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…

art, design, illustration, self-publishing, sequential art

Trials with Adobe CC

So, I’ve been tinkering with Adobe CC tonight and relearning Photoshop (PS). I also, from there, started tinkering with Illustrator (AI). What I can say is that I’m starting to be able to piece together what might be a workflow for a graphic novel — or, at least, the digital art and compositing part of it. (I would need to make the lineart first [keeping scale in mind], then either color it, or scan it in and digitally color it; then correct the image; then export that and work the paste-up piece by piece in Illustrator; then, I’m assuming, export that in some form into InDesign before printing.)

I’m also seriously considering working the art to fit on a larger page than 5″x7″ (like 8.5″x11″ or 7.5″x10″ after trimming), mostly because it would allow for better image display and larger fonts. Plus, a contact has referred me to a professional scanner and printer, so I don’t really have to worry about finished page size (at least, if I’m willing to forgo image bleeds [where the images run off the edge of the page]).

Of course, I do need to get back to work on the script, but recently I’ve been trying to figure out what I’ll do once I can get that at least decently completed. The script, the drawing, though: those are the fun parts. Going to efforts to relearn the software will make it, I hope, easier to do the compositing — or, at least, not uncomfortable.

The good news is that Photoshop is easy to remember for me, due to the fact that I actually trained on it — even if it was over a decade ago. Illustrator isn’t difficult, after I recalled the tools from PS; they use many similar icons. I had thought that I would be able to use the Pen Tool in Illustrator (or PS) to create color fills; however, the shapes I’m using are so complex that I wonder whether I’m just going to end up using my real inks and brushes (after first having scanned an archival .TIFF file of the artwork), then touching up with something like the Spot Healing brush; or coloring the whole thing using PS brushes, in a way that would appear similar to Charmy’s Army.

Hmm.

I know I’m leaning towards working the sketches over with ink in hard copy…but yes, I need to work on the script, first; then deal with character design, do some sample pages, and from there, settle on page dimensions (I’m still not sure whether to use standard U.S. comic dimensions — I don’t like them at all, but they’re industry-standard, here).

Then there is, again, the question of: if I’m putting all this work into it, is it not the case that I would want to take it to a professional Publishing House (to recoup my time and effort and investment of resources)? If so, why?

The major issue is that I’d lose a lot of control (for example, they may want to pair me with a professional artist — who likely wouldn’t understand the content like I would, or could introduce their own content [which, depending on their angle, could easily derail the message]), and it would also likely go into editing after being finished.

If I went the self-publishing route, I wouldn’t have to worry about that.

Hah — I just got the parallel between sosaku hanga (creative prints) as versus shin hanga (new prints) in 20th c. Japan. Sosaku hanga stressed the role of the artist in all stages of production, whereas shin hanga were produced by teams of artisans, having been designed by one person (I’m pretty sure?).

Ah — it’s late; I should get off of here and get some rest. I think I’ve answered most of my own questions, already…

art, comics, sequential art

Digital Revolution

Earlier, I began this post noting that I hadn’t done any work on the comic today, but that I had realized that it was possible (and most likely, the closest solution) to edit the black, white, and midtone points of the image I uploaded last night, in order to achieve more gradation between black and light grey.

I knew how to do this in Photoshop (PS), but not in GIMP 2. I tried the latter earlier today; it wasn’t wholly satisfactory. Unfortunately, Photoshop and probably most of the people who use it, have a love/hate relationship right now, due to Adobe’s pricing schedule. That, in turn, is likely because Adobe has made itself indispensable and industry-standard in the Graphic Arts.

Yeah, kind of like Apple.

The light grey from my original scan, in particular, did not show up to full effect, and I even got some washing out of an area which obviously (to my eye) isn’t white. I wasn’t sure if this was something that needed to be tinkered with, within the scan program, or not…

Scan as saved in GIMP 2 — I can’t recall if I messed with it or not. I think, “not.”

…but as my alternative was to either hardcore tinker with the scanner software (which I will likely still do); to save the file in an alternate file format like .TIFF or .PNG (not .JPG, which is getting on my nerves, at this point, as I think it’s the source of the grittiness of my attempted edits); to purchase an artist-quality flatbed scanner; or to use a commercial scanning service; I started thinking of alternatives.

