Sunday, October 18, 2015

Blogging for Sol: Waxed Paper and Olive Oil

Albumen print from a waxed paper negative
Hello again, Spiders. I'm terribly sorry for missing last week. It's still a struggle to work with so much thought devoted to other matters. Without work, I feel like I don't have anything to post, so the deadline slips past and I just feel sad. But, I'm trying to be more productive here at grad school. After all, I'm paying all this money, I should be productive, right?

This week, I want to talk a bit about paper negatives. I may have mentioned them before, but I've never made one before. They're actually quite simple to make. All you do is take a digital image, convert it to black and white, invert it, print it out and then apply oil or wax to the paper to make it translucent. That's it! Once those steps are done, you have a paper negative and you can ride off to print forever!

I made my first paper negative during the alt. process class where I'm TA'ing. None of the students were trying it out, so I made a quick laser print of an old photo I'd shot at one of Megan Jean's performances in Greenville, SC. I always did think Megan Jean would be particularly suited to alternative process prints, given the retro-Americana vibe of their music.

One of the other grad students had provided two white candles for wax, and we had a hairdryer to melt the candles. So I warmed up the candle with the hairdryer until it was soft enough to be pliable and began rubbing it across the paper negative print like a crayon. As it went, it left behind enough melted wax to soak into the paper fibers and make the image translucent. This is fairly time-consuming, taking about fifteen minutes at least to warm up the candle and get an even-ish coating of wax onto the image. It could be done much more quickly by melting paraffin or beeswax in a tub so the paper negative can be dipped in, or the wax brushed on. That would probably give a better, more even coating, too.

From the waxed paper negative, I made an albumen print that seems to have fairly good detail. You can see it yourself above, with a larger version linked HERE. My printing isn't perfect, but this was also my first albumen print. I don't know that the greater tonal range of albumen is enough of a draw for me to continue using it over salt prints. Salt prints are, after all, much easier to produce.

While I was working on waxing the first negative, I spoke with Jessica Somers (the professor teaching the course) about waxed negatives vs. oiled negatives. She said that her experience had been that oiled negatives took less time to make, but there was a problem with the paper getting over-saturated and continuing to shed oil for a while after coating. I decided to investigate for myself, using spray olive oil (the same kind used for coating pans and dishes for cooking). Spray would allow for easier, faster application and should apply a lot less oil than brushing or soaking the paper.

I was able to easily oil a second laser-printed copy of the same image. A few sprays from a can of olive oil began saturating the paper very well. I helped things along by rubbing the oil into the paper from the back with a paper towel, but I'm not sure it was strictly necessary. It may have helped remove extra oil, because after the paper dried (in about half an hour), it's been perfectly clean. Slick, yes, but certainly not shedding any extra oil.

Left: Oiled Paper, Right: Waxed Paper
Here are images of both the waxed negative and the oiled negative. Overall, I prefer the oiled negative. It's faster and easier to make, requires less preparation and seems to produce a smoother negative. The waxed paper has lots of imperfections and areas where the wax coating is rough and showing stroke marks. The oil hasn't got any of that.

So, Spiders, I suggest that if you're lacking funds or access to fancy-schmancy digital negatives printed on Pictorico or other transparency films, paper negatives are a cheap and fast alternative. Just be aware that they require more exposure time, reduce your contrast and are going to blur some fine details. But with alternative processes, is anything but the reduced contrast really a consideration? Eh, I guess that some people might be miffed about the fine detail, but those people are weird.

I'll see you again soon, Spiders. Hopefully next week!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Blogging for Sól: Back to the Books

Red Nightshade on Collodio POP
Hello, Spiders. It's been a long time. 80 days, actually. I've missed 11 weeks of updates, mostly due to the massive life transition of going from adjunct professor in Charlotte, North Carolina to being a grad student in Boston, Massachusetts. It hasn't been easy, and there are still minor details with paperwork to work out.

Being back in school as a student has been challenging, but it's also really helpful. I needed to start thinking about how to present my work and how to apply it in a real-world setting. After just a few weeks here, I have an idea for a show I want to put on. I just have to figure out where and how.

Unfortunately for today's update, I don't have any samples of the new show to share. How the show works physically is going to inform a lot about how I put the pieces together. I'm hoping to hang anthotypes in the windows of an atrium in such a way that the prints themselves face outward, visible from the street, but inside the back of each piece has details about the plant and the process and the expected result.

So, instead, I have a few samples of lumens that I've been making since I got here. This image is the first print I've made with the first new plant that I found here in New England. There's red nightshade growing all several fences and hedges on the way from my apartment to the bus stop. So I've been gathering it and making prints. I even gathered a lot of the berries and extracted dye from them. I'll post that information later, though.

It's good to be back, Spiders. Have a good night!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Blogging for Thor: Salted Sadness

Sweaty and squinting was the whole day.
Hello, Spiders. I've been feeling unwell and generally pre-occupied either with grad school, moving, loans or medical issues. Thus, two missed weeks of blogs.

Despite that, I have been making (or trying to make) art! After the salt prints at my workshop failed, I decided to figure out why. Well, I determined easily enough that it was the paper. So I switched to a different brand (Arches Aquarelle Cold-Press Blocks) and the coating went well. The exposures went well. I got great images with full detail and tonal range... until I fixed them. As soon as I fix any of these salt prints I've been making, they darken dramatically. All the whites turn beige at best and dull brown at worst. Some of the images disappear entirely. They're fine before the fix, and ruined afterwards. I really can't pin down what's going on. So, figuring out the salt printing issues is one artistic challenge on my plate.

In other news, I attended my first local artist market as a vendor. It was hot, sticky and not very profitable. I only sold $31 worth of prints (three total pieces) and all to people I knew. So I wasn't that excited. But, one of those people was a friend I'd known years ago while taking typography classes at the local community college. Now she's working at a handmade boutique in the Charlotte arts district. That's great, and she seems to really love her work. She also loves my work, and bought two of my pieces. She'd reached out to contact me via the Facebook advertising for the art show even before she realized who I was. So this coming week I'll be meeting with her and the owner of the boutique to see if they'd like to sell my work. Cyanotype totes, parchment prints and the cyanotype jewelry, mostly. Maybe some of my textiles.

Even if the show didn't work out, I'm hoping this new opportunity will! I'll keep you posted on the shop and the salt, Spiders!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Blogging for the Baron: Slipped Discs and Salty Duds

Hi there, Spiders. I wish I didn't have a good excuse for missing this week's Thursday update, but I do. Somehow I managed to slip a disc in my lower spine while getting out of my friend's SUV. Normal, every day activity and my spine just decided that it wasn't up to it. So I spent Thursday night and Friday morning in increasing amounts of pain. Then I went to the doctor (thanks Obama!!) and found that instead of a pulled muscle, a particularly persistent cramp or anything else reasonable.. I had torn a disc in my spine and some of the jelly inside had leaked out and was messing everything up. That's not terrifying at all.

So now I have an absolute bucket full of drugs to take. Anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, steroids, two types of high-powered painkillers. It's pretty lame, actually. At least so far nothing actually knocks me right out... but then I haven't tried the Valium yet. Today, thankfully, was an improvement. If I'm sitting, standing, or walking... I'm mostly fine. It's just when I try to lean over, or move between positions that my back reminds me that it is most certainly not fine.

