art, color, painting, self care

Sleepiness and swatch tests

Aw, man! Okay, so…my sleep schedule is bizarre, but maybe it won’t have to be, for much longer. It looks as if the heat wave has broken. Today the skies were gray instead of orange; that is an improvement. I also had to get out of bed in the middle of the night to change clothes, because it was so cold. Right now I’m writing this from bed in full pajamas, because it’s so cold.

Which is weird, when three days ago it seems like it was over 100° F. Right now, it’s 64° F, outside.

And I’m tired, even though I slept over 12 hours. It could be eye strain — I don’t think I’ve had a change in lens prescription in years. (I had to put off an optometry appointment because of the pandemic.) It could also be related to the smoke, or the fact that I am working at night and sleeping through the morning (although I went to bed before midnight last night, and woke up like it was morning, two hours later. Then I conked out at 3:30 and slept into late afternoon). It could also be because I missed the medication that I take for wakefulness…because I slept until 3:30 PM. That’s kind of a Catch-22, isn’t it?

A photo of four different Daniel Smith paints in various shades of green.
These watercolors are the four swatches in the top right of the immediately following image:

Anyway, my green paints and two new brushes came yesterday! :D I had to limit myself — out of enthusiasm, I have a tendency to overbuy (especially when I can’t see or test what I’m buying)…although now I know that painting is likely a good thing for me.

I have found that art is particularly…what’s the opposite of crazy-making? (“sane-making?”) “grounding?” for me. I’m finding watercolor to be also a relatively rewarding pastime in itself.

For some reason, I’m really into color; I can’t explain why, though…aside from the ability to witness how colors mix and merge. Painting has been an organic outgrowth of drawing, for me. I couldn’t cleanly, densely, and easily mix and dilute colors in drawing (the closest I’ve come to that is with markers), and nor could I have total freedom over the size and shape of my color applicator. That all changes, with painting.

A sheet of paper which contains all watercolor paints I might currently use, along with a freeform painting at the bottom right corner.
The left three columns are what is on my palette right now. Everything else either isn’t, or is a retry at getting a good gradient (or, in the case of French Ultramarine, a comparison with the other Ultramarines).

There’s something about the ability to achieve solid blocks of color and fluid gradients, that I really like. Also, the tactile issue is something that my sibling brought up — which could be why I’m not as drawn to computer art. The above swatches (and the little play painting in the corner) were all done with a Neptune #6 round brush. It’s really soft, and holds a lot of water. It will also soak up water if you dry it out a little before touching it to a pool of extra paint on your paper. For most of these, I was using the belly of the brush, not so much the tip.

I haven’t intentionally altered any of the colors here, though the light coming in the window was so yellowish and dim that I had to turn on overhead lighting today (when I took these photos and swatched out the four new greens in the upper right corner).

Right now I have about 45 colors which I’d consider using (there are some in the photo which are used twice). Of those swatched here, I’d eliminate W&N Mars Black (fifth column, third row) as Holbein Lamp Black (third column, seventh row) is smoother; and M. Graham Scarlet Pyrrol (fifth column, sixth row), as it granulates, and is very close to Winsor Orange – Red Shade (second column, third row).

Generally, I tend to prefer paints that have even dispersion and good flow…there are a number of paints I have which didn’t make it to this sheet, because of weird formulations causing a lack of leveling, or poor flow, or grains where I don’t want them, etc. This is just personal preference, however.

Gah, I’m tired. :) (Maybe I can go to sleep and wake up refreshed in 2-3 hours?)

Oh, right. I wanted to show you the Daniel Smith dot card swatches. The below were done with a very small flat…probably a Robert Simmons’ Sapphire, but I’m not sure and am too tired to look, right now. :) You can probably tell that I was tending to use too little water on my brush, for most of these…

Most of the Daniel Smith dot card set, painted out onto a sheet of paper.
Most of a Daniel Smith dot card (168 dots). I probably painted out more like 120 swatches (talk about tedious. No, I haven’t counted them.) There were four cards in the set, and I worked with approximately three.

I’ve swatched out everything here except for the special colors (like the Duochromes, etc., on the fourth card) and colors which I expressly knew were associated with asbestos (Tiger’s Eye, Burnt Tiger’s Eye [though I believe that in Tiger’s Eye, quartz has replaced the asbestos component], and Serpentine). I did, however, swatch out Kyanite, even though I know it’s fibrous by nature (I am not sure, but I don’t think it’s related to asbestos). I was curious. :)

What I find interesting about a lot of these is that a number of the gem colors (I suspect they’re PrimaTeks) are sparkly — particularly, Sugilite Genuine — though maybe I just got a lucky sample.

