occupying my time

After the snack that was dinner (I was really not moved to eat much tonight, due to having been fed not too long earlier), I started looking for the portable CD player.  This is because I thought it would be nice to have some music going in my office (while I drew), which would not all be music downloads.  I have one or two boxes of CDs which I’ve scavenged…and have not heard any of them in a long while.

When the location of the boom box was not immediately apparent, however, I did see something that caught my eye:  my guitar.  Because we’ve put a new battery in the guitar tuner (it uses a 9-volt!), I decided to try it out.  It was out of tune in a way that I had been blind to; mostly, flat, but still close enough to on-target that I didn’t have to worry about being totally lost (I do have a pitch pipe around here somewhere, but have a feeling it’s in the junk room — with my music stand and guitar case).

So I played around on that until my fingers got to the point where I knew I would get blisters if I played any farther.  I’m getting better at remembering the location of notes on the fret board; though I still am not sure of the names of those notes or their location on sheet music, so maybe I should say that I’m getting better at remembering the location of sounds on the fret board.

I’ve also realized that I will have to learn classical fingering if I want to be able to play the songs that I want to play.  In classical style, it’s possible to ring up to five notes at once — one with each nail — as versus picking out notes one at a time, or only strumming chords.

After my fingers couldn’t stand it anymore, I set the guitar back and picked up the box which holds all of my prismatic markers, brush markers, and fineliners.  There are also four other sets in there:  one of LYRA graphite crayons (they only make three hardnesses, so far as I know), one box of Koh-I-Noor woodless colored pencils, a tube of General’s Willow charcoals (they wipe away easily and so are good if you need temporary marks), and my (soft) charcoal set…the last of which, I really need to clean out.

I did two drawings tonight with the markers, on 18″x24″ Sketch paper (this is the same pad gifted to me on leaving my first University, back in 2002…15 years old, and not yellow?).  I am not sure it would be best to show them, though…would it be too much pressure to show my experiments?  I don’t think validation or approval would help, here, more than it would hold me back from trying new things.

The first one was just me experimenting while thinking about moths (and spirals).  Something about fuzzy, feathery bugs…(and there’s probably a rebirth thing going on in there, too, not to mention the entire light-seeking thing which…still doesn’t make sense to me).  It could also be related to the green skeleton image I got back this Fall which had metamorphosis as a major theme (there was also a butterfly in there…I’ve posted about it before, but need to take a clearer shot).

The second image I did was an experiment in which I realized I was totally using lines, hatching, and cross-hatching, and started intentionally working with more random applications of line (bullet nibs for the win)…which I find I like immensely more than the way I had been working, though maybe that’s because it’s new.

The randomness appeals to me; it’s also very immediate and committed, at least with markers (though these markers are all water-based, so if I wanted to, I could wet them and use the ink as a wash — on top of a surface which could take a wash without warping).

I also found that the Staedtler Mars Graphic 3000 Duo markers (from years ago) behave differently than the Tombow Dual Brush markers.  The nibs are made of different materials; the Staedtler brush nibs are some kind of porous rubber which enables more painterly strokes (and gradual fade-outs, and finer delicate lines), while the Tombows are more like a straightforward water-based brush marker with a more fibrous and firmer/less responsive tip, on the brush side.  (Both markers have a firm bullet nib on the other tip.)  The advantage of the Tombows, of course, is the color range, and the fact that they are made (like the Staedtlers) not to easily dry out, unless the cap isn’t pushed on fully.  Of course, though, my Staedtlers are years old.  I’ve seen a revival of interest in them recently, though…but I can’t vouch for their current quality.

(The Mars Graphic 3000 markers, along with Staedtler’s Mars white plastic erasers [less smudging — especially with Pentel Hi-Polymer leads (ha — I used to draw in mechanical pencil), and clean erasure], were what immediately gave me a favorable impression of Staedtler, some years back.  However, I’ve heard that the quality of some known brands has diminished in some product lines, due to the current trend of adult coloring books leading to demand for cheaper materials.  I think D told me this when I was looking at the long Stabilo 68 bullet-tip marker sets at an office supply store [I like these and have the mini version (I think I got a set of 18)…but I am not sure how many colors they actually come in.  A quick search brings up a 50-color set…which I’m fairly certain I can’t get in-store in open stock].)

