Anticipation: one more thing to go…then, 2 weeks of (relative) freedom.

I wasn’t able to bring myself to do one of my readings earlier today, or tonight; what I was able to do, was get a lot more readings lined up so that I possibly do not have to do the one I printed out, the other day.  I’m looking at 10-12 papers to read, at about 12 pages each.  It’s not hard; it just requires focus and commitment.

I have been wanting to get these out of the way as soon as possible.  Because of that, I didn’t maintain a social commitment tonight, opting instead to stay home — where I had the possibility of working on my last assignment.  Unfortunately, reruns of Futurama are more entertaining than my readings!

*sigh*

Anyhow, I’ll try and get as much done tomorrow and the day after, as I can; even though I know that may only be six articles, total.  But basically, what I have to do is scan and/or read the articles and provide a 100-200 word commentary on each.  I’m going to try and get this done before Saturday, though I’m not sure how realistic a goal that is, at this point.  (It probably depends on what I choose to read and how deeply I choose to read it — scanning first is probably the best idea I’ve had.  Other than, that is, reading the introduction and conclusion of the paper, and first and last sentences of every paragraph, prior to scanning.  I may not have a clear idea of what these things are about, because I gathered them so quickly.)

I should probably also put the files on a flash drive and transfer them to my secondary computer so that I won’t have to worry about not having anything to read, if I get stuck somewhere after the funeral on Saturday — my little tablet lasts about 4-6 hours on a charge.  And I can take with me, the notebook I intended to use for Cataloging and then mostly didn’t — it will work for notations on the readings, which should help summarize them later.  It will probably be simpler than trying to compose notes in a word-processing program.

As for artwork…I drew a border for my relative’s funeral program.  It was nice to be able to do something with my hands, again, though it wasn’t under the best circumstances.  Right now, though, I’m anticipating that program being thrown out by near relatives (different from nuclear family) because of others’ desire for control.  What is positive is that I formed the page I worked on in Photoshop (I did what I thought I had to do and composed the front page as one flattened image, and so the cover is not editable unless it’s totally scrapped, or someone knows how to work with digital images, besides myself.  (Not betting on it.)

My grades are looking relatively good, considering.  I’m looking at a C+ in Cataloging (I PASSED!!!) and A’s or A-‘s in my other two classes.

Also…on Monday or later, I’m hoping to take a trip to the smaller art supply store near me (at least), to pick up some materials for linoleum block printing…which may make working through the grief, worth it.  I found my carving tools, and I was mistaken:  there are no burrs on my knives.  At least, not on the straight ones, or the large oval gouge.  This is good!  I will be able to see if I need to sharpen them, once I start cutting.

(Some of my spiral patterns, or the mon I designed, would make a good first project.)

One thing I’m unsure of, though, is how to make a method of image registration, so that I’m lining things up on my paper the way I want to — a relative necessity in duochrome (two-color) printing or above.  I’m not sure how to do this, yet, though April Vollmer’s Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop seems to briefly go over how this is/was done in Japanese woodblock printing.  I suppose I can see if I can adapt that to linocuts…though Japanese-style printing uses different basic materials than Western-style printing.  Still, though:  I only have four more days to get through in which I’ll have to deal with this last semester…I can make it.

Two weeks after that, my User Experience class starts up.  I took it in part because I wanted to do all the reading (as bizarre as that sounds).

I can also try and do some reading in library books, the two printmaking books I have, or my future textbooks, if I’m at a loss as to what to do.

And ah — right!  I wanted to get back on with learning Japanese language!  That should be fun!

Lest I forget, as well:  I need to back up my files to my Portfolio.  And maybe get a cloud storage account, or something.  I have what I can download, downloaded, and backed up; I need to work online for this other part, though — and I will not have a long time to do so.

I’ve been offered more hours, but really I’m not sure I want to take them — especially because I’m uncertain as to how much of a time commitment UX will be…and it’s rare to get two weeks off with minimal work.

