art, art media, drawing

Testing black drawing ink

I started writing this post on the 1st of January, but was too wiped out from the day to be able to do much more than type an apology for no pictures, and leave the draft until the next day. Well, it’s the 4th, now, about to be the 5th, in several hours. I still haven’t taken scans or photos, but if I wait until I do that, it may well be a week or so more until I get around to it.

I do have the energy to write, today; actually, I’ve just gotten through cleaning and vacuuming both my room and my bathroom (not yet including the shower). This has brought my attention (again) to the need to actually organize both my desk and nightstand, as I’ve just reorganized the vanity. The materials in my desk, that is, are likely over a decade old. The materials in my nightstand…a lot of that stuff can go somewhere else, because I’m not using it.

Anyhow — on the 1st, I reminded myself to check notes I had made prior, while meditating on wanting to do art, but not particularly being enamored with the graphite-pencil medium which I’ve overlearned. One of the most basic things I could have done (and did do) would be to singe a nib or more, and test out a number of black inks I have, for waterproofness and Copic-proofness. (Copics are a brand of marker used in illustration, particularly in comics…which mattered more before I abandoned the effort to make comics, and turned back more towards waterbased painting, in combination with ink work.)

Just to let you know, a lot of these inks I have are super-old, possibly from before the year 2000. The ink formulations have likely changed since that time. I’ve used them since then, but because of not entirely knowing what to do with the dip pen nibs (they have to have the anti-rust coating eaten or boiled or burned off of them somehow, or they do not hold ink [I learned this later — for some reason, Speedball seems to assume one knows this already]), my development has been stalled.

It would likely help if I got a non-food-safe pot to boil them within, en masse — like the non-food-safe butter knives for separating sheets of watercolor paper, or the non-food-safe spoon(s) for transferring block prints. I just haven’t really been committed enough to buy something like that.

To be short, three inks went immediately in the garbage because of failed performance (strong feathering, non-black color). These may have just been too old, but in any case, they were useless. These were Higgins Black Magic and regular Higgins Black. The third — I forget the brand (it may have been Pelikan) — I got from a relative. In any case, it wasn’t ink anymore, and it was so old that I believe I know what art store it came from (the price tag is distinctive). That art store is no longer in existence, and hasn’t been since the early 2000’s, if I’m recalling correctly.

For all of the tests, I was using a freshly-singed Blue Pumpkin nib, which is basically a flexible steel spoon-shaped nib which has been treated to turn blue. Of course, you also need a nib holder. I really have no recollection of the brand of the nib holder I used (it has a wooden handle and metal clutch); I just know it fits that nib, and it works.

There were three inks I tried which were not waterproof at all. These were Higgins Eternal, Higgins Calligraphy (“waterproof”), and Parker Super Quink. Of the three, the Parker dissolved most readily in water once dry. Interestingly enough, it was totally Copic-proof, and didn’t smudge under a Copic blending marker. I’m thinking that the solvent in Copics is majorly alcohol (which makes covalent bonds instead of ionic), but I haven’t checked the Materials Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) to be sure. Higgins Eternal was the next most water-soluble, followed by Higgins Calligraphy (“waterproof”) ink. Higgins Eternal is Copic-proof. Higgins Calligraphy is not.

That being said, if I were going to have an ink which I wanted to smudge under water, or if I had an application where I wouldn’t be using either water or marker on top, the three inks actually flow well and have a nice consistency and depth. The Parker ink leans more blue when dissolved than the Eternal, which is more brownish. I wouldn’t really use the Higgins Calligraphy in an ink-and-wash application, though, as it dissolves so weakly that it looks more like a mistake.

This leaves three inks: Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Ink, Speedball Super Black India Ink (of which I have both ultra-old and newer-but-still-old formulations), and Blick Black Cat Waterproof India Ink. Of the three, I was surprised to find that the Black Cat was the clear winner in both waterproofness and Copic-proofness, refusing to budge under either, after drying for about eight minutes. There’s not much more I can say, than that. It was thinner than all of my other functioning inks — the ones I tested, that is — which I didn’t totally love, but I realize that my other inks may only be thicker because they’re older and have lost fluid to evaporation.

