Get me off this stage

2018 05 17 - 15:01

Every once in a while my sensei makes us teach - to explain a waza, to refine a point, etcetera. I loathe this. I don't mind teaching or explaining, but only to one person at a time. I don't like talking in front of groups, even if it's groups of people I have no trouble communicating with otherwise.

I do not like being the centre of that kind of scrutiny or attention.

I've tried to figure out how or when this started. I can't source it, though I do know some of the reasons I continue to have the problem. I'm not going to share them; they're too embarassing. I might have no fear of discussing some personal matters openly, but even I have my limits. Increased frequency has never made it easier. I barrel through it without looking anyone in the face, getting to the end of it all as fast I can so it can be over with. It's always been that way, with anything I've had to do in front of others.

Someone once suggested - in respect of singing in public - that I put on another guise, be someone else so I could get through the performance. I can't. I am who I am. I am, as I just said to someone else, no good at pretence. Faking it doesn't change the fact that I'm still the focus of attention. I'd be a lousy actor, because I'm no good at pretence. It's also been suggested that I deal with it the same way I deal with explaining my art to people. Here's the thing, though - I don't. I will tell people how I made things, what process I used, but I leave it up to the audience to find a meaning.

art, iaido, personal
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Holbein Coloured Pencils

2018 05 04 - 03:04

Only 131 of the 150 full set of Holbein coloured pencils are acceptably lightfast - either a two or three star rating, and this is the complete list of those colours. The marked (*) ones are the ones I have. The email I received from the manufacturer, indicated that the reason they aren't available in Canada (yet!) is that they haven't yet received a license to do so - something to do, I think, with some of the pigments used in their making. They are working on it, though. That'll be a monumental relief to anyone looking to acquire them who doesn't either want to spend a month's rent to get them, or doesn't have a buddy travelling to Japan who can pick up a set (or open stock) and bring them back. I have found a seller on eBay from whom you can buy open stock (which I have, so I know it's legit as far as that goes; and they apparently offer some sort of discount on bulk orders, but I haven't inquired about that yet) (reds, blues, greens, blacks/whites, violets, yellows) (or by set), but they're about $5 to $6 each. The charts on each of the linked pages for the open stock, give the lightfastness of each pencil.

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Canson Art Board - review, tips

2018 03 16 - 09:35

It's nice to have a sturdy surface to work on without going directly on matboard. In fact, working on this stuff is rather like matboard - only this is thicker and has archival papers glued on to its surface. I can only speak to the finer textured version, but there are versions with more tooth than what I got.

Pros:

Cons:

I had actually soaked one in water for just a few moments, so not long enough to saturate it completely; but it was long enough to make it good and wet. It did come out bowed, but that can be combatted by laying the board between two flat, heavy items flatten the board as it dries.

The issue with the tearing and fraying of paper when you remove the board from the binding, could be solved by the application of some acrylic medium both before and after the piece is done.

I've worked over and over some areas with a lot of pencil, and this stuff is holding up nicely - both oil- and wax-based pencils. Of course, I'm not 'scrubbing' into the paper with a heavy hand, but multiple layers can produce a lot of piling on paper depending on its quality. So if you were looking to use this for pencil work, I'd say it's a safe bet. And given the ability it has to take water, I'd give it a go for acrylic and watercolour as well. I don't know about oil, as it's not a medium I've touched in over twenty years.

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T'Gaal Sharpener - review, tips

2018 03 15 - 20:17

A good sharpener is any pencil user's dream.

Pros:

Cons:

I once came upon the tip that one should turn the sharpener around the pencil, rather than turning the pencil inside the sharpener, when it comes to using the hand-held type; as this apparently causes far less breakage. I was never able to manage it easily, so finding a decent sharpener, rather than going the sandpaper route, was always a thing for me. I quite like this one, and the tip choices; as the lower number tips will lead to less tip breakage, but still offer a nice point. You also still have the option of the pencil version of a rigger brush with point 5, if you need something long and thin and need to get into a tight area.

On the note of pencil breakage, I'm sure you're aware of the issues with Prismacolor Premiers, so I won't go into that; but will tell you that my own personal fix is a hair dryer - and I'm guessing you could use a heat tool also. Lay the pencils down somewhere they won't get blown around much by the dryer, and blow-dry each pencil end to end for at least a minute or so - it doesn't have to be a minute or so for every centimetre of the pencil, but so long as the whole pencil gets heated for a good amount of time, it'll be suffice. I'd rather this method than the microwave option, given the shiny lettering. I've found the hair dryer method works well, and can be repeated if necessary. If a tip does break off in this sharpener, just turn it so the pencil hole is facing down, tap it against something a time or two, and the lead should fall right out.

Also, remember to every once in a while sharpen a regular graphite pencil with your sharpener, to help clean the blade of the waxes and oils from your pencils.

