It would be safe to say that I was fairly anxious, yesterday. I started to write here, but I’m sure the undercurrent would have come through that I was writing out of anxiety: and not for any reason beyond my mood. My reasons for writing here, at all, might merit some reflection — because yesterday I did write in a Creative Process journal. Just, not in public.

That was also a very good thing to do…it takes a great deal of pressure off, along with added anxiety. Sometimes, though, I’m thinking that writing is not the answer. Particularly where it comes to needing to deal with stress, working visually demands so much of my attention that I basically just can’t think for long enough to worry.

I did start — and pretty much (nearly? there seems to be always more to do) finish a drawing of a still-life…which has me thinking that I really don’t need to work with a story or with cartooning, just because I want to work, visually. This is especially the case, if I’m working for emotional modulation and self-care.

A ceramic goblet serves as a holder for many watercolor brushes. A recliner and couch rest behind, while a heat gun and brush wallet rest to either side of the goblet in the foreground.
Apologies for the low quality; I haven’t gotten around to scanning this, yet.

The issue I’m having now — now that I have the bare bones of the image — is how to move forward with color. What I can recall from Painting class, is the need to make thumbnail sketches which focus on value…before imagining color into the equation. (If I had been thinking ahead, I would have done more to set up an optimal still-life in the first place, and approached it from different angles, before settling on one. For that matter, I wouldn’t have drawn it on a piece of paper that already had notes on it!)

The still-life does have color; the issue is that the color scheme in real life, is brown and black. I realize I don’t have to keep it.

If I’m going to replace the color, or change the values of objects, however, I need to do thumbnail sketches, first. Once I have the values laid out, I should be able to swap in hues of similar value, without disturbing the overall image.

It requires moving on to a different stage of design, which I’m a little uncomfortable with, at the moment. I’ll need to break out my “actual” (i.e. non-acrylic) gouache, which I haven’t used in years, even though it’s been sitting in front of me for months, and has been hanging out in my craft area, for years. I meant to do it today, but felt a little intimidated. This is the whole, “getting scared of getting dirty,” bit…but I don’t think I even have any hazardous colors in these paints.

Gouache is essentially opaque watercolor. The ones I have are quality, mostly single-pigment colors. Or, at least the originals, were…I had to get them for a class in 2007. I can’t remember having touched the newer ones since a project in 2017…making the newer ones at least five years old. I’m fairly certain from what I see, that the 2007 ones have been cycled out.

One of my teachers did tell me that gouache (without an acrylic binder) basically is usable unless it has been contaminated with mold. She had gotten a stash of old tubes from one of her friends. The paint itself had thickened inside the tubes to the point that it couldn’t be expressed from the neck, but my teacher was slicing the tubes open to get the dried paint out!

“It’s perfectly good paint,” she said.

I had a bit of deliberation last night, trying to figure out what medium to use. With all the highlights in my drawing, I’m thinking that the opacity of gouache would be best — especially if I’m more concerned about shapes, color, and value, than linework. Using gouache means I can paint light-over-dark, which is not something transparent watercolors are designed to do. Beyond that, I’d have to move to acrylics or oils, and this paper is sized for neither. (Granted that I don’t even use oils.)

Because so many of the regular gouache tubes are single-pigment, they also will likely mix more predictably than convenience mixtures…which I suspect but have not confirmed, occur more in the acrylic gouache. Including the acrylic gouaches from Holbein — the company which makes my most beautiful and treasured traditional gouache.

I spent too much time on my drawing, to color it with dyes and have it fade. And I pretty much don’t want to use masking fluid with transparent watercolors, due to sensitization issues (there’s no way I want to make myself allergic to latex, even if health care has shifted to nitrile gloves); so that leaves me with either gouache or acrylic gouache. I don’t have the earth tones in my more recently-acquired acrylic gouache (and I haven’t yet gotten to the point of experimenting to see if I can form earth tones with the colors I have)…but I may have earth tones, in traditional gouache.

There: initial decision, made.

What I’m basically talking about, where it comes to convenience mixtures as versus single-pigment paints, is the difference between, “Designer’s Gouache,” and, “Artist’s Gouache.” Do I really want to get into that here, now that I’ve mentioned it? It’s…it’s more than I have the energy right now, to explain. Let me just say for now, that the mixing methods are different. I know how to mix Artist’s Gouache; whereas I know of, but do not have intimate familiarity with, mixing Designer’s Gouache.

In particular…I was never really taught to mix black into a color in order to darken it (Payne’s Grey, or a mixture of Ultramarine and Raw Umber, or a neighboring darker color [if I recall correctly]…that’s different), though that is commonplace when working with Designer’s Gouache. It may also preserve some brilliance, but it depends on the black. I had a surprise when mixing black Ecoline with magenta Ecoline, the other day: it turns mahogany!

Clearly, I have a lot to go through before I’m going to run out of things to learn…which is, obviously enough, alluring. To me, that is. And yes, it would be weird if I eventually ended up being an Art Professor. Extremely weird. The reason I’ve chosen not to go for it so far, is the fact that I don’t want to crush little artist’s spirits. Many of my instructors could find constructive things to talk about, in anyone’s work. That’s not necessarily an easy thing to do!

The other thing I wanted to mention is that the drawing from last night was on hot-press Fabriano Watercolor paper. By the time I was near-enough finished, however, I had roughed up the surface of the paper (using multiple foam erasers) to the point where it now feels closer to vellum — unless I’m mistaken.

It’s still not rougher than Arches hot-press, to memory. The latter feels a lot drier and rougher. I need to test it to see if it’s still any good (watercolor paper does age out and get to the point where the sizing doesn’t work as intended).

The Fabriano paper does allow very detailed drawings, which I appreciate at this point. (I’m not sure I’ll appreciate it forever, but that’s getting a bit ahead of myself.) I may want to stick with kneaded or gum erasers in the future, with the Fabriano paper; they would likely both be gentler on its surface. It’s only 25% cotton rag…so I really don’t know how it will perform. That’s the point of making the drawing, although using gouache as versus transparent watercolor or Ecolines, kind of misses my original point…it’s heading way more into a Fine Arts direction, than an Illustrative one.

I’m following through with it, because sometimes the tangent ends up being the real story.

An aside: I have several unread books which apply to what I’m doing, now. Although this is good where it comes to being able to study in this area in the future, it’s also a bit of a dilemma where it comes to what step to take, next. I can study, or I can work (knowing that I’m intellectually not as prepared as I could be).

M advises me to just go ahead and work with the thumbnails, and look at the books, later. That sounds good. I should remember that the thumbnails don’t have to be of any kind of “presentable” quality.

And hey, looking at what I was thinking of doing last night — painting everything in, in shades and tints of one color (Lamp Black) — I get the chance to do that, now! Just not on the surface I thought I would be using…no, I’ll have to draw it again. And again. But I will be looking for the differences in value, majorly…and I can experiment with the coloring.

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