What I find interesting about working on art this way is that there’s very much a problem-solving part of my mind being engaged, though the problem I’m solving is one that I am generally not wholly conscious of, but become more aware of during the process of drawing.  Each mark suggests a new one, until the piece would suffer detraction from extra visual noise.  It’s like a Rorschach that I make and develop, that is.  And it’s nice to see a line suggested before it’s made.  It’s something that doesn’t happen with me so easily in painting (where there perhaps may be more focus on areas of color than boundaries of areas of color — or, lines).  I’m not sure if it’s actually possible for me to develop that skill in painting, this late in the game (I learned to draw at about 14, when my brain probably had higher plasticity than now).

The problem in this case could actually start out as, “how do I make something different than what I’ve done before?”  This is how I began my first piece, which is largely orange, yellow, red, and blue-green:  I have a tendency to gravitate initially towards violet, which is something I intentionally stopped myself from doing, this time.  In the second case, it became very apparent that I was depending overly on about three techniques, and motifs repeated from the first piece.  I wouldn’t lose anything by experimenting, and knew I might not post the results, so I went ahead and did so — and the looseness and immediacy of scribbly marks actually added a lot to the piece, which is now, apparently, about safety/predictability and risk/reward.

And, of course, these pieces are in rainbow colors, and so suggest a child’s work…but it’s nice to be able to see the colors before using them, and it’s nice to have them immediately available, if just for play.

I mean, play should be fun, right?  🙂  And none of us would be any good at art if we were so afraid to play with our materials as children that we didn’t…

occupying my time

Playing around with Koh-I-Noor Progresso woodless colored pencils

My sibling-in-law recently gifted me with a set of woodless colored pencils.

I’ve just finished organizing and arranging them and playing with them a little.

A photo of the Koh-I-Noor woodless colored pencils, so you know what I'm talking about.
A photo of the Koh-I-Noor woodless colored pencils, so you know what I’m talking about.

I had been avoiding working with colored pencils because they tend not to reproduce well…and because I felt stuck in a rut…but in the direction I’m going, mixed media could be very much a thing.  These will color on top of marker underdrawings.  Wet media underdrawings eliminate the whiteness of the paper from showing through the layers of color.  I understand that marker is probably not the best media to use for an underdrawing (it will fade sooner or later), but maybe in the future I could utilize some sumi ink, or india ink, or walnut ink, or acrylic ink, or watercolor.

My last Drawing teacher did say, though, that if we’re using markers for a mixed-media drawing, put them down before any oil- or wax-based media, or one will ruin the ink flow in one’s markers.  It probably isn’t as big a deal with a brush or dip pen, and ink.

Right now I’ve got a giant upcycled 18″x24″ Canson Biggie sketch pad sitting on top of my desk, just to encourage me to draw.  (I got it about 13 years ago as a goodbye gift, when I left my first college…it’s good to use it for something.)  I’m not sure this is the best way to go about things; after all, if I plan to keep my drawings, I’ll probably have to cut them down, and that alters things composition-wise…on the other hand, this makes it so that I don’t have to worry about which paper to use.

(And yes, I know that the composition of the above photo is whack; I’m just not going back to try again.  It’s an informational shot.)

What I found with the Koh-I-Noor Progressos (pictured above) is that they have color laydown like very good colored pencils, but the thing is, one can use a flat side of the tip to lay down what is almost a wash effect with the colors.  It’s very much like using Prismacolor NuPastels, but there is the advantage of the pigment adhering to the paper like a colored pencil lead, as versus with chalk or hard pastel, which wipes up with the slightest touch.  And, of course, one doesn’t get the broadest laydown possible unless one wears the lacquer casing off of the pencil — which I didn’t, but which should be possible with a knife or sanding block.