Ph. Martin’s Bombay also performed decently, but was fairly thick (almost the consistency of acrylic ink), and left my pen more prone to “railroading” (where the tines of the nib split and made two fine lines rather than one wide line). Granted, this could be due to my skill level with dip pens — possibly the angle at which I held the pen — as things stand, now.

Also, a note: because the Ph. Martin’s Bombay (distinct from their “Hydrus”, which looks similar) was in a dropper-style bottle, I had to drip the ink over the nib, as versus dipping it into the inkwell (which had a narrow mouth, to boot). I’m not certain, but I think the Bombay is meant more for brushwork than for dip pens; the bottle was certainly designed that way.

Both Speedball Super Black formulations had either fixed to noticeable dispersion under both water and Copic, in a manner that makes me think that maybe the ink just didn’t dry long enough, or I gouged out my Bristol board with my nib in a way that made the ink take longer to dry. I did one test on Fabriano Mixed Media paper; another on Strathmore 300-Series Smooth Bristol board. On the Fabriano, the new formulation smudged under water after 30 minutes of drying, while the old formulation was fixed under water, after 10 minutes. On the Bristol, the old formulation smudged under Copic (but not water) after 45 minutes, while the newer bottle was fine with both Copic and water, after 45 minutes.

The paper does make a difference. With a sharp-tipped tool like the Blue Pumpkin nib, outcomes are more predictable when drawing on Smooth-finish Bristol board, as versus the Vellum-finish Bristol board I also tried (this was a 400-Series), or the Fabriano Mixed Media paper. The latter two just have so much texture that the tip of the nib tends to get bumped around while you’re trying to make a line. There’s also the feeling, on more textured papers, that you’re making an incision into some soft, pillowy top. It’s not always pleasant.

I tried all three because I would try these for mixed-media projects which may include ink and watercolor. I do know, however, that gouache in particular has a hard time sticking to Bristol board (from one of my first Art classes) — I don’t remember right now which series that was (300-Series is cheaper than 400-Series), but I remember the paper feeling kind of smooth. I did just go and check, and it feels like it was probably a smooth finish (and cheap, for a Bristol board).

The hangup with using a smooth and absorbent board like that is that the gouache forms a skin on top of the board which can be accidentally lifted if too much water is applied later — which I experienced as a very entry-level painting student. I haven’t found a way to come back from that, yet. I also haven’t tried transparent watercolors on Bristol, mostly because it seems sacrilegious. I do have actual watercolor paper for those things, though I haven’t tried the Arches I’ve gotten — mostly due to fear of messing it up.

But it does seem counterproductive to buy good art supplies and then not use them because I’m scared I’ll make mistakes. Mistakes are the essence of learning — not to make mistakes is to avoid learning.

Getting back to that pencil vs. liquid media thing: I did find it kind of refreshing to be able to use pen and ink. There’s just something about the slipperiness of an HB pencil which is a real turn-off for me, these days. The scratchiness plus density plus liquid quality of a dip pen does remind me of the fountain pens I’ve been using for journaling; it’s just that I can use actual pigmented inks with dip pens. Fountain-pen inks are mostly dye-based, as pigments can clog up fountain pens very easily.

One of the exceptions to the rule is Platinum Carbon Black, which I haven’t tried — mostly because it’s a high-maintenance ink, requiring weekly cleanings to keep the pen in a functioning condition. I suppose I could put it in a Pilot Kakuno fountain pen and see where that leads, given that the Kakuno is notoriously inexpensive…and also that I do now have a bottle of Pen Flush. Then again, the Kakuno is one of those things where a person can experiment with things like nib tuning (my current Extra-Fine Kakuno scratches the paper much like a dip pen would, and it’s a little annoying), without losing too much on, “learning experiences.”