My students coating papers
Despite all that mess, I did manage to get to my workshop today. Photogenic Drawing at the Light Factory! I had six students, which was a great number. We covered chlorophyll printing, cyanotypes and lumen prints in detail. We briefly went over the theory of anthotypes, but didn't have time to make an exposure since they take several days. I had planned to include salt prints, and I sorta did... but the paper I used wasn't the right kind of cheap watercolor paper. The silver nitrate solution soaked right into the paper, leaving a blotchy, streaky mess. None of the prints came out, not even a little. It really sucked. But the other three-and-a-half processes were a big hit!

There was another, smaller issue with the cyanotypes. I've been using very old and brown ferric ammonium citrate for months now. I got a large jug of it when the Light Factory moved from their old location to their new one, and I never turn down free photo chemistry! Since getting it, I've mostly been using it for parchment prints, where color and detail get a bit muddled anyway. Originally, though, I did some tests to be sure the brown ferric ammonium citrate would work. It seemed to work fine on those tests, some months ago. I can't find them now, but I distinctly recall doing them....

Left: Green FAC.     Right: Brown FAC.
Anyway, today when we printed with the brown ferric ammonium citrate, all our cyanotypes came out with a strong sepia tinge to the highlights and with duller, more greyish-green blues. They basically look warm-tone or very "antiqued." Almost what you might expect from a tea toning. It's quite odd, but not unattractive. They still had full detail, highlights and shadows. 

Later in the class, I mixed up some green ferric ammonium citrate and the prints from that came out great. Pure whites, navy blues, all normal results. So it does appear that either the brown ferric ammonium citrate has always produced those warm tones, or something has happened to it in the last several months. I'm not sure which.

At least I know about it now, and I can take advantage of the difference. The warm-tone cyanotypes are quite pretty, so I'll be trying those out with some negatives. I might even have to start making new negatives! It even worked out really nicely with just photograms. The yarrow photograms pictured above came out great on the warm chemistry. I really love the look of yarrow sprigs, too. I'm going to have to see if I can get ahold of some myself. The yarrow my student had started wilting pretty fast in the heat, and by the time I got it home, it had curled up on itself. Big bummer. I'm going to try putting it in water and coaxing it back to life!

My students today had great success using digital transparency positives for chlorophyll printing. One of them brought in some historical photographs of faces and some scanned nature etchings from old books. They printed really well! I'm going to have to consider what kind of images I might work with, since I haven't been shooting a lot of actual photographs over the past several years. Still, it's pretty cool stuff. 

Overall, today was very productive. I had a great time, and I'm feeling really inspired to start some new experiments. I hope my students from the workshop feel the same way!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Blogging for Thor: Heat Wave

Hello Spiders! This week is another short update. I've said before the chlorophyll prints need heat as much as light, and I think today's results pretty much bear that out. It was 98F outside today, with only moderate sunlight. Despite the light situation, the three chlorophyll prints that I had exposing are showing more complete bleaching than almost any other. Certainly nothing else has exposed as fast, since these prints were only in place for about half a day (dawn-2PM). Normally I leave chlorophyll prints out for a full day or longer. These prints have also done something else: held detail. In the two prints pictured above, there is actual shading and fine detail visible. The vein structure of the leaves that were used as negatives is easy to see. It's very clear, especially in the smaller print of the mulberry leaf. That's quite surprising. I've never had such detail before and I didn't expect it, certainly not from such a short exposure. It's quite a nice surprise!

All three prints aren't necessarily all my favorite. There's very little contrast in the largest one, for example, but but the other two are great results. Eventually I may try negatives instead of just photograms, but the last time I did that, the sweated moisture from the leaf caused damage to the negative. Further, given the lack of detail in the process, it would have to be a very clear, high-contrast negative. I don't have a lot of images like that. Faces appear to work pretty well, from what I've seen in work from other artists. There are some great chlorophyll printers out there, even just in a quick Google Image Search.

With temperatures projected to continue on in the high 90s for the rest of the month (global warming sucks), this should be a great time to make more chlorophyll prints. Isn't it wonderful that my alternative process workshop falls during that insane heat? As long as it doesn't actually rain during my workshop, everything should be great!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Blogging for Freyr: Reversed Results

The first time I tried making an osage orange anthotype, I got very odd results. Instead of fading, the osage orange dye exposed to sunlight darkened. With all the sunlight that I've been having lately, I decided to give the osage orange dye another chance to show off its crazy properties. Once again, the exposed portion of the print has darkened dramatically.

This exposure was a bit longer (12 days vs 10) but it shows a much better result. The first experiment was during the winter months, this is during the summer, which accounts for the difference. Sunny weather really is vital for anthotypes. I think osage orange is probably a minimum of one week, even with lots of sun. I checked the exposure and it didn't seem to be moving very quickly.

I'm planning a really extended exposure soon, about a month, just to see what happens. When I quit my job at the university, I had to give back all the stuff I'd borrowed from the lab... including a contact printing frame. So I'm short one of my nicest frames. The month-long exposure will probably be fairly small.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Blogging for Freya: Silk & Cyan

Cyanotype silk bag, front & back
Hey there, Spiders. This has been a very busy week for me. I've been sick, flown to Boston, hunted down apartments, met my roommate, met some other Lesley graduate students, toured the campus, flown back and still been sick. So, unfortunately, I haven't had a lot of time to do any experiments.

Instead, I'm going to tell you about the benefits of doing cyanotype on silk. I've discussed the problems with it before, but there are some distinct pro's.

The lightweight silk habotai that I buy my scarves and bags in is sturdy, but also very permeable. That means the material stains really well with minimal application of chemistry. It isn't too absorbent, so it washes clean very quickly. A two or three minute rinse is all you need to clean all the residue from silk, unlike canvas which needs a hugely extended soak of hours to diffuse all the chemistry out. For me, that's a big bonus. I like being able to work on lots of things in a day, and the canvas really slows me down since I can only soak so many objects at once.

Because the silk is so thin, chemistry will soak right through something like a bag or garment with two layers. This is great, if you want to coat both sides at once. Not so great if you are trying to leave one side blank. If that is your goal, you must put a blocking layer between the two pieces of silk. Your second side is going to be a bit lighter if you expose it indirectly (by just letting the object/negative on the top shadow both sides at once). If you want two different, fully developed images, again, put in an opaque blocking layer. Then you can just flip the silk when you're ready to do Side B.

Silk habotai also dries very quickly. It can, in fact, dry in minutes if wrung well and blow-dried. Or you can hang it in the sun, or in front of a fan. Since cyanotype is permanent, it can be treated as normal silk. Follow all standard drying, ironing and steaming instructions. Washing is a bit different, since you will bleach cyanotype if you use standard alkaline detergents. So wash only with very mild soap, if you must use any soap at all.