That actually did get me to unearth my digital tablet. It also got me to rediscover Adobe, much as it pains me to say. Here is the edited version, which I also shifted to grayscale (the above is color):

The above image as edited in PS CC, with a focus on the range in the Holbein watercolor.

…which is closer to, if a little darker than, the original. I think it does look a bit different from within Photoshop than in my current browser (and especially from within the Edit window on WordPress, within the same browser — I know WP has, at least, used compressed image renditions in here, before)…but hey, I’m not being surgical with this, right now. I’ll see what it looks like, after it goes live…

What I had heard a long time ago is that scanners are more sensitive to differences in color than our eyes, so scanned artwork often shows a lot of flaws when it is rendered back into visual format. I’m not sure if that’s true; if it were, then this begs the question of why I can tell the many different shades of dark grey and light grey that my scanner couldn’t (and which Photoshop apparently still can’t — if the input is bad, I wouldn’t bet on improving it [or GIGO, as we would say in Digital Archives: Garbage In, Garbage Out]). This may in large part be due, however, to programmed-in biases which assume I’m scanning black-on-white text, not image.

So…I know the apparent solution to this. The apparent solution is to color the lineart digitally. Not that I want to…but my lineart looks freakin’ awesome in both Photoshop and Illustrator, even at relatively low resolution. Really, my biggest question is to what extent I can use or will need vector graphics in order to place color fills (or if I’ll be able to do something with a superficially similar effect, using my tablet). It’s not going to be great to have to re-learn how to use Adobe tools…but it will probably make my life easier, in the long run.

I still haven’t decided on whether to use the Ben-Day dots, yet (otherwise known as screentones or halftones). DELETER used to (and still does, actually) make a bunch of hard-copy black-on-clear screentones which were already sticky on the back: you stick them down, burnish them, then slice out what isn’t meant to be in the image, with a razor blade or X-Acto. They’re really fun to work with; unfortunately, for anyone doing anything of size, they’re also relatively expensive. What isn’t expensive (per-use, at least) is replicating the effect digitally; it’s just…complicated. At least, to learn.

And — yeah, I am glad I didn’t get rid of my digital drawing tablet, right now. It’s another peripheral to plug in, though, another bit of software to have loaded; which doesn’t make me comfortable. The more stuff I have on here, the more can go wrong. At least it’s not my ancient tablet (though that one did have tilt recognition; this one doesn’t), but I wanted to try out something small before committing to an expensive tablet that I might not use. (My old tablet has been physically biodegrading for a number of years, but that’s an aside.)

Right now, I have a very short-term commitment to Adobe. I won’t need all the programs I have access to: in particular, I can only see three that might be useful to me in this current project: Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign (as a note to myself). That’s unless I went the route of webcomics — which could happen if I wanted to use color, or wanted to have a global distribution. Dreamweaver would help with that. Granted, I also hear Dreamweaver at least did insert a lot of extraneous code — but that was in 2007, before Adobe Creative Cloud (the current incarnation of all the above programs) even existed.

Of course, I know a bit of how HTML and CSS (and scripting) work, at this point; it’s possible I could edit that code to make it more streamlined. (I also have a huge book on PHP and JavaScript, that I got discouraged from reading. I blame my college introductory class on scripting. And having to do mathematical proofs in Honors Math.) It might be worth it to at least see what languages Dreamweaver can produce. Though — I don’t think I’d go live with this, anytime soon. (I ended up taking down my ePortfolio site, because playing around in the shallow end of the pool isn’t like swimming in the ocean. However…building something and not releasing it to the wild, immediately [until it’s ready] — that’s an interesting proposition.)

Anyhow…apparently, black-on-white lineart is still something I can do by hand (and enjoy doing by hand), though I still haven’t tried anything substantial with the dip pens — given that I only recently figured out how to prepare them en masse. (Prior, I was concerned about melting and bending the tips of my plier jaws with heat from open flame [it has happened]…which put me off of the dip nibs until I found my Third Hand again [it’s a weighted base with steel jaws and a magnifier — comes into heavy use when brazing or hard soldering], and then later, the potato method.) It will take me a bit of time to get back up to speed with Adobe…but then, those will also be salable job skills!

I also have a connection who may be able to help teach me how to do color fills…I came across her name and email, while sorting through old slips of paper. I think she’s connected to me on Social Media, too. Could be worth reaching out?

art, technology

Solving technical difficulties

I had almost forgotten about those text-only posts about the drawing inks and watercolors! Well…let’s see. I do work over the weekend, but midweek I might have time for playing with this, some more. The drawback to posting (color) scans is that I have to use a machine with which I’m not highly familiar.

