Researching Caran D’Ache aquarelles:

I’ve just been looking around online at Caran D’Ache watercolor pencils. Apparently, there are now two kinds:  the Museum variety, and the Supracolors.

Museums look as though they are transparent, while the Supracolors have higher opacity (hinted at by the terms “covering power” at the Caran D’Ache site). It seems I’m a bit late to the game, here, as the WetCanvas link I’ve given above marks these as new for 2013…but I’m not an early adopter, so there you go. 🙂 Accordingly, I’ve read that Supracolors can be used light-over-dark if the lower layer is dry or has dried. I’ve also seen photos to this effect.

This…kind of gives me something to think about. I’m used to colored pencils not being terribly opaque (unfortunately), but then, I’m also used to Faber-Castell Polychromos, Blick, and Prismacolor brands (the last of which is a collection which runs back prior to 2000, as I think I’ve mentioned before). What I forgot to add is that I’ve been adding to that collection over the years; the font differences on the sides of the pencils tell me which ones are ancient and which are not. 😉

I’m…actually, still really interested in the Supracolors. The Museum pencils are fairly expensive, at ~$4 per pencil, while the Supracolors are a bit less (at around ~$3 per pencil in open stock). I would be buying my pencils, as well, to complement my watercolors — not to replace them.

When I tried the Supracolor I did, the pigment dispersion was very, very fine, as I had only used a little of the lead to see what color I would actually be getting (which was a bright violet-red, very different in appearance from dry pigment). And I didn’t have any black lines drawn on my test paper to see if the pigment would block out an underdrawing.

My major concern is wiping out those lines, which is why I even gave the Museum pencils consideration (I could get 12 for around $30…they may be what I’m looking for; I just hate to shell out that much money for that little product…although all signs say they’re high-quality). But what are in practicality, gouache pencils, do seem very interesting. And I have Derwent Inktense and watercolor pencils already. I don’t want to duplicate them (which is why I again started to re-swatch them, in addition to not recalling what they would do).

Despite having been out sick — I do think I’ll use my sickleave. (I’m not often sick, even when others are.) I’m hoping to do some sort of celebration of having completed Summer Session — on my mind is the 30-pencil set of Supracolors (which would be ~$2/pencil), which…wait…that would be twice the cost of the Museum pencils alone. It could be nice to get the Museum pencils and then a few open-stock Supracolors (particularly, light tones and greens), for the same price or less. (I’m intending to spend ~$60 at most, for these.)

Although — now that I look at it — how I’m going to use the pencils really caps all of this. I see a review which states that the Museums are not suitable for tight work, because of their softness — and I wanted to get them to tighten up the watercolor. Maybe I should get just a few colors in each style, and see how they’re usable. I already know that the colors in either style will be good.

What I had envisioned doing was laying down an initial layer of watercolor paint or acrylic ink to eliminate the white background, then going over it with aquarelle — like the Supracolors or Derwents — to add sharper details and fades (gouache could also serve, here), and then going over that with regular colored pencil, for texture.

Of course, though, this is all in my head, right now. I’m sure things will come up that I can’t predict, which will send me down one or another path, as regards workflow. You know what that means? That means I shouldn’t go to the art store yet, because I don’t yet know what I need. To find out what I need, I need to work on some drawings! In the process, I can see what hues I’m missing in my current collection. It may be that I don’t even have to buy a set. It may be that I don’t have to buy any new aquarelles at all.

One certain thing, though: I need to get a back-up pack of Derwent Graphik Line Painters (in case my “Snow” decides it can’t stand holding its paint anymore — it’s seriously messed up, as it was the first Japan-nibbed pen I ever tried to use, and I was not gentle enough with it).

I think I’m finally getting the hang of this art store thing. I mean — I’m actually doing research, as versus going in there and buying way more than I need, or items whose properties, I’m unsure of. Now — now, I’m wondering about taking a course on Web Searching…it hadn’t been on my mind, before, but it could prove very useful…and possibly, necessary…

Publishing less, doing more

Today, for the first time, I went to a Japanese tool supply shop with an extensive selection of woodcarving tools.  Although it was partially to fulfill the requirements for a UX exercise, and took about 10 minutes (not counting commute), I was excited to be able to go in there.  I have known about this place since high school, and apparently know the owners (somehow), but today was my first chance to look at their wares.

Another chance to use my Japanese skills.

Or, it would have been, had I enough kanji and word recognition to be able to actually piece together meaning, here.  Basically, the clerk’s first language was not English, there were a number of people seated in the back eating and speaking in Japanese, and just about everything in there was in packaging (mostly cardboard boxes) which were labeled in Japanese.  Helpfully, price stickers were language-neutral, though!

