Having time to play with art supplies….

Last night I tried out some of the Strathmore 400-Series Mixed Media paper I bought, recently.  I was, in part, just intending to see what the new aquarelles (Supracolors, see here and here and here) looked like on top of this tinted paper, which is fairly predictable given what I’ve seen online.  But still, it is nice to see this without any photographic editing or distortion applied (some of which is inescapable, as we can see more colors than computer monitors can accurately reproduce — not to mention that I’ve heard scanners can “see” more variations in tone than human eyes recognize).

I also tried out a black Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Ink, using Speedball nibs.  This stuff is amazing — it goes on thick and solid black and dries quickly to a finish that I could not lift with my brush (a real brush, not a travel waterbrush) with significant application of water.

This is — in my experience — better performance than using a black (Faber-Castell) Pitt marker, which I’ve found to run under water washes, and which I’ve been told (by a former fellow student) runs even after 24 hours of drying.  (As a note, I have only experienced this with the Black pens, not the other colors.)  The Pitt markers are relatively excellent, though, so far as the depth of black ink goes.  Until I ran across the Derwent Graphik Line Painters (I’m not sure how long these will continue to be made, considering an experience I recently had), I could not find a blacker tone of black in a marker — granted that I generally have not used paint markers.

But the Bombay ink may actually surpass the Pitt black.  (I have not yet tried the other Ph. Martin’s black inks.)

The Copics and Microns are also decent, if you’re looking for fineliners — though as I said before, my Micron Graphic 1 pen did run under Supracolor laydown and wash (even when it was fine under a pure water wash).  I haven’t tried Supracolor over Bombay yet, though.  And I have also not found Copic or Micron to be as deep in tone…I did some experiments in my youth with black inks; at least in the early 2000’s, it was hard to find a good, deep black ink which would not fade or lift.  I think that at the time, I settled on black Higgins Calligraphy ink, though I can’t be absolutely sure without digging out my archives.

The only downside to the Bombay ink is that it almost immediately dries to stick to the metal nib.  Luckily, Ph. Martin’s does sell a pen cleaner (which I have yet to try; last night was all about soap, water, fingernails, and rubbing alcohol with Q-Tips (the last of which, works) — but I was using Speedball B-series (round) nibs, which are made of multiple metal layers…and I wasn’t into separating them and then trying to get them to go back to where they were before — I’ve found it relatively futile.  The bright point about the B nibs is that they glide over the paper (the tip is flattened), instead of incising it.

I have a variety of steel nibs, a lot of which I want to try again.  They are not all as pleasant to use as these, though, and I am not certain if it is because of the famed anti-rust coating (which I read, a very long time ago, needs to be burned off), or if a sharp new steel nib just rejects ink in general.  I can try again after singeing the nib I tried to use last night, but seriously…I am going to have to get a new lighter, and find the Third Hand…(a free-standing pair of jaws which can stand getting hot — I’ve used these for hard soldering/brazing, before.  Though all the nibs may need is a small flame, I’ve unintentionally softened plier jaws before by the addition of heat — even with as little as a cigarette lighter).

Back to what I began this post talking about…the Strathmore 400-Series Mixed Media paper.  This is much heavier than the paper I’ve seen sold in Canson XL Mixed Media paper pads.  The latter is 98 lb/160 grams per square meter (gsm), while the former is 184 lb/300 gsm.  My lesson on how to interpret the given weights of paper was so long ago and so de-emphasized that I know that one of these weights is relative and variable and the other is not, but I can’t remember which.

In any case, the Strathmore paper I have is very stiff and resistant to warping, almost like Bristol board (or heavier), while the Canson paper is much lighter, possibly better for everyday use — it is something which I wouldn’t feel bad about using up in experimentations or journaling.  Also, the Canson XL pad has 4x as many sheets (60) as the Strathmore pad I’ve got (a high-quality pad with 15 sheets)…though I think I saw this in a thicker pad…which I didn’t get, as I needed to try it out, first.

Strathmore Mixed Media paper, though, comes in tan and grey as well as white — which is a big reason I tried it (I have been curious about tinted paper — particularly the tan Strathmore variants which can take water-based media, since I have decided to stay away from pastels, at least for now).  In addition to watercolor pencil and ink, I also played around with the FW acrylic inks on this, last night.  I did tape the paper down, but at this point I don’t believe that was necessary.  Using tape actually may be a disadvantage with this paper, considering that the Artist’s Tape damaged the paper when it was lifted off…and I didn’t seem to need it.

