Thinking aloud about toxins…and gender presentation.

I don’t have a lot of time, and it’s been a while since I drew last (yesterday morning, it seems so long ago), so I’m thinking I’ll write.

I asked about this…for one of my images I wanted a “glow” effect fading out into black.  I realized this would be tough to do with watercolor…but easy to do with charcoal.  I’m really thinking of using compressed charcoal for the background of my Goddess painting, spattering Chinese White over it for stars, and then sealing it with fixative.

I will not be able to use Aqua Net with this, though; the Goddess herself is in watercolor.  Aqua Net has too much water in it; I’m afraid it will cause my colors to run.  However, the actual fixative we have is solvent-based.  Totally usable; just not a “workable fixative,” meaning I won’t be able to add to my image after it’s sealed.

I’m told I can go out into the garage and spray it, and it will be OK.  I’m taking this as my reintroduction to art-related toxins.  😛

Speaking of that, I went and got some of those mints today which are in the little tins, all because I just wanted the tin to put my charcoal pieces into.  So now I’m eating wintergreen mints…because I wanted wintergreen and not peppermint.  I’m not sure if the flavoring is artificially-produced methyl salicylate, or a substitute, but there are artificial flavors in these.  They kind of burn.

I did recall that kids will sometimes drink bottles of oil of wintergreen and suffer poisoning, but that’s with a very high amount of toxin (as in I don’t know how any kid would be able to stand that) and a small body.  I thought I’d heard of a use for oil of wintergreen within oil painting, but I can’t find any reference to it now — other than in transferring images.  I’ve also heard of Spike Lavender oil being used in oil painting, though I don’t know precisely what that use is, anymore.

The only reason I know that is that I picked up a bottle of Spike Lavender oil as a substitute for Lavender oil, and looked up its safety online after I got home.  At the apothecary, I liked the Spike Lavender’s scent a little better than the Lavender.  As versus regular Lavender, the Spike has camphor content (probably what I was attracted to; it’s sharper and harsher than true Lavender) which also causes it to be a good solvent.  Around that time I started getting problems with my eyes, though (a little too much tissue in the whites of my eyes, probably caused by irritation, and that possibly caused by burning incense and joss), which caused me to move the more potentially-dangerous oils away from the more frequently-inhabited part of the house.

I do still have synthetic Rose, Balsam Fir, and Vetiver.  I’d wanted to make my own perfumes, hence the Vetiver — but normally Vetiver (in the recipe I intended) would be mixed with Lavender, as Vetiver is a heavy oil which doesn’t evaporate easily.  This causes it to hold the scent to one’s skin, longer.

But then, of course…I can’t wear these to work, as it’s a scent-free space.  I’m hesitant to wear it to school as well, for the same reason — I don’t want to set off someone’s chemical sensitivities.

But hey, what am I really talking about?  I’ve been wearing masculine clothes with no scent and no jewelry and no makeup pretty consistently for the past month or so.  I need to start wearing earrings again if I want to keep my piercings, too.  I would wear the ones I’ve made, but they look a little out of place with the way I’ve been looking, recently.  And then, I’d just put in my steel rings and forget about it, but the smallest gauge I have in those is 18, I believe — and I need to start out with 20 or 22, unless I’m willing to deal with damage.

Maybe I’ll try the Rose, or Frankincense, tomorrow.  It’s been a long time since I’ve worn a scent.  It’s been a long time since I’ve worn makeup, too (more chemical toxicity concerns), but I was able to find a powder which was satisfactory…

Eh.  Gotta go.


I finally got Copics!

Alright, adding to the random material posts here, I did make it out to (a couple of) art stores today.  Neither had the desired chalk pastels…though I have recently discovered the joy of drawing on unusual materials.

