Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Classes and Cyanotype Updates


So I haven't been very photographically productive in the last few weeks as I have been very busy with work and as usual in the few weeks before leaving for holidays work always seems to get a little busier.

In the past few weeks I have finished my last class with Russel and Wendy Kwan in the exceptional and artistically awakening “Chasing Light Stranger” classes. I have mentioned their classes before but I will praise them again now. Wow! What great classes.

These are not your usual photography classes filled with technical information about shutter speeds or apertures or even advanced classes about lighting or the “Circle of Confusion”. No, these are about guiding or awakening the artist in you. They are about focusing your art into a project and guiding you along and finally bringing your project along to a theoretical completion. Not that your project is finished, but rather all the required elements and information are in place and have been passed down and discussed. With all this information you have a clear concise path and a focus.

As you work your way through to the 3rd semester, you learn about marketing your images, discussions on Pricing, Editions, Galleries, Displaying and the like. All aspects are covered including the required legal and business gobbledygook. I am looking forward to semester 4 that doesn't exist. I can feel that withdrawal already. What i'll miss the most besides the great knowledge and wisdom passed down to us is the great discourse between all the students, all the other artists! I have found the acceptance of being with a group of 'artists' really helps foster creativity. Its great being with a group of like minded individuals with similar goals.

With all my business work and some class homework I have had little time to do any photography and with the not so great weather I have not had many opportunities to work on my sun required cyanotypes. I did have a few opportunities however and they have helped me with some of the logistical and technical challenges of creating the cyanotypes.

Logistically this project became difficult right away just based n the sheer size of the images I want to create. The 16.5" by 21.5" images created on 22" by 30" paper is a challenge. The negative is the easy part. I have been able to create some great Digital Negatives with great density. I have been working on the proper “curves” for my negatives in relations to the cyanotype process and the formulary I am using. I did run into some consistency issues with the sun, clouds, time of day and so on but thats easy to figure out. Nothing a test strip print wont solve. The curves have been developed and I will soon post my techniques and my results. OK, perhaps not so soon (read below).

The most challenging issue has been the paper or specifically the size of the paper. One needs a lot of space in order to work with such large prints. One also needs special equipment! For starters, where do you find a contact print frame that large? You make one! I started by creating a cheap frame which has worked very well for me but I do have plans on building a proper wooden unit. I will post a blog on the cheap unit I built and another on my final wooden contact frame.

Once your image is exposed in the contact frame you need to develop or wash your print in a tray. Again, where does one find such large developing trays. The typical large trays are 20" by 24" inch which is too small. Even at these sizes the trays are very costly but I needed bigger. Note that plastic (or glass) is required here. Do not use metal trays for cyanotypes. So, ask an old world darkroom friend for help and they'll suggest you use large trays designed for placing under washing machines. With a little research I also found that there are some Pet trays that can do the job. Again, I will post a blog on the tray issue with links to what I found.

So, with logistical obstacles taken care of, I was then left to deal with the technical issues. Which chemical formulary to use? The age old Cyanotype formula, the New Cyanotype formula or some hybrid process with enhanced or reduced contrast? I have played with this a bit and again will blog on my findings but most of my current research I have used the simple age old formula. Now that the curves have been developed, I will start working on the final formula selection and once that is done I will further refine the curves.

The greatest technical issue has been one of eavenly coating the paper so that my final print is clean and free of spots, blotches or streaks. This has proven to be a difficult process and one that has been enhance because of the sheer size of the papers that need to be coated. I have used and tested sponge, brush (I use a high quality Japanese Hake brush), roller, coating rod, floating and complete immersion. I have one other process to try that I think will yield the best results. Again, more on this later.

One thing that did work well and one process that I highly recommend is making sure you size your paper. There are various chemical formulas one can use for sizing papers and some are more suited to the cyanotype process. Sizing the paper is a coating that pre-fills and saturates the fibres in the paper allowing the final chemical coating to float on top of and adhere to the sizing material itself. This smoothens the surface, reduces the potential for blotching and can reduce the amount of chemicals used as the paper will not get saturated. This can save money by using less emulsion, perhaps not so much with the cyanotype process but is a must when dealing with silver and platinum salts. for now I have been playing with different concentrations of Arrowroot starch. Again, more details to follow.

So like I said, I haven't been productive in the way of shooting or creating images but I have been busy. As for not creating my Cyanotype posts, I'm in flight now en route to Frankfurt Germany for two tours I will be leading. So, no Cyanotype stuff for 6 weeks but I hope to post images from the tours and some commentary on the tours and students in days to come.

© 2013 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.01 - June 2013)

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I value thoughtful comments and suggestions. If you like or dislike this post, please let me know. If you have any ideas or suggestion, comments or corrections (I do make mistakes) please also let me know. Thanks.

- Francois Cleroux