Feeling time slipping away…brainstorming my next steps (after college).

It could be the mid/post-holidays depression, anxiety about others, fighting off my own cold, and too much GITS:SAC soundtracks talking, but one thought has arisen in my mind which merits recording:

It wasn’t that when I was at University, that I particularly wanted to be a writer, more than that I knew I was skilled at it and that it was the only constant in my life, at the time.

“only constant in my life” ≠ “I want to be employed doing this”

and

“I want to be employed doing this” ≠ “I can be employed doing this”

And so the thought arises of going somewhere with my career which has nothing directly to do with writing.

Amazing.

The problem with this scenario is that entering a different career takes either assessment of skills or building of skills, and my financial status…causes me some worry.  I have 10 years’ worth of credit card debt, accumulated while I was in college and after I got out and still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.  (I went back to community college instead of on to a job.)  It wasn’t much per month, but the constant accrual of principal and interest, on top of not having had a paying job, builds up.

On top of this…the fact that my present living situation is tenuous has just really been triggered to the front of my mind, again.  That is, if my living situation is upended, and I have to take a full-time job to support myself as a necessity, what would I do?  This is considering that the only reason to continue on in the Library is that I already have experience working there.  I don’t want to work in sales or customer service, considering that the public service part of my job is the least favorite part of my position.  And that only becomes more of a problem, the higher up I move in the ranks.  I probably could make a fair Administrative Assistant, but then I don’t really want to put up with routine sexual harassment, either.

There is always this thing going on in the back of my mind about going back to University and becoming a biochemist.  Then I could work for a pharmaceutical company in developing new medicines and treatments.  I know there’s a need for this.  I know I keep having recurring dreams about it.  It’s just that the math + science aspects of it are a bit scary to me.  I was never really poor at math or science, but they take some brain-stretching to understand.

When I first went to college, my intent was to study magmatics…then I got in and found that there was so much more that I had never had the opportunity to learn about which I wanted to know about.  Following a Hard Sciences track would not have given me time to study these things.  Plus, if I wanted to be a Geology major, the paying jobs were in the oil industry, and it very much went against my ethics to do that.  But come to think of it, if I worked for the pharmaceutical industry, there would likely be animal testing, which is not something I think I’d rest well with, either.

I did remember that it isn’t true that my last engagement with math, before Calculus, was Pre-Calculus in high school.  It was Statistics, back when I thought I’d be a Sociology major, and had to fulfill a math requirement for admission to my second University.  (I got a C, and I’ve forgotten most of it by now.)

Art is the option before me right now, though I am questioning that path because of the unstructured nature of my free time.  It’s necessary to produce if I want to have a job as a commercial artist.  If I don’t produce, I don’t eat.  If I worked in Advertisement, there would probably be no lack of jobs, but this calls up my uncertainty in bolstering capitalism.  I suppose I do already spend money (and sometimes happily so), though, so why am I uncertain about getting paid to keep commerce going?

Because I know the system is flawed.  Way too many people are left behind, and modern Marketing is questionable in its tactics.  But I don’t think anything’s really as perfect as I would want it to be.  I’ve tried the Library, which satisfies my ethical requirements, but has way too many drawbacks for me to want to stay there.

And then there’s the possibility of becoming an Illustrator, for graphic novels or kids’ books; but I don’t think that my existence has been quite virtuous enough to keep me out of the limelight if I got a job in the latter.

Maybe I should find a job in the art industry, you know?  Not necessarily working the counter at an art supply store, but maybe assisting the companies that make the products that I use.  It’s possible that working at an art supply store could give me inroads so far as knowledge about these companies goes, though.  Maybe I could write sales documents, internal memos and outgoing letters for them, or something.  That way I could combine the art and the writing, which are my two major skill sets.  Or hey, maybe I could even draw original art for them that shows off their products?

This is probably a good place to stop, because I think I may have a plan.

Writing is a good skill to have.  🙂

I replaced my Rembrandt white pastel!

Aww, you guyz!

My aunt and uncle gave me $50 for Xmas, so today we went and dropped by my art store.  I went and got an ArtBin for my markers, the Lyra graphite crayons I didn’t get before, some tinted papers, and a Rembrandt white pastel.  That pastel ran me $4, but it was OK because I know it’s worth it.  In total this ran me about $30.

