Monday, May 30, 2011

hand toned cyanotypes

These contact printed hand toned cyanotypes use the 19th century printing process in a contemporary fashion with selective toning techniques. I've toned these prints using tanic acid, sodium carbonate, coffee and even a little old fashioned paper developer here and there.



Friday, May 20, 2011

Van Dyke Brown prints

Now that my notebook has made its way home, I’m able to look back through the semester’s work with historical processes and remember what was fun, what was challenging, and what worked and didn’t with my imagery. The Van Dyke Brown printing process produced a beautifully rich monochromatic brown print that is suitable to be printed on a variety of different surfaces.

The first VDBs I printed were a small series of contact printed 4x5 black and white film negatives created with a pinhole camera. For these I printed on arches 90 weight hot pressed watercolor paper. The combination of the negative, the paper and the process created a rich and dark print. Here is an example below... 

After further experimentation I found that I could print on different surfaces and I tried silk, cloth, handmade paper and various rice papers. The images below were printed on slightly transparent rice paper using the VDB process. After the prints were finished and dried I created collages using found objects from each location. Multiple kinds of cloth, old books and pages and thread were combined to create individual pieces that accurately represented aspects of each location. All three pieces were collaged using found materials from the buildings. For instance, two of the images bellow are of schoolhouses and they are made of books and materials that I found and collected at the locations. By creating individual pieces using this technique I was able to incorporate color, texture and even smell from each location into each piece and produce art that gives a unique representation of the place. 


(from Wiki)

Tintype, also melainotype and ferrotype, is a photograph made by creating a direct positive on a sheet of iron metal that is blackened by painting, lacquering or enamelling and is used as a support for a collodion photographic emulsion.

Technical details

The process was very similar to to wet plate photography, where silver halide crystals (silver bromide, silver chloride and silver iodide) are suspended in a coloidion emulsion that is chemically to redner crystals of metallic silver that varying in density according to the light values of the image exposed.
In a tintype a very underexposed negative image is produced on a collodion photographic emulsion and mounted against a dark metal backing, giving it the appearance of a positive. The ability to employ underexposed images allows effective film speed to be increased, permitting shorter exposure time, a great advantage in portraiture.

Here is wonderful example of an image made in the tintype process where the process and the imagery worked very well together. This artist made a series of tintype images inspired from Alice and Wonderland.
(from me)

The trickiest thing about making a Tintype is poring the liquid emulsion onto the metal. It’s truly an art form and one that understandably takes time and practice to learn. My one day attempt to create an even moderately successful tintype image was less then successful. The process though, was understandable and intriguing and if someday I create a body of work that I think will fit just perfectly with this process, I will have the knowledge and courage to come back to it and attempt to master it. Until then, here is one mediocre tintype image from my one day of printing. 

This was an image from a recent trip to Bodie, Ca. I thought the process suited the image quite nicely. The black edges represent my less then perfect pour. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Look, look - it came back!

Big huge thank you to the universe for sending back such an important part of me. 

art is personal

So – since my precious notebook is gone, I’m going to vent to all of you, right now, right here, on this blog.

Advanced apologies.

Today was a challenging day.  It was the kind of day that both deflates and defines an artist. Why? Because to be an artist you have to fail time and time again. It’s written in your job description. You have to fail until you succeed. The truth is though, nobody ever talks about all the crappy photos that Sally Mann took before she made one outstandingly amazing image. I mean common people, the woman had to have made a bad image at some point or another in her career before the magic began.  Here’s the truth though - even writing those previous sentences above (about Sally Mann’s bad photographs) feels wrong in a deep and upsettingly devastating kind of a way. Why, you ask? Because nobody wants to believe that the great artists in the world aren’t perfect. They are supposed to be our heroes. They are supposed to be the people who are strong and wise and talented. They are little slices of the divine from whom we can feed off of like creative-driven zombies. But guess what? They aren’t! They too tried and failed at some point. I bet the ones who are still alive are still trying and are still failing. They faced and still face hard defeating days, and they must have felt, and still must sometimes feel, like walking away from it all. Because you know what? Art is personal. Every part of making art requires exposing ourselves and pouring ourselves into what we are trying to create. What we make defines us in a way, and when we pour everything into something that we are trying to create and it fails miserably, we can’t help but take it personally and question the nature of our very being. 

