Box modifications?

Today has been rather uneventful, other than dim sum in the morning and heading out to pick up more “gift card tins” at Michael’s.  They have rather corny sayings on their lids — only two of which (out of four total designs), I would support — but they fit certain art supplies pretty well.  I recall seeing a post some time back which was talking about adding an acrylic ground to the lid of a tin so it could be painted over…but I can’t remember on which blog I saw it.

I was at Michael’s yesterday and saw some little tins by the cashier that were meant to hold gift cards (!? why one needs a tin for a card, I don’t know).  But I picked up two of them, thinking that they were the perfect size for full sticks of soft pastels. I believe they were $1.39 each.

After getting home from dim sum today, I actually was able to fit my entire collection of Neocolor II crayons into two tins.  Each tin holds about 17 crayons.  (nine on the bottom, eight nestled on top.)  The only drawback is that they slide up and down a bit without added cushioning — I’m still thinking up ideas to solve that.  The most obvious one is to go to the plastics store and see if they sell small bits of foam which I can place in there.  The other one I can think of is to just wrap everything up in a paper towel:  the Altoids tin that is holding my charcoals is like this (though the paper needs to be changed out).

It’s kind of hard to find carriers for Neocolors, because they’re an odd size — about 1 cm longer than Crayola crayons, when new (though just as slippery…be warned [I almost broke a display trying to catch some that jumped out of my grip])…and to get a tin for them, I’d have to buy a set.  On top of that, most of the tins in the larger sets seem like they’re trying to take up as much space as possible.

It is possible to get discarded cardboard boxes for pastels from art stores…but in reality, I don’t know how many stores do this.  Utrecht used to do it, my other nearby art store other than Blick does it, and Blick will do it, though you might have to ask.  Even then, though, you get mystery pastel dust from whatever had been in there before:  and with pastels…it may not be anything you want to touch.

Prior to this, I had been using one of those “Very Useful Boxes” (it’s the brand name) to hold my Neocolors, but this is kind of bulky:  the one I had was deep, in addition to being long enough for the crayons…which kind of discourages use.

The lack of a hinge on these tins is not something that bothers me, because I always carry tins and lidded boxes of pastels and charcoal with a thick rubber band around them (except for the white pastel tin, which I really need to switch out — they rub against each other in travel, and produce an excess amount of pastel dust).

After I fit all the Neocolors into the tins, I took the smaller number (the earth tones) out, put in a tissue liner (who wants to clean pastel dust out of a new tin…), and tested whether they really would fit my soft pastels.  What I have in open stock soft pastels is not very exciting:  it’s a grayscale set that I used on that “Rain” composition I showed a while back.  But pastels come in a bunch of really nice colors, aside from just white, black, and mixes of the two (though why one would use a black pastel if one had charcoal, I’m not sure — unless there is a texture issue going on, one needed to use the Gum Arabic binder to try and seal something down, or something similar).

I have about seven full sticks of greyscale soft pastels (mostly Rembrandt brand:  they are known to be produced without lead, cobalt, or cadmium pigments…these are heavy metals which I suspect can be transdermally absorbed if they are in soluble form)* which I haven’t broken in half yet…set in widthwise, they fit in there perfectly.  I haven’t been able to see just how many could fit, because I haven’t broken out my Blick half-stick set yet to try and see.  (The Blick soft pastel set that I have came in a foam-padded box…it’s kind of cumbersome and way bigger than necessary.  On the bright side, I don’t have to worry about friction making nuisance pastel dust, or any color contamination from being stored next to a different color.)

What I can say is that the gift-card tin will fit at least nine full sticks; possibly ten.  I’m not sure, because of the curvature of the edges of the tin — and because I haven’t hardcore tried to shove as many in there as I could.  🙂  If I think about my half-stick habit (it enables drawing with the broad side of the pastel as well as the edges), one tin might fit 20 half-sticks (if I set in the smaller of the halves…theoretically).

I think that’s pretty awesome.

The drawback to this is that I use these unwrapped, so the colors are probably going to rub up against each other and contaminate each other.  In reality, when I have to carry, say, any white pastel, I usually wrap it up in a facial tissue and put it inside a small plastic bag of the type that is used to hold jewelry parts (this contains any dust or spontaneous unwrapping).  (These are also available at Michael’s — and no, they aren’t paying me.  You might also be able to find them at bead stores, though I wouldn’t expect those to be something people-in-general know about.)

The issue comes when I might need to access multiple different colors of pastel, and they need to be separated.  I’m fairly certain I can tool out a solution utilizing folded cardstock, an X-acto knife, a ruler, a butter knife (for creasing), a pencil, and some scissors…and maybe some rubber cement.  It shouldn’t be too hard.  The major difficulty I’ve found is that I have seen no inexpensive way to carry soft pastels, other than the “discarded box” solution at the art stores — or buying a set primarily for the box, which is just…too much.

Right now I’m thinking of a storage setup…glassine paper or paper towels on the bottom and folded over the top, and a bunch of individual cardstock compartments for half-sticks of soft pastel.

I should also get on reworking my charcoal storage, though, too…or at least wipe off the white pastel that contaminated my set…because I really want to use all of this stuff again.

I’m just not certain whether I should use large paper…and if so, do I want to try and find that hemp stuff again…

*I should mention that Blick’s website has a lot of Prop 65 warnings about Rembrandt pastels.  I am thinking that a lot of these may be due to the presence of nano-scale Titanium Dioxide pigments (which, through dust inhalation or skin contact, can be an issue at occupational exposure levels).  The Caution Label notifications may be there because the pigments used may contain Lamp Black, which can be toxic — at the least, if it’s contaminated — but the website says it should be considered slightly toxic by skin contact and inhalation.

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…

Really really trying not to get frozen, here…

It’s been kind of a battle to get myself up and active today in order to do artwork — though today is and was the best time to do it.  I have succeeded, so far, in going over my sketch on canvas with acrylic glazing medium.

I suppose I did something, today...
I suppose I did something, today…

However…I’m trying to figure out whether I want to use a wet rag to try and erase all the extraneous lines.  The major problems with this are just 1) canvas warping, and 2) pilling of the rag over the surface of my painting.  Also, wet soft pastel looks a lot more vibrant than dry soft pastel.

I think I’ll try it.  Perfection isn’t really going to happen.

I can also see two areas which don’t really make sense.  I can try and alter those, or I could try and ignore the off markings.  This is majorly around the lower right corner and the upper right corner.  The headwrap that the model had on actually curved much more sharply in the photo (I abstracted it a bit, which makes it float), and I’m not sure exactly what’s going on with the neckline, there.

But I suppose I am in a painting class; it’s not like it has to be perfect (even though Prof is probably going to want to display these).

Back to work…

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.  🙂

Soft pastel plus acrylic media on acrylic supports?

I was over on createarteveryday’s most recent post, where the author was talking about experimenting with media, and I had a flash of illumination.

I have just realized that instead of doing an underpainting in pastel and then adding paint on top of it, I can do a drawing in pastel on gessoed Hardbord and then go over it with acrylic medium, to turn the pastel into paint.  When acrylic medium is added to dry chalk pastel, the colors seem to turn more vibrant, with better covering power.

I don’t know if it will work with all the colors — I’ve only tried it with a Sienna and Umber, plus what I was trying to underpaint in before I realized it was a waste of time, but it’s something to think about for the future!  The main drawback to using pastel on an acrylic support is that if I’m using stretched canvas, it’s a bit springy.  But I don’t have to use stretched canvas, at all.

*kermit dance*