Recipes for homemade watercolors

Recipes from Earth Pigments — this seems fascinating to me

What an interesting way to create old-school pigments and paints. I imagine people make and sell these as well, but it would be fun to make one’s own. I guess that’s how things were done in the past.

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Those travel watercolor brushes

So I’ve got them in my cart. I’ve just got to actually get them. 🙂

Until then, I’d like to just use the waterbrushes without filling the handles. They have a nice feel to them and seem to be able to hold a lot of water even by dabbing into a saucer.

I admit to a feeling that I should just stop buying shit because I clearly have little time to work on this stuff as it is. I have that sneaking suspicion, and buying little irritating things like this makes me feel nickeled and dimed, even if these things aren’t that much money. I just dislike accumulating crap that I’ll never use and wonder if I’m not buying them for no good reason. I’ve still got at least four things to spend my evenings on as it is (music, crafts, art, language), and not enough evening to spend.

And “music” includes three freaking instruments, for pete’s sake. “Crafts” include two current projects plus more than enough UFOs to push to the top of the stack when they are finished.

“Art” currently includes graphite, watercolor, ink, and graphitint. “Language” thankfully includes only one language currently, but there are at least two more that I need to stay up on.

And yet here I am buying g/d watercolor brushes. While having to practice long tones on a new flute, when I ran out of time and emotional energy to work on the harp. I don’t know why the flute doesn’t take as much emotional energy. I think it’s because I’m not taking lessons on it and hence turning it into one more chore that I can only either stay even on or fail to measure up to. The flute is just pure fun for me. My harp teacher was so nice, but for some reason I can’t make sense of, those lessons just tore me up, and I was doing well at them.

I think what I need to do is to schedule my time better, and not just go home at night without a clear idea of which of these I will work on. But then I end up feeling once again overcommitted. When I’m home from work, I want to be able to tell the g/d difference.

Sort of excited

A little half-pan set of nice watercolors

I remember this and pastels being the only color medium I could work with. I always say that I dislike color and prefer graphite and ink, but there were color media I liked. I just liked ink and graphite more and still do, and despised acrylic, oils, and colored pencils.

But I thought it might be fun to do something, especially something conveniently small and neat that takes very little clean-up. One of my big dislikes of wet media is the mess of them and how they swallow up entire areas of a house or apartment when they are used. Once you take them out, shit gets everywhere. (You’d think I was some kind of neatnik from the way I talk, but I’m not. I’ve got plenty of little bits of clutter lying around, but there are limits.) To be able to pack this away when finished with it and have it leave no trace is very attractive. Pastels are of course out of the question due to the sheer mess of using them and how once you start, you can’t even scratch your nose until you wash your hands. I always say that using pastels is like doing an EVA on the international space station; once you start, you’re committed and you can’t even blow your nose until you finish. Plus, the stupid piece isn’t ever really finished since even years after completing a piece, you can still smudge the hell out of it. Unlike paints or ink of any kind, you can’t ever consider it finished. Of course graphite is the same way, but not nearly to the same extent.

I think I’d like to try that same berries-and-leaves thing that I did in the graphitints and see how it turns out and how much fun it is.

I wish that coleus book had arrived; I ordered it, but it never got here and I ended up having to request a refund from Amazon. 😦 I really wanted that book. I did get a nice coffee table book of very pretty landscapes, but literally none of the photos really lit me up, which surprised me.

Brush and ink painting

This is way, way, way better than any “lesson” you’ll find on YouTube. The best way to learn for me has always been to just find someone really good and watch them for a long time, and then just mess around with my own supplies. That really is the best way to learn.

When I say this is bad, I’m really not kidding.

Nor am I fishing for compliments.

Besides, there’s no place to fish for them.

But if I posted the photo that I used, it would be bluntly obvious that I have a long way to go before I become even vaguely competent with color. Nevertheless, it does look deceptively competent as long as no one knows what I was working from.

Now for the shadow on the paper.

Oh, and the ink brush pen came, and it’s terrific fun but really weird. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever dealt with thus far, basically a waterbrush with an ink cartridge in it. Very, very unusual, and I’ll have to think about what I’m going to do with it since I’ve never handled a medium like that before; the last time I used ink was with a rapidograph.

