“Mad Skillz”?

Well, hopefully soon I’ll be able to get out and replace the two paints which I need to (Raw Umber and Cadmium Red Medium Hue, now — the neck screwed off of the tube in the latter today, too), and maybe pick up an Ivory Black.  Due to multiple prior commitments (and the fact that the cheaper art stores are farther away), I wasn’t able to do it, today.

I am considering dropping one of the Library School courses in Fall to give myself more time to go through the work for my Vocational program, and to do art — and to restart my Communication group.  Taking only six units in Fall would also mean my tuition would be entirely covered by my grant, meaning the only expenses I would have would be for computer hardware and my books.  This would mean that I wouldn’t be out of much if I decided it wasn’t for me.

My technical course is really the make-or-break of all this.  If I do well and I like it, I should be able to move forward with the Technical Services track.  If I don’t do well and/or don’t like it…I’ve really got to question whether Library School is my best option.  Social skills have been my weakest area…and without that, my main focus would be Cataloging (which is outsourced in my system) or Management (which doesn’t seem compatible with a lack of good social skills).

I could try for the Special Librarianship track, but if I’m serious about it, that might take more than three years (and this is one of the tracks of which my technical course might predict the outcome).  Or:  I’d need to take 12 units for a couple of semesters.  Doable, if I don’t have to worry about work…but it’s relatively vital to remain employed in LIS while doing a degree in LIS.

Of course, the Vocational program should be able to help me out with making decisions around this.  Right now, Editing, Graphic Design, and Web Design are all looking alluring — due to the paperwork I’ve been filling out which has started me thinking about what I’ve liked to do best in my (meager) past employment.  One of those things was reworking the layout and editing of a course reader:  I felt confident at my verbal editing skills, and happy when the layout turned out the way I wanted it to.

(Of course, though, I was using MS Word, which was fairly buggy when it came to formatting images, text boxes, columns, etc.  The experience did help, though, when putting together a List of Works for my final Artist Talk in Creative Process.  It’s likely that if I had used a page-layout program like Quark or InDesign for the reader, the desired results would have been easier to achieve.)

It was work, as regarded what I was doing and the fact that readability was a major goal; I left the Graphic Design track because I was told that I “could do more” than be a Graphic Designer.  I didn’t know what that meant, and I kind of still don’t; but the person who told me this doesn’t seem to be teaching at that location, anymore.  That advice (and a rather stupid run-in with a collectively paranoid Graphic Arts e-group) was the reason I got the Art AA first, though, instead of diving fully into Multimedia Arts or completing the Graphic Design series.

The major drawback to working in Graphic Design is that I would need an apprenticeship, plus more schooling (though relatively cheap schooling — unless I went for an MFA).  The minor drawback is occupational exposure to toxins (not so minor if you ask the teachers I’ve had who are cancer survivors), and the fact that I may need to pay for health insurance on my own.  Graphic Design is also not a particularly lucrative field, so far as I know.

There is something of an art community in Oakland…I remember going on field trips to a few design studios, but that must have been almost a decade ago.  There are also a number of galleries (enough to have regular Art Walks and Open Studios)…and, of course, the Museum.

Of course, Oakland isn’t the safest place to live, but I’ll save discussion on that for another day.  Granted that if it’s my life mission to be creative, losing my life in pursuit of that mission is just one of those things that could happen.  If my drive is strong enough to risk cancer, it’s probably strong enough to brave Downtown to see the galleries, or to live in an urban area (though I seriously don’t want to do the latter).

It’s also notable that there is a ceramics supply outlet and a jewelry supply outlet on this side of the water, though neither are close to me.  It’s possible that the East Bay has more of a thriving Arts community than I’m used to thinking about us having.

I should also note that I’ve identified my writing skills and art skills as something which counterbalances my lack of social skills.  It was nice to hear people say I had “mad skillz” tonight.  🙂

I’m getting tired at this point; I need to sign off…


I started writing about mandalas and ended up writing about inks.

