Work-life balance swings back toward work…

I need to clean this office up, so freaking bad.

I got back to schoolwork, recently. The semester hasn’t started yet, but I’ve been trying to catch up on reading I delayed in favor of Finals, for one of my classes. One of the librarians at my work said that reading it when I didn’t have to…left a good impression on her. I’m not sure anymore what the word was that she used (it “showed enthusiasm,” or something), but I thought it was a way to put a positive spin on it.

And…man, that reading is SO DULL. I was seriously falling asleep trying to read it.

I should probably go to bed sooner rather than later. I have to be up early, tomorrow, and may have shifts both Friday and Saturday. I had issues waking up, today, and even forgot to let the light in for my plant. 😦

Eh…too much free time isn’t a good thing for me…

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Being productive (in unexpected ways)

Around the time of my last posting, I did a sweep of the bedroom and vastly decreased the amount of dust, in there. Yesterday, the family got together and sorted and reorganized and cleaned and labeled the art and craft storage areas here. I was pleasantly surprised that I had less stuff than I thought I did…

…and I am now rethinking my plan to give away or sell my Copics. True, I don’t like them that much, and possibly contributing to that is the monochrome nature of my collection (different dilutions of Cool Grey, it doesn’t even have the impact of Warm Grey); but working with markers is a quick way to be able to play with things like the impact of negative painting and negative space, without the nervous apprehension that comes with painting, for me. 😛

(Speaking of which, I have heard that fear of painting on canvas is specific to me — but it may be easier than trying to do watercolor in a way that isn’t fussy.)

I am also finding myself leaning more to the side of fine art than comics at this time, which is weird when I’m considering going back to using markers. I’m not entirely certain exactly what the removal of the “sequence” from “sequential art” means, but…well. Anyhow.

I’m more drawn to carving out linoleum blocks right now…and I’m not sure if it’s because it’s new, or because I don’t know what the end result will be. It’s also decently “graphic” for me at this point…and I like cutting things. We actually found the other four gouge blades from a woodcarving set while cleaning up, whereas before I only had one. With the handles, these make sizable tools.

Maybe it’s because I took Wood Shop at such a young age (middle school), but there’s some comfort for me in dealing with precision carving. Though…I think I’ve always liked it. I remember doing a plaster carving in Mixed Media class in high school, which I was super proud of until it was shattered by someone.

To work with plaster carving again…hmm. I don’t think I was too concerned with breathing in the dust, before. It wasn’t until I got to the point of casting metal, that I really even started to worry about it. Now, I go to the art store and I see these warnings about powdered crystalline silica and lung cancer and the outside of the bag is covered in powdered plaster, and I’m like, “hmm. Do I really want to risk this?” (not to mention how to clean up without clogging the sink with plaster from your hands!)

But it is really fun! We used empty milk cartons and mixed the plaster in there; then when it was set but still soft, we peeled off the box and carved the block. It’s how I ruined a set of good carving knives and gouges…once the plaster hardens too much, it will damage/dull steel tools.

I am thinking back to that Mixed Media class…we did ceramics, too, and I would think we would have been exposed to vapors from the firing of those (particularly, glazes are molten glass)…but if I knew then, I obviously didn’t care. I’m pretty sure I took the class, twice.

In any case, I’m thinking that block printing is kind of like a step between drawing or painting, and sculpture…which was a kind of odd thought to come to, but it makes sense to me.

And, yeah: I might start carrying around my black Pitt pens to draw with. There are some weird nibs on some of those pens (like Soft Brush or Soft Calligraphy), that handle funny and make unusual marks. They could be useful in designing a print. I think I said that before, though?

There are also the Staedtler Mars Graphic 3000 Duo brush pens, which…well, the ones I have are fairly ancient, but they have gorgeous supple brush nibs. They’re still markers; the nibs have got to be some sort of porous synthetic rubber or something — not fiber — but they make my writing in Japanese look pretty…well, different from everything else I’ve used (and also kind of “better”)!

And I know how to transfer a design from regular paper to marker paper to Saral paper and then cut it out…not a big deal.

Tonight I stayed home and worked on the Wool-Eater lapghan. It’s growing decently, though now I want to make a version which changes yarn color at every diagonal. It’s possible. (I may also accidentally have worked a yarn join from the skein into the lapghan…which is just going to either irritate or sadden me if it comes apart. Still, though, if I made it, I might be able to repair it.)

