Natural flow from drawing to painting?

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

Aside from this…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Still working on that assignment

I’m writing, right now, to get me back into the mode of writing anything. Last night, I was up working on a Marketing assignment, and didn’t want to stop. Now, I’m having a slight bit of trouble in getting back to it.

I did get a good idea about what to do with it, last night — so I have a plan. The thing is, I spent yesterday (almost all of it) rereading the chapter and rewatching the lecture and taking notes. I doubt I will end up promoting the databases I initially chose…they just aren’t the best fit for the people I want to invite into the Library.

Anyhow, my (hypothetical) plan would be to visit the Art studios with some little handouts, and a card about a few of the databases to which the students have access. The target audience (to be narrowed down) are college students who are visual thinkers, like to work with their hands, and are a bit alienated from computers (particularly, the use of computers for research) and the Library (which most people think is just for text). I realized that I would be marketing digital resources to on-campus students, which requires different tactics for reaching them (as versus distance-education students).

And yeah, I did think of putting posters of that Duchamp piece, “Fountain,” in the bathroom stalls…but that may be in poor taste!

(I’M NOT GOING INTO IT.)

The thing is, since I started reconsidering the path of becoming an Art Librarian (likely in an Academic setting)…I’ve started dreaming again, and it’s distracting me.

Not to mention the fact that I went to an art store and found a new Prussian Blue watercolor (Sennelier brand — in a tube) and now I want to do the freakin’ art but I have to finish my work for this semester, first!

But yeah…watercolor + gouache + pastel…there’s gotta be some great uses I can put those media to, together. I look back on some of my work which I’ve done in ink and watercolor…which, I’m still really curious about, but I may have to try a way of working that I witnessed another student using, which is to do a grisaille (greyscale) underpainting in sumi ink, and then layer color over it. That should be much more flexible than using Microns, like I’m making a coloring book or a comic.

Eh…yes, the sooner I get this work done, the sooner I can stop worrying about it!

And…I actually have been considering going back for an MFA in Art History or Studio Art, to use both for personal fulfillment, and as qualification to be an Academic Librarian specializing in Art…but I also need to earn gainful employment, sometime.

(I also wonder if it would be worth it to get one good natural-hair paintbrush…and see where that takes me.)

If it were harder…would it be easier?

Hey. It’s a bit early for me yet, but…I’ve realized why I’m hesitant to paint: it is truly creative work, and I don’t understand it. That is, I don’t understand how I paint.

On top of this, there is a major, “woo,” factor in the way I’ve explained my own talent to myself, which isn’t helping me, but I have no other way to conceptualize it. I think maybe I’m avoiding the, “woo,” by not practicing.

I’m not sure if, “woo,” translates well internationally… 🙂 I mean that painting brings up for me, thoughts on spirituality and metaphysics, which are things that I used to be heavily involved in, but with which I scared myself.

The way I paint and draw is to visualize my next mark…and then mark, “over it,” with my hand. My hand, at this point, is relatively steady and accurate. I don’t know why. I also don’t know why or how I visualize the correct place for the next mark, and I don’t know how I seem to be led step-by-step through a process to create something I didn’t know I could or would make in the first place.

So I guess a lot of fear of my own creativity is fear of the unknown.

Also, I think my level of, “talent,” puts me in the, “gifted,” range, but I’m afraid to use that gift because I don’t know why I have it or where it comes from. The only way I’ve found to explain this is spiritual…and I can get crazy spiritual, both literally and not.

I thought I should record this before it goes away…I can expand on it later.

Continuation: lightfastness chart photos

Thinking back on it, maybe it would have been best to delay gratification and combine this post and the last, into one. 🙂 In any case, I do now have photos.

color chart (aided by Photoshop)
I used Photoshop to cut out the two empty rows on the left, between the reds and blues.

I’ve opted for a more natural look to this, instead of trying to make the white of the paper as close as possible to the white of the screen, which distorts the colors a bit. There is a brightness adjustment added to this, but that’s all.

I’ll be identifying the colors by Row (top to bottom) and Column (left to right), for my international readers…I realize this might not be immediately apparent.

