Drawing from life for the first time in months.

I would have posted this last night, but as it was, I got to bed after midnight. I was cleaning up the craft table when I realized that having my pencils out (as versus put away) and readily available would likely help with coming back to drawing.

Yesterday, I drew from life for the first time in months. Apparently, I remember something from all those drawing classes — it was easier than I expected. Something I found out as well, is that my subject gave me details that I would not have thought of on my own — which is a reason to draw from life.

I sketched the leaves of a tomato seedling I have growing, right now, and it appears to be proportional and relatively accurate. There’s a level of grace that I saw there that I can’t really describe, but I think I captured it in the drawing.

Also, I was able to push out a few imagined gingko leaves and fuchsia blossoms, though with the latter…I particularly remember them around my grandmother’s house (as a kid, I would pop the flower pods open). I’m wondering about finding some photos online to help me with knowing what the rest of a fuchsia looks like.

And yeah, the Pitt brush pens helped a lot with this. I’ve realized that I need to be using colors that don’t exist in real life, too. (Or maybe they do, and I just don’t remember them…)

For whatever reason, I’m very low-energy right now (the only reason I’m up, really, is to work on my Programming homework, most of which I’ve gotten done), so I’m not sure if images will make it into this post. I’ve spent the last few days mostly asleep, though. I know it’s something biological, but I am having a hard time believing that it all is biological.

I had realized that one of the reasons I got the baby succulents at all, was to sketch and/or paint them…so I didn’t actually have to go out looking for plant cuttings to draw. The succulent with the stalk is now blooming with yellow tube-shaped flowers…I think it’s an Echeveria, just from the way it looks, but I’m not sure.

In any case, I haven’t yet tried to draw any of those, though unlike cut flowers or produce (two of my other favorite subjects), they’re not apt to die within the next few days while I get up my nerve to approach drawing them, so I’m good. 🙂

I also started cartooning again, though this was not at all from life. It’s actually got me reconsidering my decision to move away from comics. I generally don’t find people all that fascinating to draw, but if I’m cartooning…that’s not really drawing people like someone would draw nudes. Kind of like directing a dramatic movie isn’t the same thing as videotaping family gatherings. I have run across people who apparently love drawing nudes, but it’s not really my thing. (The biggest reason for me to draw someone without clothes is that drawing clothes is harder.)

In addition, I’ve realized that I don’t particularly have to have human characters in my stories, meaning I don’t particularly have to draw representations of people. This widens the field a great deal. As a cartoonist, I can edit out or alter the parts of drawing people that don’t appeal to me. And as I’m already interested in Science Fiction and Fantasy, that will likely be a good area to explore.

On top of all that, I wanted to note that I wanted to play around with some of the international-sized papers I’ve got, rather than just sticking with Strathmore and Canson. I also have a couple of types of Mixed Media papers that I can use, which I’ve never tried before (I got them out of flat storage, yesterday).

But anyway, just drawing…helps. And drawing from life helps when it’s hard for me to imagine what to draw.

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The succulents are happy! :D

Okay, now for random gratuitous pictures of the succulent babies!

Baby succulents in three-inch-diameter terracotta pots
They used to look like this…

That was 6 days ago.

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…and now they look like this…

Check out the tiny bud on the bottom one!

A blue-green spiky rosette with a frond coming out of it!
This one looked like this 6 days ago…

I’m not sure if this is a flower stalk, or what…

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And now it looks like this!!!

I’m not sure if the latter one is going to die or not, if that thing blooms…

Anthropomorphizing plants :)

Imagine my surprise when I open Photoshop to observe its functionality, and see that Photoshop itself has updated. The other night I mentioned that it was on the fritz, and now there are at least three updates which could have been the issue.

What I can say is that I’ve stopped using Photoshop, and am now using a different image editor. It helps…to have options.

In any case, I now have images of my new babies. 😉

Baby succulents in three-inch-diameter terracotta pots
Baby succulents in 3″ terracotta pots

I might just get addicted to these things. They came in little 2″ pots, and I moved them to 3″ pots, today.

