personal, psychology, self care

The reason why I was in classes

It’s been a little less than two weeks since classes have ended, and I’m noticing warning signs that I’m headed into a depression. Though, truthfully — at an early stage, who can tell? It might be a number of other things.

To be honest, though, I feel like my OCD is going into overdrive, and that’s why my mood is collapsing. I need to be actually making things, or doing something to occupy my mind, to tone down the paranoia (I wouldn’t be surprised if my amygdala were responsible [I wonder how ironic it is to be angry at one’s own amygdala] but I don’t really know).

I mean, there’s, “appropriately concerned,” and then there’s, “overtly paranoid.” In the middle of a surge in the middle of a pandemic, from the inside of a mind that has had to deal with obsessive thoughts around contamination for the last 26 years or so, which for a long time have felt normal (though questionable enough now to voice)…it can be hard to really understand the difference between appropriate concern and irrational hyper-concern.

I would think people would say that it isn’t possible to be too concerned: but trust me, it is. When you wash your hands to the point of their cracking and bleeding so that they no longer form a barrier against the thing you’re scared of touching, that’s overdoing it.

I’m at the point where I’m pretty certain that I would not be functional in a job right now, and my Vocational program is an unwelcome intrusion in my life. I’m having a hard enough time dealing with things coming into the house, when I’m not even the main person touching those things. I’m having a hard time touching fabric (and letting that fabric touch other fabric) which has last touched another human besides myself, two weeks ago. Can I then safely put any of that up to my face and breathe through it? We’re talking about viral half-lives, not viral extinctions.

This is not…well…I guess I can understand now why this illness alone qualifies me as disabled.

It doesn’t help, though, when there is some validity to the paranoia, and my paranoia in fact may help keep me alive (which is likely the reason it still exists in humans). That doesn’t mean it’s easy to live with, or that it isn’t instigating other mental disorders like depression. Anxiety — let alone constant anxiety — can do that.

I’m thinking I need to be doing something — anything (that isn’t drugs or eating or sodas or shopping sprees…or, sleep) — to be dealing with this. Even video games might be a step up, though I question how much a certain favorite game is going to alleviate the pain. :) Somehow, being trapped in a constantly morphing prison full of death doesn’t sound like wholesome fare when I’m feeling like this. Kudos if you know what game I’m talking about.

Of course, though: I was supposed to exercise earlier, and just didn’t. I got involved in something else. I did take Vitamins B-Complex and D, however…which should help. (I’ll take them again, tomorrow.) So should actually getting some sleep…it’s 12:50 AM here, at the moment, though I got out of bed sometime around 1:30 PM, if my memory’s correct.

Yeah, maybe tomorrow…I’ll make a point out of working with the beads (not the masks, unless I’m really OK with it) and getting some exercise and taking a shower. Even though I don’t really…feel like exercising. But that’s probably normal, when you haven’t exercised in weeks. My weight has been edging up due to inactivity and my medications. If I can consistently hold to 5 or 6 lbs. below my current weight, average — the weight I was at, at the beginning of lockdown — that would at least be a start. (I tend to set my goals too high, and then get demoralized and never even really try to reach them.)

Or maybe I should just designate a time to work out and stretch and get my heart rate up — and shower — every other day or so, without worrying about the weight component. The issue is that I work out and then crave sugar. That worked when I had a 20-year-old metabolism; not so much, now. Somehow I don’t think that eating the equivalent of two dinners, after working out and walking everywhere, is going to fly, now.

Of course…no, I haven’t tried walking everywhere…but there’s nowhere to walk to for any purpose, around here. It helps to walk when there are, you know, things within walking distance…but such is not the case at this point.

And, I suppose, it is possible that we’ll all make it through this, alive. It’s telling that I never even thought of that, until just now…

career, LIS, portfolio, psychology, self care, technology

Life without obsessions or compulsions?

I think I’m new to this.

We have moved into Week 9 in my class…not a huge deal, but it reminds me that there are only 5 weeks after this, left in the semester! It’s time to start thinking about next semester.

I’ve also found that it is still possible for me to take a Virtual Internship even though I’ve already graduated: one of the articles I’ve just read (extracurricular) says that as much or more could be learned through internships and practicums, as through classes. I may want to join my Alumni Association to keep access to the job search board, as well…but I’ll get to that, when it’s time.

I have about a month and a half to decide if I want to take a class on XML in the Spring…or hold out and try a private course, again. I’ve located one which looks like it will fit my needs…if it doesn’t, I know a place that gives an XML course every Fall. However: I can take up to 11 more units, there…maybe I want to save them for PHP, JQuery, or Drupal, and go ahead and do XSLT/XQuery, privately. Then I can re-take it in the Fall at the University, if I need to.

