Monday, 27 July 2015

MA-Ness Term 3 Week 15 - Kiddies Digital Camera,Ongoing Music Adventures, Glossing, Kippax Grave Poetry, Translations,Abstracts, Victorian Graffitti....

this weeks post it notes and the lego Spongebob characters used as candle holders on a cake
Mapp helping me write up what films I've seen this year...and by help I mean distract me with cuteness really.....
the kiddies 2 mega pixel camera that I've been using - it takes 24 pictures at high resolution, has no memory card and a tiny screen on the back - I can hardly see what I'm doing with it - but I love using it.
I feel very tired today and not really in the mood for writing this up, especially as it has gotten late and I've normally finished writing this and published it by now but I think I'd best just grit my teeth and get on with it or else I'll fall behind with my planned workload for this week and that is worse than the alternative of leaving it til tomorrow as then I;d be playing catch up all week and I hate doing that. But at least last week I did catch up with a couple of jobs that had been on my to-do list for a while - namely drafting an abstract for an academic conference in October and writing up my films seen in 2015 list. I found writing the abstract especially difficult - partly because I've never done anything like that before hence my films seen in 2015 list is now up to date as that seemed like a productive way to procrastinate.

And one of the films I was writing up was the very wonderful The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson by Julian Temple and it was very very good indeed. It began with Wilko playing chess on the sea defences at Canvey Island and talking to Death about what it was like when he got his cancer diagnosis. It was interspersed with clips from various films including Belle et la Bete, Orpheus In The Underworld, Nosferatu, The Vikings,The Seventh Seal,  A Matter of Life and Death, clips of Wilko Johnson performing, a pirate figure walking along the concrete walls, clips of old films of seaside fun, clips of his heroes Johnny Kidd and The Pirates, the floods in the fifties, purpose made animations and sequences featuring the image at the bottom of what was meant to be a rock pool – it was funny, uplifting, touching and poignant – there was a round of applause at the end but I didn’t clap ( I very rarely clap at films - even when I've absolutely loved them) but I did make notes of some of his quotes that he used in the film:

'no such thing as happiness – only lesser shades of melancholy'  which he said came from Blake
'never know what is enough until you know what is more than enough'…which he said also came from Blake

I've sent the abstract to a couple of chums who know about these things and got very useful feedback from them both about how to improve it and I plan to have a final draft ready by the end of Wednesday so I can email it in before the deadline on Friday.

Again - I would like to know what has happened to the old me, as the old me would still be scratting around trying to get something together right up to the deadline as opposed to (hopefully) having something a lot more considered and coherent ready before the deadline. But I am much happier working this way rather than leaving everything to the last minute, I much prefer trying to plan and be considered about stuff rather than flapping about and stressing....though of course I still stress about things - just in a longer winded less time pressured way....

So this week I have been making the most of using the kiddies camera I bought a while back and then processing some of the pictures I took on it ready to make cyanotypes with them. By processing I mean using photoshop to take the colour out, boost the levels and then invert them. I have one of a pylon against clouds that I especially like and can't wait to see it in cyanotype form though given the weather at the moment that might take some time. I might see if I can use the uv beds at the college or ask the local beauty salon if I can use one of their sunbeds or use the uv lamp I have as otherwise given the gloom they'll be taking days rather than hours to do.

Technically it's a piss poor camera really - the plastic lens is slightly warped, like a short roll of 35 mm it only takes 24 pictures at high (!) resolution and you lose those if you either take the batteries out or they run out of juice. Pictures are taken off the camera via a usb cable, the screen on the back is about the size of a large postage stamp and I can barely see what I'm doing with it unless I have my 'readers' on (for those of you who had grandparents that didn't have varifocals but had 2 pairs of glasses - one pair was for distance and the other pair for reading hence 'readers') but of course if I have my 'readers' on I can barely see what I'm trying to take a picture of in the some point I might have to bite the bullet and go for varifocals after all, though I think I might get bifocals instead - partly because they are old fashioned and partly because the varifocal simulation thing I tried made me feel sick.  
But in spite of all those difficulties and limitations I am absolutely loving using it - it's very light and it makes me smile and I am looking forward to getting some of the pictures I have taken on it blown up big. It is of course an indescribably poor cousin to the very lovely 35mm film camera a chum has very generously given me as a birthday present - namely a Minolta Dynax 70001 which now I have the right lithium battery for I shall be experimenting with it later this week. I also have a new zoomy lens for the Canon I got in the charity shop the other week - I am still loving making images - whether it's with a the very fancy medium format beast I have on loan from the college or my crappy kiddies camera or with a much fancier 35mm outfit or some spinach juice.....

I've also continued the experiments I've been making with working whilst listening to different kinds of music, this week I went for vampire themed music and worked whilst listening to the soundtrack to Dracula AD 1972, Dracula - Classic Scores from Hammer, Philip Feeney's Dracula for Northern Ballet and Scarey Movie Themes. Hmm there wasn't as much out of tune singing along but I think all in all I get more done if I have either R4 or R4 Extra on, though I find if I want to really take in what is being talked about then I have to listen to it alone and not try and do something else as well - unless it's something physically repetitive and mentally unchallenging like painting gloss medium on image transfers I've done.  

