art media, organization, painting

Seeking myself out

Today was spent eliminating excess — and organizing remaining — art materials. I also finally made it into the office to view and organize the altar area; this led to looking over the bookshelves and attempting to see what parts of those shelves I used, and what I didn’t. Like, things I would read, as versus things that were taking up space. Did I know I had so many craft books? (No. No, I did not.)

I’m still not sure what to do about the books I’ve made extensive notes within. Do I just keep them for the rest of my life?

There are a lot of books I want to read, that I just haven’t. I haven’t had time to, or I haven’t included the memory of them in the floor plan in my head. :) I also have almost a full shelf of books for studying nihongo, to read.

My big fear is that I’m going to end up talking like Siri because of learning mostly from books. There is a pitch/intonation thing going on in Japanese language which it doesn’t seem people think is very relevant; basically you learn it by listening and mimicking. One of my undergrad textbooks tried to demarcate intonation with symbols…but that wasn’t easy to decipher.

My fear is that I’m going to have to travel to the City to take classes so that I can learn the correct way to speak. That’s at least 45 minutes away, several days a week. But, I should remember, there is also the option of a Japanese Cultural Center. No, I didn’t intend to rhyme.

I know I keep going back and forth between Japanese and Spanish. Basically, Spanish would be a lot easier for me because I took four years of it as a youth. It would also be more useful, where I currently live. But there are significant and personal cultural reasons for me to learn Japanese, despite functionality being much more distant than facility in Spanish. It’s kind of like questioning whether to do the easy and useful thing which I have personal (post-colonial) psychological barriers to; as versus the hard thing that connects me with a deeper understanding of my cultural heritage, which I’ve wanted to do since I was a child.

Today I was cleaning out my art stuff. We’re basically getting rid of what we no longer use. I’ve marked most of my pastels for the Center for Re-Use, though I kept some of the collection…the ones that didn’t seem too dried out, and which I knew were relatively safe. These are Conté, Carré, and Prismacolor NuPastels where it comes to the hard pastels; and Rembrandt soft pastels, plus a couple of open-stock Blick soft pastels.

When I say, “dried-out,” I mean that I’ve had a pastel stop being able to draw, incise the paper instead, and literally shatter like a plate on being dropped, before. It’s likely because the pastel I’m thinking of (a Rembrandt, which I consider a less-risky company, though some may differ; there are issues of potential contamination of carbon black, and the ever-present Titanium White scare) is kaolin-based; kaolin is a form of clay. It would explain why those pastels were so incredibly soft when I got them (touching them would make them draw on you), and why they eventually stopped working. I did find today, though, that if they’ve been stored inside a plastic bag, they’re less likely to die.

There are also some charcoals and General’s White Charcoal in my “Dusties” kit (they make dust), though I’m still paranoid about not knowing what “General’s White Charcoal” is made of. I don’t think it’s charcoal. So far as I know, it’s a trade secret. It doesn’t help the paranoia to know that Flake White (lead-based) is still in use as a pigment in oil painting. So far as I know, though, Flake White would be a warmer shade of white than is the White Charcoal.

I also let that Blue Pumpkin nib which I used to test black inks (and a white ink), the other day, soak in pen cleaning solution. I wasn’t prepared to see all the stuff that came off of it! (I put it in one of the little clear polystyrene vials I got for bead storage.) But I do know now that the white India Ink I have (Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay) is basically the most suitable thing in my present arsenal where it comes to white highlights or corrections over marker.

Beyond that, it’s the most useful thing I have to draw in white, with high detail, on a dark surface (I used Strathmore Artagain black paper). I just haven’t tried it on translucent marker paper yet. The paper or board used as a surface for those potential marker (or ink) drawings, will likely limit my options.

I also have Daler-Rowney Pro (Process) White, but that stuff is so thick (basically a paste) that it needs to be stirred and diluted before use. I’m thinking maybe that was intentional (as regards monetary value and compact packaging), but I wasn’t expecting it not to work out of the package with either a dip pen or a brush. Of course, maybe I should just treat it as a watercolor paint, scoop some out to work with, and then work water into it with a paintbrush. That seems to be the most logical next option, if I’m trying to test all my white inks and paints for opacity (other than known Zinc White, because I know Zinc isn’t opaque).

That, in turn, is happening because I’ve realized that white acrylic ink markers lack precision and opacity where it comes to being used as correcting pens. I still haven’t tried the needle-tip Posca that I’ve seen, but…well, markers. They aren’t as versatile as paints or inks used with brushes or dip nibs; at least, not without blending.

I’ve also found that a size 0 round paintbrush isn’t that small. At least, sometimes. But my 2/0 (two sizes below 0) is freakishly small. No, I don’t know if paintbrush sizes are standardized.

