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… 😉

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Watercolor play…doesn’t look as bad on camera as it did to me last night…amazingly…

Alright, so.  I have been working on playing around in watercolor…though I think the better examples of this happened when I took my time.  The little squares here are underneath my transparency swatches…which are basically just an index of the colors I have.  Really, the biggest pain about any of this is that the earth tones tend not to stick in the lid of my palette and instead separate as little chips that fall when I try and close it… >_<  …right.  Whoever said that design would work, anyway?

Initially, looking at this, I was thinking that, because of what I had been doing with the brush to achieve smoother gradations (pulling each color into the other with small brushstrokes), maybe I should be working in gouache, instead.  However…now that I look at it, I just see someone learning to control their medium at a very early stage.

I have gotten out the gouache:  trust me, I’ve gotten out the gouache.  😉  I haven’t done any comparisons yet between the different effects achievable with each media, though.

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Trying to play around with blending wet-into-wet

Sorry about the photo quality…I still haven’t gotten the hang of this, yet.

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Dry brush merging into drawing-like marks…?

Although in the past I could say that I really disliked (my own) dry-brush effects, when I look at it here, it actually seems to work.  (Kind of like how I don’t like to use hard charcoal or graphite sticks, but they have their uses?)  I’m pretty sure the upper pink is Permanent Rose; and the one under it is Permanent Magenta (in Winsor & Newton brand), in many other brands known as Quinacridone Violet (though W&N’s “Quinacridone Violet” is a completely different shade, leaning more blue than red).  This is what I mean by irregular labeling of paints.

The grainy green-blue above it is Viridian; actual Viridian, not “Viridian Hue.”  I did try blending this Viridian with Permanent Rose, and now suspect that the beautiful mixed tone I got (mentioned in multiple places, earlier) actually may have been Viridian Hue (W&N Cotman Phthalo Green) with Permanent Rose.  Viridian Hue (Phthalo Green) plus Phthalo Blue (Green Shade) are together in the top central square in the upper first photo of this post.  What can Phthalo Green be used for?  Try!  🙂

One thing I can say is that natural hair in a paintbrush makes a world of difference in that brush’s performance.  I first ran across this in Painting class, when I started using Sumi-e brushes with my watercolors, because they retained water and color better.  This is not a traditional use for them, so far as I can tell — but at least the regular Western transparent watercolors I’ve tried (largely Prangs and W&N colors), don’t seem to harm them.

I have at various times had three different types of Asian calligraphy brushes, though one of them (I think it was a Mao “Little Ying”) eventually died from irregular expansion of the handle.  That is, I think I left it in the water too long, and the bamboo split.  >_<;;  Because of the way it was constructed, about the only thing keeping it together at the end was probably a piece of string, and probably some glue.

The other bamboo-handled brushes I have are all Yasutomo (for some reason, it’s hard to find other brands than this in brick-and-mortar stores:  excepting Asian stationery stores), in a couple of different styles.  I have no idea what the different styles are actually intended to do, but they work for watercolor.  The ones I have all have a core of stiff hair, surrounded by a ring of soft hair.  They don’t keep their point well — you have to shape the tip prior to each stroke — but the touch is much softer and more delicate than with a synthetic.

Most recently, I picked up a little tiny #2 Robert Simmons “Sapphire” flat, which is maybe 1/8″ wide, and it’s so much easier to use than a full-on synthetic with watercolors, that it’s kind of weird.  In tiny sizes like the one I have, they’re actually affordable…

The Sapphires are a blend of red sable and synthetic fiber; but the amount of natural hair in them actually does make them handle differently when it comes to watercolors.  Laydown and color retention is smoother than what I’m used to from my completely-synthetic brushes (most of the rest of them, that is), which I’ve read have a tendency to dump their pigment load all at once.

Now that I look up this company online, I find that they are also the people who make the “Signet” hog-bristle brushes that I like for acrylics!

Hmm.  Wonder about that…

I’m not sure how natural brushes would fare with gouache.  Gouache has a tendency to get heavier, stickier, and stiffer than transparent watercolor.  I’ll give it a try with my synthetic brushes before I attempt anything with the real-hair brushes (the color-load-dropping thing may be a bigger issue with watercolors which are close to the consistency of water), though I’m thinking that maybe my heftier intended-for-acrylic brushes might be better off with those paints…

I have a vision, now…

I needed to unwind after the homework I’ve been doing today…so, I completed what I will (for now), of my paint spreadsheets!