Then there’s the fact that I trained on Photoshop, but don’t want to pay $20/month to have permission to use it. I think I mentioned somewhere a while ago (maybe on a defunct blog) that I had been using PS Elements — until some update made it suddenly stop working. Was that intentional? I don’t know. But it didn’t make Adobe look good.

Of course, this is part of a long argument propounded by former Photoshop users. There are other solutions, but they take retraining, and their UX is often not as intuitive. Then there’s the fact that Adobe has probably made strides to make sure they get into the classrooms.

I do have half a mind to hook up my drawing tablet again. I took it off for my own reasons, but it reminds me that there are alternatives to Adobe. Not necessarily all open-source…not that open-source is bad, but I wonder what else is out there.

Having worked with watercolor paints recently made me realize something: one of my earlier instructors who was a Digital Illustrator, was right in that he said that digital art was made to emulate physical media, but it wasn’t a replacement for it. I haven’t been through all the art programs out there, but I wonder if anyone has replicated the blossoming of color that happens with good watercolor paint, in wet-in-wet painting. I bet someone has (it’s probably on a Mac, though).

Of course, if I’m photo-editing, I can probably do that better on the computer than in the darkroom (particularly because I don’t know how to process film, and the thought of developing photos has always put me a little on edge).

There is the possibility of getting a Mac tablet and Apple Pencil…but it’s seriously a lot of money. I mean, I’d have to work out a plan and timetable to save up for the thing, and I don’t even know if I’d like it. I guess that’s why there are Apple Stores.

Of course…if I’m going to do that, I could save up for a Mac first, and if I don’t like how the Apple Pencil works upon trying it out, I can apply the savings to a Cintiq. The price has gone down since I last checked.

(Really, Haru? You’re really entertaining this?)

Then there’s this stuff about scanning or photography.

This is kind of too much to think about, right now. I have, however, located a couple of models which would work…the question is…is it that important to me.

That depends on how much time I actually spend making artwork. It hasn’t been much, recently. If, however, I spent as much time painting as I did writing — trying to work on it every day, you know — that…that would be great.

And yes, I do need to give myself permission to make my life not all about my career. Though there is the possibility, I found yesterday…of helping to run the art displays at one or more libraries, which would give me valuable experience if I wanted to work in or run a gallery (and thus get back into the visual art world). It wouldn’t pay — it’s a volunteer position. But still…that’s really interesting, you know?

There is more I have to say about…languages. I realized the other night that while I may have been taught the basic mechanics of Spanish language, no one ever really encouraged me to do any recreational reading in Spanish, or to use the language outside the classroom. That (and the missionary angle of most of my teachers) has very obviously impacted my regard for it.

Also — I’ve realized that if I learn Spanish instead of Japanese — this would give me much more time to work on my Art. (I’ve also realized that the evangelical pamphlet that someone donated the other day, was likely written to be easy to read. I found a book by Neil Gaiman in the Spanish Children’s section the other day, which I couldn’t well read. I could read it well enough to know that it was likely disturbing.) ;)

Relearning Spanish also doesn’t mean that I won’t ever learn Japanese.

Anyway…it’s almost midnight, and I’ve got an early morning, tomorrow. More has happened…but I should get some rest.

art, career, comics, creativity, self care, self-publishing, work

Creativity and adulthood

It wasn’t that long ago that I took a chance on Ecoline transparent watercolors. I still haven’t gotten to use them. Bright side, I did eventually (tonight) get around to flushing and soaking my Pilot Prera — this is the calligraphy nib fountain pen which was filled with orange-red ink. It was drying out, and I realized I needed to do something before it dried out all the way. It’s not my goal to kill my fountain pens, and the Pilots tend to dry out more quickly than the TWSBI Ecos (though less quickly than the LAMY, which I’ve gotten rid of). The TWSBIs have a silicone O-ring under the cap, which screws on, whereas the Pilots just have caps that slide on.

I’ve intended to move back into sequential art, but either I’m getting distracted (likely by work, which I’m not sure anyone can call a “distraction”), or I’m just…adulting. I keep being called in for work on days I had designated as rest days. Which, I think, is why someone told me that I needed to have “boundaries” in this job.