It’s also possible that the Kakuno only works with Pilot inks. I read the fine print in my Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen instructions the other day and did find that clause in there. I’m like, seriously? Seriously, Pilot? But then, my first Metropolitan still writes like a dream. I just happened to get a really nice ink the first time; different inks from the same line, feel differently on the page depending on I-don’t-know-what. One Metropolitan filled with Chiku-Rin (a yellow-green), that is, behaves differently (it’s more annoyingly slippery [to me, that is]) than the same nib size of Metropolitan filled with Ku-Jaku (a dark green-blue).

I’m just starting to get to the point where I’m identifying inks I actually like, and would voluntarily continue to use, over the long term. I’m also beginning to branch out into brands other than Pilot, which enable me to use inks other than Pilot’s.

Then, there’s the issue of whether I dislike graphite now because I know what charcoal feels like, and can do…the only drawback to charcoal is having to spray one’s drawings with fixative. That is a drawback; I’m just not sure how much it matters, in the long run.

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.

beading, color, craft, creativity, fiber arts, jewelry design, macrame, tatting

That’s it.

I’m doing a macramé bezel for those two cabochons I mentioned last post. Do you know how freakin’ easy a macramé bezel would be, in comparison with either bead embroidery or wire wrapping? And WHY was it that I got the C-Lon Micro, if not for stuff like this?

I actually have two colors which are perfect for this: Turquoise, and White (so I didn’t waste money getting minorly different shades of green!). I’ll use the Turquoise on the Moonstone, and the White on the Amazonite. (I never thought I’d end up using that white C-Lon, either…)

The best part is that this fits my current skill set. I won’t have to deal with anxiety over wasting expensive wire. I am not yet too skilled at wire wrapping (beyond wrapped loops and drops), but I won’t have to worry about that, here. There is no danger of eventual oxidation. Neither will I have to use adhesive, or worry about sourcing leather or Ultrasuede. I can rework things easily, if they don’t turn out. Plus, I think that this will show off the cabochons better (the edges of which, are beautiful).

I thought of doing a macramé bezel last night while I was in bed, and then realized that I could also make a wire-wrapped setting. Earlier tonight I was thinking about a tabbed Fine Silver bezel, though that requires at least two seams, unless I’m doing cold connections: one to a backing, and one to close the bezel itself.

I’ve just been searching for macramé bezel instructions, however, and have been sitting here for over an hour watching videos on how to do it. I’ve found two pretty simple versions.

On top of this…I now have the ability to incorporate lacework into a necklace, on top of macramé techniques. The C-Lon allows for that (as does my recent study of tatting).

If I know I’m going for something organic, that infers that I could drop the idea of using bugle beads. Unless…I want contrast. I was just looking at these and envisioning using them in a chevron pattern (where they are set off by patterned seed beads), or in a peyote stitch (though the latter sounds as though it will cut the thread).

But yeah…instead of…instead of making multiple strands coming off of the pendant, I could just work lace, there. (I had the idea to do it before, attaching the strands by picots, and just didn’t entertain actually doing it.) I might need to vacate a couple of shuttles, but I can do that — especially as I now have larger bobbins.

Do I still put beads around the back side??? Do I, that is, transition from lace to bead stringing? (For some reason, I don’t like bead stringing as much as I used to.)

I’m starting to move out of the generative phase of creativity into the selective one. I have most of the stuff I need in a little project box, now, after having eliminated most of my greens and golds, and the blues which were too violet. The palette is various shades of blue-green with pale amber and white.

Right now, I’ve got to think of whether I want to use buttons to transition (and close) the necklace: this means going out to match my materials. It may not happen until the middle of the week. That gives me time to practice making bezels for cabochons (which I can do in any color, as I’ll be using the throwaway googly-eye ovals).

That also means that it isn’t a waste of time to practice the tatting: particularly, thread joins. I know more than I used to, but I’m still on a steep learning curve.

I should also start drawing out what I want the lace to look like. A little intimidating, though I hate to say it. This is also going to be fun, though! :) It’s one of those things where you don’t know exactly what’s going to turn out at the end; though you know you’re off to a good start (and that even failure isn’t terrible: just cut it apart and try a different route).