Self care. yes?

Having gone without practice at making art for so long, I’m beginning to doubt myself.  At this point, reading books on color mixing are a bit overwhelming for me.  I have painted before, but this was when I was younger and I was using mostly prismatic colors with limited mixing.  I also hadn’t been exposed so much to super-effective artwork like I have been, recently.  I wasn’t aware at the time that my taking a class in color dynamics (at least five years ago) was as high-level as it registered to my last prof…

I did skim a book on color mixing today which looks interesting, but much above my level.  This is a book by Stephen Quiller, called Painter’s Guide to Color.  A quick check reveals that he’s done far more than this book, but I will probably not get into that, as I haven’t read any of his other works.

This book, however, is more in the line of what I was looking for in the last one.  Speaking of which, I’m about 60% through Barron’s Practical Handbook of Color for Artists, but I decided not to weigh myself down with that one so much, today.

I…am thinking that I may be overwhelming myself.  There’s so much that I could be doing, but because there’s so much, I’m hesitant to start on any of it.  (This is also a perennial trip-up when I fall behind in schoolwork.) There are a couple of art projects in-progress (the mandala project and a monochrome trial in markers that I wanted to do as regards illustration), one recently started jewelry project, working in the career-counseling workbook, reading about jobs in writing, reading about jobs in art, reading about job-hunting, work on the graphic-novel script, and the ever-present Japanese language study.

I had actually thought of giving the suminagashi another try, because I finally did get my Sumifactant, but it was oppressively hot today, and I didn’t have the energy.  I say this even though I did perk up when people were in the house, which leads me to think that a portion of this is psychological.  I’m sure that part of this is linked to sedation, though.  I could reduce my most sedating medication, but it’s a crap shoot as to whether I’d become more active and thus, more fulfilled and happier; or whether I’ve been so depressed already that I’d have a serious relapse.

I’m thinking, maybe, that it would help to have some kind of system for prioritizing what I want or need to do.  The first two things are easy:

  1. change bedsheets
  2. do laundry

    …those two things I should definitely get done before Friday.  I say “the first two things,” but really there are several that come before this.

  3. eat
  4. take medication
  5. brush teeth
  6. wash face
  7. shave
  8. get dressed

    …in that order.  I note these down because when I don’t have anything pressing to do, I often neglect self-care…when I should really be doing these things for myself, not so much for other people.  After these six and the first two are taken care of:

  9. clean bathroom counter/sinks
  10. dust/vacuum computer room, vanity, and bedroom

    This should give me concrete activities I can do to wake up and stay busy, while preparing to do creative work.  I recall that the last time I was stalled like this, doing chores like cleaning and cooking actually helped.

    Now, the difficult part…trying to prioritize which of the “fun tasks” to work on, first.

  11. grate/soak daikon/carrot/cucumber in rice vinegar + sugar (they’ll spoil)
  12. work on mandala project (defining folds; preparing 12″x12″ paper to copy smaller model onto; redraw mandala onto 12″x12″ paper; if this is satisfactory, gesso Hardbord panel; trace linework onto gessoed panel).  or
  13. work on the drawing I started but didn’t finish, which is on my desk right now with all the Copics and fineliners.  Once the underdrawing is satisfactory, use the Marker paper and trace drawing through with Microns.  Attempt coloring with the Copics on the Marker paper.  or
  14. get out the old newspapers, cover the craft table, and play around with suminagashi printing in multiple colors.

    If I ask myself which of these I feel more ready to do though, I’d say the marker sketch, then suminagashi, then mandala (I still haven’t gotten the color placement down for that…which I just realized I can experiment with on Photoshop, using multiple Layers.  Prior to doing any of the work on [12] above, I should see what kind of coloring will work out OK).

    After one of the above is done…

  15. Work in the career-counseling workbook (You Majored in What?)…and by this time, I’ll probably have to start another cycle.

I’ll put the rest of this in another post.

Self care. yes?

Actually got a lot of good work done, today!

I did actually get to work on one half of my skull composition, though I don’t have any good pics now because of the problem of the light source and potentially-wet paint.  🙂  I was right in one regard; adding the plaid in behind him gives an air of humor to the composition.  At the same time, my color scheme — I’m wondering if it implies an African reference or an East Asian reference, more (the plaid is gold and green on a red background).  Or a lumberjack reference.