I quite enjoy printing on silk. I plan to order some more tiny scarves and maybe look at trying larger things again. Especially once I get to grad school.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Blogging for Thor: Time & Turmeric

Hey there, Spiders! It turns out that last week's post was a bit hurried. When the red cabbage dye swatches dried completely, they revealed some very different colors as a result of the acidification tests. Acidified red cabbage dye turns blue. A rather nice blue, probably the best one I've gotten from an anthotype dye so far. You should crawl along to that post, Spiders. It's been updated with the new information and a new scan of the swatch!

Last week, I forgot to give a shout-out to Aspen's great students at UNCC. I wish I remembered which one specifically had raised the question of "what does altering the pH do to other dyes?" I knew even way back then that pH altered the color you get from red cabbage. I hadn't tested the idea on anything else. So thank you, mysterious student!

So, with all that in mind, let's take a look at the latest pH test I did: turmeric. Turmeric is one of my go-to dyes for anthotypes, but the problem with pure turmeric dye is that it's so yellow. It's almost painful to look at, and the yellow is so bright that it obscures detail and gives very little contrast. So, generally, I adulterate the turmeric with something like sandalwood or annatto to calm it down and shift it from yellow! to more of a soft yellow-orange.

The base turmeric dye is a fully saturated mixture of turmeric and isopropyl alcohol. I'm 100% sure that it's fully saturated because if left undisturbed, a full centimeter thick layer of turmeric powder precipitates to the bottom of the jar. By altering the pH of turmeric, I got the following results!

When baking soda (a base) is added to the dye, the liquid becomes a dark, garnet red. The solution dries down to orange. Again, just like the red cabbage, adding more baking soda will cause a darker, more intense color shift.

Adding vinegar (an acid) causes a similar shift, also turning the turmeric orange. This orange is a bit softer, but... again, I suspect that vinegar is diluting the dye far more than the baking soda is. That may also explain the doubled portion of vinegar causing a very soft, pale orange. That is very typical of a dilute dye.

All the adjusted dyes showed moderate dry down, becoming redder and lighter when dry, but none of them shifted as dramatically as acidic red cabbage did.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Blogging for Freya: Colors of Cabbage

Red Cabbage is one of the most flexible anthotype dyes I've found yet. You can see above that it has a wide range of potential colors. I've mentioned previously that the dye from red cabbage is extremely reactive to pH changes. I finally decided to do a more extensive test on the subject. So, above, you see various test swatches of red cabbage dye at regular, high and low pH.

The interesting thing is that the dried dye is not strongly reflective of the dye in liquid form. That might mean the dye would function differently on fabric. I recently dyed a silk bag with red cabbage (boiled, not puréed as the dye seen here was) and the result was a medium-deep purple, not the lilac color seen here in the dried dye swatch.

The two swatches labelled "Red Cabbage Juice" are identical: just the mixture of 1/4th head of red cabbage and 300ml of isopropyl alcohol blended until smooth, then filtered through a nylon mesh paint straining bag from Home Depot. That bag, btw, is a GREAT investment for any anthotypist or natural dyer. It washes clean, has a much finer mesh than cheesecloth, and because it's a bag, it's a lot easier to handle than folded cheesecloth. Note that the resulting dye is very watery, but will form a layer of cabbage-residue precipitate at the bottom of its container within an hour or two. It's easy to pour off the majority of the dye into a new container, leaving that mush behind. The liquid dye is bright purple, but dries to a blueish-violet lilac. It can, at higher dilution, dry to an almost periwinkle blue. I'm simply avoiding that dilution at the moment, but I will do more tests on that later!

When a small amount (aprox. 0.25 tsp) of soda ash (sodium carbonate) is added, the pH of the dye goes up, and the purple dye becomes navy blue. The navy blue liquid dries to a soft, pastel blue. If more soda ash is added (another 0.25 tsp), the blue shifts to emerald green. Even more soda ash turns the green yellower, but that yellower green dries the same shade.

Adding acid to the mixture was far less effective, even if it appeared promising to start. I added small amounts of vinegar, which turned the liquid dye bright pink. More vinegar turned the dye a redder pink. Neither vinegar test showed any significant effect on the dry color, though. There may be a slight blue-ing of the purple, but I suspect that's simply because the liquid vinegar diluted the original dye far more than the solid soda ash did. EDIT: 24 hours later, when the swatches were fully dry, I discovered that the acidified red cabbage juice dries as a blue. The original information about vinegar diluting rather that intensifying the color seems to hold true. 

This was a fun experiment, Spiders!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Blogging for Thor: Talk About Digital Negatives!

This thing is so cool!!
Woah, Spiders! I was headed to bed (it's been a long day of work on my grant) when I saw this pop up as a sponsored link on Facebook. It's Fojo's new "$155 Darkroom" for Smart Phones. It's a real, actual enlarger that uses an app to project digital files from your Droid or iPhone onto photo paper. Yeah, that's right. You can make actual silver gelatin prints from a camera phone!

Do your little arachnotech brains understand how crazy this is? It's the utterly logical next step in camera phone technology! Why am I so excited? Because I work with college students and teenagers. I teach classes and workshops at community centers, museums, etc. This new device is absolutely perfect for that!

Normally, to get students into the darkroom, you either have to do photograms or supply stock negatives. Photograms are fun, but generally people don't put much composition or thought into them. They also don't have any connection to the photogram. Nor will they have any connection to or investment in stock negatives. Let's face it: folks these days just don't have negatives laying around. Especially not people taking an introductory darkroom workshop or class. What does everyone have? A camera phone. With photos that they've taken, that they enjoy, that they might love.

So now, using this amazing device, you can bring a class of students into the darkroom with no prior experience required at all. They download an app onto their phone, stick their phone in the enlarger and boom. They have a print. They still have to learn about test strips and whatnot, but they don't have to buy film, learn to shoot on a film camera, and go through all the hassles and pitfalls of trying to develop, wash and dry film.

I know that this would blow the minds of little kids, or even my college students. I would love to have six or seven of these in a community darkroom. It'd really engage people, turning something previously so far out of reach (money, time, trouble..) into something incredibly accessible. I truly wish all the best to this company. If I wasn't moving in two months, I'd be running around town bellowing about this at the top of my lungs!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Blogging for Thor: It's Hammer Time

The countdown begins! Rather arbitrarily, I do admit. My work for the Community Supported Arts grant is due on May 18th, in just 10 days. It isn't that I can't do math, by the way, I'm just not counting the last 40 minutes of today as a day. So in 10 days, I must have thirty parchment prints mounted on wood, along with twenty pieces of cyanotype jewelry.

I decided that, after talking with a lot of other artists, I was going to compromise on the issue of how to fasten down the parchment. My current plan is to do a third of the parchments with brass nails, a third with steel nails and a third with the liquid hide glue I got from Woodcraft. Liquid hide glue, by the way, stinks horribly. It does appear to be holding a stable, very strong bond, though. It was recommended by the tannery that provides my parchment. It's doing far, far better than the E6000 or the Yes! Paste, both of which gave up within days.

So where do I stand, Spiders? Today I finished mounting and putting hardware onto 17 of the 30 parchment prints. I want to give the hide glue test piece a bit more time to see if I want to reserve 10 of those as glue-only, nail-free presentations. I finished 10 mounts with steel nails and 7 with brass nails. There's 13 prints waiting under a stack of encyclopedias, all ready to go. I'll assemble the other 3 brass-nails prints tomorrow.

