Just trying to work out whatever’s in my mind, here:

I’m going to try to write, even though right now I’m feeling that I don’t have much to write about.  This, in turn, probably has happened because I haven’t been writing, daily.

Watercolor practice

I used some of the pre-mixed greens I had left on my palette, along with Sap Green, to “color in” (or add color to, or apply wash to) a couple of sketches I did of a Bok Choy Mue in one of my Maruman sketchpads…which I was amazed would take watercolor without warping too badly.  (It just says “Sketch Book” on the front, with no mention of branding other than the graphic design of the cover.)  You will want to tape the papers down, though, for best effect.

Although I did these last night, I didn’t take photos of them then, thinking that I would do it today.  However, I had to get up early for an appointment (woke, 7 AM) and ran out of steam at about 3:30 PM, sleeping through until dinnertime at about 7:30 PM.  So I still haven’t taken the photos…I’ll try and get one up of the Maruman sketch pad tomorrow.

I’m still kind of tired, but then:  I did take medications at about 9 PM (on time) because I have plans for tomorrow.  I wouldn’t be surprised if I neglected self-care tonight and got too sedated to be functional in 15 minutes…just a warning.

Ah! But!

I also found that my Strathmore ArtAgain paper (a deep black paper which I used in one of my older posts) is heavy enough to withstand wet media!  I haven’t yet tried to use washes on it, but it’s very apparent that I can draw and write on it with gouache and a paintbrush, and it doesn’t warp with light use of water.  This is an idea I got from Sarah Sullivan, though my approach differs from hers.

Basically, for me, using light media on dark paper allows me to paint in the light, as versus darkening something and progressively preserving the lights.  And using gouache (opaque watercolor) allows me to use Titanium White (also known as Permanent White; contrasted, I am thinking, with Lithopone) without concern of breathing in Titanium Dioxide dust.

Breathing nanoparticles of Titanium Dioxide dust has raised concerns about carcinogenicity, but I wouldn’t have known that without inquiring why so many pastels now had CA Prop 65 warnings, and CL (Caution Label) signifiers on them, even without heavy metal components.  It could be overkill by Prop 65 — but it has made me more aware of how I use pastels in my own work.

In a home environment, I don’t want to get the dust in the carpet and then vacuum up the dust, because all that may do is redistribute the dust, not contain it (I’m not sure if a HEPA filter is sufficient to contain nanoparticles, which are so small that they are transparent).

This means that if I use pastels — which I kind of don’t like to do anymore, given that it isn’t even good to get the pigments on one’s skin (and certain pigments do stain the skin and likely are absorbed transdermally [if one can’t get them off or out]), and I hate having to seal my drawings (which under normal circumstances can be very toxic — even using Aqua Net as a “non-toxic” cheap alternative in volume enough to seal a pastel painting smells noxious) — I would want to do it somewhere away from air intake vents and over a hard surface, so that I can mop up the loose dust.

To be clear:  the danger of cancer from Titanium Dioxide is not a toxic one, it is a mechanical one.  Loose airborne particles of Titanium Dioxide can get into your lungs and just never leave, and over time that can cause irritation (at least) and leave you at risk of lung problems…but just read your MSDS (Materials Safety Data Sheets) to be sure.

It is nice to be able to manipulate pastels with one’s fingers, but it…just seems hazardous, right now.  Especially as it is very…apparent when in a classroom with a lot of kids using pastels, and wearing a dust mask, how full the air is of pastel particles when one removes that dust mask (I can literally smell the pastel dust, though a particle mask will block the smell).  I started wearing a dust mask, in turn, because I kept sneezing and smelling pastel for hours after a painting session.

If I were going to work with the broad sides of sticks of color, I might want to try the Prismacolor Art Stix — they’re colored sticks made of the pigmented cores of Prismacolor colored pencils.  I haven’t used the Art Stix yet, but I would expect them to have a different working method than pastels (even Prismacolor NuPastels — a hard pastel which is relatively nontoxic).  And, no, Prismacolor isn’t paying me, here.

For the record, I am not sure if coming into contact with colored pencil colors is hazardous or not (though I think the pigments are bound in oil or wax, and thus not hazardous…but I don’t know what happens when that stuff is hit with Gamsol [“odorless mineral spirits”], just to let you know that this is an option and that I haven’t tried it, and don’t know its hazards.  Gamsol, used primarily in oil painting, is used to liquefy — at least oil-based — colored pencils in order to get them to look like aquarelles, or watercolor pencils.  Prismacolors are wax-based, though; whether this works with oil-based pencils only, or both, I don’t know.  Also, I’m fairly certain Gamsol is toxic, but it’s supposed to be better than regular “mineral spirits”).