A halogen desk lamp helped with the above photo (I went back with my camera a second time so that you can see all the pencils, after finding color distortion in one of my shots), but unfortunately, it washed out the subtle broad strokes of color that might otherwise show.  I don’t expect much better in daylight, just because what I was doing looked so delicate.

But yeah…I had been moving away from colored pencils because they encourage really tight drawing, with me.  That, and I’ve been using them since I was 14.  And they don’t reproduce well.

But maybe I shouldn’t be aiming, necessarily, at making multiples.  This is especially as I’m uncertain at this point about really going ahead with the graphic novel stuff.  I can work in narratives without using traditional comic conventions.  And it’s possible to work in parallel as regards the writing and the art, as versus integrating them.

But I’ve got to see what the future holds for me.  There’s no point in making plans when I don’t have the information I need, to do so.

I just thought I’d share what I’ve been playing with.  🙂

Playing around with Koh-I-Noor Progresso woodless colored pencils

Playing around with Hue/Saturation layers…

This is closer to what the image I just posted looked like, in reality:

Mo' boosh!
Mo’ boosh!

The only major difference is that the orange was lighter on the original.

I’ve been playing around with Hue/Saturation on Photoshop….and have realized that I may not need tons of markers.

Yeah, maybe I should take a class on Contemporary Color, next time it comes around…

Playing around with Hue/Saturation layers…

Thinking on whether I actually need more colors, and what to do about it…


I’m going to fight a little bit of a block here and go ahead and post.


I really can’t tell at this point, but I’m thinking that I should keep getting decent paychecks even with my cut hours, so long as I keep substituting when I can.  Hours should free up in a month, when people go back to school (and off to college). Being called in isn’t a bad thing, so long as I don’t assume that I’m going to get all four or five days off in a row.

The hard part is, really, being at work when we’re understaffed, but so far as I can see, my help is appreciated so much that I get enough support.

Today was rather uneventful…thankfully.

Anyhow, I thought I’d get around to posting the main doodle I did on lunch hour the other day with the Stabilo 68s — I digitally erased the surrounding material.  The colors didn’t turn out on the scanner quite as they did on the paper; in particular, some of the subtle greens didn’t come out, and the fluorescent tinge is no longer there.  In general, the colors on the original are more saturated and neon, while the above is pastel.

I didn’t intend for this to be a reference to Frisky Dingo, but I looked up “boosh” online after people asked me what it meant (it means “boosh!”), and found the reference.  I’d have to watch the series over again to see if the term was used in the same way as I meant it here.

With my own school starting back up at the end of the month, I am anticipating some costs — though this would mostly be for pads of paper.  How many I’ll need, and of what type and size, I don’t know yet.  What I do know is that paper is one of the more expensive things I could buy…but I also know that I already have a lot of it.

As mentioned prior, I’ve been torn about the acrylic ink issue, but right now the curiosity isn’t pressing enough for me to purchase any.  If I do move further into illustration, though…it’s worth checking out.  What I read today while briefly browsing online is that acrylic inks are like thin acrylic paints…and I already have acrylic paints.  I’ve also seen them behave like watercolors, though, too…kind of interesting, but with the issue of lightfastness (inks are expected to be less lightfast than paints)…not as enticing as it could be.  I might ask myself, “why not just purchase liquid watercolors?”…

(though I think, really, the viscosity of the acrylic inks is something at which I go “ew…”  Like, do I really want to use my good Sumi brushes in that?)

So…I’m not looking forward to buying much.  I’ve wanted to expand the marker collection, but maybe I should only do that after I get used to the markers I already have.  In particular, I need to see what the scanner does (or can do) with the lighter tones of grey that I have.  Right now, the lightest tone it’s picking up is Cool Grey 3 (out of a 12-step range from 00 to 10).  Maybe before trying to use these on an illustration, I should see what I can digitize and what I can’t.

I have already found that I can desaturate the image and have my Cool Grey range look like it’s a Neutral Grey range.  I’m not sure what else I can do while playing around with Layers…but it’s something to explore.  I’d been hoping to try Warm Grey and Neutral Grey along with the Cool Greys, and then start in with the color bit by bit, but that’s not a good idea until I at least know that I like using what I have now.