The jewelry is almost finished, too. I have 1 set of earrings, 7 rings, 3 metal pendants and 9 wooden pendants. The last of the metal pendants and 5 of the rings are waiting for resin, which I'll probably be pouring tonight, after I finish this blog post.

In total, I have completed 62% of the project. The rest is all very close to the finishing stage. My only remaining concern is any mistakes in assembly or finishing that crop up. Today I managed to hammer one of the steel nails down wrong, and I may have to scrap that mount. Fortunately, I have extra wood and enough time to replace the piece. Of double fortune, it wasn't one of the best prints. So, not a terrible deal. Just annoying. I might end up replacing it with an extra piece of jewelry, assuming I can find the stash of first-run wooden cyanotype pendants I made. The second run, currently strung, is not as dark blue. The third run, now bleaching, was too blue. There's an unfortunately high failure rate with the wet-printed wooden pendants and tags. I can't figure out exactly why. I'm guessing that it's to do with the "wet" part of wet-printing.

Thanks to a lovely overcast sky, I was also able to document everything that I've finished so far. My lovely Flickr gallery grows as I near project completion! Y'all should check it out, Spiders!

My last bit of work will be ordering more burlap bags, getting some better raffia stuffing (this stuff is too long and stringy!) and then finish the insert that I'll be handing out. It should be the work of a day to stuff everything once it's done.

I'm so excited, Spiders. My first grant, and I'm coming in way under budget and right on schedule! I'll be so happy to finish this project, even though it's been very fun.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Blogging for the Baron: Nailed It?

My favorite haul from Liberty! An antique printer's tray!
Hello, Spiders. I've been away for a while, but it's actually been good reasons. Last week I missed my deadline because I was on my way to Liberty Antique Festival with my best friend, Tiffany. We try to go once a year. Since I'll be moving this fall, this was my last time. It's very sad, but this time around was pretty great. I found some gifts for my mother's birthday and Mother's Day (they're a week apart) as well as some cool stuff for me. Successful antiquing, if I do say so myself.

Then, after I got back, there was gaming with friends. Following that, I had to prepare for a check-in with the Arts and Science Council folks that are running my grant program. Following that I had a minor crisis about my grant project (detailed below!) and then I had to deal with the final exam for my students. Even more recently, I went to see a live show of Megan Jean and the KFB. I've been just swamped. It's just been a busy time recently. But the majority of my recent activity has been productive. The crisis sparked a lot of work; I've made a big push on the grant project.

The vile betrayer, now repaired with more
epoxy. I'm waiting to see if it fails again.
Anyway, let's talk about my crisis, shall we? Up until last Sunday (April 26), I had been planning to simply use E6000 silicone epoxy to glue my parchment cyanotypes down onto the slices of osage orange wood that I'll be using as mounts for the grant project. I'd done a test piece and it was doing just fine after several weeks, showing a strong bond and no odd developments. Then, on Sunday evening, I went to photograph the test piece with my DSLR for a higher resolution image. The whole upper half of the parchment had bubbled up and the edges weren't laying flat at all. I was able to easily peel the upper part of the print off the wood with my fingers. The lower half was still fairly stuck down, but having half your art peel off the backing isn't acceptable.

I began to panic. I only have until May 18th to have all 50 pieces produced and ready for the recipients. If a friggin industrial epoxy wasn't going to hold parchment to wood, what could do the job? I hit up Google University, Facebook discussion groups for artists and contacted the tannery where I buy my parchment. Most of the conservationists, woodworkers (parchment is used in some furniture applications) and the tannery recommended using a more flexible, water-based glue. Hide glue, wheat paste, PVA (PolyVinyl Acetate) glue, carpenter's glue, or Yes! paste. I decided to try the Yes! Paste and had great results. The glue applied easily, the parchments appear to be fully adhered.

Except... in further research, I've found that opinions on Yes! paste are sharply divided. While the product, and many reviewers, claim that it is archival, there are a number of conservationists who strongly oppose the use of it. They say that within a decade or two, it begins to yellow and turn brittle. I'm not very concerned about the yellowing, since it's hidden under opaque parchment and unlikely to be able to change the color of the parchment itself. I am quite concerned about the brittleness, though. I don't want the art to fall apart on an owner's wall.

No glue, just nails. Good? Bad? I think it needs 2 more.
There is another idea, which lead to the title of this entry: nails. While I was panicking about what to do instead of glue, I scoffed "I can't just nail it down!"...  except why can't I just nail it down? So I went to the hardware store, purchased a variety of small tacks and pins, and set to work. I nailed down two different parchments and, even without a glue base under the parchment, the nails do an excellent job of keeping the parchment flat. Nails aren't going anywhere. The only problem is that... uh, well, there's nails in my art now. I didn't plan on that, and I'm not sure I like it. They aren't particularly obtrusive, but they're certainly there.

I've been asking around for feedback on the whole nails vs glue thing. A lot of folks have suggested that I make the nails more visible, using brass or copper nails that stand out and complement the color scheme. Or that I use the nails to pull the skin taught as it dries, instead of just using them to hold already-dry parchment in place.

Of course, now I've already used the Yes! Paste on 17 of my prints. Even if I buy some hide glue, which is supposed to be ancient-Egyptian-caskets permanent, at least 17 of my prints are already glued down with a suspect adhesive. So what I'm thinking now is that I won't be consistent. I'll do some of those 17 with regular steel nails, some with brass, maybe even some with copper. Some of the other 23 will just have glue. I don't have to be consistent. I'm already splitting the 50 pieces between wearable art and wall art. The wearable art isn't consistent. Some rings, some pendants, some earrings, some silver, some wood, some brass... I think that I am OK with this body of work being fairly diverse. I'm really looking forward to wrapping it up in the next few days. Then I get to to through and document the whole thing.

Do any of you Spiders have opinions on the whole nails issue?

Left: No Nails. Right: Nails. Which is better?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Blogging for Sol: Raining on the Panda Parade

Odd Bleaching, Reason Unknown
Hello, Spiders! This week has been pretty terrible as far as weather goes. Even my students have been complaining, because the weather makes it harder for them to do extra credit assignments. I give them the opportunity to do alternative process (cyanotype, lumen, anthotype or scanogram) prints for extra credit... and they all wait until the last week to do them. Of course.

So, I haven't been doing much printing lately. Nor have I made much progress on the grant project recently. I have begun to epoxy the printed parchments onto the wood, though. The first test finished curing tonight and it shows no ill-effects on either side. There's strong adhesion and everything appears to be going well. Recent grant-related developments also include 3 failures which I'll have to re-print. That's going to be challenging, since most of the last shipment of parchment was small pieces. I do have a large sheet I can cut from, but the surface isn't what I'd like... so I'm ordering another set of parchments and hoping I get some bigger bits. I'm going to include a note asking for no sheep scraps.

What I did get done was some catch-up on my documentation. I've been doing a lot of experiments with the different types of parchment and prepping for the grant work. So I had a double handful of parchment prints waiting for scans. I finally got that done! In case you were wondering, Spiders, I do not like Sheep Parchment.

