Experimenting with different ways of drawing/painting the same thing…

I’ve been trying to keep track of what I have and haven’t written here, though given the length of my postings, that isn’t easy.  What did happen is that I did make it out to the art store and I did buy some paints and canvas (though these are canvas sheets in a pad, not stretched canvas or canvas board).  The canvas pad would seem to be good for studies, though the brand I used here (Blick) warps a bit when it gets heavily wet…explaining why canvas is usually stretched.  I haven’t tried Fredrix yet, which was the other brand I purchased.

The first thing that I should have done today that I didn’t do, would have been to gesso the canvas sheet with a background color or tone.  I think that I was thinking more in terms of watercolor, here, though:  hence the tracing that turned out to be near purposeless when covered by opaque acrylic paint.

Tomatillo-1 version 1 on the left; tracing on the right.

My plan was to trace the more important lines in the original study I’d made, then transfer the lines over to the canvas pad using Saral paper (basically, carbon transfer paper).  I did succeed in doing this:

line drawing:  transfer onto canvas

…however, it would have made much more sense to do this if I had been making a transparent watercolor painting of my original study.

I may still do that, just to enlighten myself as to the differences in working methods between drawing, watercolor, acrylic grisaille (working only in black and white) and acrylic in color.

What we would have done in Painting class would have been to make the original study/drawing, then gesso the substrate that the painting would lay on with a background color, then make a loose vine charcoal drawing of what we wanted to paint on top of that, then seal the vine charcoal with acrylic glazing medium, then wipe out the extra vine charcoal with a wet rag, then paint on top of that.

What I learned fairly quickly when trying to work over this tracing (talk about tightness) is that it’s so light and delicate that it gets covered with the first strokes of opaque paint.  (The first study was in Mars Black and Titanium White.)  Given that I’ve had trouble concealing all signs of my underdrawings in vine before, I doubt this would have been much of an issue if I’d used fine willow or vine charcoal (which is much blacker than graphite) to provide guidelines.

I’m not sure of it, though.  I’ll have to test it out.

I kind of wonder, too, if a charcoal or carbon pencil would have worked better…but they would not be as easily erasable as vine or willow, both of which have basically almost no adhesion to much of anything…except maybe cloth.

Tomatillo-1 version 2

In any case, what I ended up doing was basically an entirely different method than I would have been working with, had I used transparent watercolor.  It became evident fairly immediately that the most efficacious route might have been to block in a body color in the shape that I wanted, then hit the lowlights and shadows, and then the highlights.

Well, no:  first the background, then the body color, then the lowlights and shadows, then the highlights.  Then blending.  (This is just what I’m guessing might have been easier, in my case.  Yours may be different.)

This is different than what I would expect for transparent watercolor, in which the lightest areas would ideally be left without paint, and then everything else could be filled in block by block.  I really couldn’t do that, here.  Well — maybe I could, but there was no reason to do so.  In my head, at least, the fewer layers of color one works with in transparent watercolors, the better, as this increases luminosity (or the amount of light reflected back from the paper).  With acrylic — at least with opaque colors — that is not a burden.  You can paint and paint and overpaint and mess up and correct it, and it’s OK.

What I could have done instead of the tracing and transfer was just to block in a large shape in color (like I did in my original drawings) and then refine it from there.  There was really no purpose to the line drawing, except to help out with visualization a tiny bit, and make me initially feel better about diving in.  But it wasn’t necessary.  I might even have gotten a better result if I just tried to paint what I saw in my original study plus having the tomatillo for reference next to me, without having anything drawn in on my canvas.

Tomatillo-1 version 3

The above one in green…I did after I did the grisaille (black and white) version right above it.  I’m actually really glad I did the grisaille version first, because it had less variables to manage when I hit the point of realizing that my underdrawing might hinder me more than help me.

When I went to the art store, by the way; I didn’t end up getting the Green Gold.  I went in there expecting something around $11 and it was listed at more like $18 for 2 oz, which gave me a bit of sticker shock.  The Web Match prices which I qualify for aren’t listed; it’s just kind of a nice surprise at the register.  So while I did go in there ready to purchase $20-$30 of paint, I wasn’t about to spring for $20 for one tube.  Basically, a mix of one of the Greens I already had, plus Bronze Yellow, will give a hue like Green Gold — or so I was certain of by seeing the color swatches and knowing my strength in color mixing — it just may not be transparent (and transparency wasn’t something I desired).

