Release

Today was my first day of freedom from classes and Finals. I did still go to work, but I was also happy that I got to do whatever I wanted on my lunch hour! Nothing hanging over my head with some due date that I had to work on in order to alleviate my anxiety and boost my GPA!

Just think: in one more year it can be like this, permanently. Not to say that I would stop learning, because I can’t afford to do that, ever; but I will have obtained my first professional degree.

It’s also not lost on me that this “vacation” time I’m entering into, with Winter Break, may be one of the last extended periods of lack of responsibility that I’ll be able to have, unless I save up vacation hours at whatever job I’ll have in the future.

Because of a number of issues, I’m not entirely certain it is even possible to expect to retire once I reach a certain age. I haven’t gone in for financial counseling or anything, but it just doesn’t look good for me, due to the age at which I began (or am beginning) my career. The institution of retirement itself doesn’t look good, as regards what I can see ahead.

However: there are some bright spots. A lot of them, actually…though elucidating that, right now, may be a bit much. And, I can’t expect to live to old age, anyway…that’s kind of not guaranteed.

In any case…I did do some drawing at work, earlier. No photos or scans, yet, though I did learn one thing: don’t try to alter a pencil image at the same time as you’re inking it. (I had forgotten how subtle changes severely affect expressions, in images of people!)

I should be heading out to replace some art supplies that I’m running low on (yay for using up art supplies!). This is, specifically, a type of marker paper I picked up a long time ago (Borden & Riley) which is particularly useful both because of its degree of translucency, and the fact that markers tend not to bleed through it. (New Chartpak markers will still bleed, though, as will new Copics [unless I’m mistaken].) Because the paper is so translucent, it allows for tracing and inking of linework.

The major drawback of any of this is that then the inked illustrations either need to be transferred to a digital file for coloring (which means I will need to learn how to digitally color), or they need color added with dry media (I have never tried this paper with watercolors…it would be an interesting experiment, as this is cotton rag paper, but…I wouldn’t set my hopes too high). The alternative is using Saral paper, a.k.a. making a carbon paper transfer, which makes inking the original, redundant.

Or, I’d just have to stick with using pens and markers for all of the art. It’s not a best-case scenario, largely because I’m not great with markers…though I think I am better than I thought I was. The limited work that is still inside the cover of the pad isn’t awful, even though at the time, I was fairly disappointed.

Maybe I just need to become skilled with a blending marker? I don’t know. What I do know is that this is the first pad of paper I’ve almost-used-up in a while (unless we count the small pad of ArtAgain coal black paper, which I found can take wet media [in this case, gouache]).

It is possible to work out small comics with the marker paper, as well as play with layout, generally.

The largest issue with trying to practice illustration at this point, for me, is either creating a story or finding a story to illustrate. I may be able to work on this over Winter Break, though, too. Hopefully, the last decade or so has calmed down some of the issues I was going through, last time I was intensely involved in fiction writing.

(I can’t help but think that it will attempt to reactivate some of those old dysfunctional neural pathways, though…)

And if I’m going to write, it would likely help, to read (which I have time for, now). The other main issue is that I overwhelmingly read nonfiction…maybe a short story would work. That way, the research wouldn’t be overwhelming (I can read short fiction I like), and the writing wouldn’t be overwhelming, either. This could then lead to a short tale that I could illustrate…

…though I honestly think that project would take up more than the time I’ve got over Winter Break. I have about a month, off. I’m sure I’ll get around to figuring out what to do with my time (other than this), in the near future, but right now I’m just looking at the next 2-3 days.

I did unexpectedly use a bunch of Marker paper for my Web Design project. I have 5 usable pages of this stuff, left. I think I’ll get the 9″x12″ size again, as it is small enough to fit into my work locker. Plus, I can’t scan anything over 8.5″x11″, at this point, so getting a larger size would be relatively useless unless I started hard-core doing comics, and needed to tape up page roughs to my wall in order to read their composition.

(I don’t want to scan these things at an office-supply store. I’m not going to get into, why. I’m sure it’s obvious enough.)

That actually sounds really fun–! It also gives me an excuse to pick up a gouache color that I’ve set my eye on (Quinacridone Magenta). This last color-experimentation phase (for the website) has got me using gouache again, which can make gorgeous opaque colors. But I can’t think about it in the same way as I would think about illustration. It pretty much has to be looser than that.