What I can say is that with all the paint I have, I really should be painting.  Like, actually painting.  And not. worrying about. running out. of. paint.  Jeez.

I think my oldest gouache (which was what I used in Color Dynamics) dates back to around 2007 (I was mistaken with my earlier timeline: 2009 was when I started looking for a job, not when I started taking Art classes).  The newest paints I have, I purchased this year.  But given how much I’ve painted this year (since my Art program ended), it’s really going to be a waste if I don’t use these before the tubes decay.

(If you didn’t see the backpost, I had a number of tubes of acrylic paint from 2015 which I tried to check on, and either the caps broke [i.e. fell apart], or the necks twisted off of the tubes.  I’m thinking UV damage…)

Of course, this can be remedied by buying empty tubes to put my color into when — not if, but when — this happens again.  I just haven’t done it so far, because I really don’t know what I’m doing (it’s a liability when you’re an artist, to avoid doing something because you don’t know what you’re doing)…but if I can save a tube of paint, it should be worth it.  The only thing lost if I screw up is around $1 per tube…but if I’m successful, I might be able to save $8 of paint.  Not its fault it was packed into a biodegradable…

*pssh*, I’m going to stop there.

The plastics are not meant to be kept around a long time.  And they probably still end up killing sea life…

I’ve been having some fun, though, scribbling around on index cards (I had to use them for a school project), and realizing that I really need not to be fighting myself where it comes to my creativity.  I need to be experimenting and messing up and retrying different things.  For example:  really checking those black Uni-Ball Signo gel pens to see if they’re waterproof (I know the white ones, aren’t).  How much effort would that take?  Really?

A major problem is that I seem to have a predetermined idea of what it is for me to make art, and it doesn’t match my actual working process.

I have an example, a bit hindered by a lack of a photograph, but I keep wanting to draw elements circling around a space.  When I don’t know what to draw, I keep coming back to this.  I allowed myself to go on with it for some time on the back of an index card with a ballpoint pen (because who cares if I screw up an index card), and actually …it looked like something, when I was done.  I felt like there needed to be some focal point that the lines were circling around…but what if there isn’t?  What if there’s just a space?  What if there’s LIGHT?

This was pretty exciting, when I got to it, especially considering that the last time I was earnestly working at art, I had gotten into a “water” mode…I can definitely see this piece as an interpretation of looking up at the sun from underwater.

I probably won’t be able to render that in any form of optical perfection, but I can try and represent it as best I can…and maybe I can devote my 30″x30″ canvas to this, so I can really work large (well, for me, large!).  I think the biggest canvas my travel easel can hold is 34″ on the shortest side, but still:  the largest painting I ever had to deal with was 24″x30″, and I had to cart it back and forth to school.  If I get bigger (like bigger than myself, bigger), I will need bigger brushes as well as a bigger easel, so I’m keeping it mid-size, for now.

I’ve also come to the point of realizing that I can’t just make art when I have a good idea as to what to depict.  I can’t go from full stop to masterpiece, and only paint masterpieces.  It doesn’t work that way.  I need to be putting in time and work like I’ve been putting in with my guitar, or with my writing.  Of course, with guitar practice, I get a physical cue when I haven’t played in too long:  my fingertips start to tingle.  With writing, I become restless when I haven’t written anything.  With art, I just become terrified to start again.

But seriously…there really isn’t anyone here to judge me but me and my parents, and my folks will probably laud anything I do draw or paint as better than they could do.  My teacher used to say, “you are your own first and harshest critic,” and I really think it’s true, at least in my case.

Started reading _Art and Fear_ by David Bayles & Ted Orland

Despite the title of the text, this book hasn’t scared me any more than I’ve scared myself.  It’s actually really reassuring.  I was basically up at 3 AM last night, reading this in bed, before I realized that it was 3 AM and I had to rise by 8 AM, at the latest.

As I may or may not have mentioned on this blog, I was introduced to this text about a year ago by my Drawing teacher, who created an assignment around it.  At this point, I’ve run across the clip of the reading I did before.  Oddly comforting, that.  I have the feeling that this book is one that it would really help to read more than once (maybe, much more than once).

Today, I had the somewhat odd choice:  play with brush pens and color relationships and classifications at lunchtime, or read at lunchtime.  Practice, or possibly avoid practice by reading about how to practice?

