Wrapping up the semester

Well, I’m back. Things are a lot cleaner right now — I’ve gotten the set of 20+ titles that had been piled up around here, stashed away…finally. Those things have been haunting me for months. I wasn’t even reading them (!), because I was trying to keep a semblance of order (with stacks of books piled around my room; the order of the stacks, mattered). Now, I guess, I have the time to actually take them in.

(Maybe first up: Personality, by Daniel Nettle? Nettle is incredibly readable!)

And…the four piles of paper that were lying around, are now only one pile of paper…

There’s a lot more going on. Today (or rather, yesterday) has been about wrapping up last semester and preparing for the upcoming several months. I’ve also been thinking about my own creative practices.

There are certain things to begin to undertake, however, which can also become priorities now that the semester has ended. Particularly, I’m looking back at Spanish language and Python skills acquisition (with the amount of training per-day and per-week to be determined), plus a third short-term class, later on. Those are all career-related; I’ll just have to reset my mind to the newer places to engage for lessons. Spanish will be more accessible than Japanese language; of that, I’m pretty certain.

I did find a Planner, which is working. It was so expensive that I really hate to list what it is at the moment, however. It replaced my last two journals, including the Bullet Journal and the Sleep Log. I predicted having a slew of new responsibilities competing for my time: it seems I was right to forecast this. It was also okay to pay the high price, to avoid having to search for the same functionality in other planners.

I learned this from having tried for years to get the same or better quality than Copic markers, only to find out that hey…Copics aren’t all that earth-shattering. If I had tried them first, I would have seen right off if they were worth their status. (I don’t know for certain if it would have saved me any money.) At the time I heard of Copics, I was a young adult dealing with the anime circuit…and it could have been that people wanted these just because they were out of reach.

Copic markers are stupidly expensive, and I have a hard time justifying buying a new marker for each shade of grey, when I could work with dip pen and brush; and bottled ink, water, and a palette; and have near-infinite shades of grey with more different customizable applicators, for a fraction of the cost. The drawback here is needing to control the flow of water on the paper and in the brushes, but I think that’s an achievable (and in my mind, laudable) goal. The biggest challenge in watercolor, seems to be water control (also, planning; and color mixing/color harmony).

Having said that: I haven’t tried the Copic SP Multiliners, but from having Sakura Pigma Micron pens dry out on me, and having their tips widen (or split) over the course of use, I’m looking at the eventual possibility of buying refillable marker housing and nib sets, then filling them with Copic’s waterproof ink. (The SPs have aluminum housing; the regular [disposable] Multiliners have a plastic housing.)

I only say this because Copic makes really gorgeous fineliners. They go finer than Microns, and seem to be more durable. Being able to replace just the nib after it wears down is tempting — and it would prevent me from buying a Rapidograph set (although with my current knowledge of pen maintenance, maybe Rapidographs wouldn’t be so bad).

I don’t need them right now, at all: I did get a few new replacement Microns because they were 1/3 of the cost of the regular Multiliners.

One thing I did find, while avoiding the Copic markers — I’m not talking about the fineliners, in this case — the inks in both Tombow brush pens, and Stabilo (both their “88” fineliners and “68” bullet-point nibs) are water-soluble, meaning it’s possible to spread and blend the inks with water and a brush, even after they’ve dried. I wouldn’t have known that, otherwise!

I also wouldn’t know about the color stability of Faber-Castell Pitt brush pens (excluding the metallics)…though I can’t find the art journal in which I played with them the most. Copics, for me, are closer in behavior to Chartpak markers, the latter of which are solvent-based. (Copics are alcohol-based.) Both of these brands bleed, a lot, but Chartpaks, more so.

Chartpaks — at least for a while — were the only xylene-based marker still sold in the US. As such, it’s possible to get sick (I got a headache, the first and last time I made this mistake) from acute overexposure to the fumes; meaning, use them with a source of fresh air, or an evacuation hood, if you’ve got one. These are also apparently the things that people huff and get addicted to…and it’s not only acute symptoms one has to be concerned about. They also constantly off-gas, even when capped.

Not great, if you’re looking for safety; however, they seem to have reduced the xylene content to the point that the markers themselves no longer require a Caution Label. The thing is, whatever they’re using as solvent in the Chartpaks, do make them blend exceptionally well — if you can alter your working method to account for the inevitable bleeding.

For me, it wasn’t a big jump to fluid media and brushes, once I had hit the point of using markers. Paints can be blended and the touch on the substrate determined with a chosen applicator. You aren’t limited to glazing standardized pre-mixed colors and whatever nib size and shape and softness you have installed (of which there are often only a few choices) — and then have to buy more if you want a different nib or a slightly different hue or saturation. Painting isn’t as easily direct and controllable as drawing, but there’s a lot of freedom to be had, once one gets to the point of using markers — which, for me, was a step up from graphite, colored pencil and pastel/charcoal.

…Which reminds me, I could very likely do something nice very soon, with the technique I began to develop: underpainting with watercolors, then drawing over the top with colored pencil. (The only issue is the opacity and lightfastness of the pencil.) I began to do this with the cheaper watercolors, like Prang, and Reeves; as I know they’re nontoxic, and any Prang or Reeves paint scrubbed up with a pencil tip will likely not harm me. (I don’t expect the same to be true of Cerulean or Aureolin, for example.) I also then don’t feel bad about “cheapening” a watercolor by drawing on it (though no one has told me that anything I do will “cheapen” a watercolor painting — online snubs about gouache, excepted).