I had also been thinking about painting with gouache on board…meaning that I’m looking at the use of gesso and Golden Absorbent Ground, to prep the surface. The biggest thing I’m concerned about there is the possibility of destroying my good (soft) watercolor brushes by painting on top of a rough surface.

Now that I look at it, I would be just as well off by mounting a paper to a piece of board, painting it, then removing it to frame.

Hey, wait: it’s also possible that I might be able to permanently mount a paper to board by using an acrylic medium, like maybe Glazing Medium…hmm. Didn’t think of that, before. Then I’d have the durability of the board, and the softness of the paper. I also have a brayer I can use, to push down the watercolor paper (I will just need to interleave a clean sheet so that I don’t mess up the surface of the paper — or the painting, if it is finished).

Looks like I’m going to be experimenting.

The hardest part of any of this, though, is settling on what to paint! I do have a lot of nice botanical images, though…I’m just not quite a master at composition, yet.

Maybe I can try that one image I wanted to use for the 30″x30″ canvas, as a way to break out of photorealism…

2808w

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Alright! The watercolors *are* usable!

There is a difference between using Dr. Ph. Martin’s Radiant Concentrated (liquid, dye-based) Watercolors and (pigmented) tube watercolors. But the difference largely is in the randomness that comes with the flow, spread, and drying of pigmented watercolors, as versus the smoothness and fineness of gradation that can come with water-soluble transparent dyes.

Drawing from imagination

Today, after about five hours of homework, I let myself do something to relax. I followed what I had been doing with the flowers, and just started drawing what I had in my mind’s eye. I essentially drew what I thought what I wanted to draw looked like, which, of course, isn’t what it actually looks like. But it’s an interesting exercise to undertake which gets me away from attempting to reproduce things photorealistically, and lets me use more imagination in the process.

Because I only have one vial of the Ph. Martin’s Radiant — which I bought…probably back when I was in high school, or around that time — and this in “Calypso Green,” I decided to try drawing something I met up with last time I was in Hawaii. This is a plant colloquially called “Swiss Cheese Plant,” a.k.a. Monstera Deliciosa. The leaves of these plants are commonly used as fabric motifs.

In any case, I was intentionally working without a reference, so I didn’t recall that Monstera leaves are actually greener/less blue than the bluish-green color I had. Luckily, working without a referent, I had little reason to worry myself with this…especially as Hawaiian fabrics which showcase motifs of these leaves, often change the color schema totally away from what’s seen in reality (or at least, what I have seen in reality!).

At this point, I haven’t done scans or photographs, though there is a very visible trend that I can see through the progressive versions (three) which show the development of my thought of how to draw and paint this thing. And, having viewed references tonight, I have an idea of what I got correct (what I took away from my memory of these leaves which was most important) and how to tweak minor things to look more lifelike.

The watercolors are great for fine art; maybe not as suited, to reproduction work.

The clearest takeaway is that I do not have to buy the Ph. Martin’s: I was working, tonight, with five colors, and all of them were pretty much entirely transparent, so far as I could see. Those colors were Winsor [Phthalo] Green (Yellow Shade), Green Gold, Dioxazine Violet, Permanent Rose, and Lamp Black. All of the non-black colors were Winsor & Newton brand, while Lamp Black was Holbein. (I am aware that there are “transparent” watercolors which feature opaque pigments, such as Cadmium Orange; my task will just be to figure out which those are, via research or experience, and avoid them if I want to preserve underlying linework.)

In the test which I made with the Calypso Green, I also mixed in Lamp Black and Dioxazine Violet, from my tubes. I started adding more and more different colors, though, after I saw what I could do when not working monochrome (or duochrome — I don’t think black is technically considered a color, here).

What was surprising, was the intensity of color I was able to get out of my tube watercolors, and that it surpassed what I had done with the liquid watercolor (though I’ll have to do more experiments to see if this is a fluke, or due to my differing approaches in each attempt). As I hinted at earlier, the tube, pigment-based watercolors leave a textured look after drying, which is not as apparent with the liquid, dye-based watercolors.

I am very, very certain now that the dustiness I was getting with my watercolors has to do with the fact that I was trying to use them from a semi-dry state, and not right from the tube. I also very likely was not using enough paint. This is something that my last Watercolor teacher got on me about (…before he messed up my Aureolin pan and left it so brown that I just forgot about ever salvaging it).