What’s cool is that the Rembrandt pastels list the codes of the pigments right on the sticks.  I got a “100,5” which is code for White, and the pigment code of which is PW6.  On my smartphone I was able to search for PW6 and confirm that it is, in fact, Titanium White.  This helped put my mind at ease, because the pastel is creamier than I remember it being, and was drawing on me and the inside of my ArtBin wherever it touched.

There was a carcinogenicity warning in front of all the pastels, and a little warning sticker on the one pastel I got.  Now that I know what it’s referring to, though, I feel a lot better.  As long as I don’t grind it up and snuff it, I’ll probably be fine.  🙂

Now the hard part!  Using it!  😀

More info on that Lead White thing…

I’ve been doing a bit more digging, trying to see if I can find any more evidence that the white pigment in my pastels is not Lead White — given that the word of any one person, even someone beloved, is not proof.

This (eventually) lead me to a document called Where Lead Hides.  If that link is unavailable, there is a mirror, here, with a slightly different attribution.  I’ve found that Lead White is actually not lead oxide, but a different compound.  If you search “lead white” on Google (without quotations), you’ll find a lot of links.  In my case, the chemical composition of Lead White is not really what I’m looking for, so a lot of those links, I haven’t read.

In any case, I followed a couple of links from the above PDF(s).  One of them was dead and led me back to a page at a different URL, where I didn’t immediately see a substitute for the article mentioned in said PDF (which was dated 2006, I believe?)

Apparently it was supposed to mention how “asbestos, contaminated talc, lead and cadmium pigments” were used in pastels.  I already knew about asbestos — the old pigment made from ground malachite (which I don’t know the name of; “malachite green” likely refers to a different chemical compound), I’d grown up thinking contained asbestos fibers (like Falcon’s Eye and Tiger Eye — or so I thought), but trueart.info doesn’t list this as a particular reason to avoid it.  Instead, they cite the possible toxicity of the copper content (in the vein of lapidary/sculpture though, not as a pigment).  Talc is something that at this point I’m not using on my skin, because I know there’s a salient danger of asbestos contamination.  Cadmium, I know about — cadmium pigments (not their replacements, or “Hues,” but e.g. Cadmium Red as versus Cadmium Red Hue) are toxic and can be absorbed through skin.

This is why I’m leaning toward the Rembrandt brand of pastels, should I really get into pastel painting or drawing; they use no cadmium, cobalt, or lead pigments, and say so.  Plus, I used (and loved) their White for a class a long time ago (2008 or so) and was just a little heartbroken when I tested it out this year and it shattered in my hand.

Lead is what I was searching for, though.

The other link given in the PDF, hit pay dirt.  That link is here:

http://www.noteaccess.com/MATERIALS/ToxicityPigmt.htm

…where it is stated that Lead White is illegal to use in pastels.  This was a big relief for me, because I had found that Flake White, or Lead White, is still in use in oil paints.  However, someone had a brain and excluded them from use in pastels, probably because it’s too easy for the particles to become airborne and travel everywhere.

In any case…it looks like I’ve got all the links worked out so they’re functional, hopefully.  I’m going to go on the belief that my white pastels are likely Titanium White and not Lead White, and that likely, the white that is used in my tints are Titanium, not Lead, White.  I should be able to keep digging, though.

Update on the “Occupational Hazards” track…

It’s been a while since I last mentioned occupational hazards as relating to art.  I’ve got some new information that I dug up over the holiday, which, at least, puts my mind more at ease.

For Xmas, I wanted a set of chalk pastels.  A senior student in my last drawing class recommended a certain store brand as a starter set — though at this point I am unclear whether she specifically recommended the harder, square pastels, or the soft chalk pastels.  I ended up getting the harder ones because of the color range and the price…

…I tried to write the math up here, but I’m concerned that it’s just confusing me, so I’ll hold off on that for now.  But — I got 48 pastels for about $15, as versus 12 for about $30.  So you can do the math, if you would like…

In any case, any art store I’ve gone to recently has a carcinogenicity warning on the pastels.  It started with the cadmium thing and has not gone away (though I have seen no more cadmium warnings, just generic fear-cancer warnings).