I made time to go round a graveyard in Kippax last week - St Mary's Church and some of the grave poetry was wonderfully poignant and gloriously melancholy and this was my favourite from the grave of 4 children of John and Mary Land who died between 1852 and 1877

cold cold lies the clay on their mouldering heads
but sweet is the rest of the innocent dead
and the love which bore them dwell in each breast
til we meet them again in the realm of the blest.

Such a sad encapsulation of christian victorian death beliefs and hopes and how heartbreaking it must have been for their parents. I wonder if any of their children survived into adulthood?

I also made time to nip into the Art Gallery on the Headrow as I had a few minutes between meetings. I adore the room at the end of the ground floor which is filled with Atkinson Grimshaws and other wonders of the victorian period namely Evelyn de Morgans The Valley of the Shadows and The Convent Garden by FS Walker which always makes me smile. I always make a point of looking in that room as those paintings lift my spirits but a new (to me) more modern painting on the stairs also caught my eye this week - Jacob Kramers Clay from 1928, a stark but gentle portrait of a cadaver. I need to go back and look at that again when I'm not in such a rush and find out a bit more about it.

I did make time the following day (after my haircut) to go round the Tailored Exhibition at Leeds Museum (details about it here) which if you love fashion is well worth a visit. I learnt that trousers gradually replaced breeches from 1810 to 1840, that frock coats were made not to fasten so that you could show off your waistcoat, there is a wonderful example of a modern jacket with the hand stitched sections on show to show the work that goes on underneath a tailored jacket and of course beautiful clothes - including a black victorian ladies riding outfit (to be worn when riding side saddle of course) a fabulous velvet evening suit from the 70's which oozed charm, cocktails and cigarettes and babycham somehow...a pinstripe suit for a woman from the 1930's which still looks remarkably current and a ladies brown walking dress from the victorian period complete with silk fill in frills and a slight bustle. All this plus wonderfully evocative old adverts and a history of the tailoring trade in Leeds. Go see it if you can. I'll definitely be popping in again plus it's free and given this governments attitude of knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing who knows how much longer we will have free museums.....

I also went to see a fellow MA-ers exhibition Translations by Cam Reid at the College of Art Vernon Street site (details here ) and I found it moving and inspiring too - and it made me realise that I really do need to make more of an effort to go to exhibitions - partly to support venues, partly to support colleagues, partly to check out spaces and see how I could make my work 'work' in them but also just for inspiration and quiet contemplation. Are galleries the secular version of churches these days?

Amongst other books (namely the very wonderful Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon) I'm reading City Boy - My Life in New York During the 1960s and 1970s by Edmund White (Bloomsbury 2010)  - a writer whose work I've enjoyed ever since I went to see him do a book reading at Waterstones some years ago. Anyway some of the things he is saying about writing on page 113 could equally be applied to any form of creative work - especially visual art work
 'no-one is sincerely interested in writing a journal that will never be published - or if he or she is, it's a sort of self sufficiency or modesty that I don't understand. If a writer has the desire to communicate by writing and be heard, then he necessarily cares about seeing it in print. I suppose it's the difference between masturbation and making love- the real writer wants to touch another person. Reading the written word is participating in a dialogue in which one person is doing all the talking but in which the listening is also creative.'

The other thing which caught my eye is on pages 16-17 (and which may feature in my dissertation) is when he is talking about the veneration of so called 'great' writers is 'I begin to see the selling of high art as just one more form of commercialism'. 
As ever much food for thought as was a chum's assertion on Facebook that we are each made up of three people - who we see ourselves as, who we want to project ourselves as and how others perceive us, which struck me as especially true after someone commented on my confidence last week - I am much more confident that I ever used to be but there's still a lot of frantic unconfident and self-doubting activity going on underneath.

The week was rounded off with a birthday treat trip to the CoffinWorks in Birmingham and very wonderful it was too and you can read about it here and go to it if you can - it is an AMAZING place full of thought provoking stuff and nostalgia in the form of old style telephones, sewing machines and equipment - all of which were used in the production of furniture for coffins like nameplates, handles, screws topped with crosses, and the things that went in them like the linings and of course the shrouds. We got to see the stamp room where the name plates were stamped out and finished, the shroud room where the shrouds were made (even got to try an arm of a shroud on, I knew they were made backless but I didn't know they were made with only one arm sewn in and the other arm put on and tucked in afterwards) and marvel at bottles of things like 'cavity fluid' and labels on boxes like 'new crem high vac handles' and the people who work there are lovely - really approachable and knowledgeable. I took lots of pictures though mostly for research purposes but one or two might make their way into cyanotypes most likely one of a box of jesuses or should that be jesuii?

