Another Case of The Blues

Remember when I mentioned that I was going to use some photos from my black and white landscape week to print Cyanotypes?  Well, I finally have them scanned in a ready for you!

You know I love working with cyanotypes, and it was great being able to work on some more through my class.  I mean, I didn’t even have to use my own chemistry, and I got to test out some new papers, so as photo geeky as that may sound, it was super exciting.

While I just shared a few photos before, my theme for this project was “trees”.  I looked at them from different angles and tried to show some unusual details and abstractions of a subject I work with all the time.  Of course, I used the photo of my favorite tree, because, I just love that tree.  I also took a couple close up shots of some cherry blossom trees around my house.  They had some weird textures and growths on them that I thought were really interesting when viewed from a very close range.  One of these images really makes me think of this crazy movie that we watched in one of my classes, Little Otik, because, you know, art school and crazy movies go hand-in-hand.

As for the process, things were a little different, and took some getting used to.  Can I say that I’ve been spoiled by the sun?  I’m pretty confident when printing outdoors, and took that confidence with me to class that day.  Unfortunately, the light boxes are entirely different as far as developing times, and have a few other quirks.  I kind of over exposed one print to the point where you could see the outline of where the lights were in the box…I’m not gonna show you that one, but you can take my word for it 🙂  After I got the hang of it, however, it was pretty amazing.  Amazing like…I need to figure out how to build one of these myself so I can print at home on rainy days/at night, amazing.  That’s been the only sad thing about this process for me; I’m limited to sunny days, which don’t always come often during the colder months.  This is just one more thing for me to get attached to while at school.  I guess I better appreciate the things I have access do before they’re gone.  It’ll be over sooner than I think!

So with the quirks of getting used to new things, these aren’t quite the best cyanotypes I have ever made.  I’m still pleased with them though.  It was great having a chance to do this process again, and also great to get out and visit my favorite tree 🙂  Maybe I’ll give them another go over the summer, but for now, enjoy!

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Week 9: Shadows

I’ve been racking my brain on what to do for this week’s theme, when I realized, I already have something which I just recently completed.

When thinking of shadows, one most likely thinks of the shadow that something casts.  You’re able to see interesting distortions to the original form, and the ground or object that the shadow is cast on can also create some interesting visual details.  One of my favorite things to do, however, has to do with the blockage of light, and the “shadow” which is cast from that.

When making cyanotypes, I’m always working with what shadow an object or negative will cast to leave some interesting mark on my paper.  It’s not a shadow in the sense of Peter Pan, or sitting under a shady tree, but the image which results is due to the shadow which is cast.  So when my “Alternative Processes” professor said that we needed to create negatives for out first project, I approached it in a similar way.  He told us to make “paper negatives”, where we layered different objects (like paper or tape) to make different densities and values once we develop our prints.  Hmmm…no thanks.  I’m not a fan of what kind of geometric and abstract forms that will create.  So I decided to find some objects, which ended up being feathers and plants from around the house, and and a few doodles.

I’ve never worked with feathers before, so I was hopeful to achieve some interesting and intricate details from those.  I’ve also never drawn on any of my negatives, but, since along with the paper and tape, he mentioned drawing on our negatives with different tools, I thought I would humor the idea and give it a try.

So there they are!  I love how they turned out, and I’m glad I decided to scan them, because the colors and contrast are great.  I have to say, this is nearing two months old, and I’m shocked to see how much color is left in these leaves.  Anyways, I started pretty much in this order.  I thought, “well, I’ll just do what I’ve always done.  I like that!”.  Since I’ve worked with photograms in the past, and have been wanting to get back in the darkroom to do more, I wanted to get back to the arrangements which I really liked; simple objects and compositions which let the light start to show through, creating interesting shadows and values.  Then I thought I would do a little drawing, to make sure I stayed in line with the assignment.  I didn’t know what to do, so I took my transparency sheet with the fern on it, and just began doodling.  I’m never confident in my drawing capabilities, but the more I did, the more I liked it.