It probably is a lumberjack reference — the original name “Maurice” was a reference to the TV show Northern Exposure, if I’m recalling correctly.  I happen to take up a sociological niche where I am also vulnerable to the “lumberjack” stereotype as well, though as things stand now, I think my manner of dress is developed and non-stereotypical enough to deflect that.  (I really don’t fit much of any stereotype…)

I began to attempt to fill in the whites on the skull and teeth with Titanium White and Yellow Ochre tints, then felt that it was probably okay for me to stop.  For some reason, too — the colors aren’t coming out right on my camera.  I’m not sure if it’s a lighting thing or a display thing on my camera, or some kind of over- or under-exposure thing because of the large fields of bright red and white.  In any case, I can try and tweak those on the digital image, once I can get a decently lighted photo.

I feel now too like I should have taken a photo of this when it was less-developed; particularly after sealing the underpainting, and then after laying in the first reds.  The plaid texture really didn’t take much time at all to soften the image…textiles must be good for that, yes?

Other than that, I’ve spent most of the day attempting to clean my areas of the house (my room, my computer room, my craft/art areas, and the bathroom — though I have barely touched the bathroom, at this point).  I really do want to send off for some surfactant for suminagashi…but I’ll need to get a rechargeable debit card for this, just for safety’s sake.  (I’m reminded of this because of the aluminum vat that I noticed today under my altar in the computer room.)

Right now the positive thing is that I feel a lot better having gotten some of the chaos in my areas under control, and I feel more able to work on my art, now that I know I’m not neglecting everything else to do it.  I still have six more pages to go for Art History (that was me not wanting to read, and taking a break every couple of pages).

Anything else…?  I could dust and organize the altar table more fully, check out the beads in my Art drawers to see if I can even still remember what I wanted to use them for, catalog and shred my receipts, and clean the vanity and bathroom.  Then there are the printouts that I never know what to do with.  Maybe I should put them into a binder; I have an almost-empty one staring me in the face.

I’m thinking also that when I’m having a hard time waking up, maybe it would help to put on some music to stimulate my mind into wakefulness.  It’s normally hard for me to fall asleep with music on.  It was a really good thing for me, though, to have the task of cleaning my spaces.  It kind of gently nudged me awake, and gave me a task which was simple and methodical.  After that, and having thought about my composition all day, I was more ready to work on it when the time came.

Actually got a lot of good work done, today!

Thinking back on the critique from yesterday —

I had intended to make it out to an art store today to pick up some materials, but I ended up staying in bed for a while (I went to bed after 2AM last night) and then didn’t have the motivation to actually get ready to go outside.  But that gets into multiple health issues, which are somewhat beyond the intended focus of this blog.

Regardless, my sleep schedule seems to be messed up again.  Multiple factors lead into this (like my incipient caffeine addiction), but mostly I think it’s sleeping during the day and being awake and active after dark.  I’m sure that if I had drank the tea and then not taken a 5-hour nap, I would have gone to bed closer to 10 PM.  I would have been wiped out, and hopefully would subsequently have had the energy to get up at 9 AM.  That would have given me more daylight hours to read and draw — and shop.  And cook and clean and do laundry.

Anyhow.  I did note some things down last night while trying to sleep, which was nearly the only period of time in which I actually did anything today.

I recall from my Communications text that we only remember about 1/3 of spoken information shortly after it’s delivered to us.  I forget the exact number of minutes it takes for the other 2/3 to disappear, but granted this, and granted the fact that I was trying so hard to listen and pay attention that I did not take notes during my own portfolio review…I’m left with some impressions but few words.  I’ll try and note some of these below; keep in mind that some of these impressions are from me, and others are from my class.

-Each stroke matters.  Remain mindful.  I found this out when I was reworking an image of the autoantonym, “Temper.”  This entailed a fairly involved process of attempting to illustrate a hand-hammered copper bowl.  Why? you ask.  I’ve been involved in metalworking classes in the past, and it was just what came to mind — the softening of metal through heat.

I’d say my first attempt was more successful than my second, mostly because in my second I didn’t take the time to visualize what I wanted to do and what I was doing, before I did it.  In the first, though, I was taking my time because I really didn’t know what I was doing, so I had the time to pay attention to all my strokes.

There are aspects of curvature that will differ depending on where the hammer mark is placed on the bowl, and its geometric/angular relation to the viewer.  This is something I seemed to intuitively understand the first time around, but in the second run I ended up just drawing relatively flat circles for hammer marks, as though the bowl were a 2-D cutout.  In consequence, it wasn’t as sophisticated in its illustration as it could have been.