They’re really cute. The succulents themselves were $3.50 each at a really nice nursery in my old neighborhood. I believe the pots were $0.89 each, because I got the inexpensive ones (I’m not betting these little ones will stay this little forever). The saucer wasn’t too much, either. The sand was a bit expensive ($5 for a small bag), but I like the way it looks; and as for the cactus potting soil, I don’t know how much that was.

For some reason I see these little things and — I am not a type of person to go around calling things “sweethearts,” but these are sweet little things! 🙂 (little plants and birds, I have a soft spot for, and can gush over with baby talk!)

A blue-green spiky rosette with a frond coming out of it!
Another repotted 2″ succulent baby.

The one to my left, I put in a 4″ pot, because it is trying to spread and establish a runner. I actually got it for this reason…there were others of similar size and shape, but this one was the one which had the most ambition. 😉

It was also on the edge of being root-bound, when I took it out of its pot. This could have been the reason it was sending out a runner.

I accidentally had to repot it twice, as well, because I didn’t know what I was doing the first time and tried to shake the dirt and sand out from between the leaves…and dumped out the plant before the dirt and sand came out! D:

Well. You live and you learn. I have a tendency to anthropomorphize my plants, too, and apologized to this one when I accidentally caused it to fall out the pot. (I don’t think I could not apologize to it…)

I also am really sensitive to the fact that the plants, if they are aware, have no idea what is going on or why the ground is shaking or why the sun is moving around at different angles or it gets hot and suddenly cooler (this all happens on the ride home)…

It also helps that these ones were stronger than the ones I started out with, from Home Depot (sometimes the leaves get really fragile and break off at the touch, especially if the plant is overwatered or otherwise stressed).

The other plant I got is this one:

Miniature Umbrella Plant
Mini Umbrella Plant. It was in a 4″ pot, and I think it’s now in a 5″ one.

I am not entirely certain why it is that I am drawn to some plants and not others, but I know that when I am at the nurseries, I’m paying attention to which plants I seem to have an energetic affinity, for. That is, if I pick up a plant and it seems off-put by me, I put it back. So…this means that the little ones I get are kind of like my friends.

(I know I’m weird and miniature plants may be like my version of collecting kittens instead of [human] friends…the thing is, I can care for a plant without pressure to talk to it. But that frees me talk to it more!

(And yes, I have just remembered that I’ve been cooing over and cuddling a kitten in a certain span of dreams…)

Right now I’m into small things, too. I’m still uncertain as to when and how to trim my 5-Finger Maidenhair Fern. It’s in the shower room, where it likes to be; the issue is that sometimes I forget it’s in there, and it dries out from exposure to the heating vent. It isn’t an issue so much now that it is no longer Winter and the soil doesn’t get bone-dry over two days…but there’s still damage.

The dead foliage seems to strike sporadically, though. Like there will be green leaves, then brown leaves, then green leaves again, on the same stem. Because the sections with brown leaves are fragile, I’ve had to remove some just because of testing them for structural stability (whereas the green-leafed areas were not as brittle). Of course, now it looks pretty much worse.

I’m not sure if I should trim the entire stem back, and wait for new shoots. I know those guys are sensitive to being repotted, too, but to be honest I don’t know how crowded the pot is, because I never repotted it after bringing it home (it seemed fragile enough, as it was). Maybe I should think about trimming and repotting it. I should be able to find information on how to do so safely, online.

Yeah, and…I’ll put some remarks on quilting, in a separate post.

Planties! :D

So…within the last three days, I’ve acquired 5 plants! Four of them are little tiny succulents, but still!

Now I’m wondering if I should use the pots here, or get something else for them. Maybe I can go to the Japanese dollar store and find something suitable. M has some pots, but they’re either too large, or ugly.

(not kidding)

I’ve also been working on a quilt square, and found a rubber thimble today which should help. My issue is pushing the needle through the fabric and stopping it with my thumbnail…which obviously is only going to work, to a certain point (the point at which I have no more thumbnail because I’ve gradually destroyed it with needle tips).

Unfortunately, my photo editor is down, for now. With all the updates that have been happening, it could have been anything.