With the easy ones done, and one complicated doodle, I had to think of some other ideas.  I did, after all, need a total of six negatives for the assignment, and I was only half way done.  There were a couple rejects, which I took to class and never ended up developing.  The winner, however, was the single feather.  I loved the shape of it, and knew all the little details would show through, but I didn’t want to have a whole bunch of really simple, single, objects.  So against my normal practice, I tried to draw a realistic yet simplified representation of the feather in a mirrored drawing.  I’m so glad I did, because that one (and its counterpart) ended up being my favorite.  With that, I had to organize my thoughts for the final critique, and decided to work in three sets of diptychs.  I did another mirrored object/drawing combination, and another complicated doodle.  I even messed with my simple objects, and ended up with the three sets you see above.

Off to the dark room I went, and I couldn’t have been happier.  MICA has a great darkroom, yet I hadn’t had the chance to get in there, or the introduction of how their set up works.  It felt great getting back in there and working with all the chemicals and enlargers again.  I love the smell.  I know, a little weird maybe, but I love it.

After a few practice exposures, everything was going well, and I’m really happy with the results I got.  I knew how the objects would react from previous projects, but wasn’t sure how the drawings would turn out.  I was just using a fine point sharpie on a transparency sheet, but it worked really well!  I thought for sure the light would shine through pretty easily, but the sharpie made a surprisingly strong barrier.  So with the darkroom bug biting me again, here are my “shadow” images.  Can’t wait to work with this some more, and I’m happy to say this class has had me in the darkroom for some other projects already.  Enjoy!

Week 47: Black/White

Oh yippee!  I’m always so fond of black and white images.  I was just going through my portfolio of prints from my film classes.  Am I the only one who loves the slight lingering scent of fixer on those pages?  Hopefully not 🙂  I know it’s a silly thing, but I miss the darkroom so much!

With that, even though I’m working mainly digitally now, I like to try and work in series where I edit the images to be black and white.  Though not the same at all, it’s nice to pretend, and I love the look and drama it gives to certain images.  So for my studio lighting final, I decided to go this route!

I didn’t have that grand of a concept, per sey, while working through this final project.  I wanted to have fun working with the lights, and using them to mold the face, hair, and details of my models.  I mean, after all, it is a studio lighting class, so why not have the focus be on lighting techniques?  So that’s just what I did, and I’m very happy with the end result.  I had two lights set up, both with snoots, and sitting higher than my models, with the lights pointing at a downward angle.  They were slightly behind the subjects, which caused some interesting back lighting, while also giving a little bit of a silhouette on portions of their faces.  And since I wanted the focus to be the lighting, I took the saturation all the way down and presented these as black and white images, which, I think, gave it that final little extra touch.  It was good to hear my professor say that I “nailed it”, and my project was well received by the class. 🙂  He knew what my idea was going in, so I was glad to hear that I wasn’t the only one who thought things turned out well.

The only critique was that there wasn’t more of them.  I originally wanted at least twice as many, and apparently, everyone thought that would have been good as well.  Models are still hard to come by, unfortunately, but I’m so thankful for the help I got with this project!  Hopefully I’ll have a chance to expand on this later.  I’ve been told that bribing people with food bodes well for the photography department.  Good to know for next time. 🙂  Enjoy!

Week 41 & 42: Tiny World/From Afar

Just as I thought I was getting caught up again, I’m weeks behind.  So sorry!  Things were insane last week — projects and papers and homework, oh my.  It seriously was an overloaded week, and I was consumed for a while leading up to it.

Back to business now — let’s try to get back in the swing of things.

So I still had a few photos tucked away in my “52 week arsenal” for these subjects, which I took on my last trip to the beach.  I know, I’m milking it, but really, it’s some of my favorite type of photography, and when I can get a couple different views from a place which I photograph so often, I’ll happily share them with you.

What I’m also happy about is that the themes for these two weeks, “from afar” and “tiny world” work very nicely together.  While at the beach, along with the other themes of muted tones and perfect pairs which I tried to keep in mind, I thought of these as well.

