taking my thoughts seriously; which results in being aware of, and living through having, odd beliefs. And it’s hard to acknowledge those odd beliefs and at the same time, never speak about them to anyone else.

Of course, when you base your life on your weird idiosyncratic beliefs that you can’t get rid of…well, you become an artist, I guess??? :D Or a psychic or medium. Or a writer. Or all of them.

But, like so many things in life, I’m thinking it makes it easier if you commit and follow through.

An aside: I was making more masks yesterday with the steam setting on the iron, for once in my life, and then I wondered just why I hadn’t used it thoroughly, before. To save water??? To keep the cheap iron that will likely be dead two years from now, from getting kettle fur? The steam setting works so much better!

Also as an aside: I’ve found out that the Kona cotton does feel more substantial as a lining, than does regular quilting cotton; not talking about batiks…but I didn’t know that until I made masks with all three different materials. Hence, I didn’t know what I was talking about earlier. I’m gaining more experience, and as a result, my outcomes are improving.

Anyhow. To get back to what I opened with: gouache is opaque watercolor…a lot of it, beautiful. I also have a good deal of it which is not toxic, which is a bit better than I can say for my transparent watercolors.

I had been bumbling around my paintbrushes and acrylic inks (granted that I’ve decided to hold off on using the Ecoline colors, for now), when I found a jar of Daler-Rowney Pro White ink. So I have two of these, now; considering that I could get the lid off, this time, and I could mix the paint, and it wasn’t off-color. I have no idea what pigment is in there, at the moment, but the jar had an AP seal, not a Caution Label; so I’m thinking it isn’t Lead White.

Of course, I tried painting with this, and it was seriously underwhelming (translucent) when used with a brush, especially when contrasted with Titanium White gouache, on top of tinted paper. The Pro White ink starts out okay, then fades as it dries. I’m not even sure it’s worth posting an image of it. I might try again later with a dip pen nib, instead; or, a glass pen might hold the ink better. If it is really that bad, though, even after all that? I’m not sure I’ll be getting it again.

So, I was basically just playing around with some Holbein Permanent (Titanium) White gouache, after I found that the Daler-Rowney was translucent…and that I didn’t know what was in it. Some white pigments, I’ve heard (like Zinc Sulfide, which is different from Zinc Oxide), will eventually change color. Titanium White, won’t; and it’s the most opaque white that I have used.

A bonus is that it’s relatively safe when used in painting, as the particles are bonded to some degree to the paper or other surface. There isn’t free dust flying around which can get into one’s lungs and cause disease — unless one abrades the paint. This, along with extreme color mutability and variability of point of contact with the surface, is one of the reasons that I’m attracted to the medium.

A bunch of squiggles in gouache.

In addition…I pulled out two non-toxic paints which I really enjoy working with: Yellow Ochre, and Peacock Blue (a Phthalo convenience mixture), both Holbein. The rest of my time was spent with these three (I also accidentally introduced Zinc White, which is more translucent than Titanium), making yellows, blues, and greens; in a tinted-paper art journal with a Size 1 round brush.

What’s funny is that the marks I make, and the colors I use, themselves suggest subconscious meaning or the basis of a new work…meaning, that to get ideas, I’ll…well…likely want to work in an Art Journal. Never never thought I’d say that (but maybe I’d been secretly hoping it)!

In the past, I had been intimidated about filling out an art journal…but now I see it’s just a place to experiment, play, and generate ideas. It doesn’t have to be full of “great” artwork, whatever that means.

I basically have got to stop telling myself, as well, that I shouldn’t do artwork that is simple. I can see what I did last night as foundational…watching the work unfold; making compositional decisions that might be more or less, “on it”; practicing working through the scale of underwork to overwork; mixing colors and seeing what they turn out to be; practicing brushwork.

I particularly was attracted to the toned paper journal because it wasn’t either black or white, and I knew that this paper (Strathmore Toned Gray) is quality enough to accept moderate doses of wet media.

And, interestingly enough: with the frame of mind I’m in, the purpose of my actions is expressed through my actions, regardless of whether anyone sees it or not; regardless of its critical acclaim. The work is accomplished in doing…

art, drawing, graphic design, technology

Handwriting to drawing to painting

I’m not sure how much or whether I have mentioned on this blog, a thought about the interrelatedness of writing by hand, and of drawing. It’s something that was reinforced for me when visiting an art store today and emerging with a couple of little markers.

Whenever I start drawing, it seems kind of inevitable that I would be drawn into practicing my handwriting in Japanese language. I have a relatively solid grasp of kana (phonetic characters) and a very introductory knowledge of kanji (ideographic characters). The thing is…it’s very, very tempting to try and practice getting stroke quality, size, type, proportion of each character in such a way as it becomes beautiful at the same time as it contains meaning.

Of course, this is likely related to my interest both in Graphic Design and calligraphy, painting, and some spiritual bents such as Zen Buddhism. The last three, in particular, are very related historically in an East Asian context, along with poetry. I wouldn’t have known that without having researched the topic of art and writing within Zen, for a graduate project…but I’m fairly sure that this also pre-dates Zen and goes back to the literati in ancient China.

Okay, and that gets really complicated, with the introduction of Buddhist dharma (way of existence) into China, and the mixture of Buddhism and what are now called Daoism, Confucianism, etc. That was introduced into what is now Korea and from there, Japan, though there were multiple transmissions. (Buddhism is not native to East Asia; so far as I know, it originated in South Asia [now India], and traveled through Central Asia into China — but my sources are skewed due to the fact that I currently can only read English-language versions of the history of this. English-language versions of, “what Buddhism is,” by people who only know other English-language versions, are generally imperfect at best, warped and misunderstood, at worst.)