It was fairly dim, which is something I’ve learned to expect from…somewhere.  I think I remember it being part of a Japanese cultural aesthetic, to have the insides of rooms be enclosed; close, dim; womb-like.  But I can’t remember exactly where I read that, now.  I just know it’s a specific aesthetic which I’ve seen applied mostly in restaurant environments.

What I was after was a slip stone (sharpening stone), particularly the kind used to sharpen gouges with water-only as a lubricant.  While I do have Western-type gouges myself (I got them before woodblock printing was ever on my mind, easily before 2010), I’m not familiar with sharpening techniques using oil (which seems to be the predominant method in the U.S., but I can’t be sure).  It’s important to keep these sharp, because a dull tool can easily slip, which can easily lead to a fairly nasty stab wound, in turn.

I had found something like what I was looking for, online — however, this was from a large corporation which does not specialize in Asian tools (I was getting the slip stone to hone tools for woodblock printing — which I wouldn’t even be interested in if it weren’t for the Japanese history and tradition and aesthetic of these:  that is, I’m interested in mokuhanga, specifically).

Also, it seemed that I would then be using materials I was unfamiliar with (said setup included a bar of polishing compound, whereas I’m more familiar with blocks which are made of things like ceramic or aluminum oxide, themselves.  I have used polishing compound before, but that was in relation to jewelry production, and that in relation to compound-impregnated cloths, and rotary tools).

I’m not even sure if what I was looking at online was a slipstone or some kind of leather tool, or made out of wood, or what.  Nor was I certain whether or not it was a Web-only product (I’ve run across trying to buy these in-store, before).

And anyway, I’ve wanted to go to this shop for a while, so while I was out, I dropped by.  The clerk wasn’t too friendly (possibly because the first thing I did after walking in was ask if it was OK to bring in my gouges from home — I needed to make sure they would fit over the slip stone), but he did help me.  (I’ve had my share of being interrupted by people who have just walked in the door and the first thing they do is talk to me, so I can sympathize.)

After returning home, D found my old aluminum-oxide waterstone, which I had purchased to sharpen a high-carbon steel vegetable knife that my grandmother bought me sometime earlier this century, or late last.

High-carbon steel is supposed to keep a sharper cutting edge than stainless steel.  Its brittleness, however, combined with its lack of rust resistance, means that it needs more upkeep (particularly, drying, oiling, and honing), which (except for honing) is not an issue with the more popular stainless-steel knives.  And none of that would be an issue with a knife I prized and wanted to baby.

However, I realized that this knife’s blade was chipping (metal fragments in the food?!), which caused me to stop using it, lacking confidence that the place we bought it from sold quality goods (this was a large Asian supermarket).  If I had bought it from Soko Hardware, or Hida Tools, or something, it would be different.  But I bought this from 99 Ranch Market.

And I don’t even know where my waterstone came from, but it’s really pretty coarse.  I didn’t know just how coarse it was until I unwrapped my 1000-grit slip stone and felt it in comparison to this other waterstone.  The other stone really feels like coarse (maybe 350 grit) and medium sandpaper, which is fine if you’re working chips out of a blade, but — as I found online, today — if you want a fine edge, it isn’t what you need.  In addition, this was a Chinese waterstone, with labeling in English, and no grit number marked anywhere.  Not…really confidence inspiring…

On the other hand, the 1000-grit stone feels really smooth, in comparison (and that is not even the finest manufactured by the company NANIWA, in this form).  I’m trying to recall if I’ve ever felt 1000-grit carborundum paper; I’m not sure I have…and I’m not entirely sure exactly where my sandpaper is, now, for that matter.

Publishing less, doing more

I have been writing, only part of that is simply having broken back into fiction writing.  The other part of that is having to write for school, which isn’t really…fun?  But it’s time that I have to spend at the computer; and I seem to be beginning to ration computer time, in order to save my neck and back.

I’ve run across a good number of cases of people with disabling injuries lately, which I would suspect are Repetitive Stress Injuries.  I haven’t verified it with everyone, though.  In any case, I’ve been trying to use my tablet more, though that thing is really cheap…I didn’t realize the impact that its weight would have on me, long-term.  (And I know it isn’t going to help if I keep using it in bed — scrunching my shoulders up is the main thing that bit me last time.  [Speaking of which…*relaxes shoulders*])

Then again; it was my first tablet computer, other than my e-Reader.  I’ve been thinking of trying to find something better, but haven’t been certain which company to go with.  I suppose I should read some reviews.