-I was told repeatedly that my use of color was very strong, and to keep going with it.  I attribute the skill in this to have been practiced both in my color dynamics class and my beading (which I haven’t been doing much of, recently, although one of my in-laws would like me to make her a necklace, and asked a while ago — I should get on that).  Particularly in two pieces — my “Integration of Opposites” piece and my “Self and Other” piece, the use of color was very powerful.

In Self and Other I was trying to avoid using clashing overtones while mixing colored pencil hues.  It only really happened at one point when I got too careless and mixed a red with a warm orange overtone and a blue with a cool violet overtone.  (I’m not sure if it was Cadmium Red Hue and Ultramarine, but it was something obviously clashing like that.)  This turned into dirty brownish-greyish-red instead of violet.  However, I knew this could be remedied because of the principles of subtractive color mixing; I added a red on top of it which would absorb the violet/orange hues (subtractive color, right?) and was able to successfully mask the fact that there was a dirty-looking spot on the paper.

-This is something that isn’t wholly anything which anyone said, more than my own goal:  I want to work on my use of positive and negative space.  That is, I want to pay more attention to it.  I feel like there were a couple of images I presented which were definitely playgrounds of positive/negative space, but it wasn’t wholly something I’d had the ability to see before putting them on the wall and backing away from them.  For example, I hadn’t noticed how complex each shape in my tessellation was, until I was about 25 feet away from it.

The “nebula” piece I did, as well — which I want to re-do, but can see so many different potential paths to do it that the thought is daunting — involved swirls of dark and light areas.  In one of these, I could see that it looked more like the light area was swirling into the dark area rather than the other way around; I wished that more of my swirls were ambiguous like this, because I really liked the effect of my brain switching between seeing white into black and black into white.

-This one is from my prof., which is to try and be less restrained in my work.  This arose when I made a giant geometrical pattern on a giant piece of paper because, hey, I get a giant piece of paper to put my giant fractal on, right?  But the assignment was to do a gestural drawing with detailed areas, and my fractal was a little too…uh, mathematical and predetermined, I’d think? to be considered gestural and spontaneous/in-the-moment (which I think was the point), even though I did have to really move my arm over a large scale to get the initial image.

I think it was too exact/precise to fulfill the purpose of the assignment — we have been doing a lot of assignments which lean towards getting us to let go of tight control when we’re drawing — for instance, blind contour drawing (tracing an outline while watching our subject — and not our hand) and Suminagashi (an essentially uncontrollable printing process which I’ve gone over earlier in this blog).

-The last thing I’ll mention is that I got some comments on how my process was evident in the portfolio I presented, which is something I don’t remember hearing in anyone else’s feedback.  I think my work probably had more elements of cohesion to it than most other people’s, in theme and motif.  Like:



Leaves/plants/flowers (like the water lilies that appeared twice)



Light sources (stars, star sapphire)

Graphic elements (strong color, black-on-white, clean delineations).

You know, now that I think about it, the symbol that I sprung off of for my gigantic drawing…the fractal, that is, did grow rather organically.  It wasn’t quite a binary generation, more a tertiary one, which explains why it sized itself off of my pages so quickly.  I wonder if I influenced anyone when I was making that gigantic fractal (like the one person who did a gorgeous piece based on equilateral triangles).

I do have more to note, particularly where it comes to my nebula drawing, but this is enough for here and now.

Thinking back on the critique from yesterday —

Part of a suminagashi print

This is a snippet of one of my Suminagashi prints; I’ve found that scanning them does blow them up in size.  This is the same print that’s used in my current header.  I used a black-and-white one just for display, because the others I have don’t seem to show up well in the scanner.  I think I need to find a good image editing program…

A snippet of a print — black ink (Boku Undo) with Sumifactant on AquaBee Pen Sketcher’s paper.

thoughts on Portfolio critique #1

Portfolio presentation and critique day #1 is now over.  It was really nice to be able to see others’ artwork!  There was a lot of really nice stuff, and I now am more encouraged to draw using ink and brushes, in addition to using Suminagashi, which is a water-based printing process.  The unevenness of the liquid ink marks added something, I think.  So did the swirling patterns behind the area which I drew on.

One of the things I found I need to watch for, though, which has been highlighted by my Communications readings, is the tendency to respond to work by how it touches me in my own situation.  This can lead to inadvertently re-centering the conversation around myself, as versus establishing rapport of commonality.