Ooh, the ink is slightly water-soluble. 🙂 Hm, what to do, what to do …

This is really bad. I’m not kidding.

The photo is totally different.

This doesn’t look a damned thing like the photo. The veins are embossed in the wrong direction, and I’ve drawn them perfectly straight since I’m not even really following the photo except in the vaguest terms.

I can follow a photo with no trouble in graphite, but you give me color, and it’s like an instant inability on my part to just follow the lines; I’m out of the lane markers entirely. I simply cannot figure out why this is the case. And it’s not really an inability, per se. It’s more a total disinclination. I might be able to do it if I forced myself to, but it’s as if I just stop giving a crap about reproducing the photo the minute color comes into it and just grab pencils at random and make it look however I want. I will never grasp what the hell my issue is with that.

Now, it’s not that there is anything bad about this; I found out about a very good artist named Peggy MacNamara whose sense of color reminds me a lot of my own who is an artist in residence at the Field Museum in Chicago; I discovered her through one of Emily Graslie’s “Brain Scoop” videos. She seems to respect appropriate color more than I do but does have a bit of the same semi-crazy shit going on with it.

All the same, I just wish I could focus and learn how to be more disciplined with color and just make something green if it’s green and brown if it’s brown without going, “I like purple better, though … ” It’s better to break a rule after having learned to follow it. I’ve got a good enough eye for it; if something is sage green with a hint of pumpkin, I’m pretty reliable at detecting it and mixing the colors appropriate to create it; I just don’t care. Either that or else I’m so busy worrying about value, which always seduces me, that I stop giving a crap about color. This is part of why I wish there were a grisaille method for dry media. I bought myself a black Inktense block thinking that might help, but it just sort of smushed and turned into dirty dishwater when I tried to use a damp brush with it. I’m thinking about using Chinese ink, but that’s water soluble.

Hm, it might be just that there is once again not a big value difference in this photo. Everything is sort of the same vague value, like with the fennec fox, and the only differences are color ones. There aren’t any “edges” to the fields of color, and my eyes are drawn to significant value edges. That’s one of the nice thing about doing cats; most of the ones that photograph very well are stripey, and you get lots of sudden value changes in their coats. I wonder if black and white is just naturally easier than color for a lot of beginners or amateurs?

I also think that I need to have a physical photo to work from as well. I really cannot stand trying to work from a photo on a screen, even a high-resolution one. It never feels comfortable for me, and given that my eyes are permanently set at one focus now, it’s just not manageable at all anymore. I need a physical photo that I can get right up to, and that gets even harder if you wear bifocals since you have to do that hunching question-mark thing with your neck to see things clearly; bifocals are created assuming that when you are looking closely at something, you’re looking down, and that’s just not the case any more with screens everywhere. 😦

I should buy a nice coffee table book of pretty flowers and plants, or landscapes or something, and see if that helps.

Ooh, there’s a nice coleus book that I’d probably enjoy. I’ll get that. It’s not even expensive. This landscape book would be nice, too. Of course, these photos are all in copyright, but I can still use them to practice, at least.

Not even the Apple Store.

Why bother with killing people or the Apple Store? There would not be a single untouched pint of Ben & Jerry’s in my local supermarket, and they just started stocking wine. They’ve got Australian reds, and the Wine & Spirits down the street from me has coconut rum.

And there’s nice shoe stores at the local outlet mall, and a craft store with a great yarn section in driving distance.

I’d have to take off work the whole week right after the Purge just for crocheting.

If the craft store sold anything other than those crappy Prismacolor pencils, I’d need two weeks.

This is how you know that men write these shows. If women wrote them, they’d know that right after the Purge, the local Sephora, Naturalizer, and Godiva stores would look like a bomb went off in them.

Études and artistic blocks

The artist I follow online, Lisa Clough* does weekly livestreams during which she’ll work on a project and otherwise chat about things and take questions from those watching.

A frequent question is how to deal with artistic blocks, when one can’t manage to sit at the table (or piano or laptop) and work on an idea for whatever reason. Her advice is pretty steadfast here: just paint or draw anyway, since it can stimulate creativity and will at least make you better for when your Next Grand Idea shows up.