Tonight I used the paints straight from the tube, diluted with water, of course, but not washed out with water; at least in the third leaf I painted, which was wholly tube paint. I wish I would have taken my time there, and gone in with 2-3 layers of dark color, as versus having too much paint and water in my brush at the same time and making blotty uncontrolled marks. But maybe that was also me, being used to using natural hair (sumi brushes, tiny hybrid brushes) as versus full synthetic…

I also opted, tonight, to stick with Microns for linework, instead of going in with my Ph. Martin’s Bombay Black India Ink — which I know works beautifully, but I doubted my ability to use a steel dip pen at this point in my work, and if so, which nib; and will I have to burn it first and will I have to soak it in ink remover later… My point was to experiment with the Radiant watercolor, not to experiment with everything.

A last note on this before I get into geeking out over paints: the Radiant watercolor from year 199x, which is the only vial of this I’ve ever bought, also smelled of something which I think might have been…ammonia? The only caution I found on a lookup for the new version was to avoid getting it in one’s eyes, so it’s possible that my nose was accurate. But then, I hardly ever smell ammonia, anywhere, to the point that I’m not sure I can recognize it. The smell reminded me of weak vinegar, actually. And considering how old it is…the fact that it’s viable at all is surprising.

I’m not sure if whatever is making this scent, would interact with other paints. In any case, the new versions of this are said to be fairly safe, according to the MSDS (Materials Safety Data Sheets).

Trying Green Gold (PY129)

It was my first time using Green Gold (Pigment Yellow 129, or PY129) in a mix! I got this a long time ago, but had never been able to play with it. I had read over at handprint.com that it is very useful for making greens more yellow-leaning, and…I actually do really love what it did. I just feel hesitant to make greenery too yellow-looking, as it can read as dying vegetation.

As a note, though: Green Gold as a pigment is way more affordable in watercolors than it is in acrylics, probably just because the sheer amount of pigment you get in a tube, is less. I was working with a 5 ml tube of watercolor, instead of a 2 oz. tube of acrylic (as is standard for a tube of Liquitex Heavy Body paint, which is normally what I would use for acrylic painting. It’s good, but not quite on the level of Golden paints).

According to a quick conversion by Google, 5 ml is equal to ~0.17 US fluid ounces…which probably accounts for the difference in price! (I’m sure that the watercolor version is much more concentrated, though.)

In acrylics, I’m pretty sure that I opted to mix the shade instead: the only difference seems to be in price and opacity. A 2 oz. tube of Green Gold in Liquitex is around $19 MSRP (as of this writing). Of course, that price is mitigated with discount art stores. A 5 ml tube of Green Gold in Winsor & Newton tube watercolor is around $11 MSRP (without discounts).

In contrast, a 2 oz. tube of Liquitex Bronze Yellow (a good start to reproduce this color, along with an orange-leaning or earth yellow and a blue I’m uncertain of, right now [it has been a while since I’ve been mixing acrylics]) costs less than half as much, even at full price.

How much canvas or paper each of them will cover, is uncertain to me: some pigments mix more strongly than others, and I haven’t used up a tube of either of these Green Gold paints. I do think that $19 for a tube of paint is kind of a bit much, however; and in some (many?) cases, having to buy paint in 2 oz increments, is too much (especially if you’re like me, and your paints last so long that the tubes biodegrade and force emergency measures to either save or throw out what’s inside).

That is: getting a 1 oz tube of an expensive pigment for half as much (or a little more than half as much, to account for packaging, shipping and distribution costs), is much more reasonable, to me (especially considering that I haven’t used the paint yet, and thus don’t even know what it can do).

Anyway, that was kind of a dead-end tangent (though empty paint tubes are sold for just such emergencies as the neck of a paint tube peeling off), but it was fun to get into, at the time. 🙂

And, I found…

…it’s much nicer to work on large sheets of paper, than it is to work on smaller sheets. I’m not entirely certain why this is, yet, but it does allow “breathing room” for my images, and room for them to grow. Right now I’m using a watercolor notebook…I’m pretty sure it’s Canson Montval watercolor paper.

Tomorrow, I’ll try and take photos and upload some of the work I did tonight, though I know it’s going to be difficult to do without going back in to try and correct things! I suppose I’ll just have to apologize beforehand for not remembering what a Monstera Deliciosa plant looks like… 🙂 …which will be all too obvious to people who actually live with them!