Well, tomorrow is another day. I should be able to pick up some inexpensive ceramic pots…and I admit I am having trouble not thinking of the plants as living things. But “living things,” to me, means that I worry about and have empathy for what I think they may be going through, from what I know about life as a human…not the most rational thing.

🙂 But they’re cute. Pretty much all of them are cute! (I like miniature things, so…)

Photojournaling? Why art?

Hey; it’s just me.  The first few lines don’t describe the rest of this, so read on:

I’ve not had such a great time today; looking forward to archiving your work so you can graduate is kind of stressful.  Tomorrow, I get to see my Vocational counselor.  I’ve just started looking around at possible positions I can move into so that I’m less of a financial burden on my family…I can see, though, that I will need to practice driving (and obtain a License) in order to gain some positions.  For example, if I’m working somewhere that has a 45-minute commute one-way, it’s more reasonable for me to drive myself, than not.

(Seeing how people drive in this area, though:  that’s still…risky.)

Anyhow…I was thinking up things to write about, and started looking through my image archives.  I had forgotten so many things that I had done, not so long ago!

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At Ala Moana Mall (Honolulu), in March of 2017.  This koi kept looking at me!

Everything just happened so fast after we got back (read:  my relative’s death and the ensuing family chaos) that it was easy to forget about this.  In effect, enabling this trip was his last gift in life, to us.

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View from the lanai of the Doris Duke House (a.k.a. Shangri-La Islamic Art Museum)

The previous two photos are of Hawaii…none of the others here, are.

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From one of the days I ventured into the sun; April 30 of this year.

The one at left is from one of the first times I went out by myself on foot, in recent memory.  I need to become more independent; this is a step towards that.  I have not felt safe venturing out of the house without another person with me, for a while.  I’m sure some here can relate.

One of the reasons why I write about my disability so openly here is that — to me, it is obvious, but — the more I do so, the more aware I become of the fact that my illness has profoundly impacted my life.  This is to the point that it borders on absurd to intentionally keep it a secret.  I don’t tell everyone about it; then again, most people don’t question my mental health — or if they do, it strikes them as normal.

Appearing “normal” is double-edged, even though it doesn’t seem to be.

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From May of this year.

My illnesses (I have what’s — overall — called “comorbidity,” which essentially means that I’m dealing with multiple diagnoses at the same time) run in my family.  This means that I am up close and personal with the fact that I have relatives who seem to display signs of mental illness but who will not see a doctor — any doctor — for help.

This cannot be due to anything other than stigma and a feeling that to admit having a problem that they can’t solve themselves makes them “weak.”  It’s not “weak” to seek help when you need help.  It’s not “weak” to gain information you’re lacking.

And it isn’t great for me to watch their lives spiral out of control for no reason other than pride and an inability to question their own thoughts.  I’ve been seeing mental health professionals since I was 14 years old.  There is no shame in actually working out your problems.

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From June of this year.

But before you can work out your problems, you first have to admit imperfection…which seems more than some can muster.

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From June.  A few days ago, actually.

Of course, the people one surrounds oneself with, can also make one afraid to admit to imperfection…because keeping someone in a weakened state means they’re more easily manipulated.

(I will try not to get into commentary on that…particular dynamic, now.)

But it’s apparent…from the work that I’m doing, combined with what I speak of, here, that I am — again — finding respite from human problems in the natural world.  And I think I’ve done that, ever since I was about 11 or 12.

Particularly, plants seem to calm me…and have, since I started hanging out with them by myself, in lieu of hanging out with abusive “friends.”

The art, then…may manifest as an attempt to honor these spirits…whether they’re self-generated or not.

Seeing spirits in life is a point where Buddhism and I apparently part ways…I’m not sure if that is so true in the U.S., as Pure Land schools are more popular here, and they’re more belief-oriented…

…but that gets into an entirely different post!

And my energetic sensitivity also may get into a different post.  (I’ve stopped denying it.)

But the little blossoms…well…have I told you the meaning I find in them, before?  It’s not a usual one.