Then it was off to the wonderful Sky Garden at the Library where I took lots of pictures with my crappy kids digital camera, a mooch round the Art gallery where I got my Burne-Jones and Pre-Raphaelite fix - I don't think I could ever tire of Henry Wallis's Death of Thomas Chatterton, and I also fell in love with Augustus Leopold Egg's Travelling Companions and A Widows Mite by Millais. The following day we went to Kenilworth Castle where I again used my crappy kids digital camera in the pouring rain to take pictures of the ruins to make into cyanotypes, I didn't know anything about the castle before I went and it was with some delight that I discovered that thanks to Walter Scott setting a novel there it was a great tourist attraction in victorian days attracting Dickens, Queen Victoria herself and many a victorian landscape painter and photographer.  It was also interesting to see some victorian graffitti - J Perrins scratched their name and the date 1850, HWC scratched initials and the date 1866 and there was lots of other initials and dates scratched into the walls - the most recent I saw datewise was 1971.

So as ever much food for thought and much work and reading to do, portfolio hand in date is fast approaching so I'd best crack on with putting it together.....    

Monday, 20 July 2015

MA-Ness Term 3 Week 14 - Bleaching Cyanotypes, Printing, Abstract and adopting John Waters approach of 'A No Is Free...'

this weeks post it note and successful cyanotypes top right - close up of grave sculpture from Scarborough graveyard on b+w 35 mm film  done on lined paper from notebook, bottom left - gateway in Scarborough on b+w 35mm film on rag paper and bleached and left - digital image of wind up halloween toy on cheap watercolour paper and bleached too.

Matte medium 35mm b+w  image transfer onto canvas bottom half painted with gloss medium 

cyanotypes being washed - very blue prior to bleaching and the very eagle eyed amongst you may spot some that aren't in the photo at the top but they were ones done by my husband - he wants to try and make a 3d he bleached and tea toned some of his...and he took this photograph using flash which shows the bubbling water nicely

Have been waylaid somewhat by life events this week and so not done all the things I was hoping to or was signed up for, but hopefully things will be a little better and more calm and ordered this week and I will get more stuff done on my to do list and be able to attend and take part in all the things I've got booked in my diary and not have to drop out of stuff at the last minute....and most importantly here's hoping and fingers crossed for the improvement of health in loved ones.

So if I didn't do all the things I was hoping too - what did I get done? well I did do some more cyanotyping - see above, am really pleased with the pale blue and cream gateway that came from a photograph I took in Scarborough. I have a larger staircase one I want to do as well which was taken at the same time on the same hillside just below in the Wood End Art Gallery and I hope to get some time and sunshine to do it at some point this week.

I took the vivid blueness out of it by putting it in a bleach solution (one tablespoon washing soda crystals in a litre of water) for about 30 seconds (whilst it was still wet from the initial washing process) but it can be a bit tricky judging when you've got the shade you want as you need to take it out of the bleach solution *just* before it has reached the shade you think you want as the bleach keeps on working for longer than you think as it is absorbed into the can be a tricky business this cyanotyping malarkey....but it is precisely its contrary non specific-ness that I love.

Plus it is interesting the way different paper absorbs the solution and has a different end result - the lined notepaper from my notebook has worked really well but the paper is rather fragile and so I stopped washing it after  five minutes or so when normally you should wash them for around 20 minutes or so, the rag paper (which I got from Paperchase a while back and was £6 for twenty A4 sheets) seems virtually indestructible water wise and has dried mostly flat, the cheap watercolour paper is a lot more fragile in comparison and I'm not sure if this is because it was not very good quality to begin with - it was a pad from the Works as opposed to a specialist art supplier which cost a couple of pounds and is 230gsm.

Prior to this I have used watercolour paper I have bought by the sheet for a few pence - I don't know what make it is or what gsm it is but I shall find out and see if it's better to use this in future as the ones I have done on college watercolour paper seem a bit more robust.

I did also make one on some brown paper I was given but it didn't really work - it was very dark (maybe I'd left it in the sunshine for too long as it was a good couple of hours before I washed the solution off)and then I thought I could maybe rescue it if I stuck it in the bleach but alas that just made the whole thing less brown, if you squint there is a very faint outline of the image but it is so faint it makes the spinach anthotypes I did last week look the most contrasty and bold images ever and they are way from that...