However — in art class today, I met someone who had used Copic marker in their drawings.  From what I could see, it didn’t seem that the “streakiness” of the marker was eliminated at all, but I’m feeling that this is likely due to the paper used, which was very thick and absorbent-feeling, almost to the point of being board.  I kind of feel like anything but Sharpie or maybe Chartpak, would have shown streaks.  On the other hand, I have marker paper which is very smooth, nearly transparent, bleed-proof.  The Copics might fare better, there.

I did try out a couple of greyscale Tombows, which made weird poolings where fuzz came up off of my sample paper (always take a spare sheet of paper to art stores to test out the colors!).  I tried a Copic light grey, though, and it didn’t pool like this (probably having to do with the surface tension of the solvents — Tombows are water-based, Copics are alcohol-based).  I then proceeded to test out the Copics and came back with a greyscale set — 6 tones from very light grey to black — which I think will be fabulous.  I picked up the Ciao markers, which are the least expensive of all their models — on sale at about $4.50 per marker, so approximately $30 for 6 markers.  Good for a starter set.

If I recall correctly, I believe these are refillable with liquid ink, and can be disassembled and reassembled to switch out the nibs (I know this is possible with the Originals, I’m not certain it’s true with the Ciaos).  What basically did it for me was discovering my Pantone Universe greyscale set dried out the other day (3 of them still work, I don’t know how), and the very visible difference between each of the Copic greys I did purchase (there are more than 5 greys — I skipped some intermediary tones), plus the reuse aspect and the smoothness of color.

Plus, it’s like, how much money have I spent trying to find a quality greyscale marker, while avoiding the Copics?  I mean, of course I could always switch to Chartpaks, which make illustrations that look nearly like animation cels, but I don’t want to expose myself to more xylene than I need to (there’s also xylene in a cement I’ve used to seal knots in beadwork, and it’s enough, there).  They’ve reduced the amount of xylene so that the new Chartpaks qualify as AP nontoxic and not CL, but…it’s a reduction by degree, not an elimination of the toxin.  I think the reality is that the thing that makes Chartpaks blend so beautifully is the same thing that it isn’t good to expose oneself to.

So I am not sure just how this is going to work out.  I have two drawings to do for Thursday…based on a group feedback assignment in which I got barely any useful feedback.  It’s basically an “identity” assignment that was supposed to take into account words both I and my partner used in describing my portfolio.  In the absence of an adequate response, I am forced to mostly rely on my own perception of my work and not the perceptions of others.

And I didn’t say, but — two finished drawings, for Thursday.  I hardly finish anything, ever.

I’m thinking of making something very modern, dynamic and graphic-looking.  I know my style ranges from delicate and feathery (with colored pencil and graphite) to bold and graphic (with charcoal and pastel, or marker/fineliners).  I really like doing abstract art, or what I suppose is essentially design.  Maybe I’ll make one delicate drawing, maybe of a plant, and one bold drawing, maybe a character.

I really like to draw plants, a lot.  They’re pretty easy, for me.  I’m not entirely sure how they’re hard for others, but I suppose I shouldn’t sell myself short and assume it should be easy for everyone just because I in particular find it easier than drawing other things.

Ah — and I need to take in an object to draw, on Thursday.  I almost forgot.  I have a couple of shells which should be great, including a huge cowrie which is around here, somewhere.  I just have to pick one.

The other big thing I learned today:  drawing on fabric can be extremely fun.  I used a basic cotton muslin with charcoal pencil, washed to remove the sizing.  Awesome tooth, velvety feel.  The fake suede I took in, though — that one stretched with the pressure of marking, and really didn’t seem to take up anything very well.  Maybe it was because the fabric was synthetic in origin, not natural fiber.

