art, craft, seed beads, self care, technology

Taking account: Humanities/Social Sciences/Arts/Crafts…yeah,

I’m not a Hard Sciences person, and I shouldn’t try to be one for the sake of being like my dad. I’m not him.

Today, instead of JavaScript training, it’s back to tiny tiny beads for me, and macramé. Micromacramé. Nanomacramé? ;) I have been using size 11° seed beads, 3mm Czech fire-polished beads, and C-Lon Micro, which are all very tiny, and kind of made for each other.

I didn’t even realize before breaking back into my 11°s that they’re basically about 2mm across. Using a pattern that looks like a macramé version of Daisy Chain (without the roundabouts), I’ve been able to tinker my way to a smaller version of what I was working on last with standard C-Lon and 8° beads. I don’t know if I’ve posted images of it here, yet — or if that was on an alternate blog (which is down, for now).

Right now I’m not even sure as to whether I should go back to Photoshop. I think I would post a lot more images if it were easier to modify them…though what I’m using now has a lot of options (and likely more technical options than at least PS Elements), it isn’t the most intuitive program. Its UX isn’t great.

I’ve been reading Adolfo Best-Maugard’s A Method for Creative Design (first published in 1926). It’s been interesting, though at this point (30 pages from the end of the book), I don’t think I’ll purchase it. There is some interesting content, but the book is based on a pretty idiosyncratic viewpoint which I’m not sure I buy into. I mean, it’s interesting to read, but whether I accept the author’s argument is something else.

There’s also this thing about the context of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s that seems to resonate with me. I wouldn’t be surprised if the author was influenced by Spiritualism, which was active around the same time period. Both reflect a desire to seek out what is common between all the world’s peoples, at an early stage of globalization.

Best-Maugard essentially analyzed world or “primitive” art and broke down many of the designs he found into simple constituent elements which could be rearranged into various two-dimensional representations. What’s disappointing for me about this book is that it seems he is only teaching a method based on one form — the spiral — meaning that there is a lot more that he holds back. I would have preferred a longer edition with fewer drawings, explaining or demonstrating further these other primitive forms. As it is, I haven’t so far seen him speak about the latter; only that they exist, and that he isn’t going into them.

Anyhow: as much as I appreciate the fine arts, and love the color mutability possible in painting…painting isn’t easy for me at this point. I’ve been attempting to get back into it…but for some reason…flowers aside, I’m not drawn to common subjects, like portraits or landscapes or figures. I just don’t see the point. I can appreciate art made with these subjects, but it’s not my art.

That could be me coming from a writer’s background, too. In writing, conflict and tension are the main drive behind the narrative: in fine arts, it seems people reproduce (or create) the placid and agreeable a lot of the time, and I haven’t been able to reconcile these two modes or methods.

One of the things that has struck me is that it’s possible my native method is more lexical; as stringing different colors of beads on colored thread and tying those threads together, echoes the form of language or parallel processing. It’s just a thought: I’m not even totally sure about it yet.

But one thing I realized today is that I really did not want to get back to my JavaScript training. I got to my course, looked at it, and decided to do something else. I know I focused on Digital Services in school, but I think the experience of training under that method has made it clear how little I like to interface with computers in computer-language. It’s not quite arcane; it’s more binary.

And the beads were staring me in the face (I bought maybe 14 little 7.5 gram vials recently: no point in getting a whole lot of any one color when I hadn’t seen them), and I had bought a lot of tiny C-Lon, so I just went and got the stuff out. No reason to get the stuff if I’m never going to use it.

For some reason…dealing with beads and cords and color…it’s relaxing. Whereas work on the computer is more often than not, tension- and anxiety-inducing. Not to mention that it’s likely in the process of destroying my eyesight.

Before going to an online Master’s program, I thought it would be OK to be on the computer more. But being intensively on the computer for 6+ hours a day is something I don’t think I could tolerate.

But really, the Digital Services path only really determined seven to eight classes out of the twenty I took.

Yeah, I guess that’s a lot. Like, a third.

Maybe what I need is really to decompress and stop taking classes for a bit. It would be ironic if taking these classes taught me that I didn’t like the subjects the classes were about.