I do know that there is nowhere near as much dust with colored pencil as with pastel or pastel pencil.  There is some dust associated with colored pencil use (especially when applying heavy strokes), but I haven’t found it to be more than a small nuisance.

But anyway — I tested out two white inks on ArtAgain paper the other night, and found that both J.Herbin (?  I don’t know this brand; I just had a bottle of their white ink) and Daler-Rowney Process (“Pro”) White absorbed into the paper and faded.  Holbein Permanent White gouache, on the other hand, stayed on the surface of the paper and actually brightened as it dried.  Other colors can work as tints with white, but may not show up on their own against black (for instance, Alizarin Crimson).  There’s an argument for getting the 40 ml tube of Permanent White…(no, I’m not doing it yet)…

I would post my test paper, but I got into practicing brush lettering in Japanese, and it probably looks horrible compared to native calligraphy and says things I didn’t intend it to, so I…think I’ll save that.  ^_^;;

That aside, I now know why one of my books tells me to write “mu” in a way different from that in which I learned it:  it’s just too complicated to work with a brush, otherwise.

I’m getting a bit frustrated with not moving forward more quickly with the Japanese; then again, it isn’t my top priority.  Work, school, and keeping myself balanced, are.

Speaking of which, I’ve got to decide whether to do homework tomorrow, or not…


Engaging with the process?

I may have come to a mini-breakthrough.  Is that called a realization?  Maybe that’s called a realization.  😉


Today I was getting into gear to take my origami paper off of my desk in the bedroom if I wasn’t going to use it.  Then, I was looking at one of my sets, which I picked up because I liked the patterning on the paper.  This, and it is almost (but not quite) 6″ square.  When I got it, I was planning to (and did) use it for mandala generation.  (The patterns on the papers didn’t help, there.)

So anyway, I was getting ready to put this stuff away, and then I realized I wasn’t even using the origami paper for its intended purpose.  I got the brief flash of trying to fold something out of the small, pretty paper; and then also got the brief flash of “what will I do with it once I fold it?”  But then, that’s not really a thought that will get any paper folded, right?

So, I started out with this little one.  It’s just a standard crane with some minor modifications (I used to know a way to make them into dragons, but then forgot)…and I came to the realization that with origami, the end result is not as much the point as the process.  If the process is not careful, though, what you get at the end shows it.

After that was done, I was minorly lamenting having gone out today instead of staying in and doing some art.  But there was my little pad of hemp-blend paper, and a piece of vine charcoal on my desk.  Then I thought to myself, “but I don’t know what to draw!”  Then I thought back to myself, “just draw what’s in front of you.  What you see.”  And I got this:


Sorry about the lighting; I had two of three lamps on in the room, plus my halogen desk lamp, and things still turned out a bit dim.  I might be able to fix that by messing with the exposure time, though…maybe?

In any case, a quick view of Auto Levels in Photoshop just made it look artificial (there were no pure white tones anywhere, here), so I left it alone…as versus try and tinker with the color channels.  It might have been easier if I had the option of CMYK (subtractive color) alterations, but all I’ve got with my version is RGB (additive color)…which is still kind of a mystery to me.

The carton used to contain coconut water (I drank it); what it’s sitting on is the tin that contains my Monolith graphite sticks.  Behind it is said halogen desk lamp.  Lower right corner?  That’s a drawing from an earlier post.  😛  But I’ve found that I make more interesting drawings when I try and draw (or interpret) things that I actually see, as versus things that I totally make up.

Then there is the feeling I get when I am literally letting other people see what I see, and how intimate that is.  It is kind of scary, especially when you really don’t want to be famous, and get kind of paranoid that people will know where you are if they know what you see (no).

Basically everything you see in the upper left photograph is from one stick of vine charcoal, a paper, my fingers, and a kneaded eraser.  I know I have said I hate charcoal, but it’s really not terrible when I don’t deal with any white tones.  Using white means that I either have to use a white pastel, the White Charcoal which is notoriously of unknown composition (but which works, arguably, very well if not best — I’m not sure why), or a white Conté crayon (which won’t blend as well as the White Charcoal, as it has more wax or oil or something in it — it binds to the paper more directly and makes a more permanent mark).

