I feel silly for posting this, but:

I do keep talking about the Japanese language study, and toying with handwriting, and this.  So…it could be interesting for me to log my progress on the writing front.  Maybe it will help motivate me to keep going back to the books.

vertical lines of Japanese text read "watashi wa genki desu."
(by the way, this just reads “I’m healthy/in good spirits,” over and over again.)

I’m shrinking the size of this down just to make it clearer.  As this is on my screen, it appears to be almost at the size at which it was written (yes I used tiny pens).

I was seeing what I could get out of my pens, in addition to practicing kanji (some of which, like the “-ki” in genki), I’ve not totally gotten a handle on, yet.

And…I’ve realized why nib sizes in Japanese fountain pens run narrower than in Western-style fountain pens:  at a certain point, writing with a thick nib means you can’t write kanji legibly at a small size.

So…I’m pretty sure that the tiniest of these (rose and green) are Copic .003 Multiliners.  Then I tried a .005 and a couple of Microns (the latter of which made the sepia-tone marks on the left), along with an ultra-micro Uni-Ball Signo.

I’ve also got to remember to store my pens horizontally, not vertically in a marker stand as I had been doing.  I had a couple of Pitt metallic markers which totally lost their opacity and sheen (one of which made the aqua-colored writing in the center, there), possibly from the ink separating out.

Also…it appears that Gelly Roll pens have a shelf life (my silver one died and wouldn’t make any mark which wasn’t largely suspension fluid).  And I had to toss a white Uni-Ball Signo because the ink was doing something bizarre (the rollerball would divide all the lines it made).  I’m not sure why.

Japanese writing in light colors on a black background.
Large characters read “Tokyo dialect;” the rest are variations on, “Am I healthy?/Are you healthy?”

The good thing is that now I know what I have, and I still have some sweet stuff.

I tried not to blow up the image to the right too much, because most of it was written tiny to begin with.  This is the back of my Supracolor swatch, which I repurposed into a test paper.  (Trust me, no one will be able to tell.)

And — hey!  The Photoshop Levels adjustment makes black tone appear deeper, too!

I’m pretty sure the four phrases on the right are all Derwent Graphik Line Painters (the ones with the hollow nibs which I’m not sure will continue to be made).  I think “Snow” is the white one and “Fox” is the silver one on far right (I love how opaque that one is!).

As a note, when Japanese writing is vertical, it reads right-to-left, although I was writing stuff down wherever (and tend to still write — and habitually read — left-to-right.  I’m getting better, though.)

The bit saying “Tokyo dialect,” or tokyo-go, as my friend put it (see upper left corner of the above image), was written with one of those metallic Pitt bullet-point markers:  one of the ones still viable, that is.  My teal one turned transparent on black paper, where it should have been opaque, as above.  I didn’t think it was worth keeping.

And then there are a bunch of Uni-Ball Signo metallic gel pens that I have, that still work awesomely even if the gold doesn’t, say, look like it’s actually made of gold.  🙂  At least I don’t get weird ink flow issues like I did with the odd white one, which I think I may have ruined by drawing with it on top of a watercolor painting.

Come to think of it, that could be why my white Gelly Roll pen died, too (I’ve just gotten a replacement).  Hmm.

I should probably do some schoolwork or go to sleep, at this point…although!  I’m nearing the end of Unit 1 in my Kluemper text!  (I found this out randomly last night.)

Yeah, I should study:  I have assignments (that have to actually be turned in) coming up, soon…

But I do want to note to myself:  don’t use water-based marker on watercolor paper and expect it to dry quickly.  That’s what happened with the smudgy section in the first image, which is bordered by red lines.  The red lines are fine; the fact that I got a fistful of ink on my hand when I tried writing on my paper — after a decent amount of time — is not.  I’m just thinking that the paper absorbed the ink so much that it trapped the water and didn’t let it dissipate at a normal rate…


Prioritization of activities

Well, school has officially started.  I also have done what I think I would need to do, in order to get a better job in my same organization.  Everything has been done; I’m just waiting to see my ranking.  I am not sure what I would need to do in order to handle both a Library Assistant position and 9 units of classwork, at the same time…

Let’s just say that it would be a life transition.  Life can’t all be studying and Summer vacations, that is.

In light of my awareness of the relative preciousness of time which I see looming…I’ve been thinking about what “hobbies” I would cut out, if I had the need to.  Right now I have a number of interests, running synchronously:

  • Reading
  • Creative Writing
  • Sequential Art
  • Fine Art
  • Japanese language study
  • Blogging

…and I think I’ve pinpointed Creative Writing and Sequential Art as the tasks which require the most study, effort, time, and (dare I say it) stress, out of all of these.

As I head deeper into the Master’s program, I find it evident that it is training me to reach for study as second-nature.  Over the Summer, for example:  when I wasn’t chipping away at my UX class, it was easier (and a bit more productive) to study Japanese language, than it was to work at Art.  I think there’s just some structure there which helps me.