(I’m just trying to use a visual adaptation of a free-writing approach…where [generally speaking] we aren’t always experts on what we’re imagining, but the products of the exercise can seed new work…but to get into explaining that would likely take another post. It’s almost 1 AM my time, as well; I should turn in.)

Wanting to work in an illustrative style.

transparency with intensity.

I realize now, that what I’ve been looking for in watercolors, acrylic inks, and inks is the strength and intensity of color I’ve found in heavy-body acrylics and gouache, but transparent. The transparency feature is mainly to allow me to take an illustrative/drawing approach (with visible lines instead of only blocks of color), so that I can scan the images and it will still come out looking alright.

One of my last art instructors said that the difference between drawing and painting, is that there are generally no lines in paintings, only blocks of color; which is the clearest definition I think I’ve heard.

digital media.

I think I know what to do at this point; which is to work with transparent, fluid inks (such as Winsor & Newton Drawing Inks), or transparent liquid watercolor (such as Dr. Ph. Martin’s Radiant Concentrated Watercolor), and just resign myself to the fact that the inks are fugitive (will fade/change color over time), and my scan (a high-resolution uncompressed TIFF file) is likely going to be the archival copy of my work.

This also means that the archival copy is going to be digital…making multiple and regular backups useful, if not necessary. This will also necessitate migrating my work whenever older formats become obsolete…and I have some experience with that from my Digital Archives class.

painting surfaces and supports.

It also means that, if I’m going to scan these things, I’m really going to have to watch for cockling (warping) in whatever I draw + paint on. I might be moving to Mixed Media paper for this, though; instead of cotton-based watercolor paper, which is intended to be archival. (There’s no point to painting with colors that are expected to fade, on top of a surface made to last hundreds of years.)

I haven’t tried Bristol board for this, either. It’s worth a shot. And I haven’t tried Illustration board — to be honest, I still don’t know how to use Illustration board and control its warping with water, at the same time. (It tends to expand and contract unevenly, depending on what area is wet, and how wet it is. The wetter it is, the more convex it becomes.)

Also worth a shot are a couple of QoR mediums which could allow me to draw and paint with watercolor on board, as versus paper, but that’s probably further than I need to reach. If I stretch (or tape — I’m not sure Mixed Media paper can stand outright wet-stretching) paper onto Masonite and then shear out the final copy with an X-Acto and straightedge, I should be OK. I just can’t bet on using the entire sheet up to the true edge of the paper.

Of course, Masonite itself…likely isn’t the best substrate (it begins to fall apart on me when I pull the tape off). D suggested acrylic sheet as a backing, while I was thinking along the lines of a flat sheet of melamine. I don’t know if either will work, but I know what I’m doing now is (or would be, if I were painting a lot) kind of wasteful, as Masonite isn’t all that strong when it comes to working with water and adhesives. At least I would be able to remove tape from acrylic, without damaging the acrylic.

dusty watercolors. import, optimization, display.

One sad thing about importing photos onto my computer is that the chroma (color intensity) always looks stronger on the screen, than it is in reality. I’m not entirely sure why this is.

But then, I’m not entirely sure why color distortions happen in my camera, in general. I mean — I know it has to do with the lighting, and probably the specific wavelengths put out by whatever light is being used, and the camera accounting and compensating for that (or something like it). I just feel like I need tighter control of the photography angle of this.

The problem is that I don’t know much about digital photography — or, traditional photography, for that matter. I do know about Photoshop, but it’s knowledge that is very practical and not anything that lets me understand what I’m actually doing when I edit the Black and White points on a color channel’s Histogram.

But like I said before — I have a working color scanner that can encode into TIFF, so improving my digital photography skills and getting a better camera isn’t urgent or necessary at all to publish to the Web, at this point. It’s pretty much taken care of.

I just ran across someone online mentioning that colors in her watercolor paintings tended not to look as intense over time as she would like; and though I’m mostly dealing with paint swatches at this point (my watercolor painting time pretty much ended in Fall 2016), I can relate to a dusty, faded look in watercolors. It could be because of the fact that I’ve been trying (note, trying) to use them from a dried-and-rehydrated state instead of a moist (fresh from the tube) state, or it might have to deal with formulation.

branching out. watercolor brands and mediums.

Right now I’m primarily using Winsor & Newton, with one Grumbacher and one M. Graham (which I love — I’m just not sure if the ❤ is a property of the pigment [PY3: Arylide Yellow] or the rest of the paint! This is a brand which uses honey in its formulation as a humectant [do NOT eat it!], which could be why the color blossoms so freely).