Right now it’s really just reminding me of a watermelon. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

It’s also warmer than expected, though the temperatures were in the 80º F range, today.

(Im-)perfection, planning, and process

I sat down today with the idea of writing on my own creative process. This is more for me than it is for anyone else, but I’ll try and make it so that others can follow along.

Part of the reason for doing a Final project on Zen and Art, this last semester, was that I had sensed my own inability to enjoy (or engage) the artistic process, and to plan a piece to death before actually working on it at all. The idea I had of Zen was something around engaging with the process for the sake of the process, and fully living the process. I still don’t know if that’s accurate to reality.

Planning things to death runs contrary to the way I made art as a youth, which was to sit down with my materials and see what would come out of me that day. I really wouldn’t try to explain what I was doing to myself or anyone else until after the fact, when I’d make up a reason why I made it (in order to satisfy others, and it was always to satisfy others. Why can’t it just be? Why do I have to assign it a meaning? Can’t you imagine that yourself?).

With art, as with writing…historically, I’ve been tripped up by a lack of planning. This changed when I went for my AA in Art. Basically, it’s the lowest degree I could get, aside from a Certificate. Being so near to the completion of my first Master’s and looking forward to becoming a Librarian, though…continued education at the Master’s level in Studio Art and/or Art History is actually becoming a possibility. In turn, that would open up Librarianship posts in Museums, but from what I hear, the competition is tough and the compensation not so great.

That’s an offshoot, though, of what I’ve been trying to get at, here. Let me get back to the main point:

I think that what training I did get in Art, has somewhat derailed my own artistic process. Instead of sitting down and making a mark, and then another mark, and then another, without knowing (or caring, really) what I’m going to end up with, I was trained to visualize an end product and then somehow get there. This is counterproductive for me. It works for academic exercises, but as for actually generating art on my own, it is crippling.

The problem is that a work of art, when I start out with an idea of what I want it to be, never fully reaches the point I want it to reach. There’s the world of ideal perfection, and then there’s reality. And the two don’t really meet. By engaging an idea of what I want a piece to be, or, to say, I end up envisioning something more perfect than I could ever really make, possibly something more perfect than could ever actually exist in the physical world.

I’ve run into this on other levels. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Mostly, though, I feel like I bumble along and run into things and reset my course accordingly, and the resulting path forms something truer to me than if I had set a destination of what I thought I wanted at some point, and made a beeline for it.

For example, if in 2002 I had decided that I was a transgender man and had transitioned to male, my life now would be entirely different. And it would not have been truer to who I actually am or what I actually want, than the place I’m at, now. The outside would change; the life would change. But it’s trading one set of setbacks for another. And even though it’s obviously superficial, who I would have become would still have the same core as I do now, though I’d probably be more conflicted.

The thing is, the way I envision myself now is something I’ve arrived at by a process of listening to myself, not something I tried to form myself into.

It’s like making a picture and having some teacher ask me what it is a picture of. It doesn’t matter. It came out of my living experience. Why are you asking me what it is a picture of? To gauge whether it is, “good,” or not (and why should I care if you think it’s, “good?” How does that positively impact my life)? What do you see? Because I bet it’s not what anyone else, sees. And I bet my giving a word to my experience that I’ve illustrated on paper doesn’t make it any clearer for you if you can’t see it now. Just own your experience and don’t reflect it back on me or my hypothetical intentions. Because I may not even consciously know my own intentions.

I’m sounding bitter. I’m also editing out a lot of curse words. I’ve been having mood issues since the semester ended and I started staying up way too late. I’ll be in bed before 3 AM, tonight. Promise.

Anyway, there seems to be the assumption of an intention to communicate which I’ve found over the years in academic circles. But maybe the best communication is at times, letting the work speak for itself, without trying to explain it. Sometimes ambiguity is best. Sometimes thinking in color rather than in greyscale or in black-and-white, is best.

Can I tell you why red-orange makes you feel different than green-blue? No. Do I know why I used red-orange instead of green-blue? You’re going to have to engage with that mystery yourself, just like the rest of us (including me). Don’t expect me to spoon-feed you dead words, and theory that probably doesn’t matter to anyone but me, in the hope that you’ll understand.