At the same time as I’ve wanted to work on my own stories, as well, I’ve found that it’s very hard for me to do this, having been divorced from reading-for-pleasure for as long as I have been.  I’m not kidding when I say that it’s hard for me to get into a book which — for one thing — I am aware has (usually) been totally constructed by one mind, often for the purpose of bolstering that mind’s own convictions…

…or maybe I was exposed to too many Classics, and too much of my own stuff, in tandem with a heaping dose of Psychiatry, I don’t know…

The takeaway for me from this is, though, that I’m not as interested in fiction as I once was.  When I was a youth, I felt that I survived in order to write.  But now, I look back on that 23-year-old and I see someone who was almost in shambles from illness, and who needed something to hold onto in order to keep going at all.  And the only thing to hold on to was what I created, myself.

At that time, maybe a semi-mystical life purpose was necessary; is it now, though?

Or maybe more to the point:  there is more than one way to create, and more than one way to tell a story.  And maybe…it may be that I’m not ready to tell this story, yet.  (Or maybe, I’m outgrowing this story.)

In any case, I do think that I retain the skill of persuasive storytelling; but I am not sure that now — as I’m in the middle of a Master’s program and in the middle of becoming independent — is the right time for me to be embroiled in learning even more about things that have no application save in religion, spirituality, and anthropology.  That stuff could have saved my life when I was 23; but right now it’s an incredibly indirect way for me to better my situation.

What is a much more direct way for me to help myself is to get through these next two years of school; to get more and better job skills; and to figure out where it is I want to be going, in my life.  The last reason is why I’m deciding to cut out the fiction writing, but not the art.  Creative Writing has the tendency to be detrimental to my health, but Art tends to improve it.  I’m not entirely sure why the latter may be, but I know the former has to do with cementing inaccurate ideas about the world which were formed in my childhood, in my own little nightmarish sandbox.

On the other hand, writing in a manner like this — on the blog — does help me.  I can be more objective, here.  And I really do enjoy learning Japanese language.  I’m not entirely sure why, but it helps…and I want to be able to read stories and books (etc.) from outside the confines of English.  I just am not positive in any respect that works in English are what I want to emulate:  they’re just what I’ve been exposed to, thus far (not counting translations, though even there, editing occurs).

I also really want to be reading, though I find my drive to read more rewarded when I’m reading non-fiction — like, say, texts on Art History.  It’s a given that I’ll have to read, in my grad program.  But if I’m reading…I like to at least get something out of it, like new understanding, or new skills.  Something.  It’s likely a reason I’ve enjoyed World History, so much.

In any case, I do hope to keep up the blogging, because without it I lose track of what I’m currently doing, and what I’ve done — and what I have to do.  I also want to keep up the Japanese language study.  I want to read more, and I want to continue on with the Art (though I may go back to mandalas with this; I’m not even kidding).  And of course, I’ve got to deal with my job, my schooling, driving and cooking (though my parents help with the latter two).

Aside from this…well, I think this is enough to hold in my mind, this semester.  I’m just hoping it will not still be too much…

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…

Tension between focusing on art, or language

Well, yes.  I did spend a small amount of time with a Japanese-language-learning book today, learning how to write some basic kanji.  I also was able to play around with line width and variation by using the four sizes of uni-ball Signo 207’s, and the two Pentel brush pens I have.  What I’ve learned from this is that I have very little control over the brush pens~!

Well.  Yeah.  And if it’s this bad with a brush pen, I don’t expect it to be better with an actual brush…though granted, I think many of my brushes are not quite as flexible as the pens are.

Control over the rest of my pens — the ones with metal or fiber or felt tips — is easy…but working with a brush held in an upright position, and making marks with shoulder movements on a horizontal surface, is not.  Controlling for correct angles, mark directions, and proportions, on top of this…isn’t so easy.  Especially if, when I dip my arm down a fraction of a centimeter, I get a two-millimeter-wide mark that I didn’t intend, from a hyper-responsive small brush.

I have found that it is much easier for me to write calligraphy of characters which I have learned first in ballpoint pen or fineliner or pencil (as versus going straight to brush).  I’d think it would have been obvious to me, but it wasn’t.  In addition, this gives me the chance to go back and re-learn my kana and basic vocabulary, which I really need to do.

The good thing about these library books (on Japanese language) is that most of them are not heavily used, and/or they have been well-taken-care-of by their borrowers; so I don’t have to worry about too much dirt on them.  This means a barrier to using them has gone mostly away.

I just didn’t intend to launch back into learning a foreign language, so soon into my vacation!  I really thought I would be working more on art~!  But maybe I–no, not maybe; I do have time to do both.  The, “maybe,” which comes in is, “maybe I should schedule time to do both of these things,” and if so, figure out what I want to do, when.

I should also note that my little notebooks from the Japanese dollar store are really helpful — they have grids printed on them which help me keep track of proportion and spacing.

How much of the language portion of this will I be able to retain after school kicks back in, in a month?  I’m not sure…but I know my hands should be able to remember how to write the characters…