art, beadwork, career, libraries, work, writing

Tension: adult priorities, student habits

I’ve realized that I don’t have to start with words, if I want to make a story. Especially if I want to tell it using graphics. I have been looking through notebooks, and sketchpads, old blogs…records, you know. It may be that accessing the visual part of my brain may relate more of this (very internal) story than trying to code it into language, which sounds as though it goes against logic when I’ve historically used words over images to access inner realities.

But cartoons don’t have to be stereotypical. They often have been, but they don’t have to be.

Right now I’m dealing with the story in my mind growing more distant, and feeling more inconsequential, than I’m used to. I’m coming off of four days in a row of training at work, though (most of which was spent on-desk), which…makes it hard to get out of work-mode. I realize I have some anxiety about being the first (actually, now, second) point of contact for the public, but I’m getting more confidence around it. It’s also to the point where I don’t want to avoid the work, because I know that just makes it harder to engage again.

I guess it’s like fighting a phobia through exposure.

I also am finding…by giving this a chance, I’m also opening the possibility to convince myself that I like doing this. A lot of what I’m doing now is what I’ve been building up to over the last decade; what I’ve seen Librarians doing but have been forbidden to try (due to my job description). It’s not the end point, but it is nicer to be able to help people in many of the ways I couldn’t, over all those years.

Of course, it’s not as though my old work situation was perfect; but there are a lot of ways to approach work, and I haven’t found any of the various ones I’ve seen to be, “better,” yet. I’m talking here about workplace politics. It helps to be a bit agnostic about these, I’ve found. Although, granted, that’s probably (in itself) a position.

Anyway…didn’t mean to get into work stuff, but today was my last day of training (as has yet been scheduled). I’m finding that this is a really great job if you love to read. My biggest deficit at this point is likely dealing with Reader’s Advisory, as I have my own interests, and haven’t read a novel cover-to-cover in quite a while.

I should try that again.

My thing right now is wondering how much of my time that’s going to take up, outside of work but for the purpose of work. Of course…if I became a novelist myself, which…I would think to be beyond my capabilities at the moment: it would also be good training for that.

The program I attended in Undergrad really only prepared us for short-story writing. Novels are reserved for the MFA. (At one time, it seemed distant.)

And then…there is the obvious point of getting back to my Art as a generative measure for my writing, among other things. The issue, majorly, is…moving into a phase of my life where I have work, and then I have hobbies. The work is being a Library Assistant (for now). The hobbies are now primarily my writing, my art, and my beadwork. Reading also has to fit into there, somewhere; and Japanese language acquisition should also have some space, if I’m going to continue in a Public Library position. That’s on top of necessities such as cooking, driving, and exercise.

The question is what I cut out so I have time for my priorities, based on a future life path; and what to do if those priorities ever become dissatisfactory. There is also the question of what I am doing now, not what I want to or think I should be doing. What do I like to do as versus what I think I should like to do, based not on who I think I am, but who I am. It’s hard to gauge when I’ve had a schedule like I’ve experienced in the last two months (for the past four days, I’ve been working six hours a day…which is new, for me).

I’m aware this is a delayed entry into adulthood (“psh! Six hours a day?”), and that I’m lucky to have had so much free time for so long. At the same time, though, I have actually been working (even though some say being an Aide isn’t a, “real job,” which I now find to be an insult to Aides everywhere). I’ve also been in school for the vast majority of the time I’ve been employed, so I have had assignments, and things I had to do: at least to keep my GPA up, so that I could continue on to get my Master’s. That was so that I could be cleared to eventually become a professional on a national scale (note that the requirement for a Master’s in a Library- or Information-related field to be able to apply for Librarian positions, is an ongoing debate in the Library world).

Yes, that was stressful. But it’s over, and there’s only a necessity of doing it once.

I may also have the detraction of being over-educated, though that likely isn’t bad in any way other than having too many options. That in itself can also be a problem, though: I have heard of a study stating that the more options people have, the less satisfied they are with having settled on any one of them.

Maybe the painful choice here is in deciding whether to be an intellectual, or whether to be a maker (maybe I can be both). I caught all kinds of negative attention when I was young, partially because I was perceived as more intelligent than others. So although people like Cornel West and Malcolm Gladwell continually attract my attention and respect (though I still haven’t read anything by either of them, I’ve only seen the interviews), becoming like them…there’s a risk to it. Of course, though, most who think in public would know that, and have gone on beyond, despite it. Adults who still have the minds of children shouldn’t be permitted to control the lives of others, that is.

I still think it was cute when one of the kids I helped, commented that I was, “really smart,” because I knew about manga and could pronounce Japanese! (When kids are kids, and are supposed to be kids, it’s different.) I suppose it’s possible to be knowledgeable about a lot of things, yeah?

Maybe the problem actually is being multi-faceted — and being at a junction between consuming and producing, not knowing where to place my priorities. I have been writing this based on the assumption that I would need to either do one or the other, but reading broadly was recommended in my Creative Writing program. It would also enable me to write Nonfiction.

I also realize how important it likely is, to know a language which is not English: it means that one gets a window into how life is outside of the English-Only-speaking-world. That, in turn, is useful in building resistance to political propaganda. These things mean that:

  1. Library Work
  2. Reading
  3. Writing, and
  4. Learning Japanese (a life goal since Middle School)…

…are my core four things.

I am not sure to what extent I’ve just hit my limit, with beadwork. I can check my records to see when it was that I started to buy beads and make jewelry, again. The thing is, it’s an expensive hobby — and I don’t know that I’m committed enough to it to keep buying materials, or to deal with the legal end of it. Designing is one of those things that is fun, but I don’t need to be putting as much resources into designing as I have been — particularly as I still don’t know how to do all the basic beadweaving stitches.

I would still do micro-macramé, though. I just would. That means seed beads and cord. I have those. I think it’s just the gemstone and metal stuff that I see as unjustified.

So that’s:

  1. Micro-macramé
  2. Beadweaving

Drawing and painting can also be expensive, but they allow a greater latitude for storytelling (which was something I was purposely avoiding when using beadwork to get back into the creative process). When I was going back over my sketchbooks…I realized what I was doing when I was drawing from life. I was finding things that interested me, and then trying to express, via drawing, why they interested me. That, in itself, means that color is indispensable for my practice. This also means that markers and paints, in particular, ought to be something I really consider using — or, not throwing away, if they’re still good and usable.

Particularly: there are five media that I’m interested in at the moment:

  1. Pen and ink
  2. Alcohol markers
  3. Acrylic markers
  4. Gouache
  5. (Transparent) Watercolor

That also implies pencil and eraser, though I have those. These can all be combined with each other in order to make mixed-media standalone or sequential art pieces. So there, we have Language, Form, Line, and Color.

Anyhow, I’m reading back over this entry, and I’m thinking that my proposed activities look diverse enough! I wonder how this compares to past Priority lists…

…and what to do with everything else…

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…