Color shopping in gouache

I’ve just spent what seems to be the last 1.5 hours trying to find a good, warm red to replace my Scarlet Lake.  It’s…not the most fun thing, but I am about to get into painting my mandala, and don’t want to deal with my oranges fading.

I’ve settled on three different paints, keeping in mind that I’m avoiding cadmium colors.  One of them in particular caught my eye as a good replacement for Scarlet Lake, but appears also not to be wholly lightfast:  this is Holbein Flame Red.

Instead of this, though, I’m fairly certain that if I can find it, Da Vinci Red will be a better buy (though I should compare the diluted swatches side by side to be sure).  Da Vinci’s pigment (PR 188) is more lightfast, and — if their Light Red is any indication, it warms decently with the addition of yellow (the two paints both use PR 188, if I’m correct).

While I was looking, I also found a decent replacement for W&N’s Sky Blue:  Holbein Peacock Blue.  It is a mix of two Phthalo colors plus white, but the Sky Blue I have is…weak, or so I’ve tended to see it.  I’ve wanted to make more intense greens than is possible with that Sky Blue (which, granted, is probably from 2007).  Sky Blue is just the last of the old batch of gouache in my split-primary palette, and I don’t particularly like it (at all), so I’m thinking of replacing it for this reason.

The last color I saw, which would approximate Scarlet Lake but still…not be wholly lightfast (this must be a problem in reds) is Holbein Brilliant Orange.  Apparently, it’s fine full-strength, but fades in tints.  However, it’s very close to the color I have now, which makes brilliant oranges and red-oranges.  I also have found that there is no name for “orange”, traditionally, in Japanese — the term is closer to “yellowish red” (or so the book Colorist would infer); as Holbein is a Japanese company, I wouldn’t be surprised if the concept behind “Brilliant Orange” was indeed “yellowish red”.

Scarlet Lake is something that I haven’t done any lightfastness tests on myself; however, looking at the nine-year-old portfolio from Color Dynamics that I got off the shelf, it keeps its color decently when not exposed to light.  I had just heard on the WetCanvas forum that Scarlet Lake was fugitive.  In addition, that particular paint color is not being made by W&N in gouache, anymore.  Nor do I know the pigment composition, because it was made before W&N started labeling the pigment content of their paints.

Shopping list:

  • Da Vinci Red gouache
  • Holbein Peacock Blue gouache
  • Holbein Brilliant Orange gouache

estimated cost:  $24 – $5 gift coupon = $19

Not to mention that I’ve got to pick up some thumb drives tomorrow, too (>8 GB), to back up some mess…

EDIT:  Actually, nah, I’m just getting Flame Red and Peacock Blue.  $9 with gift coupon.


Computer failure

I am not thinking that many of my group members are checking this blog:  but last night, I realized that being locked out of the Start Menu on Windows 10 meant that I had no access to MS Word or WordPad, either.  (Searching was disabled.  Cortana was disabled.  The freakin’ date and time function was disabled.  The Action Center was disabled.  But I could still get online!–)

We tried various fixes we found online which were meant to work around the Start Menu not functioning; none of them worked.  We ended up reinstalling the OS from nothing, because I didn’t make a recovery disk, because I didn’t think that one day I would get an update which would disable key functions of my machine.

Until I hit the lack of access to any text-recording programs (meaning I had to switch to Google Docs for note-taking — I accidentally wiped out most of a response by accidentally hitting Ctrl+W, then intended to Copy+Paste my working document into a text program…UNTIL I COULDN’T FIND ONE…), I was planning to just try and deal with it until a fix became available.  But I couldn’t even pin an icon into the Taskbar.

The good part is that I still have all my files, but I now have to reinstall all my programs — and hope that the installs are clean.

From what I can tell, this was the effect of the Windows Update I got two days ago, corrupting my system files.  I had a Windows 10 machine which was upgraded from Windows 7.  The other Windows 10-native machines weren’t as negatively affected.

If Macs didn’t cost ~3x as much for a comparable system, and no one in my immediate family could help me AT ALL if something screwed up with it, I’d be looking more seriously at Apple.

And, yes, I have heard that there is another Windows Update going on right now, indicated by the fact that I got a notice on my secondary device, that I was almost out of disk space and did I want to delete the prior version of Windows 10?…(wait, and what OS was I supposed to use after this took place?)

Anyhow, I haven’t worked on school stuff all day because I’m kind of scared to access school using my mobile device…as it is not definite that the system failure was NOT a result of hacking, viruses, or malware.  I have found no evidence of any of the latter three options, however.  And I’ve been told that I’m not the only person with this problem.