I feel like maybe I should be looking at alternatives to Library School, while I have the free time.  I have just been thinking about how most Library Assistants who float between branches can end up with six hours or so at Circulation (or so it seems) when substituting for a Clerk.  Circulation can be easy — and it usually is — except when I get cases which I have to refer to higher ranking staff.  Which I’d be, mind you, if I took that job.

I’ll try not to go any further into that.

Earlier, I did continue on the little art-making spree I’ve been on since late last night (I think I’m going in little “spurts” of energy with everything:  I haven’t, for example, touched the career reading for days).  What I can say is that it’s been so long since I’ve seen multiple mandalas (though I just spotted both of my mandala coloring books), that I had to go and look through the “mandala” tag on the Reader just to get a sense of what basic shapes other people have filled the spaces with.  I didn’t want to stick with the cliché lotus petals.  I mean, they’re nice, but I need some variety, you know?  😉

It could be interesting, to make a research project out of this…unfortunately, as for now, the post I have in mind to create isn’t fully formed, yet.  I want to make examples of how space can be divided up (360/?), the differences that the orientation of these spaces can make, and what simple shapes can take up those spaces — which will require either photography or my Wacom.  I have a strong feeling that reference to the Seven Basic Motifs of Best Maugard will come in handy here…though again, to explain this is much eased by using visual aids.

Right now, though…I feel like it’s writing time, not art time.  It could be the sunset, or it could be the fact that I’m not wearing my glasses — or maybe that’s just enough “art” for the day.  I got to the point with my second mandala of the day (not counting the one at midnight last night) where I really had to take a photograph, because I could see this mandala diverging in a way that I hadn’t expected.

Right now I have a kind of Art Deco-type pattern going on in the background which is reminding me of shark teeth.  I had expected “arrowhead,” not so much “shark.”

But with my mental state as it is, things like that are going to come out.

I’m also experimenting with an asymmetrical fill pattern, for the first time — it looks fairly nice, except for the fact that it’s swirling counterclockwise and I noticed, but made no change to it (because, I expect stuff like that to come out at this time).  For those who don’t know:  counterclockwise spiralling can indicate decay or death (IIRC), though this is more of a fire-type motif (probably a “Wheel of Fire” reference).

Right now, I have maybe three out of ten spaces filled with the shark pattern.  I’ve also realized why others have used edges to their work with mandalas — there’s a lot of underlying work which happens before any of the final elements are laid in, which has to be decluttered before painting.  I’m just not sure whether I want a deep black in there, or not (I have a tendency to paint pastel-toned paintings; going all the way in tonality to black could be shocking as regards the rest of the work…or it could force me to use a decent amount of paint, which may not be a bad thing).

Right now I have four options, as regards inking:  Black, Sanguine, Warm Grey, or Cool Grey waterproof fineliner.  Both of the Grey tone pens will be barely noticeable.  I’m using a 2B pencil (Faber-Castell; I love these, even though I have expressed frustration with 2B before) to do all of the basic pencil work, intending to erase it out, later — so it’s nice to have some inks that can withstand eraser scrubbing — and water.

Why only these four colors?  The other fineliners I have are all water-soluble (Stabilo and Staedtler); and I’m not intending to underpaint with them.  🙂  Both Micron and Copic have relatively decent waterproof qualities, though I’m much more familiar with Microns.  Pitt pens by Faber-Castell…they say that they are waterproof, but my own tests have shown a bit of pigment movement under water; a second student in my program confirmed this when I mentioned it.

I do also have bottled ink, which I didn’t remember until just now.  I was in class with someone who would use ink wash as an underdrawing and then layer color on top of it.  I’m not sure what type of ink that was, but it didn’t budge under the later painting.

I suspect it might have been waterproof Sumi ink, but there is no way that I’m using the bottle I have of that, with all the caution signs that are on it (it contains shellac, meaning it probably also contains camphor as a solvent…and I don’t remember either of those as being safe.  The bottle says to wash your hands for 15 minutes if you get it on your skin, IIRC).