And also:  I’m pretty much over the “convenience” (novelty) of a touch-screen computer.  It’s just way too easy to touch something that you didn’t want to, and every time that happens, there’s a risk of getting infected with something.  It works with an e-Reader…but really, something to read from is a much different tool than something to write with.

It also (somewhat) works with Mobile — but that’s because the screen is so small that a keyboard is not feasible.  In addition, smartphones and e-Readers can be easily reformatted and repopulated with essential apps, as there isn’t a lot of irretrievable information stored on them.  Something you’re using to write with (outside of cloud storage), though…?  That’s an entirely different thing.

It’s an entirely different thing which may be better handled in hard copy, as well.  But I’ll have to wait before forming a definite opinion, on that one…

Anyhow, I have begun to write again, and am having to resist the urge to publish my rough drafts.  Intending to share is the major drive to write any of this story down, at all, but there’s also the secondary benefit of having it in some concrete form where I can play with it and edit it and work out story continuity, etc.

When I was a kid, I was adamant that no one read my writing.  Now, I’m reaching the point of realizing that the main reason to put the story into language is to share it.  Otherwise, it’s just a living part of me…which, like so much else of my experience, most people don’t see, or even suspect exists.  If I didn’t want to share it, that is, then there is no reason to write it.

But that is getting into philosophy.

Speaking of which…

If art isn’t meant to be seen…is there reason in making it?

I went against my normal tendencies today and did try carving a basswood slat to see what the experience (of working up to woodblock printing) was like.  Ironically, I think I should have done this before I went to the Japanese tool store.  I knew that I would not be able to carve with dull tools, but I hadn’t given thought as to whether I would even like carving into wood.

Quite plainly, I don’t know what I’m doing, yet.  😛  Particularly, I’m unsure how to get tiny bits of wood out of the matrix without lifting splinters…I’m used to wedging things out, which may have worked with plaster and linoleum, but it really doesn’t work with basswood.  I’m going to have to figure out how to do this, if I want to print with my gouache (which has been the main goal of all of this, secret [or unstated] as that may have been).

And it’s very, very much more apparent to me, now, that the level of skill which I’ve seen examples of in my books is basically master-craftsperson stuff.

I did try some more freehand cuts, as versus slicing into the wood and then carving around the line — what I can see is that anything remaining flat will print.  This kind of goes against my aesthetics (oboy! flat!), but…I didn’t have a design or drawing worked out ahead of time, but I do now have kozo paper, nori glue, and sumi ink — and a baren — so I can…if I want to…actually try working at this for real.

I’m thinking of doing something with koi.  I’ve been playing with sinuous lines which remind me of fish.

Also, registering (aligning) the prints is something which I think I will have to work at via trial-and-error.  It’s certainly out of my comfort zone as things stand, but then, it should be:  I’m a total beginner.

And I hope you all will forgive me if I write less, here, and work on gaining more quality experience — and generating more quality content — to bring back to you.

Japanese language study

This has basically stalled.  I’m fairly sure that it has to do with trying to relearn katakana.  The rows read, moving from left to right and top to bottom (it just seemed easier to format it this way because of the directionality of the text on this blog):

KANA TABLE

I’ve stalled at NA.  It’s just frustrating to have to relearn this stuff over and over again.  This will be at least the fourth time I’ve tried to memorize this.  (Once in Middle School, once in Beginning Japanese at University, once when I first tried to relearn Japanese outside of University, and then, now.)

And a lot of it is memorization — which is hard for me to wrap my head around as something which will assist me (of course it will assist me!  I can’t read if I can’t recognize the characters!).  But I have also found my “Kana Workbook” for the Japanese for Busy People set, so maybe I should look back at that, if I’m just burning out on copying katakana.

In other words, I’m just frustrated at not knowing as much as I want to, and it’s putting me off.  Maybe I should just move forward with the Kluemper text, even though I haven’t yet memorized all the katakana (I can still read most of it — katakana are not frequently used, and as in English, there are certain kana which are rarely used, meaning that less-used syllables [lookin’ at you, “NU”] will be harder to remember).

And I’m going to choose not to write too much about school or work, right now.  But I have taken on extra hours…and school is doable, even if unpleasant.  It’s just what I’ve got to go through if I want to have a chance to work in an American library…or so, I’ve been led to believe.  Hawaii doesn’t even require an MLIS degree to work in the public sector.  Then again, the cost of living is high, there…and if it’s anything like the San Francisco Bay Area…well, I don’t have a husband or children to support, that much I can say…

At least I have a full life…who knew that would happen, eh?

(almost the) First linocut done since high school!

I am trying not to title this post “Bahaha,” though I’m sure you’ll be able to sense my excitement!