Also, I found a book on XML/XSLT/XQuery, which I can use to boost my skills. I haven’t read it yet, but the last book I read of the series (on Linked Data) was very understandable, and the branch of my association which puts them out…has a very good reputation.

Putting that all together: that looks good, actually. So I review over the winter, re-take XSLT/XQuery in Spring, and get the book on XSLT/XQuery for practice, afterward. For now, I can see what I can do about an Internship…and take some lessons on JavaScript. (It probably also wouldn’t hurt to review my Relational Database textbooks.)

After Spring, I can look at PHP, JQuery, and Drupal; though those aren’t skills as much in demand for my targeted positions. XSLT, though, it looks like I’ll have to learn (at some time — if I want to become a Metadata Librarian, which is what Cataloging Librarianship is turning into).

I think the major thing holding me back is frustration at having to use my, “slow mind,” as versus my, “fast mind.” I’m used to things being easy to scan and read — I can skip over information and my mind will close the gap — and Programming…really requires me to slow down and parse things as I come across them. I have to stop and think about what each symbol or nested tag means, that is…and reading in English is usually so easy for me that I don’t have to do that.

(It is, however, not easy when you’re reading subordinate clause after subordinate clause after subordinate clause…and then you start to think, “what am I looking at?” and you’re looking at an extremely complicated sentence. Maybe I should try and rephrase the lectures, or something.)

Reading in Spanish and Japanese is usually so easy for me that I don’t have to do that, and I’m not particularly great at either of those two other languages, at this point. However, at least I can decipher parts of the code. Whereas when I see something like //@lang, I have to actively remember what those symbols mean, and put together what they mean, in context with each other. That can be frustrating, when you’re expecting to do better (even though you only saw this code for the first time, six days ago).

It’s not easy, although W3Schools makes it look easy. And I’ve found out that maybe it actually is not best to depend on my instructor explaining things to me. I know how to find information on my own, that is; and some of it is clearer than the lecture.

I really…need to figure out what to do about these internships, though! Like, do I need to sign up for the Internship course, pay the tuition, and then work for free for 14 weeks (in exchange for experience)? You know?

Well, anyway: I can contact my Vocational team about that. I’ll need to get it set up by the end of the year, regardless.

And that means, to get the freakin’ Portfolio back online, before someone asks to see it.

I can do that. I can actually do that, soon. And for now, it’s a finite project.

Alright.

The title of this post relates to the fact that although I have been washing my hands more than normal, I believe my other obsessions are becoming less dominant. Thus, I could write, but I don’t have to write; I could make jewelry, but I don’t have to; I could paint or draw…but don’t have to. I forget the last day I was in a Japanese language lesson, or at which I sewed anything. Aside from these things, I realize that I don’t totally know what to do with myself when I have a lot of free time, and nothing that I’ve zeroed in on to do now, now, now, now.

They’re all parts of me, but they don’t define me.

Having choices is not necessarily the easiest thing, eh?

career, money, spirituality, work

COVID worries

Yes, I do realize it’s been two weeks since I posted last. Thankfully, I am not dead (at this time), and neither are any of my relatives or friends, so far as I know. The last two weeks have just been really…unsettling. I did complete my course, and signed up for a couple more. Right now…the future is really uncertain, though we can likely say that no one really expected this. Well — no one except the well-informed and future-oriented. Like, you know, epidemiologists.

A pandemic (or maybe I should say, another pandemic — in the Bay Area, we’ve been graced with HIV for a while, now) on a macro scale, was predictable. We were vulnerable to it, and didn’t pay attention, and a lot of people here aren’t taking it seriously even now with hospitalizations spiking. I haven’t even paid enough attention to it, and I have OCD, meaning — in my variant — constant worry about contamination.

That means constant attention as to whether my concerns about cleanliness border on paranoia, are actual paranoia, or are not being paranoid enough. The thing is…my tracking everything that I touch, and my keeping things that are dirty separate from things that are clean, and washing my hands whenever I’ve touched anything questionable…it makes sense in an environment with an invisible killer.

My major concern isn’t about myself, however: it’s about my parents. And I’m thinking their major concern is for me. The thing is that to protect them, I have to protect myself (even if my own mortality is something I feel I have no control over, and I’ve spent the majority of my life being ambivalent towards existence and uncertain about the future).