In a related note, the odd fading that I've discovered lately (Mexican Heather 8, Peppervine 5) is finally scanned. I'm going to be seeing if anyone, like Christopher James or Mike Ware, can explain what's causing this reaction.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Blogging for Freya: The Difference in Splitting

Two-Stage Cyanotype, First Test.
I missed my deadline, Spiders, but I almost had a good reason. I was engaging in a new experiment today and it wasn't finished until I got home from game night. Of course, I could have done the experiment earlier in the day... but I hardly ever get work done before 2 PM. Oh well! Next week, Thor! For sure!

Apparently it is possible to print cyanotypes in a very different way than the traditional method. In traditional cyanotypes, there are two active chemicals. Ferric Ammonium Citrate (A) and Potassium Ferricyanide (B). Generally, Parts A and B are added together in equal measure to create a working solution. The working solution is then painted onto the substrate, allowed to dry fully, exposed and developed in water.

According to Mike Ware and a photographer named Jorj Bauer, it is possible to split A and B apart. The process then becomes an application of Ferric Ammonium Citrate to your substrate, dry for 30 minutes (far less time than required normally), expose, then develop by brushing on the Potassium Ferricyanide. Afterwards only a short water bath, instead of an extended wash, is required to clean off excess chemistry. All the development occurs with the Potassium Ferricyanide being added.

The advantage here is that you don't need to mix up working solution, which goes bad fairly quickly. You can keep your coated paper longer, and coat large projects more easily and without waste. Also, because the Potassium Ferricyanide partially inhibits UV light, waiting to add it until after the exposure dramatically increases the sensitivity of the print. A 200-300% increase in sensitivity is possible, at least theoretically. This drastically reduces the time required for exposures, and the depth of the shadows. theory.

I tried to use this technique today with a photogram on parchment and had... well, it's right up there, Spiders. It isn't a great success. Now, yeah... I took a shortcut and used a hairdryer to accelerate the drying of the Ferric Ammonium Citrate-coated parchment. However, I think the problem lays with how damn thirsty the parchment is. Because it absorbs and holds onto liquids with such tenacity, the Ferric Ammonium Citrate (absorbed fully into the parchment) does not easily interact with the Potassium Ferricyanide (only on the surface). Possibly a bath in the Potassium Ferricyanide might work as a developer... maybe. But that causes problems because even with only two or three minutes of contact, the Potassium Ferricyanide has left yellow stains on the image that did not wash out at all in the water. I'm afraid of trying an acid wash (generally recommended to clear highlights of cyanotypes) because that's un-mixed Potassium Ferricyanide. When combined with acids, Potassium Ferricyanide can produce cyanide gas. Not something I want to mess with.

So, maybe this works really well on paper? I'm certainly going to do some more testing... but I'm thinking it isn't going to be a great technique for me and my parchment prints. Bone, maybe? I hope so. It might solve some of my issues with the bone images self-developing while they try to dry. I'll have to do a test once I get some bone "scraps" I can fiddle with.

For the weekend and next week, dear Spiders, I have other things to play with. Aside from making further progress on my grant project, I've also got to work on a good way to clear the highlights of my parchment prints. I have some citric acid crystals that I'm going to whip up into an acid bath and see if I can get the highlights to clear. Acid helps iron salts dissolve, and that may get the yellow out of the parchment. Since those prints are done traditionally, the cyanide is not going to be released and the clearing bath should be safe. Supposed oxalic acid works really well, but I've been looking around and gotten some good feedback about citric acid. Oxalic acid is fairly unpleasant stuff by my standards, so I'd prefer to avoid it.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Blogging for Thor: Wooden Wonders

Newest of my Osage Orange mounts
Tomorrow I'm expecting a new shipment of wood from Kansas! The same eBay seller whose been providing me with osage orange, as discussed recently, was able to find a branch large enough to cut me 30 slices between 4x5 and 5x5 inches, all the slices just under an inch thick. These 30 pieces, shipping included, cost me $4.67 each.

Isn't it great that the best way to present my work for the CSA Grant Program was also the cheapest way? That almost never happens, Spiders! I just need to get the wood, cut parchment to the proper size and shape for each one, print an image on each of the 30 pieces and then epoxy the prints into place once they've dried. It should take about a week total, maybe two depending on weather.

The jewelry half of my CSA project is also going well. I've got a bunch of parchment sized and ready to coat (which I'll be doing tonight), then it can be exposed. Since the jewelry parchments are tiny, I can expose a lot of them at once and dry a lot of them at once. I'm hoping to get at least 10 of the jewelry parchments printed and drying this weekend, actually.

Considering the lovely appearance of the last two wood-mounted prints, I'm looking forward to seeing thirty of them all spread out. Should be pretty impressive!!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Blogging for Frigg: Eat Your Heart Out, Easter Bunny

The finished Egg
As I mentioned recently, I'm working on a project to make art out of a goose egg. Today my egg had its second round of exposure. The first exposure was too short, and although the egg looked very nice in its latent form (pictured below), it didn't end up turning out well. Half the image just washed right off. Even the remaining half of the egg was just pale and splotchy.

Fortunately, you can wipe a cyanotype. Well, sorta. I bathed the egg in a borax solution, which reduced the blue cyanotype to yellow. Then I just coated over the yellow image. The original image is still there, it just isn't visible. If this egg was placed in tannic acid, the original image would re-appear... so whoever ends up with this egg shouldn't try dunking it in tea or coffee.

I'm not sure that I really enjoy printing on eggs. The initial coating is a pain in the butt, and wastes a ton of chemistry. But, after that, it really isn't that bad. The second time around, I accelerated the coating process using a hair dryer on cool to help each layer of chemistry dry. Eggshell may not be the best surface; it seems to naturally resist chemistry in certain places. It may have some kind of residual coating, or simply have surface defects. On smaller eggs, dipping may be possible, but honestly I want to avoid that because of the sheer amount of chemistry required. If working cyanotype solution could be stored long-term, it'd be different... but it goes bad too quickly, and I don't use much on a regular basis. Possibly when I get into serious production mode on my grant, I'll make up a big batch and dip some eggs.

Once everything was coated, I used the same packing-tape-negative method that I do to print on bones, and it was quite effective. The leaves are from Carolina Geraniums, which are little weeds that grow everywhere. I like the intricate leaf shape. There were a few extra leaves left over, so I'm drying them in contact frames. Might use some of the smaller ones for jewelry, and some of the larger ones for the grant prints.

Exposure on a three dimensional object is always challenging, especially when you want even lighting on both sides. The first time, I tried rotating the egg on a stand, but I the second managed to rig a wire through the egg and hang it out to expose. The hanging method seems a lot better, especially since I can hang it just out of direct sunlight and it gets a much more even exposure. I still went out and turned the egg after an hour, then let it have the rest of evening (2.5 hours more) on the other side.

Developing the egg is actually very simple. The shell doesn't really hold onto chemistry, so it develops very quickly, no extended rinses necessary. Afterwards, I found rubbing hydrogen peroxide on with a paper towel to be effective the first time, but the second I just dunked the egg into water and added the peroxide to be sure I didn't miss any spots.