It really wasn’t too bad, until I took Database Management and Fundamentals of Programming. Then…I was like, “what did I get into?” I also don’t have a Computer Science or IT background (or even a Hard Sciences one after high school, although I still love Geology and Astronomy), so I’m at something of a disadvantage in the digital field. I know that if I want to stay current in Web Development, it will take constant acquisition of new skills to keep up with the pace of technological change. I’m not sure that I care enough to actively choose to do that for the rest of my life.

Maybe that’s why the people in those positions get paid so well.

At this point, I’m clearer that I am a Humanities and Social Sciences person, although I don’t think Sociology is where I want to be. I attempted that for a couple of years in my undergraduate training. It was depressing.

Psychology was easier and more engaging, but I never really went deeply into it. History was amazing — particularly World History. I loved that: being able to fit pieces of thoughts together into a coherent image. I also loved Ethnic Studies, even though I took classes just different enough from my own position to be able to expand my view. Though I somewhat regret not having taken Japanese-American Literature, I also know that I’m immersed enough that nothing in an undergraduate class on it would have been new to me.

I also regret not having bitten the bullet and taken Japanese Language & Literature as my undergraduate major. I don’t regret having honed my English writing skills, but I am irritated that people devalue good writing so much. There is also the issue of being able to ever find work or a way of being in Japan in which I wouldn’t be exploited, being a dark-skinned female (kokujin, or “black person,” is still an accepted term in lieu of amerikajin, even if the “black person” is also “American”) with no plans on marriage or children…but yeah, insider stuff.

It was likely my experience with my birth family — and trying to be included in an Asian clique — which caused me to lean against learning Japanese language, though.

I could get further into that, but I won’t.

In any case…I’ve been finding people just kind of randomly on the Reader who do things that no one else does. Like the person who paints silk scarves, or the person encouraging me in tatting. There are a few of us who do regularly post on beadwork, but not many. I get many more “Likes” on my painting posts than on my beadwork posts…but that doesn’t mean I should work on my painting, instead.

Seriously. I think more people can just connect with painting, whereas bead weaving or beaded micromacramé is relatively niche (which is a good thing so far as niche markets are concerned, but)…

It’s just kind of tough to be disconnected. I should probably go out of my way to join a beadwork forum or two, though as my specialization is beaded micromacramé at this point…yeah, that’s…that’s kind of special. (I was inspired with the macramé bug by someone working with cords and gemstones, though what I do is much different from their work.)

I wonder if giving resources would help others get involved in the hobby? I’ve been reluctant to do so, for my own reasons…

craft, fiber arts, tatting

Needing to work on my tension

(Note: this entry assumes some knowledge of tatting, because I don’t know it well enough to be able to communicate what exactly I’m doing.)

Tonight, I got back to my book on tatting (a.k.a. shuttle lace). What I found, in short, is that materials matter — just not in the way I expected. I have some Size 3 cotton “crochet thread” which I bought because I thought it would be better for tatting than the Size 5 perle cotton I already had.

Yeah, that was a mistake.

What I didn’t realize is that the thread I use has to have some slickness to it, so that I can easily invert the half-hitches that make up each double stitch. I was using “Aunt Lydia’s Crochet Thread” from Michael’s — not only is it unattractive, but it’s too rough for me. At this point, I’m not sure it’s even ideal for practice. I would count it as another hit against Michael’s, but the thing is, they also carry the DMC perle cotton (normally used for cross-stitch) that worked.

I also found, on attempting to make a tatted ring tonight, that my stitches were way too tight. They’re supposed to easily slide along the anchor thread; if the tension is too high, or one half of one of the stitches reverses (like at the very end of the ring — which is easy to accidentally “pop” out of position), it isn’t possible to draw the anchor thread up into a loop.

The perle cotton (DMC brand, size 5) is…much slicker than the thread I first tried to use, though it’s also prone to fuzz. I think my mistake when starting was just working with way too high of a tension (and ironically, blaming my materials rather than my experience — but then, I expected to find something more suitable, not less).

I’m thinking that my initial half-hitch is too tight when I try to reverse it by pulling on the anchor thread…because sometimes I have to pull really hard to reverse the half-hitch.

