Buying, Writing, Doing: The Triad of my Present Dilemma

It’s become increasingly apparent to me that it is much easier to purchase art supplies than it is to apply them in creative ways.  It doesn’t seem that this in any way should really be a problem for me:  I did work my way through an AA program in Art (I couldn’t justify it the first time around with my BA, nor at the Master’s level…at least, currently), so I know that there is some part of me that is creative.  I also know that I’m skilled, though as I said before, when I don’t exercise those skills, they’re hidden within me.

Unless I practice, my skill and creativity won’t have the chance to show themselves, or to develop beyond the point they are at, now.  Maybe the problem I’m facing (starting out with incipient projects) is the one faced by writers of all types (which I’m well familiar with, as my BA actually was in Creative Writing):  fear of the blank page.  Or white paper.  Basically, it’s the same thing.

What I can latch onto right now are the exercises which build increasing familiarity with my media. Right now, I am very, very drawn to water-based media (inks, acrylic inks, acrylic paints, watercolors, water-based block printing).  I have a feeling that this is majorly because I don’t like to deal with toxins when they’re unnecessary, and cleaning out watercolor brushes isn’t a big deal to me, at present.

Ah — and, I used to work more in dry media (pencils, pens, colored pencils, most apparently) — until I got tired of the tiny point of contact with the paper (give me brushes) and the graininess of most of my attempts.  (Keep in mind here that my Prismacolors were purchased well before the year 2000, so I don’t have the advantage of the smoother laydown of the new formulations, in that brand.)  In contrast, inks and paints are much more…captivating for me:  they lay down solid, (usually) unbroken, and (usually) more vivid color.

Color is something that I at one time began to organically grow into (toward the end of my stay in Community College) — and then I restarted the Library & Information Science program.  At that point, my energy focused on the goal of gaining an MLIS in order to be able to be a Librarian, so that I could have a steady income stream, hopefully benefits (though I have heard that these are increasingly being cut in Librarianship proper) and work within one of my areas of interest, while also performing a social good.  In my spare time, and with the spare resources I would gain from being an Information professional (or so I’ve heard), I have planned to work on my Art, thus bolstering my psychological resilience.

Right now…it’s hard for me to formulate or say what my point is, within LIS.  It’s where I am now, and it’s what I know, but that doesn’t really count for much of anything when I realize that I’m already at the top of my pay scale and will have to change positions soon if I want to become more efficient at earning money.

What I want to be doing right now, is helping to construct Web pages.  It’s fairly evident, even just through my experience with this blog and my drive to personalize and edit its structure.  It fits in with my other two degrees in the aspect of being production-based, but not entirely so much in the fact that it’s technical.  I presently do not have the ability to customize pages and sites.  If I keep on in the LIS program, I may eventually gain the skills, however:  and a new perspective on the experience of designing for someone else.

I have a feeling, though, that this will put me about even with the youth coming out of high school in this era — technically speaking.  Technology flows on, and keeping current with it is one of the things to which I’ve resigned myself.  Design, however, is a specialty, and requires skills and knowledge that not everyone has.  And, as has become increasingly apparent, it’s not about me or my expression (as versus Art, which seems to require drilling deeply into myself to draw out something that only I can do).

Right now I’m in a class on User Experience, which is an aspect of Design — and it’s very apparent that Design encompasses much more than the utilization of art skills.  Designing is not the same thing as producing Art, unless the person you’re designing for is you.

And writing for yourself is not the same thing as writing for someone else.

I think that if I did not have the fear of repercussions for expressing anything unique, I would have an easier time with both Art and Writing.  But I’m old enough to know that expression begets consequences.  Whether those are good or bad consequences is unknown and ultimately subjective; whether praise or hatred will prevail is yet to be seen.

This could be the reason why I have seen so many take a brash stance against this psychic wall…because if you don’t stand strongly, the force of that wall could crush your light down into a black hole.

Of course, it helps to have solid grounding and conviction in something reasonable, first.

M has expressed frustration that I have been acquiring supplies — particularly for painting — and have not progressed beyond, “little squares.”  (I’m not sure she understands how difficult the medium of watercolor is, however…)

My little squares, though they could be made in a more aesthetically pleasing manner, are doing something for me:  they’re familiarizing me with the medium.  I don’t feel comfortable jumping from having done nearly nothing into a place where I have no ground to stand on and don’t know how to kick or stroke.

