Art: portability? Catching small bits of time

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here; this is largely because I keep sitting down and reminding myself that maybe there are more pressing things to do, than write about things I haven’t yet thought out — and then actually going to look for those things, instead of just assuming they don’t exist, or that I’ll get to them, later.

Or I look at the WordPress text-editing screen and know that I could be making art, or exercising, or cooking, or studying my own extracurricular stuff (Japanese language), instead of writing incessantly about things I haven’t had the time to experience, to relate to readers via my writing. (It’s not this way anymore, but I have a history of being a compulsive writer [partially because of poor self-awareness in my younger years].)

However, I just finished sitting through two hours of backed-up lectures. I have three weeks left of school, and final projects in all of my classes. And I had to miss work in order to turn two other projects in, this week. Yes, even though Saturday was Veteran’s Day, and I didn’t go to work then, either.

And I have two other writing assignments due before the weekend is over (both for the same class). I also need to review material for the final project in that same class (again) before Monday afternoon. Then, I’m pretty sure that by Tuesday, I have to get my Web Design assignment in. In addition, I should at least outline a site redesign for my Final in Web Usability.

On top of that, right now it’s almost midnight where I’m at, and I actually do have to get up, tomorrow. And it’s probably going to be pretty backed up at work, because I wasn’t able to go in earlier this week. But at this point, considering some of the dreams I’ve been having around my job (including being terrorized by people who won’t stay out of the library when it’s closed, in the last case), it would actually be a relief just to shelve all day.

(Of course, though, the dream I put in parentheses probably refers more to boundary-crossing or outright aggression [boundary-ignoring] than it has to do with the location of where the dream took place.)

Anyhow, that wasn’t what I wanted to talk about, but you can see I’m preoccupied. What I was actually thinking about…was the portability of markers and the possibility of using them during my lunch break at work, tomorrow. This is in addition to the use of color as a valid place from which to launch into drawing, and the fact that because I work at a place where both the utility and break sink need to be food-safe, I can’t take in my normal paints. And I’m not rinsing out my watercolor brushes next to the toilet.

I then have three options if I want to deal with intense coloring: one, a waterbrush plus aquarelles (Supracolors or Neocolor IIs). Two, markers (including waterproof fineliners and water-soluble and permanent brush markers) and possibly a waterbrush. Three, the non-toxic cheap watercolor pans (Prangs), and a waterbrush (though these won’t get a chance to dry, decently — and I’m worried about attracting insects, or growing microbial cultures, because of this).

I’m seeing a theme. I really pretty much hate the tip on my large waterbrush, though. But the alternative is to take in a cup to rinse a good brush in…and an actual decent brush…and then let the brush air out so it doesn’t expand from water exposure and fall apart. Putting a damp quality brush in a locker for hours, even in a case, just doesn’t sound like a good idea in any way.

Which leads me back to markers. I think I can work with dry media. It’s a lot less expensive, anyway; even though the sheer volume of what I’ll have to carry is much larger. (Oh, wait. Lest I mislead someone who doesn’t know how much markers can go for…watercolors are likely cheaper in the long run. But the paper used for painting with watercolor, isn’t.)

In those two hours of lectures I sat through, I started doodling in my notes (I’m not going to get into how I got that distracted; my professors know who I am). I just realized that 1) I was experimenting with layering transparent inks to make new colors (yellow with blue, red with violet), 2) what I made could very well be translated into a duochrome block print, and 3) the art thing doesn’t have to be hard.

I’m learning that most things don’t have to be hard, though…

What I was messing around with tonight, were clover and maple leaves (a bright red gel pen helps with the latter!). It seems like everyone has a “thing” that they really love to do, in the art world; I’m fairly certain that my “thing” is plants and flowers.

And with that, it’s almost 1 AM now. This looks like a good stopping point.

(Yes, I do know that I could just work on my school readings at work…but stopping work in order to do a different kind of work, somehow strikes me as getting rid of the reason to have a break in the first place…)

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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.  😛

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… 🙂

Mad skillz…or, trying to order chaos

There are two things I can think of to write about, tonight.