Got to work on that. But hey, at least I can work some kind of double stitch, now!

beading

more earrings (no pix, sorry)

There was a trip to the bead store.  I pulled off enough materials for two sets of earrings for under $20 (without tax).  At present, I’ve only made one pair, which is a set using what looks like nickel-free brass and charoite (I might as well note what it is, since I might forget, and writing “violet stone” isn’t really keeping that much more anonymity).

This is my first time using the nickel-free brass.  It’s actually really soft — not bad to work with.  I haven’t used it in ear wires, yet.  I have a bit of hesitation there because of my allergies (I know I’m sensitive to nickel, but I realistically have no idea what is in the nickel-free brass besides copper and tin), and because brass in general tends to discolor (skin) where it is next to skin.

This doesn’t really matter if I’m only using it for parts that will not be next to skin, as is the case with these earrings.  I do have a site scoped out where I can pick up a little material to experiment with, but for now these are on gold-filled earwires.

beading

just made new pearl earrings

So I actually have something to write about here?!

I wasn’t even thinking of blogging about it as I was doing it, but I now have a new pair of pearl earrings.  I haven’t yet signed up with an image-hosting service, so I’m afraid you can’t see them (;D) …nor do I really feel it would be wise for me to show them to you…but basically they’re a work in gold-fill, blue crystal, and two colors of pearls.

One of them has a kind of kinked loop in one of the dangles (I wire-wrapped all of the loops, including the ones which held other loops, which led to a slip), which the perfectionist in me says I would want to rework if I were going to sell them.  My better sense says to leave it as it is and it’s unlikely anyone will notice.  :)  The minute amount of greater diameter in the kinked loop makes one of the earrings very, very slightly longer than the other.  Like less than a millimeter longer.  But I’m very attentive to detail, and to be honest, I’m probably not going to have my head perfectly level all the time anyway.  (That…doesn’t sound right…)

One of the things I noted to myself is that using higher quality earwires really shows.  Since I took out my CBRs, I’ve mainly been wearing two different pairs of earrings, both of which are warm tone.  I can actually see that the earwires are cheap, in those.  It isn’t so bad with the crystal set, but when the earwires are totally plain, and it’s next to something relatively plain like Cloisonné, I notice.

I’ve also noticed that my more successful designs are made using natural materials, metal, and crystal.  I have a lot of glass — I started out on the jewelry-making thing as a shiny-hoarding teen — but the colors in glass tend to be less intense (or just not to match clothing), if we take the whole spectrum into account.  In addition, the fire in glass is less intense than in lead crystal, CZ, or natural stones (compare a rhinestone to cubic zirconia and you’ll see what I mean); and the results with glass tend to have a more gaudy, “costume jewelry” type effect.

Not to mention that glass often can be poorly drilled; so in the past when I’ve tried using, say, cobalt blue cube beads, one could really see where the drill-hole was, because it was the site of whitish discoloration caused by fragments of glass left in the hole.

I should say that I don’t have a lot of experience with lampwork beads, though I have run across some which set off my “shiny” meter.  Thing is that I’ve learned to try and avoid buying beads of which I have no immediate ideas for use.  I learned that after about a decade of collecting beads; I’m now about 15 years in.

Anyway.  Since my designs largely tend more toward “classic” type stuff, having focal pieces which are natural tends to play down the “costume jewelry” effect that can come with using cut or pressed glass as focals.  Stone is good because it’s subdued and subtle — it doesn’t call a lot of attention to itself, but it can still make glass look really bad if you pair them haphazardly.

Stones — especially the veined or mottled or included ones like jasper or agate — most of the time, look very refined in comparison to glass.  At least, in comparison to transparent glass.  I believe this is at least in part due to the complex and fine nature of the process the stone went through to form.  (I am, however, learning to stay away from transparent and weakly-colored materials generally, and this is mostly because they get washed out on me.)

And though I’ve seen some faux pearls which are very attractive, most of the time it’s apparent when a pearl is real and when it is not — a real pearl will have a rainbow-like sheen which a faux one won’t.  Even the best faux pearls — or the ones I like best, anyway — tend further towards the “metallic” end than cultured freshwater ones (which, I’m guessing from the price, are the ones I’m getting).  After having seen a lot of real and faux pearls, I can now kind of tell this way.  (That’s not to say that faux pearls are necessarily bad.  I think there is a time and place to use the high-quality faux pearls over nacre pearls.  I’d just not assume they were interchangeable.)  I can also, now, tell something of the quality of a nacre pearl by its sheen, iridescence, and reflectivity.  It’s one of the reasons I’m reluctant to buy pearls online — I have little idea what I’m getting, and cultured pearls vary widely in their quality.