White pencils are kind of not in the same category, which I know now.  Even a General’s White Charcoal pencil will make a narrow mark which can be hard to see from a distance; and building up a drawing using something like a Derwent White Drawing pencil is an entirely different process than using chunks of pigment which can be applied in broad swaths instead of points and lines.  But — both white pencils and charcoal pencils are excellent for fine detail and intense tone (a small point of contact means that more pressure is applied [force per unit area] to the juncture between pencil tip and paper, than would occur with a larger point of contact — unless you seriously lean into that charcoal).

Any of the above non-pencil options will expose me to Titanium Dioxide (a standard white pigment), which is relatively safe — unless you breathe it in (and even then, I think this is a chronic exposure risk), or it moves into your body through your skin (a more recent hazard indicated specifically with nanoparticles — which are transparent).

And what that means is that I probably don’t want to introduce white pastel dust into my sleeping quarters.  Which is kind of …well, when it’s right next to my bed, I am more likely to use it, and I am not in the habit of utilizing the drawing table…it’s probably outside the range of my “territory.”

Speaking of drawing tables — I now have an easel.  A very light — aluminum — easel.  I haven’t unpacked it yet to make sure it’s undamaged, but if it’s in good condition, it will be a very cool thing to work with.  I went out there with the thought in mind of spending around $120 for an easel, so when I found this one for about $60, and it will support anything up to 34″ tall…not a bad thing.  I can imagine working up to 24″x36″, but not with that oriented vertically!  If I get much bigger than that, I will need bigger brushes!

I think the largest canvas I’ve ever used was 24″x30″; mostly, in class, we were working with a max size of 18″x24″ for both drawings and paintings.  Then again, we also had to carry these things back and forth between classroom and home.  24″x30″ was about the most I could do without falling over myself.

But the nice thing now, yes, is that I can paint and draw while standing (or sitting), and not have to make weird adjustments to my arm movements because some parts of the drawing or painting are farther away (or distorted because I see them as receding).  I’m fairly certain that this will make it easier to paint on canvas — if not make large drawings, more generally.

I also saw more Daniel Smith watercolor paints at that store, today, whereas I thought they were on closeout — maybe they’re just so desired that they’re almost never there?  Maybe someone is buying them in bulk and peddling them on the street?  I don’t know.

In any case, I think that if I’m going to continue to make art, the motivation for doing so needs to come from wanting to engage with the process, rather than wanting to have a “good” work to show off, later.  Charcoal actually really helps with this.  I’m not totally sure if newsprint does; but I have at least one pad of Sketch paper I can use to draw with, which is otherwise being used as a tablecloth, right now.

It’s kind of funny, how much I’ve migrated away from colored pencils…

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!  🙂

This project is nearly finished, thank the spirits.

Quick note:

I realized that it was my method of application, and not the inherent opacity or translucency of the Titanium White that pretty much made the difference as to whether my whites-over-Slate-Grey turned out weak and thinned, or dense and opaque.

I used a hog-bristle flat brush which was between 3/4″ and 7/8″ long, yesterday, and a different method of application.  I wet the brush, then picked up the white, then worked the pigment on the palette so that it wasn’t goopy (I have Heavy Body acrylics), then applied the paint, then repeated the process once the brush ran dry.

The hog bristle was much softer and more absorbent than the synthetic I was using the previous day (I think it was my 1/2″ flat), and because the bristles were longer and more flexible, they held a better pigment load.  The only drawback is that that brush is better used in a more expressive and loose manner; because of the flexibility of the bristles, the flat fanned out relatively easily, when pressure was applied to it.

I’ve also found that acrylics don’t like to come out of the “flags” (split tips) of hog-bristle brush hairs.  I’m told to save hog bristle brushes for oil painting, because acrylics eat up the brushes, but I’m not sure if the person telling me this differentiated between the ground being painted on (she favors plywood and murals) as versus the formulation of the paint used.  Time will tell, I guess — because I’m not jumping to oil paints any time soon, unless they’re water-soluble oils.  (Such a thing does exist!)

I am very nearly finished with this painting.  The only things left to do are to add a highlight where I forgot to replace it after overpainting, and to continue the painting around the sides of the canvas.  Originally, I was irritated when I gessoed this canvas, because I was a bit too fast and flipped it over while the gesso was still damp.  This caused debris from the school easel to become permanently affixed to one edge of the canvas.  However, after painting over the edges of the thing, I also painted over the debris, so it really isn’t visible anymore, anyway.

I would have taken a photo, but the paint was still too wet, and I’m kind of not loving this project.  In the next project we get to use color again, though, so there is that.  Sometime later this week, I will definitely have to photograph my work, and at this point I’m not feeling too bad about it (unlike when I brought the sketch to work on it in the studio, on Monday).