Just one last note on this before I move on:  I have just found heavier Canson Mixed Media pads online — reading as 138 lb/224 gsm, still a bit lighter than the Strathmore, but decently heavier than 98 lb/160 gsm.  They just are not the ones which are sold as XL pads.  The XL ones are just the ones you’re most likely to see, if my experience is anything to go by (they often go on sale and may be some of the only inexpensive Mixed Media papers to be apparent, depending on what stores you have available).

Anyway, last night I splashed around in some acrylic inks…I do have a test paper, but it’s largely calligraphy (Japanese and English).  What I realized about the FW inks is that you don’t need to have many colors to get a pretty wide range of tints and shades.  The White tone is good for making things more opaque, though the shimmer colors will also opacify a mix (I’m pretty sure I have Sundown Magenta [a pink, sparkly ink which looks like nail polish], which hasn’t really proven all that useful, but it’s interesting to play with).

Last night I was using Flesh Tint, White, Red Earth, Marine Blue, and Purple Lake, before I began to play around with the sparkly Sundown Magenta to make shimmer teals, and started wondering what I was doing.

It is really possible to get a wide range of colors out of not so many of these inks, though.  I got a muted lilac, a muted teal, an inky violet-blue, bright teal, bright violet, pale red-leaning floral violet, a series of skin tones, and a very muted grey (the last, from Red Earth [orange overtone] plus Marine Blue [green overtone].  It looks better than it sounds, apologies for no photo!).  It’s got me wondering what would happen if I intentionally limited my palette…and what this would have looked like on a white paper, as versus a tinted one.

The colors looked relatively thinned out on the scrap of white Canson Mixed Media paper I used, but it’s very possible that this is because I was running low on ink in my palette.  I’ve noticed that the FW inks tend to get thin if only, say, a drop or two are dispensed at a time.  Coverage is great and intense for a little while, then things start to get paler with the addition of proportionally more and more water from the brush.

It needs to be decently thick — maybe like egg-yolk consistency, or a little thinner — to be able to appear brilliant.  And then the tinting strength of each ink is extremely variable, though that should go without saying for any paints or inks.  It’s just that some of these inks will run out (much) faster than others…again, a common sentiment.

With this stuff, I’m also using disposable palette sheets — I’ve already ruined one palette by letting the acrylic inks dry to a film on there…at least with the sheets (reliably white background), I know I’ll be able to tell what colors I’m mixing and what they actually look like.

If things happen the way I plan, tomorrow, I hope to get FW Flame Orange, Indigo, and Prussian Blue inks (I really want to mix decent greens, as I dislike the Emerald Green color I’ve got — and I was mistaken in assuming I had Prussian Blue.  I also want to see if Indigo is violet-leaning enough to give decent violets…I don’t think so, but it’s worth a shot).  I also should check for other B-series Speedball nibs (I have B-6, B-5 [2], B-3 [2], and B-1:  leaving B-4, B-2, and B-0).  I actually haven’t used the calligraphy Speedball nibs I got at the Japanese stationery store — but I think C-5 was the one I destroyed as I was trying to fix it.

Aside from that, I want to get a Dr. Ph. Martin’s Pen Cleaner.  I’m also thinking about a decent detail watercolor brush — my favorite one is a size 3, which may still be a bit big for comic illustrations.  I’d just be looking for something tiny, sharp, and stiff — not unlike my Niji waterbrush, but not my Niji waterbrush (I wouldn’t be able to get acrylic out of there).  The great thing about this is that tiny brushes are often cheap — even really good ones.

I was also thinking about sepia ink, but at this point I think that would be overkill, especially as I still have about half a bottle left of Walnut Ink (though I’m not sure if it’s waterproof).  And copying Koko Be Good isn’t high on my list of things to do.  I’ll see if I can make things work with the acrylic inks — and check out the Bombay inks sometime after I can earn more…

One last note on process, and that is:  if I do want to make a webcomic or graphic novel (the former is preferable for a number of reasons), and I want to make it by hand and then do the assembly on the computer, it will be to my advantage to create the art larger than it has to be, and then resize it and letter it, after scanning.