I also need to let you know a bit of errata: Viridian (Row 4, Column 5) isn’t a cobalt color, it’s a chromium color. I have a pattern of confusing one for the other…

Last night, I was also mistaken in saying that Vermilion Deep was the only paint in which I got brush strokes: Raw Umber (Row 3, Column 6) did it too, but I don’t expect much from Raw Umber, at this point (maybe I should try a different brand).

Anyhow: see that Winsor Orange (Row 2, Column 4)? Gah. It’s just terrible compared to the majority of the colors. Because my Winsor Orange tube also has a cracked cap and wanted to gush when I tried getting the cap off the tube (it was stuck and I had to really work to get it off)...and it grays out really quickly once I try to mix it…I’m not entirely certain what I’m going to do with it. Maybe I’ll go to an artists’ meetup and conveniently forget it/donate it…

blue test swatches

This time, swatching out the blues did produce an effect that is visible on a computer monitor (…I think?). Some of these colors, though…

I was working wet-into-wet, here. With a fully loaded brush, sometimes the paint dispersed immediately to leave the area I intended to mark heavily, leaving mid-range coverage in its wake. With some paints, like Cobalt Blue (second from the top, to the left), the paint actually seemed to try to cover the entire area evenly, instead of in a gradation. This would be a good thing if you were using it for a sky, which this color is almost perfect for (unless you didn’t want a blue sky!).

I had been trying to produce gradations to see what finer applications of the colors might do under sunlight.

One of the things I am impressed with, though, is the beauty of the colors which are more muted, here. I think I started out in class with French Ultramarine, Cobalt Blue, and Phthalo Blue (Green Shade). Cerulean Blue Chromium, Prussian Blue, and Indanthrene Blue were all later additions.

I’ve mentioned before that I read on handprint.com that indanthrene/indanthrone can be approximated by a mix of Phthalo Blue with Quinacridone Violet (a.k.a. Permanent Magenta, in Winsor & Newton’s range: Row 6, Column 1) — check the notes under PB60 (Pigment Blue 60). I’ve tried this, and it does work, though the mix is obviously going to vary in shade depending on proportions.

I can also see myself working with Prussian Blue more, in the future. I believe I got this to try and mix decent greens…with my memory being unclear on whether it actually helps, though I think it does.

swatches of red paints

To the right, here, are the reds I’ll be testing. The relative character of Permanent Rose does, I think, come through — though this is still a bit of a dull capture. I’m looking at it now under an artificial light and it seems to almost glow. (This is Winsor & Newton’s formulation: different companies have a tendency to call the same pigments by different names.)

The top two, Rose Madder and Alizarin Crimson, are known to change color over time; hence they’re called fugitive pigments. I’m doing the lightfastness test to see how bad this actually is.

Incidentally…those two colors are related. They were originally derived from Madder (a plant) — Alizarin Crimson is one of two components that make up its color…

Anyway, the top swatch is Mijello Mission Gold — I got it as a bonus when I bought my palette. But even here, they acknowledged that it is not great so far as longevity…The second swatch, Alizarin Crimson, is Winsor & Newton brand. I’m not crazy about it, when there are alternatives.

I really like the Winsor Red (fourth from the top), after all this time. This was our “warm” red in Watercolor class (using a split-primary palette), though it barely leans to either a warm or cool direction. (Permanent Rose was our cool red.)

I’m not sure what to do with Vermilion Deep, though as I said last post, I’m going to try and find a better-quality paint. This one had almost no flow, and I’m not sure if it’s due to age (I got it on Amazon, who knows how old it is) or formulation. Maybe the page was just too dry?

Permanent Magenta isn’t showing up in the photograph, all that well…but I just checked another file and it’s similarly distorted. Permanent Magenta is basically a red-leaning violet color, more than a violet-leaning red. There’s an earthiness that it shares with Indanthrene Blue, which one might expect…

When mixing two pigment colors — like Permanent Magenta and Phthalo Blue (excluding fluorescent colors [which absorb light and re-emit it at different wavelengths], duochrome paints [which look different depending on one’s viewing angle] and complex things like dichroic glass [which both transmit and reflect light, though this may be an entirely different animal]) — the result of the mix reflects frequencies of light that have to be reflected by both (?) of the colors which went into it, unless I’m mistaken.

