|this weeks post it notes with extra post it notes and bookmaking tool for smoothing edges (forgotten name of it and this isn't a bone one but a plastic one...want to get a bone one though )|
|mini book made from stuff that would have otherwise been thrown out|
|cyanotypes in the wash - some worked better than others...|
|me doing a grave rubbing in St George's Fields - photo taken on 120 fuji velvia by husband on a Rolliecord from 1957 and then processed in garage...|
Thankfully lurg seems to finally completely abated and whilst I'm a bit concerned that I have a few submission deadlines coming up - I think I'm going to be okay meeting them as I have rearranged some stuff for this week to make sure I can meet them without having to get stressed at the last minute though it is a bit of a bugger the college library being closed for staff development this week as there is loads of photocopying I'd like to be doing and I'm loathe to do it elsewhere as it is cheaper and easier at college....but it'll be fine to do it next week....when I was an undergraduate I always left things to the last minute and I was determined as a postgraduate that I would try and do things where I left myself time to do things at a pace that wasn't stressful and I try to be as ahead of myself as possible plus I'm also much better this time round at saying 'I could do with some more help and guidance on this' or 'I need to rearrange things' which also makes things much easier.
One of the biggest and on reflection most productive things I did last week was tidy my workroom - went through all the stuff that had accumulated at the lefthandside of my work desk and put all the out of date flyers in the recycling, sorted out all the pens in the pen pots by throwing out all the ones which no longer work, and so created some better more organised space to work in as well as just generally tidying up and sorting. Plus I can now sit on the sofa and read if I want without having to move piles of books though the end of the sofa is a more or less permanent book pile - but at the moment it consists of a much smaller pile of books I have finished reading but need to add to my bibliography before I put them back on the shelf.
However I have yet to properly sort out all the digital printing I had done the other week into my portfolio ready for hand in and that's a task for later this week I think. Hand in date isn't til middle of August but like I said for reasons of stress avoidance I like to be as far ahead of myself as possible with things.
But once I'd done some tidying I felt like doing something more traditionally creative and as the sun was bright I did some cyanotyping - the sun has changed direction so much since I first started doing it that instead of the kitchen window I now do them in the hallway and on the landing though they do also go in the downstairs back window too. I did 4 and am quite pleased with some of the results - I plan to colour photocopy them and then trim the results - so that I can remove the bits of my brushwork that aren't the best and then blow them up to A4 or A3 size. My brushwork has definitely got better but it still needs a lot of practice/improvement. I must make a date to go back to the darkroom and prep some more paper too. I must experiment with trying it on fabric too....my to do list never gets any shorter.....
I also want to copy onto acetate some of the grave rubbings (see picture above) I made on tracing paper with a big chunky graphite pencil at the weekend and so make them into cyanotypes too. Some of the remaining monuments at St George's Fields have the most heartfelt and laudatory inscriptions on them with phrases like 'fervid eloquence' on the monument of a preacher and I realised as I was rubbing that I could rub words individually and so make found poems in a sort of bastard offspring of the Burroughs/Bowie cut up technique.
Made 28 rubbings in total and discovered that granite monuments make for much smoother end results and it might have been useful to have had some masking tape to hold down paper at the corners when it got a bit windy and I don't like getting my hands dirty and I forgot to take wetwipes. Part of me wonders if I can ever be a really good artist as I am not good at getting my hands dirty - getting my fingers sticky with glue or paint makes me feels uncomfortable unless I can wash them clean again fairly quickly. It took a lot of scrubbing with the nail brush to get rid of the last bits of graphite from in and around my nails when I got home. But I am well chuffed with the results and am keen to go back and do more - on bigger paper this time...and maybe I'll wear latex gloves too....
St George's Fields is one of my go to places in Leeds for both a battery recharge as well as a place for creative inspiration - it is so steeped in its victorian origins and I continue to be fascinated by its overall history as a place and I also want to try and find out more of the individual stories on the names on the monuments there too - not the great big ones but the subscription graves that have been laid flat to line some of the pathways. Luckily my husband loves it too - and we decided we'd go on Saturday to take some pictures and have some lunch there.
I have two big learning points from our trip on Saturday - make list of what you want to take night before so that when you get there you have everything you need and don't have to go home and waste good light whilst you go home to pick the 35mm camera you were planning on using....even if it did give you opportunity to pick up tracing paper and graphite which you hadn't originally planned on taking. I took a little folding step this time too - which helped lots but my other learning point was if you are using props then it helps if you have an assistant to help you move things, help you carry stuff so me and my husband have come to an arrangement where we're going to take it in turns to be one anothers assistant.
I (finally) took 2 cameras my beloved Minolta 7000 from 1985 and shot a roll of Agfa Vista ISO 200 (from the poundshop) which I had developed and scanned later that afternoon at my go to place for ordinary colour film developing The Photo Shop in North Lane in Headingley and I also shot a roll of 120 Fuji Velvia using the very lovely posh medium format camera I've borrowed from college - got a few 'money shots' (see previous psots for definition) but also learnt that my pale mauve organza sadly doesn't look pale mauve (one of the colours of mourning in victorian times) when photographed and the differences in the end results of the film pictures (didn't take any digital - not even on my phone) are astonishing - different shades of sky and green even though both taken at the same time, this is due to the difference in the quality of the film itself - not just in its original state and its age and storage but also the processing and the fact that they were taken on different cameras and in different formats.
And as for the 'money shots' I took I did have a Kanye West like confidence moment sitting in front of the screen last night looking at the ones I've taken recently and said to my husband 'I totally win at taking grave photos' as one of the ones I took of a victorian monument in the rain in Scarborough and I cannot wait to get printed up and he said it was because they are of something I love and if it's something you love then that love will shine through and so you get good work....and I think he has a point.
The fuji velvia was home processed in the garage by my chemically proficient husband and I then scanned it in. The grass on the velvia looks lush but a bit anaemic on the poundshop 35mm.... I hope to get some of the images printed up soon and some I've already post processed to black and white and inverted to make cyanotypes with....can you tell I like making cyanotypes?
I like it as a process for all sorts of reasons - that it rose to prominence as a technique in victorian times, but mostly that it's such a relatively forgiving process and you don't need to be completely exact with developing times - me and numbers don't get on at the best of times and so I find developing prints in the traditional way in the darkroom tricky where you have to be so much more exact timewise. Plus I have been trying out different kinds of coloured paper to paint the solution onto to try and get away from the all blueness of cyanotypes - am liking both red and grey but I've also been researching (after seeing Sharon Harvey's wonderful work you can read about it here) how to make different coloured cyanotypes so I need to get some washing soda, some coffee and find a couple more trays.....
Plus some of the acetates I've made to make cyanotypes with work really well as pieces of work in their own right.
And before I forget other lessons learnt - clean glass frame before making a cyanotype, and resize images in Paint before inserting them into presentations....and when making bookmarks out of the backing paper from 120 film - cut the sticky back plastic lots bigger than it needs to be as that gives you bit of wriggle room when it comes to putting them together.
Making bookmarks out of backing paper and leftover sticky back plastic aren't the only things I've made out of leftover scrap materials this week - on Wednesday in an attempt to both lift my mood and practice the rudimentary bookmaking skills I'd learnt the previous week I made a little photo book (see photo above) using offcuts of tracing paper, card and thumbprints of images. I'd printed screendumps of images I'm working on for my portfolio but I'd printed two copies by mistake so I cut them out and stuck them in to the little book I made with a drawing pin and some embroidery thread. I have a guillotine at home (got it from Aldi a few years back) and it's not good at coping with more than one or two pieces of paper at a time so instead I trimmed the edges using a scalpel on my lovely new cutting mat - need to work on my scalpel skills as well as my brush skills but for a first attempt I'm pretty chuffed with it. And as a former mentor of mine from the Place and Memory Project pointed out - 'there's not much that is more satisfying than making your own book'. I really need to get working on my memorial book next.