If I was going to add to my palette, swatching out both of these was a good idea, to avoid overlaps…a tedious, painstaking, good idea. :) It’s very apparent to me right now that I have a high-key palette going already…so maybe I shouldn’t really worry too much about getting bright colors. (I can always mix them down; there’s also the fact that the paints I’m using often seem to dull as they dry.)

As for the brushes…I ordered two, both Robert Simmons White Sable. One was to replace M’s very old and worn 1/2″ flat, the other was to replace a #8 Robert Simmons Sapphire flat that I killed, somehow. (The ferrule is loose. I only know of one way that would have happened. Never leave your brushes standing in water!)

Okay, I believe…that I am going to sleep now…

art, color, drawing

In the middle of the night…

I suppose that once you photograph a pencil drawing, it does show you where you could have stood to use a harder lead…note that the version of the drawing I’ve posted here is a PNG. It’s going to look bizarre if you download it, as I edited out the background in order to make the background match the background of this blog. (It even looks bizarre on my machine, if I try to look at it as a standalone file.)

It could be worth it to me, to enhance the original file and then retry the process I underwent to select and then paste the image information…

Last night I realized I couldn’t sleep, even though I had gone to bed early enough. I had been thinking about the last painting I did and how it reminded me of a cave with water. That, in turn, reminded me of cenotes, which are water-filled sinkholes — limestone caves with caved-in skylights — which occur in the rainforests of Mexico.

Drawing from within a cenote, or underground lake, within a limestone cave. Green vines drop from the skylight, and stalactites hang from the darkness on the right.
This really wants color.

From what I know, these have been known to be gates to the underworld. It’s not the same thing as a Hell, as the other world isn’t necessarily a site of suffering. Because of their association with the underworld, though (and likely also because their mythos of reference is not Christian), they are rumored to have been places of human sacrifice. They also seem to have served as sources of clean (fresh?) water.

The eerie thing about cenotes — aside from the otherworldly blue color they often have — is that they tend to be very, very clear and beautiful. From the surface, they’re basically holes in the ground into which one can disappear into if one isn’t careful. The underground lakes are connected through underground waterways which people are known to have perished in while exploring.

Basically, since the caves are limestone, they have been dissolved away by the rain. The edges of the skylights can harbor hanging gardens; even sometimes, waterfalls.

If I were to re-learn Spanish, researching the cenotes and their Mesoamerican connections would be among my strongest reasons.

I came up with this design while thinking of what I saw in the painting I did the other night. I made a simple sketch in my sleep journal, then got up and sketched the whole thing out in a Wet Media sketchbook with Hi-Uni soft graphite pencils. (Mostly, the very soft ones.) It’s not the same as it is in my mind, without color.

The water should be a Cobalt Turquoise Light, with greenery hanging down from the top, the sunlight filtering through the closer vines; then the cave itself is white with a glowing bluish cast from the lit portion of the water, and whitish reflections on its roof (lifted paint?) from the surface of the water, and shadows setting off whitish/yellow stalactites and stalagmites.

I’m not certain of next steps as regards watercolor — planning the layers may take some work — but having this quick sketch should help. (I had intended just to sketch various thumbnails, but I got a full-size drawing out of this!)

Right now, I’m trying to break out of realism and back into imagination…I’m unsure to what extent I will or won’t use visual references. Reflected light off of water, I clearly need to research; but types of plants? Photos from within cenotes (even though my composition seems fine right now)? What got me to this point last night was really being inspired by a watercolor book I seem to have last used, several years ago (if the bookmark is any indication)…

art, art media, painting, self care

“Actually having painted”

Today, I did something personally significant. I worked on a painting. Even though I had intended it to just be tinted test paper, on top of which, I’d draw…it turned into way more than that. I’m not sure if it’s going to stay in one piece, either: I have a mind to cut it into strips and rearrange it in a staggered manner. I’ll try and photograph it before I do, though; it’s almost midnight, so my lighting leaves something to be desired, right now.

Judgments aside, this was the first time I had allowed myself to work with my paints again, in months (if not years). There are some things I did learn…one of which is that I actually do love color, and have more fun with color, even though it’s more risky than doing everything extremely muted. Another is to be careful when trying to mix green with an opaque-leaning dull yellow (Isoindolinone Deep? I hate having so many similar yellows) and Prussian Blue, which is a dull greenish blue. (HAHA mud, HAHA.)

