Moving back to dry media for general purposes.

Instead of roaming over backposts to see various snapshots of myself in time, maybe what I need to do is write. Most of my free time today has been taken up with homework, eating, or sleeping. I’m not sure if that’s normal.

I have 22 pages to go before I’ll have finished my major reading assignment for Political Advocacy, which I should complete tomorrow — and work on the Discussion Topics, as well. I can already start writing on the earlier chapters…I just didn’t. It’s easier for me to intake information than to make something new with it.

Early this morning, I also had to get up for a class meeting, before heading out for a family brunch. After that, I came home and basically fell asleep, and stayed asleep for three hours. (I was surprised, too.)

Oh, wait. I’m missing the part where we went to the art-supply store. I had planned to get some 1/4″ masking tape (to mark off quilting seam allowances) and a bottle of that scarlet ink I mentioned, before. What I ended up doing was spending some gift money on a couple of small sketchbooks and pen cleaning solutions, in addition.

They also have these silicone things called Colour Shapers, which I know I can use to apply masking fluid for watercolors (latex won’t ruin these like it ruins regular brushes)…but I’m intimidated by latex masking fluids just from jump (they all carry Caution Labels; breathing the fumes or touching the fluid can trigger sensitization and allergic reactions). Because the Colour Shapers are expensive, and I haven’t even been using watercolors recently, I let it go this time.

For my own reference, I also do have permanent masking fluid made with liquid wax, which is much safer and is likely what I would try on a first serious test of dealing with this stuff routinely. I had to use latex liquid frisket in Watercolor class, but still…it’s scary to me. Not to mention that it tore up my painting when I tried to get it off.

Also, I’m not sure that liquid wax will ruin brushes at all, the way latex will.

Anyhow. I’ve decided that I’m going to try working in graphite and colored pencil, again, in the sketchbooks I’ve got. I’m not entirely certain how I’m going to carry it (though I do have a satchel bought just for this purpose), but I feel the need to get back to my roots. That means “comic” work — though it usually isn’t funny. πŸ˜‰

I had mentioned a very long time ago on this blog, the possibility of doing watercolor underpaintings, and then working on top of that with colored pencil. I’m not sure if that would be sacrilege if the paints I’m using are in fact better quality than what I put on top… πŸ˜› …I think I’ll need to avoid the more toxic paints, at least.

Maybe this would actually be a good role for less expensive formulations, though, like the Reeves watercolors which are basically just lying around here unused (they’re M’s, and also really old). There are also my Pitt brush markers, which are fantastic for sketchbooks. And I have the Copics (greyscale) and Tombow markers, as well.

As for colored pencils…my collection begins before the year 2000 and includes Prismacolors (the oldest of which, I might want to replace if I get back into this: the newer ones seem to have much better covering power), Faber-Castell Polychromos, and Blick brand standard colored pencils.

I have one LYRA Color-Giant, which lets me know that the LYRA brand pencils are vulnerable to what looks like wax bloom (though I think they’re supposed to be oil-based, not wax-based?). I have also heard that Prismacolors are vulnerable to this, though I haven’t seen any noticeable bloom on any of my older work.

I’m leaving out the water-soluble pencils, but they would be useful on heavier paper.

So I guess there’s a basic decision there to go back to using dry media for practice and visualization purposes. Although charcoal would be useful, I don’t want to be sealing my sketchbooks, so I’m (reluctantly) going to avoid studies in charcoal within them. (I might still be able to use carbon black, though [maybe], and I’ll definitely be able to use black ink.)

The issue is that charcoal never really adheres well to the page unless a fixative is sprayed (or painted, in the case of underdrawings on intended acrylic paintings) over it. That means that the drawing degrades whenever the book is handled. Though charcoal has been wonderful for layout for me in the past, I hate dealing with spray fixative because of the odor, and I really don’t want to be breathing this stuff.

I can wear a respirator, but I’m uncertain I have the correct (organics?) cartridges to filter out what needs to be removed. (“Organics” probably corresponds to a certain 3M cartridge code, and I don’t know what that is, yet.)