I always enjoy the sunrise and sunset photos, but I’m also always looking for something different.  It could be anything from a little seaweed or drift wood which has washed up, some interesting shells and rocks, piers and structures on the bay side, or any type of wildlife, if I’m lucky to see something.  You get to see the occasional sand piper and the frequently visiting seagulls, which I always appreciate, but I love when I get more variety.  Luckily for me and my family, there were some rare sightings this trip!

To begin, the sunrises are always beautiful, and often attract the aforementioned birds.  While I was snapping away, however, I was thoroughly annoyed by the people who were standing right in the middle of the sunrise, blocking the usual unobstructed view I try to get.  Then I started noticing how tiny they were in comparison to the whole scene, and decided if they weren’t going to move, that I’ll work with it.

Along with their silhouettes in the photos, we were also happy to see that some dolphins decided to stop by for a visit.  You’re more likely to see them right at dawn than at any other time of the day, but even so, they don’t show up all the time.  They were also very active; jumping completely out of the water, and full of energy.  Try as I might, I wasn’t able to capture the true “action shot of their jumping, but I did catch a few shots of them popping up on the surface a little more than usual.

The next day while we were in the middle of our fishing craziness, we got another surprise, and this was a big one.  My mother, the usual spectator when we’re doing things like fishing, was walking around the beach, checking out the view, and looking around for shells and things.  All of a sudden she yells “Hey!  I think I see something out there!”  Of course, we stop what we’re doing, fishing lines cast and all, and start searching the waves for something.  “No, it’s waaaaaaayyyyy out there!”  On the search again.  Then right at the horizon line, I see this large flash of while.  I was completely at a loss for what it was.  A boat?  Some strange reflection?  It was just this long while object jetting out of the water occasionally.  Very strange.  We stare at it for a few more minutes before I finally say that I think it’s a whale.  A few people start gathering around, and when they don’t see it right away, they wander off.  Then he breached, and it was an amazingly huge breach.  Of course, I scream at the top of my lungs “it’s a whaaaaleeeeeeee!!!!!!!!”, and everyone comes running back.  I’ve only had one other whale sighting in Ocean City, and that was a pretty crazy story, too, so it was exciting to see this.  We watched in awe for the next few minutes before I finally ran to get my camera.  Even with obsessively trying to photography all things interesting, at least I can say that I still know how to sit back and enjoy a moment once in a while.  So with my lens all the way zoomed, I tried my best to get a picture, but he was just too far.  I mean, you can still tell that it’s a whale, clearly, but it’s blurry.  And the frustrating thing about that?  I just swapped lenses that morning and left the big one in the room, because, what in the world am I going to need that for on the beach, fishing?  Well, apparently, a whale.  I’m not complaining though.  I’m happy to have seen him, and won’t stress over the picture quality.  Either way, he was beautiful, and this clearly works as something “from a far”, much more so than the dolphins during sunrise.

So needless to say, it was a wonderful little get away, as brief as it was.  I’m always a little sad when I’m going to the beach for only a couple of days.  I know, I sound so unappreciative — but leaving makes my heartbreak, so I can’t help  but be consumed by the fact that I’m leaving soon the whole time I’m there.  What makes it better are when the short trips work out like this; lots of fun times and memorable experiences, as well as the “favorites” that we have to do any time we visit.  So with that, I’ll leave you with the sunset, and one more photo from afar.

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“Well, Welcome to This One.”

I love it when people have just the right things to say.  I also like it when something gets me right in the feels, for lack of a better word, and catches me off guard when they do.  I got that from one of my professors the other day, so I’d thought I’d share a little more about it with you.

It’s been a crazy few weeks since starting school, as I’m sure you’re well aware by my constant reminders.  But even with all the craziness, it’s been filled with some pretty great moments.  First off, everyone thinks that I’m 21…max!  I’m even being mistaken for a teenager, which makes me question some things, but I’ll still take it as a great compliment.  I’m finally starting to feel a little more comfortable, and that I may be someone who is on-par with this “art world” that I’ve flung myself in to.  Yes, I know I made it in to MICA, and that should be reassurance enough, but it isn’t.  “They”, the powers that be at MICA, even send out emails, or did at least, to new students telling them just that — “don’t be scarred/intimidated/depressed/stressed/etc…you made it here, and that means a lot!”  When coming from the world of strict business attire,where the only creativity being expressed was that of craftily written procedure or performance review, it’s hard to see yourself amounting to anything creative.  No matter how bad I want to succeed at this, I’m essentially terrified.