This also means that I don’t have to draw the final artwork by hand, in position, and then scan it in.  I should also be able to fit in much more detail, this way.  The big thing that I might want to learn how to do, prior to this, though, is how to create what I think is a Layer Mask (in printmaking, I think this would be called a “Key”) which has all of the black components selected, so that I can scan a black-and-white copy of the linework, go on to paint the original artwork, but then also be able to overlay the outlines back on top of the scanned and colored image, in order to preserve the integrity of those lines.

Or, I could color things digitally (not what I want to do, for a number of reasons), or use (actually) transparent inks so that it isn’t an issue, at all.

Two hours to kill = art production ;)

I’m dealing with a little bit of hesitance toward putting my art online — but when would that not be the case, right?  I had a bit of a time earlier today with two hours to kill, so I — actually — did some drawing.

August 18, 2017; 1 hour study.  Supracolor II and Pentel mechanical pencil on Canson Montval paper.

I’m not sure the colors are altogether this bright in the actual paper version…??? but you get the idea.

This was done with the Supracolor II pencils on top of Canson Montval paper.  I wouldn’t call it exactly, “finished,” but this is what happened after about an hour of quiet observation and drawing.

I should actually do this more often.  I forgot how drawing from observation can get meditative.

I also forgot about the pleasure of seeing your work take form.  It wasn’t until I got to the shadows that this started to come together.

After having progressed this far (I should note that this study was done between 12:10 and 1:10 PM — if I want to duplicate the lighting), I wanted to try something else.  I wasn’t sure what, though…so I attempted to work on some illustrations, as versus doodling.


Right now, they’re all linework.

I can actually see where my drawings in comic style have improved, because of my two semesters in Figure Drawing.  I still have some work to do where I would be gauging the size of the skull against the size of the ribcage (I have a tendency to make the heads either too big or too small), but that doesn’t seem to be an issue in the drawing to the right.

I left all of my character drawings uncolored, with the intent of inking and coloring them later with the FW inks.


I do have some experience with drawing these two characters, though the third one on the same paper — that is, the one which was unfamiliar to me (and also the first I tackled), has been through so many revisions that I am not certain it is a great thing to post them online!

I can already see part of that image where I can obviously fix something…this is where the neck inserts into the skull…a problem I am used to.

At least, though, this gives me something to work off of, if I want to play with the acrylic inks.  I had wanted to go over these with Micron…but especially with the first character I posted above, I’m not entirely sure how to do that without obliterating the delicate and semi-spontaneous work that went into the original drawing.

I also know that it isn’t necessarily the best thing to be drawing with mechanical pencil, but I was kind of in a hurry to get out, today, and that was what I already had with me.  I’ve found Pentel leads to be pretty good where it comes to erasing, as well…next time, though, it would be good to take an actual dedicated eraser.  The Staedtler white plastic erasers are actually pretty sweet, but my stash is, again, old.  I bought a 4-pack of them I-don’t-know-how-many-years-ago, and have not run out.  I don’t know if they decay…maybe I should either sell them, give them away, or carve stamps out of them… 🙂

…or simply see if they crumble or ooze at all, at this point…

Alright, I think that’s about all I’ve got, for now.  I can look at inking these images…maybe I should do so using translucent marker paper, although that kind of defeats the purpose of having drawn them on watercolor paper…I will be able to make multiple versions, though, and see which ones I like best, before inking the final version.

And it is just an art journal, in practicality…

Testing Supracolor II watercolor pencils…

Supracolor II, FW acrylic inks
Supracolor II 30-set color chart — see the middle stripe for the cleanest wetted colors.  The blocky, intense colors are FW acrylic inks…take note that I’ve had to apply a “Brightness” adjustment to this, as I took the photo at around 11:30 PM.  Lower left are mixtures I was playing with.

I did try out the Caran d’Ache Supracolor II pencils, tonight.  I am a little underwhelmed, upon seeing the color density next to full-strength FW acrylic inks…though I am glad that the Supracolors will work with a good degree of opacity, on top of black paper.  (I was using Strathmore ArtAgain coal black paper.)  Using them on toned paper was my fall-back position, in case I wasn’t satisfied with their performance as aquarelles (watercolor pencils).

