Wednesday, February 29, 2012

ArtHouse Sketchbook Project Process, Part 2

After much thought and trepidation, I finally began...

I started by unbinding the book, the two small staples tossed into the trash with a freeing gesture of joy at finally getting started, the loose eight pages suddenly feel less intimidating, and I am excited for their journey toward their final completed identities.

I planned to used a liquid photo-emulsion to print photographs directly onto the page, and much thought was spent addressing the layout of the book. I needed to establish where the photographs would be, where the emulsion would need to be placed, which pages were reserved for drawings, etc. The liquid emulsion I used was called "Ag-Plus High Speed Emulsion", and heating was required to liquify it before painting. I set up the painting station in my dark room, with a hot water bath for the emulsion, and progressed to apply the emulsion onto several pages from the sketchbook. The painted pages were left to dry in the dark, and once several layers of the emulsion were applied, the prepped pages were stored in a light tight bag, or loaded into a pinhole camera to await exposure.

The pinhole process was less than satisfactory. I always say, if one feels like a pro', "hot-shot" photographer, just shoot some pinholes to restore one's humility; the process is unpredictable, and results are often unexpected. My issue with the process was that the combination of the pinhole camera making a soft focused image with the soft print quality of the liquid emulsion, created images that were just too blurry to be distinguishable.

I also had issues with the chemistry of the emulsion, getting strange results due to the way the emulsion was pulled between the two leafs. I needed to repeat my processes many times, using a heavier weight paper, and painting the emulsion and exposing the two pages together, yet drying and processing the two pages separately.

Shooting photographs with the theme in mind, (Long Road Trips and Short Phone Calls) I also made prints using the traditional enlarger. Having discovered some vintage negatives, I included images of my paternal grandmother. This image was one of the first successes with the medium.

I continued prepping pages, and shooting photographs, and experimenting with the photo-emulsion and all the ways I could make marks. I used a camera-less procedure, creating photograms with the film and other objects. I was painting and drawing with more traditional mediums when not using the photographic modes, and always thinking of alternative ideas for the project. I would draw over processed photographic images, cutting, and collaging the pages and images together, weaving a visual tapestry.

Eventually, I amassed a pile of completed pages, some successes, some failures, but together they were layered and interwoven with the various techniques I'd used. The messy group felt very disheveled and unorganized, and I was unsure of my feelings about what I'd created, but I was committed to finishing the project. (After meeting Shane, from Art House, in Denver at the Million Little Pictures; Photo-Mobile exhibition, I was shocked to learn that the majority of entries are never returned!!??)

I had four sections, or gatherings, of the individual pages, each containing four leafs. I included one extra section made up of only one photograph, a pinhole image printed on resin coated photo paper. The strange quality of this middle page, seemed to bring the chaos of the other pages together, and being an actual photograph, it is a signature of sorts, a nod to the camera, the machine, I use in my art making. In the end, I included many of the 'failures', as a testament to my process, and really, a sketchbook is a place to experiment, and I wanted to show all the images I had created.

The following post will explain the binding process.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sketchbook Project with Art House Co-op

When I first received my official book for the Sketchbook Project 2012, an Art House Co-op inspiring project, I was surprised at how small it was, it is just a small 5x7" Scout book, with only 8 leafs or 32 pages. I was also amazed at how large the project was, an inspiring international project with tens of thousands of other artists participating. How could my measly drawings ever stand up to those pressures? The immensity of the project was intimidating, and I spent a long time meditating on how to create my book, what parts of my art making practice to include, and what ideas I wanted to portray. I wanted to make it unique, find a way to stand out in the Brooklyn Library, the permanent home of the collection, (when it was not out on its national tour). I was lacking confidence in my drawing abilities and wondering if signing up had been a mistake. But, a sketchbook is a place an artist explores ideas, a sanctuary, where one can 'mess up' without any real consequences, (beyond lacking beauty). Most artist's sketchbooks are private visions into the inner workings of the artist, something held close to the chest, and rarely, if ever shown to anyone. This project threw those notions all away, it was a glorious adventure, and a great way to expose these private bits to the public, an offering of sorts, a gift to the audience; the mind, materials and praxis of the artist, all laid bare for their enjoyment. This project engages the audience in new and profound ways, offering insight into art making, and a better overall understanding of the art world.

My process was long, and involved many experimental techniques, with new media. As a photographer, it was important to me to bring the camera into the project. To integrate the photograph with the act of sketching. I used liquid photo emulsions, and the capturing of light as a form of mark making, as well as more traditional drawing or painting. I have put this, and the following posts, together to document my process, to share my adventures (or mis-adventures) encountered along the making of my sketchbook.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Last Chance to see "Blurry Pictures"

Image credit:
Laura Brent, Doors.
Silver gelatin double pinhole photograph, Santa Fe NM, 2011.
Positive contact print.

Due to the snowy weather on February 3rd, the closing reception of the pinhole photography exhibition Blurry Pictures was cancelled. Due to this event, I have extended the show for a few more weeks. Call or email me to schedule a time to view the exhibit.