Anyhow, I should likely get going.

I also want to get bocha, but I am not certain where that desire is coming from…I already have another kukicha; two others, in fact.  It’s just that drinking a twig infusion sounds rather earthy, I guess…

Maybe I can make a trip to the tea store in my two weeks off of school…

Anticipation: one more thing to go…then, 2 weeks of (relative) freedom.

The attempt to relax…well, I did actually read for pleasure, today…

I’m not sure I’m going to make this post public, so if you’re seeing it, apparently I didn’t get into a bunch of…what I’ve been writing about previously, today (in a paper journal).  Yes yes, I can rant and curse all I want in a paper journal…

I have been having problems concentrating today.  Much of this, earlier, had to do with the fact that I was having so much internal “noise” that I could not focus on my (assigned) reading.  This isn’t literally stuff that I physically heard (i.e. hallucination); this is thinking about things that…had little to do with what I was trying to do, except for the fact that I was doing reading for the grad program and didn’t want to be, but felt I had to.  Then I started thinking about the idiocy that is one of my classes and how my standing in the program may be jeopardized by not sufficiently learning some outmoded obsolete overly complex archaic system from a person with his own issues…which I want to drop, by the way, but I’ve gotten Financial Aid, which kind of makes that a bit more complicated.

Anyway.  I’m trying not to think ahead to Fall.  I also have something to write…for which, I can consider this practice.  That is, it’s difficult for me to jump right in to answering questions in an essay format when I haven’t warmed up.  I suppose one can consider what I did earlier to be a warm-up, as well, but it feels different to write by hand, as versus to type.

In any case, M had me writing earlier to try and clear my head.  It worked to an extent — I did get seven pages out (I used a bold pen, so that’s double-spaced), though it doesn’t solve the problem (which should resolve itself in several weeks).

I also read through the text portion of Shin Hanga, which was a nice break.  The text is only Part I of the book; the second part is made entirely of reproductions of these woodblock prints and their associated metadata (artist, year, accession numbers, etc.).  Shin hanga were like an updated version of ukiyo-e, but not…the only branch to spring from that.  Sosaku hanga (“creative prints”) were another offshoot, with one person controlling the entire artistic process — whereas shin hanga and ukiyo-e more often were the result of team collaborations.

I found a webpage (from MIT) which goes over how woodblock prints were created — well, more than one, actually; I also found an article on bokashi at Wikipedia (that is, how color gradations were made in this form of printing, used extensively in the prints reproduced in the book Shin Hanga) — and it is very clearly…complicated.  Enough so to make one seriously consider digital printmaking.  I mean…really.  The prints had to be highly labor-intensive and exacting.

The possibility of, say, applying a color gradation in an outline…is possible in digital printmaking, and from my experience, I would say it is likely seriously easier than carving a negative of that linework and then applying a gradated ink wash to it and then lining it up and printing it.  On doing a Google search and then following a Pinterest link, I also found a link to the following blog post (by serendipityartist) on WordPress, from 2007.  This makes it seem less…unclear, but still, the author mentions needing to “season” the wood block and getting just the right amount of water mixed in to avoid artifacting…(I don’t know if that’s the right word when used with non-computer-generated art…)

M wanted me to write more, to clear my head further, but I found it essentially very peaceful to just look at the prints and try and analyze how they were working, from the viewpoints of color, line, and composition.  In this sense, the prints are very…sophisticated.  The reason I got the book, Shin Hanga, in the first place was to study composition:  a subject which is different depending on the cultural origin of one’s training.  I had found this first through the book Chinese Painting:  Techniques for Exquisite Watercolors, (excuse me while I shift back to a common form of title capitalization) by Lian Quan Zhen.  There are a couple of sections in that book, if I’m recalling right, about composition…which leads me to wonder if the compositions of some (or many) of the prints in Shin Hanga (the book) were invented or idealized, and not as they appeared in nature.

But that goes off on a fairly different avenue than what I’ve touched upon, tonight.