The good thing is that I think I have until early next week before anything is due.  Gah.

Last night’s work:

Last night, I had basically had it with technology.  Between not being able to have full functionality at my main station and my mobile device constantly, randomly losing time, I decided to work on something which did not depend on high technology to get a good result.

I’m drafting this out before the fact.  Right now I’ve been awoken by a really strong skunk smell, and the resulting commotion; it is just before dawn, here.  Thus, I need to wait for good lighting, but if I play my cards right, maybe I can get this posted before I have to go.

Pencil sketch.  Needs adjustment -- will do soon.
Pencil sketch. Needs adjustment — will do soon.

This piece really…surprised me.  I had been encouraged by my Professor in Creative Process to keep working at the “flower” angle, especially after I told him what flowers meant to me.  What I did was intended as a mandala, but also works fairly well as an abstracted floral design.

This is done, so far, nearly entirely in HB pencil.  The work to this point took about an hour and a half…but was really calming.  I can, after all, do things independent of computers!  (It just requires getting a bit dirty.)  There was a slip-up near the beginning where I picked up an 8B pencil, thinking it was a 2B, though; I’m not sure that mark will come out, fully.  Right now, for me, the question is which media to proceed with.

I’ve realized that I can do a value-rich underdrawing, coat it in clear gesso, and paint on top of it…but I’m not sure how gouache (or transparent watercolor) will perform on top of gesso.  Plus, I have heard that my Scarlet Lake color (in gouache) may also be fugitive (which means it may fade if I display this piece without a UV protectant)…

I’m fairly certain that I don’t want to use acrylics on this.

I did the linework on a 6″x6″ watercolor paper block…not canvas; and the texture of my heavy body paints is such that I may lose detail if I use them.  Transparent watercolor would be an ideal medium…if it weren’t for the messiness of the underlying drawing.  I have a tendency to smudge my marks in pencil with my hand, so basically everything has at least a thin coating of graphite on it — not to mention the guidelines which I used to keep things close to even.

I have realized that I don’t want to just use the lineart, though.  I want to have some guide as to values (value = the lightness or darkness of a tone), because I don’t want this to be completely flat.  I could…go in with heavily diluted acrylics (using Glazing Medium), if I put clear gesso over the whole thing; then I could keep the underdrawing.

Or, I could erase as much unnecessary pencil as I could, then work at this with transparent watercolor, colored pencil, and use gouache for highlights.

Or I could go over the underdrawing with clear gesso and work with gouache on top, which is what I had initially planned.  I’m not sure whether this will work, though.  I’ve never used gouache on top of gesso, before; let alone clear gesso on top of watercolor paper.

I do have a throwaway piece of watercolor paper, though (it was flawed, so I cut it off the block before drawing this piece), with which I can test out my media.  That seems like the logical next step, before deciding what media to use on the final piece…

Or, hey, I could just use graphite and other pencils over the whole thing.  Maybe including watercolor pencil…

How I got through last night’s response paper

I’ve been wanting to write this since last night.

Earlier this afternoon would have worked, except I have found out that my main station is only partially functional due to a screwed-up Windows Update which occurred before I fell asleep last night.  Said update disallowed me from turning off my mobile device, and probably kept me up after 2 AM, as I didn’t really wake until about 1:30 PM today.  (I’m fairly certain that the update corrupted some of my files on my main device, as the one I’m using is fine.)

So I’m kind of irritated.  Not to mention that it’s been hot and sticky all day today and yesterday; I took a shower last night and probably haven’t been dry, ever since then.  I have, however, been wet enough that I still just smell like sweat instead of stink.

Most of today, I’ve been in bed, waiting for the malware and antivirus scans to finish.  I am also encountering, and editing, for the first time, the underlying system of my computer.  Not that I particularly know what I’m doing…and yes, it is making me want to vent, but my frustration isn’t particularly anything that any of you can help me with.

The positive part of yesterday was realizing that I do indeed have a way of working with, at least, short papers.  The submission was probably a bit late.  I know I didn’t complete all of the assignment, but I did at least conquer the main part of it.  It was on a reading (a journal article, really) which I thought I’d read before, but couldn’t remember.  I initially thought it was on a different article, which I had finished reading over the weekend; but no, no that was a different one.