I’ve also relatively recently gotten a couple of Daniel Smith colors and two Holbeins (Lamp Black, and Isoindolinone Yellow Deep [PY110]), but I haven’t been able to play with them decently, yet. It’s possible that a bit of an added watercolor medium (Ox Gall? Gum Arabic?) might be able to at least help the paints adhere better, let alone be more brilliant. But I (obviously!) haven’t researched this, yet.

Cerulean Blue Chromium (PB36) from Daniel Smith, in particular, granulates really strongly when mixed with Winsor Yellow (PY154, Benzimidazolone Yellow). I threw the test page out because there was too much risk of the [toxic: cobalt-based] pigment falling off and scattering, plus it looked horrible. I have photos of it, but they’re not great, and I’m not sure I knew what I was doing in the first place.

I’m also thinking that I will likely want to branch out from Winsor & Newton Professional grade. They’re fine to learn with (their tiny [5ml] tubes mean a lower initial investment for higher-quality paints than student-grade), but there are other brands and colors which could be more pleasant to work with, and to view over time.

And you can see my endless search for useful yellow pigments from the above (not to mention my initial green-leaning yellow: my Watercolor professor had us get Aureolin [PY40: Cobalt Yellow] which I hate largely for its toxicity and impermanence combined with its cost…though it does make nice graded mixes, in the short term).

don’t judge me 😀

thought shift: from permanence to ephemerality

I just have enough experience to know that if I’m working in Illustration or in an illustrative style, I will probably want to go for colors which are vivid and truly transparent…but that transparency comes with a price, which is the potential of having artwork that only exists temporarily, in the non-digital world. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t useful, online (or in print).

At the same time, I still feel that this hybrid approach is more flexible than a born-digital approach, but I don’t want to alienate people with my feelings on that. They’re largely based on personal experience, and I’m very aware my personal experience has bias. Maybe if and when I can compose a defensible argument to one end or another, for a reason that is important enough to broach, I might say something, but otherwise, I’m not interested in causing disturbance.

It’s kind of interesting, though: shifting from a mindspace of “will this painting last for the next 600 years?” to “am I OK if this thing I’m working on biodegrades soon?” I mean, it’s kind of a different approach! But then, in my Digital Archives class, I’m learning that digital information is ephemeral by nature.

I wonder how long I’ve been working on this draft? 🙂

Distractions, distractions…

I have one day left to do my final assignment in User Experience, and I think the timeline has me freezing up, a bit.  Both today and yesterday, I was unable to go in to work; yesterday, because I was physically sick (any time I moved, I wanted to throw up), and today, because I was running a fever (higher than yesterday’s).  Most of today and yesterday has been spent in the bed.

Right now, I feel more capable of doing things without constantly sweating, and my spine is telling me that some time spent vertically would be a good thing.  Staying home, though, didn’t help me find out what I need to for the basis of my assignment…which, inconveniently enough, is based on interviewing people.  (Working with people is likely the most difficult part of both my job, and this program.)

After this next week, though, Summer Session will be over.  That will be a relief.  I think I should just try and do the assignment as best I am able, even knowing that I do not have the time or information to do things the way I am being asked to do them.

Design Thinking is an entire field; it is unreasonable to expect us to execute the assignment perfectly in one week based on material found online, especially when no lecture is given and we have only been introduced to it within that same week.

I do think that I would be better off working in Graphic Design than I would be working in Design Thinking, that is.  That said, it is good to at least be introduced to the latter concept (and to where to learn more if I so desire).

That said, here are the succulent babies I was talking about last time. 😛 Please forgive the color-fill background; I took this photo at a weird angle, then had to rotate the image…did I crop this before rotating it?  Hmm.  Got to remember that for next time…

succulents-w

I’m still unsure as to whether to claim my off days as sickleave…though as it is Summer, and I spend more money during Summer and Winter breaks (excluding clothing) than at any other time…(during Semesters, I don’t have time to work on Art), I’m thinking about it.  Right now I’m wondering if I got sick because I briefly touched the neck/cap of my water bottle with an unclean hand, and then drank from it later.  (I thought my mouth did not touch what my hand touched.  Maybe I was wrong.)

Anyway, that’s past.

One of my coworkers brought in some graphic work the other day, as well:  I’ve got to ask them what kind of markers they used!  From the looks of the color blending, I would think they were Chartpaks, but I’m not deep enough into markers to tell.

