Last night I decided to bite the bullet, and get to work.
About a month ago, I received a somewhat unusual looking envelope from MICA, amongst their very regular communications, which I have to say, I do appreciate. “Odyssey”, it was labeled, with its bright colors and excitement. Some transfer student information was enclosed. I slightly shrugged it off, and almost didn’t open it; I’ve been somewhat reluctant to look at all the wonderful things this school offers while being so unsure of if I’ll be able to attend. You know, don’t want to get my hopes entirely up — I’m a planner, and this plan isn’t coming together. Regardless, I’m also a curious one, so of course, I was bound to open the letter within seconds.
“Call for entries — 2015 MICA Postcard Project”. Really? I haven’t even enrolled in classes, and we’re already being given projects. Of course it’s optional, but all very surprising at frist glance. In the letter was a set of instructions, a fancy little magnet adorned in the same exciting colors as the envelope, and a blank postcard. Subconsciously, I’ve already decided I was going to do this project. I mean, you just handed me a blank piece of paper with a stamp on it — I’m easily intrigued. In reading on, the project consists of decorating the postcard however we choose, and selecting from one of four topics: spirit animal, Dadaists collage (it’s just a urinal!! ugh, hate it!), meme yourselfie (I’m questioning my age amongst these incoming students), and vacation postcard. Yes! Vacation! Love it!
So even in my doubt, I start thinking of ideas. It’s a good thing when my mind starts racing creatively. I’m pretty set on the type of media, cyanotype, and am just working out what my subject will be. When I think of vacation, nothing else, or better, comes to mind than the beach. “But how will this translate to cyanotype”, I think to myself. While all the tones of blues are lovely, when I think of the beach, I think of vibrant colors, sunrises, and sunsets. I put it on the back-burner for a while. Along with the simple submission of your work for an optional “welcome project”, everything submitted will be exhibited in one of MICA’s galleries, scanned, and posted on a blog promoting the exhibit. A conundrum for someone who may not even be there; a situation I don’t want to set myself up for.
So a few weeks go by, I go on vacation, I write a few blog posts, and I struggle to work things out for school. You’ve seen it, and if you haven’t, scroll down 🙂 Among all of those things, I did my Sunrise/Sunset post, where I discovered a little hidden gem. As usual, when beginning a new weekly project, I show you guys a few pictures of things which I have already shot that fits the description. I really enjoy this little system which I have worked out; it allows me to revisit some old favorites, as well as work with some images that I really haven’t worked on at all. In looking for some sunrise/sunset pictures that I haven’t shared in the past, I stumbled across some of the black and white film work that I did during my first semester at school. I seriously haven’t been able to stop thinking of that one simple picture of the ocean ever since. I can’t wait until I have access to a darkroom again, because that’s the first photo that I’m working on. With that, I realized that cyanotype would absolutely work with beach photographs (how could I have ever doubted it?!). And once I got back from vacation with some new images, I had all I needed.
Still, I waited to the last minute, well, almost. I haven’t quite figured things out yet, and still have a gap in regards to tuition being due for the semester. In my mind, however, I’m going. It’s decided. So with time ticking on this project, since it has to make it to the school by the 3rd, I decided to get working on things.
First, and definitely the hardest part, was selecting the image. Like I’ve mentioned, the colors and details of the sunrises and sunsets are my favorites. So objectively, I looked at the images I had to pick one which I thought had some good variations in contrast, as well as some sharp details which would translate over well to a cyanotype, and this was the winning photo!
Second, was converting the image to black and white and inverting it. I’m always tempted to print the “negative” version of the image when I’m working on it, and almost did so on accident today. I don’t know why, but in my mind when I see the black and white version of an image that I’m working on I automatically think that I’m finished. I’m pretty sure all of my cyanotype files have the black and white negative file to go alone with the positive file that I actually use. Luckily for me, and my wallet, because those photo transparency sheets are expensive, I’ve only made that mistake one time. Still, even if I do print one out, I’ll be sure to use it. The negatives make such ghastly, interesting images. You can see one of my “happy accidents” here.
Once that’s done, it’s off to the print making. I’m always a little nervous when it gets to this part. I’ve just finished working on an image which I liked at first, and then liked again as a black and white photo. Then, in one easy step I’ve inverted the image, and I’m not sure about it all over again. Will the details come through? Will I have enough contrast? This doesn’t look right! I have to remind myself to trust the process, and the fact that I’ve done this several times, and ended up with good results. This time, however, I only have one shot. The pressure is on! Though I have been pretty lucky in my recent cyanotype/photo transparency combinations, I did have some pretty bad results while just starting out. I couldn’t help but worry when using a different type of paper, and only having one chance, that I would mess up. It doesn’t help that the instruction letter also stated in all caps “we are not able to send another postcard, so what happens if you make a mistake?”… Essentially? Fix it and deal with it. I didn’t like the sound of that. I’m very much a perfectionist when it comes to presenting someone with a final print. A sub-par or doctored up image just wasn’t going to cut it.
Luckily for me, all my worries were put to rest. Aside from the added panic that some passing clouds caused, I’m really happy with the way this print turned out, and I think I may have just found my new favorite thing to do. Like it’s black and white counterpart, as well as my image from a few weeks ago, this style gives my beach photographs new life. I’ve been making postcards and greeting cards for my Etsy shop for some time now, but have stuck to contact printing with botanicals. They’ve been reasonably popular, but I think this will become a quick new favorite in the shop!
I love the dreaminess of this print, how soft the waves and sand looks, while still being able to make out clear details in both the water and sky. So, appropriately, I’ve named it “Summer Dreaming”. As I set my little postcard project out to be picked up in the morning, because yes, the final part of the project was that they prefered for it to actually be mailed, I had to admire it a little more. It really charmed me, as well as the crunchiness of our old, chipping mailbox. But seriously, who wouldn’t love to find something like that in their mailbox? Too cute, in my opinion. Hopefully it makes it there in one piece, and without all the emulsion rubbed off. Wish it luck!