I have Yasutomo bottled ink, already (needed it for a Drawing class); and I don’t remember it moving under subsequent layers of water when I used it on Illustration board (the latter of which, I still don’t know how to use — it’s kind of weird how the board warps [and unwarps] with water), even though that ink is not said to be waterproof.  I think it just soaked into the board and got stuck.  It would be interesting to see how this ink behaves on a different material.

I’m thinking that traditionally, the setup for Sumi-E is very different from what we would use with Western watercolors; it would be on top of an absorbent surface, and the paper would not be thick cotton-rag watercolor paper, but probably more like washi paper (which is very thin).  I’ve never done this myself, mind you; so I’m not an expert…but watercolor paper is likely not a traditional surface on which to use Sumi ink!

Stick-based Sumi ink (with a brush, for toned areas) would likely be physically safer than the waterproof liquid stuff, but it’s been a really long time since I’ve ground my own ink…and I would need to learn how to recognize the type of stick I would want (Sumi ink is generally either pine soot or vegetable oil soot; the two of these formulations have different properties).  I’m lucky that I can already (somewhat?  I see another spelling) recognize the kanji for “pine” (the one I’m thinking of is very basic, and another reason I’d like to just simply insert images here [not that I would have known beforehand that I’d want to show a kanji for “pine”])…but going further than that, I’d be best off asking a specialty provider of Asian art materials:  one of which, I know; shipping just may cost as much as my order.  Then there is Japantown, but I’d be relying on the salespeople there to read things for me.

My biggest concern with using bottled ink is what type of nib to use.  I need fine lines, meaning I’d probably need a steel nib (not quill [which it seems one needs to be able to make on one’s own], bamboo, or reed), meaning I’d have to prep the steel nib (there is an anti-rust coating on them that repels ink and has to be burned off; meaning I’d need some way to hold that nib while it’s smoking hot, and I may have softened one pair of plier jaws already by doing this; I count myself lucky that I can even still use those pliers)…it may be too much trouble, for now.

Anyway…these are side streets that I don’t have to take, for now, but which may be interesting in the future.  In particular, I’m looking at this train of thought I started with the Sumi ink, brushes, and nibs.  I kind of wonder what I can do, with that…I had been thinking about using inks more, at the beginning of Summer Break.  Then I got more into the work with the Watercolors — particularly after acquiring a more-full palette.

I still really do want to see what possibilities of colors I can get with the newer pigments I obtained.  The major ones are a deep Hansa Yellow, close to Gamboge or Indian Yellow; a light Hansa Yellow (they’re very different); Deep Vermilion; Magenta Permanent; Dioxazine Violet; Sap Green; and Payne’s Grey.  I also want to see what I can get by mixing my Earth Tones with more concentrated color!  (I started at this today with Burnt Sienna + Deep Vermilion, which…oddly enough, gave a flesh tone?)

What I need to start doing is working at some mixing charts…it would have been easier today if, for example, I knew what my colors were going to do when I mixed them!  I guess there is a place for preliminary play…

Recovery from my last episode

So I was up at 7 AM today to get to a counselor’s appointment.  I still need to send off a bit of mail both to her and to my old supervisor…gah.  I forgot to mention that filling in extra hours at work, and staff changes, made me more stressed; prior to the breakdown about Library school and the home conflict.

I didn’t have to get to work until 11 AM today, but apparently seven hours of sleep is not enough for me, and trying to nap for 45 minutes after the appointment didn’t stop me from being worn-out after five hours of work.  Granted, I only had one break.  But still:  I was getting a migraine by the time I could finally leave.  Oddly enough, having an eight-hour day with breaks every two hours and a lunch might actually be easier.

As for notes from the session…which I need to write somewhere where I can see them…apparently I’m still in a fairly fragile state, and so I’ve been advised not to even think about the career issue (Library Science?  Writing?  Art?) for the next two weeks.  This is because it’s too easy to exacerbate my state when I start trying to plan the rest of my life and I’m still dealing with doom-and-gloom mental tendencies.  What I’ve been tasked with is simply getting through each day and taking care of myself.