I was trying to make a deep, rich green, but there was too much orange in the yellow and it turned more Olive. A little more Prussian Blue and I got a nice coniferous tone (basically Prussian Blue with a hint of yellow — there wasn’t enough orange to ruin it in that mixture), but it wasn’t quite what I was going for.

Okay, but seriously, it was a lot of fun. I did stay away from Aureolin because I still have some paranoia about pigment toxicity, and Aureolin can be absorbed through the skin (acute transdermal exposure can cause itching; as for what else it does, it doesn’t matter for me, because I can’t undo my exposure — all I can do is prevent more exposure). Aureolin is also apparently severely toxic when ingested, but I make sure I don’t have paint on my hands when I eat or floss or touch mucous membranes. Yes, that means to wash your hands before you use the toilet (as well as after).

I also learned quite a bit about hard and soft edges, and what happens when you drop a color into another, currently-wet color. And how hard brushstrokes can look out of place in a diffuse composition with a lot of wet-in-wet work.

For all of my session today, I was using natural-hair, Yasutomo sumi-e brushes. Only two; and the second one initially happened because I was trying to mix green without dirtying the blue, or washing all the yellow off of my main brush.

That…that says something good, that I didn’t need a lot of brushes. Sumi-e brushes can be used on the side as well as with the tip, and I did really like the dry-brush effects I got on the edges of areas of color. (These round brushes have a core of stiff hair and a ring of softer hair around the outside.) I like using these because they’re relatively absorbent — it’s easier for me to control the amount of paint dropped onto the paper (or to suck up extra paint, if I dry the bristles first).

I do have other brushes to experiment with, but with the exception of other sumi-e brushes (including a hake in two pieces), they’re all synthetic.

I’ve found the Princeton Neptune line to be particularly nice (and the one Neptune Flat I have to be…exemplary, at least in comparison to the old 1/2″ flat intended for acrylics which I had been using), but I haven’t really played around with any of the three major brands I’ve gotten long enough to definitively state qualities, here. (The other two are Robert Simmons’ Sapphire, and Princeton Heritage 4050R.) I also have a couple of Princeton Lauren 4350R brushes, and one Robert Simmons White Sable which is…incredibly soft. I used it for makeup before I used it for painting (but don’t use it for makeup after it’s been exposed to professional-quality paint — again, many pigments are toxic).

Right now, I’m not sure whether to geek out about paintbrushes. I should practice more, first, so I can know (and not just speculate on) what I’m talking about.

Mostly, I had been depending on my Winsor & Newton Cotman flats at the time of my last experimentation, but I don’t think I’d opt for them, if I had to buy new ones. I used them for the most part because it’s just been exploratory practice, they make crisp shapes, they do hold paint, I like the way the flats feel on the page, and they’re familiar and cheap and easily replaceable in case of a loose ferrule.

Loose ferrules, in turn…mean the brush was in the rinse water too long, or too deep (with the water level resting above the end of the ferrule), and the handle got wet and expanded. Once that happens, it’s only a matter of time before the brush comes apart. (This could be an argument for acrylic handles, instead of wood.)

The drawback to Cotman brushes — particularly the flats, I’ve never been drawn to the rounds — is that they drop paint in a way that can be difficult to control (synthetics have this problem as a group, but some newer designs — like the Neptunes — are better at preventing this), and the ferrules loosen easily. Or maybe I’ve just been working them to death. In either case, it’s nice that they’re cheap and easily replaceable. It lowers the barrier of being afraid of destroying a really nice, expensive, brush.

So maybe these are great when you’re just starting out, and learning how long you can keep the brush in the water, and how high you can keep the water in your water cup. There’s generally a trade-off between having to change your rinse water frequently, and keeping your brushes safe. Unless, that is, you never let your brush sit in the water. No brush was left in standing water tonight, as I was only using two.

It also helps to have two rinse-water cups: one for the initial gross rinse of your paintbrush; the second to rinse out the (eventually contaminated) rinse water from the first cup!

Natural-hair sumi-e round and hake brushes — the ones you can get at Western art stores, at least, which are generally either Yasutomo brand or generic/store brands (Utrecht, Blick, etc.) — are also mostly inexpensive. I have seen some Chinese brands off and on in small art supply stores, but that was short-lived.

My Chinese ink-painting brush died sometime in 2016 or before (the bamboo housing cracked, so that the brush tip was held to the handle with glue and string). It was sad. But I used it.