My point is basically that there’s a large historical precedent for my interest in this, and that I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these values were passed on to me by the cultures of family and friends (at the least). To get deeply into that goes into some personal spiritual beliefs (or lack of them), which I’m not even all the time sure on (see the Dao De Jing/Tao Te Ching for a reference to why I may not talk about this — it’s a short work), but it gives me some stability. An inkling of it.

Anyhow…I read somewhere that the expression of the writer/artist with ink and brush was supposed to be a reflection of the one who wrote it, although at times an artist would get someone else to do the calligraphy for him. (Most of what I’ve read goes over male artists/poets/calligraphers; that doesn’t mean they all were, but it’s what I’ve seen.)

I believe that it is because of the high value placed on literacy and writing in at least Japan, that the language has turned out as beautiful (and complex) as it is. There are thousands of kanji (ideographic symbols borrowed from Chinese language) to learn to read and write, though there are also patterns within the kanji (like their formative elements, or “radicals”) that give clues to their meanings and readings.

I did start this post talking about the interrelatedness of writing by hand and of making art. My concern is that when people shift from writing with their hands, to writing by typing — only — that the practice which allows drawing to grow from writing, and painting to grow from drawing, is avoided. I do have some concern over the fact that most of us — unless we make a conscious effort otherwise — will likely be writing mostly by using a keyboard, and facing a computer screen. Not by hand, with paper (or any surface) and whatever instrument you use to write with, which could be pencil or marker or pen or brush or charcoal or something else. Something that will make a mark. Anything that will make a mark.

There’s a freedom to any of the latter in that you can express yourself not only in how the text is encoded, but in how it is drawn, and also that you can draw other things that are not letters or punctuation! My drawing, really, started in the margins of my notes and writings for school, as a young teen. I got bored. I found a way to express myself which no one could take away from me, without also taking away my learning tools.

Coincidentally, it was also close to that time at which I started to learn kana. I was into anime, particularly Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon, and I wanted to know how to read the text in the Japanese-language books I had to accompany the series. This was also, particularly, because I knew there were a number of seasons and movies (most of them, actually) which had not been translated into English. The only contact I had with these movies and series were the anime books (these must have a name; they’re an entire genre) and untranslated VHS tapes which I found through local venues.

I’m guessing that for me — at least, right now — writing in Japanese is closer to art, than writing in English. That is changing a bit, as I experiment with incorporating more cursive into my handwriting (which inevitably makes it messier than my regular [legible] print; or my regular cursive, where my “r”s are a bit…hard to identify). It’s probably also because writing in Japanese is less familiar to me. But I think I need a bit of a challenge in my reading — and not from English sentences being indecipherable. (It happens in college readings, sometimes. I’ve had textbooks like this. I’m not kidding. SENTENCES WHICH MAKE NO SENSE.)

I have, off-and-on, heard arguments or concerns about Japanese youth losing the skill of reading because of the popularity of manga (comics). I’m not so much concerned about that at this moment, but rather the loss of artistic skill and development which may loom because of a digital revolution in which no one can even write (well) by hand, anymore. It’s already a given that a lot of schools in the U.S. no longer teach how to write in cursive, making the reading of things like old ledgers written in Copperplate script, difficult to read. (I can barely read Copperplate. How much worse must it be for kids who didn’t learn cursive in Kindergarten?)

I also wonder how much I have bought into that in the past, because I did have to spend so much of my time in front of a screen. Something that no one told me, though, is that going to school online does mean that you have to take copious notes (even when the Professor gives handouts). Which are best done by hand. It’s hard when you haven’t written quickly and legibly in a very long time. And, I’m finding, it’s likely harder to draw when you haven’t written by hand at all in a very long time.

I’ve been writing by hand recently, though (which I’ve referenced in earlier posts here), and…it is easier to edge back into mark-making by just trying to write correctly in Japanese. I am not entirely certain why, except for the fact that I now can tell when they’re right (or at least when they’re beautiful), and when they aren’t. I do believe that a lot of that is due to my art training. Before someone close to me dropped out of Japanese-language class, the teacher saw my writing trying to help them on their homework, and said I had “nice handwriting.” So…I don’t know what that’s worth, except that I know I’m not going way into calligraphic territory. It’s legible. That’s good.

So far, I’ve not personally focused on this Inktober thing, but it is kind of inspiring to see all the works people are doing. I’ve also been able to get into acrylic paint markers…which, alongside my Pitt pens and alcohol markers…they’re alluring because of the use of color, for one thing. Opacity also helps, and it’s absent in other water-based and alcohol-based markers. I wouldn’t consider myself into graffiti in any way, but there’s something in the graphic qualities of marker that’s there for me.

I’m thinking that if I get deep enough into this…work in paint may come easier to me. I realized that Acryla gouache is what I was seeking, in a hybrid between acrylics and watercolors which I could utilize on paper without abusing my watercolor brushes (gesso is rough) — say for miniatures. (I still love Shahzia Sikander.) There’s also the possibility of using gouache mixed with acrylic glazing medium, or the (gasp!) use of transparent watercolors mixed with gouache.

I haven’t tried any of that yet, though they’re all creative possibilities. Right now what I have to deal with is how to get my markers out so I can see them, and how to combine transparent, opaque, and permanent inks…

…and paints. If I try, I’ll find out what works, and what doesn’t. As I’m learning, a lot of art (or at least design), seems to be about that. That, and not getting hung up on what other people say art should be…