I was able to take a trip out to the little art store I wished to go to.  Amazingly — I got out of there with a bunch of linocut supplies for under $25.  It probably has to do with the fact that I got a bunch of little tiny linoleum blocks — the one I’ll show here is one of the smallest, at 2″x2″ — and the fact that they were having a sale on the hard pastels I bought — which were the most expensive thing, at under $5 for a set of 12.

Last night after getting home from that trip, I honestly felt like going to bed, but I interrupted myself.  I didn’t want to go and get the art supplies and then never use them, so I started looking through my cheap little notebook at my designs.  I realized fairly quickly that the way I had been sketching was suited to linework, but that printing would probably require a different approach, utilizing blocks of color or tone.  With that in mind, I started sketching — in pencil, albeit in 8B pencil.

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My initial design is at the top of this photo.  Below are iterative versions of it, on tracing paper (center), translucent marker paper (left), and Saral (carbon) paper.

I actually surprised myself with my initial design, as I’d somehow managed to draw a diamond shape which had a little less than 60º as the angle of the inner corner, making 6 petals totaling 360º.

This is the actual first transfer of that image to (translucent) marker paper, on the right:

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I used marker paper because I felt it would hold up better under fineliner (I used a 0.1 mm pen, here), and I intended to fill in areas with black to see what the design would look like in high contrast.  As I was doing this, I remembered some examples in a Dover book on the principle of Notan (balance between positive and negative space), and was curious about what would happen if I introduced shapes pushing from the negative space into the positive space — this is why the petals are notched.  I also realized in this iteration that I needed to pay attention to the center of the star, because if the petals didn’t have a coherent center, it could throw the design off.

I also realized that I didn’t have to echo the almond shape throughout each petal, and wondered what it would look like if I added a recurve to the outer edge of each white area.  So I traced over this shape with the tracing paper (first image, below center), using this idea — and trying to fix the center of the design.  I did this first in 2H pencil. Then on the tracing paper, I went over the lines with fineliner again (so I could see them) and traced over that on the marker paper (first image, below left).  At this point I could color things in without losing any precious underdrawing, so I did.  I had intended to divide the outer rim of each petal into two and let the white space part the outer edge, so that the petals were implied but not fully stated — but when I filled the space in, this detail was not visible.  I also joined the positive space on the outside of the petals to save myself a headache.

Once I was happy with the design, I traced over — I think the tracing paper copy — over carbon paper (Saral paper) with a 2H pencil, on top of my 2″x2″ linoleum block.  On the first image, lower right, you can see what this did to the Saral paper:  it’s translucent where I transferred the carbon onto the linoleum.

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I did not take a photo of my block before carving, but I was very happy with the line transfer.  What I was less happy with were the performances of the carving tools I mentioned before, which are from my high school sculpture and relief-printing days.  Because they didn’t perform all that well, I ended up using an X-Acto craft knife with a #2 blade to do most of the image cutting.  The area around the image was cleared out with a large shallow gouge, however.

One thing I did find to my surprise was that the little subtlety of the curvature of the white area was not immediately apparent in cutting.  I also found that small circular cutouts are difficult to do in linoleum, and that I would have been better off doing something like I did in the outer petal ring and just cut out an almond, without trying for a circle.  When I did try for circles, I ended up cutting out more positive space than I intended to.  This will change in the next iteration of this project:  almonds all the way!  😉

After the cutting was done, I started looking around for my acrylic plate and the hard rubber brayer.  I couldn’t easily find that plate, though — I know where one used to be, but since we’ve cleaned up, I’m no longer sure where it is.  But apparently…we had extra picture frames, and I was able to take one apart and use the glass that would have protected the picture, to roll out my printing ink with the brayer!

This is water-based Speedball printing ink, which came in a small tube.  I’m really thankful that I didn’t have to buy a 1 lb jar to get any ink at all — at first, all I could find were the jars, but then I found the little packs of ink hanging up in the same area.  I picked up a black, then later realized at home that I probably should have gotten white or a color in addition to the black, so I could experiment with duochrome.  But — next time.

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One of the nice things about this ink is that it cleans up very easily with water; on top of that, it seems to be nontoxic.  It also has good tack, meaning that when I put the paper on top of it (I used Stonehenge, which is designed for hand printing), the paper did not move, even as I burnished the back with the back of a spoon to transfer the image from the carving to the paper.

There were barens at the store to accomplish the same thing, but I felt they were overpriced for something that is basically just a flat surface.  Of course, if I’d used a baren, it would be less likely that I would get those surrounding marks on my print (see above) which resulted from both tipping the inked brayer as I rolled it (it’s a tiny print, okay) 😉 and pushing the paper down into the background with the spoon during the burnishing process.