Today I had to stay home or be miserable for seven hours — I chose to come home and sleep. Apparently, I’ve picked up some kind of bug (D thinks it’s a cold). It’s early enough in the cycle that I’m probably contagious. I’m pretty sure I must have picked it up yesterday at work…honestly the last few days are a blur, though. It’s like a day is missing in there and I’m not sure which one it is. Though I did get to see “Hamilton”. It’s possible that I got exposed that day on public transit, though that means it would have had to incubate for a few days.

I have been finishing reading a book on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, which is possibly a reason why I was sick, today. We’re all expected to give reviews or information on books in the library. I’m a little miffed that the author didn’t say what was actually going on with the water until 2/3 of the way through the book. What’s actually disappointing about the situation in Flint, as well, is that it could have been rectified by having A CHEMIST ON STAFF. Seriously. There are also a lot of other ways it could have been stopped, but it seems the government was determined to fail in this case.

Anyhow…I’ve been working a lot and reading a lot and my free time for art has suffered. That’s kind of annoying, considering that I have enough materials and am just lacking in time or prioritization. Something that could have mattered, though: I have been trying to fix up a different site online…I’m paying close to $200/year for it, and it’s been locked from the beginning. It was originally for my portfolio, but I have to do work if I want to make that part of it public (which doesn’t seem like the greatest idea). More likely is that I’ll be sectioning off that part of it and using the rest to play around with having a real website, as versus a subdomain at this one.

As I’m aging, that is, I am finding that my portfolio isn’t going to be a great strength — of much more use is the experience I’m getting, on the job. If I make a professional website and update it regularly, as well, it could be worth more than the portfolio.

I think I’m just going to have to either work my creativity into my job, though, or otherwise carve out time for it. I still have to figure out how many hours a week I want to work, and when and where I want to work. There are a couple of local places I hadn’t considered, until seeing how far (and potentially hazardous) it is to get to other branches. There are going to be at least two work sites within 10 minutes’ drive, and not being able yet to drive myself, this can matter.

Anyhow…my habits suggest that if I want to make comics, I should be reading more of them. I might also want to take a look at bookbinding resources. I have been taught how to make ‘zines, but unfortunately I don’t quite remember how to make a 16-page one out of one sheet of paper. That could just be interesting, if I didn’t want to sew the things together myself. It’s possible, that is, to make a large image and then have it printed on one sheet of paper, then cut and fold to create booklets.

Why would I do this? I’m not entirely sure. Especially given that unless the 16-page ‘zine is printed on a huge paper, I’m dealing with very little real estate where it comes to space on each page.

And yes, I do have an interesting idea to just print out a big long spiel on the back of that paper.

Or to default to 8.5″x11″ paper and forgo bleeds (printing to the edge of the page), then write and insert images and have that printed out and perfect-bound like a college Reader.

…I should get back to sleep. I can feel it.

art, art media, comics, drawing, illustration, writing

The Neurotic Artist *shudder*

Well…let’s see. I have been able to play around with markers, a bit…though I still haven’t thoroughly tested them out on anything. What I have found is that Strathmore 300 Bristol Board (Smooth Finish) works well with Copics — though I actually found that out prior to trying it, by watching Youtube videos. :) Those things are fun.

The Bristol board is basically absorbent, which I think works in favor of blendability with these markers. I have also observed, however, that there is a color shift between the times the paper is saturated with ink, and the time at which the solvent has evaporated off (it gets brighter). I also have Fabriano Mixed Media paper, which is heavy like Bristol board. From a short observation, it appears…well, the colors appear brilliant. I had been using Bienfang Graphics 360 Marker Paper (thin and translucent), for what I had been doing in my sketchbook. That is, draw in pencil roughs, overlay, draw in inks, photocopy, color.

I…have not seen what the underlying drawing (beneath the Copics) actually looks like underneath the Bienfang, though! I wouldn’t be surprised if it were unusable as a rough sketch, at this point: Copics bleed. Seriously, they bleed. Not so much to the side (like Chartpaks, which dependably spread so that you learn to color a couple of millimeters inside the lines), but down into the paper. So if the ink got underneath that marker paper…even though the marker paper is supposed to discourage bleeding…it could seriously mess up an image (which I thankfully didn’t have to deal with, the last time I used this workflow).