When I think about where I came from, the life of banking, management, stress, abuse, and all things wrong in a corporate environment, I have two feelings that have stuck around: abandonment, and escape.  Pretty conflicting thoughts, don’t you think?  As if my feelings towards them weren’t complicated enough, they still continue to be, even almost a year and a half leaving.  I suppose some of the emotions you could equate to this would be depression, anxiety, PTSD, failure,….freedom and relief?  Like I said, it’s complicated.  I whole heartedly gave over 10 years of my life to this company, only to be targeted, bullied, and attacked.  And when I fell ill as a result of this, they didn’t care at all, and wanted nothing more to do with me.  Don’t get it twisted though, no matter how it may sound, I played the hand I was dealt the best I could, and ended up resigning.  Some what reluctantly, but still, it was my choice to leave — at least they didn’t get that satisfaction.  Either way, it was a heartbreaking change, even though at the same time I wanted to do something different with my  life.  I wanted to make it better, but I was terrified of failing.

But like I said, you have to play the cards you’re dealt, and my game had just changed.  So I decided, why not, apply for this school that I’ve been wanting to go to forever.  I was just about to finish up my associates degree, because I could only handle baby steps, and didn’t see myself making it this far.  Going to school, an art school, to get a Bachelor’s degree seemed unobtainable for me.  After getting in, it was then the financial aspects that had me burdened, because let’s face it, you can’t pay for the “ivy league of art schools” on a non-existent salary.  No one was excited about the news except a few, literally few, friends, so in trying to be realistic about it, I didn’t let myself get excited about it, or celebrate.  I’m 30, and just got my first college acceptance letter in the mail, I should be excited.  Oh, wait, except for the fact that I’ll be 30….in college…with teenagers — another issue of concern.  I convinced myself I was too old, and just needed to buckle down and get a “real job”.  Oh, and back to the no job thing, I had to move out of my apartment, my safe haven, my home….my life was falling apart when it should have been on the up and up.

So I decided not to go, and things got dark, really dark, and fast.  I started looking for banking jobs, admin jobs, anything office job like, and to no avail.  What was the end of an already incredibly depressed year, I was even worse for the wear.  Then a friend hired me to bake a cake and photograph her wedding, and another friend asked me to photograph her baby, and it felt great doing things that were artistic, and that I got paid for!  Imagine that.  I figured, as the deadline for the deposit was fast approaching, I’ll just take this money to pay for the deposit.  As irresponsible as it may be, and even though it’s most likely only delaying the inevitable, I’ll have a little more time to pretend that this is still an option.

In the mean while, I still looked for “normal” jobs, but also worked on art, this blog (yay), craft fairs, and school stuff — scheduling, talking to advisors, financial aid, and so on.  I had it all figured out, except how to pay for just a little bit of it.  So annoying.  With all the work I did, this little percentage of tuition that I couldn’t come up with was going to hold me back.  I begged family to help, co-sign, anything, but they resisted, insisting that I needed to get off this vacation mode and get my life back together.  I have to say, my family has an interesting perspective of what vacation is if my life was the model for it.  Then, out of the blue, my parents, though they were very clear that they disapproved of my idea/plan/decisions/everything, that they wanted me to be happy.  What?  Seriously?  I was dumbfounded, but took their help as quickly as possible.  Though I have to hear about it all the time now, I’m thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to give this a go, even if the future of it seems uncertain.

So then I’m finally there!  Orientation.  Oh my God….can I say that it was exponentially worse than I expected?  The school and facilities seemed nice, but the people — some of the other students are down right…..just, immature, and not good people, and incredibly filled with entitlement, and unappreciative.  It’s a little astounding, and overwhelming.  I felt like crying, and leaving, and never coming back, but I knew I couldn’t let these people, who really didn’t do anything to me except make my age difference become even more apparent, control what was going to be my outcome of going here.  So I did what I knew I would do, what I always do.  I worked.