There are a few things that help with this.  Reading actually helps to calm my brain down and stop inner conflict, by superimposing narration on top of it.  The narration, then, becomes my main focus; for me it actually is like meditation.  Tonight I’ve been reading largely (all?) online, leading me to realize that I feel a bit lonely and may be seeking the wrong source to fill that need.  I’m told that reading career materials is OK in moderation, as long as it isn’t anxiety-producing.

Writing is one of those things that helps, unless I’m writing fiction.  If I’m writing fiction and I’m feeling depressed, my thoughts can cascade into dark places (X leads to Y leads to Z…), and then that can just exacerbate whatever I’m going through.  I’ve learned that my brain can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality, and so whatever I imagine to be happening, it might as well be reality — as that’s the way my brain treats it.  This is not a good thing when my brain tends to catastrophic scenarios.

Psychologically, I know that — most — things I experience in the outer world are in the outer world, but there is a blur between that and my subjective experience.  There are things that can happen outside of me which I interpret erroneously, but I have no idea I interpreted erroneously, because it feels true.  There are also things that happen outside of me which I’m told I interpret erroneously (like my hair attracting attention), which still seem to be right on, given later experience (like the cashier complimenting my hair).

Art is one of these things that’s a relatively safe space for me.  I haven’t had the energy today to work at my watercolors…but color work is one of these things that I really enjoy, for some unknown reason (though I’m told I don’t have to know the reason).  My counselor mentioned trying to introduce structure into my unstructured time, so I don’t, for example, sleep too long and then — having slept so long — end up feeling groggy and lethargic when I am awake.

I’m supposed to try and get out of the house, every day:  even if it’s just for a walk, to help my recovery.  I’m thinking about going out and trying to draw or paint, on days when I have no other reason to go outside.  I don’t particularly like being outside around here, because there’s lots of pollen; it gets caught on my skin and in my hair, and then I have to shower — or itch, sneeze, get rashes, etc.  It’s possible that I may be able to wrap my hair up so that I won’t have to wash it…it’s really thick, and hard to take care of (this is just in general a deterrent from spending time in the sunlight and fresh air).  Plus, the dogs.  Always, the dogs.

At least some of them are friendly; and I’ve got to take a shower, after, anyway.

I still remember the time I was on a walk with a friend and these two dogs were walking toward us with their people.  I was itching because I was sweating and the pollen was sticking to my skin.  This big Husky puppy came up to me and licked the place I was scratching, and then it stopped itching.


Sweet dog…

I’m going to try and take care of myself, now, and not neglect my self-care like I seem to have been doing for the last month-and-a-half.  I should wash my face, brush my teeth, and get some rest…

The mystery white pastel issue is solved:

The people at Blick got back to me (!!!).  Long story short, the white in the Blick square pastels is Titanium White; the CL is there because they’re concerned about nanoparticles.

Pastels use a larger particle size than that found in mineral sunscreens (which is where the data about exposure is coming from).  Though unlikely, there’s enough of a chance of nanoparticles being in the Blick square pastels that the Caution Label is placed on the product.  Nanoparticles of Titanium Dioxide are transparent; can be absorbed transdermally; and can be harmful if inhaled.  Washing regularly during and after using these pastels should minimize any transdermal absorption.  Gloves are recommended if there are cuts or sores on the hands…the other precautions, I already take:

  • don’t eat or drink in the same area as you’re working, or with dirty hands
  • don’t blow pastel dust up into the air (tap it off of your image)
  • use an air purifier if you will be working for long periods of time

In addition, I’d add this:

  • if possible, wet-mop up any dust, instead of using a vacuum
  • if you use a vacuum, use one with a HEPA filter
  • if concerned, wear a dust mask to trap particles before they get to your lungs (though if nanoparticles are an issue, a respirator might be a better option).

I feel so much friggin’ better, now.  I can actually use these.

I felt the need to update this because of speculations posted earlier (which now seem unfair), and not being able to find this information anywhere else online.  Nor has anyone in any store had this information to give to me (I’ve asked in multiple places, before).

Thank you, kind person from Blick!  🙂

The pastel saga continues…

So…I did end up getting the Rembrandts.  This was largely because the Alphacolor greyscale pastels really looked like exactly the same colors as I already had.