In high school, I think we accomplished the pressing by rolling a clean brayer over the back of the paper.  And, of course, if I used something like a small press, I wouldn’t have to worry about the stray marks at all…although one of the reasons for starting out with block printing is that you don’t need a press.

And, well, now — I have a good bit more insight than I did before on how to do this, and want to retry the carving process.  I have one more little 2″x2″ block of the same type, and found an old opened (throwaway) linoleum block today (it feels like an eraser).  Seriously, though, these things aren’t expensive, something I had to remind myself of before I started carving!  I think the block I carved today cost $0.66 or something like that.

It is pretty cool to see your work result in something, though!  And that’s not a bad try for being (almost) the first time I’ve worked with this technique in 17 years…(and yes, the BAHAHA moment when it works is great…!)

The attempt to relax…well, I did actually read for pleasure, today…

I’m not sure I’m going to make this post public, so if you’re seeing it, apparently I didn’t get into a bunch of…what I’ve been writing about previously, today (in a paper journal).  Yes yes, I can rant and curse all I want in a paper journal…

I have been having problems concentrating today.  Much of this, earlier, had to do with the fact that I was having so much internal “noise” that I could not focus on my (assigned) reading.  This isn’t literally stuff that I physically heard (i.e. hallucination); this is thinking about things that…had little to do with what I was trying to do, except for the fact that I was doing reading for the grad program and didn’t want to be, but felt I had to.  Then I started thinking about the idiocy that is one of my classes and how my standing in the program may be jeopardized by not sufficiently learning some outmoded obsolete overly complex archaic system from a person with his own issues…which I want to drop, by the way, but I’ve gotten Financial Aid, which kind of makes that a bit more complicated.

Anyway.  I’m trying not to think ahead to Fall.  I also have something to write…for which, I can consider this practice.  That is, it’s difficult for me to jump right in to answering questions in an essay format when I haven’t warmed up.  I suppose one can consider what I did earlier to be a warm-up, as well, but it feels different to write by hand, as versus to type.

In any case, M had me writing earlier to try and clear my head.  It worked to an extent — I did get seven pages out (I used a bold pen, so that’s double-spaced), though it doesn’t solve the problem (which should resolve itself in several weeks).

I also read through the text portion of Shin Hanga, which was a nice break.  The text is only Part I of the book; the second part is made entirely of reproductions of these woodblock prints and their associated metadata (artist, year, accession numbers, etc.).  Shin hanga were like an updated version of ukiyo-e, but not…the only branch to spring from that.  Sosaku hanga (“creative prints”) were another offshoot, with one person controlling the entire artistic process — whereas shin hanga and ukiyo-e more often were the result of team collaborations.

I found a webpage (from MIT) which goes over how woodblock prints were created — well, more than one, actually; I also found an article on bokashi at Wikipedia (that is, how color gradations were made in this form of printing, used extensively in the prints reproduced in the book Shin Hanga) — and it is very clearly…complicated.  Enough so to make one seriously consider digital printmaking.  I mean…really.  The prints had to be highly labor-intensive and exacting.

The possibility of, say, applying a color gradation in an outline…is possible in digital printmaking, and from my experience, I would say it is likely seriously easier than carving a negative of that linework and then applying a gradated ink wash to it and then lining it up and printing it.  On doing a Google search and then following a Pinterest link, I also found a link to the following blog post (by serendipityartist) on WordPress, from 2007.  This makes it seem less…unclear, but still, the author mentions needing to “season” the wood block and getting just the right amount of water mixed in to avoid artifacting…(I don’t know if that’s the right word when used with non-computer-generated art…)

M wanted me to write more, to clear my head further, but I found it essentially very peaceful to just look at the prints and try and analyze how they were working, from the viewpoints of color, line, and composition.  In this sense, the prints are very…sophisticated.  The reason I got the book, Shin Hanga, in the first place was to study composition:  a subject which is different depending on the cultural origin of one’s training.  I had found this first through the book Chinese Painting:  Techniques for Exquisite Watercolors, (excuse me while I shift back to a common form of title capitalization) by Lian Quan Zhen.  There are a couple of sections in that book, if I’m recalling right, about composition…which leads me to wonder if the compositions of some (or many) of the prints in Shin Hanga (the book) were invented or idealized, and not as they appeared in nature.

But that goes off on a fairly different avenue than what I’ve touched upon, tonight.

I think I’m about ready to start my essay, now…

Notes from earlier: Design, Ceramics

Well, it was a good thing to be at work, today.  I think it’s called, “networking”?

