Natural flow from drawing to painting?

The couple of days since my Term Paper was due have been spent…basically, cleaning things up. There is now much more usable space on my craft table; a bunch of my storage has been cleaned and consolidated; and I’ve realized the disadvantage of having a watercolor palette with fixed wells.

Aside from this…

I’ve realized that when I went into the Art program at first, I took Color Dynamics before I took Painting. Consequently, I learned about color relationships before I learned about composition or image-making within painting (as versus drawing). It’s kind of evident, now. Do I want to take another Painting class?…Kind of. Will I have the time to? Not sure.

Could I learn it another way? Not sure. I’m pretty sure that by trial-and-error, I could learn, but that might be the scenic route. Of course, after college, the scenic route is the only route; it just helps to be on the right path, in the first place.

For me, painting is a natural outgrowth of drawing: monochrome bridges into color; markmaking bridges into broad swaths and washes; use of single colors and glazes, shift into color mixing. It largely came for me when I realized the limitations of using a single (narrow) point of contact (pencils, pens, markers: the extreme of which is Technical Pen, Mechanical Pencil, or Micron), a single color at a time, and not being able to shade the colors of my tools in the way in which I wanted.

The bridge here may be charcoal, which merges into pastel. By using the broad side of a stick of pigment, it’s possible to get closer to the feel of painting, as versus drawing. Pastel pencils can also provide that markmaking experience common to drawing, while providing some of the malleability of pastel.

The major reason to avoid pastel work is dust, which is something I haven’t quite reconciled, yet. I have not had a Drawing teacher who did not caution against breathing pastel dust. I do have an area where I can draw and not depend on a vacuum to pick up this dust; it is fairly necessary to avoid the vacuum. You want to wipe up pastel dust with a wet rag (what’s called “wet-mopping”), not blow it into the air or brush it away. This is for health reasons.

The brand of soft pastels I find myself most attracted to are Rembrandts. I’ve mentioned these before; the largest hazards in these seem to be white pigment (Titanium Dioxide), and black pigment (Lamp Black). Titanium White makes tints of colors, while Lamp Black makes shades.

Titanium Dioxide is a mechanical (not toxic) cancer risk. However, this is according to Proposition 65, a law passed here in California which relates whether tiny amounts of anything carcinogenic is in art supplies or foodstuffs (though I don’t think it applies to cosmetics). Prop 65 is kind of being overused, but I know enough art teachers who have battled cancer to take basic precautions against inhalation.

Lamp Black (a.k.a. Carbon Black) poses a slight toxic cancer risk and also may stain, meaning some kind of barrier, like gloves or barrier cream, may be useful here. However, when you work with art supplies…you kind of get used to slight cancer risks. Gloves or barrier cream, a mask, and basic caution not to get this stuff airborne, is the caution that I would ideally (but possibly not actually — in the case of skin protection) use.

I still have never used my jar of barrier cream, so I’m not certain if it rubs off on the image or stains the paper. I should try it and see what happens.

The biggest drawback besides this, is that it’s hard to mix colors when one wants to make intense marks of a certain shade that isn’t provided pre-blended. This is a drawback common to drawing supplies (markers, pens, colored pencils, chalks), more than painting supplies. However, it does pose a potentially useful limitation: more colors are not always better, if one gets so paralyzed by color choices that nothing gets drawn.

Right now I have a bunch of ContĂ© crayons, a basic set of NuPastels, and a basic set of Sargent Art pastels, in addition to some monochrome soft Rembrandts I got about two years ago (before I went back to Library School). The thing about Rembrandts is that they do have a shelf life. At first, they’re creamy, soft, and smooth, to the point that they draw on your hands when touched; later on (after a number of years) they turn into what feels like dried-up Air Dry Clay, and can shatter if dropped. (They even tinkle like dried clay when they are dropped; which I suppose they basically are; kaolin [the material porcelain is made from] is a common base for these pastels.)

I did have a set of half-stick pastels around here from 2015 or something, but I can’t locate them at this moment. I did do a mass purge of pastels, though, after I got scared by the Prop 65 warnings so many years ago. At this point, though, there are Prop 65 warnings for seaweed, coffee, potato chips, ginger, etc…it’s really getting out of hand. (Though I do wish that people would stop putting lead chromate into turmeric…I mean, seriously.)

The problem is that the consumer warnings are based on law rather than science, and that we are warned about the contamination of products, but it seems that nothing is done about it. The system relies on pressure from consumers not buying the goods to encourage the manufacturers not to sell toxic products, rather than actually regulating the toxic products, or not bothering us if the risk is minimal or the exposure is unavoidable (I probably still have more soot in my lungs from having grown up next to a freeway, than I would be likely to inhale from using pastels). At a certain point, a person gets desensitized and just accepts that their world is carcinogenic and the only way not to be exposed is to live in a bubble…

But, I suppose, the upshot of this is that someone is paying attention to toxins in food, drugs, and art supplies. If Prop 65 didn’t exist, I most likely wouldn’t know about this.

So…I guess this post turned into a Pastel post. Hmm. I do know that I want to play with my charcoals, again, even though it’s dirty (maybe because it’s dirty?). Well, not only that, but charcoal is fairly noncommittal…

I have also wanted to do something with ink, and have a new bottle of “waterproof” ink. I’m not sure how it’s going to perform, but I know I can use it with brush and dip pen…(I wonder if I still have my reed pens?). I have used it once before, and at full strength, it’s very black, which is nice. The issue is whether it’s truly waterproof, and how well it dilutes.

It’s possible that I may need to edge myself back into painting through using ink and wash, and pastels, plus maybe graphite sticks and the woodless colored pencils. That place where drawing organically grows into painting…I don’t think I’m there, right now. And I don’t think that’s a reason to give up entirely. It’s not like I’m back at the beginning where I’m using mechanical and colored pencil…but I am not all the way to seriously using watercolor, or acrylic, right now.

That’s gotta be okay, that I’m not at my apex after not practicing for most of two years. It also means there is someplace to grow to…

What I began this post thinking about was the fact that I think I’ve devalued my own style (with pen and watercolor, which has been relatively illustrative) because of the fact that it comes easily to me. It wouldn’t necessarily be easy for others, though…

Maybe I should take the chance on getting outside and doing some sketches…


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