Friday, April 29, 2016

Blogging for Freya: Fun with Food

Transference #2 – Orange juice, rice, milk, flour
Ugh, I'm getting so bad at this, Spiders! I'm supposed to blog for Thor! But I forgot entirely last week, and this week I was at game night. Sorry, Thor. At least Freya alliterates well with this week's topic! And, as a fertility goddess, she's more suited to a post about food!

My thesis project is going well. I've hammered out an artist statement that's concise and meaningful, I've produced a good start on a body of work, I've got lots of new places to go with that body of work, and I'm enjoying my work!

In short, I'm making 'chemigrams' with food, or the ingredients of food. Playing around with different bits of food science, baking, and cooking to produce chemical reactions that cause photo-paper to change color under sunlight. So, they're 'lumen prints' in that they're made on darkroom photo-paper exposed to sunlight, but they're chemigrams in that the only thing used to make them are chemically active, not negatives or inert objects. The paper does really react to the chemistry. Acids, bases, oils and salts all have distinct effects on the paper, aside from simply altering how much light reaches the surface.

The biggest problem has been that I have classes and work during the day, so I tend to leave home soon after getting up, and get home shortly before the sun goes down. That's made it extremely difficult to get much printing done. But the weather is finally turning sunny, and classes are almost over. I hope to get a TON of work done this spring and summer! I'm finally really excited about my projects, too. That's so important, because now I'm actually motivated to do work.

The failed baking soda / vinegar volcano print
My latest experiment was building a baking soda and vinegar volcano on a sheet of photo paper... it didn't come out super well. The baking soda worked fine, even created some nice patterns, but the vinegar turned the paper an unpleasant poo-like brown. I have some ideas on minimizing that, so I'll try the experiment again. Probably later today!

The next idea I have to work on is creating a webwork made out of the stringy bits on bananas (I'll have so many bananas left that I'll probably make banana bread) and the smaller stringy bits found on orange slices. The challenge will be to use the right paper. Since the banana strings and orange strings are so thin and small, it needs to be a paper that reacts to light quickly. Otherwise, I'm afraid that the light will burn through these small objects and leave a very low-contrast, poorly-defined image.

I may also give a shot at printing an image that's immersed in boiling water. I've done underwater prints before, so I know they work. Making the water boiling could be fun! I'll probably do that with something that I suspect will react strongly with boiling water. Maybe milk or yogurt, which may begin to curdle and burn? Or cheese, which may melt? It'll be fun! I could even freeze the paper ahead of time, and then pour boiling water on it while it's still frozen. I know if you do that with film it can shatter the gelatin base, causing a crackle effect. I don't know if that would be visible on photo paper, but it's worth a shot!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Blogging for Thor: The Shape of Things to Come

Silver Geometry Print #2: Silver Nitrate and Cyanotype
Hello, my lovely Spiders! I'm doing very well; I hope you are, too? Great.

Last week, I talked about beginning a new project. For the moment, I'm calling it "Silver Geometry" but that's likely to change since I've already made at least one image without any silver in it at all.

Step-by-step for
Silver Geometry #1
The biggest challenge so far is the fixed 2 day exposure time. With such a long exposure, the d-max of some chemicals is reached too quickly. If I want to preserve the colors created various levels of exposure, I need to work more quickly and then cover the area with an opaque block.

My first experiment using cyanotype and potassium dichromate provided a sad example of this kind of d-max failure. I was attempting to add rectangular areas of reduced exposure to the circle-based chemigram, but even leaving the opaque rectangles in place for 6-8 hours at a time, the exposure equalized so rapidly that no trace remains in the final image. There should have been four lighter areas intruding into the circular pattern. They're gone.

If I want to continue using faster-reacting chemicals like cyanotype and dichromate, it appears I'll have to create a color with varied exposure, get it to whatever tonality I want, then "seal" it by placing the opaque shape back over that area for the rest of the exposure.

There is good news, though! The first image worked out wonderfully and the
third image came out nicely, too. The third image hasn't got very strong shadows from the paper and tinfoil triangles I used, but it was enough to make faint impressions in the silver rectangle on the right, and to create a gradient in the uppermost cyanotype stripe.

The second two prints also showed the rather lovely potential from painting the chemicals next to each other, and allowing them to overlap and mix. I'm in love with what's happening on the third image where the silver nitrate and cyanotype solutions mixed together.

In the future, I'm going to be incorporating kallitype chemistry, possibly some toners, and experimenting with painting different salts onto the page to alter the color of the silver nitrate stains. This project is looking so fun, Spiders!

I'll be using Instagram to document the progress and layout of each print as I move through the stages of designing the geometric drawing, painting the chemistry onto the paper, setting up the photogram objects and then moving them around during the exposure. So if you want to follow me for updates, that'd be pretty awesome. I love seeing Spiders on social media!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Blogging for Thor: Physics, and Chemistry, and Geometry, Oh My!

Photogram by Lazlo Maholy-Nagy, for inspiration.
Last time I did a long-term project, it was about paper. I decided that I wanted to form a new habit. So for 251 days, I made a photograph of paper every night. It was a great experience, and I even got some nice images out of it. Some crappy ones, maybe even mostly crappy ones, but overall it was a good project. The core of the project was a set of four rules.

Since I enjoyed the project so much, I'm going to start again. Not the Folded Paper Project, but something similar. Another project with a strict set of rules, a time-table, and enough scope that I won't have to worry if each one comes out perfectly. I want that kind of structure and freedom. I'm trying, and so far succeeding, at enjoying art again. Hopefully this will add another dimension.

My thesis is all about food, so the exotic chemicals I've been experimenting with aren't appropriate. That's where this project comes in. I'll be using alternative photographic processes, whatever chemicals I find appropriate to use. So I can experiment with salt, cyanotype, maybe even platinum or gold! I'm giving myself a lot of room here to experiment with chemicals.

This project is going to be a lot more complex than the Folded Paper Project. I won't just be taking pictures. Instead, I'm going to be making mixed alternative process prints that combine elements of chemigrams and photograms. 

So, instead of a set of "rules" there will be a set of "steps."
  • Step 1: Draw a geometric design on a 5x5 square of smooth-finish cotton rag paper, using light pencil lines. Only two different types of geometric shapes can be used (circles, squares, hexagons, triangles, etc).
  • Step 2: Paint alt process chemistry onto the geometric design, filling in each shape with chemistry to create a sort of alt process coloring book. Chemicals from up to two processes may be used for this.
  • Step 3: Layer photogram materials of varying opacity on top of the paper once the chemicals have dried. These photogram objects must also be geometric, and only use two shapes. At most one of the two shapes can be shared with the drawing.
  • Step 4: Expose the print for 2 days. During that time, the print can be moved, and the photogram objects re-arranged.
  • Step 5: Scan the final image.
I'll be setting up the first one of these experiments tonight, and exposing it tomorrow. I'm very excited to see how this works!