I am thinking of getting some new Chartpaks and seeing how they perform now (the ink may not be the same, and mine may be so old as to be drying out — they’re streaking, now, but when they were new I could not make them streak):  I got the idea for a graphic art piece dealing with the story that is in my head and not yet solidified enough on paper (or in bytes) for me to have a formed idea of what it will become.

But I was motivated enough to work on it in charcoal, earlier.  And I hate charcoal.  I haven’t photographed it yet because it’s nowhere near being done, and I really dislike working in black and white, anyway.

It is a given that if I work with the Chartpaks, I will have to do it in a well-ventilated area; I’m thinking the garage, or outside.  I’m not sure if the fumes will be strong enough to ignite via the furnace…if this is an issue, I may be better off sticking with Tombows or other water-based markers, and just making heavy use of a blending marker, or brush and water — I don’t know what the difference is, in water-based markers.  (I wonder if charcoal/pastel blending stumps dipped in water would work, or just turn into mush?)

I also have Copics (alcohol-based), but my co-worker and I have been fairly underwhelmed by the markers, at least.  (I like the fineliners.)  I haven’t yet tried using the blending marker, though.  The Copics I have, streak; though I’m not sure if that’s because of the quality of nearly every paper I’ve used (I think translucent marker paper helps, particularly Borden & Riley), or if it’s because I didn’t saturate the paper with solvent (from the blending marker).

I should try blending the Copics first, before going to the Chartpaks, though…the solvent of the latter is definitely something you don’t want to be breathing in for any length of time, or in a confined area; and when open areas have open flame in them…I don’t want to set the house on fire.  I think I could use these, though, in an actual open space — if I taped down the paper I was working on to protect from wind.

At least when I first began to use the Chartpaks, they were formulated with xylene as a solvent, which is carcinogenic; then they reduced the amount of xylene to a level where the markers no longer carried a Caution Label.  Obviously, though…if you can avoid xylene…it’s just one of those things that’s best not to come into contact with on a frequent basis.  I was already used to the smell from using watchmaker’s cement (G-S Hypo Cement, which also uses xylene as a solvent, and which I’d gotten plenty of, on my fingertips:  not good!).

But the Chartpak AD markers (I’m not referring to the Chartpak Spectra AD markers, which I just found tonight) blend and bleed beautifully, or at least they used to.  Like I said:  when my (old formulation) markers were new, I could not make myself get streaks, so what I used them on looked more like animation cels, than anything.

And then, there’s the possibility of using colored pencils and liquefying them with a blending marker or Gamsol, or of using aquarelles.  The negative thing about the latter that I immediately land on, however, is that it’s like using grainy (and sometimes dull) paint.  The aquarelle layers just don’t dissolve all the way, unless you use a really light touch when applying the crayon (I’m thinking Neocolor II) or pencil…which I might try, at least if the only other options are Tombows and Copics.  The exception to this that I can think of are the Caran d’Ache Supracolor aquarelle pencils…which liquefy beautifully, with intense colors, but which are also top-of-the-line for watercolor pencils.  (They are priced accordingly.)

Yeah, maybe I’ll try that.  Maybe…I will.  I have some aquarelles I can experiment with, here already.  Maybe I just need to use a light touch.  This — and/or actually using paint or acrylic ink (how could I forget all those FW acrylic inks I have?), seem like better options.

I was probably just wowed by my co-worker’s marker art.  🙂  I forgot that I’ve been building up to this, for a while.  I got out of trying to use markers because it’s so expensive to just increase a dilution level of the same ink, whereas with paint or bottled ink, you just add a little more water.  (It’s been a very long time since I used ground sumi ink.)

I had begun to get into the technique of utilizing transparent watercolor as a ground color for other colored-pencil work, on top of a fineliner drawing; it shouldn’t be hard to lay down initial colors as watercolor (with the option of using acrylic ink, instead), then layer aquarelle and then regular colored pencil over that…though the opacity of those colors is something to pay attention to.  I could wipe out my initial linework, if I’m not careful.  But then I might also be able to wipe out opaque colors on top of linework as well, or redraw them with ink and a brush…(regular colored pencil, being wax- or oil-based, can clog the nibs of fineliners and markers, so I’ve heard).