I also got my image transfer worked out where it comes to my next mandala; I can work on inking it after dinner, I think.

Artist type realizing the impact of consumerism on themselves.

Taking my medication earlier on in the night helps tons where it comes to energy and motivation.

I’ve also found that my time is better spent on reading actual books and making actual art than it is, when I’m on the Internet.  As things stand, I was able to work for at least three or four hours today, which is in keeping with what I have to do in order to stay afloat in my classes.  I was thinking about doing more, but I reach a point about two hours in where I have to take a break, so I headed out.

And I’ve got to remember not to eat large quantities of roasted garlic; apparently I smelled pretty bad, earlier.  (I’m not sure whether I’m smelling again now through my skin, or whether I’m just rubbing the remains of dinner off my lip.)

I haven’t been taking too many photos of my work in progress, though today I was able to attempt a final repair on my first large mandala, take it off the watercolor block, and get the underdrawing of the painting which is due next Thursday, drafted out.  It’s a bit annoying because I’m painting Titanium White over this slate-grey color (Mars Black diluted in white gesso), and even though I’m using Golden acrylic (which is the highest-quality acrylic brand on the market, I’m told), I still need to go over and over and over areas which I want to be (actually) white, as the grey shows through.  I’m not entirely sure why I’m working in chiaroscuro when I don’t have to, but it was a requirement.

I also stopped by an art supply store; though I need to be sure to avoid conflating “got art supplies” with “did art work.”  The brush type I was thinking of getting — a large pointed round suitable for fine details and large washes — averages about $35 there, though.  I had a bit of sticker shock.  I’ll keep looking, and give some thought to whether I actually need it, or whether it would just “be nice.”  The reason I even went to check, though, is that I have a filbert wash brush which is about 3/4″ across…which was extremely helpful when coloring my last mandala.  The major problem with that brush, though, is that it can’t form a point, so details are a bit beyond it.

The money issue is a bit…interesting to me.  It actually seems to show the impact of a commercial consumer capitalistic mindset on what is otherwise…less impeded.  (It’s easy to say that one’s materials make one’s art, but really, that art can’t come into being without an artist.  Of course, quality supplies help, and to a large extent influence or constrict what we can make; but we are not reducible down to Golden acrylic paint, for example.)  Recently, I went on a field trip to a local garden where we were provided with bamboo stalks from which to make dip pens.  I’ve got to say that the pens I made worked better for me than the bamboo pens I’ve bought at art supply stores.

I think that largely this came from the fact that I didn’t clear away material from beneath the pen point (this bamboo had one flat side and one round side, and I cut the point to be flat), which enabled large swaths of color to be painted, rather like a brush.  I also sanded the nibs so that they would flow across the paper more easily and be less “scratchy.”  It was basically a custom job, customized to me and my way of working.  And it was free.  It was really interesting.

The person who supplied the bamboo said to get used to using tools if we wanted to be artists.  Well, at least so if we want to spend less money for better quality.  And, of course, someone cut themselves very early into the day.  Of course.

And, yeah, the Blick stores near me have begun charging extra for shipping on top of the items we buy in the stores.  I have started seeking out other outlets.  They didn’t have to buy Utrecht (they recently did a horizontal merger with said), and now that they have, their discounts are not as good.  We’re getting weird surcharges worked into the purchase price of what we would have spent, should we have bought the materials on their website and had them shipped.

That is:  the prices on the website do not match the prices in the store.  The prices in the store have leaped up to nearly (or entirely) encompass the amount of what we would have paid, had we bought the items online (at a greater discount, sometimes an unbelievably high discount) and then had them shipped to us.  (Recently, I had something like a $20+ “shipping rate” worked in to what I bought [as versus the prior “web price matching” which did not include shipping], even though the only “shipping” they had to do was stock the shelves).

I don’t really feel this is fair, unless they are intending on going fully online.  It’s more like asking for an extra $20 just because they can, because now they’re almost a monopoly.  I am wondering if their partnership with Amazon has anything to do with it.

I’m thinking that I need to get away from the idea of “intended use,” except where it comes to safety.  Like, I may not know the intended use of Layout paper, or why it’s called, “Layout paper,” but maybe that doesn’t matter if it works for me in whatever way I’m using it.  This is as I’ve found that the adage, “they didn’t tell me I couldn’t do it” is seeming to be a refrain which works quite successfully where it comes to making art that I’d not feel bad showing, and in using materials to make art in unconventional manners.