I hadn’t been thinking of getting focal pieces like natural-crystal briolettes for earrings, until I made this last pair and saw how well they turned out.  Well, I also have a pair utilizing natural-stone briolettes, which also turned out really, really well, despite their simplicity.

So I may be out buying crystals soon to make another pair, although making earrings is clearly a “want” and a hobby, not a necessity.

I want to do more work in cooler tones, as this is the only pair I have in gold-fill wire which is not somewhere in the very warm range.  Though I also know I want to experiment with an orange-blue pairing as well.

I should also note:  24-gauge dead soft wire is really soft.  It’s what I had on hand for these earrings, and I was almost unprepared for the way the wire deformed so easily.  I should probably stiffen it a little next time.

One more thing:  I’m thinking about adding micro-macrame to my list of skills, but as of yet I have not tried this.  I think the biggest things holding me back are having to get a macrame board, having to find beads with large holes, and having to find tools with which to burn the ends of nylon cord.

calligraphy, drawing, graphic design, illustration

leaning toward graphic art

I meant to make this post last night but somehow got sidetracked…

I tried experimenting with my NuPastels.  What it’s told me is that I probably don’t want to be working with pastels so much at this point in time.  My first mistake was using vine charcoal.  It’s been years since I used vine charcoal, so while I was expecting it to smudge, I wasn’t expecting it to have no adhesion whatsoever to the paper.  Which meant that when I was trying to blend colors with my fingertips, the colors kept becoming dirtied with the charcoal, and I kept wiping white areas into the drawing by touching the vine charcoal areas.

After I left the NuPastels for another time…I started drawing in large format with a set of graphite sticks I have.  I believe their brand is Cretacolor Monolith.  I was impressed with these — the tin runs from HB to 9B, and even the HB smudged well, and using the 9B and my Pitt 9B graphite stick (which is slightly closer to black), I was able to attain a good range of tones from light to dark.  Basically, white to almost black.  It was also easier to cover large areas of dark value easily, by using the edge of the graphite stick.  And then I could highlight with an eraser, as the graphite — at least the HB — is very easy to erase, even when used heavily.

Plus then there’s the point of the stick for drawing in detail, and I have a set of freaking tortillons which keep squeaking on the paper and not blending very well (though I did learn how to grind fresh tips on one of these, last night).  The thing I’m missing is my triangular eraser.  I have no idea where my triangular detail eraser went.

I did end up doing a graphic-novel-style character drawing…which is one of my fallbacks when I don’t know what to draw.  I need to work on things which are not people, though, really.  That factor alone is a big reason I haven’t been doing graphic-novel work.  (Though I probably shouldn’t go too deeply into that.)

After I had experimented on these two counts, I used a white calligraphy ink that I had stashed, on top of a rubbed-in charcoal ground.  The ink was very thick and very white.  I used the glass pen that my late grandmother bought for me, which I normally don’t use anymore, because the nib grinds down every time I use it.  But the upshot is that it’s easy to clean — the nib is cylindrical.  I think, though, that that particular calligraphy ink might be best used with a brush, due to its thickness.  I didn’t want to use it with a metal calligraphy nib, because I didn’t want to ruin the nib.  (Calligraphy nibs are two pieces, and it’s difficult to clean the areas where the flats of the pieces touch each other.  I have a jar of Higgins Pen Cleaner, but I don’t know if it will work on an ink that may have some acrylic in it.)

But what that, and subsequent experimentation with a calligraphy nib showed me, though, is that I probably want to get back into calligraphy.  I should probably look for a better book on it.  There’s just a graphic quality to calligraphy that I really, really like.  I also wanted to note that I did also use my glass pen with Higgins Waterproof Black Calligraphy ink, which I believe is the blackest ink I have — and I really liked the results.  So I may be attempting to learn to draw with metal-nibbed pens in the near future.