I’ve also gotten wowed with Derwent Graphik Line Painters, some of which I may have initially ruined in my attempts at use:  I mention them here because they look awesome on top of watercolor, and as they have Japan (hollow) nibs, I have less of an expectation that they will clog.  The problem I’m having is having depressed the nibs too far into the barrels; this means some of them (the ones I tried to use before I knew better), will leak.

I recently found a Strathmore Mixed Media paper (it almost feels like illustration board:  the latter of which I don’t know how to use properly with water-based media, by the way), which I want to try out…and all of this might work well, here.

Yeah, I think it’s time to break out the aquarelle pencils!  After, that is, completing this last assignment…gah…

Okay. Can’t sleep.

I’ve been busy thinking up things to make linocuts out of, and don’t know how coherent I’ll be — sorry!  🙂

I did find my old stash of X-Acto blades and blade holders!  So I know I don’t need any #11 or #2 blades, and I won’t need an extra handle.  There are three types of blades I’ve decided on — the #10 (general, curved) and #12 (detail, curved) for the #1 handle, and the #28 (concave) for the #2 handle.  What I will need help with are biomorphic forms (flowers, leaves, feathers), so I’m hoping that the curved blades will assist, here.  I think that if I sharpened my initial tools, they should work; but as it is, the only knife or gouge I have that is still reliably sharp is my big U-gouge.  And that’s because I didn’t use it in high school.  (I don’t know how to sharpen gouges.)

I still haven’t (“still”? it’s been what, a day?) gone back to my original design — though I did get the idea of printing multiple layers of color, today.  If I can find a strip of wood that is exactly the height of my linoleum blocks, it would help with registering the prints — that is, lining them up exactly so that I don’t miss and get a weirdly printed copy.  I’m not betting on this, though.   I do have strips of cardboard that I’ve saved from old drawing pads, which I can cut to size and then tape the print to (while lining up the bottom edge with the block) — I think this should help, but I haven’t tried it yet.

The thing that I still can’t justify buying is a baren.  This is largely because they’re expensive, and largely, it’s just a flat surface.  The one Japanese brand I’ve found is Yasutomo, and…let’s just say it didn’t feel like anything…special?  On the other hand, it was $10 less than the Speedball one.  The latter, though, will stand up to Western printmaking papers and doesn’t require oiling, to the best of my knowledge.  The Stonehenge paper I’m using is very…tough.  I think it’s a cotton rag paper, but it’s really thick and kind of hard.

I’ll probably end up getting the Speedball one; it just kind of hurts a little.  😉  But you buy it like, what, once, and then you don’t have to do it again?

Earlier tonight I was thinking of stocking up on those little tiny 2″x 2″ linoleum blocks; now I’m wondering if it’s overkill.  I have the receipt next to me and can see that they cost $0.69 each.  So I guess that would be, what…about $3.50 if I got 5 of them?  I had been thinking of doing a color rendition, but at the present moment I can’t remember what that version would look like.

It may not be overkill, though, if it will save me a trip.  Speaking of which, I did just check — and I’m not sure the little store carries the blades I want.  This will then require locating other sources.  I should call ahead.  I think I have the phone numbers of all my regular art supply stores in a case…aha; found them.

The other irritant I’m facing is how many inks to get.  I know I should not go all out and invest in too many at once; on the other hand, this art store is not a convenient place to get to.

Ah, hell.  I’ll get a magenta, a blue, yellow, and brown, plus extender (which may be more interesting than diluting colors with white).  I have three prints that have come to mind…and this should give me the widest possible color range (even though I have wanted to buy violet and orange).  The first print to try or retry is the flower thing that looks like a crocus.  Then — I want to try a gingko leaf (3 blocks required), and the idea of a hummingbird has also come to mind…though I should be able to print that with these colors, I now realize!

I’ll just get the three tiny blocks instead of more…the gingko thing and the crocus thing should keep me busy for a while.  After that I can practice some more and work on my key block for the hummingbird thing…some time will have elapsed, by then.

It looks like the printing inks are cheaper at the big store, but not by much.  The baren is not, and I don’t see how the linoleum blocks could be.  Maybe I’ll hit the big box store, get the X-Acto blades and ink, and then hit the small store for the baren and linoleum blocks…and look at their selection of gouges.  There are two Speedball kits which contain gouges…I’m thinking of using a very small gouge for the leaf, but am not sure if it will even help, as the veining has to be in reverse in order to print (unless I make the veins lighter than the leaf).  The benefit of a gouge here is that it removes material in one swipe, but that’s really suited to later projects (feathers) than either of these two.