The issue here, becomes substrate: watercolors or acrylics (or acrylic inks) require a different, much more expensive, paper or canvas to work on. Markers, along with pencil, colored pencil, and pastel, are considered dry media. Paint, or ink and brush, are obviously, not…and this is where what I’ve painted on has unfortunately begun to become precious.

A counterpoint to this is the fact that I have heard people talking about the sizing in Watercolor paper (often gelatin), effectively expiring and no longer working properly. So the paper doesn’t last forever. That might be enough to spur me to work on it. It’s meant to be used, that is; not to expire while it’s waiting to be used.

I have enough materials; the hard part is knowing that I can’t just jump to, “not wasting,” these supplies, as I have to learn how to use them, first. And that — of necessity — requires sacrificing some really nice paper (unless I use something like Yupo, and rinse it off every time I’m done using it…but Yupo has its own quirks).

I’m hoping that practicing value sketches and the like, before attempting a painting, will help with this — and I’ve just realized that this is what one of my instructors had us do, with black watercolor. (I think I used Holbein Lamp Black…which is annoying when the brush starts to chatter and wipe it up off of the paper. There are benefits, sometimes, to using natural-hair brushes!)

I know that others would like me just to jump in and ruin the paper with frenzied dreams and high expectations, but I don’t work like that. I’m process-oriented. I see pitfalls before they arise; and essentially, a piece of watercolor paper is like a canvas, only I don’t think it’s possible to reuse it (other than flipping it over to use the back).

Would it be sad if in my anxiety about process, I’d sound like someone who would love and use watercolors? Maybe I just sound like me, overthinking things and trying to plan my way out of a ditch, again.

I do have Mixed Media paper and Wet Media paper, which aren’t as expensive as Watercolor paper, but I’m concerned about optimal flow of my watercolors (though this may only matter wet-in-wet: which isn’t my go-to technique). Everyone who has ever recommended any specific watercolor paper to me, has said to buy the best one can afford — here, that’s Arches. (Is it always Arches?) To be blunt, though — I’ve seen some pretty good work by good artists, on different paper: is this a Copic dynamic, again?

Having the most expensive materials doesn’t make one’s art better, after all; at best, it makes it easier. (Or, it makes it possible.) Materials aren’t a substitute for skill or practice or learning…and I don’t know how many people understand that. (Do I understand it?)

I can also try and see how Watercolor paper (usually 100% cotton rag) stands up to layered dry media. There’s no way to see how it works, without trying it…kind of like how I’ve learned that Canson Montval watercolor paper is best for gouache and acrylic ink. It’s also not bad when layering colored pencil over the top. The Montval just falls short where it comes to best displaying transparent watercolors. I only found that out through reviewing consistently ugly watercolors in my Montval sketchbooks…where work done on other papers, was relatively beautiful. Just because it’s called a “watercolor paper” doesn’t mean it fulfills that function, all that well…

The upsides of Copic markers (as versus Chartpaks) are, 1) they’re alcohol-based, so that’s at least a more familiar toxin; 2) they bleed less extravagantly; 3) they blend like the Chartpaks, at least when used on the correct paper (marker paper, which is usually translucent).

Then there are the Poscas: opaque acrylic-ink markers. I’ve been told they are to Europe, what Sharpies are to Americans. (Sharpies discolor over years, which is why I don’t use them for finished art…but I really don’t feel like looking up the reference, right now. Someone’s faded Sharpie art is on the Internet: there’s a hint.)

Poscas are super fun, but you have to shake them before you use them, as they use pigment ink. To my knowledge, their only drawback is that they can “spray” (the nib can get caught on the paper and splatter ink on your work) very easily, if you push a stroke rather than pull it. This might be avoidable with the right substrate, but I haven’t found that substrate, yet.

But you can see everything I did to try and avoid buying Copics…? And then I got Copics, and wasn’t greatly impressed (though that could have been because I had so much more experience with everything else). Also: can you imagine how much I must have spent on Copic-surrogates over the years, instead of just getting the Copics? I could have stopped hoping for “the best” in 2016, and moved on to everything else — inexpensive and not — without delusion.

But on topics other than spending a lot of money by trying not to buy expensive stuff…there is even more change going on in my life.

I’m getting a new counselor (which is ground-shaking enough, but I am not making progress with my current one, even if we do get along); and I should have a job interview coming up, sooner rather than later. If I get the job, I’ve been reminded, I don’t have to stay. Already having a backup plan for Fall semester may be useful if I either: 1) don’t get the job, or 2) can’t tolerate it.

I also have a submission in for an Indexing internship, regardless of whether the regular job turns out. I really need to expand my job search strategy, however: I think I’ve found a lot of niche sites and have been avoiding the big names. I do seem to have gained a bit of a grip, however, where it comes to job search. At least I know something of what I’m looking for, now. I also know not to stop looking, now.

At the moment, it is about 4 AM in my locale. I don’t remember when I started writing this post, but the Revision menu says it was first saved, seven hours ago. (This is what I mean, when I say I write easily and prolifically!) Later today, after I get some rest, I should vacuum and change the sheets on my bed. I might also clean the shower and maybe the counter and sink in the vanity, and begin my laundry.

I also just remembered that I have an additional time pressure, tomorrow. Ugh. Well; first up, are changing the sheets and vacuuming, then laundry.

Anything else is gravy, let’s say.

In writing this, I’ve also realized that Art practice is anchoring, for me. I mean, it’s a constant. I didn’t realize that, before…but maybe that’s why I’ve spent so long writing this.

One response to “Wrapping up the semester”

%d bloggers like this: