Toning and Reward Prints

A cyanotype that has been toned with the “Eggplant/Black” method
Last night I was finally able to take the time to tone a few prints from the residency. I had the necessary supplies to attain a Black tone as well as Eggplant/Black. With a small test print I tested the Black toning first, and it really just washed out the tones too much (which should have been expected since toning always reduces print density). So, then I went on to the Eggplant/Black toning process and was much happier with the results. That said, one could be tempted to call this “brown” or maybe “rust” (though I have done actual brown toning before and the results are much different in comparison). At any rate, I’m pleased with the tone shift that took place despite it’s lack of eggplanty-ness, and I think the two tones of prints work well when seen together in a group.
I also am happy to announce that the 5×7 reward prints are selected and just waiting to be mailed first thing on Monday morning. If you’ve been following along you may remember that my plans changed a little from what I had originally proposed. I had wanted to do my best rendition of an Anna Atkins style series of water plant prints. However, upon arrival to Artscape Gibraltar Point I set out looking for these plants and came up more or less empty (there were plenty of lily pads, but I just couldn’t bring myself to make 40 prints of lily pads). Later in the week I actually did stumble across some more aquatic vegetation, but at that point time was against me since it would have taken a good amount of time to dry the plants (moister and sun-printing don’t mix).
So, I changed my plans and let myself be inspired by the place. Artscape has a wonderful series of semi-cultivated flower and food gardens, and so I resolved to make prints that came directly from that place. However, the typical practice of making these type of sun prints would be to cut the plant in order to make printing as easy as possible. It just seemed a little silly to me to"preserve" an image of these plants by killing them. So I settled on making a “no plants were injured in the making of these prints” series of cyanotypes. I was able to take my sensitized paper and little portable contact printing frames made and quickly bend the branch or stem down under the glass, make the print, and then release the plant unharmed. Working this way definitely presented its own series of problems to be worked through, but I’m very happy with the results. I hope they find a good place in the homes of my backers.

The Return Journey

We made the return trip yesterday, arriving home at 10:30. We were able to stop for a couple hours at Niagra and check out the falls amidst the crowds.
There are a lot of nice things about being in one’s own home again, but in general I’m pretty sad about having to leave the island. There were a lot of great things about Artscape, one of which is of course just the beauty of the place. But there was also the time to be only an artist and not pulled in a million direction, as well as spend time in a community where serious art was happening. There were authors, musicians and visual artists of all kinds diligently making the most of their time in residence. In fact, most of them were staying h for at least 2 weeks, and some much more (a fact of which I am quite jealous… Sigh..)

Well, i guess what i can take aeay from this is that its really now just up to me to make things happen. (this is what 
Meg and i were talking about on the return drive). A residency in some ways makes art easy (it also increases the pressure a bit
) so it is when you return to normal life that the work begins, the work of maintaining a practice despite the hectic pace of the every day. Still, i am grateful for this reminder in the form of a residency that art needs to carry a high priority in my life and for creating a bit of a fresh jumping off point for future work.

Winding Down

I can’t believe it’s already Wednesday. So sad my time here is nearing the end but also proud of all the work I’ve accomplished in such a compact timeframe. I think I’ve pulled off what I set out to do though: break some new groud, dedicate time to the studio and give myself a new jumping off place for future work.

Here’s to finishing well!

Also, i woke up early this morning and got some nice sunrise shots down by the pier. I also stumbled across some kind of bird migration. 
It was incredible to see hundreds of thousands of birds all on the move together.


Today I got to work on some rewards for my wonderful kickstarter backers. I will be sending out about 32 5×7 cyanotype prints and today I was able to print about half of them. It was rainy and windy all morning, making printing impossible, but the afternoon cleared up beautifully and I got a lot done. Originally I had been hoping to make contact prints of aquatic plants, very similar to Anna Atkins, however it just couldn’t happen. First, the only readily available plant I’ve seen are lily pads (and I really don’t want to make that many prints of only lily pads). And second, the time is just too short to get the plants dry enough to print.
So instead I formulated another plan of attack, and I’m pretty happy about the results. More details to come.

The Details

Organizing oversized negatives in the print shop

Well, I’m in the final countdown for real now. Less than a week before I’m off on a wonderful and unfortunately quick adventure in which I will produce the beginnings of a new body of work in cyanotype. I really can’t wait to be up there at Artscape Gibraltar point in Toronto, making work, enjoying the space and place, and generally making the most of  my time there. I’m  happy that my wife and son are able to join me (which was a mandatory requirement for all the residencies we looked at) and very excited to be spending some time with my friend and former classmate, Meg Hine. We’ll be sharing a studio (just like the good ‘ol days in Ballyvaughan) and working on our own projects, but hopefully there will be some collaboration either during the residency or at least definitively planned. The opportunity is fantastic, and now I’m just laying the groundwork to make the most of it.

Printing oversized negatives

Part of my prep process is shooting, printing and preparing the negatives I will use. Over the past month I’ve been collecting my images and finally in the past week I was able to finalize my selection, and get the oversized negatives printed out (36×45 inches each). In the next day or two I need to oil the negatives to make them more transparent.

I also recently received my shipment of cyanotype coated fabric. I had ordered a 3 yard by 7 yard piece which I then cut into roughly 36×45 inch pieces. I need to hang them up for a few days to remove as many of the wrinkles as possible, but other than that they are ready to go. (As a side note, I was completely inspired by the size and relative cheapness of the giant piece of sensitized fabric I ordered! It really means that it is possible for a photographer to make original work at mural scale without going broke too quickly.)

Coating papers with cyanotype chemicals

I’ve also been working on getting prepared for all the rewards related to my kickstarter campaign I’ll be working on while in residence. I recently cut and coated all the 5×7 notecards I’ll be making prints on (they’re all drying in my bathroom right now). I’m very excited for all my plans, including the rewards.

And just a reminder, I do plan on posting several times on this blog during the residency, so please follow along to get a feel for my experience.

And as a final note, I’m wondering what my wife, Meg and I should read/listen to/discus on the way up and back. Any suggestions?

Negative Tonality

My little residency is almost here, and I am in official organizing mode. I’ve ordered all the supplies I need, and right now I’m in the process of choosing negatives (as well as shooting some more photos). Part of that process is fine tuning the tonality of the final negatives so my prints have the widest range possible. Cyanotypes have an inherently narrow tonal range (when compared to darkroom prints), but a well calibrated negative can compensate for most of of the issue and still provide some creamy gradation.

Working on creating some test strips so I can make perfect negatives for the final products

So, I’m working small scale just making little prints with varying levels of contrast, hopefully to arrive at a good balance of tonal range and mid-tone contrast. Soon I’ll be stepping up to a slightly larger scale, and test my results using the same paper the final negative will be on just to verify that the effect carries over. I’m hoping to finish that up in the next couple days and hopefully begin printing my final, full-sized negatives by the end of the week.

Wish me luck!