So I printed the appropriate article out and took it to work with me.  Over the course of about half an hour, I was able to re-read it and highlight areas which I thought stood out and/or were relevant to the prompt (which I had also printed out).  After I got home, I was able to take those highlights and write a quick outline of what I had noted on the paper — in the order that it was in, in the journal article.  This was largely without complete complex words; I was working under a time limit, and really no one cares if I write “info” instead of “information” every time I see it.  I know what I mean; I will only have to know what I mean for three hours, max., so it’s OK.

Then I saved this, and copied over the contents into a different document.  There, I started rearranging the material from my notes from the reading.  The reading itself was really not organized in a manner to make a point, very well.  It was comparing information literacy outcomes between a control group and an investigated group.  It was much easier to deal with by actually grouping all the given data for each group together, instead of scattering it throughout the paper, which is how it was given in the reading.

What I did at this point was start writing at whatever point felt comfortable, instead of trying to tackle the Professor’s questions in the same order as she proposed them.  I also wrote page numbers on my printout (there were none in the file) and began to pull data from the article and put it into my own text, with page numbers corresponding to where in the article I got the data from.  Just organizing the given data helped; it meant that I didn’t have to overly think about what the authors were trying to say; I was just repeating their findings.

Using the information this way allowed me a more birds-eye view of what the intended message was of the source text, and it made it a lot easier to write.

In the end, I ended up with a submission which was about one page long, single-spaced, which appeared more academic than most of what I saw of the other submissions.  The only two other things I could have done were give an APA citation of the article at the end, and state when the article was written, in the introduction.  I also did miss some observations that some of my classmates made, likely due to my process (some elements in the article did not stand out to me as relevant details, though they likely were).

In any case, the actual writing, from cataloging notes to finishing, took about an hour and a half.  I had been thinking about letting this assignment go (I think it is worth only 2-3 points), but I’m glad I wasn’t intimidated away from writing it.  It taught me a lot about my writing style and study style, and how to prepare.  And I was initially thinking that doing it would be difficult.  But I found out that I can be a little powerhouse, when I want to be.

I have been doing some work on the alternate blog, but I couldn’t bring myself to put this there, not yet.  The question of where to host my content was overriding the drive to write the content, so I just told myself I’d put it here.  For now.

Color samples:


I know I have better things to do, but after another six hours out of the house, and actually — really — hard at work, what I wanted to do when I got back in was paint.

Apologies for the poor lighting, although this was under a halogen lamp. It’s nighttime right now.

As mentioned before, I did go out this week to pick up some paints I needed.  Well — “needed”.  I basically had no usable yellows (one was cemented shut, the other discarded).

Basically, I got a warm and a cool version of yellow (Permanent Yellow Deep and Lemon Yellow), a cool red (to replace Alizarin Crimson — this was Permanent Rose), an intense cool blue (Ultramarine Deep), and a warm black (Ivory Black).

This started out as an exercise in color swatches for unmixed paints…you can see that it got away from that.  🙂  Not counting the half-bars I squeezed in later, the first top three, from right to left, are Permanent Rose, Alizarin Crimson, and Scarlet Lake.  After I had swatched those out, I started wondering what difference the two cool reds would make if I mixed them with Ultramarine Deep to form saturated violets.

Scarlet Lake mixed with Perm. Yellow Deep was next…but kind of amazingly, didn’t look as intense as Scarlet Lake with Lemon Yellow (seventh from the right).  I say “amazingly” because Lemon Yellow is a cool yellow; Scarlet Lake is a warm red.  I didn’t expect to get a more vibrant orange from the pairing, but somehow I did.  I’m not sure if it had to do with proportions of each color, or what…

The next was a cool red (I think Perm. Rose) with what appears to be Perm. Yellow Deep (though I know some Lemon Yellow got in there; I got tired of trying to be scientific by using pure tones, so they started getting mixed up after a while).

To the left of that is a mix of both warm and cool reds (I can’t remember which cool red I used for this), blending into some kind of orange.  Also amazingly, the red mix appeared more vibrant to me than either the warm or cool reds, alone.  Left of that, and I started mixing orange with green, which eventually turned peacock on its way to Sky Blue.  I don’t know how it started looking peacock, but it did.

Sky Blue is also fifth from the left, just to the right of Ultramarine Deep.  I mixed them both with Lemon Yellow to see what I got.  The violet-leaning hue of the Ultramarine made a more muted green when mixed with yellow.  Sky Blue plus Lemon Yellow makes a…predictable, but nice range of greens.