Doing that, and working out my familiarization in a way in which I am likely to destroy my first five paintings (if not more), would be…almost traumatic, for me.  So I’m working on little squares.  Little squares, I can handle; and although the progression there is incremental, and likely to hit a roadblock when I try actually using the colors in application, at least it is something, and I’m learning from it.  Without something, I’m paralyzed because I’m being expected to perform as an intermediate or advanced student without having taken beginner classes.

Maybe M can move forward like that; but I’ve noticed that, in her own design work, she doesn’t think ahead.  She plunges forward and then hits a roadblock and doesn’t know where to go from there.  In contrast, I think things out much further, but then am criticized for my tentativeness and my expensive preparations and my lack of starting.

And actually, now that I’m looking at my notes, I can also see a pattern here:  and not just in the delicateness of my process and my work.

I probably write about art so much because it’s easier for me to write about art than it is for me to get up the courage to actually do it.  I’ve been writing nearly constantly, for all of my life.  Writing is familiar to me, and it’s easier for me to do this than it is for me to sit down with a paintbrush, no matter the chances of coming out with something beautiful as an end product (though maybe I will try and keep that in mind as a goal.  I have a chance of making something beautiful if I risk failure.  If I do not, I have no chance of doing the same).

Writing about work, though, is not at all equivalent to actually doing it.

I’ve got to make a number of lifestyle changes relatively soon.  Many of these — most, actually — are related to my mental and physical health.  I need to floss regularly.  I need to brush my teeth and wash my face well in advance of bedtime.  I need to avoid late nights (sugar cravings come on after 11 PM).  I need to drink more water and avoid excess sugar.  I need to shower more often, and to exercise (and stretch) more often and more regularly; and if I can, I ought to try to meditate regularly (doing all of this may allow me to reduce my medications…and drop down a few sizes).

Along with this — I wonder if it would be too much of a strain for me to try and wake up with the Sun, so I have all the hours of the day to do my work and my art, as versus doing art in the afternoon and taking photos in the late afternoon or evening (when it’s dark).  Or, less optimally, doing art at nighttime with less-than-natural light.

It’s something to think about.  Maybe tonight I can try going to bed early, instead of trying to wring all the good I can get out of the day, and see if I am able and willing to get up at, say, 7 AM tomorrow (as I tried to do, today).  And maybe if I have the art play as a lure to get me out of bed…I’ll actually do it.

Self: do not forget about these supplies like you forgot about the watercolors…!

Hmm.  Well, I’m back from the Japanese stationery store, with somewhat less money 😉 but plentiful supplies…a new appreciation for the library (you mean I don’t have to buy the books to read them?) and I have realized that I need to get a Pinterest account.

After thinking a bit on what Google has hinted are called “dotted grid” notebooks or journals, I did a little online visual research on them (with help from Pinterest)…and it just increased the urge.  So I did go ahead and get one of these today.  I also got a pad of washi, though I’m certain it is machine-made:  the brand is Aitoh, which also makes the Boku-Undo marbling (suminagashi) inks.

The paper is for calligraphy and ink painting…also of use in mokuhanga (woodcut) transfers.  I’m pretty sure that it’s sized (has sizing/is chemically treated to alter ink behavior) on one side.  It can take original ink paintings, it can be printed onto with a mixture of nori and gouache, and it can be glued down to other blocks to transfer a design from a key-block print to other color blocks, meaning I can then accurately carve and register (align) the other blocks.  (Kozo [mulberry] washi, as this is, is known for not deforming much [let alone falling apart] when wet, which is the reason I wouldn’t just use tracing paper.)

Speaking of which, I also found a small tube of rice starch glue (nori), which means that there is now essentially nothing (other than having to acquire basswood sheets or shina plywood) keeping me from trying out woodcuts:  the colors I have, need the nori to spread evenly.  I don’t have the same brushes as I’ve seen being used elsewhere for mokuhanga, but I can try and wing it with natural-bristle stencil brushes.  (I’m deliberately not going into flagging the bristles, here; though I remember reading something about a substitute for “dragon skin” [sharkskin] to fray them, online.)

I’m still concerned about insect infestation in regard to the nori (particularly since we do have bugs that eat starch here [luckily they’re just silverfish:  ugly and annoying but not disease-ridden]), but I haven’t tried it yet; and for less than $4, it was good to get it.