The main colors used in the above are Chrome Oxide Green, Cadmium Yellow Hue (this is the Bismuth Orthovanadate that I mentioned before), Vivid Lime Green (a convenience mix), Titanium White, and a touch of some more earth-tone colors like Bronze Yellow (a mix of iron oxides) and Raw Umber, plus a tiny bit of Indian Yellow (Isoindolinone).  I did get out a couple of reds and a blue (as I realized I could lighten a color using Chrome Oxide as my deepest pigment, but not darken it), but I didn’t end up using them.  Well, no:  I used a Phthalo Blue (Green Shade) for some of the greens, but I can’t recall where.

In any case, the color version was the most fun to paint.  🙂  (And yes, I realize I didn’t put in a background.  :P)  Could I have gotten there first without doing all the prep work?  I’m not sure.  I don’t feel it was time wasted, though, because I have learned a lot.

And, I’m wanting to paint more in acrylic.  It kind of forces me to be looser, and that isn’t a bad thing!  I have a good amount left in the canvas pads, so hopefully that will lower the entry level into playing around with these paints…

Ah — I almost forgot to mention, too.  I lost two tubes of paint, today, because either the cap failed (on my Blick Titanium White) or the neck of the tube just peeled off (like my Raw Umber Liquitex Professional Heavy Body paint).  When I say the “cap failed,” I mean that the part of the cap that one holds, separated from the part of the cap which fit around the neck of the tube.  With the Raw Umber…I have no idea what was up with that, except maybe it had too much UV exposure, or something.  I went to open it and the entire neck twisted off.

Raw Umber is only a Series 1 color, so I can get a replacement for it for about $8.  Still, it’s like what the hey…gah.

And oh, right:  I need to use a less-watery brush with these paints, because it seems to turn out better when I don’t get pools of paint like I would with watercolor.  I…wasn’t after my color moving around on the page, though I guess I can stop that by drying my brush a little after cleaning it…


Catching up on boring (but vital) stuff…

Well, the first intake meeting with my Vocational program went through.  I am kind of apprehensive, and kind of hopeful.  Apprehensive, because there’s a chance (likely a good one) that they may find I’m unsuited for a Library career.  Hopeful, because I might be able to find something I’m more suited for (and which will lead to better immediate compensation), with their help.

(There’s also the chance that they will send me to a Communication group that I have been to before, but stopped attending.)

I’ve still got a bunch of paperwork to fill out, and pamphlets to read.  On that note, I should finish reading that stuff from 2012 in my textbook that I never completed — I think I only have one month to do it before classes start up again.

I’m pretty sure that the Intro to Computer Science class that I had planned to take over the Summer, isn’t happening.  The reason I was going to take it was just so that I would know better what was going on with my computer when things stopped working…but at this point, ya know, I just don’t care enough to do it.  With help, I can take care of my system.  Without help…it’s iffy.

I think I’ve said enough about this.  I’m going to go lie down and then try and do some preliminary work on that tomatillo thing (I was able to pick up a couple of canvas pads over the weekend, and I want to try painting the tomatillo before it totally goes bad)…

Getting a bit cerebral about the painting…

I think I’ve got it in me to start working on the 30″x30″ square composition in acrylic…realizing that the photograph is just a starting point.  Today there were outsiders in the house from the late morning until the late afternoon, so I was hiding away in my room for most of the time.  This meant I had a lot of time to imagine things.

inspiration but not final…

One of those things was how to start working on this composition, if I were going to do it, today.  I know that as a beginning, it would be great to gesso a light yellow ochre over the whole thing (as you can see peeking through the leaves on the far right side), then bring in a loose dark green shadow background to the upper top left.

I’m not sure whether to paint in darker areas negatively to make hidden leaves pop, or to paint in lighter leaves on top of the dark background.

I’ll figure it out.