And, right — just before I stopped, I started mixing the full-strength tones with Permanent White, along the right edge of the image.  I’ve learned that this is called “Permanent” White, likely in contrast to lithopone…which is one of the white pigments I’ve found in a set of Cotman transparent watercolors lying around (I’m not sure from which era).  Lithopone (zinc sulfide + barium sulfate, from a quick lookup) is known to darken with age.  I’m thinking that this is why anyone thought to call titanium dioxide “Permanent”.  There is also Zinc(-oxide) White, which I didn’t use tonight — Zinc Oxide is used for a less opaque mixture, from what I know (desirable at times when you want the underlying color to influence what’s over it).

In any case, at least titanium dioxide white causes dark colors to appear clearer and fuller than using the full-strength mix alone (this is gouache, opaque watercolor; so to lighten colors you add white, instead of adding water, as with transparent watercolors).  And some colors, like pink, don’t really come out except from a highly diluted violet-leaning red (like Alizarin or Perm. Rose).  I should note that I’ve found out that Alizarin is highly fugitive, which is why I’ve been leaning away from using it…but it’s still gorgeous, for anything that will be reproduced.  I’ve also found that my (new) Alizarin is mixed with Perylene Maroon, possibly to improve its lightfastness — but this isn’t the same Alizarin as I used to use (this being one of the reasons I got Permanent Rose).

I’ve found that there are mixing combinations, aside from the ideal ones I was taught in Color Dynamics, which are really interesting.  They’re actually more interesting to me than the ones I was taught there (which can get kind of — if not literally — formulaic).  Color Dynamics taught me how to mix the clearest tones (like a usable violet), but a little bit of mess in the mixture makes things less predictable, and a lot more engaging for me.

(I say “mess” because I don’t remember exactly how I got to some of these shades, particularly where it comes to green [from which primaries?] mixed with orange [from which primaries?].)  To clarify:  all of these colors were mixed from primary colors with different color overtones.  The differing overtones cause the secondary (and on) colors to differ strongly in character.  I had to go out and get these if I wanted to use a full spectrum in gouache, because otherwise I could barely make a green or an orange (the only yellow I had was Yellow Ochre).  Purchasing what I did opened up green (blue + yellow) and orange (red + yellow) to me, as well as yellow, itself.

It’s kind of amazing, how much power one primary color has, when it’s not there.  Without it, you have access to two primaries and one secondary color; half the color wheel.

What I didn’t do was test out any of the earth tones or black pigments, tonight.

Also, a disposable coated-paper palette actually works well for this stuff.  I don’t like to put a lot of paint down the drain, because it probably isn’t good for the water supply or my hands, with regard to chemical exposure.  With the disposable paper, all I have to do is tear off the top sheet and dispose of it in the garbage — probably not the most eco-friendly move either, but at least it’s semi-contained.

Well, I’ve been here for a little while.  I should get some sleep:  homework, tomorrow.

Life. Planning to split the blog.

I am planning to either revive my alternate blog (the one I had to start for class in 2012, when I was acting insecure) or start a new one, and put my overtly school and career related stuff there, while this one is saved for art and life, with a more conversational tone than a record-keeping one (or one which is overtly reflecting on my job and readings).  I will link that other blog to this one, after I get it set up and presentable.

I did make it out over the past couple of days to replace or acquire five tubes of gouache — opaque watercolor.  (I also found I like Ivory [Bone] Black better than Lamp Black, at least in gouache…strange that they’re both carbon blacks, but they don’t look the same.)  This meant that I also had to take time out to test the ones I had — which was super fun.

I hadn’t painted in a really long time.  I pulled out a new brush that I’d never used before and had at it, just color-testing.  Most of my gouache was good, but I was able to get some new Holbein and Winsor & Newton gouache (the kind without the acrylic polymer added).  I got Lemon Yellow in Holbein because it was beautiful and just what I was looking for, and an Ultramarine Deep from them, too — W&N no longer makes that color.  I’m planning to use the opaque watercolors in combination with transparent watercolors, in making some new mandalas — and possibly in illustration.  With opaque media, though, I’m going to have to start thinking in terms of shape and blocks of color, rather than line, to describe what I want to describe.

And it isn’t worth it to denigrate mandala art and avoid doing it because it seems too simple.  I make things too hard for myself.  If I want to do mandala art, and that’s what is going to get me to do art that I want to do at all, I should do it.

I also made it out to a certain clothes store today, where I realized that the Mens’ shirts fit me better and were more comfortable than the Womens’.  In the past (when my hair was very short and I was overtly looking gender-variant), this would have been more troubling for me than it was (I have felt exposed there, before) — but fact is that when it fits, I look pretty good in menswear.  Not only this, but…it was OK, emotionally.