I have also sent off a question to the website I mentioned earlier…though now that I am looking over the WetCanvas archives, I’m fairly certain that the mystery dangerous substance is probably a contaminant of talc.  (Asbestos [a family of fibrous, carcinogenic crystals] is a common contaminant of talc — despite the fact that talc is used extremely commonly in cosmetics [especially face powders, but it’s in other things, too], and used to be the primary ingredient of baby powder.  Until, that is, it was linked to cervical cancer.)

This would explain the admonition not to get it in contact with one’s skin.  Normally, the danger is through breathing the dust, as the crystals can work their way into one’s lungs and stay there without breaking down, irritating the lungs and eventually causing growths.  (They can also float in the air for days at a time.)  It’s not a big leap to see that maybe there’s a concern that the crystals could work their way through one’s skin.

Talc might also be a cheaper substitute for Titanium Dioxide, explaining the low price of these pastels.  However, I won’t know for sure until I get the message back, tomorrow.

After that…gah.  I really don’t know what I’m going to do if I can’t use the Blick pastels, safely.  There are darker tones available, just not in as many shades.  If I want to go into deep shades, I’ll likely need to pick a color to add to it.  (I’m thinking of Ultramarine [“Bluish Grey”]; Caput Mortuum and Chrome Oxide Green [“Green Gray”] were the other two I was looking at — they just seemed a bit saturated [especially Caput Mortuum].)  Mouse Grey might also be all right.

I didn’t get the really dark grey Rembrandt because it would be a duplicate; plus, the going price for those little guys at Blick in-store is $5 a stick.  With Web Price Matching, it’s less; but from the receipt, it’s impossible to tell how much each one actually cost (unless you only buy one thing).  The good thing is that I’m sure that the color I’m missing should be there if I do head back tomorrow, or later.

I was also able to find the one stick I was looking for which was missing by going to the other art store — where there was only one, and it was broken; but this was better than the shattered/crumbled old dead ones at the first store.  (Rembrandts dry out after a number of years, and get fragile.  What was left of my first one shattered on me like over-dry clay [probably dry kaolin; the pieces even tinkled as they landed on the table] after I rediscovered it about 7-9 years after I bought it [I can’t keep track of that memory…did I ever tell you why I write?].)  The price at the second store seemed a bit lower than the price at the first, probably even after Web Price Matching.  However, they were sold out of almost all greys.

GaaAaaAh.  Now I have to figure out what to do about the deeper colors.  I should probably experiment with these first, though.  And get working on my Sketchbook assignments…

The first day of the rest of your 2 weeks

I got up, pretty much, exactly 12 hours after I went to bed.  I did manage to get some things done and planned out for the rest of these next two weeks (time plotting took place yesterday — today was finding out that my library books won’t be as much help as I’d hoped — I can take the ones which aren’t helping back, ASAP).  The negative point is that I really had to push myself to do things other than rest.

However:  I now have a number of scans which I can use for references for those three assignments which need to be referenced.  The busts are going to be the hard part, though I should be able to check the databases for this.  (I didn’t get started on this earlier, because I felt like I should work in order of assignment and start with the busts.  This meant, not starting.)

There’s a lot of material I could study as regards drawing head, hands and feet, but I’m not totally sure how important it is to know that information.  I’m sure it would help, once integrated, but again…I don’t really like to draw people.  I know there are some whose work revolves around people…I’m not in that category.  At least, not yet.  (Autistic tendencies showing?)

I might as well work on compositing some of what I have done, so I won’t have to do it later.  After all — if I’m working in graphite or black-and-white more generally, it doesn’t matter if I’m working in artificial light conditions, because value comes through relatively well there.  Color, on the other hand, does not.

I’m hoping to make it out to the art supply store (one or both) to pick up some light gray pastels.  Of course, that will be after class, tomorrow.  I have done a bit more research on the Titanium Dioxide thing…which is what scared me away from using Blick’s square pastels before.  However, when faced with the possibility of having to buy at least 9-10 pastels for differing tints and shades of grey, I did look back at them (this is as versus paying $18 [min.] to $30 [max.] for six grey Rembrandts).