Writers always say, “write a crappy first draft”. In fine artist’s laymens terms I think that means keep fucking up until something amazing happens. Keep producing bad art until one day you stumble upon a process that makes something beautiful. So, even though I spent a whole day yesterday preparing eight different versions of printable surfaces that I planned to try printing on in six different ways, on five different printers, in four different labs, and today when I tried to print on those surfaces not a single one of them produced results -n o results at all, net even bad results - I’m talking none, notta, zilch, zero. And even though I got nothing, I decided, I will not give up. Even though I spent the last forty-eight hours attempting to be great and original and produce something amazingly inspiring – nothing came of it. But you know what, I will not give up. It’s a hard battle to fight though, the ego, but I have to; I see no other choice.

Today I won’t let my failures define me. I’m going to bed with the knowledge that everything I’ve been working through has made me stronger, wiser, and has allowed me to know myself better and experience the world in an even more fun and challenging way then before. We are all artists. The only thing that has ever separated someone who creates art often and someone who doesn’t create art at all is practice, experience and willingness to let it go when they make a mistake and to keep trying. It’s a personal journey, being an artist, and I’m up for it, I think.

Monday, May 16, 2011

R.I.P. to a V.I.P black book

The unthinkable happened last week. To me at least it was terrible, however it may be a little bit difficult for some of you to understand. I’ll try to explain.

You see, I have many black notebooks in my life – they’re usually about 8.5 x 11 inches in size and they all serve different artistic purposes. Sometimes, one will be designated to a particular class or process I’m working on, while another one might be dedicated to a specific shoot or a developing concept. They’re full of just about anything you can think of. Personal notes, other artists cards or promotional slips, cut outs from magazines, polaroid’s I’ve taken, location addresses I’ve shot at, test prints, influential artists work - everything - sometimes I even go as far as to stick in actual perfectly finished prints, and, what’s even worse – film negatives! 

Just last week in class one of my professors commented on the thoroughness of my journaling and I was sort of teasing with her about how I would be just so devastated if I ever lost one of these black books… and blah… blah… blah, I was on a bit of a high horse about what a good student I was. Well, guess what happened just a few days after – yep – gone. Jinxed myself or something…

Here’s how it went down: I parked at the parking garage near school where I park for class every day. I remember specifically packing it in my bag that day because I had to tone cyanotypes and my “recipes” for the tried and tested perfectly toned cyanotype where kept safely in this particular notebook. I went to the digital lab, where I printed some negatives for contact printing. Next I went to meet with a professor in her office. Then, I went to the dark room. By the time I opened up my bag in the dark room to fetch my prized notebook, it was mysteriously nowhere to be found. Yes – I retraced all of my steps – nothing.

Okay, so I would be devastated if I lost any one of these important notebooks that I keep, but this notebook, this particular notebook was my masterpiece. It was the queen of all notebooks that have ever come before it or could possibly follow it. It was the notebook that I kept for my historical processes class and it was so complete, I can’t even begin to tell you how much information and love I had crammed into those pages. I have lost the step-by-step directions of how to capture, process and print cyanotypes, Van Dyke Brown prints, gum dichromate prints and tintypes. I have lost numberless prints, test prints and negatives. I have lost notes on artist’s whose work greatly influenced my own. I have lost the instructions for how to mix chemicals and my personal notes on what works and doesn’t. I lost polaroid’s and pinhole images.

I have lost a lot with that notebook. However now, now that it’s gone, what I feel like I lost the most is my enthusiasm. All of the information and all of the hard work that I had put into that book felt like proof - proof that I did something and learned something even through the entire struggle that has been this course. It was the breadcrumbs that were going to lead me to greatness. And now I’ve lost both my book and my enthusiasm.

So, what’s the lesson? I suppose I should practice the art of letting go. I’m trying to remember that all things are fleeting and nothing lasts forever. I had a wonderful time making that book. Everything in it was meaningful and now that it’s gone I suppose there is more room for something else, presumably, a new book that will aspire to fill the sad, empty spot on my bookshelf where, for a mere moment in time, the queen of all journals slept.