Yeah, I guess I have been concerned about ruining nice things, haven’t I?

I did open a small hot-press Arches block, tonight. It’s the first time I can recall ever having painted on Arches (watercolorists know that this brand of paper is super-expensive, but also recommended, even [or especially] for novices), and…I’ve got to say, it was pretty nice. I was concerned about the pigment balling up on the surface of the paper, but that turned out not to be an issue (even though it looked like it would be — possibly because Ultramarine is a granulating pigment).

I have two other hot-press watercolor paper brands to try out; I believe they’re Fluid 100, and Fabriano. I started in on one of them tonight, but ended up pouring all my energy into the painting on the Arches, which quickly grew to the point that I realized I might have wanted to plan it out better (and not to have ever used black, even though I did so in the expectation of drawing with black and white pen, on top of it).

There’s also the possibility here of using gouache (opaque watercolor) instead of acrylic marker or gel pen. I’ve found I have enough gouache to last a while.

After having used Arches, I also have a little bit of an idea of what to expect…tomorrow, or as literalists would put it, later this morning…

And, note to self: don’t wear your computer (anti-blue-light) lenses when you’re painting; they change the color cast of everything you see…

art, art media, color, illustration, painting

Watercolors and testing and pigments and inks

I’ve been doing experiments with watercolors…and, I think, I’m on the right track where it comes to what I want to be doing. I’m much happier with inks and wet media than with pencils (I still haven’t been brave enough to break back into the pastels, due to the dust factor). I’ve also been experimenting with inks and “transparent watercolors” (specifically the Ecoline brand, which I had been lusting after, probably for over a year).

The Ecoline stuff hasn’t been going wonderfully, but it’s good that I know that there are more suitable materials than this (for me) out there. I’ve been looking at transparent liquid watercolor (which I assume are aniline dyes) as a sort of middle ground between markers and painting. Right now, I think that’s pretty accurate, and is likely the reason why there are so many pre-mixed colors. I still haven’t extensively tested Dr. Ph. Martin’s Radiant Liquid Watercolor, or their Hydrus. At this point, I’m not entirely certain I will. These liquid things, I’ve read, tend to fade more easily than pigmented paints. Of course, that doesn’t matter if you’re working for reproduction.

If I do get back into comic, or, more pointedly: illustration work, the Ecoline is suited. It’s reliably transparent (at least, with the six colors I’ve been using), so any dark line work won’t become clouded by overpainting. (I also have tried Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star Hi-Carb India Ink with this, which I can get into later. Long story short: it works better with Ecoline than Blick Black Cat, due to the fact that Black Cat repels water and the Ecoline.) However, when using the Ecoline colors like regular watercolors, they are incredibly thin. I believe this is due to the amount of water carried in my brush — I didn’t dry it after rinsing and before dipping it into the dye on my palette, so the color became diluted.

I would probably want to use one of those palettes with tons of tiny wells (I should photograph this if I still have mine; I’m not sure if my meaning is coming across) if I used this for illustration work, as well: the “liquid” part of this means that the dyes really…they really get messed up if one is dipping around and mixing colors, and rinsing the paintbrush and not drying it off afterward. Worse so, than regular tube or pan watercolors. There’s just no going back once you get cyan in your magenta. It just isn’t happening. :) Just kiss that magenta goodbye and say hello to violet. Seriously.

That may, in fact, be why the Ecoline watercolors are so varied as to the formulations in their bottles: they may be more of a pain to mix than bargained for. I am, however, now curious about their effect if used as drawing inks…I have a couple of old bamboo drawing pens which I can try. Of course, though…at least one is stained with sepia. I’d probably want to separate out what I dip that pen into.

So, right now, the back-to-school sales are in effect; I used the opportunity to purchase a high-end palette (which I’ve wanted since at least 2016) at something like 60% off, which…I mean, it’s nice, but do I need it in addition? I’ve been using a Mijello palette recently — it’s where all my dried paints are — and have found that the position of the paints may not matter as much as I thought it did (so long as I know what went, where). It’s also nice to have a well that is at least 3/4″ wide, as I can fit a wide wash brush in there. Comparatively, I’d have to get an empty full-size pan to do the same, and I’m not convinced the experience would be similar, due to the corners and depth of standard pans.

Have I just grown to appreciate the Mijello’s pan design over the organization of my colors? Possibly. It helps that I haven’t painted en plein air in a very, very long time. However: the design of the Mijello also keeps it from being convenient as a plein air palette, so it’s like a, “chicken or egg,” thing.