And whilst I'm talking about costs - other costs incurred this week:
£5 - Canon Eos 3000v 35 mm SLR which I got in a charity shop - couldn't tell in the shop if it was working or not and it was rather mucky but figured that if it didn't it didn't matter as the lens looked in good nick and so did the strap and both would work on other cameras we have.
£9 on two CR2 lithium batteries for the camera above - it seems to work but have yet to see what the pictures it takes look like but should find out soon - well as soon as I get them developed that is and that'll be about £14...
£5.40 on acetates - it's 30p a sheet for A4 acetates and  I made 18 and upped the density on them this time so as to get an even darker negative and I did two of the same and see if they work as a lumen print - I am still determined to get a decent lumen print.
£2 printing - the images to copy onto the acetates, this blog and various other things for portfolio purposes
£1 photocopying
£7.52 for gloss medium for varnishing - for some reason the college doesn't sell either matter medium or gloss medium, a bizarre omission if you ask me as mediums can be used in all kinds of practices not just painting. I got this from Dinsdales in Headingley (a wonderful treasure trove of art materials shop) and practised John Waters approach of 'a no is free' when I asked if there was student discount, I didn't think there would be as the price is already discounted and I was right there wasn't, but I figured there was no harm in asking.
£36 Artists Newsletter Renewal

So a relatively expensive week except for the camera which (if it works well) was an absolute bargain and the artists newsletter membership covers liability insurance too so that is well worth it too.

I've also done some more transfers of printed images onto canvas using matte medium which works so much better than pva glue but I still find the image can lift a bit - especially round the edge and they look better once they have been covered with gloss medium, previously I had just covered them with another layer of matte medium but gloss looks much better. I like using matte and gloss medium as it makes me feel more like a 'proper artist' as the first thing I think of if someone says artist to me is 'painter' and deep down I would love to be a painter and although I do not think others who are frauds when they describe themselves and they aren't painters I feel a little fraudulent calling myself one - even though I am....

 Like I said I like the physical feeling of applying paint but alas as in spite of my best efforts I cannot make what I see in my head appear on the page with paint in the way I can with a camera and so to avoid intense frustration and disappointment I  stick to lens based work plus I love the sickly sweet heady gluey smell of the mediums I'm using too.

Following on from 'a no is free' I also approached the estate agents in charge of the sale of the buildings on Headingley Lane opposite Cumberland Road to see if I could go and take photographs there before they are redeveloped, to date I haven't had a reply and I doubt very much that when/if I do I'll get a yes but it hasn't cost me anything to ask except time and you never know they may even say yes....

I'm reading Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon at the moment and very marvellous it is too - I find it very exciting to be reading a book not just set in victorian times but written in victorian times and by a woman too and to paraphrase a sentence by Audrey Linkman in Photography and Death (2011 Reaktion Books, UK) in which on page 9 she says 'no photographer can operate in isolation from the wider social and historical contexts in which their images are generated' and the same is true I think if I substitute the word photographer with the word writer.

I was told by a chum of a programme in the In Our Time series on R4 which looked at victorian sensation fiction and very interesting it was too - and there are others dealing with the victorian period  and I will be giving many of the programmes listed in their archive (you can find the details here) a listen as they look fascinating and will further my obsession with all things victorian...and I'm writing this whilst listening to the one of the Great Exhibition of 1851. If I had a time machine then amongst the exhibitions I would go to would be the Great Exhibition of 1851 and The Festival Of Britain in 1951 - I am a huge fan of Skylon and although I have stood on the spot where it was - I would love to have seen it in situ.

I also found time to watch John Waters interview by Lynn Barber in Artsnight which also featured one of my other favourite artists Jeremy Dellar and the pictures where he has given himself the 'hollywood treatment' ie a ridiculous facelift along with Lassie and Justin Bieber make me chuckle. You can see it here. Again I'm intrigued by his statement that he doesn't call himself an artist - he leaves that up to other people but I do think he is being a bit disingenuous there, after all if he isn't an artist what is his work doing in a gallery?.....

There was also (before life events got in the way) a bit of time out for me - and very lovely it was too, I spent an afternoon wandering round the charity shops of Morley with a friend who treated me to lunch as a thank you for the work I did helping him redraft his cv which he got complimented on, it got him an interview and he got the job. It reminded me that I really need to do this kind of thing more often for the sake of my health and productivity - in the same way that I've got into a good habit blog/research journal-wise maybe I need to get into a good habit taking time out-wise too.

I got some lovely feedback on this blog last week - a chum said 'I do like reading these posts, learning about new techniques and things, it demystifies it' which pleased me as I would like my work to inspire others to have a go at it themselves - anthotypes don't need much special equipment at all for instance. Another chum said she liked the conversational tone and she said that she thought this would make people more likely to buy my work but I'm not sure about this. I do wonder sometimes why I have made it public as it doesn't need to be, I could just write it and keep it private and it would serve the same research journal purpose (I print it out and hand it in as part of my portfolio) and keeping it public means I am sometimes more diplomatic when writing about something than I would be if I was talking about things to a chum.

Mmm - as ever lots of food for thought.....and lots of things on my to do list....