In the sizing of this store (which caters to a smaller-than-normal clientele), I wear an M in Mens’ shirts.  Right now, I wear something closer to an XL in Womens’, there, though I don’t appear terribly overweight.  The Womens’ shirts will make me look overweight, though.  They cling, and show more body and form than any of the menswear.  Showing my body is not something I desire, to be clear; I don’t particularly appreciate being expected to do it.

Then, though, of course you get the either very muted color palette or the screaming bright colors on the Mens’ side.  I (mostly) feel good with what I came away with, with the exception of one shirt which I didn’t try on, which was unlabeled…and so I’m not sure I know what I got.  It fits more closely, but won’t be a problem if it’s tucked in.  The Mens’ shirts have hems long enough to tuck securely; which is more than I can say for a lot of what I’ve had, previously.

I have had three days of what feels like not studying very hard.  I know it isn’t completely true, because I had to attend a group meeting, and I had to prepare for a group meeting (2.5 hours, yesterday); then I was doing readings today both before and after getting new clothes — which I needed, by the way.  I also picked up a book I needed for a project.  And, I was able to assist some family.

It isn’t as though I haven’t been productive, but, was I burned out at the end of Tuesday night, after writing 16 pages total the past two days before?  I didn’t want to do any readings at all on Wednesday.  I just didn’t want to have to think…especially not about the Library!  Though I have realized that I do still want to be an Art Librarian, and shouldn’t let fear of being a beginner keep me from holding an informational interview with at least one person.  My vocational program kind of depends on it.

Right now I’ve realized that I do need to get back on my studying so I don’t fall behind.  I have a lecture to listen to, two readings to do, some stuff to respond to; I just need to get on it.

The good thing is that the group project is off on a good foot.  We have stumbled a tiny bit, which I encountered last night while thinking about this; but it’s salvageable.

Tomorrow is Saturday; I should be studying in the morning, if I randomly wake up at 8 AM again.  Then I’m occupied for six hours, then I’m off and can work some more on my Master’s.

Working with the gouache on Monday night sounds good.  I want to see those new colors!

Beginning work on a creative writing/illustration project.

Hmm.  I haven’t gotten to start on my schoolwork yet, today.  I know I should prioritize work for my Database class, as we have a group work session coming up.  What I have done is begin listing out worldbuilding attributes of the story that I want to write (and probably illustrate).  I haven’t started with the story’s universe or irrelevant details, so much as the known attributes of the story which I’m already certain of.

(I’m trying to hold to my original vision because of realizing that the imagery I’ve been dealing with for a while, actually is fairly loaded with relevant symbolism.)

I started this work today because I tried to start writing from nothing, and realized that most of my writing recently has been either on the blog, or academic; not creative.  I also remembered what happened when I tried to go about this the way I had been taught in my English classes:  no planning, no research, train-of-thought.  What that has gotten me in the past (when taking on a novel-length project) is a lot of wasted effort.

If I can get the facts and plot synopsis straight at the beginning, it will give me something concrete to build around.  Sometimes, just to get the structure straight, actually thinking this stuff out in writing beforehand, does help (even if, yes, it is in outlines, or other documents which the general reader never sees).  And I don’t mean rough drafts; I mean prep work for rough drafts.

This is needed, at least, when I’m doing something like this, and the story has an indefinite length.  It may be short; it may become a series of short stories (which would be particularly sweet — and ideal — if I dealt with this series in graphic format); it may be novel length, with chapters.  I’m hoping it doesn’t become a saga like Dune…though that is a possibility, particularly if more complications come up later; and I should try and be open to it.  Even though I’m kind of not.  😉  I kind of don’t want that.

I’m fairly certain that this series will be aimed at an adult audience, at least.  I’m thinking that…due to the (mature) subject matter, it isn’t meant for kids or teens — although it would have been a nice thing for me to find, before I was diagnosed (mental health issues are a major theme).

Something that I didn’t mention in my last two posts last night is that I had a dream near waking, which ties two broad branches of storylines which might otherwise be separate — and one plotline which I had left off of since late college — into one whole.

What is becoming apparent as I note down the essential elements of the story:  This story isn’t set in this society, although it is generated from it.  But just realizing that it is in no way this world, is really freeing.

There have also been things happening in current events which are kind of showing me that things are possible that I had closed my mind off to, as a teen.  Kind of scary, but it does broaden my horizons.

I have also come to the point of not knowing just what the subject of my art should be.  I read that illustration is not defined by a style, but rather illustration is defined by its role as support to a main body of information (text, in this case).  If I work on this story, it will give me material to draw from in my art.

I should post this and get to work.