The basis of subtractive color (as used in non-digital painting) is that we perceive color as the leftovers of the light absorbed. The frequencies of reflected and emitted light, taken together, our brains interpret as a specific color. So Permanent Magenta reflects many wavelengths (colors of light), which my brain interprets as predominantly warm violet, with red. And Phthalo Blue reflects many wavelengths, which my brain interprets as deep blue with a hint of green.

When pigments are mixed, what is left over after both pigments subtract what they will of the light present, is the new color. In other words, a color very close to Indanthrene Blue is the light which was not absorbed by both Permanent Magenta and Phthalo Blue. Magenta absorbs some of what Blue doesn’t; Blue absorbs some of what Magenta doesn’t.

The forward result is a deep, inky blue with both violet and green tones supporting it, closer to black (black means no light is reflected), which makes sense…though I’m not sure I could do the math now to support why I think it does make sense. The following is just hypothetical:

On a scale from white (100%) to black (0%) — we’re talking about value, now —

Some light is subtracted from 100% with Magenta (Magenta would have a negative value); and more light is subtracted with Magenta + Blue (Blue would also have a negative value; the addition of a negative value is the same as subtraction). Even though this is not simple subtraction (after all, we are talking about many, many frequencies of light which are being tweaked individually), if Black = 0% and both Magenta and Blue subtract their part from 100% (white light), it seems feasible to state that:

close up of Permanent Magenta, Phthalo Blue, and Indanthrene Blue in greyscale

Magenta + Blue < Magenta, and

Magenta + Blue < Blue.

Wow, that was hard to get out. And I might be wrong, or maybe I should go into Chemistry + Optics…

There is the remaining fact that my Phthalo Blue swatch is indeed darker than my Indanthrene Blue swatch. I’m thinking that this has to do largely with the density of its application, not to mention the intensity of Phthalo Blue pigment, which has to be severely diluted to get to the point where we can even see that it’s blue. I do see that Indanthrene is grayer, though, and I wonder if that matters…

I’ve just looked at the image in greyscale, but I’m not sure that helps…

It doesn’t help, either, that my camera didn’t totally pick up the intensity of the Phthalo Blue application. I’m not sure why.

To get back on track, then…there are the yellows. I kind of am irritated at myself for not planning their placement out better, and it’s to the point that I don’t want to cut them out and rearrange them on Photoshop. But if you scroll back up to the top of the page, or better yet, if I re-post that image below:

color chart (aided by Photoshop)

…you can see that Isoindoline Yellow Deep (PY110), Indian Yellow (PO62, PY139 — just realized that this is a mix of Winsor Orange [!] and a different variant of Isoindoline Yellow), Winsor Yellow Deep (PY65) all look very similar.

For the cool yellows, Winsor Yellow (PY154), Hansa Yellow (PY3), and Aureolin (PY40) are hard to tell apart, here: but it’s not so bad in person — at least, when the sun is up!

Then there are the oranges, neither of which I’m too fond of, but Cadmium Orange Hue did save me from having to mix orange from the limited pigments we were allowed, in Watercolor class. It’s possible that the intensity of Cadmium Orange just can’t be gotten out of the colors we had. Maybe I should stop looking toward the yellows for the source of the problem, and try mixing more with an orangish, warm red, instead of a middling red.

At Green Gold (Row 3, Column 4), the yellows start morphing into greens. I feel the need to suggest that perhaps what I had mentioned before about mixing an alternative in acrylics from Bronze Yellow + an Earth Yellow + a blue, may have been off point. You see, Green Gold doesn’t look like it’s meant to be used on its own, but rather sparingly, to do things like warm up greens. It looks fairly horrific on its own and in high density, but look at this:

monstera-3

This is something I was playing with, a while back (hence the example number, I just pulled this from my archives): apologies for the lack of realism (it wasn’t the point of this exercise). Green Gold is what I used to heat up the right side of that leaf. It’s also transparent, so it’s very suited for this.