Monday, 13 July 2015

MA-Ness Term 3 Week 13 Experiments with Anthotypes, Portrait Photography, Home Made Reflectors, Too Clever For Own Good Photocopiers..

this weeks post it note - can mostly understand and remember what I've written on it
anthotypes - pale but definitely something there and need to refine process

canvas pieces sent to Woodend Gallery in Scarborough for (hopeful) inclusion in their Wish You Were Here Exhibition
details here  

Attempt to create an image outline on leaves which failed, no resultant image at all - might give it another go if I can find a way of doing it on  living leaves as opposed to plucked leaves which dry out and don't take up the image.
It's been another busy week - getting lost in the process of making work is helping distract me from the current sadness I'm feeling and frankly I would be lost without it, thank goodness for the MA course for providing a framework in which to work out and work through the grief of recent events. It's not that I didn't make work before starting at the College of Art but since I started there I've developed a better focus for it as well as new ways to both practice and ways to think about the work I make too. I've often said that the course is a mindfuck and it is - but in a really good way and right now it is the best distraction imaginable.

This week I decided to experiment with anthotypes - which is a photographic process first created by Sir John Herschel in 1842. So by virtue of its date alone it warms the cockles of my victorian era loving heart plus as it involves no chemicals and only subdued lighting as opposed to the complete black out of a darkroom it is a process that I can carry out relatively easily at home. I am very mindful of the fact that once the course finishes I won't have access to a darkroom anymore so I am always trying to practice processes that don't need specialist photographic equipment.

It must be said though that I found it a bit of a faff extracting juice from spinach (and part of me was just wondering why I don't just go completely digital as that would be far less faff all round and the answer is because although I might moan about it - I love the faff side of things too - partly because I just do and partly because it makes me feel less fraudulent when I describe it as work) and though I wasn't entirely successful in not getting any green goo on the carpet I was successful at getting images on the paper as you can see above.

I extracted the juice by putting a couple of good handfuls of spinach in a cafetiere jug along with a capful or two of deionised water and mincing it (for what felt like ages) with a hand held blender. Once it was very mushy and liquidy looking I spooned some of the mush out into a paper coffee filter and squeezed it gently into a washed plastic yoghurt pot. This was when a bit splashed on the carpet....but it's no worse than the time blue printer ink got splashed on the carpet.

I then painted some of the juice on watercolour paper and let it dry - this was all done in my workroom with the curtains closed. Once it had dried I overlaid the paper with an acetate negative or positive, clipped it down and put it in the sunshine and then did some household chores. It was with some trepidation that I unclipped the frames (I'm using cheap hardboard backed clip frames with the glass edged with black electrical tape and bulldog clips) and took off the acetates but I was extremely pleased and excited when I saw that my experiments had worked.

Pale admittedly but definitely there and I reckon that with the refinement of the process - ie a couple more coats of spinach juice on the paper coupled with a longer exposure time (these were just over 3 hours)  they will be much darker and more definite. I don't know if they'll be slighter longer lasting though as all anthotypes unless kept in the dark do fade very quickly so I took photographs of mine and scanned them too.

I think I might try and do one and deliberately leave it out in the light to fade though - taking either photographs of it fading every few minutes or filming it on a digital camera. Not quite sure how to set this up or of what image it should be but it's on the list of things I want to work on over the next few weeks. There is even the possibility of taking the images of it fading on slide film, having them made up as slides and them showing it as a proper old school slide show with that marvellously evocative noise of the slides clicking round... an example of which can be found here - though of course for the full on past times experience I'd have to make sure that at least one slide was in upside down...

I also did a lot of paper prepping with cyanotype solution in the darkroom last week, I've mostly painted it on watercolour paper but also some on lined notebook paper and some rag paper I bought a while back from Paperchase which is very dense and heavy paper. I've been prepping a lot of images too so they can be used to make cyanotypes (upping levels and inverting them using the saint/scourge of photography - photoshop) so I have a lot of printing to do this week at college. Last week I did a lot of photocopying - £3 pounds worth. And whilst it was good to have lots of work ready to put in my portfolio for hand in it was also frustrating as the photocopiers at college are at times too clever for their own good. I was mostly photocopying grave rubbings I'd taken in St George's Fields a couple of weekends ago. As I did them with graphite they are a bit mucky and it will be easier and cleaner to work with the copies until I decide exactly what I'm doing with them. But at times the machine decided that it knew better than I did what size to copy them at - at times they could be fooled with placing a blank piece of A4 on top of what I was trying to copy and other times I had to call on the copier expertise of the as ever helpful library staff to get it to copy what I wanted it too.

Other costs I incurred last week were for litter trays (£10 for 4)  - just small ones as they will be just the right size for bleaching and toning cyanotypes, as they'll fit the ones I have made (none bigger than A4 so far) without having to be filled with a lot of liquid to get a decent depth. Unlike the developing trays we have which are much much bigger and won't fit in the bath so easily. I have a couple of cyanotype prints already that I want to improve by bleaching and just toning down the overly blue tone they have at the moment and some others I want to tone with tea to make them a kind of darker brown almost black cyanotype. I also want to make some to order just to tone. 

I just love doing cyanotypes - partly because I love the end result but also they suit me and my way of working so well as there aren't lots of nasty chemicals (one the solution has been made up - plus you can easily buy prepped paper too) and no exact timing needed like there is with traditional print making from negatives plus that does need a darkroom. But I would like to be more darkroom and print proficient - I've done a few that I'm pleased with but I don't find it as relaxing and fun as I find cyanotyping.