Doing a quick search, I find a note from 2007 that says Higgins Eternal is fully pigmented ink, while the Calligraphy ink has dye…meaning that the Eternal is more likely to be lightfast.  I’m not sure that in the past I’ve run across a selection of inks where Eternal has actually been on the shelf (as opposed to sold out).

And at this point I believe I’m closer to an illustrator or designer than to a fine artist.  From my work yesterday it’s apparent that markmaking is one of the things I really find enjoyable, high-contrast markmaking in specific — which leads me to believe that drawing (markmaking) and graphic elements are one of the things that really get me going.  And calligraphy seems closer to graphic design than to fine art.  That, combined with my recent work with felt-tip pens and brush pens…also points me in the direction where it seems that I’m drawing with liquid media, not painting with it.

And that in turn really helps me narrow down my options to what I’d be most likely to enjoy.  And if we are loosely considering the possibility of one day going to art school (as I suppose could happen), it’s good to have some direction, prior to entering.

It was refreshing to be able to work on a large format again, and to be able to use my arm gesturally, and vary my grips on my drawing implements.  That’s something I’ve been missing while working in small-scale.  The work I did yesterday shows me where my interests lie, so I’m glad I did it.

painting

errata re: Winsor colors

I really, genuinely need sleep right now, but I’ve been browsing looking at paint colors…and I need to say that my impression of the Winsor colors (Winsor Blue, etc.) was based on an old formulation and with aged paint.  I’ve taken a look at the current Winsor colors (noting there is now a “Green Shade” and “Red Shade” of Winsor Blue, for example), and they do look very nice.

I should be able to put together a basic pack of fresh paints for under $30…I’m guessing it would be best not to try and save too much money on paints and brushes, given that the result is drastically different depending on the quality of the materials.

And my Yasutomo brush does have a good amount of spring, which I found on testing it today.  I also found, though, that there is a very different method to working with the “Oriental” brushes that I was unaware of until today.  So it looks like I should aim for watercolor brushes in the near future.

drawing, fine arts, painting

Books, and finding more stashed paints

Last night I remembered the location of my stash of gouache which I used in my color class.  I went and dug it up, and along with the gouache I found a good little stash of more watercolors.  These are Utrecht brand.

I intended to try out the Utrecht stuff this morning, but personal story aside, I wasn’t able to.  What I do know is that I have some (more) Viridian and a supply of Cadmium Red and Yellow, plus Cobalt Blue.  Thing is that I don’t really want to touch either the cadmium formulations or the cobalt formulations — both of them are toxic and can be absorbed through the skin (as I said before, “Cadmium Yellow Hue“, for example, is not the same thing as “Cadmium Yellow”, and is less toxic).  I had enough of a concern when the water splashed me last time, and the paint was labeled “non-toxic”; I don’t need to be worrying about cadmium or cobalt poisoning.  Especially when I use my hands to clean out my brushes.

But from the base that I have now, I can look at filling out a range of colors.  The paints are, at the moment, somewhere away from the computer, and I’d rather not dirty my hands with them right now…I believe we have a Quinacridone Red (violet-leaning) and I think there was a Permanent Rose in there somewhere.  That gives me two cool tone reds.  The warm tone I’ll have to purchase, because I don’t want to use Cadmium Red.

I believe the pair of reds I was supposed to get for my class were Scarlet (orange overtone) and Crimson (violet overtone).  I’ll need to look at how Quinacridone Red and Perm. Rose compare to Crimson.

There was a Gamboge (yellow) lying around here, but the color is too muted for my purposes — it looks ocher-ish.  I think I’m looking for a Golden Yellow and a Lemon Yellow, in place of either the Gamboge or the Winsor Yellow.  Keeping in mind that the Reeves Lemon Yellow is accessible.

Then there are the blues — and I know for a fact that we have a usable Ultramarine…I’d still have to buy a Phthalo Blue.

So, in order of necessity:

  1. Phthalo Blue
  2. Scarlet
  3. Golden Yellow
  4. Lemon Yellow

So those are mostly warm-leaning tones.

And yes, I did intend to try out the other Reeves colors in addition to the Utrecht colors (which I was reminded of on recalling the Phthalo Blue).