Anyhow…I’m still not certain what’s happening with the acrylic colors. I could paint in acrylic; it’s just that I’m not driven to do so, relatively. The fact also remains that I don’t have a wide variety of brushes to use with acrylics (a lot of long, narrow flats, some fans, and some filberts, plus the gesso brushes)…though I do like hog-bristle better than most of the synthetics I’ve used (some of which I outright hate — I mean, they squeak and chatter across the surface).

The problem in my case is that I don’t like using stiff (or blunt) brushes…and stiff brushes are needed to stand up to heavy-body paints. Most of our acrylics are heavy-body, whereas I’m known for using even heavy-body acrylics so that they appear to be transparent watercolors. I guess that should tell me something.

The question for me is whether or not getting a wider variety of brushes would help me transition back to canvas and acrylics. I’m leaning towards, “no.” At the same time, M and I have accumulated a lot of acrylic paint over the years. On top of that, I have no way of knowing which of those tubes are structurally sound, without trying to open them and potentially having a chemical spill on my hands — literally. (Liquitex tube paints, in particular, I know to have lids and necks that will sometimes fail. Like the cap unit will peel away from the rest of the tube. Then again, I have no idea how old those tubes were, individually.) That means that I have no idea how much usable paint I actually have.

If there were anything which could draw me back to painting in acrylics, it would probably be the chance to work with opaque colors, in large scale, and to work out an underdrawing and underpainting before ever beginning — and to edit, in-process. There’s also the chance to save a canvas by just gessoing over the whole thing if I don’t like what I have.

But I can work with opaque colors by using gouache; I can use large brushes (and large papers) in watercolor. The rest of it seems particular to working with canvas or panel, gesso, charcoal/pastel, easel, and acrylic glazing medium. I know the process.

I guess that — like learning Spanish language (I had a choice of Spanish or French; I would rather have had a choice between Japanese, Cantonese, or Mandarin, the latter two of which, I could actually use) — is another one of the things that I did because I had to, not because I particularly had a great desire to. It was a learning experience.

The thing that really bothered me when I was taking painting classes was the fact that the act of painting would basically grind down my hog-bristle brushes. I’m thinking this was from the marble dust in the gesso, or from painting on rough plywood panel. It’s something I haven’t experienced with any other type of paint — though granted, I’ve only worked with water-based paints, not oils.

I was told to save the good brushes for oils, because oils don’t do the same thing. The wear on the brushes could also have been from the fact that I was using student-grade gesso. I don’t think I’ve ever used professional-level gesso. I’ve seen it. I just don’t think I’ve ever bought any — with the possible exception of once purchasing Golden. Not sure.

The other thing about getting rid of a lot of this stuff…a lot of it is about prioritization and considering who I actually am, and what I actually want. Not in an abstract way, and maybe not even in a way that compromises anything to the vicissitudes of present reality…though I’m getting abstract.

What I mean is that I’m fairly certain I know what I want. I also know where wanting those things gets inconvenient. From age, I know that I’m unlikely to stop wanting what it is that I want, just because it’s inconvenient; rather, I’ll likely end up halfway chasing those inconvenient things for years on end (like buying book after book on learning Japanese, as a symbol to myself, and not reading them), while I waste time and energy and brain space paying lip service to what the world tells me I should want, instead.

So I should just do what I want, and be who I am. That’s the fastest route to attainment.


career, LIS, work

Creative outlets and work don’t have to align…

Haaah. You know what? I’ve realized that even when I don’t feel particularly creative, I still read to others as, “very creative.” Over Easter we had some visitors, and I got still more encouragement to sell my jewelry. That was, particularly…great. I mean, seriously…my beaded jewelry collection, right now, reflects multiple iterations of design that I’ve undertaken over the years. It’s why I was reluctant to get rid of one of my pieces (a sunstone and gold-finish piece, which I don’t think I’ll ever be able to exactly reproduce).

It was also really nice to be with some chosen family, whom I ended up interacting with more than extended family. That was Sunday. Yesterday (Monday), I hit a craft store looking for a specific type of storage unit — which they didn’t have. (Or, let me say that they didn’t have the brand I was looking for, which I know will match my current storage: they had store-brand versions, which I was concerned wouldn’t have the same dimensions.) What they did have were Kite Beads (kite-shaped), SuperDuos (squashed-diamond-shaped), GemDuos (diamond-shaped), and some other bits of tastiness like this. (It’s an expression, albeit one I just made up; don’t eat your beads!) Those three types of beads, by the way, all have two holes (four openings).

I also found a miniature macrame board (which I had been looking for, for a while), and a sticky bead mat that may just save me from hunting for beads on the floor.

Yeah, I didn’t intend that. But it was a cute little haul.

What I’ve found, though, from the tables I’ve been making, is that it’s relatively more expensive (per quantity) to get beads from a craft store, than it is to get them from a bead store. However, getting the macrame board and the bead mat were relatively cheaper. And if I want (or need) to go super-cheap and basic with my supplies, there is always General Bead in SoMa.