One of the things I’m interested in, here, is the difference between the light areas and the dark areas.  About the upper left half of the composition is in shade; the lower right in bright sun; though there are areas of shade in the latter, as well.  Particularly, a triangle in the lower base area and other leaves in shade on the right edge which will have to be painted over the background.  The center rosette of leaves “pops” because of that one broad spade shadow just below center.

The reason I’m not doing a watercolor thumbnail of this is that it would require masking for the points of light in the upper left, and I still get wary around liquid latex — it can sensitize one to latex (causing an allergy), and I work with rubber bands as part of my job.

I’m fairly certain that I want to keep the leaf shape in here as a motif for both the bright areas and cast shadows.  What I’m not certain about at all is whether I want to keep the same color scheme:  the bright green as it is, is rather dull.

Knowing that curiosity about new art supplies can help push me out of stasis, I’m hoping to find two colors tomorrow:  Green Gold, and Vivid Lime Green, under Liquitex brand, which will be at least $16.50 to $20 total, depending.

EDIT:  I’ve been looking through pigment compositions…and two of the colors I had been thinking of are convenience colors:  Permanent Sap Green, and Vivid Lime Green.  I am now planning on getting Indian Yellow (PY139), Yellow Light Hansa (PY3) and Green Gold (PY129).  Indian Yellow will allow me to mix a replicant of Sap Green when combined with Phthalo Blue.  Green Gold is a unique pigment which might be hard to mix.  And…I’ll try Yellow Light Hansa, upon learning that my Cadmium Yellow Light Hue is actually a Bismuth color…with questionable safety.

If I combine one or more of these yellows with Yellow Oxide and that with a green-leaning blue or a green, it’s very likely that I could get a good range of muted (and not-so-muted) greens which range into yellow.  For my darker greens, there is Chromium Oxide and always the possibility of the addition of Payne’s Grey or black (though I hate to use black, but it might work out if I add a little Phthalo color and then adjust the mixture).

As I look more closely at the full-res original of my photo, I can see that there is indeed a muted earth tone shining through the leaves; the dull violet “flower” looking things on the stems are actually calyxes that once held intense violet blossoms; and some of these calyxes have become a pale yellow-red color (as it seems they are developing seeds).

In Watercolor class, we would have used Winsor Red (Pyrrole:  PR254) plus Winsor Blue (Phthalo [GS]:  PB15) to make a dull purple like the one in the photo.  In acrylics, I have Cadmium Red Medium Hue (Naphthol:  PR170, + Arylide Yellow:  PY97) and Phthalo Blue [GS] (PB15).

To get the same pigment mix in Liquitex brand (theoretically…) I would need Pyrrole Red (PR254), which is going to be at least $11.  However, I have both color swatches open in two tabs now, and…there is not much difference.  The Arylide Yellow does show in the Cadmium Hue, as the Cadmium Hue is warmer and more intense, and the Pyrrole is more violet-leaning.  But only slightly.  When I flip back and forth between the color swatches, I can barely see a difference.

The added yellow will probably dull any violet mixed a slight bit more than the Pyrrole and move it a bit more toward a neutral or brown (I’m pretty sure that yellow and violet are complementary colors, which means they’ll cancel each other out when mixed, creating some form of desaturated neutral)…but I should be able to temper that by adding an actual violet pigment.

And who needs exact color-matching, anyway?  😛  Hehe.  I’m probably going to be changing the colors from the photograph, as it is; so I’m thinking it’s close enough.  Right now I’ve got muted yellow in the background, a dark shadowy area that I’ll figure out later (I can try Chrome Oxide + Phthalo + Mars Black?), shapes which are green leaning yellow, muted purple calyxes, muted yellow calyxes, and intense green shapes emerging from the center and bottom of the painting.


Think I’ve spent enough time on this…

Breaking back into Drawing

I’m thinking about using the blog format to help me be productive with the art stuff.  If other people can see if I’m being productive or not, maybe it will help push me to draw and/or paint.  I decided to draw today because it’s actually easier for me than painting…and I needed to lower the entry barrier.