I don’t think that a mixture approximating what one sees in the tube or applied heavily, really gets close to what one would use Green Gold for. As I said a while back, Green Gold is a very expensive pigment. But I can see that a little goes a long way.

It wouldn’t have come to me so soon, except that in my latest play, I rinsed the Green Gold watercolor paint off of my palette and saw it form an almost neon yellow-green color in high dilutions in the sink. This isn’t something that’s meant to be used as-is, but rather combined with other colors.

I also really want to get into trying to mix more greens, so I can stop dealing with the question of how to create a yellow-leaning green. This is part of why I got Sap Green, unless I’m mistaken (I think the only green we were allowed in class was Viridian…which at the time, I hated. Not so much, now).

Speaking of Viridian, I’ve been advised not to let it dry long-term on a palette. I took this advice and kept it out of my Mijello palette; however, this also means that it goes forgotten, a lot of the time. But I don’t want it to become like Burnt Umber and just become a free-floating rock whose composition I have to guess at. (Burnt Umber still rehydrates beautifully; it just rattles around as — well — a rock, in dry form.)

three granulating green to green-blue pigments

I have an appreciation for Cobalt Turquoise now, that I don’t think I could have predicted. These two colors — Cobalt Turquoise and Cobalt Turquoise Light — are heavily granulating colors. I’m not sure if I’ve played with them too much, but the three pigments to the right are ones that are relatively intriguing for me, right now.

Particularly, it may be possible to get a more vivid range of greens by starting with a lighter-valued intense pigment like Cobalt Turquoise Light.

Also: Indigo and Payne’s Grey…are two colors that kind of wow me, now. Payne’s Grey is a cool-toned color which is almost, but not quite, black. If black brackets one end of a color range, Payne’s Grey would sit between it and Indigo.

The Indigo color I have is Winsor & Newton, and it isn’t actually true indigo dye (as real indigo is fugitive, this being why jeans fade).

Aside from this, I feel the need to mention, if briefly, Dioxazine Violet (Row 2, Column 5)…which is probably not a necessary color on this palette, now.

Earth tone paint swatches

And the entire column to the left of this passage, including Payne’s Grey, is composed of earth tones. The only one of these that I’m questioning the utility of is Raw Umber, because what I’m seeing in my photos and on my paper is what I’d consider, fairly…well, bad. I’m not sure if it’s me or the paint, or the amount of water on the paper…but I think it’s the paint. This is Winsor & Newton, as well.

The thing about Raw Umber is that I’ve been looking at paint swatches of different brands online, and they don’t all look alike. I’m not entirely sure…what causes that? but there are definitely versions which are bluer than others. In Color Dynamics class, we made a mixture of Ultramarine plus Raw Umber to produce a blend which could dull down colors without causing them to lose their essential character (or “hue,” if you would like me to be direct). 🙂

And in Watercolor class, we didn’t even use earth tones; we mixed them by utilizing a strategy of mixing across the color wheel (as I’ve mentioned [somewhere] before, this will result in muted colors, ranging into chromatic greys). I’m really not sure if anyone liked doing it. 😉 But earth pigments are a nice shortcut if you don’t want to mix skin tones out of three primaries. 😛

The nice part about mixing watercolors is that if you use a white palette, you can see what color you’re coming up with before you ever put it on the paper (though that can’t always be exactly accurate — I’ve seen artists online make test marks on the edges of their drawings. I used to make test marks on the facing pages of the sketchbooks…).

After all of that — unless my light, here, has already faded some of this, I should be moving on to putting black strips over the faces of the swatches. I’m probably also going to be doing some cutting in the process…which will likely be at least a little nerve-wracking, because I haven’t completely gotten the hang of not having my knife veer off course, yet!

Anyhow, that’s for another day…

Completed color layout for lightfastness test (no photos yet)

It will kind of be hard to talk about this without a photo, but the stuff’s just finished drying. 😛 I also kind of screwed it up by not planning it out enough, the other night, when I began.