I mean, even hairspray (Aqua Net) in lieu of a quality fixative, smells horrible in the quantities needed to seal a drawing.

My biggest deal right now is whether to go ahead and use my wood-cased soft graphite pencils (multiple brands, but mostly Faber-Castell), whether I want to use woodless graphite sticks in addition (Cretacolor Monolith), and whether I want to use graphite crayons (LYRA) on top of that.

The issue with the Monolith sticks is that they often have random hard bits embedded which scratch the paper. Not an issue when dealing with wet media, but certainly an issue if further work is to be done with colored pencil (the indentation will cause the pigment to skip over the scratch, leaving a light mark).

I haven’t yet found the same problem with the LYRA graphite crayons, but I’ve also not used the LYRAs very much. I do know that Faber-Castell makes wonderful soft graphite pencils, but they lack the impact and expression of either the Monoliths or the LYRAs, because their leads are so thin.


I guess it’s not a bad thing that I’m actually using up my pencils…

By the way, the image in the post linked here was made entirely with the Monolith woodless graphite sticks.

And I suppose it is a good thing that I have too many colored pencils, rather than not enough. But I really need to sort through them again. They’re still in order from my last major work with them, and that’s not great…

Also: Koh-I-Noor makes a set of Progresso woodless colored pencils very similar to Cretacolor’s Monolith woodless graphite pencils, which I would recommend if only for the fact that they lend much more expressive marks, in addition to the ability to “wash” an area with the flat of the side of the tip (if that makes sense).

No, they aren’t paying me. πŸ™‚ And no, you don’t need to buy them. πŸ™‚ But I might start carrying mine, with me. The issue is how to carry as little as possible, and still enough.

I think I feel better, now, after having written that and gone through my backposts. It’s good to have a sense of continuity. That is what I set this blog up for, in the first place…


A use, a frame, a narrative

A family member once told me that when they were in art classes, they could copy what they saw, but when they tried to draw from imagination, it was very hard for them.

I was thinking about this last night, as the image of an Artist Trading Card featuring the Golden Gate Bridge came to my mind. Some of the details of the insight that came along with this have been lost to…well, melatonin, let’s say…but I realized that having a use for my art would be one thing to motivate me to do it.

As well, the image was at least setting up a narrative, if it were not a narrative itself. That narrative framed the scope of the project. I did see the use of the bounds of the image as in some way a metaphor for the frame of the message it was intending to get across (even though I envisioned the interior of the design extending beyond the literal frame).

On top of that, the narrative takes precedence over realism, meaning that I don’t have to copy reality in order to get my narrative across.

I’m not sure if I’m making sense, here, but the idea for the image came from questioning if I had hot-press or plate watercolor paper on which to draw comic illustrations. (If not, I know I have Bristol board.) I think I need to lighten up on myself about whether I’m doing things “right,” and just start to do them. Then I can see where it goes, instead of stopping before I start because I don’t think I’m doing it correctly.

But I think having a use, a frame, and a narrative will help me narrow down the scope of what I do. I remember now that I had been considering using my steel-nib dip pens and black ink, and I thought that maybe having a constraint in my technique (such as: no pushing the nib forward to make lines, unless using a cartooning or calligraphy nib) would cut down on my creative options enough so that my content would be easier to express.

I’ve also wanted to get back into calligraphy. Not Japanese calligraphy, but English-language. There is one beautiful red-orange calligraphy ink I saw the other day, which piqued my interest (it looks as though it will contrast well with black).

I had one calligraphy book I was working through, which actually did improve my regular handwriting, as well as my decorative handwriting. And I can practice on top of translucent Layout paper, which will likely be a good solution (I used to send out letters to friends, written on translucent papers — it was just my style).

I also have an Ames Lettering Guide, from the time I wanted to work on comics.

I think I am just wanting to combine text and image, and text and narrative, again. The major thing that has stopped me in my studies of comics, and graphic novels, have been the dispositions of the comic authors I’d likely have to study to learn the craft. There’s a lot of politics, there.