Given that the size (and bulk) of my collection of brush pens makes carrying them around a bit of a…thing…and I could fit Art and Fear into my purse, plus the fact that I try and keep my art stuff separate from my library stuff because I’m paranoid about germs (and not so about pigments, you ask?  Pigments don’t grow)… well, I ended up taking this little book with me.  It’s 124 pages long, and fairly fast reading for me.  I’ve only run across one word so far that I didn’t recognize.  😉  And I had to really give myself permission to make notes in this thing.  It’s an actual paper book, and I gave up writing in pencil a while ago, 😉 so the notes are permanent.  But even my little stars and arrows and commentaries help make this familiar.  The first little mark in the margin meant that I meant to keep this book.

I think the road traversed in this book will be familiar to anyone who has attempted art, as both of the authors are practicing artists, and they draw their material from their practices and from teaching.  What the book really seems to be about is how to retain those who want to make art (a statistic in the book, IIRC, is that 98% of those who get art degrees have stopped making art five years into the future), along with encouraging those who don’t think they’re “real artists.”

I’ve…seen some people psych themselves out and stop making art because they don’t feel they’re “creative” people.  This is not a problem I myself have confronted, as when I don’t do art or writing or music, my creativity spills over into all kinds of “inappropriate” places.  That is, my mind starts to remake my world when I don’t channel its creativity.  It’s like having one of those glass plasma balls with the electric currents inside going everywhere, and needing a ground in order for the energy to stop being misdirected.

But even in my case, even last semester, I’ve considered giving up as I’ve seen the works of my peers, and thought to myself, “I could never do that.”  But you know what?  It’s not my job to make someone else’s art, no matter how inexplicable or gorgeous it is.  (Envy does not serve me here.)  It’s my job to make my art.

It’s said, within Pure Land Buddhism, that when one awakens, one creates their own Heaven.  Perhaps my art practice is generated out of that Heaven, brings just a portion of that, a little bit of that, to this plane.  Maybe my job, at least in part, is to sense my own world and the world inside me, and bring bits of it back to show that yes, it is possible.  I, and what constitutes what you know as I, am possible.

Who is it possible for you to be?  What is your Heaven — you know, the one it is said we are blinded to prior to awakening to the reality that we are already Buddhas?  (Or is there another metaphor you use to communicate what your art is about?)  What is the core that is left of you after the impurities of this life have been stripped away?

Enlightenment can exist in the quotidian.  It can exist without our knowing it.  I know that I did not always know who I was, but I have never stopped being who I am.

As much as it is any one person’s choice to keep making art or not, it can be (is) a bit sad to see someone who displays as much potential as any of us stop, because they don’t feel they’re good enough.  There is the choice there to continue or stop, very apparently, and for some people, it may just not be the right time.  I may have had to ripen into my 30’s before I could even consider being an artist and being healthy at the same time.  The fear can be too much, and it’s okay to take a break.

But please don’t tell yourself that you’re not any good at art because you’re comparing yourself to others.  They aren’t you, and this is about your journey, not theirs.

I’ve also been in the place where I didn’t know what I was doing, and I really knew I had no idea what I was doing.  But taking that first step into the unknown is only a first step, and those who pay attention to the gaps between their vision of their piece and how it actually turns out, then have fodder for making later pieces.  You can try again to capture what you might not have captured in the first instance.  You can take a different path in your creation of your next artwork than you did in the first instance.

When we make art, we’re making decisions constantly — what to include, what to omit or gloss over, where our focus is, the list goes on.  We’re also choosing a path — one path — which art basically demands of us.  On review, critique, or contemplation, it may become apparent that there was content — meaning — trying to get out in the piece we’ve just finished, which we didn’t realize was there.  We can focus more on this meaning in later pieces.  No one piece has to be perfect.

The creation of art works are byproducts, not end-products, of engaging in the creative process; continually refining, continually exploring, remaining curious about what could be done differently, and then trying it, doing it, working it out.  The easiest place to start from then, is to see where our vision did not meet our execution.  Given the resources, we can always try again, or even move on to what the authors call the “seed crystal” of our next focus.  (I really love that metaphor.)

But once you’ve taken that first step into the unknown, the subsequent steps become easier.  You have a base to work from.  Unless I had done life drawings in ink and brush, and had experiences dealing with watercolor in the first place, I wouldn’t be as confident at trying to create watercolor illustrations.  And I may not yet be at the point where I can fully, comfortably, capably illustrate a graphic novel, but you know what?  If I keep working at it, one day I will be, or at the least, I will be much closer.

But the graphic novel, the dream — the little dream — coming to fruition, is not the point.  Engagement is.

Art classes, in my mind, are all about beginning.  Art practice continues long after the classes are over, if we can nurture ourselves (and maybe our other artist friends) enough, to keep going.