It was really nice when I nipped into the print room last week whilst waiting for my cyanotype solution prepped papers to dry that I was able to explain and share this technique with one of the print room technicians, I'd gone in to see if the technician was there who'd shown me basic bookmaking techniques to show her the tiny book I'd made of scraps but she wasn't and we got chatting about what I was doing...and also that they have a uv bed that can develop cyanotypes in 3 or 4 minutes plus as it's vacuum sealed it keeps the paper and acetate absolutely still so there is no blurring. A couple of mine have dislodged slightly as I've moved them to catch the sunlight so there are faint double outlines but I quite like the unintentional effect they've given them.

But that being able to share and discuss techniques (it was the darkroom technicians who got me excited about spinach as a potential photographic emulsion) is one of the other things I love about college - ie not just the specialist equipment and the library,and whilst I do get that a bit from having friends who are artists but I think there's something about an art school atmosphere that really helps with that - after all it's a place whose primary purpose is art creation so there is no hang up or embarrassment in talking about work whilst there.

The other thing that took up time last week was prepping for a portrait photography workshop I did for Darling Roses WI. I put together a powerpoint presentation outlining a brief history of portrait painting and how with the invention of photography and the recent rise in camera phones most if not all of us have access to some kind of image taking device, I showed pictures by some of my favourite portrait photographers - Julia Margaret Cameron, Madame Yevonde, Vivian Maier, Jane Bown and George Hurrell and talked a bit about the ethics of taking candid shots (and the ethics of whether or not Maier would have agreed with her photos being shown and sold), how to get your sitters (hopefully) relaxed so they don't have the rictus grin of a rabbit caught in headlights, and how to make the best of what light you have. I don't use flash very often as it think it can be too harsh, flattening and unflattering but I do try and use whatever light source there is in as flattering a way as possible.

In the Church Hall where they meet they have a opaque grey window and the sunlight that comes through that is gorgeous, we also used a couple of lights (desk lamps from Ikea) with home made reflectors (the hardboard from my cyanotype clip frames lined with white A4 paper - I made these thanks to a comment from a fellow MA-er when I said I didn't have any reflectors and she suggested using white card) and I also explained and showed the difference when you take photos at different angles and if you use a camera on a tripod or the kind of twin lens reflex camera that you hold at waist height as opposed to in front of your face.

The other thing I've been experimenting with this week is working with music, in the house I normally work whilst listening to R4 but as I couldn't bear to listen to the budget I put music on instead and I found I worked best to slower more contemplative music - Eno's Music For Airports and Marc Almond's Stranger Things and the soundtrack from Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive. Spongebob's Greatest Hits made me sing along too much to concentrate properly...think I'll do this more often, though today I am listening to old editions of In Our Time which all feature different aspects of the victorian period - so far I've listened to the one about Sensation Fiction and the one about Ruskin but I hope to listen to the others too - you can find details about them here.

The last couple of art talks I've been to (Project Nimbus and East Street Arts - What Role Does Research Play In Supporting Artists?) have included the use of overhead projectors - and in this izzy wizzy world of powerpoint and prezi it was a joy to see a more old fashioned and physical way of disseminating information. It was good to see inside the Live Art Bistro premises on Regent Street (the tiled narrow staircase down to the toilet is especially lovely) and there were some interesting points raised in the presentations and discussions too - which I'm still thinking about but best for me was the trip round their Patrick Street Studios afterwards - it was good to see different kinds of work and the different kind of uses of studio space. At present I have my workroom (or as it used to be known and function as 'the back bedroom') and though one day I would like a dedicated space that could function as a darkroom too - for the time being my workroom is enough.

Not just because financially I couldn't afford a studio space at the moment but also because I think it wouldn't fit the way I work at the moment, I like that I have a very easy short commute ie front bedroom to former back bedroom, plus I can do chores like washing and ironing whilst waiting for my cyanotypes to develop, the communal space is used by me, my husband and the cat and so there aren't arguments about whose turn it is to wash up and I can work in my pyjamas if I want to and it doesn't matter if I haven't washed my hair or put on make up (the latter I feel I have to do if I'm going to leave the house) and I can have whatever music/radio station I fancy on and I have all the benefits of home comforts...though this is tempered with the fact that undone household chores can taunt me well as the fact that really the garden needs a bit of chopping back, and there are a couple of cracks that could do with polyfillering, there's still a pile of clothes to be taken to the charity shop.....

I sent off 3 of my matte medium to canvas transfer prints to Scarborough this week -(pictured above) here's hoping they felt quite strange to put them in the envelope, but also quite grown up to in a strange kind of way too. Might have to go back when the exhibition opens and see what they look like in situ.