I think that the only other colors I am on the fence about are Sap Green and the earth tones.  Or, tones to mix with other tones to dull them down in a reasonably-controlled manner.  I think Raw Umber was key in that (a mix of Raw Umber and Ultramarine?), though my memory on that point is foggy; I’d need to see the hue to know if that’s the right name.  Mostly I believe we were mixing complementary hues to make chromatic greys.

Today I’ve been reading through a book that someone bought for me called Watercolor 101.  It looks easy enough.  I think that the reason it’s been sitting unused on my shelf so long is that it looked easy enough to be boring.  But it allows the play that I’ve been doing with the watercolors anyway; it just gives more ideas and techniques that otherwise wouldn’t have occurred to me.  What it does say is that I need to find a high-quality cotton rag paper (which won’t fall apart when fully saturated) to play with…and I would not have guessed that I’d need a rag paper to play on.

At dinner I was also looking through a book I bought a year or two ago called Art of Drawing:  The Complete Course.  I think when I was reading this book before, I stopped a page or two before the end of the dry techniques section.  It reminded me of how much I like to play in soft pastels (which, I read, are used to introduce painting to art students).

The major reason I haven’t used soft pastels or chalk since my days in drawing classes is that they’re messy, and once the pigment is breathed in, it stays in one’s lungs instead of breaking down like charcoal (says my old drawing instructor).  So it’s really not a good thing to inhale the dust, and when you’re working, it’s best to tap the dust off of your drawing board and wet-mop the dust up after you’re done.  Of course, though, drawing class was full of people blowing the dust off of their drawing boards…particle masks help, in that situation.  Otherwise, it can get difficult and anxiety-inducing (if you’re like me) to breathe.

In the sense of Prismacolor NuPastels, as well (which may qualify more as “chalk” than “soft pastel”), they’re staining.  I can clearly remember blending colors with my fingers and my fingers being stained blue for a good while after that — no amount of scrubbing would get the blue out.  Everything else washed out.  Not that.  :)

Yes, it made me all proud to be wearing stained fingertips like I was a “real” artist (^_-), but it’s a little worrisome to me as well — because I assume that anything which stains me will be absorbed into me.  Though I do think that NuPastels are supposed to be non-toxic (or as the case may well be, “less toxic”).

Of course, that’s not necessarily the case for the higher grades of soft pastel or chalk.  I would be extremely wary, for example, of a malachite pigment in a soft pastel.  Not to say I don’t think it would be beautiful.  It would be very beautiful.  But that doesn’t mean I want to be rubbing it into my skin.  (Malachite is a soft, intensely green mineral which I’ve been told, contains asbestos fibers…)

I want to pick up a book on painting so that I can see the difference between the mindsets of painting and drawing.  Because pastels can be used to paint, and inks and watercolor can be used to draw (with brushes, even!).  So what then distinguishes painting from drawing, if not the medium?  Art of Drawing acknowledges that drawing is different from painting in a way that is not medium-dependent, but so far as I’ve read, they never go deeply enough into painting to really elucidate what the difference is between painting and drawing.  They simply define “drawing,” without defining “painting.”

So far as I can tell, the use of line (or markmaking), value gradations (as in wash or chiaroscuro), and monochrome distinguishes drawing.  I know now that I want to use color — it makes things come alive.  But you can draw with color as well, so again things become blurred.

I want to know whether I want to pursue painting or drawing, and it’s hard to know that when you don’t know the definition of one of the two categories.  I suppose it did take me a while, though, to learn just what made an image “graphic” (as in “graphic design”), and that just took a lot of exposure and absorption and experience…

The last part of this entry is just to note that I’ve realized the use of “springiness” in a given brush.  The Richeson synthetic flat brush that I mentioned yesterday has a good amount of spring to it.  The Chinese and Japanese brushes that I have used, which are natural-hair, not so much.  So it can be harder to get a good amount of line variation out of them.

I have a high-quality round synthetic brush here which is very springy.  Though I didn’t use it last time I was playing around with watercolors (it is one of those brushes which is so nice you don’t want to use it, for risk of messing it up), I’m sure that I’d be easily able to achieve a wide range of line variation with it.  It’s something to try next time.