Of course, if I take out the Winsor & Newton (W&N) Burnt Umber rock which keeps knocking around in there and getting dried-up Burnt Umber pieces in my precious clean yellows…it is likely to be more appealing to use. W&N Burnt Umber separates from its well after it has dried and rattles around inside the closed palette, hence why I call it a “rock.” I hear that Viridian does the same thing (which is why I have four different versions), though I can’t remember if it has yet happened to me. It would have been in a very old palette, like my Mijello Silver Nano. I discovered that having wells on the roof of a palette which is bordering on non-stick (it’s anti-microbial, hence “Silver Nano”), doesn’t work that well.

Recently, I was able to obtain a Da Vinci Cobalt Blue which disperses much better (to my tastes) than the Winsor & Newton Cobalt Blue I had before, which had basically made me not want to use the pigment. Like at all. Or ever again.

The Da Vinci Cobalt Blue, though…when mixed with Ultramarine Violet or Ultramarine Pink, it makes really lovely soft violets (and I rarely use the word, “lovely”). These violets are much softer than Dioxazine Violet, which is so powerful that it can be difficult for me to use.

I’ve just now discovered the Da Vinci paints. I’ve actually…just recently realized that it isn’t to my benefit to have brand loyalty where it comes to any one tube watercolor manufacturer. Paints vary in quality, but they vary within paint brands — like M. Graham & Co. Ultramarine Pink vs M. Graham & Co. Viridian; not to mention between lines within brands — like W&N Cotman (student grade) vs. W&N Professional; as well as between paint brands, like Sennelier vs. Daniel Smith vs. Da Vinci.

So Da Vinci and Daniel Smith could both put out their own versions of Viridian and Prussian Blue, and one may judge the Daniel Smith Prussian Blue to be far superior to the Da Vinci (or indeed, any other Prussian Blue one has tried), while the Da Vinci Viridian is far superior to the Daniel Smith Viridian (or any other Viridian one has tried). I don’t know exactly why this happens; I just know that it does. But one of my artist friends did tell me a while back, that paint consistencies differed, depending on the pigments in them.

So…I am not certain there is any way to really tell what paints one likes, other than trying them out. I did go and buy like four different types of Prussian Blue and Viridian from different lines, so I indeed can (and likely should) show you my results. Viewing that may save the reader here money in the long run, though unfortunately, I didn’t check for blogger reviews of these paints, before going out to try them. So now I have like three extra tubes of each color, having picked out the paint that I love the most.

Unfortunately, I still don’t know how to record and upload video, so I can’t show you how the colors race away from the brush (wet-in-wet) with each of the colors I like. That doesn’t happen, with the others. It’s something I look for, which doesn’t happen predictably; and I’m not even certain yet if it happens repeatably, with the exact same pigment, manufacturer, and paint line.

I should send the other paints on for re-use. After I record my experiments, and make sure I have all my names in order. I’m sure that someone is going to appreciate the fact that they’ll be able to at least try out the paints for free. It’s not like they’re awful or unusable; they just aren’t things that I prefer. Having good paints just greatly enhances the experience of painting, for me.

I’m also getting more relaxed around the toxin factor of working with these paints. I just need to keep myself clean, and I’ll be OK. Today I went and replaced an Aureolin (Cobalt Yellow) despite the fact that I know it’s very toxic, because nothing else I’ve tried, mixes greens quite like it. Of course, I know there must be at least 9 or so different commonly used chemical formulations for yellows in watercolors. I assume they all have their own different mixing properties (and precautions…which is why I don’t use Nickel Azo Yellow — I’m already sensitized to Nickel).

There is also the fact that I’m using Chromium colors as well as other Cobalt salts, in other places in my palette. Both Chromium and Cobalt are heavy metals, and toxic. I have historically stayed away from the Cadmiums (generally red through yellow, though I’ve seen “Cadmium Green”), though at this point I might be getting a little less paranoid about them. Basically, any heavy metal salt I can absorb through my skin (that is, any water-soluble salt with a heavy metal component) is something I don’t want to deal with. Something I have to ingest to be poisoned by, though? I am a clean person to the point of dysfunction. And I have at least one nail brush. I’ll be fine.