I received two valuable responses from colleagues who have both worked in Art & Design.  One of them was to informationally interview people in the field I was interested in, in order to get a sense of what the work was actually like — this is in regard to Graphic Design.  The main drawback that I can see to this, at this point, is that I do not carry the responsibility for the direction of the work…and that’s what my old Drawing teacher directly warned us about.  (I’m writing this stuff down now so I don’t forget it.)

Given that — that this is a main downside to working in commercial art (that is, that it appears that people who want work done want it done by someone who isn’t human — kind of like how I rail against people most highly valuing stones which look mass-produced [yeah!  let’s look just like everyone else!]), I started thinking again about pottery.  I did ask one of my co-workers about this; he recommended jumping in to what I wanted to do, in order to see the day-to-day reality of what it is like.  This is so I don’t get overwhelmed with worry and fear about what things “might be” like.

Something that also came up was the possibility of apprenticing to a potter.  That actually sounds like a really workable — and interesting — idea.

Right now what I’m thinking of, is:  No matter what grades I get at the end of Spring semester, I’ll plan to go back into the nearest community college I know of which deals with Ceramics (this is, unfortunately, a 45-minute commute; although I may be able to find a closer school, it won’t be in the same cultural enclave as the one I’m used to).  I can see, then, if I still like it.  I will also, this way, get to know students and teachers, who may be able to help me find a suitable Master to work under.  Come Fall…I am uncertain what will happen, but I will again be able to take Ceramics classes at a closer college.

My desire to work with clay has not decreased since I was able to use the cup I bought…it feels really nice in the hand, and it’s aesthetically pleasing to look at.  I’ve also realized that cafes and restaurants are likely good places to sell to (I noticed the cups in the drying rack of a nearby cafe, today) although this may mean that it will be most practical to make things…that look mass produced.

(?!)  Well, what the market demands, you know.  There was also a place (Heath? Ceramics) which is based in Marin County which provided the hot-cups used at the Honolulu Art Museum.

It would be interesting, though, to see what opens up if and after I learn to speak and understand Japanese language, better…I wonder if anyone would teach me how to make ceramics in an Eastern style…

Thinking on ceramics as a realistic preferred medium?

What I’m about to get into is going to make me sound really Asian, which I sometimes get in trouble for, because I don’t look the part (I’m hapa — that is, racially, half-Asian).  I have a tendency to feel most at home in A/PI communities, though.  I’m not even sure why — maybe it’s just familiarity?  A feeling of fitting in?  Culturally, I was raised with my Japanese-American side of the family, so…well, it’s comfortable for me.  M has told me that sometimes there aren’t reasons for the things we like (I mentioned this tangent one or two posts ago).

There has been so much happening, recently, that I’m not sure where to start.  The major problem that I’ve been having is…well, 1) stress, and 2) confidentiality.  The first just makes things harder across the board; the second causes me not to express why I’m stressed…adding to the stress.  Not to mention, people around me being stressed, doesn’t help.

As regards art…I pretty much haven’t been doing anything freehand, though I have been doing a lot of observing.  I think it’s OK this way.  I do have photos to work from…though it’s difficult in the respect that I’ve never taken a digital photography class…and so I have only gut instinct and fairly minimal knowledge about composition, to work from (my Art degree is only an AA).

As regards the classwork (for the Master’s program)…I still haven’t gotten around to doing that Discussion Post that I never did.  And right now…well, it’s been a while since I read the sections in question, so the longer I wait, the more work it will be to respond.  The positive point is that I’m all caught up now, except for that.  I’m not sure if it’s worth it to go back to at this point, however, and I know I don’t want to just repeat what others have said.

Right now I’ve gotten some quiet, which has not been an easy thing to come by recently, and allows me to…well, relax a bit.  Maybe I should read or do some research or something, and see if that helps.

I could do some art, too, but…I haven’t been in that mode, for a while.  I have been thinking of taking either Ceramics or Printmaking over the summer.  Ceramics would probably be easier to access, given that I have a small college not so far from where I live, which teaches it.  The Printmaking class — the one that I know about, anyway — is at least a 45-minute trip, one way.

However, one of my friends from the Art program was in the Printmaking series, last I heard of him; and unless I’m mistaken, he did like it.  For my part, I’m more interested in the old-style manual printmaking than Digital Printmaking…although the latter seems like it’s where we’re headed.  The drawback seems to be that Digital Printmaking may emulate the style of manual printmaking…without the process or limitations of printmaking, within which the style makes sense.

I also did just see an exhibit on woodblock prints…which was inspiring, to say the least.