I should mention that I didn’t follow a method I found online or in a book — tonight was just spent swatching out colors. I’ve planned on using black acrylic paint to block out light, using watercolor paper as a surface and laying this on top of the swatches.

It turns out, I have exactly 36 watercolors I would imagine using (or 35 plus Lamp Black, fine distinction). I still haven’t gotten to the gouache, or to the part of this which involves blocking out sunlight.

As yet, I’m undecided as to whether to even take the risk of exposing Prussian Blue to strong direct sunlight…I’ve read online that strong UV exposure can release cyanide gas. Plus, I’d never put a painting in the line of direct sunlight if I could manage it, and these days, having direct sunlight hitting a wall for extended periods of time is rare and only an issue on east walls, near a window, at sunset (a luxury afforded by having blinds instead of curtains, I suppose).

Also, I found that I have several orange-leaning yellows that look alike (although they’re of different formulations), and only one red-orange, which is…not the greatest-handling watercolor I’ve ever used (this is Grumbacher Finest Vermilion Deep — the only watercolor I tested to leave visible brush strokes tonight [though also the only Grumbacher Finest in my collection — the Grumbacher Academy student-grade paints are actually really nice, for the price, so I was interested in their artist-grade formulas]).

This could explain my difficulty in producing strong oranges; the “orange” pigments I have are closer to yellow-orange, with the exception of W&N Cotman Cadmium Orange Hue (the only Cotman I’m using, and that because it performs noticeably better than W&N Professional Winsor Orange).

I’m looking at some kind of Pyrrole Scarlet or Pyrrole Orange (PO73) to try and open up the warm, clear red-oranges, though I’m not sure this is necessary. (I actually have my eye on Winsor Orange Red Shade, which to me looks closer to red.) Basically, I’m after something that is a similar hue to Cadmium Red Light, but without the cadmium. I’ve vented about cadmium salts before; the most I’ll say here is that they’re unacceptably toxic to me, right now.

I have the Vermilion Deep (which is a convenience mixture), plus Winsor Red (another Pyrrole, PR254), but those are the only neutral or warm reds that I have: everything else leans violet (though that’s not saying much when two of those cool reds are Rose Madder [Mijello Mission Gold] and Alizarin Crimson [Winsor & Newton Professional], both of which are said to be fugitive).

I can, also, add a golden yellow or “orange” to red to make it more red-orange; my problem is that I’m not sure how lightfast any of those yellows are (which is a reason to do the lightfastness testing). And I only have one decent orange…which is a convenience mixture, because I haven’t wanted to use Cadmium Orange. (I’ve been reading that it’s best to use single-pigment paints when possible, to avoid “mud”, though honestly I haven’t run across that problem yet.)

Still, though, it would be nice to have one red-orange workhorse, and the flow of my Vermilion Deep is disappointing, compared to everything else I used, tonight. This is with the possible exception of Isoindolinone Yellow Deep (Holbein), which backflowed unexpectedly for me while drying (although this was the first time I used it — maybe a greater degree of skill is needed with Holbein’s formulations); and Winsor Orange (which I just really don’t like. When you see the photo, you’ll see one reason why).

Winsor Orange is actually made with an entirely different pigment than Winsor Orange Red Shade, by the way…

One thing I did really unexpectedly enjoy was seeing the performance of some of the cobalt colors I have. Yes, I know, cobalt’s toxic, too; but I’m not as concerned about it, having needed to work with it in the past.

In particular, shades of Viridian through Cobalt Turquoise Light…then also dealing with Cerulean (though I have Daniel Smith Cerulean Blue Chromium, which isn’t a standard Cerulean) and Cobalt Blue…I just want to DO something with those, you know?

The Ceruleans, Viridian, and Cobalt Turquoise and Cobalt Turquoise Light are all colors whose pigments clump together (this means they “granulate,” unless “flocculate” is the more accurate term, I’m not certain), and so they produce really interesting textures. There is also a common thread here in that all these colors are based on cobalt — which has a color range that really astonishes me: from yellow to green through blue and violet (at least so far as I’m currently aware).

