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Showing posts from July, 2018

My best open studio

The best open studio for artists is the one where they sell a lot of work. I mean, really, what else would qualify? Maybe having Person Famous in the 1970s come through the door and respond very positively to a series of etchings (actually happened). (Although he also left without buying anything, so...)

But I would say that one of the best open studios (the second best one, perhaps) was the one where I premiered a six minute stop motion animation film. Here in fact is a clip from that film:

I worked on it for six months in 2013. It was the first thing I completed in my new studio in the Cornelia Arts Building. I felt the need to explore subject matter and imagery related to my childhood in an English mining town, but in a medium other than painting or printmaking. A medium where you could tell more of a story, a continuous narrative as opposed to a static moment.

I was pleased with the film, and invited people to come and see it for the first time in an open studio at the beginning …

My worst open studio

Most open studios are notable for nothing really happening. You sit there waiting for people to come into your studio, eat all your nibbles and guzzle the free drink, and then leave after a cursory glance at your work. Usually, the worst thing that happens is that you get stuck in a boring conversation with a dull person,

But there was one time a few years ago when I got into one of these conversations, and quite quickly the person I was talking to started to make homophobic remarks about another artist in the building. After a few minutes, I decided I'd had enough and asked him to leave. He seemed genuinely surprised that I had any objection to what he was saying, which in retrospect makes me even angrier if he thought he had a sympathetic ear.

He asked me why, and I told him I didn't like people talking that way, and I said: "This conversation ended 30 seconds ago." So he left.

So, nothing dramatic like Jackson Pollock getting drunk in a fancy New York apartment a…

Anna Atkins, Cyanotype Pioneer

While cyanotypes are on my mind, I decided to do a little more research on the history of the process, and came across some fascinating information.
You create a cyanotype by coating paper with a 50/50 mixture of ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide. You then place objects such as feathers and plants onto the paper, and expose them to sunlight for a little while. You wash the exposed paper under a tap or in a water tray, which reveals the white outlines of the objects against a striking Prussian Blue background.
The first person to formulate this method was British astronomer Sir John Herschel in the 1840s. He developed it as a quick way of seeing plans and diagrams -- this gave birth to the term 'blueprint'. But the first person to use the cyanotype process in a significant way was a woman named Anna Atkins (1799-1871). Most of what follows draws on some excellent sources (here and here) containing a detailed account of her experiments.

Atkins' father was i…

Blue Printmaking

Blogging has been light for me recently, thanks to the World Cup and to lots of teaching. Though ironically, one of the classes I am due to teach is about starting and running your own blog.

The most recent workshop was teaching the cyanotype process to some people at the Art Center Highland Park. I did this last Saturday, on a bright but very hot day:

The process requires exposing a light-sensitive paper to sunlight, and light conditions were perfect for this technique. Earlier or later in the year, it can take up to four minutes before the objects are registered on the cyanotype paper, but in late June it only takes 45 seconds:

The bad news was the humidity, which meant I was toppling over after 90 minutes of going in and out of the steam bath conditions.

In anticipation of this, I had brought along my UV lightbox, which we loaded up with different textured materials to create a series of beautiful cyanotypes:


For more information on this process, which dates back to the 1840s, cli…