Luckily, the place I was buying my pastels from posts the MSDS (Materials Safety Data Sheets) on their site, and lists the colors affected.  The pastels I got had a Caution Label (CL) warning on them, saying that the color White was affected.

I looked up the MSDS when I got home, hoping that the pigment used in the pastels was not Lead White — but I heard from a relative that Lead White (lead oxide) would be illegal in my state.  Which is a good thing, because I think that lead oxide can be absorbed through the skin, though don’t quote me on that.

In any case, the MSDS given doesn’t state what the white pigment is, in the white pastels.  However, on doing some more digging, I found this link:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-1257692.html

…which talks about the carcinogenicity warning being linked to Titanium Dioxide as a (white) pigment.  This is a forum link, but the members there are talking about the difference between “bound” and “unbound” Titanium Dioxide, and routes of exposure — apparently, “unbound” Titanium Dioxide is a carcinogen, when it is inhaled.  But if I don’t blow the pastel dust up into the air, and if I wear a particle mask and wet-mop up the dust, I’m probably fine.  No one go and blame me if you get cancer from following that protocol, I’m not a doctor, but — seriously?!  Titanium Dioxide?

I was concerned up until the point at which it was said the toxin was Titanium Dioxide.  This stuff is used in cosmetics, including face powders.  I used to use it all the time as a sunscreen.  Now whether that’s bound or unbound, I don’t know — but it does explain why my sunscreens now tend to say not to apply them to damaged skin.

So now that I know that the big baddie is Titanium Dioxide, which can’t be absorbed through intact skin, I think I can breathe a bit easier.  What seems to be the case is that anything which has been shown to have any carcinogenicity under any conditions at all, is labeled with a Prop 65 warning if any of it is in any art material, regardless of whether it is safe to work with under reasonable conditions.

I do know that many people blow pastel dust up into the air, but — this is a dangerous practice in general.  Pigments aren’t necessarily safe to breathe or ingest, especially when it’s considered that some traditional pigments (like that made of ground malachite) may contain things like asbestos fibers (malachite is carcinogenic because of this, regardless of the beauty of its hue).  When you blow pastel dust up into the air, it’s like asking it to get inside your lungs (or inside the lungs of the person downwind from you).  And once it gets in, it doesn’t necessarily get out.

Charcoal, being an organic pigment, is a bit safer, but inorganic compounds may not be able to be broken down by the body.

I just thought I’d update this track, because I especially pay attention to these warnings of potential carcinogens and toxins.  However, it doesn’t help to make people scared about things that they may be otherwise exposed to every day and which they can avoid exposure to with a bit of respect, and let other toxins go unlabeled because they’re under a daily exposure threshold which is determined I-don’t-know-how (I’m thinking here of those xylene-based markers that I love but don’t use because I know they’re toxic [I’ve gotten headaches from them before], and I don’t want to have to open all the windows to use them).

And while I’m on the subject of pastels — I should mention, at least for my own records, that the Krylon Workable Fixatif MSDS is available directly from Krylon…and used also with a modicum of respect, it also appears relatively OK.  Just don’t spray it in an enclosed space with no ventilation, or next to a heat source.  Clearly.  Just reasonable precautions should be enough.

With that, I’m being called away.  I thought though that I should add in another:  “I’m not a doctor, and this is not advice that should be relied upon for one’s safety.  Do the research yourself, and take necessary precautions.  No one is responsible for your health but you.”

It’s just that in my case, I’ve found that the law cannot always be relied upon to give a good sense of the relative hazards of materials…

Another image, this one from late in the semester:

This image is the one I was referring to as “Leap of Faith.”  I’m guessing it’s OK to share because of the fact that I got a drip on it.  😦  Sigh.  Wait, I thought I was supposed to be sharing my best images, not the ones I’m willing to let run free across the ‘Net?

This one, I can bear to set free.

I’m sure the drip is there because I changed direction with the hairspray at one side of the image, not off of the edge of the image.

Hopping from rock to rock along a pond.
Hopping from rock to rock along a pond.

Seriously, Aqua Net — on this scale — smells horrible.  I’ve gotten some Krylon Workable Fixatif, but have not used that yet.  I hear it’s worse.  If and when I use that, it will be outdoors.  The lizards can have fun with it.