I also spent years trying to find suitable replacements for the Cadmium family of pigments, which led me to the Pyrrole colors (these can be genuinely awesome, though inconsistently named [“Pyrrol Scarlet” and “Scarlet Pyrrol” are two different pigments — and two different hues — in two different brands]) and the Hansa colors (M. Graham’s Hansa Yellow is still one of my favorite paints). But I’ve spent, literally, years talking about Cadmium-based paints…right now, though, I feel like I should do more research before getting back into the whole paranoia thing I had before.

It’s kind of like, if you know what it does and how it gets into you, then just don’t do things that would let it get into you. This is why I have been wary of the pastels: it’s much harder to contain dust. I think it’s also why I’m getting better with the paints: at least with the paints, nothing gets airborne or ground into my skin. Also: paints are mixable. And the essence of paint, for me at least, is color. As someone who is enamored with color and has been frustrated with contact points which I can’t change, it seems to be a good medium.

I mentioned the Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star Hi-Carb ink, earlier in this post. It’s…really, pretty great. Waterproof, doesn’t move under water or Ecoline. (I didn’t care enough to try Copics.) It also doesn’t repel Ecoline, which is what the Black Cat, did. I haven’t yet tried it with the tube watercolors, and I’m seriously not even sure that I should…but if the goal is to do my own thing with the art (and stop deprecating myself for not being like other artists), I might try it.

In the coming days, I’m hoping to get some of this stuff photographed or scanned so that you can see what I’m talking about; just words, can’t get everything across. In particular, I should show you those Viridian and Prussian Blue tests, though I’m going to do them over again. And no, it will not be on Arches paper. ;) Though I have some, now. I have some, and I have realized that it’s worth working with correctly, so I got some kraft tape and a soaking vat and some sponges and an impermeable board, to properly stretch the paper. Time to get serious.

Disclaimer: No one paid or otherwise compensated me to write this. I got nothing free. What you do with this information is your responsibility, and I gain nothing personally from it.

color, creativity, painting

So…I did start painting, again.

It’s nothing much, and I don’t have photos to share at this time (nor am I rushing to photograph things this late at night); but I wanted to note that I actually have started watercolor painting, again. Yesterday, I broke back in with a number of semi-random color gradients and one of the Neptune round brushes I bought months and months ago, and didn’t prioritize time to try out.

The upshot is that the Neptune brushes are actually pretty sweet. Today I went and bought a number of specialty brushes from this line (bulk discount of over 50%) — by that I mean, not flats or rounds. It’s interesting to see how they perform. In particular, I’m interested in a 3/4″ wash brush which makes painting in watercolor almost feel like painting in acrylic, and a “dagger” brush which is cut at an angle, making it capable of tiny fine lines and broad swaths in the same stroke, while carrying and slowly releasing a heavy paint load.

My largest watercolor brush before having gotten the 3/4″ Neptune flat today, has been an ox-hair 1″ flat (I believe this was a Utrecht brush, from before the time at which Utrecht was acquired by Blick). The ox-hair holds a lot of water, so it’s great for wetting down sheets of paper; but it also holds way too much paint to be able to easily use for anything other than washes. It also…to the best of my memory, doesn’t have as much snap as any of my other brushes. It’s more like the soft, natural-hair rounds I used as a kid, that had no real point to their tips, and little recovery. (I believe these are called “camel-hair” brushes…but realistically, I have no idea what type of filament those were, other than natural hair: I could feel the one-directional nap of the hair’s scales.)

Of course, then, the most I was doing were little watercolors of fish with Prangs, and those little paint-by-number things that activate with water. :)

I actually had a conversation with M about her frustration that I haven’t gone as quickly back to painting as she would have hoped. It has been seven months since the work for my Master’s degree concluded. I find it not out of the realm of possibility that I’ve been slow to get back to this, in part, because I’m having to accelerate from zero.

I did not do any drawing or painting while I was working on my degree…and it’s tough to restart a creative practice, from nothing. It’s especially not reasonable to expect someone to return to the level they were at before they were forced away from their work, immediately upon concluding the thing that took up all their time (and which they are used to taking up all their time).

Anyhow…what I’ve been doing is largely trying to figure out how my brushes work, again, and how my paints work, again — and, you know, which paints I used where in my palette, as I stupidly did not make a palette sheet that was exactly correct and notated, during all the times at which I was painting out samples. So, for example, I had to color-match new swatches with Holbein Isoindolinone Yellow Deep, to know that it wasn’t Winsor Yellow Deep; or Winsor & Newton, “Indian Yellow;” or Daniel Smith Permanent Yellow Deep.