And yeah, it does pain me to say that. But, you know. It’s harder to survive than it is to die. Always has been. At some point there has to be a choice as to whether I’m going to try as hard as I can to survive, or whether I’m going to give up and take my chances. From what I’ve seen, a lot of people are content with the latter. I’m not sure if they’re thinking God will save them or what. But we’re dealing with a virus. This is mechanical. This is stoppable: but not by God; by us.

So, officially, I’m pretty much laid off right now. It’s probably a good thing; D said that if I hadn’t been laid off, now would be the time to consider quitting. (I actually have been called at least three separate times within the last week by people looking to fill Substitute positions [meaning others have either quit or are out sick or taking vacation]; I actually had to tell the person on the phone that I had been laid off as of tomorrow. Talk about non-communication?)

I’ve applied for one job which is in my actual career track (not Public Service), met up with the people from HR to help them find another position for me, and have gotten a lot of work done on bringing my Portfolio back up to speed. I’ve also identified a niche to become employed within, in the future, which will keep me out of contact with the general public (and right now I’m not sure which divinity or quasi-divinity to thank for letting me know to look towards the future, not the past, in my employment skills — Maitreya? heh). I’m fairly certain that I may have to spend my cash on schooling, but…I may be raining down hard on myself, there.

And today, today — when I finally got out of bed — I realized that there was actually nothing which had to get done immediately or yesterday. I do still need to re-read my Portfolio and make sure that it makes sense and that everything is in place. I didn’t do it before because I was trying just to get the thing uploaded, period.

I’ve also been looking at requirements and job skills for people in my position. The good thing is that I have a lot of free and low-cost options for schooling in what I don’t have — although both M and D are telling me that I’m very capable, now, and that I don’t necessarily need to be taking more classes.

I should probably, however…take stock of what I have, and see how long I can hold out before I’ll actually need to go back to work (which I may be able to do, remotely). I’m not even certain I should be applying for in-person jobs, at this point in time.

It’s just, pretty scary. My concern isn’t about dying; it’s about living without people who have supported me in the past and present. And to protect them, I have to protect myself.

I mean, seriously, that sums it up.

Anyhow…I started out this post thinking about how I didn’t know what to do today. I ended up drafting a page of things to do, some of which (worrying, for one) are more personally deleterious than others.

There are actually a good number of things I could do which would be constructive — and not in the sense of constructing things. Doing the latter…it’s a distinctly different mode than building ideas (or taking them in). It has been difficult for me to give myself permission to just work with my hands, recently; although it is a viable route to increase my income by a little.

I think, that is, that there’s tension in my mind between doing intellectual work and crafting. Of course, right? But…beyond just the surface, here…I’ve been reading Toxic Archipelago: A History of Industrial Disease in Japan, by Brett Walker (2010), and the author’s recognition that what we put out into the environment eventually ends up permeating our own bodies is a salient one. It’s a reason (well, one of them) why I’ve stopped painting, as I’ve been using pigments which I know are toxic and don’t want to flush into the environment. That environment circles back to someone (or as the case may be, eventually everyone), through what the author calls, “trophic cascades.” (I had to look up “trophic.” Do it.) :)

That’s not to discourage anyone from painting, but it is one reason I’ve — personally — stopped, and started to look back at intellectual work as a greener pastime, in my own case. The key to why I’m interested in this line of thought, by the way, is itai-itai byou (it hurts-it hurts disease), which…as I’ve said before, is a disease caused by cadmium poisoning, though this was thorough cadmium poisoning, from mine runoff. Knowledge of this is the major reason I’ve avoided exposure to cadmium pigments as much as possible. It’s also why I warned other students in my painting classes about using soluble cadmium salts; and notified them about the existence of Materials Safety Data Sheets.

As a person who has studied Eastern philosophy for a while, I can recognize a “spiritual” current (and I’m not sure “spiritual” is the right term, as, for example, I wouldn’t necessarily label Buddhist influence as “spiritual” if it fundamentally questions the reality of an enduring self [or “spirit”]) woven through the fabric of the text. But I mean, there’s Daoist and Confucian thought there, too, as well as a belief in spirits which [in the absence of other data] I would likely attribute to Shinto; and the author does explain how these philosophies contributed to the understanding of the ecological conditions of the day (mostly in the Tokugawa and Meiji periods, so far).

I do question his interchangeable use of “reincarnation” and “rebirth;” they don’t mean the same thing in a modern English-speaking Buddhist context (though maybe at the time, in Japanese language, there was no distinction). “Reincarnation” refers to a transmigration of the soul; “rebirth” refers to the dependent arising of another being from the karma (causes and conditions) of another life; the reborn child is not considered to be the same being (or the same “soul”) as the last, as the version of Buddhism I’m thinking of (which version, I wonder?) doesn’t use the concept of self-arising and self-sustaining, individual “soul-ness” or personhood.