Today I finally got tired of balking on drawing the little tomatillo I had picked up especially to draw.  I’m like, “what am I afraid of?  What’s the worst that can happen?  I won’t like the drawing?”  So I gave it a go.  This is my first study:

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tomatillo-1 by paintedstone is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

I think that in reality, the stem was shorter.  (But no one is going to know that unless I tell them, right?)  🙂

There was a lot of squinting to try and read values as I saw them as versus as I drew them.  On the first one, at least, I think I got them pretty close.  Both of these drawings are in Cretacolor Monolith graphite sticks on a Maruman NEW SOHO series, Sketch pad.  I think the size is B5…but I’m not sure.

If you’re wondering about Maruman (I wouldn’t expect this to be a well-known brand in my circles)…I picked up this pad at a Japanese stationery store which is also known for its art supplies.  (It wasn’t cheap, though I must have taken the price tag off of it.)  The same place also sells Kuretake Tambi pan watercolors…but I can get to that, later.

I have yet to use this pad for anything other than what I did, today…but with graphite, the texture comes out really nicely.  Erasing an overworked area by rubbing with a soft putty eraser will kind of kill that, though.  (I may try dabbing instead, next time, to see if I can keep some of the texture and avoid sliding the graphite into the white areas.)  The pad does say that it’s suitable for watercolor, but I have yet to see if this is true.

The only thing I might protest to that came up today, is that in the future I may try and use a shitajiki (pencil board) underneath the drawing I’m making, so as not to dent the pages beneath.  A shitajiki is basically a slightly flexible sheet of plastic which helps protect the rest of the pages in a pad or notebook from becoming indented due to drawing or writing pressure on the top sheet.

I have at least one or two of these — somewhere — from the Japanese bookstore I go to on occasion, but they’re probably collector’s items, now, because of what was printed on them (one had scenes from an early episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion; I can’t remember whether the other one was Sailormoon or CardCaptor SakuraI’m pretty sure it was something that was trying to be cute, though.  😉

I could also mitigate the denting-underlying-pages problem by using a softer stick, rather than pressing more firmly with a harder one.

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tomatillo-2 by paintedstone is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The above is the second study I did, because the first one came out well and I was planning to walk away:  then I questioned myself as to why.  So I pushed myself to try and do another rendition of this, especially since I’ve had this tomatillo for so long that it’s starting to brown.  😛

When I was starting this out I was like, “aw, man, this looks awful.  Maybe I should stop.”  But I pushed myself to keep going, remembering the lessons I had learned in Figure Drawing, going from basic shapes, to adding detail, to shadow-mapping.  First I had to plot a circular shape, then determine the center mark where the stem comes out and all the veins run to.  I redrew the veining a number of times, though it isn’t totally apparent in the finished drawing.  Erasing was minimal on this second drawing, though I did take out some of my guidelines.

I’m actually rather surprised at this drawing, because I was struggling so much with it at an early stage, and it actually may have come out more aesthetically pleasing than the first one.  The thing that I think may not have translated is the texture of the lantern-like husk on the outside of the tomatillo.  It’s really very angular, and because I was trying to achieve a likeness in form, a lot of the crispness of the husk got edited out.  The crispness does come through in the second piece more than in the first, though.

I also took a bunch of little tomatillo photographs.  🙂  Like the pumpkin in my avatar, this little thing isn’t going to last forever.  Most of the things I’ve drawn and painted will not last, forever; a fact which I’m learning by having my drawing subjects expire (largely fruit and flowers), the weather change; I notice everyone aging, etc.  It seems sometimes like everything is moving toward entropy:  a reason why I have recently questioned whether I actually want to avoid having children.  I know my genes are messed up, but family life is nearly all I’ve known (aside from my short stint in the dorms).

Ah, right:  that Kuretake Tambi stuff I mentioned, earlier.  These are full-pan watercolors which come in a number of differently-sized sets.  They’re fairly expensive, as well.  I’m thinking that they’re meant to be used in Asian watercolor techniques, which is the reason for the full pan (sometimes one lays the length of the brush into the paint, in the methods I know of)…though I only know a little about traditional brush painting, from what I’ve read in the Library.