Though I generally consider myself open-minded, sometimes things are just offensive to me — particularly historical work made for a nationalistic, non-minority audience (if you get my drift). I’m not entirely sure what to do about that, except limit my exposure to just reading more recent works and international works, to which I’m not so emotionally tied.

Anyhow, I have a thought of where to start.

Painting things, and new-semester jitters.

First, the art stuff:

Yes, this is a bit out of my comfort zone! Just a bit, though. πŸ™‚ I went back to a sketch of a monstera deliciosa leaf that I had started a while back. I had a couple of drawings which were relatively ready for color, and this one was least intimidating. πŸ˜‰

Of course, at the point at which I rejoined the conversation (between the drawing and I), it was just a line drawing. I erased the pencil lines behind the inking and knew that something was missing. I then went back in with hatching to better enable me to see what things might look like with value contrast:

sketch of a monstera deliciosa leaf, black and white

To the left is an image of what that looked like (likely a bit distorted by camera angle). I think that the fact that its shape recalls a human heart (and is called Monstera) is not coincidental. Nor was it intentional.

I’m not sure what more to say about that (there is a lot to say about that, but I don’t think now is the time or place).

I did work this largely from memory after checking online to see what monstera deliciosa leaves looked like (though this was a while ago). But it wasn’t from direct reference. Right now I want to work on a more complex arrangement of these leaves…

I’m also not sure whether I should be dealing with the process as is (pencil sketch β†’ inking β†’ value rendition in inking β†’ watercolor), or putting in an underpainting using something like diluted water-resistant black ink, or adding in dark tones at the very end using watercolors.

What I did didn’t seem to work out horribly, though:

monstera deliciosa inked sketch, colored

I used a range of colors, here…and…can’t remember them all…

(I can hardly remember what is what on my palette! I had to get out a card that had swatches painted on it and the color names on top…)

What I can say is that I used Prussian Blue along the left edge of the leaf (which had me wishing I had worked out more of the composition behind and around the leaf, as I wanted to go on), and a mix of Phthalo Blue and Permanent Magenta along the right side. They’re close enough so that the difference is very subtle (with the right side leaning violet, and the left, green).

I also did use Cobalt Turquoise Light in the leaf on the right side, which is why it looks so mottled (Cobalt Turquoise Light is a granulating color). I think it was a happy accident that the paint settled to produce a highlight on the right side. Most of the yellow (that wasn’t pre-mixed) is a light Hansa Yellow.

It would make sense to draw out a full sketch, maybe even in charcoal (or graphite + charcoal), to clarify composition and light source/shadows, and then deal with the painting. I have a feeling the cross-hatching won’t be as simple in that scenario, though, if I hatch at all. πŸ™‚ (:>) (*pip*)

Second: grad school restarts in a week!

In other realms, I’ve actually started to get ready for next semester. I still haven’t worked on arranging my portfolio…but I have started looking back into what I’ll need to know just to be able to access all my materials.

I came to the realization today that grad school is my actual “job,” for now. Yes, I get paid to do something else, but even though it’s related, it’s much lower-tier work. It is, in fact, work that someone without a high-school diploma can do. At work they’re encouraging me to take on a Clerk (1 tier up) or Assistant (2 tiers up) position.Β  Especially if I want to work on the back end of things (Information Technologist), I apparently need seniority to get dibs on openings. (or maybe I could just look outside of this system?)

The reason I’m not so hot on either of those choices, though, is that school is my top priority. Even though I am only in 10 units this semester (about 3/4 time), one of those classes is Database Management, and that doesn’t appear like it’s going to be a cake walk. Given my previous experience in this program, it will likely be possible to succeed, but that will also take time and a relative lack of frenzy.

I’ve been told that even nine units a semester is a lot to take on, but I want to be done with this as soon as possible. (If all goes well, I can graduate within a year.)

Also, both positions which I can move into deal extensively with the public — about four hours out of an eight-hour day — which is not where I want to be (now or ever), unfortunately.

I wasn’t extensively socialized as a baby because of a rash of kidnappings in the local area around the time of my birth, and the fact that I would have been seen as an “exotic” baby. I think that this led to some neural connections being unformed while my brain was still plastic (meaning that I probably can’t form those connections now).