I finally gave the egg a short dunk in borax, just to clear the highlights a bit and add contrast. A few seconds only, then a thorough rinse to remove any borax clinging to the surface. I got the idea from the first time I bleached the egg clean; as soon as it went into the bath the few leaf-prints that had manifested cleaned up and gained more contrast, while the blues only faded a tiny bit. So I made use of that on the finished egg. A little more of the underlaying texture showed up after the bleaching, but I don't mind it at all.

So, overall, the results were encouraging. Despite initially poor results, I was able to clearly identify the problem and correct it. It was absolutely a result of insufficient exposure on the first run, classic issue and easy to fix. First run, it was outside for an hour total. Today it went out at 3:30 PM and is still outside, enjoying the longer evening sunlight. Even better, today was overcast and the light was extremely diffuse. That will counteracted the one-sided issue I ran into last time.

So, let's look at photos of the first exposure run? Yes, let's! Even though the result was flawed, they give a good sense of the process I went through. Unfortunately, I did not record the egg hanging from its wire on the second exposure. You'll just have to imagine it.

Uncoated Egg
First Coat, Still Wet
Coated and Dried
Exposure In-Progress
First Latent Image
Developed First Result

And that's how it was done! I much prefer the final result (image at top!) to the first run. It was fun writing this all out, Spiders. I'd almost forgotten how much I enjoy trying something new and challenging! I've also been making more of my regular parchment prints, and I'll have to scan those soon. So far, nothing crazy or innovative. Just refining my existing techniques and starting to work on the grant. It should be great!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Blogging for Thor: Milestones

Go Lesley University Lynxes! Apparently?
Hello there, Spiders. You recall how I've been complaining about graduate school? Well, now I have a new complaint: Boston is expensive as hell! Why does this matter? This matters because I've been accepted to the MFA program at Lesley University. I'll get to study with Christopher James, Dan Estabrook and some amazing fellow graduate students.

When I got the news on Monday, I had to sit down for a bit. In 2013, I applied to two schools and was rejected. The same thing happened (at two new places). It was through the Facebook Alternative Photographic Processes group that I learned of Lesley's program. Christopher James, who I can't stress enough, is the guy that wrote the book on alternative processes, suggested that my work seemed like a good fit for Lesley. He was supportive and encouraging during my application process and I'm so happy to be headed up to the north this Fall.

Now I just have to find a place to live up there, and a way to pay for everything. That's going to be a whole new series of challenges. Sure hoping that Senator Warren manages to pass some of those student loan reform bills she keeps yelling about! Go, Warren, go!

What else is there to report, my Spiders? Well, not much amazing. But I did recently break 150 entries in my Folded Paper Project (Flickr) that I've been working on using Instagram. That's 150 solid (ok, mostly solid) days of abstract paper photos. I'm pretty impressed with me!

Cheers, Spiders! I'll see you all next week!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Blogging for Waterfowl: An Eggcellent Opportunity

One of the goose eggs to be made into art!
My friend Troy Tomlinson was recently transporting some rescued geese and found that they had laid eggs in his vehicle. Troy reached out to the local artist community and five of us agreed to make egg art.

In my case, I'll be coating the egg with cyanotype chemistry, then taping some plants onto the eggs and making a Cyanotype Egg. I've managed to print on all kinds of weird things, but never goose eggs. This should be fun!

Jane Wiley, another local art friend, will be doing one of the eggs as well. She'll be doing Laser Transfer, or Tea Paper Printing!

Once they're finished, the eggs will be auctioned off to raise money for Carolina Waterfowl Rescue.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Blogging for Freya: Friday Failures

Well my dear Spiders, I don't have a post tonight. I have some things to post about, but I am very tired. I'm going to bed, like a responsible adult who has appointments and errands to get done tomorrow. Then, like an irresponsible adult, I'm going to a concert tomorrow night. So there will almost certainly not be a blog entry on Saturday. It'll be Sunday before I get anything of substance up. Hey, at least I have a timeline for my failures, right?

So look forward to an update Sunday regarding the new shipment of Osage Orange wood that arrived on Wednesday. I have some plans for it, and some of the pieces are just so tiny and adorable. With the weather turning nice, I can do a lot more printing because 1) there's sunlight, and 2) my studio isn't freezing anymore. My students have next week off for Spring Break, so I'm hoping to get a bunch of printing done. It oughta be super fun, and a big push towards finishing up my grant project.

Cheers, Spiders!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Blogging for Freya: Wood I? Should I?

Mock-up of presentation
As part of my on-going experiments with how to present the parchment cyanotypes, I ordered three slices of "live" Osage Orange wood. They arrived a while ago, but I've been lazy as far as printing goes. The weather hasn't helped, but I really should have been more productive lately. Anyway, I finally cut a sheet of parchment down into an appropriately shaped ovoid and made a print. Using some double-sided tape, I mocked up a presentation of the parchment print on the hardwood slice.

I really, really like the result. Right now, for my grant, this is not cost-effective. Each slice of wood costs about $6 and shipping can get expensive because of the weight. I'm trying to keep material costs for these things fairly low. For the future, though, I am loving this idea. The color of Osage Orange wood really complements the cyanotype blue, the live wood surface brings the natural connection back to the foreground and fits with the organic surface of the parchment. It just fits so nicely.  Plus, with a thick (half inch or better) piece of wood, I can just use a power drill to add a small hole in the back instead of hanging hardware. So simple! How about you, Spiders? Does anyone have thoughts about this presentation? Is it great, terrible, average?

One of the three slices of "live" osage orange
I'm still trying to see if there's a way to track
down local supplies of Osage Orange here in the Charlotte area. The trees grow in North Carolina, but they're mostly cultivated as ornamentals. I don't have a lot of wood-craft contacts that can help me find people dealing with raw Osage Orange logs, which is what I want. I can get finished boards, but that loses everything I want from the bark-edged cross-sections.

Eh, who knows? $6 isn't that bad for these discs, especially because they're sanded to a glassy finish and oiled for me. Doing that labor myself would be a big investment, since I'm not practiced at it. If you need something done... find someone who does it really well, because they do it faster. I do photography really well, someone else can do the woodwork. For now.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Blogging for Sol: Calves, Goats and Sheep, Oh My!

My new samples, as packaged by Pergamena. So thoughtful!
The lovely folks at Pergamena sent me my latest order of scrap parchment and they were willing to organize them by species. So I have plenty of small to medium rectangles of deer, goat, calf and sheep parchment. The nice thing is that with this fairly large sample size, I can now identify older pieces by their species. This will help me control variables in future experiments.

With these samples, I have been able to identify that, up to this point, I've been working primarily on goat and calf skin. Reviewing my prints up to this point it doesn't appear that I've had deer skin in my shipments. Let's talk about what each kind of skin is like!