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The Delight of White

2018 03 12 - 17:12

Everything I have that will make white that isn't a paint or a bottled ink, on "black" cardstock. I don't have true black pastel paper at the moment (just this cardstock), nor any Caran d'Ache whites.

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Here's what I believe about the art world, and art itself

2017 10 29 - 03:20

This list is, of course, subject to alteration at any time - and it no doubt will - especially in the middle of the night when I get extra chatty.

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Abstract Expressionism - Again

2017 09 07 - 15:37

What Makes an Abstract Expressionist Painting Good? Though broadly interested in using abstraction as a way to convey individual emotions, the painters who worked in an AbEx mode actually spanned a wide range of techniques, styles, and intentions. In short, like all art-historical groupings, AbEx is both broad and somewhat limiting in how it brings together a diverse range of artists. Each artist had a signature style, from Pollock’s spontaneous, chaotic drip technique to Rothko’s atmospheric squares.

The fact I don't like abstract expressionism is not news to anyone who bothers to listen to me rattle on about art. I find it - in large part - unattractive, noisey, and unfinished. I won't go on about the other reasons I don't like it, because they're too nit-picky for public consumption. I do, though, not mind the paintings of Franz Kline; but I think that's got a lot to do with them being fairly monochromatic - all black and white. They are not a mess of colour as Willem de Kooning's works were, nor the pantone book on acid works of Mark Rothko (although some of them do put one in mind of looking out of a window that's frosted over in condensation, so you only get a vague idea of the world on the other side of the glass. Geezuz, took me over 30 years, but I finally found a point to Rothko), nor the bird shit of Pollock. But, these people did do one thing for which they do deserve a lot of credit: They opened a door. That door had nothing to do with what they did, but with the fact that it allowed people another layer of freedom when it came to painting. It took off yet another layer of fetters.

But, as with all abstract art forms, to my mind, the whys of it can be summed up in that it "can elicit an emotional response from viewers that requires a physical, often prolonged, encounter with them". That's what the point of a lot of abstract art is - to make you feel something. The colours, the shapes, the patterns, the mess, the size, whatever it is, is designed to get a reaction from you. Jackson Pollock got it out of me, by the very fact that he made something I hate to look at; a lot less vehement than the self-loathing that poor bastard experienced for much of his life before he drank himself up a tree trunk.

I love abstract art, but something a lot less frenzied than much of the world of the abstract expressionist. I like a less violently jarring and frenetic use of colour. I like recognisable shapes, even if they aren't shapes out of reality. I like patterns. I like shading and gradient. I like the kind of abstraction that comes out of surrealist creative techniques. I like surrealism itself.

And to anyone who says "I could do that" or "my kid could do that" - if that's so, then by all means go home and do it. But, otherwise, keep it to yourself if that's your only criticism. If you're saying that because you hate the work, then just say you hate the work. If you are saying it because you - like myself - think that Pollock looks like bird shit, then just say Pollock looks like bird shit. If you don't grok what you're looking at, then say that - maybe someone can give some perspective. But if you think you can do better, I won't challenge that. I'll help you select the paint and the canvas to use. I'll tell you the cheapest places to shop. I'll give you names if you need some works to be inspired by.

I find that most criticism of art comes from a lack of understanding. Hell, I've been an arty kind of person most of my life - in one way or another - am familiar with most major schools and genres, have taken art history courses, have been to galleries, looked at books, read articles, listened to artists - and I still very frequently look at something and think, "I don't get it." I don't blame or fault anyone for not getting it. It's a legitimate visceral initial reaction to anything, especially abstract works. So, if you don't get it, look at it for a while. Don't try to figure out what the artist was trying to convey, just have a reaction to it. Enjoy the colour, the brushwork, the pattern, whatever it is. If you don't get the artist's point, at least you've given yourself one.

Also, remember that not everything can appeal to everyone all the time. There are seven billion people on this planet, each with a different perspective. Just as not all of them are going to like your cooking, your taste in music, or even you, they sure aren't all going to like the same kind of art; and even if they do, they might not all be liking it for the same reasons.

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Coloured Pencils

2017 08 10 - 12:15

I'm going to detail some of the minutia of my obsession with coloured pencils; because I know you're all just as excited about that as I am. I know it. I can tell.

Moving on...

Some of you may be aware of my incessant need to own every set of quality pencil crayons there is. I'm doing all right so far, as you can see; but there are a few missing. There are also a couple of things not yet on the list, because I can't find reliable lightfastness ratings for them. Apparently the CPSA has done extensive testing and has charts, but I haven't yet bothered with a membership with them in order to access those charts.

These ones are on the way. They have arrived, and are sitting in the pile o' pencils happily with their friends.

These ones are next on the list.

These ones will probably never happen because, yeah, price. And believe me when I tell you that that's the cheapest you'll see them for.

These are currently impossible to get in Canada - I have yet to find a source, so I'd have to order them from the US, which would put them at nearly $400 CAD, so also probably never coming to live with me.