But then, I’ve been questioning a bunch of status-quo stuff, recently.  From how I relate to my body as a person who is usually assumed by others to be a woman (my sexed characteristics don’t define me), to how I want my life to be as regards having a loving partner (I’m after intimacy, not getting off), to — of course — the politics stuff and the possibility of having a socialist — or, alternately, a might-as-well-be-fascist — President.  And then there’s the entire gender identity thing, which has really flowed into “third gender” territory, especially with the idea of having a secure career path where this isn’t frowned upon.  I’m not sure if it’s the extra medication enabling my brain to uncover areas which might otherwise remain safely buried, or if it has to do with the art and the writing (but moreso, the art).

I’ve found that it’s better to do things than to write about doing things, which is a thought that seems to have been missing in my life, earlier on.  The writing helps, but really, my art projects are like testaments to where I’ve been, just from a more deeply encoded and felt place, as versus a linear one.

I’m not sure as to whether I should show what I’m doing here, before turning it in.  Of course, upon seeing any photo of my work and having the actual art object, it would be obvious to my profs that I made it.  The major problem is one of relative privacy…

I replaced my Rembrandt white pastel!

Aww, you guyz!

My aunt and uncle gave me $50 for Xmas, so today we went and dropped by my art store.  I went and got an ArtBin for my markers, the Lyra graphite crayons I didn’t get before, some tinted papers, and a Rembrandt white pastel.  That pastel ran me $4, but it was OK because I know it’s worth it.  In total this ran me about $30.

What’s cool is that the Rembrandt pastels list the codes of the pigments right on the sticks.  I got a “100,5” which is code for White, and the pigment code of which is PW6.  On my smartphone I was able to search for PW6 and confirm that it is, in fact, Titanium White.  This helped put my mind at ease, because the pastel is creamier than I remember it being, and was drawing on me and the inside of my ArtBin wherever it touched.

There was a carcinogenicity warning in front of all the pastels, and a little warning sticker on the one pastel I got.  Now that I know what it’s referring to, though, I feel a lot better.  As long as I don’t grind it up and snuff it, I’ll probably be fine.  🙂

Now the hard part!  Using it!  😀

More info on that Lead White thing…

I’ve been doing a bit more digging, trying to see if I can find any more evidence that the white pigment in my pastels is not Lead White — given that the word of any one person, even someone beloved, is not proof.

This (eventually) lead me to a document called Where Lead Hides.  If that link is unavailable, there is a mirror, here, with a slightly different attribution.  I’ve found that Lead White is actually not lead oxide, but a different compound.  If you search “lead white” on Google (without quotations), you’ll find a lot of links.  In my case, the chemical composition of Lead White is not really what I’m looking for, so a lot of those links, I haven’t read.

In any case, I followed a couple of links from the above PDF(s).  One of them was dead and led me back to a page at a different URL, where I didn’t immediately see a substitute for the article mentioned in said PDF (which was dated 2006, I believe?)

Apparently it was supposed to mention how “asbestos, contaminated talc, lead and cadmium pigments” were used in pastels.  I already knew about asbestos — the old pigment made from ground malachite (which I don’t know the name of; “malachite green” likely refers to a different chemical compound), I’d grown up thinking contained asbestos fibers (like Falcon’s Eye and Tiger Eye — or so I thought), but trueart.info doesn’t list this as a particular reason to avoid it.  Instead, they cite the possible toxicity of the copper content (in the vein of lapidary/sculpture though, not as a pigment).  Talc is something that at this point I’m not using on my skin, because I know there’s a salient danger of asbestos contamination.  Cadmium, I know about — cadmium pigments (not their replacements, or “Hues,” but e.g. Cadmium Red as versus Cadmium Red Hue) are toxic and can be absorbed through skin.

This is why I’m leaning toward the Rembrandt brand of pastels, should I really get into pastel painting or drawing; they use no cadmium, cobalt, or lead pigments, and say so.  Plus, I used (and loved) their White for a class a long time ago (2008 or so) and was just a little heartbroken when I tested it out this year and it shattered in my hand.

Lead is what I was searching for, though.

The other link given in the PDF, hit pay dirt.  That link is here:


…where it is stated that Lead White is illegal to use in pastels.  This was a big relief for me, because I had found that Flake White, or Lead White, is still in use in oil paints.  However, someone had a brain and excluded them from use in pastels, probably because it’s too easy for the particles to become airborne and travel everywhere.

In any case…it looks like I’ve got all the links worked out so they’re functional, hopefully.  I’m going to go on the belief that my white pastels are likely Titanium White and not Lead White, and that likely, the white that is used in my tints are Titanium, not Lead, White.  I should be able to keep digging, though.