The reason I even mentioned them is that, about a week ago, I took the little set of Prangs I got to the hospital so that I could sketch while others were seen by specialists.  I was actually fairly disappointed with the handling properties of these and their tendency to muddy when any orange or red tone was used.  I’ve mentioned the weak (i.e. not brilliant) reds in this set before; I guess now I can extend that to oranges; and it is just a pain to put what appears to be a mostly-clean waterbrush into red, and get some weird dull color out of it because the red can’t stand up to anything that isn’t orange or yellow.

After having gone on a little hunt last semester to try and find a workable less-toxic orange, my mind draws a parallel between the orange in the Prang set and Winsor Orange.  Winsor Orange greys down extremely quickly when mixed, although it’s relatively nice when used on its own.  The orange I was attempting to use in the Prangs just muddied quickly.  This could be user error (glazing orange over green or blue), or it could be a pigment issue; as even mixed with green or blue, I would expect a clear neutral, not a weird grey-brown-Idon’tknowwhat.

That said, the Prangs do work, so long as I’m not mixing or glazing or working wet-into-wet, too much, which kind of severely limits my options.  But I am thinking, what do I expect for a $12 scholastic brand.  When not using any advanced techniques, though (as I wasn’t, as a kid), they are useful.

I do have a little Pocket set of Cotman half-pan watercolors…which I can try and use for field work; though as I think I’ve mentioned, after one has used professional-grade paint, the Cotmans really obviously fall short.  There are at least two colors in that line, though, that I may use with an open mind:  these are the Cadmium Hues, because they’re not as toxic as the real thing (and therefore have an upshot compared to the professional cadmium [CP] paints they’re replacing).  I’m not sure if it’s worth it to get into why cadmium salts are bad; I’ve written about it plenty of times, before.

But the Cotman (student) line contains less-expensive, less-toxic, less-highly-pigmented versions of paints which are otherwise available in more-expensive, more-toxic, more-highly-pigmented (professional) versions.  😛  My basic problem is that I may be spoiled on the real thing and hence not want to use the student-grade paints, if I can help it (though I think Grumbacher Academy is a decent line, from what I found in the stash from 2009 — I haven’t tried these fully yet, though, so take that with a grain of salt).

My major issue is trying to find a way to carry watercolors with me which doesn’t have me taking out the giant Mijello Silver Nano 40 palette (as my paints may not adhere to the wells, leaving me with 20 reliable wells), which has many small wells for many colors, an ample amount of mixing space, and which is compact enough to carry with, say, a B5 pad of paper.  I’m really at this point not sure I’m going to find the perfect palette anywhere, unless I spring for the metal palettes filled with half-pan containers, which I’ve seen reviewed, but which I’ve never used.

Then again, maybe all I need to do is break-in the Nano; the surface does change a bit after it has been used to some degree.


Painting is relatively new to me; drawing is an old friend, though; so for me it’s much less intimidating to draw.  Right now, black-and-white is also relatively super easy as an entry point, as that’s what I’ve been doing for most of my drawing career.

Maybe I can try and move into the Progresso woodless colored pencils, and attempt to bridge out from there into Conté and pastel, and then into paint as the desire rebuilds itself.  (I keep doing this long enough, and it will; not even kidding.)

You know, I didn’t even think of it, but I can do some color thumbnail sketches for paintings in those dry media…

Abstraction in the service of expression?

There’s a lot of stuff going through my head, right now.

First off, I found a post over at D.Katie Powell Art related to copyleft.  I did click through some of the links and found Gwenn Seemel’s site.  She provides an e-book, free to read, advocating the use of Creative Commons and other alternatives to copyright (for those who are interested).

In my case, this has been something to note — both because of the acknowledgment of the difficulty of enforcing copyright for a non-corporate entity, and the relatively straightforward means of ensuring that all people (including myself) retain the right to view and use the materials I’ve collected, into the future.

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Unknown flower: Red by paintedstone is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

That might sound strange, coming from me.  Somewhere in the backlog of my posts, I’ve mentioned how at times harrowing it can feel to let others see what I have seen — in one way or another.  Photography is one way to capture part of this.  Painting and drawing are other ways, which — at least in my hands — seem to be able to let more of myself through.