These ones are also not yet available in Canada, but I'm sure will be at some point. However, I'd currently have to order them from the UK open stock, as a number of the set are not acceptably lightfast, so I'd only buy the ones that are. And, after doing a colour comparison to the Derwent Artist line I already have, I see that there are only six colours in the Procolour line that are not in the Artist line - so I'll just get those. They are also now availlable in Canada through Above Ground Art Supplies in Toronto. You can order off their website in sets or open stock.

There are open stock pencils in the cases, from a few different sources.

What you can see:

Derwent Drawing Pencils 24
Faber-Castell Polychromos 120
Koh-I-Noor Polycolor 72
Gallery Soft Pastels (not pencils)
Lyra Rembrandt 72
Derwent Inktense Pencils 72
Derwent Inktense Blocks 72
Derwent Coloursoft Pencils 120
Prismacolor Premier 150

What you can't see:

A handful of Caran D'Ache Luminance pencils
Derwent Studio pencils
Derwent Artist pencils
Derwent Metallics
Derwent Graphitint
Derwent Tinted Charcoal

I'm leaving my drawing and painting pens out of it.

My stash
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Picture Imperfect

2017 08 04 - 23:33

Photographic series or bodies of work are being explicated, explained, contextualized, rationalized, and elevated with text or verbal rationals. You’re thinking: so what? That’s no big deal. Let me start with a short history and then let’s take a look at current practice.

While a lot of art exists in context to other things - like the visuals of photography in context to any narrative attahced - I can see the concern that photography might be - to some - losing quality as it begins to depend too much on other mediums, and becomes less able to stand on its own; or, rather, the creators are taking poorer pictures, putting less effort into the craft of photography, and spreading their efforts too thinly over other other things to pad out the photography they present. I think the author of this article sees some photographers as being lazy.

A few years ago I was heavily into what I referred to abstract photography - some aspects of which others refer to as macro photography, a term I never cared for. I was very much into taking pictures of shapes, patterns, stains on pavements, cracks in things, curvature. I remember posting a photograph somewhere, a close-up of the curve of the necks of three vases of gradient hues of orange, yellow, and a pink. It was meant, as much abstract art is, to be appreciated on its own - for its shape, the curves working together - but someone asked me what it was a photograph of, and I told them it didn't matter. They disagreed. It really didn't matter, because my telling anyone what it was, would get in the way of appreciating just the visual of what was being shown to them.

It reminds me of an Ansel Adams show I went to several years back at the AGO. Rows of framed and matted photographs, a simple title, a date, that's all. Because those images could stand on their own without the audience being told what they were looking at.

Labels, as Daoists will tell you, are traps. Naming things damages the audience's relationship with what they see, because the audience then frames their perspective in terms of what someone else sees, rather than discovering their own interpretation. Some art requires labels, names, description, as part of the art; but not all art does. And, in fact, not all art should be trussed with labels.

I don't think the art of photography is in any real danger. There will always be trends that are favourable and those that are not; but the purist act of photography is never going to die off. There will always be those who will show you images and hope you will find an interpretation of your own, without them having to lead you by the hand to figure the puzzle out.

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You've got it

2017 07 22 - 02:11

Here's the thing about art.

Everybody's got it in them. Everyone. All of you. It's got absolutely not one thing to do with the finished product, but with the desire to make something. It's got nothing to do with talent either. It's never been my aim to do anything but make sure people understand that they, too, can make something. Everyone should exercise the creative muscle if they want to.

So when people come to me and tell me they can't make art - because they aren't 'artists', because they have no talent - I tell them it's bullshit. You can do it if you want to. Sometimes a non-artist wants to show me something they've made, but they hesitate because they think I'm going to judge it poorly maybe? I make sure, no matter what it is they've made, to find something good to say about it, because you shouldn't step heavily on people ever, much less when they're doing something new. It doesn't matter if the end product is good or not; it matters that they've tried. Good end product is a learned skill in a lot of cases anyhow; and not even Picasso painted a masterpiece every time he picked up a brush. Artists make a lot more duds than people realise.

As for talent, well - if talent can be defined as "a natural aptitude or skill" - then perhaps some are born with it turned on and some are still on a dimmer switch. They just haven't found the medium, or they aren't watching with the right eyes, yet. It's a matter of finding the right key for the lock. I didn't discover any creative gift with visual arts until I was in my 20s. Prior to that it was words, and I could sing, but somehow the idea of visual arts just never caught my eye - pardon the pun. I just never 'thought' about it. For some, their creative gift comes with visual arts; and for others it's cooking, or carpentry, or math.

I don't much care for people who think art is the exclusive domain of the artist. Art is part of the human condition - like music, or eating, or anything else that comes naturally to us, like taking a breath. Everyone can do it. Everyone should do it if they want to. If, in the end, the only thing you ever get from it is happiness, then that's all that matters.

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