There’s also the difficulty here that some cobalt colors (like my Cerulean Blue Chromium [PB36, “Cobalt Chromite Blue Green Spinel”]) will react poorly with certain other pigments (in this case, Winsor Yellow [PY154, Benzimidazolone Yellow])…I don’t know why. I’m not a chemist. But it leads to immediate strong granulation (visible even before laying down the paint) and poor adhesion to the paper.

I’m sure there’s some way of helping the paints stay down (like maybe mixing some type of glue [like nikawa, or animal glue] with the paint), but I did get rid of my test paper where this occurred because I was more concerned about keeping the pigment from finding its way into anyone’s system and making them sick, than keeping records. Cobalt is a heavy metal, so it’s not safe to get it everywhere. I just also read that like cadmium, it can’t be chelated out of one’s body; so it’s best to contain it, when possible.

And I almost didn’t get around to saying this, but almost immediately after I finished this chart, I wanted to redo it in a more organized fashion. Seriously, once I realized that I stuck one of my only orange paints right in a column of yellow paints…gah. Or, right after I came back to this today and realized I’d want to organize this by column instead of row, and could not “erase” the paints I’d already laid down…and then penciled in what went where as best I could and then realized I’d not foreseen everything, despite it.

It seems silly to make an art project out of categorizing and organizing colors, but I’m pretty sure that the tendency to want to do so is an effect of my job (for newcomers to the blog, I work in a library as support staff). And at this point, I’m resisting (for the moment) cutting these apart and re-ordering them, because it will make things more of a pain when I put the light-blocking strips on top.

I guess I’ll see how I feel about this, tomorrow…(well, technically, after some sleep).

Alstroemeria: drawing from observation

I wanted to post this last night after midnight, but waited until today so that I could photograph my latest sketch in sunlight. Little did I know that that isn’t even optimal, with just light from a window…Accordingly, I have had to apply a Levels adjustment to the drawing you see below:

marker drawing of an alstroemeria flower
It kind of took a lot of work to get to this point! (By the way, the type of flower is called “Alstroemeria.”)

I made some notes for myself on my working process, last night. I think the enthusiasm for sharing them has died down (or otherwise sobered) overnight; I’m not as pleased with the outcome today as I was at around 12:15 AM. However, it’s good to look at things with fresh eyes.

So, the basic technique:

  1. I did a contour line drawing of a flower in (sharp) HB pencil, erasing unnecessary lines.
  2. I added color using Pitt (brush) pens.
  3. I erased the line drawing as completely as possible without erasing the pen.
  4. I added in the background using Pitt pens and minimal pencil guidelines.
  5. I erased the pencil in the background.

I’m not totally pleased with this, looking at it the next day. In particular, along the way I learned how to define relatively-light lines on dark backgrounds using negative space, but that wasn’t something I was even thinking about at the start of the sketch.

If I did this over again, I would either omit the almond-shaped green veins on the flowers’ two side petals, or I would draw them in with a much lighter green marker (relying on the marker’s transparency to blend with the petal and create a new color), or color around them and define the lines with negative space.

I also ran into the issue of not having a delicate enough pink to define the lighter areas of the petals, so I (felt I) had to go darker in order to avoid too much hatching/contour drawing (see the section on negative space, below). This doesn’t seem to be as big an issue for the background, though: where I was working with impressions and not trying to mimic reality so much.

I like the background much better than the foreground — it’s looser and more free and airy, capturing more of the feeling of the blossoms. I was, however, working with the structure I had established with the initial pencil drawing; I wonder how I would do with an all-over looseness (marker-first, or just light and minimal pencil guidelines which are later erased)?

I was also able to define a lot in the background by using negative and implied space, while I wasn’t thinking in terms of defining the light-colored foreground by darkening the background (what it was seen against) until later.

Keeping the white space goes along with this. I’m not used to seeing white as a “color,” but in this case the flowers were somewhat defined by their lightness. If I had planned on adding a background in the first place, I could have avoided over-hardening the central flower with mid-value pinks in an attempt to define its petals.