Right now, I’m wondering if I should take what I would have spent on art supplies and save it.  It might be good practice…

Thinking on whether I actually need more colors, and what to do about it…

I actually drew something today, I say?


Today, I was able to do a little doodling on my lunch hour.  The results aren’t much, but the process gone through to obtain them are something else.

I took in a set of Stabilo 68 Mini pens..I have an 18-wallet set.  These are about half-size, with bullet points, and a good flow of ink.  (Actually, maybe too good; one of them consistently gives too much ink.  I used to dry it up with paper towels and tissues, because it leaked.  Last time I used it, the tip didn’t overtly bleed, but I just forgot and put some pens down in the area I’d colored with it, which was still wet.  This caused some issues.  The extra ink also smelled a tiny bit like vinegar; I don’t know why.)  Although I did not see an AP Nontoxic symbol, I did look up the MSDS after staining my hands, and apparently they’re OK.

Anyhow, I had no idea what I was doing, so I started by making a mark.  And then another mark.  I had what I’ve called “ghosting in” happen to me again, when I’ll see where the next mark goes before actually putting it down.  I trusted this and went with it.  It took a little bit of experimentation to actually make anything close to representational; I’ve been inspired by some of the Graphic Artists here on WordPress, though, so I went with it even though it was very abstract.

What was new was how this worked out with the colors…

I’d previously put these 18 markers into a spectrum in their little pouch, and had drawn a spectrum with said colors.  I found that having a set of color swatches right in front of me helped a whole lot when picking which color to use next.  It was like having the eyedropper tool in my brain.  🙂

It’s a little late to be doing scans, and I’m not sure that my doodles/experiments merit publication (or rather I protect myself a little bit by not being fully public), but I was able to attain visual play and get to the point where this was pleasant rather than intimidating.

I had thought of spending some of the money I’ve earned this week on acrylic inks, but really…I wonder if that is necessary.  I know I have two fineliners I want to get, and maybe my money would be better spent on markers.  Better yet, I can play around with inks and markers, but just not invest heavily in either until after I explore the inks a little bit.  In the long run, acrylic inks would be cheaper than something like Copics; just harder to use.

…I guess I’ll have to see.  I’ll think about it.  🙂  For now, though — back to bed!

I actually drew something today, I say?

hehehe. look! a fishie! <3 ;)

Today, instead of going out to buy more art supplies, I stayed home and used some art supplies, instead.

O, behold:



I actually started out thinking on ‘zines, having realized last night or the night before that I don’t have to wait until Fall to start working on a ‘zine project.  So I got out a 5.5″x8.5″ pad and started working.  First I was just doing lineart, particularly of the main character in the pearl-diving series I’d thought of.  (I’ve decided that the waters he dives into may make him hallucinate that he’s a dragon, instead of his literally shapeshifting.)  I began my sketches in a 4H graphite pencil…started with the main focus, and then filled in the areas surrounding it.  I filled in the background, on “Fishie!” here, because I knew I wanted to ink this in several different weights of Micron, but I needed to know the rank in importance of each of my lines.

Generally, in this method, heavy lines would indicate bolder areas which one would want to draw attention to, and finer lines indicate differing levels of detail.  So here, I used a light touch with a Graphic 1 Micron for most of the fish’s body outline, and went down to a 005 for the veining in the fins.  That is as far as I could go.

But as regards what I initially began to do, and not what I ended up doing:  I actually came here first, had a look around the Reader, and considered posting, then realized that I didn’t want to be restricted to such a linear format when working on this story.  Nor did I want to put the story out into the public at such an early stage.  I am not entirely sure why, but even lined paper seems too restrictive when it comes to that story, so I guess I’ll be working in a sketchbook.  “Fishie!” is not really attached to the story in any linear way…it’s just what I wanted to draw, and I figured if I wanted to draw fish, maybe I should draw fish.  It’s…kind of connected?

