Experiential learning

There are some things that you can’t really learn without engaging. I’ve been told that, at least since University; but it hasn’t really cemented itself, until recently.

There was the last coding class I took, which showed me that I didn’t want to program…that it might even be better, intentionally to avoid having programming responsibilities. I’ve learned that I don’t seek out dealing with people, and don’t always know what to do with them; I’ve also learned that working on the back end of computerized systems isn’t all that great, either. What I learned is that I’m very much a creative person, and match a creative personality type…which, I guess, was a surprise. I’m not sure it should have been, with my initial (intentional) degrees being in Creative Writing and Art.

A little over a week ago, I began writing out a story with which…I am now, saturated. I’ve needed to take a break. The situation of the characters is so bleak, that I’m having a hard time re-engaging it — though I’ve got to remember that I am the master of the story, and I don’t have to make their lives (and my mind) so full of pathos. I have a tendency to focus on the negative, and I can see this trait coming out (big time) through my writing.

Working visually helps me get out of negative self-talk (a lot of which was finding voice in my drafts; maybe I should save a copy for history’s sake, and then get to work dismantling and re-envisioning it). What I did the day before yesterday, to break out of that spiral, was to get into the acrylic gouache I hadn’t yet substantially tried to mix.

Multicolored squares and rectangles on a white background.

A lot of this…has me wondering why the hesitance, when I actually do what it was that I for some reason was afraid to do, and it turns out, fine. Or, better than fine. I have a tendency to focus on colors and what I can do with them, more than the ostensible subject matter of a painting.

Late last month, I was on the verge of complex color mixing (then got derailed). Apparently, this color mixing is so complex, that…the computer doesn’t quite know how to read it? Or display it? I’m not sure. What I can tell, from having the above swatch next to me, and from looking at what I was able to capture by a scan…they appear different.

There are subtle differences in color, that are not apparent in the above. Burgundy loses its violet and becomes practically indistinguishable from cherry-wood brown; two separate violets (one with a green tone that makes it just a hair less clear) appear nearly the same; a bluish green changes to a straight green; a ripened-lime green loses its yellow; straight Primary Yellow, looks duller and less orange; a bright red-orange, looks bluer and duller.

So there are benefits to working with traditional media as versus digital media; specifically, the true WYSIWYG is physical. And there are actually reasons why hand-painted works can be superior to at least CMYK prints or born-digital artifacts. (There is the Pantone conversation to be had! It’s just that, to the best of my knowledge, Pantone inks require professional printing…)

It’s possible that I might be able to tweak this image and try and figure out what the scanner is doing (or what my computer is doing) to dull these colors…of course, it would help if I knew what the adjustment layers actually did. That seems as though it might get into Computer Science — hence, math. I’m good at language (at least, written language, where I can think out my words and phrasing), I’m good at art; I’m not necessarily good at math, anymore!

I think it would also help if I were editing in CMYK, rather than in RGB. I still can’t visualize in additive color.

It’s kind of strange to see certain authors (I’m thinking specifically of Betty Edwards, here) consider color-mixing to be an analytical (and not an intuitive) task. I’ve had to implicitly let myself know that I do not have to create a full color wheel as my first task…for one thing, because there is seriously no reason to limit myself to analogous (adjacent) and complementary (diametrically opposed) mixes. The foregoing is basically an academic exercise: hence, a beginning, not an end.

This is in the same way as I don’t have to adhere to the rule, “never mix black into a color, to darken it.” I mean, sometimes, one may want a greyed-out color (taking down the vibrancy without changing the lightness or darkness), or a color which is simply closer to black…while understanding that black is considered achromatic (at least in the Western tradition in which I was taught).

That is, if you know how to darken a color while keeping (or enhancing) the chroma (intensity), then it probably becomes OK to darken it while reducing that chroma. I can see the issue with beginning artists mixing black into everything in order to establish value relations, which is likely not what an Art teacher wants to encourage. A lot of grayscale paintings with only hints of color, would likely result…

There are other things I could get into: how it doesn’t seem acrylic gouache needs the same type of high-quality paper and high-quality brushes as transparent watercolor (though obviously, my experience is extremely limited!); that I’ve recently learned that tertiary colors are not colors in between secondary colors (like orange) and primary colors (like yellow: making yellow-orange or orangish-yellow), but colors which are made up of three primaries (like yellow-orange plus blue); that it’s fun just to take a secondary color (like violet, made up of blue and red in subtractive color) and add a third primary (yellow), and see what results (in this case, a range of beautiful muted violets and browns); how painting physically is an entirely different experience from painting digitally; how working with paints actually doesn’t have to be messy or dangerous…

I’ll end on this note: I’ve realized that just because I write — a lot — and because I make art, this doesn’t mean that I have to mesh or integrate them into Sequential Art. Maybe I should just be doing the art for myself, not as a way to tell a story. Or, at least, not as a way to tell the story I’m currently working on. It’s actually a relief to get out of that headspace.

What I’ve written — in fiction, over the last week, say — kind of distantly reminds me of Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates…just a kind of constant barrage of problems caused by culture and ideology, and how it impacts a person on an individual level. I really couldn’t stay with Between the World and Me; it was too painful. And, like I think I said at the beginning of this entry…I can see evidence/residue of my own mental troubles, coming through in my own text. I know they don’t make sense, but I’m not sure yet, exactly how to break out of them.

Of course, that’s probably why I stopped writing, in the first place. But I have time and space to work on this, now. I also have an advisor, right now. So, it’s not too bad…

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