Advocacy for the differently-abled

The heavier topic, I’ll (largely) save for another post; I’m not sure I’m up to doing it, right now, especially with the sensitivity surrounding it (both for me and for others).

But that one essentially has to do with taking action against stigmatization, misunderstanding and fear; instead of stressing over being stigmatized, misunderstood, and feared.  That is, instead of worrying about being put into a stigmatized category, work for the understanding and betterment of people who are already in that category.  Once the stigma is allayed, the anxiety will be purposeless.

This has been spurred off by reading material on Accessibility while on the job (about one in five U.S. residents at any moment are dealing with a mental illness), and realizing that more people than anyone would like are too close to homelessness — a quick Google search turns up the statistic that one in three U.S. residents are one check away.  On top of that — at least my own disability is hidden; my recently deceased family member’s was not.  His death was preventable, and what led up to it is something I have heard related to me as “abuse.”  But I’m going to try not to get into that, now.

Organizing collected art @*#&

The lighter topic, which just flashed through my mind, is my freakin’ need to inventory my art materials, tools, and supplies, because I have more than enough art supplies to do what I want to do, without buying much of anything more.  The issue here is that I’ve had them for so long, that I’ve forgotten that I have them, or what I can do with them.  And they’re mostly stashed away where I don’t look.

Case in point:  a bunch of tiny linoleum blocks which I bought at the beginning of Summer, of which I’ve only carved into one.  I had forgotten about them until I picked up a surprisingly heavy little box (not knowing what was in it), and found them inside.

I’ve already begun a small version of cataloging these things, in setting up an MS Excel file with all the paints I have (or had, in December 2016).  That, in turn, was likely motivated by my experience with setting up a database for the first second time in one of my Library classes.  (The first time I set up a database was likely in 2007, using MS Access 2003, which I no longer…ironically, have access to.)  The second time, we were using a Web-based service which, while simple, is apparently more powerful than Access.  (?!)  I’m not sure about that last one…but it simulated the functionality of an OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog).

I just took a moment to do some research on relational databases:  apparently, what I’m thinking of doing, D says, will require months of set-up work.  (Really?)  M has said that companies hire out for that kind of work, which I had wanted to give a good shot.  Well, anyway.  I suppose I can learn it later if I really want to do it…

I was also told that it would be more useful to photograph what I had, where.  My main concern was pulling together records of all my supplies in a central location, so that I could tell what I had, and from that gather ideas of what I could use it for, without digging through everything.  There’s just so much stuff that it’s hard to know on what paper or in what book to put new drawings, for instance; where any given completed drawing is; or what media to use for any given idea.

Marker digression:

I did make a crude but relatively interesting Cubist sketch the other day, trying to capture the idea of a specific kind of “lamp.”  This was done with a (Faber-Castell) Pitt Big Brush pen, which…well, the tip was already blunted, so I didn’t feel too bad about pressing firmly on it.  Different media require different approaches and have different ways of working with ease, which is why I’ve been trying to diversify.

Most markers have a limited shelf life:  they dry out.  This is a reason why I like Tombows (they last longer than most markers I’ve had — I really don’t think I’ve had to throw one out, yet).  Staedtlers are relatively good, too — by that I mean the Mars Graphic 3000 Duo brush pens.  The major issue I have with both are a lack of muted tones, and a suspicion that, like markers generally, they will be prone to fading.

Theoretically, though, both the Mars Graphic 3000 Duo pens and the Tombows are water-based and water-soluble, so they can be blended and drawn out with water.  I just haven’t especially had the will to try it.  However, that would probably be the most straightforward way to get muted tones.  Tombows come in a great prismatic range; the Duo pens are, on the other hand, mostly sold in sets, these days.  (They used to be sold in open stock…they’re really great pens, though — or, they used to be, when I purchased my three, years ago.)

Eh — maybe I should get back to large-format charcoal work and just have at it.  🙂

I guess there’s no reason not to

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…

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 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…

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

Alright,

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

boosh.
boosh!

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…