For my own reference, here is “Fishie!” in linework only:

Fishie uncolored
Fishie! uncolored

There is a really big difference there, right?  I can see one place where the color actually detracts from the image, and that’s the far left side with the teal glass.  I think the teal is so saturated there, that it detracts a bit from the rest of the image, and the bubbles become less prominent.  Really, what I was trying to avoid with the solid background of the glass, was the possibility of having to draw in a surrounding setting as seen through the aquarium wall.

This is especially as, since it’s been such a long time since I’ve had an aquarium, I can’t recall the distortions that would take place when looking through a water-filled prism of this size and shape.  I know that looking out directly through the glass would render what’s on the other side of it fairly precisely, and that looking nearly edge-on produces a silvery reflection of the inside of the tank; but I can’t recall where it switches over or what happens in between, other than that it gets warped in some way.

The colors are nearly entirely, if not completely, done in Tombow markers.  I really like these for the range of colors offered, plus the markers themselves are fairly well-constructed, so I haven’t had even one of them dry out on me.  They’re also water-based, so I don’t have to worry about solvent toxicity.  They did lift a little bit of the Microns (which are supposed to be water-resistant, if not waterproof — then again, I didn’t let them dry overnight), but they didn’t lift enough to really show.  I was able to take the Tombows and wipe the black off of the tips, then continue with my work.

One of the things I want to remember for next time is that if I’m going to be doing stuff like this that I might want to color, it would be good to use watercolor or mixed-media paper, so that I can use watercolor paints on them.  Watercolor paints are generally both more archival than markers, and they are intermixable, meaning that I can get a broader range of colors out of a smaller number of paints.  (Speaking of paints, I’ve wanted to play with gouache again, too…I have watercolors, but with the exception of a Titanium White, they’re all transparent.)

I should be getting to the art store soon anyway, so I suppose I can try and find a wet media pad in 5.5″x8.5″ (in addition to a 12″x12″ sketch or drawing pad to prep for the painting I want to make for M).  There is some kind of charm in using a pad of these dimensions…I’m not quite sure what it is yet, though.  (For those outside of the U.S., 5.5″x8.5″ is half of a standard piece of copy paper.  Easy to find, but kind of awkward with the folded dimensions.)

The reason I’m looking at markers or wet media is that in using a 4H graphite pencil for the underdrawing (so that it won’t show), there’s the ever-present threat of incising the paper with such a hard pencil tip.  This means that with media which rub on via friction, like colored pencils, I may get white lines under “colored-in” areas, even in areas which I’ve erased, if the 4H has been there.  The 4H lifted relatively easily with a kneaded eraser (much unlike my 8B, which I love for its expressive line quality but which never goes away)…but I still find as well that I prefer the look of fluid media with inked drawings, as versus pencil or colored pencil, which always brings out the texture of the paper.

One thing I haven’t tried yet is pastel, which I may be able to rub into the grain of the paper to eliminate white marks — but I’d need to look at pastel pencil for drawings this small.  I’ve heard that pastel pencils are usually not great quality, but I’ve also wanted to try them on a colored paper — considering that chalk pastels (the big, chunky ones) are useful with large-scale drawings in prep for paintings.

One other thing I wanted to check out were acrylic inks (which, so far as I know, are also not known for being archival — better for reproduction work — but I’m not overly sure).  Maybe I can get one in vermilion or something and do some monochrome work with it, before diving in with a set.  The positive thing about an ink is that my Sumi brushes will be useful with it, whereas I don’t think I should use those with watercolors.  Sumi brushes are soft and absorbent, and can go down to a really fine tip…they work well with thin media like inks, but watercolors…?  It’s iffy.

So I should probably make a checklist for myself here, eh?

  • 5.5″x8.5″ wet media pad
  • 12″x12″ pad (sketch, drawing, or wet media)
  • look at gouache (OMG Holbein I♥U but you are so expensive you hurt)
  • try out pastel pencils on grey paper (noncommittal)
  • possibly try out (one) acrylic ink (very noncommittal)


  • flowers (irises, or whatever I got this last time)

Things to take:

  • grey paper to color on
  • white paper to color on
  • color swatches of watercolor paints and pencils
  • money
  • camera
hehehe. look! a fishie! <3 ;)

Copic hoarding

Saa…today has been full, I guess.  I did spend more than I probably should have, given that I got a small paycheck this time because I was sick and because February was a short month.