I’m also not hating that top right white petal with the pink contour lines as much as I was, last night.

There are also a couple of small details I feel like I should have caught, which I took note of in the process…inadvertently darkening a highlight area on the leftmost central petal (reversing the lowlight and highlight areas), and not paying attention to the pattern of veining on the rightmost leaf until it was too late. (In addition…I started off trying to define the veins as dark, when they are not dark; they’re light. Also, they do not branch off from a central, strong vein. They’re more like grass, with parallel veining.)

There are two things I know I can work on, from having done this sketch:

  1. utilization of white space and negative space
  2. layering inks to get unexpected hues beyond what is provided in the markers as used straight.

Also: loosening up.

It helps to have many of these pens with subtle color differentiations (especially, very light and very dark). They aren’t as troublesome in their uniformity of nib type as I thought they would be. It also helped to pick out the main colors in this piece before I even started ([pinks, violet/maroon], greens, yellows). This helped me avoid a lack of color harmony in the piece, though the subject itself had all these colors. Botanical subjects often do seem to harmonize with themselves well, in the first place…probably because they have a limited number of pigments to work with.

D suggested using watercolor with the marker, which would be a good idea with the caveat that I did this in an art journal filled with regular drawing paper. It might be fairly well destroyed by the addition of water.

And yes, I am thinking of a Yupo journal, now, thanks.  😛

There is a lot of work which built up to this, starting off with sketches in the sketchbook with the horrible paper, without any reference. Those helped me get an idea of the concept, but they aren’t really anything I’d like to show. Because of their lack of reference, many of the details are wrong even though the drawings can look pretty. Last Tuesday the 24th, though, I went and picked up some alstroemeria which I used as a reference for the picture, above.

Even though it was somewhat difficult for me to get myself to work on an observational drawing (I still get nervous), it was easier than making up details — as I was doing in my concept sketches.

I should likely go and work on my classwork, now… 🙂

Mixing greens, and experimenting with camera settings…

Well, I got two things off of my list.  Everything else had to wait until after watercolor experimentation (hey the sun was up!).  😛

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From top to bottom:  Lemon Yellow (Hansa Yellow Light)/Prussian Blue, Lemon Yellow/Chrome Cerulean (Daniel Smith), Winsor Yellow/Chrome Cerulean, Winsor Yellow/Prussian Blue.  In these tests I made a near-middle green first, then extended the color into blue going down; and yellow, going to the right.

I’m in the middle of relearning that in art, most skills and techniques can’t be learned unless the artist goes out of their way to try it themselves.  Learning about it in theory, or learning about it secondhand, won’t suffice.  Thus, listening to other people say what can and can’t be done, or will and won’t work, isn’t entirely productive.  Those other people may not share your conditions (as, say, maybe M. Graham paints do actually never dry, in tropical conditions; but maybe I don’t live in tropical conditions).

Today M stated that if I went to the art store again, I couldn’t go back for a week, because I was addicted.  *^_^*  I opted not to go and to save that trip for a later date, even though we were right there.  I knew that if I could first practice with the paints I have, I would then have a better idea about anything I needed, as versus something I might need but was not sure about.

What I can tell, though:  15ml tubes are probably about the right size for intense color.  I have a bunch of tiny tubes (5-7 ml), but really those are great for testing colors…not for being mainstays.  And I’m not sure if I want to keep to Winsor & Newton, now that I have had a taste of other brands (particularly:  Grumbacher, M. Graham [I really love their Hansa Yellow — it disperses beautifully — I haven’t tried it wet-on-wet yet], Daniel Smith, Mijello).

Of course, though, it’s necessary to be a smart consumer and know what you’re buying before you buy it — there have been a lot of complaints that I’ve seen about Mijello Mission Gold brand being “mislabeled,” but it really seems that “mislabeling” is industry-standard and that companies telling you the actual pigments they’re using is a mark of quality.  I don’t think they’re required to do so, unless the paints contain one or more ingredients requiring a carcinogen warning under California Proposition 65.

