I started writing about mandalas and ended up writing about inks.

I feel like maybe I should be looking at alternatives to Library School, while I have the free time.  I have just been thinking about how most Library Assistants who float between branches can end up with six hours or so at Circulation (or so it seems) when substituting for a Clerk.  Circulation can be easy — and it usually is — except when I get cases which I have to refer to higher ranking staff.  Which I’d be, mind you, if I took that job.

I’ll try not to go any further into that.

Earlier, I did continue on the little art-making spree I’ve been on since late last night (I think I’m going in little “spurts” of energy with everything:  I haven’t, for example, touched the career reading for days).  What I can say is that it’s been so long since I’ve seen multiple mandalas (though I just spotted both of my mandala coloring books), that I had to go and look through the “mandala” tag on the Reader just to get a sense of what basic shapes other people have filled the spaces with.  I didn’t want to stick with the cliché lotus petals.  I mean, they’re nice, but I need some variety, you know?  😉

It could be interesting, to make a research project out of this…unfortunately, as for now, the post I have in mind to create isn’t fully formed, yet.  I want to make examples of how space can be divided up (360/?), the differences that the orientation of these spaces can make, and what simple shapes can take up those spaces — which will require either photography or my Wacom.  I have a strong feeling that reference to the Seven Basic Motifs of Best Maugard will come in handy here…though again, to explain this is much eased by using visual aids.

Right now, though…I feel like it’s writing time, not art time.  It could be the sunset, or it could be the fact that I’m not wearing my glasses — or maybe that’s just enough “art” for the day.  I got to the point with my second mandala of the day (not counting the one at midnight last night) where I really had to take a photograph, because I could see this mandala diverging in a way that I hadn’t expected.

Right now I have a kind of Art Deco-type pattern going on in the background which is reminding me of shark teeth.  I had expected “arrowhead,” not so much “shark.”

But with my mental state as it is, things like that are going to come out.

I’m also experimenting with an asymmetrical fill pattern, for the first time — it looks fairly nice, except for the fact that it’s swirling counterclockwise and I noticed, but made no change to it (because, I expect stuff like that to come out at this time).  For those who don’t know:  counterclockwise spiralling can indicate decay or death (IIRC), though this is more of a fire-type motif (probably a “Wheel of Fire” reference).

Right now, I have maybe three out of ten spaces filled with the shark pattern.  I’ve also realized why others have used edges to their work with mandalas — there’s a lot of underlying work which happens before any of the final elements are laid in, which has to be decluttered before painting.  I’m just not sure whether I want a deep black in there, or not (I have a tendency to paint pastel-toned paintings; going all the way in tonality to black could be shocking as regards the rest of the work…or it could force me to use a decent amount of paint, which may not be a bad thing).

Right now I have four options, as regards inking:  Black, Sanguine, Warm Grey, or Cool Grey waterproof fineliner.  Both of the Grey tone pens will be barely noticeable.  I’m using a 2B pencil (Faber-Castell; I love these, even though I have expressed frustration with 2B before) to do all of the basic pencil work, intending to erase it out, later — so it’s nice to have some inks that can withstand eraser scrubbing — and water.

Why only these four colors?  The other fineliners I have are all water-soluble (Stabilo and Staedtler); and I’m not intending to underpaint with them.  🙂  Both Micron and Copic have relatively decent waterproof qualities, though I’m much more familiar with Microns.  Pitt pens by Faber-Castell…they say that they are waterproof, but my own tests have shown a bit of pigment movement under water; a second student in my program confirmed this when I mentioned it.

I do also have bottled ink, which I didn’t remember until just now.  I was in class with someone who would use ink wash as an underdrawing and then layer color on top of it.  I’m not sure what type of ink that was, but it didn’t budge under the later painting.

I suspect it might have been waterproof Sumi ink, but there is no way that I’m using the bottle I have of that, with all the caution signs that are on it (it contains shellac, meaning it probably also contains camphor as a solvent…and I don’t remember either of those as being safe.  The bottle says to wash your hands for 15 minutes if you get it on your skin, IIRC).

I have Yasutomo bottled ink, already (needed it for a Drawing class); and I don’t remember it moving under subsequent layers of water when I used it on Illustration board (the latter of which, I still don’t know how to use — it’s kind of weird how the board warps [and unwarps] with water), even though that ink is not said to be waterproof.  I think it just soaked into the board and got stuck.  It would be interesting to see how this ink behaves on a different material.

I’m thinking that traditionally, the setup for Sumi-E is very different from what we would use with Western watercolors; it would be on top of an absorbent surface, and the paper would not be thick cotton-rag watercolor paper, but probably more like washi paper (which is very thin).  I’ve never done this myself, mind you; so I’m not an expert…but watercolor paper is likely not a traditional surface on which to use Sumi ink!

Stick-based Sumi ink (with a brush, for toned areas) would likely be physically safer than the waterproof liquid stuff, but it’s been a really long time since I’ve ground my own ink…and I would need to learn how to recognize the type of stick I would want (Sumi ink is generally either pine soot or vegetable oil soot; the two of these formulations have different properties).  I’m lucky that I can already (somewhat?  I see another spelling) recognize the kanji for “pine” (the one I’m thinking of is very basic, and another reason I’d like to just simply insert images here [not that I would have known beforehand that I’d want to show a kanji for “pine”])…but going further than that, I’d be best off asking a specialty provider of Asian art materials:  one of which, I know; shipping just may cost as much as my order.  Then there is Japantown, but I’d be relying on the salespeople there to read things for me.

My biggest concern with using bottled ink is what type of nib to use.  I need fine lines, meaning I’d probably need a steel nib (not quill [which it seems one needs to be able to make on one’s own], bamboo, or reed), meaning I’d have to prep the steel nib (there is an anti-rust coating on them that repels ink and has to be burned off; meaning I’d need some way to hold that nib while it’s smoking hot, and I may have softened one pair of plier jaws already by doing this; I count myself lucky that I can even still use those pliers)…it may be too much trouble, for now.

Anyway…these are side streets that I don’t have to take, for now, but which may be interesting in the future.  In particular, I’m looking at this train of thought I started with the Sumi ink, brushes, and nibs.  I kind of wonder what I can do, with that…I had been thinking about using inks more, at the beginning of Summer Break.  Then I got more into the work with the Watercolors — particularly after acquiring a more-full palette.

I still really do want to see what possibilities of colors I can get with the newer pigments I obtained.  The major ones are a deep Hansa Yellow, close to Gamboge or Indian Yellow; a light Hansa Yellow (they’re very different); Deep Vermilion; Magenta Permanent; Dioxazine Violet; Sap Green; and Payne’s Grey.  I also want to see what I can get by mixing my Earth Tones with more concentrated color!  (I started at this today with Burnt Sienna + Deep Vermilion, which…oddly enough, gave a flesh tone?)

What I need to start doing is working at some mixing charts…it would have been easier today if, for example, I knew what my colors were going to do when I mixed them!  I guess there is a place for preliminary play…


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Haru ("Codey") is a second-year Master's student in Library and Information Science, hoping to find a way to fuse their desire to make the world a better place and to finance their art.

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