(No, I can’t remember anymore the source of the living word/dead word argument…I think it’s Taoist, though. Actually, I think it may be in the Tao Te Ching. I might have to look that one, up. “Dead words” are things that are spoken that can then be twisted around to say what they were not meant to say, losing their meaning; while “living words” are not necessarily spoken…they live through actions.)

To try and wind this down…I am pretty much set on trying to go back to the way I operated, artistically, before school (and grades) got in the way. This means being led more by intuition and just putting one foot in front of the other, rather than trying to visualize something in total and then attempting to make it, or “copy it,” from my mind.

After all, this is my artistic process. This is art for me, for my own health and refinement. Not for anyone else.

I’m not sure of the reality of being able to explain the way I work, though I’ve tried before. I also know watercolor isn’t necessarily the greatest medium to try this, within.

But what I do, doesn’t have to conform to realism. Nor does it have to be precise and tight.

It doesn’t have to be planned, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Right now, I just need to engage.

Color mixing.

Right now I’m wondering about the practicality of doing a blog post after every time I do something creative…though it is motivational, I guess.

Pyrrol oranges and reds.
Pyrrol colors.

From what you can see on the left, I did some more experimenting with Pyrrol colors, today.

I did take a trip out to an art store, and picked up a tube of Daniel Smith’s Pyrrol Scarlet (PR255), upper left. This is different from M. Graham & Co.’s Scarlet Pyrrol (PO73), lower left. They don’t even use the same pigments (the pigment codes are in parenthesis above; “PR” stands for “Pigment Red,” while “PO” stands for “Pigment Orange”).

What I already had which it is closest to, is Winsor Red (PR254), upper right. I suppose I can take some comfort in it not being an exact match…

On the bottom of the above image, you can see that I re-tested Winsor Orange Red Shade (bottom right) against M. Graham’s Scarlet Pyrrol (bottom left). They both carry the same pigment code, PO73. But last night I was talking about backruns and weird textures with M. Graham and not with Winsor & Newton; today I had the opposite happen. I’m now thinking it has to do with the pigment properties themselves.

This became clearer when I tested out DS’s Pyrrol Scarlet (PR255) on the upper left, against Winsor Red (PR 254) on the upper right. Winsor Red is a kind of weird red in that it doesn’t lean either to the violet or the orange side very much; it’s kind of a lipstick-looking red. However, Pyrrol Scarlet is a little, tiny bit more orange. But all of these colors are Pyrrol colors, and from what I’ve seen, they all can do the weird backflow rivulet thing wet-in-wet which makes the paint look grainy. It’s just that sometimes, they don’t.

I’m thinking it has to do with the amount of water that has soaked into the paper (as versus the amount of water still on the surface of the paper), and the amount of time the paint has to spread from the brush onto the paper, as well as the amount of paint in the brush. I originally re-did this test to see if I could get the Winsor Orange Red Shade (lower right) to match the intensity I got out of M. Graham’s Scarlet Pyrrol (lower left), last night. The good thing is, I can; these just seem to be a finicky family of pigments!

Or, maybe I should say that the Pyrrol pigments require some extra skill in handling?

I did do some mixing tests with these colors, but I didn’t get to use the DS Permanent Yellow Deep, which I want to try soon. I think I was using the M. Graham Isoindolinone Yellow Deep, just because it was already on my palette, and it was brighter. The range of colors I got out of that didn’t surprise me, so I didn’t prep a special photo of it for here. But I do want to do some more mixing tests, soon.

Below is a photo of a section of my paper where I was basically messing around with DS Prussian Blue (I kind of love this color, even though it does grey out slightly in four months of direct sunlight), and Winsor Blue Green Shade, that is, Phthalocyanine Blue Green Shade, plus Winsor (Phthalo) Green Yellow Shade. I found that Winsor Green Yellow Shade is more stable under direct sunlight than Winsor Green Blue Shade, for at least the first four months. I’m not entirely certain, why.

Test paper: experimental painting
Playing around on my testing paper.

But I tried adding blue (in the top left, this is Prussian Blue) to Winsor Green Yellow Shade to see if I could shift it bluer — and I can. I can also add Aureolin (the yellow rectangle near the center) to make it greener; Aureolin (PY40) naturally has a green shift to it which causes it to appear “dirty” on the palette. It’s good for incremental hue shifts, though, as it shades greens yellower very delicately.

