This is actually…fun.

Instead of working on muting colors and turning them into chromatic greys like I thought I would at the end of my last entry, last night took a different turn. I keep getting out of bed relatively late (although I do keep waking in the very early morning, as well. Today, it was before dawn).

Because I’ve found that working on study and assignments first and then rewarding myself with dedicated time for Art, greatly eases my stress, I’ve been working on my XML coursework in the daytime. (I’m feeling better about that now, by the way. I think that the Art practice is increasing my resilience to stress.) This does mean, unfortunately, that by the time I’m ready to work on Art, it’s either afternoon or evening.

I don’t entirely trust my sense of color under artificial lighting; but what doesn’t change under artificial lighting is my sense of, “value,” or of the differences between light and dark. So, last night, instead of trying to work out color dynamic issues under artificial lighting, I drew.

Pencil sketch of a female person with shaved hair, wearing a knit cardigan over a mock-turtleneck tunic and leggings. Looking at the camera, this person is holding their left arm with their right hand and appears to be stretching out the muscles of their left hand.

This time, I worked on Fabriano Mixed Media paper. I really love this paper. It withstands graphite, erasing, pens, and Ecoline liquid watercolors, at the least, and it’s nice and hard. I haven’t gone in heavily with the Ecolines — I (nervously) tried them a long time ago — but from what I see online as regards this paper, it looks promising.

Unfortunately, my normal art supply outlet has stopped carrying this specific variant of paper. I’m pretty sure the pandemic and economic issues, have to do with it.

I’ve also reviewed the Material Safety Data Sheets for Ecoline Liquid Watercolors. At least since 2016 (which is when I largely stopped doing Art: my program ended and I went back to Library School for a couple more years), they haven’t been toxic. This means I should be able to go ahead and use them without ventilation.

I remember reading some time ago that the fumes could cause a drop in blood oxygen levels; but seriously, the memory is vague, and may have been a dream. It was a very long time ago, and was related to my concern about aniline dyes.

How do they make Ecoline so transparent, that is? Most other liquid watercolors at least have (or have had) sediment!

I also read that aniline smells like rotten fish, so I should be able to tell if I’m working with it. Realistically, I have no idea if Ecolines contain aniline dyes; it’s just a fear I’ve had. I’ve also had times when things have been mislabeled as being hazardous when, in reality, they didn’t merit the warnings. That could factor in, too.

In any case…I’m both trying to be easy on myself in getting back into drawing (thus, I’m trying to give myself permission to draw things I know how to draw, when I haven’t drawn in…I don’t know how long), and also trying not to harp on myself too much for drawing something that comes relatively easily.

Something in me is pressuring me to dive into the deep end as my first act instead of wading into the shallows, when I haven’t swam for so long, that I’m not even sure I remember how to do so. Of course, though: I’m not going to drown if I can’t draw something. At the most, my ego will be bruised.

I can also tell, now: there are some things I haven’t forgotten. Muscle memory — or visual ability, whatever is employed in visualizing an image and working out visual problems with the execution of translating it into reality — these things, I haven’t lost.

Contrary to how I used to feel: in drawing the above, I actually found it fun to see things in my mind in 3-D, and then translate that to a 2-D form. It used to be hard and annoying, but now (having gone through several rounds of Figure Drawing) it’s more of a challenge. It means breaking something down into its underlying arc of motion and assembling underlying forms (beginning with the bones), before adding in flesh and then clothing.

(Of course, there are also all the surroundings to draw; I didn’t get into that, last night.)

I do tend to still start drawing figures, with the eyes. I’m trying not to be too hard on myself, about that. There are times when the gesture of the figure — their overall arc of energy and flow — is more important than where the character is looking. Right now, though, I’m letting the eyes suggest the internal feeling of the character’s pose, and the camera angle say something about my approach to that character.

As I begin to move more thoroughly into drawing gestures, though — whole-body representations of embodiment, feeling, emotion — I hope my drawings will end up being less stiff, and more fluid. Even if life isn’t really like that, stories (here I mean to reference Sequential Art, though this also applies to Fiction) aren’t, at heart, literal representations of reality. That’s not what stories are for.

What they are for, or what they do, is a good question, and one I don’t have the energy to consider, at this time. It’s a big question; a culturally-dependent question; and one I may be able to find an answer to by a combination of my writing practice, reading about Creative Writing, and taking classes in Creative Writing. But I can’t put it into words, now. I’ll need to come back to it.

In any case: neither Creative Writing nor Art, are about reproducing reality. There are bigger things at play. Even with Hyperrealism, the artist chooses their subject: it isn’t random. That choice of subject is a place where the artist has agency — the ability to say something larger than just making a photocopy of reality for its own sake.

Anyhow, I’ve recently been looking at foreshortening and rendering figures in space. I’ve had to. And right now, hands and hand positions are a significant challenge (which give further insight into the character’s state of mind). I’ve been able to work with this, in what I’ve done so far. It just has to do with breaking down the body into its component shapes and volumes, and understanding that we don’t always see everything flat-on (if “flat-on” actually exists in a 3D world).

It also means it’s OK to forgive myself for starting off by making a figure’s eyes relatively giant, when what I’m actually after is less obviously cartoony. The image I’ve posted above, I’ll need to revise in order to shrink the near eye back to an only slightly enlarged form. I can see where to work, next: just take the upper lid a bit lower at the corner. I can also see where I might want to round out the skull at the hairline on the right.

It’s possible to re-draw things like this; just annoying when the face is established with the cartoony eyes, and then has to be readjusted to have a more realistic underlying skull. I think that the more I can move away from the eyes as a focus, to the whole body and being and gesture as a focus, the easier it will eventually be to keep my own desired proportions in my drawings.

But then, I’ve been developing my style, for…a long time. For me, when I can look at the cartoon and recognize in it a person who might exist, or a person who inspired the cartoon, that is a place I want to be.

Anyway — I wanted to scan that image before I worked further on it. Up next, after final corrections, are inks: I can do this with or without natural lighting. I will lose this original framework after erasing, though, which is why I went to the effort to scan it, in the first place.

4 responses to “This is actually…fun.”

  1. I love the picture, you’re doing great, but that article? Wow! I tried ranting about that minutes ago and you wrote it so much better than I did. I appreciate your insight.

    As well, I have ecoline ink and a very sensitive nose and I don’t remember them being smelly. (Bombay inks kinda stink). You can combat this with essential oils (lightly! Only a small drop) or sitting in a well ventilated area.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Feets! 😀

      It’s nice to know my writing’s being appreciated! I’ve been working over two day spans to write each of these. It helps to sleep on it and look with fresh eyes the next day, you know?

      Also, thanks for the tip on Ecoline! I still have to figure out what I’m going to do for the rest of the day…maybe it won’t be so bad to get in a little color play before the night’s out. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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