(I’ve gone to efforts to procure warm tones that are less toxic than cadmium pigments, so that’s why you’ll see me refer to various yellows and oranges, in particular, such as the Pyrrole colors and Hansa Yellows. I have not yet made my way into the duller colors such as the Perinones…I’m thinking it’s easy enough to dull down a color, though I’ve seen beautiful mixes made with colors like Perinone Violet and Transparent Red Oxide.)

I am also realizing the inefficacy of Sap Green as used unmixed, and the beautiful mix I was able to make with Prussian Blue (a muted greenish blue) plus Green Gold plus a bit of Viridian. It’s as close as I’ve been able to come to a deep, jewel-tone green…and I love it. It’s so weird, because Green Gold is a very distasteful color (to me) on its own, but it renders gorgeous greens when added on top of either another green, or blue; maybe with a yellow added in at the end (granted there are different yellows). This outcome is the reason why I’m willing to try (in the future) the Perinones, and other colors I wouldn’t use on their own.

It’s also kind of funny how Cobalt Turquoise Light (the color of a tropical lagoon) makes a violet, together with Magenta. I’ve looked at other people’s mixing charts, but I don’t think I’ll be making one, as each mix really…is variable, depending on the ratios of two pigments to each other, and it only gets more complicated when you start mixing three or more colors. I can’t seriously suggest (even to myself) that one color is the final outcome of a mixture of any two paints.

Of course, though, unless I had practiced just straight color mixing (in a watercolor class, at the time), I wouldn’t have known that Phthalo Green with Permanent Rose made such a stunning array of colors!

And yes, I do feel silly for having so many different pigments when I could do with just three primaries; but I’m seriously really into color, and I find it one of the most interesting aspects of image-making. M kind of doesn’t understand this…I have a habit of collecting different colors in pretty much every art and craft medium I’ve used, with the exception of ceramics. I know it’s annoying.

It’s late for me here; I should really get some rest. I didn’t intend to sit here writing, all night…I just got into the color topic. :) I can kind of go on and on about color…so I’ll stop myself here.

I just want to add, as possible fodder for a future post, the way that painting can grow organically out of drawing…I know what I mean by that, and have some clue as to how it happened, for me. It’s tough to start back into painting, having been out of practice at even (!) drawing, for months or years…

creativity, personal

Imagining pretty things = precursor to making them.

It’s another Thursday night, and I can finally say that I did, in fact, make it out to that art store. Mainly, the reason to go was for inspiration, though I found a new brand of linoleum cutters that I’m trying out, and was able to replace my worn Speedball blades. I know now not to use them on hard linoleum, which I didn’t, before. (According to web research, linoleum can have stone powder in it, which is probably what destroyed my X-Acto and Speedball blades. There is also soft linoleum, though, which is what I tested these blades on, tonight.)

As regards those Speedball blades: the handle (I’m using the red version; there’s also a blue one) needs some tweaking to get things in and out cleanly. Basically, the collet unscrews and that loosens a slot that a blade can fit into (on only one side). What’s weird is that loosening the collet to take the blade out doesn’t always do the job; sometimes the blade needs to be rotated in the collet to disengage. That’s not entirely safe, especially with the double-edged knife that got stuck tonight for some reason. I don’t know why, but I do know that I’ve had trouble with that handle from the beginning — maybe it just takes a little experience to use.

But yeah, I was able to pick up a set of replacement blades for not too much, and was really happy with them, when I got them home. I didn’t see any replacement blades for the X-Acto linoleum carving set.

Tonight I began drawing, again. I intended to design a new linocut, but things quickly moved away from that as I began adding (imagined) colors to the intended design. The deal with that is that each new color (aside from gradations), in a block print, necessitates a different block, or at least a different impression. What I’ve got is interesting, though a little busy. I’m fighting the urge to simplify my lines, meaning that I’ve got a lot of stuff that looks like old-style fire or ki.

I’m also trying to finish the Borden & Riley Vellum that I got a really long time ago, because I’ve used all but two sheets in the pad. It doesn’t make sense to hang onto the last two, especially considering how inexpensive B&R paper is. By accident, I got a duplicate pad of Fabriano hot-press watercolor paper, today. Luckily, this means that I don’t have to feel under pressure to make “good” art on it; though it is only 25% cotton. (Most archival-quality watercolor paper is 100% cotton; the lignin in wood pulp causes acidification of the paper, which can cause eventual color change.)