Ceramics, though:  I went to a tea shop recently and purchased a small porcelain tea cup…which got me thinking about three-dimensional work, again.  Ceramics would enable me to work sculpturally, and also integrate color into my designs.  There is also that element of randomness which causes …well, it helps one let go of control, a bit.  So far as I know, there is no really accurate way to tell what a glaze will look like once it’s out of the kiln; bisque firing (the first firing after the clay is formed, before the glazing) also takes a chance, as pieces can explode if there are any air bubbles within them.  If they do this, you want them to do it at the bisque phase, not the glazing phase — the latter can cause fragments of a work to stick to everything else in the kiln.

At the tea shop…this is a relatively upscale tea shop…I paid either $15 or $25 (I’m no longer sure which) for a beautiful tea cup in a common Chinese style (where it comes to shape) with a modern twist on blue glaze (or is it something else, like paint?) over white clay:  it’s a linear pattern, as versus figurative.  I don’t believe I’ve taken a picture of this, yet, though that would be something to do.

There was also a red-on-white version of the same style, but for some reason, the red stripes were somewhat in relief, as versus the blue ones, which were smooth.  Texturally, the blue-on-white was preferable to me; I just wasn’t sure, either, that the beautiful red was not cinnabar (mercuric sulfide).  The latter has been widely used as a pigment, historically — though I wouldn’t take that as an indication of safety.

What I realized, though, is that as I have gotten further into tea drinking, I have begun to collect teacups (Asian teacups, more precisely) and teapots.  And I realized this is a niche market which I both might enjoy producing for, and participating within.  One of the Japanese gift shops relatively near me has a section just for pottery; it’s also common to find these sections in Asian supermarkets.  As each piece is unique…and one only has to buy one cup for their collection…price, as a barrier, decreases in importance.  The main thing that I’m concerned about there is lead exposure (most stores don’t mark whether pieces have lead in them or not), though I think that as long as the cups or pots are not exposed to acid, it should be OK.

(And I just now have realized that I can take my skill at painting and do so on ceramics!  I don’t know why that never came to me, before!)

I did enjoy Ceramics when I took the classes in high school (I took Ceramics/Mixed Media twice, then); the main issue I had with the class is that I had untreated OCD and would wash my hands until the skin cracked (which was easy, as clay will dry out one’s skin…think of facial masques made of primarily kaolin [a transparent {or translucent?} Chinese clay], and you’ll see what I’m getting at — these masques are primarily used to treat acne and oily skin, so far as I know).

Otherwise…I picked up a book on Shin Hanga, or New Printmaking (although it’s called “New,” the art movement seems to have declined in the mid-20th century — kind of like how Modern Art was followed by Contemporary Art, but the title makes it sound cutting-edge [I suppose it was, then]), at a museum store (same museum that had the woodblock prints); it appears as though it will be very inspirational.  I passed up a book on manga to purchase this one, though.

Although I have plans, at the least, to begin Japanese language review and new practice and language acquisition during the Summer…I still can’t read most untranslated Japanese graphic novels or comics, now.  I’ve just realized that maybe this lack of content delivery may be why I am more drawn to color and Fine Arts — I mostly don’t receive any content that’s written in Japanese language.  Add this to the sparing art which constituted examples in the text I was looking at…and Shin Hanga was more exciting.

There’s also the fact that I knew a good number of the authors and manga series referenced in said book…and I don’t necessarily want to duplicate knowledge I already know.  Plus, even if I do or did want to create a graphic novel as an endpoint (which I am not sure still holds as much weight as I’ve considered it to, in the past; given my reluctance to enter into generating narratives [something I’ve mentioned before, here, I’m fairly sure]), it would be best to study what the people I admired, studied — not to study and emulate their styles.  The latter of which, by the way, seems to be a path particularly looked down upon by Western artists.  Though, I’m fairly certain that competition from Japan in the U.S. comic book industry also has something to do with it, at least when we’re dealing with people from the U.S.

I’m going to try and relax, now.  I haven’t gotten to just chill for a while, and I probably need it…

One other thing:  I have realized very recently that a lot of things considered as “crafts” had useful, utilitarian functions, at some time.  Particularly when it comes to things like basket weaving and cordmaking and papermaking and knotting…at one time, these were very useful crafts.  I did take a look into the Western Art wing of a museum recently, and found a lot of “flat art”…and I’ve been wondering about the legitimacy of the valuation stating that arts (particularly the Fine Arts) are more valuable than crafts.  What I’m beginning to think is that this might be the popular viewpoint in this era, but that is by no means an absolute and accurate reflection of reality (and in fact it may have to do with colonialism…and sexism…)

Well, the reasoning behind the valuation of Fine Art is probably something that most people don’t even consider, either…

I did have an idea behind this post earlier today, but I’ve since forgotten what it is…

…it must be the hour.