The second Communications-related issue, though this is more of an issue in IM conversations, is my tendency to “monopolize time” and talk about my own life when the other person backs off (listening or disconnecting?).  This particularly happens with one person, though, which causes me to think that we’re in a spiral where I advance because he backs off, and I therefore advance more, and he backs off more because I continue to advance.  So I end up talking for most of the time and I feel like he seems upset.  I didn’t realize that this dynamic was happening until I read about it in my textbook — I forget what the technical term for it is, but it’s essentially a negative spiral.

Ah — I found the section.  It has to do with punctuations, which are signals which vary from person to person about how to mark the beginnings and ends of conversation.  One person’s display to end a conversation could mean “please go on” to someone else.

I was happy that I was able to get all of my homework done yesterday, for today, as I have essentially no time to do homework before classes.  It also actually took close to an hour to get to school because of commute traffic, whereas in non-commute times it only takes about half an hour.  I asked to be driven all the way in today because I didn’t want to risk my drawings getting wet…so we hit major slowdowns (at one point a slowdown to 5 mph which prompted a detour in which we got lost), and I was late, despite leaving 40 minutes before I was supposed to arrive.

What I can say is that I do really appreciate the cultural diversity of the area, though, even if it is tough to get around when not using mass transit.  This was really reflected in everyone’s portfolios today.

I still want to do a major drawing on top of muslin (with charcoal pencil is my immediate, or first, thought); I’m just not sure what adhesive to use to tack it down.  UHU Stic is what I used before, and does work well enough to cause the muslin not to move while one is drawing on it.  I’m just concerned that it will take a LOT of UHU Stic and that there is a good chance of part of the glue drying out before I can press the fabric down.  The good part about that glue stick is that it doesn’t seep through to the front side of the muslin, as I’m concerned will happen if I use some of the more tacky and stronger liquid adhesives.

— Ah!  I just remembered Fusible Web/Fusible Interfacing!  I could use this to iron and seal a piece of muslin to paper or board, I think!  My muslin might not have as much tooth, but this would be a method of laying the fabric down which would avoid the issue of the adhesive drying out before I can use it.  Maybe I could get the tooth back by misting it lightly with water and letting it dry?

I wonder what would happen if I fused muslin down to board and then gessoed and painted on top of it?  (It would likely have to be using acrylic paint or acrylic inks.)

I also did a drawing regarding the Self/Other dichotomy which turned out pretty successful.  This was entirely in graphite and colored pencil (Faber-Castell, Prismacolor, and a store brand), though the colored pencil was basically the only thing visible.  It’s extremely colorful.  I’m also not sure whether it is entirely abstract or not — it’s been years since I’ve been in drawing classes, so I have forgotten a lot of vocabulary.  This is part of the reason why I am blogging this now; I’d like not to forget any more.

Anyhow, I hesitate to put that drawing online because I’d like, at this point at least, to protect it from the wild.  I’m also sure that without a good graphics editor, the colors will come out altered.  The thing already changes colors in different lighting conditions, let alone in being photographed or scanned and displayed online.  If I ever get my own page for an online portfolio, though — sometime in the distant future — it may show up there.  🙂

I have been noticing my drawing skills getting better, the longer this Drawing class goes on.  I have also noticed that problems with visualization are greatly eased by using models.  We went to a local garden the class-before-last and drew there — I ended up using Modified Contour a lot more than I intended to.  This is a drawing technique like Blind Contour, only instead of watching your subject the entire time and then letting your hand move along the edges of your subject, from time to time you stop and look down at your drawing, reposition your hand so you’re in the right place, and keep going.

What I find when doing both types of contour drawings is that my attention to curves is magnified, which is probably better than the opposite.  🙂  I also tried to do a drawing of a reflection pool and found that I was drawing what I thought was supposed to be there, instead of what I was actually seeing.  So, for instance, the reflection pool was actually pretty long, and I didn’t realize how much bigger it was — and how much further to the left it skewed — in the foreground than in the background.

Also, there seemed to be a fountain at one end, which was in a little reverse-alcove (I don’t know what they’re called), which was shaped like part of a hexagon.  I began to draw the edges of the hexagon as tilted upwards because I knew this would be the way it was put together; but I was so far from it that I didn’t realize that there was barely any visible inclination of the lines where the tiles touched the ground at all.  It actually appeared nearly flat; I think that if I’d walked the length of the reflection pond, I would have seen how big it was and been able to anticipate the need to adapt accordingly.

Anyhow, that was fun.  🙂  I’ll go and see if I have some prints that I’d like to transfer over, just to let you see what Suminagashi can look like (though Google Images is pretty good for this, too).

thoughts on Portfolio critique #1

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.


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