Tuesday, April 24, 2012


I had an odd reaction to one of my own photographs today and that started me pondering.  Last week I bought some new software (Alien Skin Exposure 4) that allows you to emulate a huge number of different film types, plus some darkroom effects like brushed on emulsions, or the edge effects you could achieve by filing down the slot of the negative carrier before printing your picture.  Imagine my squeal of delight as I ran through all the options - B&W, color, vintage films, and even lo-fi options such as light leak.  I pounced on something I'd never gotten to experience in the darkroom - color infrared.  Oh the crazy colors and alien feel given to landscapes!  So I grabbed a photo I took recently of a clematis bloom with some green foliage in the background, applied the Kodak Ektachrome EIR film option, and voila - strange but interesting. 

So my first reaction was oooh pretty!  Then my second reaction was something along the lines of guilt or apprehension.  Even though I've been using Photoshop since version 3, I still have the inate, irrational feeling that I'm cheating when I do something beyond a levels adjustment and a little boost in the saturation department on a photograph.  Just to be clear, I do not feel this sensation when I'm making one of my huge layered digital creations.  That's an entirely different beast to my mind.  

In the beginning, there was film, a photo safe light, and a multitude of chemicals and it was good.  Yes, you got black spots on your clothes and came home reeking of a faint sulphur smell, but it was fulfilling.  When the digital photography revolution began in the 90s, it was fun to sneer at the poor quality of the cameras and crazy idea that you could replicate your darkroom with software.  But as the technology advanced, it became impossible to ignore the lure, ease, and creativity the digital world offered.  Digital photography did not come dressed in red spandex with horns.  It is that kind of thinking that is still in the back of my head though. 

Perhaps I've let nostaglia subconscioiusly rein in my potential for creativity.  I vow to stop feeling guilty for having an easier way to do something that used to be so hard and to embrace the happy accidents that happen when I'm doing something in Photoshop that I couldn't have done in the darkroom. 

I'm glad that's decided...

Friday, April 13, 2012

Inkotype or Fauxgram?

Cyanotype on cotton
Simple cyanotype on cotton fabric
The few times I have been able to play with cyanotypes out in the sun or photograms in the darkroom, I have fallen in love with their whispy ethereal nature. With summer fast approaching, I have been thinking about playing with cyanotypes again and of course encaustics aren't far from my mind right now either.  I've started to wonder what cyanotypes on very thin paper would look like when coated in wax, which should make the white areas fairly transparent.  Well, I don't have the chemicals yet to try out this idea so I started thinking up ways to fake it with what I have on hand.  I decided to try out using cyan colored ink in a spray bottle to make something that would look a little like a photogram.  I tested mulberry rice paper with little white fibers and lace paper with lots of Swiss cheese holes.  The mulberry rice paper left a crisper impression and soaked up less ink.  The lace paper ended up with a more organic look because it was much more absorbant.  For my purposes, the mulberry paper looks more like a cyanotype.

Cyan ink photogram on mulberry paper
I wanted a very busy background to take advantage of the transparency of the paper, so I used a marker to doodle all over an 8x10 masonite board that I had coated last week with encaustic gesso.  (You can't use acrylic gesso with encaustics.  They don't provide enough tooth.)
Doodle madness
I layered a couple of coats of medium on the doodle board.  Then I collaged down my mulberry paper with more clear medium.  This paper may be thin but it put up a good fight.  I ended up scraping off some excessive hills of medium and smoothed everything out with the iron.  Then I added white encaustic paint to the boarders.  Here's stage 2 of my faux cyanotype experiment:
Now here's the part where I get to learn a little more about patience - sigh.  It needs to cool down quite a bit before I can do anything else to it.  But as you can see the translucent part worked well.  The doodling can be easily seen through the flowers. 

After letting it rest for a bit, I used a metal stamp to add some more lines in the white at the top and bottom of the white border.  Then I came back in and applied some Prussian Blue oil paint as a glaze to knock back the bright white a bit. 

It's at that point where I've looked at it for too long and can't quite decide if I'm done.  This piece will go up on the shelf for some rumination time.