And then in my head, I get the, “fragment of God,” angle on this (that myself and all others are unique fragments of God but that some of us vibrate together), which would support the concept of a personal and enduring, “soul.” Just, that angle is also hard to bear, if mortality is supposed to be a relief, and if people are supposed to have the capacity to change who they are, given other causes and conditions.

(By the way, I doubt that anyone else is using the, “Fragment of God,” angle. So far as I know, it’s idiosyncratic to me, and combines a number of strains of thought.)

But all that is metaphysics, and something we are really not supposed to waste time speculating on, if we are Buddhist…leaving open for now, the question of whether or not I am Buddhist. On one hand, I’d openly acknowledge interest in Buddhist systems of thought, and the fact that elements of these traditions (Mindfulness) are helpful where it comes to lived psychological resilience; on the other, just because the techniques work, doesn’t mean I buy wholeheartedly into the beliefs or philosophies or politics that evolved along with them.

I’d probably be in good company with that complexity, however (and possibly, a bunch I’d rather not) — I’m told that Buddhologists and practicing Buddhists take really different tacks to this material.

I think I’ve made it through all the Front Matter and the first two chapters, on Toxic Archipelago — I set it aside for a little over a week because it was notably not in pristine condition when I got it, even though I had asked for a New (not Used) copy. It basically smelled like a library book even though it had come from halfway across the country, and the corners of the pages were marred like someone had put it in and taken it out of a backpack a couple of times. It also looked like someone had used the front cover as a writing board, as it had ballpoint pen indentations on it — though no ink marks. (I’ve worked in libraries for over a decade; I know what new books look and feel like.) Given that it took over a month to come, I decided not to send it back; but I did wipe it down in alcohol, and leave it to rest for over a week.

I do have to say, however, that I seem to be the first person to mark it up (I’m using a Frixion fineliner, so it’s erasable), and the content is interesting, if a bit gruesome. I was referred back to it by the book, Bad Water: Nature, Pollution & Politics in Japan, 1870-1950, by Robert Stolz (2014). Toxic Archipelago is what I was looking for in Bad Water, but Bad Water is more about politics and national identity in Japan following episodes of pollution, while Toxic Archipelago is more about pollution as a key cause and how it was brought about by other causes and conditions in Japan.

(See what I did there.)

And…right now I’m being encouraged to drop the Japanese language study and go back to Spanish. I really don’t want to, but the job I’m after, at this moment, requires reading comprehension in Spanish language. It is a University job, but still: the only reason for me to learn Spanish is because other people near me use it, and because it opens more job opportunities. I have more bad impressions than good ones, of my past Spanish classes. I’m not entirely sure if it’s anyone’s fault.

Maybe the Superintendent’s.

The major thing is that I actually have a personal reason to learn Japanese: I’m fourth-generation, and the ability to speak the language died out in the second (as is usual, I’ve read). Standing between myself and fluency in Spanish is rage at colonialism…which is hard to deal with, even in English. It’s just magnified for me when I have to read and re-read a certain passage, asking myself if the author really meant that, or whether my language skills just are not up to par.

It doesn’t help that I am not sure if Hi-Lo books (high interest, low reading level) are available in Spanish, specifically for adult language learners. Usually, Hi-Lo books are used for programs like Project Second Chance, where you have adults who are learning to read in English for the first time. In contrast…I’ve been told to try reading things out of the Spanish Children’s section, and the content of some of these books, seriously makes me mad. I mean…seriously. Racism. Anyone.

I got through The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because I had to. But when there are clear signs that say, “you don’t want to enter here,” do I heed them, or do I look for a different author? I mean, it’s like learning to read English and the first book you come across is …*cough* something by…someone you would struggle not to hate if you knew them. And you know them enough because they’re all over the TV reinforcing social inequalities.

But I guess that’s something you don’t know about if you can’t read Spanish…like the people who are encouraging me on, can’t read Spanish.

I’ll just…maybe think on it. Maybe I’ll try and read some Spanish material for adults. Maybe. If I’m working in an Academic Library, I’m guessing that the collections are vetted and hopefully, decent. They likely are also above my reading level.

But hey — at least I’ll get my intonations right…

Business, career, jewelry, libraries, psychology, self care, work

Relax, kid. You have options.