In Caran d’Ache’s favor, for the tests I was working with very little pressure, ranging to heavy pressure; with a clean waterbrush, the great amount of white showing through was likely due to the synthetic bristles wiping up the pigment, as versus simply wetting it.  And after the bristles pick up the heavy amount of pigment in the dark area, the brush wants to spread it everywhere…which could be a plus or minus, depending on your aims.  I haven’t learned how to control the pigment flow yet, though.  And I’m thinking that the sketchy quality of the soft leads might be something that grows on me.

I think I’ve mentioned before that two of the main reasons I stopped using colored pencils were the fact that the (usually white) color of the paper shows through to a degree I really can’t let slide; and the tiny point of contact with the paper.  In addition, paints and inks often have better color intensity, and they cover the entire area (excepting dry-brush techniques).

Aquarelle pencils, however…can cover the white, once they’re wet; and though they are also suited to detail work, I can also switch out with a brush to manipulate the pigment.  I am aware that my most effective present method for eliminating white paper showing through is to paint the substrate first (or use toned paper, which is meant to show through).  I haven’t tested this yet — though I did indeed get the Supracolors to use on top of acrylic ink or watercolor laydown.

What I did with the acrylic ink tonight did show me that the degree of opacity offered by the FW inks is acceptable to me — only three inks were marginal enough to cause concern (White [obviously], Emerald Green, and Flesh Tint), and the two which weren’t white were both convenience mixtures.

The biggest drawback to the FW inks — besides the fact that they each have to be shaken up — is that there is no Ultramarine equivalent (I have used) for mixing, meaning that one is more or less dependent on their (warm-leaning) Violet, which can be tinted with a bit of blue, or Crimson.  I think Indigo is the only deep blue of theirs which I don’t have, and I left that one because of concerns about color temperature.  That means that Rowney Blue is the most violet-leaning blue that I have, and…that isn’t saying much.

However — I am now thinking that maybe I am better off with acrylic inks, as versus aquarelles…except where it comes to convenience in travel.  I can use the Supracolors at work, that is, because I don’t need anything except the aquarelles, a waterbrush, and paper.  I shouldn’t, on the other hand, use acrylic inks or paints at work because of the toxicity issue — the only sink which is not used for food is in the bathroom.  And I would much rather separate utility and food (and toilet) sinks, given that I don’t want to take a chance with exposing my co-workers — or anyone else — to pigments (as I’ve been told that, “none of them are really good for you”).

I was working on top of watercolor paper tonight, though.  The effects of both media may be different on a surface like Bristol board.  I haven’t yet tested this, but it was apparent that the watercolor paper (Canson Montval) absorbed the ink of my fineliner (Micron Graphic 1) enough so that it seemed as though it did not dry to the point it needed to, in order not to lift when hit with water.  (Either this, or there was some sort of reaction with ingredients in the Supracolors.)

Consequently, washing water over the aquarelles caused black ink to tint the original run — even though hitting it with plain water alone, did not cause any lifting or smudging of the Micron.

I’m also wondering about whether or not I want to actually scrub the aquarelles with my brush — it’s not something I’m used to, and this time it actually did lead to a messy outcome.  It is a watercolor-like outcome, but I never scrub my watercolors with my brushes unless I’m lifting it off of the paper.

In any case…I’ve got to play around with color mixing and layering.  I should be able to do that, sometime soon…

A more complete update:

So I have had some time to reflect and think things over a bit.  This is a large part of why I write — even if what I am thinking at one point, at some later point comes to have little validity, at least I have a paper trail so that I can see where I’ve been.

When I’m writing about myself, I’ve found that it is best not to prematurely censor what I’m thinking or feeling…otherwise, I come out with a “sanitized” narrative, which may not actually reflect either reality or my own psyche.

After looking over my recent posts, I find it fairly evident that I’m not speaking from a woman’s perspective.  I have also been in Women’s groups before and found myself alienated; have taken a Women’s Studies class and did not know why I did not relate to the (female) Professor’s version of what “women” were, etc.  (I gave up on Women’s Studies after that experience in being, “othered.”)