There are two things I found on my second art store visit, today, which caused me to melt a little bit:

1) Pastel pencils

2) Watercolor pencils

As I said at the start of this, I couldn’t find the chalk pastels I was looking for.  However, I did find a lot of wood-cased, thick-lead, intense, vibrant pastel pencils.  I’m thinking maybe they would handle like charcoal pencils, but obviously — I haven’t tried them yet.  When I do try them…I’m thinking maybe it would be best to use a drawing board propped up at the fireplace or something, above a sheet of newsprint, to keep my hand off of the drawing and to catch loose dust.  There was also a carcinogenicity warning just in general as related to pastel…so I will have to be cautious.  There were a lot of brands at the second store I went to, which I’d not heard of before.  So some research would be good, as well.  The last thing I need is to use a pencil with actual cadmium or cobalt or lead pigments without wearing a glove, for example.

And then the dust — even with a particle respirator, if I’m drawing in my house, I’m producing dust.  I’ve been warned about this by my professor, twice; that I need to go after the AP nontoxic brands and not the ones lacking a “nontoxic” label, as they’re probably toxic in some way.  It’s one thing to use these in liquid media — another to use them in media where they can become airborne and settle all over the house.

And watercolor, plus watercolor pencils.  Tons of watercolors in brands I’ve never heard of, at the second art store.  If I were going to use toxic pigments, I’d use them here; they cannot become airborne and get into my lungs, unless I’m sanding my painting or something.  Which, obviously, I’d know would be a bad idea.  😉  Watercolor pencils, or aquarelles:  beautiful, vibrant colors.  I’ve just recently tested a couple of the ones I already have.  They are a different animal wet than dry.  I could have the tightness of a colored pencil drawing with the smoothness of aquarelle.

And then there are the actual watercolor paints, which can be used in drawing and illustration.  I would be hard-pressed to exactly explain the difference between a painting utilizing watercolors and a drawing utilizing watercolors, at this point.  But, in my last semester of Drawing (Continuing Drawing), there was a person in the Special Projects section who was, indeed, drawing with watercolors.

I think the difference has to do with markmaking as versus utilizing areas of color, but I’ve never taken a painting class (other than Color Theory).  If anyone can define the difference better than I can, given that marks can be made with paint, and that it seems (to me) that drawing may be about markmaking, they’re welcome to go ahead in the comments.  I just lean against the “wet media obviously = painting, dry media obviously = drawing” line of thought, because it seems something more subtle but unspoken is going on here.  Plus, if my teacher allowed watercolor in the Drawing class, it’s not really…I dunno, productive? to shut down the line of thought or question as to why, and what defines a drawing as versus a painting, beyond wet/dry (which may be an inaccurate assumption).  I have an idea about this, but it’s not fully formed yet.

It’s kind of like I didn’t know the difference between Art and Graphic Design, or what the adjective “graphic” meant, until I took one or two Graphic Arts classes and contrasted them with Fine Arts.  Graphic means that it’s designed to get your attention, to efficiently communicate a message; to work now, and be reproduced; Fine Art doesn’t have this emphasis to this extreme, often has more emphasis on longevity, and has less ability to be produced in a mass-media capacity.  That’s the way I see it, anyway.  Discussion welcome in the comments!  🙂

I’d wanted to pick up pan watercolors because they last longer than tube watercolors (as tubes can separate and dry out, mold, etc).  But the second store I went to had barely any pan watercolors.  This may be telling.

But also, the tube watercolors are…I can’t even say.  They’re so beautiful.  When I had my Color Theory class, we picked up Holbein gouache (an opaque watercolor)…the colors were just so vibrant.  This is to the point that I look at one common brand’s Alizarin Crimson (in a different type of paint) and just feel like I’ve been spoiled by Holbein.  😉  Alizarin should be a vibrant red-purple, not brownish purple-grey.  Maybe the color chart was just not printed well, and their Alizarin is actually passable, but going by the color chart, I’m not that attracted to work with that paint.

The thing is that I use watercolor so rarely as things currently stand, that pan colors, because of their long-term stability, are more attractive, as I don’t want $80 of tube paints separating and drying out because I didn’t get to them in time.

But I guess, maybe, don’t we all know.

