Sunday, October 17, 2010

PhotoBadger does Photography

Currently working on two different photo projects: anthotypes and cyanotypes printed on animal vellum. Next project: printing inkjets on animal vellum! Today, I'm focusing on my vellum-cyanotypes because I've been working on them more intently. It's hard to get intent on the anthotypes when each new batch of tests takes two weeks to expose, ya know?

These are going pretty well, so far. I've been making simple contact shadow-prints of leaves, sticks, flowers, etc. There are some major issues:
  • Vellum does not accept cyanotype chemistry evenly all the time, leading to some coating issues that vary by piece. Sometimes I get a really, really solid coating and sometimes the vellum just repels the chemistry totally and all I get is patchy-streaky-mess. I think this depends on the type of vellum. That's what I get for starting my experiments with an un-labelled 1-pound box of scraps.
  • Vellum is not flat. Ever. I've tried pressing, stretching and smooshing. The next approach is to re-soak the vellum, then use an iron to dry it while it'd still damp and pliable. Fully dried, the stuff can get super-stiff.
  • WTF-level dry-down. There is little to no connection between what you see when the print is wet and when it's fully dry. The image can change totally, even reverse out during the drying process. Very strange, very disconcerting.
  • Highlights don't clear. I can't tell if the chemistry stains the vellum or something else is going on, but the highlights on a vellum print never fully clear. The fuzzier vellum samples tend to shift to a greenish hue while the smoother ones go yellow-cream. I've even had one go transparent. Results, again, seem to vary by type of vellum.
  • No detail. Due to the high level of texture and unreliable coating issues, vellum is not well-suited to detailed printing, so I'm not even bothering. Tried three negative prints, all of them came out muddy and bad.
Some really nifty bonuses come from using vellum, though!
  • Vellum has texture out the ass. It adds a whole new dimension to the prints and creates all sorts of great subtle (and unsubtle) effects both in the blues and the highlights. This adds a bunch of interest to the simple shadow-prints I've been doing of flowers, sticks and leaves.
  • Extra color! Related to the drawback above where the highlights don't clear, vellum seems to provide its own color once exposed to cyanotype chemistry. The whites turn greenish, yellowish or brown-gold. This tends to work very nicely with the deep, deep blues I've been getting on the exposed portions of the prints.
  • Vellum's much sturdier than paper, which may have benefits later on if I decide to start layering different processes or coatings.
So, overall, I'm really enjoying working with the cyano-vellums. It's more of a challenge than regular cyanotypes, but still just as easy and non-toxic. The unpredictable and unique results are part of the charm, as is the textural, touchable look that the vellum gives to the prints.

My real biggest problem? I'm running out of cool-looking stuff to make shadow-prints out of. Next time I post, I'll have some words on the exciting, fast-paced world of anthotypes!