I’ve also been finding additional fields to add to the tables I have now — particularly where it comes to quantity and price per quantity. It’s kind of getting unruly, like scrolling off the right side of the page. I also am getting farther away in time from my Database Management class, so I’m wondering how we actually created the tables in the first place, for the project for that class. I know I had a hand in it; I’m just not sure what I did. (Not that Database Design is likely to be a task undertaken in any established library…but I’ve found that I do have access to at least two places where I can deal with setting up databases, entering data, and querying those databases.)

I’ve also just gotten through my MARC 21 unit, which is showing me that Cataloging (of books and other Library materials) is essentially database work. That’s not something I knew, early on in my training, but I can recognize it now. (Should I go back and take more classes in Cataloging, beyond August??? Maybe it depends on whether I have gainful employment by then, huh?)

I…have also found that training in JavaScript is not a waste of time (though I wouldn’t have known it without reading through stuff at the Career Center). However, if I get into Technical Services with any library, I may be put in charge of metrics and data visualization, which I can’t say I’m confident about. I’d have to take a class in it.

My last (completed) math class was in Statistics, and it was in undergrad. I did try to take Accounting, but I (seriously) got the flu and had to miss a four-hour class (or otherwise infect everybody), and didn’t know how to recover from that, so I dropped. I also began Calculus, but dropped early enough that I don’t know how I did (though I got the concept of derivatives okay).

The hard thing about this is that I’m not highly confident in my math skills, particularly where it comes to working things out by hand. I know I did it for years; I also know that my Math training was so intense that I didn’t have time to check my work. I can use basic Excel formulas fine, but…Algebra (minorly — I just need a refresher) and advanced Trigonometry are likely my weak points. I see that I can brush up on this online, however — and at a place where I’m already a member. For free. (I was never really taught what sin, cos, tan, sec, csc, cot, actually could be used for, in real life.)

At this point — after having gotten my degree — I’ve found a bunch of Advising information online. Of course, I don’t know that it existed at the time I went through the program. (Actually, I’m fairly certain it didn’t; there was a massive reboot of the website just as I left.) Anyway, there are certain job tasks outlined for differing sets of job types…and there are a number that deal with my skill set, particularly where it comes to Web authoring.

What I have found is that I’m relatively well prepared to work in an Academic setting, as I’ve been dealing with the Technical Services angle. Tech Services encompasses Collection Development (what items to gain access to, based on community needs and library mission), Acquisitions (budgeting and invoicing [?]), and Cataloging (describing items with the aim of increasing access). I’m interested in the first and last of those…though Cataloging is seriously full of rules. I’m no longer surprised that libraries are looking for people to do this work; I don’t think most people would want to do it. In fact, the system I’m in now mostly outsources this work, which is part of the reason I didn’t take it as seriously as I should have.

However, if one is highly accurate and can tolerate micromanagement (I can deal with both of these — after all, needles are my friend), you know, it’s ideal. Not to be facetious, but there is a lot of Information Work that depends on adhering closely to standards. This is to ensure interoperability and ease of data transfer. Web work is not an exception to this; only, on the Web, bad code won’t run properly. In Cataloging, poorly-formed code is just poorly-formed or inaccurate code (so far as I can tell) — it’s not earth-shattering, like, “NOTHING WORKS WHAT DID YOU DO?!” as happens in Web Programming (which is probably the reason Git exists).

What’s interesting to me about this class I’m in now, is how much I don’t remember from Intro to Cataloging. The big deal about learning this after University is getting access to two different resources: the RDA Toolkit, and WebDewey. (Both of them are subscription-based, and I have experience with both.) I don’t recall at this point what we used to find Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) and Classification (LCC), though it’s probably in one or another of my bookmark files…or I might be able to just run a quick Google search and find something. I seem to remember them being available, possibly for free.

What’s weird is that I expected hardly any job openings to be available for Catalogers, but it seems there is still a place existent where one can make a living. It does seem like the work is being borne by general Librarians, though…which I’m not sure they would want, to be honest!

So the project now is to figure out whether I want to work in Public Services (it seems fun and different, but I know I’m not a naturally social person), or in Cataloging and some of the other back-end stuff like Web content management, Catalog Maintenance, or Metadata (“metadata,” is, “data about data,” and encompasses a few different types: Administrative, Technical, and Descriptive). I did aim to be a Metadata Librarian…it’s just that I need to widen my scope, a bit. A lot of the work I’m doing now would best have been done a few years ago… I bet if I had talked to someone back then about my misgivings with the program (and Intro to Cataloging), I wouldn’t have been put off the career track. However, next to my Management core class, and later on, Database Management, Intro to Cataloging was one of the toughest classes for me to get through. It might have been due to teaching style, though.

Would I be good being a Cataloger and doing beadwork as my hobby of choice on my off-hours, maybe to relax and make a little play money with (but not necessarily to teach)? I believe the answer is, “yes,” but I haven’t been a Cataloger, yet…