The other stuff…well, I did find steel stub nibs for calligraphy at this place, though they’re a little large to store with all my other nibs.  They’re also coated in machine oil, which I may be able to get rid of through a soak in soapy water, as versus heating them.  I probably could have waited and hoped to find them at either of the two art stores on this side of the Bay, but…I just didn’t.  It’s kind of like I could have waited to buy a baren from the Japanese knife store that I wanted to visit, but thought it would have been more expensive there (it wasn’t; they had a workable model for about $13 less than I paid for my Speedball baren).  If I really get into mokuhanga, I may have to go there, though — I’m not sure the Speedball one will be as forgiving on non-cotton paper.  (It is kozo, though, which I would think to be tougher than it seems.)

Aside from that, I did get a set of Speedball printing papers (which I didn’t know existed until today), two shitajiki with grid lines on them (I HAVE WANTED THESE FOR YEARS!), two Zig pens to just try hand lettering with (a brush and a calligraphy nib), and some cheap papers in which to practice my Japanese writing.

Right:  shitajiki are called “pencil boards” in English; they are sheets of firm plastic to put under the page you’re currently writing (or drawing) on, in order to protect the rest of the pad or notebook from indentations.  The shitajiki I got are essentially like a ruled template to put behind a piece of white paper in order to write in straight lines; only, Japanese writing is based more on a grid than a line, and can run either horizontally (left to right) or vertically (right to left).  This means that I can use cheap translucent white paper now (like, the stuff from the dollar store), to practice writing.  Both of these were under $5 — one is clear and one is transparent blue (I’m not sure why).

I was not able to find the bocha today.  It’s not a big loss, considering.

I also did find the printmaking section of the bookstore (finally!), but they were mostly focused on admiring prints, not making prints.  (I have found a place that does have books on the art of mokuhanga; they’re just online.)  However — when I grow out of my current Japanese-language-learning texts, I will also be able to go back there for plentiful beginner and intermediate reading material.

Today did reinforce the desire to be able to read written Japanese: the store assistant I questioned as to whether the washi was sized or unsized had no idea what I meant by “sized.”  If I had been able to read the packages, I probably wouldn’t have had to ask.  In addition, there were books on woodcut prints at the bookstore, and while I could appreciate the art, I couldn’t read the commentary — as it was in Japanese.

I can restart my language learning, though.  Soon.  I just need to work out my priorities where it comes to work, Summer school, art, and Japanese-language learning.  Ideally I would be able to do all of this…but I’m not sure that is possible.

Could it be that I will actually have to schedule my summertime?

Eh.  I guess it’s better to trial it now than when things are going full speed…

Preparing for the City, tomorrow

Alright.  So from research tonight and last night, I have a good idea of what I’m going for in Japantown, tomorrow.

IF I get Yasutomo Sketch paper (big “if;” Yasutomo is the only readily available Japanese brand of…many things, including washi ([ideally] handmade paper) outside of Japantown or Japanese specialty stores), my first choice will be the Hosho kind — not Hanshi, which is sold unbound and, over the wind, I heard it is too light for suminagashi.  If the Hanshi is there, though — I will have to think about passing it up.  It would likely be useful, at the least, in transferring patterns from a key block to templates for other blocks — but I don’t know if it will work in linoleum block printing.  I know it will work in woodblock.

The thing is, mokuhanga (Japanese woodblock printing) is a relative investment…not so bad after having gotten materials for linocuts (particularly the knives, and inks), but still.  There are different tools, and it looks like things have to be managed from the ground up where it comes to things like applying sizing (nikawa:  animal glue + myoban: alum) to paper.  Or where it comes to mixing colors with rice starch paste (nori) in order for colors to print properly.  Or where it comes to maintaining a baren with camellia seed oil (tsubaki).  All these terms are given in that mokuhanga book I mentioned by April Vollmer.

There is an entire complete process to this which seems to be a different working method than I was prepared for, given the surface similarities of process between linocuts and mokuhanga.  (I am thinking that I wasn’t prepared for mokuhanga having such a deeply different cultural heritage from linoleum block printing…apologies for having to say that.)  In light of that…I’m going to try and focus on suminagashi paired with linoleum block printing, for now.  Until I gain more experience.  🙂  I’ll have less time, starting next week (school is about to start up again), so I should prepare for that.