I’ve just been learning things piece by piece, and each new bit of information makes me want to experiment, more.  Unfortunately (or maybe, fortunately), there are no decent art stores in my area…and waiting at home encourages research

Anyhow, I’ve also been experimenting with camera settings.  The two photos I’m showing here were taken on the “Tungsten” lighting setting on my camera.  Although I was under fluorescent lighting, these images were the closest I came to what I had seen while the Sun was up (though they didn’t capture everything:  for example, M. Graham Hansa Yellow [I tend to just call this Lemon Yellow, as versus Hansa Yellow Light, or Pigment Yellow 3 {PY3} or Arylide Yellow, but in the spirit of accuracy…] and Winsor Green [Blue Shade] make a nearly fluorescent green combination when combined, seen below left).

(I tend to work by the edict that a color can be neutralized and thus dulled down, but the amount of light it reflects cannot be made brighter than it initially is…though that thought has been questioned by those around me…possibly because warm and fluorescent colors can appear psychologically brighter than white?  I don’t know.  I’ve noticed that I have a relatively high-key palette, though, and that is for this reason.)

Anyhow — every other camera setting cast a brownish tone over the entire image, which I knew I would have to edit out in Photoshop.  Turns out, it’s much easier to take the photo correctly, the first time.  😛  I also realized that I could alter the white balance on these images directly in my camera, instead of applying filters after the fact.  (Both of these images were taken with the white balance shifted a bit brighter than the light in the room.  Which, like taking the photo under the “Tungsten” setting even though I was under warm fluorescent light, did help with color fidelity.)

There was no processing after-the-fact (post-processing?) I knew how to do that I could do here, that would have helped — other than a judicious applying of the Skew tool to unskew my camera positioning.  But I thought that would be a little much.

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Top to bottom:  Lemon Yellow/Winsor Green (Blue Shade), Winsor Yellow/Winsor Green (Blue Shade), Lemon Yellow/Winsor Blue (Green Shade), Winsor Yellow/Winsor Blue (Green Shade), Aureolin/Winsor Blue (Green Shade).  For newbies, Winsor Green and Blue are both Phthalocyanine colors, with Winsor & Newton branding in these particular names.  Aureolin is genuine Aureolin, PY40.

What I found is that I get some **** clean colors out of Phthalo Blue (Green Shade) and Phthalo Green (Blue Shade), when they’re combined with the lighter Hansa Yellow (which is a cool, delicate, light yellow, often referred to as “Lemon Yellow”).  Phthalo Blue (GS) combined with Aureolin also makes really bright, pure, strong mixes.  I will indeed be sad if Aureolin does discolor with moisture and/or light…

…and I’m thinking of going over some of these swatches again with glazing in their original color mixes, in order to deepen them.  (I’ve already done this on maybe 3 or so squares, where I used too much water.)  It will be easier to see differences in hue, that way.

Prussian Blue and Chrome Cerulean (1st image) also make decent mixes with Lemon Yellow; in addition to Prussian Blue mixing well with Winsor Yellow (according to Blick’s website and handprint.com, this is a benzimidazolone [or Benzimida, I’ve also heard it called] yellow; and I’ve just manually checked it:  it is Pigment Yellow 154 [or, PY154], which concurs).

I got some really…slightly surprising reactions of the Chrome Cerulean with Winsor Yellow, however (1st image, third from the top).  I wouldn’t repeat the process, unless it were to see if the pigments settled out because of the amount of water in the paint (too much).  This mixture granulated heavily in the mixtures tending more toward Cerulean, in a way that I didn’t really find attractive or currently useful (you might, though!).  However, using less Cerulean and more Benzimida could add a subtle touch to …something.  I don’t know what, right now.

This is as far as I got today before I had to stop.  I was working on cheap paper because I was just doing scales…but I’ve got to say that the Fluid cold-press watercolor paper (second photo) was much more of a joy to work on than the Strathmore 300 rough I was trying to use up (in the first photo).

I’m kind of glad I don’t have any more of it, now… 😉