The major drawback to Aureolin is that you don’t want to get it on your skin for any length of time, as it’s a Cobalt color (this did happen to me at one time, painting in the field; it’s not good, as cobalt is a known carcinogen and can cause skin irritation on exposure. The irony is that I wouldn’t have gotten Aureolin all over my bare hand if it weren’t for a nitrile (or latex?) glove screwing up my grip, causing paint to get all over the tube and all over my hand. As I was outside, my closest options to stop the damage were to wash my hand off in the lake [thus polluting the lake and getting possibly nastier stuff on my hand] or to wash it off in my paintbrush rinse water…or, find a bathroom).

I didn’t get to try Green Gold in addition to any of these colors, but I should make a note that I do want to try it, later. This is another color that there just wasn’t a well for, on my palette.

Reminding me: I may eventually want to get a serious metal palette with half-pans that I can easily rearrange and swap out (if that exists)…

Toward the end of my painting session, you can see I kind of got warmed up. I started toying around with Permanent Rose + Permanent Magenta, and mixing that wet-into-wet with Payne’s Grey, in the center bottom of the above photo.

enlargement of section of second image
Can’t remember exactly how I made those squiggles…

Then I started mixing Phthalo Blue Green Shade with Prussian Blue, and blending that wet-into-wet with Perm. Rose + Perm. Magenta, which made these really nice squiggles you can see to the right, here.

I think the noodle below the blue-violet one, going into the lower right corner is Permanent Magenta + Dioxazine Violet, though I can’t be sure anymore at this point. I wasn’t taking notes; this entry is serving as my reminder to myself of what I’ve done!

On that note, I should also mention that I have gotten to the point with these paints where I don’t even know all the time which paint is which. I think I did set up a key, somewhere, which would be nice to find sometime soon.

The major culprits in my not being able to tell which paint is which, happen to be two yellow paints sitting next to each other…I know one is Winsor Yellow. I just don’t recall, anymore, what the other one is. It’s fairly nondescript. I can remember Isoindolinone Yellow Deep, Hansa Yellow Light, and Aureolin. I’ll have to go through my tubes to look up that last one, especially as I have no idea where I saved my spreadsheet of colors…

The succulents are happy! :D

Okay, now for random gratuitous pictures of the succulent babies!

Baby succulents in three-inch-diameter terracotta pots
They used to look like this…

That was 6 days ago.

IMG_4041w
…and now they look like this…

Check out the tiny bud on the bottom one!

A blue-green spiky rosette with a frond coming out of it!
This one looked like this 6 days ago…

I’m not sure if this is a flower stalk, or what…

IMG_4045w
And now it looks like this!!!

I’m not sure if the latter one is going to die or not, if that thing blooms…

Some photos to go with the last post:

Earlier tonight I took some pictures referencing what I spoke about in my last (relatively cryptic) post. To recap, I tested out some differing brands of paints which have similar pigments, if not the same pigment. (They did have the same pigment code.) What I found, was kind of interesting.

My “new” paints were Winsor Orange (Red Shade): PO73, second from the left, compared with M. Graham’s Scarlet Pyrrol (also PO73); and Daniel Smith Permanent Yellow Deep: PY110, third from the left, compared with Holbein’s Isoindolinone Yellow Deep (also PY110).

I also tested out M. Graham’s Ultramarine Violet Deep, though that one…I’m going to have to think on. It’s naturally a very delicate color, especially when compared to Dioxazine Violet (which I didn’t include in these photos). It actually reminds me of amethyst.

I am thinking that Ultramarine Violet Deep may pair well with Payne’s Grey. Possibly the other blue-violets, too (Indanthrene?), and maybe Prussian Blue, but my (Winsor & Newton) French Ultramarine does overpower it, used full strength. Of course, though, French Ultramarine is more powerful than regular Ultramarine.

Below, see an image of the relevant test swatches:

IMG_4054w
Comparison between different brands with similar pigments. The one on the right is just for fun.