Because flowers are, generally speaking, both male and female, and since many of them are beautiful — I find meaning in the fact that they exist as they are, and in the fact that they break the idea that one has to ascribe to a gender binary to be beautiful and natural in that beauty.  People who don’t know me, think that it’s a “girl thing.”  I don’t correct them.  They’re just seeing surfaces.

Yeah, I wonder:  does my art exist to generate peace…?

Ah, the why art question, again:  I should just make it into a phrase.  “Why art?” with “art” as a verb…

Because art calms.  Art reclaims me from the nonsense and panic of the world.  That’s why art.  Life is too short to waste on hurting others and being hurt.  I wonder what would happen if we had a culture shift, where more of us centered ourselves…though maybe that is far from being possible, right now…

Yes, in Art, books do (actually!) help.

I’ve heard it said that one can’t learn Art through reading books, but sometimes those books actually help urge someone into action.

I’ve been reading in a book on Chinese ink painting techniques…and may just have gotten the inspiration to work on a painting (I’m not giving away the title until after I’ve decided whether to buy it or not).  This is on the canvas I intended to start on last semester when I got my easel (the canvas is 30″x30″, just under the 34″ maximum height my easel can take), but a different image than originally intended/settled for.  If I can pull it off, it may turn out to be a beautiful, wonderful painting.

I think a large part of the reason I haven’t started on this yet (besides time pressures) is the fact that the canvas is square, and so it isn’t entirely straightforward to think of a way to make the composition dynamic.  Though, it is possible.

I had wanted to work with an image of this plant before, but I thought that maybe I should work on something less…daunting? perfect? instead.  What I’ve done is taken one of my second-favorite images (not the most-favorite one, which this one may be a prelude to) and cropped it down in Photoshop, then printed it.  Next step is to gesso the canvas with a base color, then work loosely with vine charcoal over the surface to draw in the shapes.  After that comes glazing over the correct lines, wiping everything else away, and starting in with color (which is where I may want to bring in the colored pastels — given that I have no time limit).

I might want to do one or more practice versions of the drawing first, though, just so that I know where everything is…though that will mean working on not-so-great paper (full size is…pretty big, and the only thing I’ve got in that size is cheap butcher paper that’s kind of irritating to work with; moreso than newsprint).  Or — a better idea.  I could do a smaller version of this on one of my square watercolor blocks, though…the methods differ.  I would need to mask some areas, if I used watercolor.

Hmm.  I think that what I’ll do is work at about 2/3 scale on a newsprint pad, first, including value renditions if I can (including white as well…I am not sure if I want to go into colored pastel on newsprint); then go into drawing on canvas (given that I haven’t worked in charcoal for months).  Watercolor is just going to be tough…unless I do it loosely, and very small.  Also, that method seems to work best when one hasn’t decided on a layout yet; I have my layout already.  What I need to do is figure out where everything is placed, and get my arm used to the directionality of the lines and forms.

At least I’m getting back into the art…

Preparing for freedom

As difficult as it is, I’m going to try and think about something not related to Finals.

One of those things is that I have made a date to go and claim one of my pieces which was formerly on display.  It should feel good to be reunited, again!  This was one of the first large pieces in acrylic paint which I did, and one of the first in which I worked quickly enough to be able to shade wet-into-wet.  Unfortunately, it is made with acrylic gesso on plywood, the combination of which is an apparently unforgiving surface to natural hog-bristle brushes (it gradually wears away the fibers until you get a little stub-brush).

I’ll wait to show the photo I have of it, again, until I can get it back.  I wonder if the paint has faded at all, after all this time?

Hmm.  In other news, the organization of the craft area has been shifted around again.  I had been using the craft table as a place to deposit library books (because of the dirt issue; the craft table can take heavy cleaning).  But now, M and I are sharing the same space.  It shouldn’t be much of a problem once I move back into using my easel, but it was nice to have a space in front of the window, while I had it.

And the little baby succulent along the walkway is dying.  😦  I’ve decided not to interfere, though; much for the same reason as I decided not to dig it up in the first place:  I don’t want to shock it.  Really, a life in the soil seems better than life in a pot, even if it does end up dying.

I don’t know what that says about me?