I was able to get to the art supply store, where one of the employees recognized me and engaged me in a bit of casual, noncommittal conversation, which was nice.  I went in there and he was like, “you, again?”  😉  They are really getting to recognize me over there.  Moreso since school started… :/ hehehe.

I was able to fill out my Copic line in Cool Gray, which I know seems kind of silly since it is probably one dye or pigment (I don’t know which it is, but I’m guessing dye, given most markers’ fugitive color understandings) that is just diluted to different extents.  But the Copics seem to last, which is nice — I haven’t had one dry out yet.  The differentiation between each tone is much more mathematical than in other brands.  And I’ve found out that their marker lines either aren’t there, or they blur together on appropriate paper.  There’s also a “wash” effect which happens when they’re used quickly, which is really nice, especially now that I know how difficult it might be to illustrate using watercolor.

Not that I’m giving up on watercolor — but there is a lot of negative-space work where it comes to the transparent stuff, which is a bit advanced from my position right now.  This is especially when it comes to working with a brush and water, which is still relatively new to me.  Nor have I been using gouache in conjunction with the transparent colors (which might make my world a lot easier).  I’m also thinking that trying this out in the studio first would be better than trying it in the field.

But yes — filling out my marker collection cost approximately $45, as most of the tones I got were not in the Ciao line at my store — I had to go to the Original or Sketch markers, and actually got a combination of both.  Some tones just were not stocked with some models, and I didn’t even consider getting an empty Ciao barrel and some nibs and refill inks.  I did get effects which were so nice with the incremental tint variations in the lighter inks, though, that I figured it might be worth it to get the darker ones.

So I can play with these now — and figure out whether my scanner is advanced enough not to lose the value differentiations later.  I should be able to play around with Levels, though, and see if scanning materials with different settings on my scanner turns out to have the same image profile (if that’s the right term) under Levels in my graphics program.  In that case, I can do the editing on my computer and not worry about the quality of my scanner’s eye.  And actually, I should be able to test this without even doing a final drawing — just a set of test swatches should be fine for me to check the Levels.

If worse comes to worse, I can see about taking the proofs to a copy store — or the Multimedia Lab — and having them reproduced there.  IF — and that’s a big IF — they are not just for rough drafts, with the final tones (if not the majority of the final artwork) being added or tweaked in soft copy, and then reproduced electronically.  (As versus the inking and final tones being laid down in hard copy, then simply edited in soft copy, then reproduced electronically.)

Now how the heck am I going to carry these around?  (Especially considering that I don’t use exclusively Copic products?)  I did get a pouch for portable illustration materials, but that pouch is pretty full right about now — to the point that I’d have to dump stuff out to figure out what is where.  There really do seem to be two different sets of materials in there, though:  one for working on top of some kind of colored ground; the other for a white ground, with black inking assumed for now (but not guaranteed).

I suppose I can see if either the Copic wallets or my colored pencil wallet will hold these markers, but I’m not hopeful on that front.  I suppose I could always sew a canvas roll to hold these, with a flap which folds down to keep things from flying out, and some kind of flat band to cinch around the outside…(two D-rings should hold it; I need this to hold 12 Copics, pencils, at least one stick eraser, and various fineliners).

Hmm.  I might even have the canvas…the question just becomes whether the old sewing machine is still operational.  And, well, I’d have to make sure the pencils wouldn’t poke their way through, too.  Good point, brain.  Reinforce the bottom flap with denim, right.  And maybe make it so that even worn-down pencils can be retrieved…ehh…that’s looking not so practical now.  Maybe forget about the pencils and just work with what doesn’t change length?  Or work with mechanical or drafting pencils, instead of the wooden ones.

Eh.  I’ll figure it out.

A lot of other things happened today, but I’ll put them in a different post (or posts).

Copic hoarding