I've developed some good working habits - like notes on a post it note round up blog every Monday, checking social media on the tablet thing before sitting down at the main computer to work so less distracted, printing stuff out as I go along so hopefully there won't be desperate rushing round to get stuff printed before the hand in date, sitting down to read books at the dining table with a paper dictionary rather than at the computer (less distraction) and I am good at labelling discs of scanned negatives and folders of scanned negatives now and storing them all in the one place on the computer (and backing them up or emailing them to myself - the original negatives are all labelled and stored in a full to bursting folder) but I didn't used to be so looking for old images can be a very frustrating unproductive time and this week I had to copy off Facebook an image I'd posted there a while back as I couldn't find the original, it was okay as it was for a powerpoint presentation but it wouldn't have been okay/good enough resolution if I wanted to print from it. Note to self - organise images more efficiently.....

I also want to work on titles, sometimes it's very easy to title something - especially if it is more of a document of something rather than a finished piece of artwork but I hope to use some of my collection of inspiring phrases and maybe also chapter titles from old books - partly because I love them (am absolutely loving Lady Audley's Secret by ME Braddon at the moment) and also because that way I do not have to worry about copyright and any potential discomfortt I might feel at using someone else's work is assuaged by the fact that they are dead and so cannot be cross with me for doing so....

Sunday, 5 July 2015

MA-Ness Term 3 Week 12 Tea Toning, Matte Medium, Bookmarks, Show and Tell, Plodding On, Identity and Too Darn Hot.....

Post it note in amongst some of this weeks work - especially chuffed with the cyanotype of one of my dental x rays, the bookmark made out of no longer available Kodacolor X 120 film, and the matte medium transfer onto canvas of negative skull and the oval cyanotype of a grave ornament from St George's Fields...
apparently colouring in is a good destresser but as the so called 'adult' colouring in books were £6 - I bought a Spongebob one for £1.50 -  I love Spongebob, he and Hacker T Dog (who I got retweeted by this week) never fail to make me smile. 
experimenting with toning cyanotypes - initially using ones that didn't work very well anyway just to get hang of technique - from left to right, water bath, bleach solution, coffee but experimentation showed water, bleach (a solution of quarter tablespoon sodium carbonate per quarter litre for around a minute, water, tea, water worked best ) so next step is to get some small litter trays and use them on cyanotypes that have worked well but that I can further improve 
rinsing off.....

It's been another hard week - still missing Lucia dreadfully and the sapping heat of this week hasn't helped with motivation either but the bright sunlight has helped with doing some more cyanotypes (see top picture which also features this weeks post it note) and I've spent today experimenting with toning some of them with both coffee and tea.

I've also made some more bookmarks out of the backing paper that would normally get thrown away once 120 film has been exposed and developed. This came from the camera I bought for my husband as a wedding anniversary present. It was in a Dacora Kamerawerk from the mid 1950's and a quick google tells me this film was last made in 1974. Sadly though not surprisingly when this was developed in the pop up meth lab aka garage it was blank. But it's lovely old nostalgic worldlyness backing paper was far too gorgeous to consign to the bin and it has come in very handy this week as a bookmark in Death, Heaven and The Victorians by John Morley which I have been ploughing my way through when it has been too hot to sit upstairs at the computer...which until today has been most days. I've done whatever needed doing computerwise early in the day and then have either been concentrating upon cyanotyping or sitting at the table downstairs with a book.

Sadly though the lumen print I tried using a mourning blouse I have been lent hasn't worked very well - I am using adapted A4 and A3 glass clip frames as holders and whilst they work fine for cyanotypes they haven't got quite the weight to keep fabric flat enough - even when it's stretched but as it very delicate I am reluctant to stretch it any further so I might have to take it into college so I can use the very thick and heavy glass sheets they have as that would keep it flat.

I've found it quite lovely to sit at the dining table old school style with just a notebook, pen, post it notes and a dictionary (the one I was given when I started secondary school by an aunt and uncle long since divorced) and without the computer screen blinking away in front of me offering me enticing social media distraction. I'm sure I took in more of the content of the books in that way and the words I had to look up (hoydenish, ormolu, name but three) as I was doing it manually rather than digitally - as normally I would just google it and then invariably get distracted by something on said screen. Plus I would do things like see how many pages there left in a chapter and then think 'right, get a drink at end of this chapter or have a look at twitter on laptop once I've done 10 more pages'.  And thanks to this more efficient way of working I've got 3 books out of the pile on my right finished and ready to take back to the college library rather than me keeping asking for a renewal. Result!!

I intend to keep to this way of reading now as I seem to get more done that way than what I had been doing which was sitting at my desk in front of the computer screen...I think it also helped that the main book I was reading was published in the 70's as was the dictionary so they matched nicely timewise, I doubt somehow that a modern dictionary would have included some of the very old words I was looking up as they are now so out of fashion.