And, I suppose, I could even start out with grisaille sketches again, if I wanted to. Grisaille is basically a term for “greyscale;” it allows one to isolate, compare and adjust values (lightness or darkness) in an image, prior to making a color version. I have Lamp Black watercolor (not to mention, black ink — though I wouldn’t use waterproof ink with delicate brushes — I hear pen cleaner is harsh on them), and I know these types of studies aren’t hard. I might want to tackle that in the near future!

Which reminds me now that I have dip pens and new brushes to try out…I got them a long time ago, and didn’t have the time to devote to using them at all.

I’ve been collecting things to draw for years, too (this being why I have a bunch of the plants that I have, which reminds me that I still need to repot the Dwarf Umbrella plant), so I shouldn’t have a hard time finding a subject. What jumps to mind at first are shells, and my mineral collection, though I’ve also used jewelry. Scarves, maybe combined with jewelry, could be a more advanced study (fabric is notoriously hard to render in painting and drawing). I also have some trinkets and a vase and a pine cone…I really have been collecting stuff, haven’t I?

Yeah, I do have a lot of stuff to make images out of! My poor plants, though. They aren’t in the greatest of health, and that’s majorly because they’re indoors. Particularly, the succulents need more light, but with the amount they need, I would have to put them outside. Given how well the little one in the crack in the front yard is doing (which is basically a weed now), they would probably be okay as regards water; but I also like having them around, too.

The Dwarf Maidenhair Fern is still…ugh. I mean, seriously, I’ve looked up Maidenhair Ferns online and found them referred to as “The Diva of Houseplants,” from more sources than I care to list, though how many of them are copies of each other, I also don’t care to verify… The fact that I have the one I do is basically my own fault, though, because I have a thing for Maidenhair Ferns. When they’re healthy, they’re beautiful. The issue is that they need constant watering and misting and high humidity and don’t tolerate much of anything well (except shade).

My house isn’t cold, dark and damp, so of course the fern isn’t happy. On the other end, we’ve got my hardy Dwarf Umbrella plant, which needs watering once in a while and some light, and it’s happy (though while I was sick, I forgot to water it, and it nearly died).

Luckily…I don’t yet have pets. If I did, I would have to be more vigilant, though I do have a dream of getting two or three guppies. For some reason, I really like guppies–! The fact that they’re also hardy is very good; the major issue is what to do if we end up moving, or where to put the aquarium. See, if I had an aquarium, I could put the fern near it, and that would likely make it humid enough for them.

I also have recurring dreams of having fish that I’ve forgotten about which have died of starvation, though, which is not that encouraging. However, I’ve gotten a lot better about routine essential things…particularly sleep, medication, and caring for the plants. My folks wouldn’t have given me an aquarium unless the plants stayed alive. Right now, though…I wonder just about having an aquarium with aquatic plants in it. I think I would like to have fish in there, who would be able to complete the cycle of food to poop to plant to clean water; but it’s a monetary and care commitment, not to mention what would happen if there were a major earthquake.

Of course…I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve lived through a number of major earthquakes. I wouldn’t call it PTSD, but I once in a while think to myself about what would happen if an earthquake occurred now. This is probably just a survival thing, because it happens more frequently than any major earthquake occurs. But I do know that it’s scary to be in a house with a full aquarium when the ground is rolling — both for the fish and for me. If it weren’t a practical awareness with a practical use, I’d call it anxiety, but it’s probably a good anxiety to have (to a degree).

Of course, though, there is also the anxiety of being far from home…which relates to my job search. Particularly…in a natural disaster, I might be called in to work, and in a disaster like Loma Prieta, which knocked out a major bridge, tunnel, and freeway leading to the Peninsula, it might take a very long time to get there (while my house might be in danger of burning down).

The practical thing is to move closer to work; but housing prices are exorbitant in this area, and there’s the question of what I would do if I lost my job.

Maybe I can just make a terrarium, eh? Put a little Venus Flytrap in there and some soil and rocks and lights, or something. A fern might like that…the only question is how to avoid steaminess in there, or the eventual development of mold.

Maybe I should read up on it.

Right now, it’s become Friday morning…I should probably do something like sleep (though I accidentally fell asleep, right before dinner). Tomorrow, I need to work on my Dewey unit…hmm. I know it was suggested that we see the Pikachu movie then, but I think that with everything going on — to be responsible, I should at least start my next unit (I haven’t touched it, so far). I only have until Monday, to get it done.

The biggest pain with that is actually taking notes. I don’t mind the reading or watching videos; the annoying thing is trying to guess what information is important, and trying to recall it. I could have done that instead of writing this…but I didn’t want to.