I’ve decided against getting a stub-nib fountain pen (2mm), as…I already have some (dip pen) nibs which will work.  The issue is largely that I haven’t gained skill in using them, yet, and I was never really taught how to use them.  I think the last time I tried, I was very young (and impatient), and had only newly gotten the hint to burn off the anti-rust coating before trying to use the nibs to carry ink.  Otherwise, the nib will not be very useful.  (To my credit, though, I did use a nib until it snapped…don’t know if I get experience points for that or klutz points for that…)  😉  At this point, we do have a “Third Hand” tool which can hold my nibs while I singe them…a lack of this is the reason I stopped (I bent the jaws of a pair of pliers unintentionally by indirectly heating them while holding the nib).

But I do have some steel nibs approaching 2mm wide.  If I find any more broad ones like this tomorrow (I’m not counting “steel brush”…which is fairly intimidating to me), I may pick them up, but other than that, I’m not dropping $30 on a portable and more finicky version of a tool which is more versatile when worked manually.  I can’t see myself carrying around a calligraphy pen just for kicks, and I can do more with a dip pen (read:  opaque inks, quicker color changes, less expensive errors) than I can with a fountain pen.

But yes, I am thinking of calligraphy, again.  The “printing” thing seems to be sweeping me around into a more book-arts sort of deal.  Which is good with me, as long as it’s fun — it’s just that it wasn’t expected!

I still haven’t worked on my painting, either.  But then, I’ve been doing other things.  🙂  Watercolor would be my nearest media which I would think to be compatible with book arts.  It’s just so freakin’ hard…Negative space, yo.  Negative space.  But maybe the prints will help with that.

Okay:  the other thing to get is bocha:  roasted twig/stem tea (I like the name:  bo is the name of a man’s staff in aikido).  I can’t imagine us going home without manju, either (the kind I’m thinking of is daifuku mochi; M will only eat kuri manju, however).  Daifuku is some sort of very soft rice thing (I’m not sure if it’s pounded rice, or rice starch dough) around sweet beans (an); kuri manju is a baked wheat bun around the outside of sweetened smooth lima beans.  (I realize that may sound gross to people, which I wouldn’t understand, except for the fact that I once ate reconstituted dry lima beans, as contrasted with the frozen baby kind.  I feel you.)

Otherwise…I can see myself being tempted by the dotted papers and the Kuretake Gansai Tambi paints.  But realistically, not only do I not need these (the latter) at all…but the Koi ones look better, where it comes to smoothness.  I think this means I need to break out the watercolors I do have!  Probably the only reason these look even…tempting is that I haven’t recalled, or accessed, what I’ve got stored…which are very likely of higher quality, and almost certainly more expensive.

(Well, that, and travel pans of red are often junk, in my experience:  both Koi and Kuretake Gansai Tambi look better in this department than Cotman or Prang, which are the cheap travel [pan] colors I have.  It’s probably in relation to red being more culturally meaningful in Japan than here [it’s a color young girls and young unmarried women are expected to wear…or at least that’s what my grandmother related to me].)

As for the dotted papers…maybe.  Inks?  Maybe, but I’d more likely wait.  I don’t know how much bottled ink they have there, anyway.  Dotted papers are also available from the Japanese dollar store, now that I’m thinking about it.  I’ve just seen how they can be used, and want to play.  (is that so much to ask?)  😉

The other thing…that I’m kind of dreading, is seeing another worthwhile book on mokuhanga and/or relief printing, at the bookstore.  But I’ll deal with that when I come to it…

art and nervousness/nerves/nerve

Today (or at this specific moment, yesterday) the trips to the art stores happened, within the span of about an hour.  This was fun, though now the hard work comes:  actually using the supplies.  Which is what everyone wants me to do, and which is likely why I met with no resistance when getting to the places, today:  I actually did use some of my supplies.

Although I had planned to spend around $60-$70, I ended up spending a bit more.  I knew it might come to that.  Although the big-box art supply store had more types of X-Acto blades, they had only two of the three types I wanted.  They also did not have 2″x 2″ linoleum blocks, and their prices on block printing ink were higher than at the smaller art store for identical inks.

I’ve found a hesitance to work on the actual execution of these projects:  they are beautiful in my concept, and having the supplies and the time, I have no excuse not to work.  I think that I have a fear that my execution will not fulfill my concept, however; that I’ll end up ruining a project or messing up.  Though this is kind of ridiculous, as I consistently surprise myself where it comes to ease with my media and the skill I have which is hidden until demonstrated.  It’s also ridiculous when the materials are inexpensive.  Maybe I would have been better off just getting one or two more inks.  Maybe.