There is one more concept that I want to just remind myself of, before I turn in for the night.  That is, joy in creating versus fear of creating.  This is something that I’m being forced to deal with because of this Art class.  I can touch on it coming up, maybe it would be good to help work this problem out.  But as it is, I’ve been here probably for a good couple of hours now, and I’ve been awake since before 6 AM.  I should get some rest…

…I got sidetracked in my brainstorm…

I have a little less than two hours to write this, and I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to be writing about at this time, so please bear with me.  This happens every so often — I’ll know that I need to write something, but I don’t know exactly what it is that’s trying to come out, so the best I can really do is just sit down and start typing…

I’m not sure where my career is headed at this point.  The school thing’s a mess — I am having an extremely difficult time picking one path and sticking to it.  Plus, I already have a BA, and I’m told I don’t really need to be taking any more classes.  I’m no longer planning on using my beading as a potential primary (or heavy secondary) mode of earning a living, so that means the Business classes probably just saved me a lot of time and money invested.  Though it probably would have been a fun (if expensive and ultimately disappointing) ride.

I probably would have learned the hard way what I did last semester:  I’d need to make a lot of low-cost, fairly quick, high-value items (read:  earrings, pendants, likely natural stone) in order to earn any kind of profit, because taking 3 hours to knot a bracelet which can be mimicked for $3 with overseas labor isn’t…a good use of my time.

This is unless I went into straight-out metalsmithing, particularly casting, which has an expensive setup but can easily mass-produce things like silver rings, which then just have to be finished + stones mounted.  Unless I got into enamel (I probably would); which requires an enameling kiln in addition to the wax burnout kiln.  I know there is also torch-fired enameling, but from the few pieces I’ve seen, the enamel doesn’t seem to melt as cleanly.  Plus, enamel — requires a respirator, at least, though probably only a high degree of cleanliness and caution (as I have) at most.  I have seen some really gorgeous enameled pieces, though.  There was one example on Ganoksin which came up recently, using plique-a-jour technique (it basically looked like stained glass) with diamonds.  Just beautiful.  I’ll see if I can find it for you.

Though I know that I might like doing this stuff more if I were in a really safe environment, which my last two classes were not.  Plus, is it a hobby or is it a job?  How do you start out designing when no one has taught you how to design in the first place?  I seriously wonder about the quality of Jewelry Design classes, given that there are some I do know about.  But in the States, it seems that technique is often valued over design, to the extent that design is often brushed aside in favor of technical skills.

And I suppose this would be why I’d take the Studio Art and Art History classes.  I still want to do that.  But at heart I think I’m an artist and a crafter (even when that is most often expressed in words), not a salesperson.

At the same time…the Business classes have gotten me to think about the job market in a different way.  I mostly blame Microeconomics for that.  Right now I’m thinking about job specialization which can happen in organizations (as versus self-employment).  There are still a few classes out of the Business department I want to take:

  1. Financial Management
  2. General Accounting
  3. Computerized Accounting (or whatever it’s called)

…also, I’ve been told Business Law is a good one to take if I’m intending to form a nonprofit.  But otherwise…well, there are the MS Office programs to learn or brush up on as well, but I can do that on my own.  Plus, Office is probably going to move to the cloud, at least in the near future (as I’ve heard support for Windows 7 will be discontinued in early 2015 — boo), so there’s probably going to be a new platform to deal with, in any case.

On top of this…I’ve wanted to brush up on my Math.  I do know of one place where I can do this online, and it should be less stressful than taking a series of courses and putting my GPA in jeopardy.  I’d be able to do it at my own pace, but I’d just have to be sure that “at my own pace” doesn’t end up as “picnicking in the shady spot by the starting line.”

Third.  I need to work on getting together a Writing portfolio in case I want to apply for a position which heavily entails writing.  As someone let me know today, I’d probably do well as a blogger, but the question is:  do bloggers get paid?