Calf: Clean and white, with small pores. Extremely similar to Goat, really. However, the notes that Pergamena provides on how to tell their species apart don't exactly match my experiences. I think my Sheep and Calf envelopes may have been swapped. Calf has a very nice surface, and so far seems to react well to washing, even with the "fat" wrinkles. They appear as slightly "off" streaks on the surface, only really showing up when I apply chemistry or wet the parchment. Sometimes the wrinkles form an interesting background to the image. I believe I've used Calf in the past without knowing it.
Deer: All my pieces of deer parchment are two-faced, ranging from light tan to soft brown, with streaks of darker and lighter colors on the "skin" side. The opposite side is a light tan velvet surface. I've been printing on the velvet side, which gives my images a golden hue in the highlights. The skin side is too slick to apply chemistry evenly, though I may attempt to print on it anyway in the future. The texture there is very nice, and worth some experimentation. I had never used Deer until getting these samples; it is distinct enough to be positive about that.
Goat: Appears clean and white, with large pores. The pores show up as "pebbles" on the surface of the skin. I believe most of my successful to-date have been on Goat parchment. It has a smooth, almost featureless surface on one side, and the characteristic pores on the opposite side. It depends on the piece which side is better for coating, but generally the pore side has more tooth and takes chemistry better.
Sheep: Soft and white with a wrinkled, textured surface. However, the notes that Pergamena provides on how to tell their species apart are the opposite of my experiences. I think my Sheep and Calf envelopes may have been swapped. So far, my only confirmed experience with Sheep has not been positive. It reacted very poorly to water, despite having a lovely surface when dry. In the water, it became fatty and wrinkled heavily upon re-drying. It also dried significantly out of shape, probably due to the gummy consistency of the wet material.
Update: I no longer think that Calf and Sheep have been swapped. Both varieties do show the veining and wrinkling, but Sheep is more granular. It appears that only when wet does Sheep really cause issues. Since parchment is a natural material, I have to suppose that even the broad guidelines will have significant wiggle-room. Further testing may help verify, but it does appear that Sheep parchment reacts poorly to water, while Calf does not. Both display veins and fat wrinkles, but Sheep displays more pores. The appearance also varies depending on which side of the parchment you look at. Even Goat can appear fairly smooth when viewed on the "reverse" side.

Here's what Pergamena has to say about the differences!
Currently at Pergamena, we produce parchment on four different types of animal skin: goat, calf, deer, and sheep. The most telling difference between the parchments of these animals is the grain, or the outside surface which contains the hair follicles. Goat usually has a rough, almost crackly, pattern to it that resembles the surface of asphalt, and can have a lot of fairly noticeable scars and marks, due to the wear and tear the hide experiences during the animal's life. Calf has a much smoother, flatter surface characterized by the broad pattern of thick fat wrinkles and finer veins that spiderweb across the skin. Deer, being wild animals, have the most prominent display of scars, punctures, scrapes, and bites of all our skin types. Sheep have a very similar granular pattern to goat, but can usually be recognized by the smaller size of the "pebbles" in the grain.
That's all I've got for now, Spiders. I know my blog is late, but I wanted to do some tests on the new parchment. They're still drying, so the experiments will have to get posted later.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Blogging for Thor: A Reversal of Fortunes!

Osage Orange print -- Golden Rain Tree leaf
"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...'" -- Isaac Asimov

I had a "that's funny..." moment earlier this week when I checked on an anthotype experiment that had been baking for almost two weeks. I'd checked it a few times before and been discouraged. Despite bright, sunny days (especially for winter) there seemed to be no change at all in the visible portions of the dye. No fading was visible. I presumed the exposure to be a lost cause, and pulled it on day 10.

As it happens, there had been no fading at all. Instead, there was significant darkening of the exposed dye areas. The area that had been covered by the leaf was showing the original yellow color of the dye, but the exterior areas had dulled and shifted to a dull golden hue. This is an absolutely fascinating result, because up until this point all the anthotypes that I've seen, and all my own tests, have been with natural dyes that fade upon exposure to sunlight. This dye, extracted from osage orange sawdust, is the only one that has become darker with exposure.

This raises all kinds of questions. What will happen with more sunlight during spring and summer? How will the dye respond to moisture from fresh plant samples? Does this form of anthotype have the potential to be archival, at least compared to others? If it doesn't fade under UV, will it simply stabilize, or possibly become more visible as time goes on?

I am incredibly excited by this totally unexpected result. Thanks again, Artisan Dice, you guys gave me such a great gift!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Yellow Heart and Blue Skin

Since getting a big bag of Osage Orange / Bois d'Arc (different names, same tree) sawdust from Artisan Dice, I've been playing around with ideas. How can I incorporate this brilliantly colored natural material into my work? I love using interesting natural materials, they compliment the parchment and leaves so well.

While trying to come up with cheap, yet attractive ways to mount my parchment cyanotypes for the Community Supported Art Project that I've been given a grant for, I came across a company that makes artist panels with exotic wood veneers as a top surface. I wasn't thrilled that the panels were only a veneer, especially because it leaves a band of fiberboard visible on the edge, but the idea kinda stuck around, bouncing inside my head.

I had the idea to combine one of my bleached, golden parchment prints with the deep violet wood of the Purpleheart tree. I think that'd be a pretty nice combination, don't you, Spiders? I was also interested in the idea of an unaltered, blue print being contrasted with one of the yellow hardwoods. Osage Orange would be ideal, since it grows locally, but it wasn't the only option.

From left-top to bottom-right: Paduak,
Redheart, Yellowheart, Purpleheart
Really, I would love to mount a print onto a disc of "live" wood: a cross-section from a branch, bark and all. I was able to find a few of these on eBay, but I'd like to source the wood locally. For the moment, I'm looking at other alternatives. I took a trip to my local Woodcraft store to check out what they had on hand. There, I was able to purchase 3x18'' boards of Yellowheart, Purpleheart, Redheart and Paduak, all different thicknesses. The Yellowheart is fairly thin (1/8th inch), while the Paduak is the beefiest (3/4ths inch).

So, for the moment, I'm making some small tests on the squares I cut from the small boards. They weren't too expensive, easily fitting into the experimentation budget I've given myself from the grant money. I do need to do some sanding and polishing to the wood, which means this is likely not a suitable technique for the grant program (I only get paid $40 per piece, so a heavy time investment isn't feasible), but it is certainly something I want to pursue in the future for shows and individual pieces in this style. I'm debating on how much I want to sand, polish and seal the squares. Do I want to leave them geometric and sharp-edged, or round them off? Finish them to a glassy sheen, or leave them more matte? It's something I still ponder, and I'll only get an answer when I've made tests all different ways.

I still need to bleach a small, square print to see how it looks on the Purpleheart wood. Then I'll have to wait to see what I can do with the three live wood discs of Osage Orange that I ordered off eBay.

For the grant program itself? I'll probably end up using regular artist panels. I'm considering painting them black, or trying to find artist panels that have natural wood surfaces instead of gesso or clayboard surfaces. Either one, I suppose. There's the further-out option of covering the surfaces with leather or parchment, but that'd get expensive, too. It may be something to experiment with.

Basically, I like the idea of using naturally colored wood as a background for my parchment prints, as it ties the whole thing to natural materials and life cycles. I just have to find the best, and most economical, way to do that.