On the other hand, the randomness of color printing, when using mixed inks, is an obvious upshot of working with prints.

Then there is the fear that I’ll really really like it.

And end up collecting plates of glass to roll out my inks…

…but why is that scary?  Because then I’ll be doing something fulfilling?

I need to go over my receipts and see what I did get which I didn’t plan on getting.

I should also work on my “crocus” before the urge becomes too stale.  I can already see myself forgetting how to work the image in drawing.  But then there are new elements to this, now:  one of which is that I have new knives and gouges that I should practice with before cutting a final image; the other of which is that I want to experiment with image registration, though multi-color prints may realistically be very advanced from my current position.

What I did do today, as well, though:  I made a toolbox with all of my knives, gouges, blade holders, adhesives, brayers, and black pens (fineliners, brush pens, Sharpies).  Do you think that maybe I should just concentrate on two-tone prints, for now (positive and negative space, as versus color)?  I can see where maybe I should…

And maybe I should put my weird-nib Pitt pens in that kit, too.  I don’t have to be concerned about water resistance, here, as I won’t be painting over them (Pitt black pens have a tendency to leave a grey haze when water is washed over them — a reason they aren’t more central to my work — but they have some special felt nibs that behave in interesting ways.  As I’m just after the design, shapes, and lines…there isn’t any drawback to using them).

But yeah, I pretty much had to pick up the violet ink today because my little flower print does remind me of a crocus.  Maybe what I can do is work suminagashi or wet-into-wet watercolor on the paper first, then make multiple little prints on them with the newer crocus linocut?

Wow, I just realized that if my Boku-Undo inks and Sumifactant are still worth anything, I should be able to make pale pink/blue/violet marbling (the inks are very weak) and then print multiple crocuses on top of that in violet, via block printing.  And I can even add translucency to it, because I got an extender for the ink.  And…I also have a blue and magenta, so I could print multiple colors mixed together on one stamp, instead of a straight violet.  Then I can cut the prints apart and give them to people.  🙂  No kento registration required, though if I really wanted to, I could put in a border…

And yes, I did just think of Artists’ Trading Cards…am I getting a “thing,” now?  Are flowers in water-soluble media now my “thing”?

I should find my palette knife so I can mix the ink…I think it used to be in a pot with the brushes and pens at my old craft area, but that was before we rearranged.  I know where it might be, though:  I can look for it after we’re facing the Sun again.  😉

I forgot to mention that I moved the majority of my “dusty” media (hard pastels, pastel pencils, charcoal, charcoal pencils, White Charcoal, white Rembrandt soft pastel), graphite crayons and pencils, and their accoutrements (erasers, blending stumps, chamois, X-Acto knife [#11 blade] for pencil sharpening), plus some earth-tone watercolor and colored pencils, into an old ArtBin which is stacked under my Printing kit (which is in the toolbox I used for my art supplies when I was taking art classes).

I should take photos of this.  I can see myself not recalling where I put the stuff…if I maintain visual records, though…at least that will be something I can reference without having to catalog everything…

Okay, self:  tomorrow is a new day.  Do not fear it.

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!

Artist type realizing the impact of consumerism on themselves.

Taking my medication earlier on in the night helps tons where it comes to energy and motivation.

I’ve also found that my time is better spent on reading actual books and making actual art than it is, when I’m on the Internet.  As things stand, I was able to work for at least three or four hours today, which is in keeping with what I have to do in order to stay afloat in my classes.  I was thinking about doing more, but I reach a point about two hours in where I have to take a break, so I headed out.

And I’ve got to remember not to eat large quantities of roasted garlic; apparently I smelled pretty bad, earlier.  (I’m not sure whether I’m smelling again now through my skin, or whether I’m just rubbing the remains of dinner off my lip.)

I haven’t been taking too many photos of my work in progress, though today I was able to attempt a final repair on my first large mandala, take it off the watercolor block, and get the underdrawing of the painting which is due next Thursday, drafted out.  It’s a bit annoying because I’m painting Titanium White over this slate-grey color (Mars Black diluted in white gesso), and even though I’m using Golden acrylic (which is the highest-quality acrylic brand on the market, I’m told), I still need to go over and over and over areas which I want to be (actually) white, as the grey shows through.  I’m not entirely sure why I’m working in chiaroscuro when I don’t have to, but it was a requirement.