…Actually, the lizards might die from it.  In any case, it will be outdoors.  🙂

I did get a set of chalk pastels (the hard ones) so that I can practice adding color to looser compositions like these, and so I can play with blending tones and working loose.  This one…began as a warm-up, but I decided I liked it enough to include it in my final portfolio.  It turned out to contain a metaphor which was useful for the class.

In memory of the little silver plants in the backyard…

I thought I’d get on actually uploading some shots of what I did during last semester.  It would be nice to actually have some images on here, (even if blurry and in poor lighting)…

This is the source photo used for the prior drawing.  This was from the beginning of the semester.
This is the source photo used for the drawing to the right.  This was from the beginning of the semester.
In memory of the little silver plants in the backyard...
You can tell that I took this photo on a rainy day.  There should be new growth popping up soon, even though these little guys got mowed over…

Report on yesterday :D

Not much new to report today, except for the fact that I’ve found that when I have some of my friends over for Xmas, too, it makes it a whole lot more fun!  It’s been a while since I’ve hung out with anybody who was especially “my” friend (as versus family), and I was able to make a little enclave where we could play and wouldn’t be bothered.

Someone did get me the Nicolaïdes text, which was happy-making if only for the fact that now I don’t have to decide whether it’s worth the money or not.  The person who gave it to me said that it had been recommended to him when he was in college.  🙂  So now, really, all that is required of me is to follow the regimen, if I want.  And, I suppose, nothing says that I must complete it in one year…

…though it may be tempting to let go of my classes and use the text on its own, you know?  IDK.  Last semester was relaxing if only for the reason that I only had two classes, one of which I didn’t care about very much, and I had part-time work on top of that.  Next semester, I’m looking at three classes, two of which are foundational, one of which may be useful-but-not-timely, and then part-time work (I’m looking at 19 hours) along with, possibly, the Nicolaïdes text.  And trying to figure out if I really do want to be an Illustrator, and if so, of what?  Adult or teen Graphic Novels?  Kids’ books?

That’s a lot to have on my plate, especially considering that I haven’t decided whether to pursue the writing professionally, as well as the art — or instead of the art.  And also considering that my body needs a certain amount of rest every night to avoid being wiped out the next day.

I’ve found that my boss wants me to keep to a very high standard of timeliness — shelving an average of one cart every 20 minutes at a minimum, 30 minutes per cart maximum — which means that I can’t correct everything on the shelf, and nor can I get distracted by titles (though the latter’s usually not an issue).  I also have to use one or another system of making sure I’m not shelving another library’s books (I’m not sure my present system is time-effective), and to make sure I’m shelving things in the right section (particularly where it comes to New books).  I’ve been at that level before; it’s just that I’ve gotten a bit lax and have been correcting things instead of shelving as fast as I can.

I spent most of today asleep, which I gave myself permission to do, considering that I was in contact with someone yesterday who hugged me and then said they were having fever and chills.  😡  So right now…I’m still OK, but I have been sneezing.  Which doesn’t really make much sense, considering that I vacuumed all over the house last night.

Well, maybe it does make some sense…I did forget to change my clothes before I slept.  And the heater has been running, and we haven’t changed or washed the filters on the vents.

But in any case, it was really fun to have friends over yesterday.  We got to play games and draw.  And then I got to see my uncle and talk to him about art and stuff.  🙂  And the one dude who I dislike didn’t bother me or my friends, and that was really nice.  I’d been concerned, but he was hands-off, which was really a good thing.

It’s kind of funny — we kind of sectioned ourselves off into sub-groups, so there was the youth group with me, and then Mom’s friends, and then Dad’s family and their people — and then my siblings, who were busy cooking.  Then we went to see my uncle later, and it was really nice to catch up with him, too.  By the time the night was over, and everything was cleaned up, it was 2 AM — which explains in part why I was in bed for most of today!

In any case, yesterday was a great success.  I was happy, even though I was part of the “entertaining” group.  🙂  It’s just nice to have people over who you know aren’t going to try and hurt you, you know?  I have some really sweet friends, I think.  And I can build on that little foundation…