The obvious answer to this is to take up and reposition what is — in effect — the cel, before coloring it, as the pencils basically serve as a backup device if the inks go awry. If the inks go fine, the photocopy of the inks serves as a backup device to coloring — in case something gets messed up in the coloring. There’s no sane reason to leave it taped down so that the pencils get ruined by the markers, except that the aesthetic of the pencils showing through, adds something to the piece. Which…would be for me, I take it, and anyone else who looked in my sketchbook.

Have I been doing computer-generated graphics for too long? I seem to have too many fail-safes in place. The answer to this dilemma in a CG environment is to save prolifically, under multiple filenames, so that if something gets ruined I have a backup copy of the last usable form. That…hasn’t been so much of an issue, though, at least so far (though maybe I should expect it to be an issue, then I can get back on with experimenting).

IT’S MY PROCESS, OKAY ;)

Anyhow…I do have a light box, which would be the step I would go to if I needed a new copy of the inks — on good paper. Not photocopying paper, but paper that is meant for markers. At this point, I don’t know how old the bulb is, in there, but it’s at least a psychological option, at this point. Otherwise, I’d be tracing off a window. (The sun comes up once every day…right?)

I also have a hypothesis about the function of storytelling: it enables us to practice psychological adaptation to presently unforeseen circumstances (or conditions) before they occur.

Yes.

I know that’s random.

In any case…I’m curious to see what would happen if I did all this work on one surface (like the Bristol board or the Mixed Media paper). I haven’t yet attempted it, though the possibility is attractive for the reason that I could use limited amounts of wet media (watercolors, inks) on those surfaces, in addition to or in lieu of markers.

A very long time ago I had a vial of Daler-Rowney Pro White (an opaque white watercolor; “Pro” is short for, “Process,” like Process Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, or Black [Printer’s inks]; a.k.a., “Process White”), which I could never get open except maybe once, because the lid had cemented itself onto the jar. I got a new jar of this, though, which I can open, and this stuff — I know — is very opaque. It’s kind of awesome, but I haven’t used it, certainly, for years.

The upshot of using the heavier papers, though, is the chance to be able to add in opaque white highlights without being limited to a Gelly Roll pen or a fine-tipped paint marker (which have both been a little translucent for my tastes). White gouache also works, though I haven’t tried all of these next to each other to see which is best.

I should do that when I get the chance. Right now I have Holbein Permanent White and Zinc White. Zinc is more translucent than Permanent (Titanium), though I wouldn’t know that without having major troubles with Titanium White in a painting class (how to lighten a color without either greying it out and blocking the undertones, or changing its hue to lean yellow), which Zinc White would have relieved.

I…am aware, or am coming to awareness, that I now do have the option of taking upper-echelon Art classes…and paying for them myself (no FAFSA needed), and holding down a job at the same time. (It sounds crazy, but one of the upshots of my job as it stands, is flexible scheduling.)

In any case, I can try these both with brush and with dip pen, though I don’t know how adequately a dip pen will work with anything seriously opaque; nor would I know how to clean it out of any nib which consisted of more than one piece of metal (like cartooning nibs and some broad nibs). I’m thinking of trying something pointed, at first, just to see if it works, and how it works.

Other than that, I’m thinking this is a good place to leave off, for the night. I’ve got something coming up very soon, though I’m not sure about the amount of money I’m willing to put out for it. It is something I’ve been looking forward to, though, for a while. I’m just not totally certain of where in my self-imposed hierarchy of importance, it stands.

But hey, future me: if you find a strand of 8mm blue Apatite beads, get them.

art, comics, creative writing, drawing, illustration, psychology, spirituality

I can’t believe it. I used the Copics.

I made one illustration before midnight last night, and…it really surprised me. I haven’t been drawing in a long time, so to have something turn out nice is almost entirely unexpected — even with all that time I spent as a kid doing illustrations. It also helped to watch Supergirl and be able to study people’s face shapes, out of nowhere.

I did see it when I began to overwork my drawing. I had to rescue it a little with acrylic paint marker (insofar as that was possible), though I’m certain this wouldn’t work if I were working professionally (the white didn’t have enough coverage). I need to remind myself that I don’t have to go all the way from white paper to black shadows, or to let my logic-brain screw up my pictorial-brain’s work. I mean, I’m pretty sure they’re different brain regions, and my logic-brain wants to help (but it’s not always wisest in this area [even though it thinks it is]).