Not sure where I heard or saw this over the last few days (memory is like a sieve at the moment) and it was the point that people make art of what they fear the most - in which case I must fear death and loss the most and I'm not sure I do fear death as such - unless it is painful and drawn out - but I do fear death and loss of loved ones, and I do feel as a society that we should be a bit more open about talking about death - if only in terms of telling our loved ones what we want to happen in the event of our deaths and making a will. Mmm will have to give this more food for thought.
Costs for this week - graphite pencil was approx 70p, purchase and processing of 2 35mm colour films was £12, can't remember how much the b+w film cost to buy as bought it as part of a job lot from someone who was clearing out a load of film they weren't going to use and not sure how much it cost to process either and I'm not sure how much the velvia cost or how much it cost to process (both the b+w and the velvia were done in house - or rather in garage and workroom) and the matte medium and dylon image maker I bought came to just over a tenner. I also bought some mini canvases £3, a new paintbrush £2 and more plastic wallets £2. So just under £30....not too bad considering.....
The other thing I did this week was attend a conference at Leeds Met entitled Gendered Bodies in Visible Spaces - the keynote speeches by Marvina Newton on the Regulation of Black Womens Bodies and Professor Rosalind Gill on 'Love Your Body But Hate It T: Contradictory Subjectivities In Post Feminist Times' were enlightening, thought provoking and depressing. As was the workshop I attended on Subverting Corporate Beauty Ideals by Glen Jankowski and Dr Nova Deighton-Smith which involved looking at magazines and advertising and what a smack in the face that was - I haven't read the sidebar of shame in the Daily Heil for a very long time (weaned myself off it a year or two ago) nor have I picked up a copy of Heat in a long time and wow I'd forgotten quite how dreadful those type of articles and magazines are - with their ridiculously airbrushed figures - women with bits of their thighs missing, arms missing muscles and all manner of airbrushing and nip-tucking with a mouse. I suppose one bonus of most people using applications like Instaglam (as someone without a smartphone who doesn't make if any selfies I am high court judge-like in my ignorance of these things) is that everyone *knows* how readily and easily images are manipulated these days and in some ways this is just carrying on the process that in some ways started with portrait painters painting people in as flattering a manner as possible (hence Oliver Cromwell's alleged utterance of 'paint me warts and all' to Sir Peter Lely) and is in some ways linked to these pictures but even so it is still a smack in the face when looking at this kind of thing en masse - toxic culture indeed. Not quite sure how best to combat it other than to continue what I do for my own sanity which is not to read or look at that kind of toxic nonsense.
As it gets nearer to hand in time and what feels like the real end of the year I've been taking stock of what I've learnt over the past few months, what good working habits I've got into, how my work has changed and one of the things I'm really glad I did get into a habit of doing was this blog on a Monday - and I intend to continue doing it but it is making me think about why it's public and not private and what difference would there be if I made it a private one instead which I might do for year 2.....as ever much food for thought. Plus I usually tweet link to it on a Monday evening as that's when I've finished and published it but I retweeted link to it again on Tuesday morning and got twice as many 'views'. Perhaps this is something I need to be looking at too....
I also made some inroads into my book backlog last week - and started reading academic books again and making notes - still got lots left to read but it felt good to at least be making an inroad into the pile again which sits at the right hand side of my workdesk in its own box....and along with the Shirley Jackson book I mentioned I've also started Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon - a victorian sensation novel from 1862 which features bigamy, arson and murder and is very wonderful indeed so far.....
And finally - modern fecking bins, needed and necessary but some of them don't have spoil the views I'm trying to take in St George's Field, there is one at the end of the avenue of graves from the Cemetery Road entrance which is the bane of my photographic life...as what looks like a beautiful victorian vista is clearly not as there is a modern fecking bin at the end of it. Perhaps I shall have to extend my basic use of Photoshop from levels and inversion and watermarks to cropping out bloody bins........