Though I wouldn’t say it’s definitely the root cause of this, I have been told (by a psychiatric professional) — or rather, my family was told — that I exhibit autistic tendencies, though it isn’t severe enough to be categorized as “autistic.” In relation to this, dealing with people is one of the most difficult things I have to navigate. It’s not really that I have difficulty dealing with people because of autistic tendencies, moreso than knowing I have autistic traits names why I have trouble dealing with people.

It’s also a reason why I’m so much more comfortable dealing with other beings from behind a computer screen, or through text or art, where I don’t physically have to be there. πŸ˜‰ And that is why I’ve been aiming for Digital Services.

If I were braver, I’d ditch the “service” angle entirely and go straight for Web Programming and Information Architecture, but I’m not sure where I could put those skills to use — especially without a Computer Science background.

I have a Humanities background, though…I wonder where anyone gets the idea that majoring in the Humanities means you like dealing with humans. I like seeing what people make, and engaging with them on the level of text and cultural artifact…it lends me human connection while saving me from the anxiety of actually having to deal with them in-person.

In any case, Digital Services and Web Programming/IA overlap a great deal, though at this point I’m kind of wishing I took Digital Preservation last semester, rather than Digital Curation. They’re slightly different: Preservation is more hands-on while Curation is more management-orientedΒ  — which I wish I had known! (if I don’t like dealing with people, why would I likeΒ managing them?) I would have known, had I reached out to a counselor, but I just went ahead and did my own thing…which is kind of consistent with my character, actually…


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looks like I’m going to be experimenting.

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

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


Images to go with last night’s post:

Alright. So at this point, I’ve been able to think things over a bit, as regards school; and have a default project for my Web Usability Final. Also, I did photograph those little sketches I did last night. Though the photos came out fine, applying Auto Levels in Photoshop did make them look less grey, so I’ve left them that way.

And to reiterate and continue from last post: I was drawing from imagination, with the goal of testing out a color; I wasn’t trying for photorealism (and in fact intentionally avoided photo reference until completing these three sketches). Apologies to people who have monstera deliciosa direct reference! Even though I am based in California, and I’ve read these are endemic to Mexico, they’re relatively rare, in my location.


These are the first two attempts that I made in trying to draw and then color, using Dr. Ph. Martin’s Radiant Concentrated Watercolor — which, by the way, is only the green hue in this image. I mixed it with Holbein Lamp Black; and Winsor & Newton’s Winsor (Dioxazine) Violet tube watercolors, in the background.

The Radiant (dye-based) watercolor lends itself to very delicate work — more delicate than I could get with the tube watercolors alone. (With the latter, I had trouble in accidentally pushing the pigment around on the page.)


This third attempt was done entirely with tube watercolor. I’m not as happy with the “feel” of the leaf, as it’s more angular and shield-like than I would like. Upon viewing a reference at the end, I’m thinking that this one is the farthest from the actual “feeling” of a monstera deliciosa leaf, although the flow of the veins from the center (but not the patterning of the veins) is more on-point.

But back to the colors: I used Winsor [Phthalo] Green (Yellow Shade), which is the blue-green; Green Gold (which is the yellow glaze to the right), Dioxazine Violet, Permanent Rose (fairly invisible here; it’s mixed with the black at lower left, but there’s so much black that it disappears), and Lamp Black.

For an explanation of why I was comparing these colors, you’ll want to see last post, and the post before that (for context).

So…yeah, this is what I was doing last night, after a 5-hour near-marathon of trying to get work done for Finals. (I took a break of about an hour in the middle, in order to make a salad.)

Which reminds me, I should be doing some work. *sigh*

Though I am looking forward to continuing to try and draw these leaves…I can see where it could turn out really nice. In any case, I’ve only got two more weeks of the semester left (!!)…

…which means that I need to get on it.

Alright! The watercolors *are* usable!

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

Drawing from imagination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trying Green Gold (PY129)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, I found…

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

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

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

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.Β  πŸ˜›

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… πŸ™‚