Anyhow, 🙂 the yard is looking rife for planting.  Most of our grass and ground cover is dead because of the drought and watering restrictions, though now the major issue is that it’s cold and wet, most of the time.  Not freezing, yet, but very cold, especially at night.  It would be nice to get in there and really aerate the soil, and put in some little plants.  I don’t think it would be many; just, some.

Hmm.  Maybe I should figure out which?  The little succulent thing looks like it’s dying from too much water, plus something physically nicked it — I can’t tell what, from here.  Although I did want to plant a little succulent garden, I’m unsure that’s a wise option now, with the rainy season here.

I have always liked pepper plants, though.  Maybe some kind of chile?  Mint (though mint would likely take over the yard)?  Maybe Lemon Verbena, eh?  Chocolate Mint!

I have tried to grow Chocolate Mint before, and it ended up dying from a combination of humidity and heat on my windowsill, leading to mildew and mites.  After the webbing and moving speckles came, I did just toss it, sorry to say.  In an exterior environment, though, mites would have predators, and wouldn’t be able to overwhelm a plant so easily.  Push comes to shove, I can pick up a handful of ladybugs and set them loose.  🙂  Which, probably everyone would like.  🙂

(It’s weird, though:  Chocolate Mint actually does smell like chocolate and mint!  Of course, though, I have no idea what to actually use Chocolate Mint for…)

And, no…I do not know the spiritual difference between an aggressive plant and a non-aggressive one, though I know the Mint family has always felt joyous, to me.  I just know that they (the mints, including Spearmint, Peppermint, and Chocolate Mint; plus Lemon Verbena, etc. — they look similar, are fragrant, and have square stems) are aggressive and will kill other species so they can grow.  This is the reason I’ve been hesitant to plant them before; mint spreads by runners and can take over native habitat, IIRC…and this area is native habitat for California Poppies (an endangered species, for those not in-the-know).

And actually, now that I’m thinking of it, it’s also native habitat for Miner’s Lettuce, which is edible (I mentioned this, probably some years ago, now).  But Miner’s Lettuce needs shade and lots of water, to thrive.  It does die back in the dry season, but comes back just as readily when it rains.  (I should check and see if it came back in a nearby yard…)

According to M, the front yard is actually suitable for edibles.  There has been spraying of RoundUp in the past, but I don’t think it was in that area; rather, I think it was on the weeds in the back lot.  I can confirm with D.

Yeah, I guess a big patch of dead ground is just waiting to be cared for, eh?

Aside from that, I have gradually pulled off of the guitar practice.  It was good until I just became too busy to even think about guitar.  The good thing, though, is that guitar is an alternate soother to me than tea and chocolate (I did set myself up with chocolate, for this week!  It calms me down and keeps me awake to do work).  I think the real kicker is that my guitar — no lie — sounds like a harp.

I mean, seriously, my guitar sounds like a harp.

I do still have a little toughness to my fingertips on the fret hand, so I could probably play a little bit if I wanted to.  But:  I just have to make it through Monday, and then things will be all set.  I just have to remember to make it through to Monday.

On Monday, or Tuesday…I should make a date to do some ink drawings (Copic and Micron), and try the new acrylic inks over the top of them.  My notes have started to have little mandala drawings and line drawings which are…kind of interesting!  Also, I have two new watercolor journals (one small and one large), so I have the space to do this.

Coming up, I will also want to mine my photographic records and blog entries, for inspiration as regards what to put on the 30″x30″ canvas I have had out for months now, on my easel.  I know I want to do something plant-related; I’m just not sure exactly what.  There are a number of images I have which could inspire something, but I’m not used to working loosely — which is kind of a requirement with heavy-body acrylic paint.

Maybe I should just remember the feel of a brush gliding over canvas, though, and set my mind to enjoy that, rather than thinking of what I want my finished painting to look like (like I can predict that?).

I…did start an interesting project in one of my Art Journals (I did this when I could no longer bear to think about school, or life).  Maybe I can draw inspiration from that…

…and maybe I should be working in that journal, now, and consistently…so I don’t have to rearrange the symbology in my photos…