It’s kind of faint here, but the Scarlet Pyrrol had a backrun which caused the paint to appear grainy. Winsor Orange Red Shade, however, although it seems a little less powerful in this treatment, is relatively very controlled in its dispersal. I have a close-up of the left two paints:

Two red-orange test swatches of watercolor paint.
M. Graham Scarlet Pyrrol (left) vs. Winsor Orange Red Shade (both PO73)

Hopefully, that’s a bit clearer. The top row is of each paint, wet-on-dry, whereas the bottom row is of each paint, wet-into-wet (I did accidentally touch the two squares). I mentioned quite a while ago that the Scarlet Pyrrol appeared “corroded” in my lightfastness testing, both above and below the strip to block out sunlight. In this test, the water on my brush ran back into the paint and pushed the pigment into what look like little rivulets of more intense red-orange color.

I didn’t obtain the Winsor Orange Red Shade until after the swatches I had made had been exposed to sunlight for four months, so I don’t know how it will fare in lightfastness testing. It does seem a little less intense than the M. Graham, though that could have been because I was using the M. Graham from a dried/rehydrated state and the Winsor & Newton color from a moist state. I also might just not have used enough of the W&N paint.

As for the Daniel Smith Permanent Yellow Deep, I’m very happy with it. It has better dispersal than the Holbein formulation (which just made a line at my last brush stroke), but then Holbein is specifically designed without dispersants. The Holbein is actually noticeably brighter, as well. At this point, I’m not entirely certain how to feel about that…a lot of serious watercolorists do use the more muted colors. (I’d…consider myself a hobbyist, at this point, with the potential for growth.)

mixed orange watercolors
various oranges.

I’ve just prepped an image of what PO73 + PY110 look like together, and it’s relatively pleasant! It’s just a little duller than Cotman Cadmium Orange Hue, but I found that the latter actually fades relatively quickly and significantly…which is something to keep in mind when painting florals.

Both orange squares to the right are mixes of PO73 + PY110, while the vertical and horizontal lines are Cotman Cadmium Orange Hue. I’ve altered the Exposure setting on this image to try and undo some of the low light conditions, but it feels pretty close.

I forgot to take “After” pictures of the lightfastness swatches I worked, I just realized; something I should likely record. (They were sitting in the window fading for four months, which showed me which paints not to use. Since then, I haven’t put them back up, pending photographs.)

I’m also seriously and sort of stupidly wondering if I do want to get a tube of Quinacridone Coral, now: I am going to try and get rid of my Grumbacher Deep Vermilion, which leaves a gap in the orange-leaning reds. (The majority of my reds lean violet, which is a pain when I want to paint something red-orange or any kind of warm orange color! [Violet-leaning reds typically don’t yield intense oranges.])

There is a hidden assumption here, for those of you who are new: I’m avoiding cadmium-based pigments (particularly, red, orange, and yellow). Hence, the hunt for safer alternatives. Pyrrol Orange is definitely one of those, as far as I can see, but it has a peach bias.

I’ve found that at this point, there are a number of colors I want to avoid using for serious work. The Grumbacher Deep Vermilion is one of those. I might use it out of its well just to avoid wasting it, but it’s terrible for wet-in-wet work, and it greys out a bit when exposed to direct sunlight.

And for regular blog followers and botany enthusiasts; I have more recent pictures of my succulents, but I’ll put them in another post. 🙂

Toying with new paints

I only have a few minutes to write. I wanted to mention, though, that I was able to get back to watercolor painting, yesterday. A blog I follow had mentioned the Daniel Smith color, “Quinacridone Coral”; this is a Quin Red which looks like it leans orange. It reminded me of the colors I recently bought but had not yet tested; I have been looking to find something with which I can mix a decent, fade-resistant orange.

So last night, I tested them. I also played around with a bunch of other stuff because my paints were dusty and I was taking the time to wipe off the fuzz (so I said to myself).

I found that Winsor Orange Red Shade is noticeably smoother than (I think) M. Graham Pyrrol Scarlet, even though they use the same pigment. Also, I tested Daniel Smith Permanent Yellow Deep, against Holbein Isoindolinone Yellow (unless my memory is mistaken), with the Daniel Smith dispersing better but being a little duller. I’m pretty sure both the latter paints also use similar pigments.

Also, Perm Yellow Deep mixed with Pyrrol Scarlet makes a nice orange!

It was relatively refreshing to break my pattern of not dealing with the paints, to get back to them. I didn’t even mind the cobalt colors, this time. 🙂 I might want to wash out all of my brushes, though (they’re dusty)…

And I might want to get back to working in my art journal so that I can generate ideas. I found myself wondering what to paint, and I think if I were regularly journalling, I’d have an idea…