I’m going to stick with Intermediate Drawing, I think, this semester.  Just hearing myself wax all poetic about the jewelry…that did stir something in me, and drawing is an important part of the design process.  My main problem is that I don’t exactly know my motivation behind making jewelry, or others’ motivation behind buying or wearing it.  Actually, my main problem is I don’t know others’ motivation behind buying or wearing it.  I don’t really even understand my own.  So it’s like, what am I selling, you know?  Am I selling an artifact of someone’s dream of finding love through beauty?  I can’t sell dreams, and I can’t make them come true.  I can give you the item, but what that item means to you is your business, right?

I know Jewelers (metalworkers) will probably make more money than Handcrafters (in this case, beaders).  They’ll also probably have more job security as people want rings resized and chains fixed, and such.  Though, I don’t think either group is really affluent.

My major stress with Jewelry, besides the occupational hazards (which I could avoid easily enough on my own, but which gave my teacher some satisfaction to see us inadvertently or intentionally expose ourselves to here paint the flux on your hand because I won’t let you bring in a paper towel) is the stress of screwing up while resizing someone’s wedding band or something and then this little heirloom is messed up for the rest of their lives.  😛  Do I really want to be under that kind of pressure?

But anyway, I’ve probably sat here long enough.  Adobe Reader already downloaded itself and caused my system to crash once during the writing of this post.  I probably shouldn’t push it.

First post…kind of rambly.

It’s been a few days since I set this blog up.  In that time, a few things have happened, though none of it really gives me a clear view as to where my interests really lie.  Plus, only some of it is suitable for public consumption…

I’m set up to go back to community college classes in Fall; I have Summer off.  The past couple of weeks have been pretty intense.  The financial aid application and Master’s application for the Library program have been set in motion, but more and more I’m coming to see that working in a public library is an instructional/management/customer service occupation.  This is not really where I want to be.  I mean, I’m not a social person, and library work in the higher ranks would require me to be social for at least a good chunk of my time…if I worked in a Public Library.

My main competitor to this is Web Design.  The training would cost a lot less, it would probably be easier (at least at this stage), and it would put me into the tech field and away from the general public.  It’s also a lot more lucrative than Library Science, but a lot less certain.

I am set up to take Intermediate Drawing, come Fall.  This is majorly so that I can see if I actually still like drawing, and start to draw what I want to draw instead of still-lifes, all the time.  Still-lifes are good for skill building, but it’s like those oil paintings of bowls of fruit — what is that saying, really, or is it just for practice or to show off skill?  There’s a difference to me between skill and creativity; I think that to be a good artist, a person has to have both.  It’s hard to have both when you haven’t done the hard work, but at the same time, the hard work does not guarantee the inspiration.

I’m very close to a stage-one certificate in Animation…what’s keeping me out is the fact that I am not certain of the possibilities of the field, and I’m not certain where or with whom I’d work.  But I suppose that’s always the case.

I’m also not certain if I still love to draw as much as I did when I was younger, and am just stuck in a rut of “what I can draw well.”  Which, you know, gets boring, and when it gets boring I move on to other things.  I’ve thought of using my time during Summer to attempt to challenge myself with trying new things (hopefully things that can contribute to earning money — I don’t know why making tatted doilies came up at all, other than that it was challenging), and learn about these different career paths.

We actually were cleaning out some of the art + craft shelves at my home the other night, and I found my giant pads of paper with drawings still in them, and a lot of blank pages!  😀  What is most difficult for me is trying to figure out what to draw…if I were an Animator, this would become more clear to me.  At least I’d have a set of guiding principles to attempt to express in images.  It kind of runs backward from the way I normally carry out my art (I usually draw first and look for meaning later — could be why it’s hard for me to begin), but I think that drawing to an intended end could be a good exercise for me, at least.