While photography can give a literal record of where I have been at one time, painting and drawing can let the viewer in on what that meant, to me.  I’m able to employ abstraction, because — for one thing — I can’t copy every detail, or I would be very frustrated.  But those abstractions (paying attention to what is not said) might just point to what is important in the image, and that can start a conversation with the viewer (at times, but not always, myself).

I still have a long way to go with painting and drawing (not to mention photography), especially when it comes to getting out of my own way.  Like I passed up a weird little ball-thing (ball-tipped spikes) growing off of an ivy plant at the State Fair, because “I’m not at the place I’m supposed to take pictures, yet!”  So now that little ball-thing is in my memory, but I have no photo record.  Given that one of my prime motivations with art, is seeing and appreciating the little things in life…well, yeah.

I don’t think that the learning process ever really ends where it comes to art, though.  I guess I can say that the skill is there, but I’m also, at this point, a little hampered by fear.  Skill blocked by fear produces nothing.  Pushing myself to practice (and knowing I’m not alone) is probably the only thing that will ride me past or through the fear to develop the skill further.

What do I have to be afraid of, you ask?  Being intimate with the rest of the world.

Both writing and art deal in showing bits of the inside of myself to the world, and that can be difficult if and when there is a fear of judgment.  As I may have said, I haven’t had the easiest life.  It’s gotten better in my adult years, but preteen years through what might be thought of as my young adulthood, were hell.  I’m still trying to find my way to become a fully independent, adult person:  but seriously, 34 is nothing like 25.

It is fairly evident, though…that art is a means of expression which can cut through barriers.  If I am painting about the beauty possible in plants, and I am attracted to plant subjects because of their beauty combined with their dual sex roles, and their unquestioned belonging in nature…that adds another layer to the story.

And it’s possible that on some level, a viewer might be able to understand this.  (I’ve learned that my own brain perceives more than I expect.)  What comes up is person-to-person communication without the intermediary of words — bypassing politics and logical fallacies and propaganda to assert the sheer power of life.

Art is a more direct means to understanding, in my view, than words are.

It’s also closer to being a friend to me than fiction; as it seems to circumvent the slippery-slope logical fallacies I have a tendency to fall into in my fiction, and leaves things open to ambiguity — and in their ambiguity, closer to my own experience.  (Is the hope that if you see what I see, that you will understand what I feel?)

What is also clear, though, is that bringing myself to the world — and sharing parts of myself with it — is probably key to the resonance of my work.  I haven’t shared anywhere near all of it, here; some things I shared early on, but not the final piece.  Like this:

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Rain by paintedstone is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

I’m making an effort — really, an effort — to share some of the things I’ve considered precious, with my readers.  Granted that the “less precious” stuff is easier to share.  😉  I just have to push myself, because if I don’t, the alternative may well be me in a house with a bunch of drawings and paintings that no one has ever seen.  Producing furiously, but unknown, like a modern-day Dickinson.  And if no one will ever see them, does this negate the reason for making them?

Why do I make art?

(Other than the fact that it keeps me going?  Why does it keep me going?  Because I’m no longer being silent?)

Maybe I just have a tension here between wanting to express myself, and being afraid to express myself.

That seems like the likeliest option.

Beginning attempt at managing a library of images

For some reason, tonight I got the urge to organize the photos I have which may in one way or another be inspirational.  Right now, I’ve gotten through the photos which are not images of drawings or paintings (my own, or anyone else’s).

What remains is to get through the images I have of my work.  The majority of this is just practice stuff — nothing big.  But there are pieces in there which could inspire other pieces, which are what I want to make easier to find.

The other thing I can do is take my photos of other peoples’ work, and organize them in the same way.  I have much less of this than either of the other two categories, but enough to be significant.

After I get all of that done, I’ll want to archive it.  Unfortunately, I don’t see a way to know how many gigabytes I’m using with this folder.  Wait — no, I just found it.  3.77 GB, so far; mostly .JPGs (though there are one or two .PNG files in there — I tried not to pick up the .XCF files).

It would be interesting if there were some sort of collection-management software for home use…I know I can tag images individually, but I’m not sure that allows me to rank them.  Wait, no — under Properties I can assign a Rating, but I am not certain what functionality that would open up.

Something to think on, and maybe look up at work.  For now, it’s late, and I should get some rest.