And then…do I want to get an X-Acto gouge set instead?  I’m pretty sure they exist.

Anyway…I’m now getting tired, and I have a plan now.  See you in the morning!  I mean after the sun is up!

(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…!)

Anticipation: one more thing to go…then, 2 weeks of (relative) freedom.

I wasn’t able to bring myself to do one of my readings earlier today, or tonight; what I was able to do, was get a lot more readings lined up so that I possibly do not have to do the one I printed out, the other day.  I’m looking at 10-12 papers to read, at about 12 pages each.  It’s not hard; it just requires focus and commitment.

I have been wanting to get these out of the way as soon as possible.  Because of that, I didn’t maintain a social commitment tonight, opting instead to stay home — where I had the possibility of working on my last assignment.  Unfortunately, reruns of Futurama are more entertaining than my readings!

*sigh*

Anyhow, I’ll try and get as much done tomorrow and the day after, as I can; even though I know that may only be six articles, total.  But basically, what I have to do is scan and/or read the articles and provide a 100-200 word commentary on each.  I’m going to try and get this done before Saturday, though I’m not sure how realistic a goal that is, at this point.  (It probably depends on what I choose to read and how deeply I choose to read it — scanning first is probably the best idea I’ve had.  Other than, that is, reading the introduction and conclusion of the paper, and first and last sentences of every paragraph, prior to scanning.  I may not have a clear idea of what these things are about, because I gathered them so quickly.)

I should probably also put the files on a flash drive and transfer them to my secondary computer so that I won’t have to worry about not having anything to read, if I get stuck somewhere after the funeral on Saturday — my little tablet lasts about 4-6 hours on a charge.  And I can take with me, the notebook I intended to use for Cataloging and then mostly didn’t — it will work for notations on the readings, which should help summarize them later.  It will probably be simpler than trying to compose notes in a word-processing program.

As for artwork…I drew a border for my relative’s funeral program.  It was nice to be able to do something with my hands, again, though it wasn’t under the best circumstances.  Right now, though, I’m anticipating that program being thrown out by near relatives (different from nuclear family) because of others’ desire for control.  What is positive is that I formed the page I worked on in Photoshop (I did what I thought I had to do and composed the front page as one flattened image, and so the cover is not editable unless it’s totally scrapped, or someone knows how to work with digital images, besides myself.  (Not betting on it.)

My grades are looking relatively good, considering.  I’m looking at a C+ in Cataloging (I PASSED!!!) and A’s or A-‘s in my other two classes.

Also…on Monday or later, I’m hoping to take a trip to the smaller art supply store near me (at least), to pick up some materials for linoleum block printing…which may make working through the grief, worth it.  I found my carving tools, and I was mistaken:  there are no burrs on my knives.  At least, not on the straight ones, or the large oval gouge.  This is good!  I will be able to see if I need to sharpen them, once I start cutting.

(Some of my spiral patterns, or the mon I designed, would make a good first project.)

One thing I’m unsure of, though, is how to make a method of image registration, so that I’m lining things up on my paper the way I want to — a relative necessity in duochrome (two-color) printing or above.  I’m not sure how to do this, yet, though April Vollmer’s Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop seems to briefly go over how this is/was done in Japanese woodblock printing.  I suppose I can see if I can adapt that to linocuts…though Japanese-style printing uses different basic materials than Western-style printing.  Still, though:  I only have four more days to get through in which I’ll have to deal with this last semester…I can make it.

Two weeks after that, my User Experience class starts up.  I took it in part because I wanted to do all the reading (as bizarre as that sounds).

I can also try and do some reading in library books, the two printmaking books I have, or my future textbooks, if I’m at a loss as to what to do.

And ah — right!  I wanted to get back on with learning Japanese language!  That should be fun!

Lest I forget, as well:  I need to back up my files to my Portfolio.  And maybe get a cloud storage account, or something.  I have what I can download, downloaded, and backed up; I need to work online for this other part, though — and I will not have a long time to do so.

I’ve been offered more hours, but really I’m not sure I want to take them — especially because I’m uncertain as to how much of a time commitment UX will be…and it’s rare to get two weeks off with minimal work.

Anyhow, I should likely get going.

I also want to get bocha, but I am not certain where that desire is coming from…I already have another kukicha; two others, in fact.  It’s just that drinking a twig infusion sounds rather earthy, I guess…

Maybe I can make a trip to the tea store in my two weeks off of school…