I’ve also got to remember that there’s always a next picture, and it won’t necessarily be worse. :)

I found that the Copic Ciao line that I had in Cool Grey was almost enough for the illustration I did, which is nice because the Ciaos are the least expensive of any of the Copic markers (not including their fineliners, which they call Multiliners). I also…realized that I may want to use Copic Multiliners regularly, as I’ve found the tips on Sakura Micron pens to widen (fray) with use, making the grading of their nib sizes misleading. I haven’t often used the Copic Multiliners, though, so I’m really not sure if they’ll hold up better over time. I do think, though, that the Multiliners get finer than Microns run (either that, or my tiny Multiliners are drying out).

What I do know is that Copic does have a line of refillable (not disposable) fineliners (Multiliner SP) which allow replacement of the nibs. That…is attractive, especially as I know how a fineliner with a broken nib works, and also what happens when the pens get old and dry out (and then I have to throw them out and get new ones, which isn’t very environmentally-friendly).

After having watched some of an episode of Long Island Medium which caused me to remember a story I had forgotten, I have gotten back to doing comic art and taking notes on story. It seems I also have a relatively good workflow going on, which caught me off-guard.

I’ve begun using a sketch journal, and — another surprise — I’m liking it. That’s also unexpected — in addition to needing: scissors, narrow washi tape, translucent marker paper, a copier, (just) a 2B pencil, an eraser, and a glue stick. (Well, I didn’t really need the copier, it just helped give me permission to work and possibly mess up my drawing. Having the extra copy made it easier to keep working.)

What I did was draw in my pencil art (outlines), then tape a piece of marker paper over the top, work through that paper to lay in my inks, take a photocopy of my inks, then lay in greyscale markers for value rendition (lightest color first), and work over the top to regain lost highlights with opaque white acrylic pen (not opaque enough). Then I glued down the photocopy of my inks without marker, on the facing page. (In the future, I might want to deal with this on Mixed Media paper — after I have the confidence to know that even if I do destroy what I’ve done so far by working further on it, I’ll still be able to work the drawing over again.)

What I didn’t realize until last night is that if I’m working through both marker and sketch paper, these two together are enough to annul the bleeding of the Copic marker (which normally will leak through a sketchbook page, fairly immediately). That’s basically because the Copics are alcohol-based. All of the solvent-based markers I’ve ever used (as versus water-based), have immediately soaked through most papers. That includes alcohol and xylene. There are also oil-based markers, though I only got one of those to work one time, on one project (I was drawing with an oil-based Sharpie on some sort of plastic sheeting, and couldn’t get it to work at any other time).

The narrative I remembered likely explores the main reason why I stopped writing fiction. Looking back on it, I just overthought things and freaked myself out to the point that I couldn’t tell the difference between imagination and reality, or between intuition and my discursive mind running amok. Because of this, I think, it has been quieter: if I were a spirit and was just confusing the heck out of some kid by communicating with her, I might withdraw too (even if I did love her, and at this point I have some clue of who it is I’ve been dealing with).

So when a person is dealing with energetic sensitivity, the conflict of not being able to distinguish between fantasy and reality can be amplified. The task arises of needing to tell an inner narrative, fantasy, anxieties, desires, and insights apart from an objective reality containing things that one may not understand, and which most people can’t make sense of.

And then, yeah, there’s the question of how I get that into a fictional format, in order to release myself from the constraints of memoir. Even as much as I know it isn’t my job (or possibly obligation), I think I do have some reservations about causing others to, “lose face,” though I didn’t think about it in that way until recently. In that sense, I mean, it could be a cultural thing where I’m uncomfortable telling the world about the faults and imperfections of people around me (although I’m sure it would be apparent that I’d also be showing you mine, as well: the difference is, it’s my choice and my business if I do the latter — the former is much messier).

I also don’t have to be sure that a thought is true before writing it, if I’m writing fiction. Which…may be part of the reason any fiction exists?

I don’t have any scans for you today. I’m still trying to figure out what degree of anonymity or exposure I want, online. If I showed you what I drew, my style would be recognizable across handles. There is also the issue of First Publication Rights…which makes writing for print publication different from writing on my own blog (unless I self-publish a web series or something…I’d rather do print, honestly).

Right now what I’ve got is just practice, so it’s not really a big thing. But as a bottom line, putting something on the Web means I lose control of it. I know that from having published images online, before, so this time around I’m being more reticent and deliberate.

The Web can also be a very strange place, but I’m sure we all know that. :)

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…