I’m thinking that if I still like Drawing, I could take Web Design classes and augment them with Graphic Arts and Fine Arts classes.  Drawing is really very fundamental as a medium of communication.  I’ve taken two semesters of it, and at the end of the last session (2010?) we were just beginning to break into color.  I’d like to use color a lot more!  On my craft blog, I’ve spoken about what a large motivator color and color dynamics are to me.  It would seem, then, that painting would be something I’d get into?  Watercolor, I’ve very much wanted to try; I’ve just been daunted by the extremely precise-seeming nature of it.  Acrylic…I’ve made some attempts with, but not very many.  Oil paints, I’ve never used; though I do recall there are now water-soluble oil formulations, meaning no turpentine or mineral spirits.  I’ve seen the effects of toxicity from fumes associated with oil painting…something I’d like to avoid.

Then there is this thing which happened within the last few years in my State…apparently there was a crackdown and suddenly everything was labeled as possibly containing cadmium.  I’m not entirely sure what that was about or if it’s still in effect.  What I’m guessing is that everything that might have had some cadmium in it, maybe, or which had not been tested, might have gotten the *toxic!* label.  I really don’t know, and have been intending to research it.  What I do know, I’ve heard from art store employees, some of whom were also art school students.  I think it’s worth looking into, even though the scare may be over.  It’s been a while since I’ve been into an art store to look at the pastels and chalks.

But anyhow, what happened to jump me onto that cadmium track was the fact that a lot of the pastels picked up the warning.  I really do like to work with pastels; but the way they stain my hands and get everywhere is a bit of a cause for concern, to me.  Not like I don’t like it — I feel like, you know, an official artist when the blue-green won’t come out of my fingertips — but I know I’m absorbing the majority of that color…and I know art supplies aren’t known for being healthy.  😉  And then there is the fixative thing and how spray fixative isn’t really good for you to breathe, but the alternative is hairspray; and without it your pastel painting will probably be messed up; and with it, your colors may be altered; so go out in the garage with your organics + particulates respirator (I actually have one of these now, I think) and spray or use Aqua Net, etc.

But as someone who hasn’t often used paint, pastels are a stepping stone into it, it seems.

And toxic compounds can actually have really good working properties, even though they’re unhealthy.  I’m thinking of a certain brand of xylene-based markers which blend beautifully but fume to high heaven.  I literally cannot make myself get marker lines when I use these on marker paper — they’re that good.  But the xylene is cause for concern.  The formulation has been altered to make them a bit less bad for you, but still.  The headache one gets when using them in an unventilated space…and tales of solvent-sniffing teenagers, don’t help.  :/

I’d been set up to take a Computer Science course in Fall, but am planning on dropping it.  I tend to take on too much and then have to bail 1/3 of the way through the semester and run and catch up for the last 2/3.  Not fantastic.  The Comp Sci course also puts me close to half-time on its own, so getting rid of it will free up a lot of hours.  The only reason I’m keeping it for now is that I want to see the syllabus.  A short paragraph in the catalog is not enough to tell me what the class covers.

Anyhow…I realize that both Graphic Arts and Web Design are obviously computer-based, at this time.  It’s just that for me, it’s more intuitive to be able to draw things out in gigantic hard copy and then transfer over those brainstorms into the computer.  I’m not quite a digital native; I grew up during a time when we still hand-wrote our final essays in pen!  So…quite.

If I look at my academic history, as well…I mean, just from memory…it looks like I actually am more of an arts — or, specifically — a creative/communications person.  And I’ve realized that Graphic Design is basically visual communications.  It’s just that, maybe, you’ve got to know what you’re willing to help communicate.  Or, maybe that is an artificial barrier that I’m erecting so that I don’t take this route.

I do have a book here that I bought a while back called How to be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul, which may be very instructive at this time.  Now, at least, that I’ve gotten out of the Marketing class.  Seriously.  Seriously disliked that class.  But it’s useful to know why what decisions are made when…when it isn’t all in the marketer’s head, that is…