However, I was able to take some photos before the sun set, today.  I’m not sure how many of them would actually be interesting to anyone but me, but…well.  I just took a shower and am waiting for my hair to dry before going to bed.

Earlier, I did what homework I could…until meaning stopped coming out of my reading.  At that time, I got out the cabochons to see if I could pair any with the lacy pink thing.  What I got was this:

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glass cabochon (~1″ tall) plus various trial netting swatches.

…which was kind of interesting. I realized that I might have some Czech seed beads which matched the cabochon exactly.  Because I recently reorganized things, I knew exactly where to look:

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This is what a hank of Czech seed beads looks like.  I was talking about how Czech round seed beads are usually sold in hanks, half-hanks, or strands…these are loops of thread with beads threaded onto them, knotted together at one end.

These beads, I got a long, long time ago, at a store which closed down for (likely) good reasons.  I’m not sure of the name of the color, but they have a rainbow coating on them like the above cabochon (called AB, or “Aurora Borealis”), and they’re pretty close in color.  I’m fairly certain they’re size 11º.

I’ve wanted to use my cabochons in bead embroidery before, but haven’t, because I haven’t had the beading foundation you see in the background of both of these images.

Beading foundation is like stiff interfacing, and in some cases can be literal normal interfacing, like the kind used for sewing (usually it’s called “Pellon,” for the brand name, at least where I live); however, what you see above is called “Lacey’s Stiff Stuff” and is supposed to be really good, in terms of holding stitches and not stretching.  It can be hard to find in person and expensive once found, though.  This piece is about 8.5″ x 11″ and bought on top of bulk discount pricing, so it wasn’t …individually, that expensive.  😛

I do have Pellon interfacing as well (at one time I was trying millinery), which has a bit more give to it and is much thicker.  I had heard not to use it, though, in one of my books (Dimensional bead embroidery, by Jamie Cloud Eakin) because Lacey’s is supposed to be better for this specific task (i.e., bead embroidery).  As a consequence, I put the idea aside…for too long.

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More Czech seed beads…strung in hanks, and loose in a bead tray.

The photo to the left displays two hanks of Czech size 13º seed beads…I think.  The pink ones may be 15ºs — which will help in bezeling cabochons.  The coppery ones are likely actually glass coated in copper (there is a term called “Galvanized” which might apply to these, but I’m not sure because of the circumstances under which I got them [bead convention]), and are called “Charlottes” because one side of the bead is ground into a flat facet.  (No, I don’t know the origin of the term.)

The triangular thing is a stackable bead tray, here with some of the Czech 11º seed beads you saw in the hank above — only here, they’re loose and ready to use.  Of course I came back into the house today and promptly accidentally overturned the (entire) tray onto the floor…with a jacket cuff or something.  Hunting stray beads happens frequently, here.  And it doesn’t help that they bounce, roll, and scatter on linoleum, and can get totally lost in carpeting.  Though holding a light parallel to the floor helps to find them, at least when they’re shiny.

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Fairly certain candidates for the netted necklace.

This, to the right, is a photo of the beads I am fairly sure to use in this project…the exception being the copper beads (unstrung from the above hank) in the lower right vial.

I did some work taking inventory and found that altogether, I have 80 of the “Peaches and Cream” dagger beads (upper right) and 96 Fuschia 4mm Czech firepolished glass beads (far left, center).  Each inch, about, of the pattern I made uses four dagger beads, and maybe 5 firepolished ones.

Given this, I have enough beads for a 20″ necklace…at least, in outer diameter.  The three long center vials are Japanese seed beads (typically sold in vials); the two on the right contain size 11º, while the one on the left contains size 8º.  I’m pretty sure that the far right vial of these center three contains dyed glass, however, meaning those beads are unlikely to stay that color forever.  Everything else, though…I think is relatively stable (though I’m not sure about the size 8ºs…which came from a different supplier that doesn’t give marks for lightfastness).

Oh, and:  the little short vials on the far left and far right, did not come with these beads.  They’re the “tiny” vials I mentioned in earlier post with regard to storage.  I got them from a store which specializes in plastics and fiberglass, for about $0.20 each.  This is kind of crazy inexpensive, when I see that there are smaller clear containers (the AMAC tiny ones) which cost 4.5x as much and are less secure.  If they weren’t $0.90 each, I would buy them to store crystals, but seriously.  That’s kind of a splurge, for storage.  (It wouldn’t be, however, if I were selling gemstones or crystals — as I’ve seen those boxes used before.)