I think I’m about ready to start my essay, now…

The attempt to relax…well, I did actually read for pleasure, today…

Thinking on ceramics as a realistic preferred medium?

What I’m about to get into is going to make me sound really Asian, which I sometimes get in trouble for, because I don’t look the part (I’m hapa — that is, racially, half-Asian).  I have a tendency to feel most at home in A/PI communities, though.  I’m not even sure why — maybe it’s just familiarity?  A feeling of fitting in?  Culturally, I was raised with my Japanese-American side of the family, so…well, it’s comfortable for me.  M has told me that sometimes there aren’t reasons for the things we like (I mentioned this tangent one or two posts ago).

There has been so much happening, recently, that I’m not sure where to start.  The major problem that I’ve been having is…well, 1) stress, and 2) confidentiality.  The first just makes things harder across the board; the second causes me not to express why I’m stressed…adding to the stress.  Not to mention, people around me being stressed, doesn’t help.

As regards art…I pretty much haven’t been doing anything freehand, though I have been doing a lot of observing.  I think it’s OK this way.  I do have photos to work from…though it’s difficult in the respect that I’ve never taken a digital photography class…and so I have only gut instinct and fairly minimal knowledge about composition, to work from (my Art degree is only an AA).

As regards the classwork (for the Master’s program)…I still haven’t gotten around to doing that Discussion Post that I never did.  And right now…well, it’s been a while since I read the sections in question, so the longer I wait, the more work it will be to respond.  The positive point is that I’m all caught up now, except for that.  I’m not sure if it’s worth it to go back to at this point, however, and I know I don’t want to just repeat what others have said.

Right now I’ve gotten some quiet, which has not been an easy thing to come by recently, and allows me to…well, relax a bit.  Maybe I should read or do some research or something, and see if that helps.

I could do some art, too, but…I haven’t been in that mode, for a while.  I have been thinking of taking either Ceramics or Printmaking over the summer.  Ceramics would probably be easier to access, given that I have a small college not so far from where I live, which teaches it.  The Printmaking class — the one that I know about, anyway — is at least a 45-minute trip, one way.

However, one of my friends from the Art program was in the Printmaking series, last I heard of him; and unless I’m mistaken, he did like it.  For my part, I’m more interested in the old-style manual printmaking than Digital Printmaking…although the latter seems like it’s where we’re headed.  The drawback seems to be that Digital Printmaking may emulate the style of manual printmaking…without the process or limitations of printmaking, within which the style makes sense.

I also did just see an exhibit on woodblock prints…which was inspiring, to say the least.

Ceramics, though:  I went to a tea shop recently and purchased a small porcelain tea cup…which got me thinking about three-dimensional work, again.  Ceramics would enable me to work sculpturally, and also integrate color into my designs.  There is also that element of randomness which causes …well, it helps one let go of control, a bit.  So far as I know, there is no really accurate way to tell what a glaze will look like once it’s out of the kiln; bisque firing (the first firing after the clay is formed, before the glazing) also takes a chance, as pieces can explode if there are any air bubbles within them.  If they do this, you want them to do it at the bisque phase, not the glazing phase — the latter can cause fragments of a work to stick to everything else in the kiln.

At the tea shop…this is a relatively upscale tea shop…I paid either $15 or $25 (I’m no longer sure which) for a beautiful tea cup in a common Chinese style (where it comes to shape) with a modern twist on blue glaze (or is it something else, like paint?) over white clay:  it’s a linear pattern, as versus figurative.  I don’t believe I’ve taken a picture of this, yet, though that would be something to do.

There was also a red-on-white version of the same style, but for some reason, the red stripes were somewhat in relief, as versus the blue ones, which were smooth.  Texturally, the blue-on-white was preferable to me; I just wasn’t sure, either, that the beautiful red was not cinnabar (mercuric sulfide).  The latter has been widely used as a pigment, historically — though I wouldn’t take that as an indication of safety.