I wonder if it wouldn’t be easier for artists if they thought of some paintings or drawings as études, practicing for the good stuff? When one plays an instrument, one will often play études or scales, and while one should always try to be creative while playing, études aren’t really supposed to be approached as if one is pouring one’s soul out to the stars. While you’re doing them, you are well aware that you’re just sort of working the muscle memory to keep the feel of your instrument in your fingertips. You’re released from the pressure of having to Be Creative™ and are just keeping the machinery in good working condition.

I think it might release visual artists from that sort of pressure as well, if they could just work on things and see that work as just practice; people often do “studies” as part of art class, after all. Maybe artists can also do what some musicians do and keep a list of “stuff I can’t seem to do well” that can be used to prioritize practicing. I have never done a picture of something transparent, like a crystal glass, for example. Shiny metal surfaces also blow my mind. Things like that boggle me, and it amazes me when I see them. Someday, I’ll probably need to do that.

For now, I want to still get the machinery cranked up, so I’m doing pleasant-looking but unchallenging things and trying to get them as perfect as possible. But someday, I hope I’ll have a list of things I need to get better at: perspective, transparency, odd angles, etc. — the typical things that artists have trouble with.

Anyhow, I think that artistic block might be less of a problem if artists, especially amateurs with no set deadlines, could conceptualize it as scales and études when they want to sit down at their work but don’t have what they think is a grand idea in mind.


* I hate to keep bringing this woman up like a weird online stalker or something, but she really makes a lot of sense.

“Just layer until it looks good.”

I’m beginning to appreciate Lisa Clough‘s advice. Compared to the photo I’m working from, this looks like warmed-over ass, but it’s improving with each pass. I just have to keep working with the lightest possible hand so I can keep layering color.

Besides, it doesn’t really need to look like the photo. It just needs to look good. If no one ever sees the photo, people will think I know what I’m doing. 🙂

So not too bad. Better than anything else I’ve ever done with color, that’s for sure. A lot of that I think is because of both Clough’s advice and the fact that these pencils feel infinitely better than any colored pencil I’ve used. Typically they feel like rubbing soap on a pane of glass, but these have that grabby friction that I love about graphite (an amusing thing to like about what is essentially a lubricant, but there you have it).

When I’m done, I want to put in a light shadow as if they’re sitting on the paper. That’ll be fun.

I’m also very pleased to see that the cold-pressed paper I’m using, which has a decided weave pattern pressed into it, is much smoother on the other side. I was wondering if I shouldn’t have gotten hot-pressed paper, but now I think I’m just going to use the back side of the Arteza cold-pressed and see what happens. I’ll find a pretty picture of some flowers or plants or something. Maybe this. I’m nuts about coleus. There is something about that burgundy and hot lime combination that just kills me.

BTW, I’m not planning on selling any of these; I know these photos are all under copyright by someone else. They’re just me practicing.

Me and wet media

You see, the problem is …

… this is what happens when I start messing with it. I’ll keep messing, but at the moment, I’m planning to get one white and one black inktense block and then put these things over top — or at least just mess with the black inktense block and a waterbrush for a bit.

The thing is, I’m not generally a fan of wet media because they always smell, they’re messy, they’re not portable or neatly confined to a small space, and they swallow up an entire room of your living space, none of which I can tolerate. The neatness and compact portability of graphite is a huge part of its appeal for me. I just like universes in small spaces.

I’m also super-anal when I do art in that every time I do anything, I like being able to put a dot that’s exactly this big in exactly that spot. Wet media always have this thing about them of sitting back away from the paper and putting your hand far back on the brush, and I want to be right the hell up on the paper so close that I have to take my glasses off with my hand as far up on the pen as possible. I turn into a neurosurgeon when I use black ink.

So anyhow, I bought one black inktense block and one white one (for error correction), and will probably use the waterbrushes with that, and then slap the graphitints on top if I feel like I want a titch of color. And I will lean so far into the paper when I do it that I’ll rub the tip of my nose against it. 🙂