I am really enjoying the distraction of the process at the moment as well as the end result (once I've motivated myself to start work) as I can get lost in creating something and so momentarily forget the pain of losing Lucia plus the more hands on a process it is the more exciting I am finding it. Some of the cyanotyping I did this week involved using images I've had digitally printed onto tracing paper as negatives as opposed to my more usual method of printing an image out and then photocopying it onto acetate and using that as a negative and they have worked really well. I've also been transferring images onto canvas using matte medium (it works so much better than the pva glue I first tried with) and the more work I do like this the less fraudulent I feel calling myself an artist - there is something both comforting and fulfilling about the hands on nature of the work I'm doing at the moment - though of course I still love getting out and about with a camera taking and making pictures too and I hope to do some more of that next week.

I am comfortable calling myself a gothic photographic artist and the back bedroom my workroom as opposed to studio these days but I still feel slightly hesitant saying I am an artist as in my head artist equates to someone who does something with their hands eg paints, draws or sculpts. I don't however apply this definition to others so not sure why I apply it to myself....I know John Waters has said that when people tell him they are an artist he says he'll be the judge of that so maybe there is an element of that. The show of his most recent artwork is now on at the Spruth Magers Gallery in London til the middle of August (details here) but sadly I don't think I'll be able to go and see it, I rang the gallery last week to see if there is a catalogue available but sadly there isn't but a chum who has been has very kindly picked me up a flyer/leaflet about it. There is also going to be a season of all of his films at the BFI and again sadly I don't think I'm going to be able to make any of those showings either. I have most of his films on dvd and have seen some on the big screen too - Pink Flamingoes, Hairspray, Cry Baby, Serial Mom (possibly my favourite) Pecker, This Filthy World, A Dirty Shame, and most recently Polyester complete with scratch and sniff card so I may just have to content myself with that - plus I have been lucky enough to see and meet him 3 times so I shouldn't feel hard done to if I can't make it to that London to see him or his work this time.

On Thursday I went to the Heritage Show and Tell at Leeds Museum and very fine it was too - lots of really interesting speakers and projects and I got to meet people from the Centre for Victorian Studies at Leeds Trinity University as well as another person who will be starting at Leeds College of Art in September. I also got some lovely feedback from one of the ladies who runs it whose chum was at the talk I did for Darling Roses WI and who really enjoyed it and was most disappointed that I left without her having chance to talk to me properly. I left not long after I'd finished speaking as I was feeling so poorly (I had been swigging cough medicine straight from the bottle in a rock and roll stylee throughout my talk) but hopefully she'll be able to ask me whatever it was she wanted to as I'm doing a photography workshop for them next week.

I especially enjoyed James Lattin's talk 'New Discoveries From The Museum of Imaginative Knowledge' which really made me smile as did his innovative and groundbreaking research and you can read more about it here and about the whole Heritage Show and Tell process here. Think the next one will be sometime in the autumn and I am already looking forward to it - not only are the talks interesting but the meet and greet afterwards is very useful for making contacts. 

Am well chuffed with todays cyanotype toning experiments - I used cyanotypes that hadn't worked very well and a recipe that I got off the tinternet which involves wetting the cyanotype, then putting it in a bleach solution - this method can also correct overblued cyanotypes, rinsing in water before putting in either cold coffee or cold tea (I used 2 yorkshire tea teabags as apparently it's the tannin that changes the colour)  and then washing them again. The tea worked best - gives a nice colour so the next part of the plan is to buy some small litter trays (we have some traditional photography trays but these are a bit big for the bath plus they'll need a lot more liquid to fill and I  am mindful of both our water usage and water bill as we are on a meter as opposed to rates)  as these will fit A4 pieces of paper nicely and also fit in the bath easily and work on some of the cyanotypes I've done that I'm pleased with. I've tried lots of different kinds of paper - the red and grey make a nice end result and tones down the blue without any need for other chemical interference, tracing paper looks beautiful but is a bugger to process and dry flat but the clearest, most successful end result wise and easiest to work with is water colour paper so I bought some more of that yesterday and I hope to have some time in the darkroom soon to do some more paper prepping. I also have some more images I want to print off to make cyanotypes with as well.

Along with watercolour paper I also bought some new notebooks, coloured pencils, a Spongebob colouring book (see above) a cutting thing, some paintbrushes, some more mini canvases, a cutter and mini cutting mat which should be a bit better and less unwieldy than my existing guillotine, and some ribbon. Think the lot came to about £30.

I also went to see Project Nimbus at Leeds Museum - an uplifting and inspiring tale of how art and science came together via lasers and pilots to transmit Eadweard Muybridge's images of a horse in motion onto the clouds and very wonderful it was too - not least because it reminded  me of the Cornelia Parker lecture I went to in April in which she said the best and most inspiring conversation she has aren't with other artists but with other professionals. It was fascinating to see how it all came together and also that at its heart was the design of a viewmaster disc - I had one when I was little which showed me disney pictures and I loved it - anyway you can read about the project here and very fantastic it is too. 

Think that's all the things I wanted to talk about this week - lots as ever to do and as ever much food for thought and my tutor has given me some useful advice regarding the work I've done so far and what the next steps I can take are, so I'd best crack on really... next hand in date is not far off really.....