Brief aside, as I seem to have lost focus for a moment:  I did end up getting the 30-pencil set of Supracolor II watercolor pencils.  I haven’t yet gotten the chance to try them out, though.  And yes, I do know that I only have one more week of freedom before school starts up again…

In any case, I’ve realized that there is no one perfect way to exist as myself.  And it’s very apparent that I hold a number of ideals which are given life in my own power of visualization, which — when taken literally — are not necessarily mutually compatible, in reality.  For instance, it would not be possible for me to start testosterone, then go off of it and get back to the way things are now.

Testosterone causes permanent changes, and my major fear is that I will not be able to return to my current state.  On top of this is the question of what to do with my chest, should I start and then stop testosterone (as I doubt I would be on it, long-term:  health reasons).  For me binding is effective, but uncomfortable; ranging into painful.  And I don’t dislike my chest as it is; the only reason I would get surgery, barring medical necessity, is to make things more convenient for other people.  And I don’t want to be berated and bullied into getting surgery that I don’t want and don’t need.

So either I go on testosterone for the voice drop and then move back to estrogens and deal with the hair redistribution (that’s a good way to put it) — and work out to retain some musculature — or I don’t go on testosterone, and I work my way up to bodybuilding as a reversible measure, and go without the voice drop, extra cartilage, and facial + body hair.  In addition to this, I would be going by a chosen name and gender-neutral or masculine pronouns.  I can anticipate push-back and sarcasm on the latter, however, without permanent physical changes.

What I really want is to be recognized as who I am, without having to do anything special to mark myself.  (That is, I don’t want people to see me and immediately slot me as a “woman,” regardless of what I’m wearing or what my body looks like.)  From what I can tell, I don’t think the sentiment is unusual.  Though I do happen to be lucky in that I do think I would be more than comfortable with a built body.

I think my brain is starting to fizzle out, about now, so I’ll get some rest…

Maybe I need to write deep things sometime other than my lunch hour.

I think I recognize what has happened here:  I forgot that I am gender-fluid.  I seem to be rapidly flashing back and forth between (my own) gendered ideals.  I’m not sure how or why this happens…but I’ll get back to you after group.  I need to see if I can work this out in speech…

Sexual orientation? and me. :P

One of the reasons I posted what I did, last night, was to prepare myself for today…I have a meeting coming up, where I can talk about these issues.  What has come to light is that — I actually am wondering, now, if I am lesbian, but just have come to assimilate an inappropriate definition for the term.  Also:  I have been majorly socialized in the wider “queer” (LGBTQIA) community, with a focus on transgender and genderqueer experience…having been ostracized from lesbian groups early on.

While I don’t see myself to be “butch,” as who I am goes…really deep, deeper than it has in many of the butch women I’ve known (but not of the butch trans* men), I can relate to this experience, having both emulated and admired the people I knew and saw who were part of this really great queer community.  And I lived in that role for about two years, at least; though I think I was seen as butch and/or as trans*, long before that.

It’s just that I am thinking that chafing at men coming on to me, being asexual from a heterosexual reference point, and wanting to be recognized as masculine by a lady, that…that kind of sounds, well, more gay than trans.  It hasn’t helped, though, to have trans* men tell me that I’m “just a lesbian,” as I used to get in my mid-twenties.  It didn’t help for them to tell me that, disparagingly, like they were “more than lesbian,” you know?

I don’t think that the possibility of this has been…adequately explored, and explored with neutral power-levels.  While it’s very…apparent that I do have some male-leaning identity (my role models have always been drawn from a pool consisting of more than women), maybe it would be good to try and find some places to hang out where I could be exposed to women’s community.

I am aware that my socialization may cause some disturbance (it is different politically to fall in with women’s groups than with trans* or genderqueer groups), but maybe it’s still the best thing…

Another gender-related post…

…stemming from another system of dreams.

This one had to do with two friends I had, one in Kindergarten (which I’ll refer to as K); the other, in High School (HS).  In the dream, both of them were “interested” in me…though HS had seen me in both male and female forms.  Because of the latter, I was more interested in her…and was trying to figure out how to break this to K.

What I remember most notably is a feminine hand on my chest, rubbing it as though I were male…recognizing me as male.  I think this was the HS friend.  The point was not that my chest was flat or rounded — the point was that my being was recognized…and maybe there was love coming from someplace I didn’t think to expect.  (I can’t even remember this person’s last name, anymore; then again, I did remember her from 18 years ago.)

This is an interruption in a long span of not being particularly attracted to anyone.