What I realized, though, is that as I have gotten further into tea drinking, I have begun to collect teacups (Asian teacups, more precisely) and teapots.  And I realized this is a niche market which I both might enjoy producing for, and participating within.  One of the Japanese gift shops relatively near me has a section just for pottery; it’s also common to find these sections in Asian supermarkets.  As each piece is unique…and one only has to buy one cup for their collection…price, as a barrier, decreases in importance.  The main thing that I’m concerned about there is lead exposure (most stores don’t mark whether pieces have lead in them or not), though I think that as long as the cups or pots are not exposed to acid, it should be OK.

(And I just now have realized that I can take my skill at painting and do so on ceramics!  I don’t know why that never came to me, before!)

I did enjoy Ceramics when I took the classes in high school (I took Ceramics/Mixed Media twice, then); the main issue I had with the class is that I had untreated OCD and would wash my hands until the skin cracked (which was easy, as clay will dry out one’s skin…think of facial masques made of primarily kaolin [a transparent {or translucent?} Chinese clay], and you’ll see what I’m getting at — these masques are primarily used to treat acne and oily skin, so far as I know).

Otherwise…I picked up a book on Shin Hanga, or New Printmaking (although it’s called “New,” the art movement seems to have declined in the mid-20th century — kind of like how Modern Art was followed by Contemporary Art, but the title makes it sound cutting-edge [I suppose it was, then]), at a museum store (same museum that had the woodblock prints); it appears as though it will be very inspirational.  I passed up a book on manga to purchase this one, though.

Although I have plans, at the least, to begin Japanese language review and new practice and language acquisition during the Summer…I still can’t read most untranslated Japanese graphic novels or comics, now.  I’ve just realized that maybe this lack of content delivery may be why I am more drawn to color and Fine Arts — I mostly don’t receive any content that’s written in Japanese language.  Add this to the sparing art which constituted examples in the text I was looking at…and Shin Hanga was more exciting.

There’s also the fact that I knew a good number of the authors and manga series referenced in said book…and I don’t necessarily want to duplicate knowledge I already know.  Plus, even if I do or did want to create a graphic novel as an endpoint (which I am not sure still holds as much weight as I’ve considered it to, in the past; given my reluctance to enter into generating narratives [something I’ve mentioned before, here, I’m fairly sure]), it would be best to study what the people I admired, studied — not to study and emulate their styles.  The latter of which, by the way, seems to be a path particularly looked down upon by Western artists.  Though, I’m fairly certain that competition from Japan in the U.S. comic book industry also has something to do with it, at least when we’re dealing with people from the U.S.

I’m going to try and relax, now.  I haven’t gotten to just chill for a while, and I probably need it…

One other thing:  I have realized very recently that a lot of things considered as “crafts” had useful, utilitarian functions, at some time.  Particularly when it comes to things like basket weaving and cordmaking and papermaking and knotting…at one time, these were very useful crafts.  I did take a look into the Western Art wing of a museum recently, and found a lot of “flat art”…and I’ve been wondering about the legitimacy of the valuation stating that arts (particularly the Fine Arts) are more valuable than crafts.  What I’m beginning to think is that this might be the popular viewpoint in this era, but that is by no means an absolute and accurate reflection of reality (and in fact it may have to do with colonialism…and sexism…)

Well, the reasoning behind the valuation of Fine Art is probably something that most people don’t even consider, either…

Thinking on ceramics as a realistic preferred medium?

Introduction to Suminagashi

I seem to be a bit past the point of ultra-excitement over this, but a couple of days ago in drawing class, we undertook the creation of a number of prints using the technique, suminagashi.  This is basically a really, really old Japanese marbling technique, which we undertook with modern materials.

The reason I didn’t post about it then is that it seems there is some knowledge that isn’t widely known, to doing this properly.  Today I got permission to post about this online — I wasn’t sure if it was a trade secret or not, but apparently it’s OK to share.