There's a lot of work to do, Spiders. I better get cracking! Plus, I still gotta apply for Grad School, ya know. SCAD and Lesley aren't gunna accept me on their own.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Blogging for Thor: An Acquired Affinity

Recently a local photographer posted about a new software being launched as a free beta: Affinity Photo. Supposedly this is a new, Mac-only competitor for Photoshop. I think that's great, because Adobe has not had any serious competition in years, not since they gobbled up Macromedia. Even before that, there hasn't been a serious competitor to Photoshop since the term "photoshop" became synonymous with editing a photograph digitally. Corel's Paint Shop Pro limps along, open source GIMP is pretty gimpy and Aperture didn't last long before being given up for dead by Apple.

So, I was excited to sign up for the free open beta and download a copy of Affinity Photo. There's just one problem: I can barely use it.

Don't get me wrong! The interface looks sleek, things seem to be a bit more intuitive than Photoshop and supposedly it can do all kinds of things at blinding speeds. Well, that's great... in theory. I can't get to that. Let's start off with the fact that I'm running on a mid-2010 iMac. Sheila's a great computer, but she's five years old. That's pretty toothy for a computer being used for heavy image processing. Still, she runs Photoshop CC and Lightroom 5.7 without any issues. I only experience lag during extremely heavy processing, or when loading dozens of images.

Affinity is crawling along. I'm waiting 5-20 seconds for changes I make to be applied. I gave up after an hour of fiddling around with a RAW file. I never even got past their Development Persona (that's what they call modules) because I simply couldn't deal with the lag and delays in processing. We're not even talking heavy changes. I'm trying to edit a contrast curve. Forget trying to reduce noise, that almost locked the program up entirely.

On the bright side, this appears to be a bug. At least, that's what the developers said when they replied to my Facebook post. I hope they're right. Other beta-testers are giving them good reviews, and they're taking feedback seriously. They replied to my post within hours, which is a pretty fast response. I like their videos, I like the features they claim to have put in. I'm really hoping the final product is useful, affordable and successful.

That's all for this post, Spiders. If I get Affinity Photo sorted out, I'll post a more in-depth review.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Blogging for Thor: A Mixed Bag

64 day Sandalwood Ivy

Hey there, Spiders! I said last week that I had something in the works that I wanted to give a few more days. Well, it ended up being several more days, and it wasn't worth it. I was waiting on a small crop of anthotypes that have been baking since December 3rd. That's a total exposure time of 64 days. Of the four anthotypes I pulled today, one was successful.

The two month exposure wasn't strictly necessary. I knew after about a month that three of them weren't going to do anything. It was disappointing, but I figured I'd push them to the extreme and see what happened. The failures were Woad, Indigo and Madder Root. The single success was Sandalwood, which I've used before and knew would work. This, however, was the first time I'd done a painted (as opposed to soaked) paper test of Madder Root. It was also the first time I'd ever tested Woad or Indigo, even though I coated the paper for them years ago. It's just been in dark storage since then, waiting.
64 day Madder Oak Leaf

I may give Woad and Indigo another chance, this time with fresh dye, but I'm in no hurry. Even now that the sun is returning, it still isn't got and bright enough for me to really be optimistic about anthotype printing. I'll give the two blue dyes a chance sometime in the spring. They're not pictured here because there is no picture. It's impossible to tell they were ever exposed. They look identical to the scans made two years ago. You're not missing out on anything. I promise.

Madder Root, though, is a write-off. I've done tests with it before. It's just too low-contrast, no matter how long it exposes for. It does a bit better on wool, but that's so labor intensive it just isn't worth it. Not since I've discovered how to make a far more effective red anthotype dye by mixing pokeberry, turmeric and sandalwood.

My last anthotype for the winter is going to be a small test of Osage Orange. I had actually forgotten that I hadn't done a test on the sample I coated after making the dye. Thanks for that sawdust, Artisan Dice!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Blogging for Thor: The Cloud is Our Friend

Hello Spiders. Today's update is small, but at least it'll be on time. I received a comment from one of you, an actual human Spider. At least, he sounded human. He brought up something that I've been noticing myself: some of the pictures on older posts have been disappearing. These are photos that I've linked to via Instagram, Flickr, or Facebook, so I assume it's those services (or maybe me) fiddling around with back-end stuff and messing up the links.

Well, that's kinda lame. If a new Spider wants to crawl around in the blog, they should be able to see the lovely photos and examples. So I've gone through and repaired all the broken links, uploading the troubled photos directly to the blog. I'll be doing this from now on, and checking regularly to see if there are any further broken links. If you see one, just leave a comment! I do love comments!

I actually have a real update for this week, but I want to give it another day or two. It's regarding some of the anthotypes I started exposure on waaaay back at the beginning of December. Winter isn't a good time to do anthotypes, but I figured I'd give it a whirl. Applying to grad schools and going over all my application packets always makes me incredibly twitchy, but it reminds me of the other two experiments that I'm working on. I generally only work on one at a time, so sometimes I forget. Cyanotypes have been eating my attention for months, but I figure come spring, I'll get back to lumens and anthotypes. Won't that be nice?

Seeya soon, Spiders!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Blogging for Thor: Sickness and Ideas.

Hi there, Spiders. I'm very tired. I've been coughing pretty much non-stop for a month, and it's rather annoying. The doctor hasn't been a lot of help. I don't appear to have tuberculosis, bronchitis or anything else particularly nasty. So, just coughing. Maybe I'll cough my way to a fitter belly? Who knows. My diaphragm muscles sure are getting sore. Hopefully today's blog, posting on Thursday, will maybe make up for skipping last week entirely?

Artistically? I'm actually struggling with budgets and brainstorming. My grant came in, so I've got a decent amount of money to make fifty (50!) pieces of art. Well, it's a decent amount when you take it as a lump, but it becomes far smaller split 50 ways. The real issue for me is how best to present these items for shipping and handling while keeping them aesthetically pleasing, environmentally friendly and cost-effective.

The cost-effective issue is a big deal, mostly because I value my own time. It took me a lot of work to assemble the pieces for my show in Asheville. I don't want to go through that mess again. So I need to find a fairly simple way to present these prints. 

I'm splitting the 50 pieces into 20 wearable objects (necklaces, rings, scarves, earrings) and 30 traditional prints. Oddly enough, the prints are actually going to be the ones that require the most work. Assembling the ready-made jewelry with parchment prints is pretty easy. It's even easier using wood prints. Scarves, at least the small kind that I discovered for Christmas, are fast, too. For the prints? Those I have to make (easy, fairly cheap, takes time, though) and frame. The framing is the sticking point. I don't want to do traditional frames, glass and all, I want something simpler.

At the moment, I'm considering mounting the parchment prints on wooden blocks or artist panels. We'll see how that goes. While tooootally not cost-effective for this grant, I might use some of the left over money (ya know, the amount that goes to me for my time) to buy some interesting products. I discovered a company that makes exotic hardwood artist panels, and realized that you can use Etsy to purchase all kinds of stuff. I'm thinking some live-wood (bark and all) slices of osage orange wood would make a great background for some round prints. Wouldn't that be cool?

Any of you spiders know where to get logs of exotic hardwood... and a belt sander? I need those.