Basically, the thing with this is that at the time I got these pastels, they had received a CL (Caution Label) warning sticker on them as regarded the tone, “White.”  There was no indication of the chemical composition of “White” (Titanium White?  Antimony White?  Lead White?  Zinc White?), and so I avoided using them for months.

It didn’t help that there had been apparent multiple reformulations of the square pastels, meaning that at different times, different colors were implicated as dangerous.  I’d honestly rather pay more than risk my health with an industrial manufacturer which is trying to produce things as cheaply as possible.  (Since Blick started integrating shipping charges into their “Web Price Matching,” it’s been difficult to get things in-store at the prices advertised on the website.)

At this point, I have obtained barrier cream, though I’ve never used it.  I suspect that it may not be ideal because of the fact that it contains beeswax — meaning that I may accidentally make unerasable smudges on my drawing.  I suppose I can test it out.

I may…just relent and buy two sets of student-grade greyscale pastels tomorrow, though.  Different brands, different levels of grey.  Blick tends dark; it looks like Alphacolor tends light.  The two of these together shouldn’t cost over $10 (min.) to $18 (max.).

However — if I can get the Rembrandts, I know that theirs is a product which I like (actually, I know I love them) and which produces relatively minimal dust.  My other art supply store has these at a competitive price — and if there is only a minimal price difference, why not get the Rembrandts?  Especially as I actually have some clue as to what is in them, some faith that the company isn’t unnecessarily endangering my health, and I know from experience that they’re less dusty?  (Blick’s square pastels are …pretty dusty, and dust is the main health concern with pastels [though transdermal exposure is the other].)

There is likely only a $8-12 difference between getting the Rembrandts and buying the other two sets together (equivalent to about an hour’s pay).  I haven’t seen the competing store waver much from the prices set by the big-box store; the only question is if they will have everything I need.

And if I want to get the chrome-oxide greys…which I know are trouble, but I can be careful with them…

EDIT:  a quick search turns up “enhanced skin absorption” as a low risk (this from EWG’s Skin Deep website — apparently Chromium Oxide is used in cosmetics…sound familiar?), although skin irritation does occur.  The substance can build up in the body and damage non-reproductive organs.

Yeah…I think I feel relatively good about getting the Rembrandts.  If I need more tones, I can always go to the big-box store, later.

Procrastinating? Already?

I got to class late today and left early to get professional quality paints.  I need to leave at least 1 hour early to get to Watercolor class on time; I allotted 45 minutes today, and got there about 20 minutes late.  Luckily, my teacher is really laid-back.

So I then went and blew approx. $45 on the primary pigments I actually need (Phthalo Blue Green Shade, Naphthol Red, Cobalt Blue, Permanent Rose).  I feel pretty good about it, especially as I didn’t go to a big box store, but I have some catching up to do now.  Want to redo my color swatches, and need to do two color wheels:  one in staining, and one in nonstaining, colors.  Already have Aureolin (in Professional grade; which is how I could tell the Cotmans were largely not cutting it) and Arylide Yellow (Cadmium Yellow Hue).  Arylide in Cotman is decent, but the difference in quality — especially between Reeves, Cotman, and W&N Professional, is really apparent.

Teacher for Watercolor says that no pigments are really “safe,” which is part of what spurred me on to get the actual pure pigments I’d need.  I did forget my gloves today, but it was a very minor issue.

Have some work to do for the Creative Process course…hope my memory is good enough.  Didn’t want to start writing my Reflection paper at 11 PM the other night, and…well, here we are.  Also, I have a self-guided field trip tomorrow.  Not really looking forward to it.

Also, I need to do some work in my sketchbook.  I’m getting more of a hang for the art-journalling thing; just have to hope that it doesn’t overwhelm the rest of what I could do.

Need to use a calendar to map out what I need to be doing, and when (not to mention what times classes start and end).  It’s kind of tough because I’ve got 3 classes going on and a number of the assignments are self-paced…

Ah, maybe I’ll go take this photo of my work that I need to do and then go lie down and/or draw in my art journal…