We used a surfactant known as Sumifactant to add blank spaces within the suminagashi images.  Basically what happens is that you have two clean brushes, a drop or so of Sumifactant on a palette, and a drop or so of each color of suminagashi ink.  We used the Boku-Undo brand of Japanese marbling inks, which are nontoxic.

Any toxicity concerts about the Sumifactant?  Possibly.  There is no listing of ingredients and the material itself is fairly rare; I wasn’t able on a quick search to find an MSDS.  I tried to push through my cleanliness disorder to put my hands in the water.  😉  What I can say is that the inks on one’s hands clean up easily with soap and water, and I experienced no irritation greater than that which I normally experience.

What happens is one gets a vat of water which is somewhere between 1″ and 2″ deep — I found the deeper water to work better for me; it made more fluid images.  One brush is a Sumifactant brush; the other is an ink brush.  Dip one brush in the Sumifactant and touch it to the water’s surface; then take the other brush, dip it in ink, and touch it to the water’s surface, somewhere within the initial Sumifactant circle.  Alternate Sumifactant and inks.

After a number of concentric circles have been made, blow the water or drag a paintbrush handle through the water to mix up the pattern of ink on the surface.  Take an absorbent piece of paper — I found Strathmore Bristol (vellum and smooth) and Watercolor papers to work very well — and lay it on top of the inks.  Pull the paper back up, and there you have your print.

I didn’t do this part in class, but I sometimes found there was extra ink that had not soaked into the paper — I’ve seen online that this excess can be rinsed off.  Then the pieces can be laid out to dry — I found a backing of newspaper helped this process, by allowing for air flow.

Tips:

1) I found it particularly nice to mix colors with the ink brush before touching it to the water’s surface again, taking my lead from a program on Japanese flower painting which aired on NHK World (the artists would mix each color individually before applying the paint to the paper, which gave a very “lively” appearance to the paintings).  However, I also got some very pale lilacs when mixing red and blue, which causes me to think that maybe I was mixing my Sumifactant and ink brushes up.  I caught myself doing this at least three separate times, so I find it likely that I did it more often than I thought.

2) The paper needs to be smaller than the vat of water.  This basically meant for us that each paper had to be half-size or smaller — we used disposable aluminum roasting pans as our vats.

3) It’s okay to take some time between laying down the color and laying the paper on the water’s surface, but I found that for my process it was better to lay down the color, cut the paper and let the color move around a little bit, then drag the paintbrush handle through the water, then lay the paper on top.  If too much time passed between swirling the color and printing, I found I missed the “sweet spot” of swirls where they still aren’t too complicated, and still have a good color concentration.

4) The concentration of hue or value in the finished prints very much depends on the absorbency of the paper one is using.  For the most striking results, I found a clean vat and black ink with white paper worked best, however, as I said above, there are also some very interesting results one can get from mixing colors as one goes.  If one uses paper with a good degree of sizing in it, the prints will be more pastel.  More absorbent paper will obtain a deeper color, though obviously some colors, like yellow or orange, will appear lighter because of their “values” — closer to white than to black.

5) When using inks which weren’t black, it was extremely difficult to see the ink floating in the water.  However, they showed up clearly in the prints.  Why?  How?  I’m not sure, but I suspect it is because the inks are transparent, and the reflection from the bottom of the bin was greater than the light reflected off of the water’s surface itself.

6) The very last bit is the fact that a print can be sandwiched between two pieces of paper and ironed on a “Low” iron setting to flatten it out.  However, I can’t be responsible for any unexpected fumes or fires that may eventuate from doing this, in the same way that I can’t be responsible for any toxicity that arises from using the Sumifactant.

Whoo.  I think that’s about it!  I found doing this exercise to be very freeing for me, because I normally work in a relatively tight style.  Suminagashi practically demands that one let go of control over the finished product; because the motion of the water itself is uncontrollable.  I’m thinking of uploading an image of one of my prints for a header here.  🙂

Introduction to Suminagashi