I also stopped by an art supply store; though I need to be sure to avoid conflating “got art supplies” with “did art work.”  The brush type I was thinking of getting — a large pointed round suitable for fine details and large washes — averages about $35 there, though.  I had a bit of sticker shock.  I’ll keep looking, and give some thought to whether I actually need it, or whether it would just “be nice.”  The reason I even went to check, though, is that I have a filbert wash brush which is about 3/4″ across…which was extremely helpful when coloring my last mandala.  The major problem with that brush, though, is that it can’t form a point, so details are a bit beyond it.

The money issue is a bit…interesting to me.  It actually seems to show the impact of a commercial consumer capitalistic mindset on what is otherwise…less impeded.  (It’s easy to say that one’s materials make one’s art, but really, that art can’t come into being without an artist.  Of course, quality supplies help, and to a large extent influence or constrict what we can make; but we are not reducible down to Golden acrylic paint, for example.)  Recently, I went on a field trip to a local garden where we were provided with bamboo stalks from which to make dip pens.  I’ve got to say that the pens I made worked better for me than the bamboo pens I’ve bought at art supply stores.

I think that largely this came from the fact that I didn’t clear away material from beneath the pen point (this bamboo had one flat side and one round side, and I cut the point to be flat), which enabled large swaths of color to be painted, rather like a brush.  I also sanded the nibs so that they would flow across the paper more easily and be less “scratchy.”  It was basically a custom job, customized to me and my way of working.  And it was free.  It was really interesting.

The person who supplied the bamboo said to get used to using tools if we wanted to be artists.  Well, at least so if we want to spend less money for better quality.  And, of course, someone cut themselves very early into the day.  Of course.

And, yeah, the Blick stores near me have begun charging extra for shipping on top of the items we buy in the stores.  I have started seeking out other outlets.  They didn’t have to buy Utrecht (they recently did a horizontal merger with said), and now that they have, their discounts are not as good.  We’re getting weird surcharges worked into the purchase price of what we would have spent, should we have bought the materials on their website and had them shipped.

That is:  the prices on the website do not match the prices in the store.  The prices in the store have leaped up to nearly (or entirely) encompass the amount of what we would have paid, had we bought the items online (at a greater discount, sometimes an unbelievably high discount) and then had them shipped to us.  (Recently, I had something like a $20+ “shipping rate” worked in to what I bought [as versus the prior “web price matching” which did not include shipping], even though the only “shipping” they had to do was stock the shelves).

I don’t really feel this is fair, unless they are intending on going fully online.  It’s more like asking for an extra $20 just because they can, because now they’re almost a monopoly.  I am wondering if their partnership with Amazon has anything to do with it.

I’m thinking that I need to get away from the idea of “intended use,” except where it comes to safety.  Like, I may not know the intended use of Layout paper, or why it’s called, “Layout paper,” but maybe that doesn’t matter if it works for me in whatever way I’m using it.  This is as I’ve found that the adage, “they didn’t tell me I couldn’t do it” is seeming to be a refrain which works quite successfully where it comes to making art that I’d not feel bad showing, and in using materials to make art in unconventional manners.

But then, I’ve been questioning a bunch of status-quo stuff, recently.  From how I relate to my body as a person who is usually assumed by others to be a woman (my sexed characteristics don’t define me), to how I want my life to be as regards having a loving partner (I’m after intimacy, not getting off), to — of course — the politics stuff and the possibility of having a socialist — or, alternately, a might-as-well-be-fascist — President.  And then there’s the entire gender identity thing, which has really flowed into “third gender” territory, especially with the idea of having a secure career path where this isn’t frowned upon.  I’m not sure if it’s the extra medication enabling my brain to uncover areas which might otherwise remain safely buried, or if it has to do with the art and the writing (but moreso, the art).

I’ve found that it’s better to do things than to write about doing things, which is a thought that seems to have been missing in my life, earlier on.  The writing helps, but really, my art projects are like testaments to where I’ve been, just from a more deeply encoded and felt place, as versus a linear one.

I’m not sure as to whether I should show what I’m doing here, before turning it in.  Of course, upon seeing any photo of my work and having the actual art object, it would be obvious to my profs that I made it.  The major problem is one of relative privacy…