I realized that…maybe this is an effect of not having recently developed close enough relations with anyone, to the extent that they could see the whole of me.  The last notable relationship I had was with someone who insisted on seeing me as “lesbian,” thus — in my mind — as a woman.  Needless to say, this was not tolerable…

But in the dream, I did realize that the difference here was that of being seen as “lesbian,” as versus “trans* male who is primarily attracted to women.”  This also explains why I get set off by men hitting on me, as 1) they’re invalidating my actual gender (as versus the one they assume I have), 2) I don’t feel my wishes (to end the encounters) are respected, 3) I’m not interested, and 4) I feel inhibited from seeking female partners at the same time as men assume they have implicit permission to come after me.

It’s also apparent to me at this point that my dysphoria is social and not physical.  If I can keep having a rounded chest, and still be seen as masculine (as distinct from “butch,” which my experience suggests is more of a social role than a gender orientation)…that would work.  And maybe then I could have a sex life (or one that was enjoyable, at least).

Then…what to do about this?

Last night, I briefly considered low-dose testosterone, mainly for the voice drop…but I don’t want to lose what I have left of my hairline.  (Although male-pattern baldness should cease advancing when T administration ceases, I won’t get that hair back.)  Plus, there is the problem of being on T for too long, which can erase my visibility to the queer community, if I end up being a relatively straight trans* male.

Not to mention the fur that I’m pretty sure is going to pop up if I use T for any appreciable length of time, which will inhibit my ability to dress femme and get away with it (without shaving.  I dislike shaving).  On the other hand…fur.  🙂

I did, on browsing my own blog, find a number of places where I had been considering my gender presentation.  Fairly consistently, getting back into shape has been a goal, though it’s odd to track my weight changes.  I was able to find dress shirts that fit, in the Women’s section, by the way!  I wore one of them to the test I took today, but that’s another entry…in any case, it actually fits, and doesn’t restrict my movement.  The only drawback is that it feels synthetic.

Right now, I’m trying to get back to the point where I don’t feel undernourished and rapacious because of the fever I’ve had, along with the corresponding denial of food.  I seem to be hovering around 159-160 lbs. (down from 164-165), which gives me a lot of fuel to burn (especially in the mornings), but the last time I exercised, I became fairly short of breath after about 5 minutes.  I felt like my throat was closing up, but wasn’t sure if it was asthma, or what.  D says this is because I’m just getting over being sick.

And I know I’ve been slipping on the sugared beverages, now that I have wiggle room.  I need to cut it out.  🙂

The other thing I noticed was a question of…piercings!  I haven’t been wearing any earrings, for quite a long time, now.  And I’m not sure whether to go back to body jewelry, or to work with non-ferrous metals and make my own stuff.  I’m pretty sure that I did get a cup bur (a tool to round the ends of wire), and I know I have wire up to at least 18g…I can use copper, brass, or silver (though I think my thick jeweler’s brass wire has a small amount of lead in its alloy; I’m uncertain as to whether wear on my pillowcases or on the insides of my piercings will expose me to lead).

The only trouble I’m facing is seeing whether my piercings are together enough to avoid enlarging on their own, from the weight (or metal) of my jewelry.  (Right now I have a set of filigree sterling earwires in, just to open the space.  I have also experienced irritation at base metal wires causing the piercings to abnormally enlarge.)  If they’re going to open up anyway, I might as well go back to the 14g rings I had, before, and/or just forget about wearing heavy jewelry.

At this point, though — if that happens, I’m getting fancier rings; and then possibly getting a third lobe piercing (I’m hoping that an act like this will signal the women I might like as to my group status).  The major problem is that it becomes harder to get a job after the third piercing, which seems to be a legal way to discriminate against minorities who use piercings as code.  Not that it’s official, but I’m fairly certain that it does mean something, because I’ve seen enough people using it.

I can try and wear my normal jewelry, and then if — by October — I still want to or need to gauge up, I can set that in motion.  The major reason I’m not getting a piercing now is that cold weather may keep me from getting an infection.

I’ve also been thinking about the pronoun issue:  that is, dropping “she/her” from my list of approved self-applied pronouns, and going by “they,” exclusively.  This may be in addition to changing the name I go by, out in the real world…but I’m going to have to sit on the latter and see how it feels, before making any changes.