I remember now, something I learned in Library School: you don’t have to do the most difficult thing possible for you to do, just because it’s difficult. Challenging myself constantly may not be the easiest route forward, in life. Yes, I’m talking about COVID-19 and myself working in a public service position based on gathering and sharing, with chronic OCD and a germ phobia. All that has to happen is for someone to cough on me. That’s all that has to happen.

If I were living alone, this may not be such a big issue: but I’m living with two parents over the age of 65, which puts them at high risk. Given that I still need them to support me (I still can’t drive)…that’s not great. Also given that my sibling is an ocean away and that my nearby family is not known for their mental stability (it’s hereditary, except I’m taking care of my dysfunction instead of denying it)…also, not great.

Right now…I’m at a relatively unique place: a juncture at which I’ve never before been. I’ve got job experience, extensive training, schooling. My debt is taken care of, due to family. I’m still with a program designed to help people like myself (I am legally disabled — though I didn’t realize my OCD alone would grant me protections). I question now, however, how much that program has been or will be able to help me further (aside from assistance with learning to drive…or obtaining a job which is not public service).

I know for a fact that they weren’t aware of the reality of working within a Public Library system when they recommended I try it, for example. I had run-ins with two creeps early on (one of whom was a known stalker), which I was entirely unprepared for. But that’s normal, for a Public frikkin’ Library.

Essentially…I have a lot of freedom, right now. God knows how long that will last, but right now I have the ability to pretty much do what I want. Over the last few weeks of the quarantine, I’ve started to get back to what comforts me: making things. It takes my mind off of the stress. I really don’t know everything about how it works; I just know it does. Today I received an order of cords in the mail…kind of makes me want to cry, but not in a bad way. It’s nice to have the money for these things.

I still need to re-register for a seller’s permit (which will enable me to pay tax at point of sale of finished items instead of at point of purchase of materials)…but I can see an extended market for face coverings right now, as well as for jewelry (although I am very aware that jewelry is not a life necessity: it’s a luxury, and people may not have much money for luxuries in the near future). The key thing here…is that if I get (or maintain) a relatively stable part-time job in order to finance the making, I could bloom that income.

Right now, I know what I have saved, and I know a bit about what I could earn. The question is whether I could emotionally tolerate the work: I’d rather work with objects or data, not people…but the position I’m in now is almost entirely composed of working with people. Then there is the fact that working with data most likely means working with numbers (at least if I’m dealing with Big Data)…not my favorite thing to do. That leaves, objects…from which, I’m learning a surprising amount. (Not least, I’m recalling my Geometry — which was one of my favorite topics when it came to Math.)

As well…the surge in physical productivity I experienced recently…that only happened once I tried to commit myself to language as an art form. Then I realized that I didn’t want to do it. There are reasons for this…prime among them is the fact that language in many ways could be said to attempt (and repeatedly fail) to encase reality. I know about this personally.

It’s much easier to exist outside of the confines of language, for me. Working with other languages highlights the biases of English…however, both Spanish and Japanese (the two non-English languages I’ve been most closely acquainted with) have their own strong biases (gender in the first case, hierarchy in the second), and I’d expect the trend of cultural quirks to continue across the myriad of world languages I don’t know about.

Working with images…or literally with fabric or glass, it isn’t the same thing. Color reaches people on a much more basic level than words do. As for why or how, I’m still not certain — or perhaps the part of my mind that can think and type in words, can’t comprehend what the rest of it, knows. (I wouldn’t be surprised.) But there’s way more to me, than just language; and I’m wishing to explore that, at this point.

This reminds me of a game I heard of recently…I’m not sure whether or not it’s Gris, but there are no words spoken in the game…which has really fantastic implications for the way it is received globally and cross-culturally. This is the same reason I was initially into MARC (MAchine Readable Cataloging) encoding — everyone had to learn it, it wasn’t language-specific; but right now, as I’ve heard, it’s one of the oldest legacy technologies and is set to be replaced by Linked Data…

Gah, now I’m getting technical and not knowing how to describe this. But Linked Data also works across different languages and vocabularies.

That does give me more of a sense of peace, than not. On that point, I wonder if I should be a member of IFLA (the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions). Even if I only had the opportunity to work in New Zealand or Australia or Singapore, those could be good options.

I think that with the Library work…I’m going to aim to become a Cataloger. It will keep me working with items (as versus people), and maybe it will be easier for me. If I can’t find a job within a Library system itself, I can work for a company that provides pre-cataloged items to libraries. If not that, hey — it isn’t like item description, organization, and retrieval is any less of a problem, anywhere else.

And I do have some coding skills…

Maybe I should invest in that. I could help with website development for bead shops desiring a Web presence, for example…

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…