It felt great to finally have something consume my life again.  While it was nice being away from work, it was pretty boring at times, even with all my little projects that I tried to fill my time with.  Not only that, but I actually started working again, and not at some terrible place that was irrelevant to what my goals were.  I’m busy again, and it’s a great feeling.  I’m successful in this busyness, which is even a better feeling.

Even though the feedback from some of these professors has been minimal, I have enough information to come to the conclusion that I have an A in each of my six, count ’em, six classes.  I would say yay, but I worked my ass off, and there is no yay for me when it comes to grades.  I either get all A’s and am contempt with it because it’s the only acceptable outcome, or I flirt with the line between A and B, and I’m really mad about it.  It’s about half way through the semester now, and I’ve received a couple of mid-term reviews, and hope to have a couple more.  They’ve been informal, and though email, so it’s nice to have the feed back, because not having it drives me crazy, but it’s also a little impersonal.  Lucky for me, I have one professor, my sculpture professor, who is very profession, and a great communicator.  He set up mid-term review meetings with each of us, and actually sat us down to talk about our progress, grades, and future expectations.  Now that gets a yay 🙂

So in that meeting, I heard some great things — I have an A+, something that he only gives out like once or twice a year.  How unexpected.  What else was unexpected was that he told me that I took to sculpture like “a fish to water”.  I have to say, out of all the classes I signed up for this semester, this was the one I was most apprehensive about.  I never work three-dimensionally, so this was all new for me, and in having such high expectations for my self and my grades, this was going to be a challenge.  We chatted a little more, and he got the point of saying that he could tell that I was very dedicated.  Of course — do you have any idea of what I had to go through to get here?! Of course not, I’m being irrational, and joking.  I did say, however, that yes, I’m incredibly dedicated to being here.  I went through hell with the life that I had before, and I’m never going back to that world.  And then he said it…”Well, welcome to this one”.  He went on to say, many more positive things, what expectations he had for me, and that he saw me doing great things, but that little sentence stuck out to me even more than that.  I know that with the grades I’m getting in the school that I’m now attending that I should have more confidence in my work.  It’s amazing to hear that he views me as an A+ student, a natural at this art, and that he, and incredibly successful artist in his own right, sees me being successful as well.  But that welcome, as silly as it may seem, hit me hard.  I’m here, I’m still in one piece, and I’m doing the thing that I’ve always wanted to do.  I’m doing the thing that I pushed out of my mind for the last 15 years of my life.  I’m doing something that will change my life.  It’s hard to believe, but I am.  I’m doing it.  It’s crazy.  Crazy good.  I don’t ever have to go back to that life now, not if I don’t want to.

At the end of all my rambling, I’ve included some photos of things that I’ve been working on for various classes – sculpture, digital photo, studio lighting, and EMAC, which is like a sampling of all this electronic and digital in the art making world. I didn’t include anything from my art history classes, cause I figured you probably wouldn’t appreciate having papers shoved in your face to read.  And it’s ok if you think some of these are a little wacky, cause to be honest, I do too, but I like them 🙂   And what I like even more, is that this is just the beginning of a change so grand that I can’t even imaging how great things will be when I finish.  I imagine a very tear-filled graduation on my part, but only happy tears.  So thanks for the welcome, and just so you know, there will never be a goodbye.

Of the Shadows

I suppose I’m eating my words at this moment.  I know I said I wouldn’t be doing the typical, over-done type silhouette, but once I put it out there, I wasn’t able to get it out of my mind.  On the other hand, after looking through my photos this week for other silhouette photos, it seems like “over-done” in my collection would be nature, beach, trees, etc.  I’m going to twist that in to saying that doing the classic back-lit figure silhouette isn’t over done…in my case 🙂  Either way, I’m much happier this week in doing photos focused on dark elements as opposed to light elements.  I prefer the darker, mysterious, “hidden aspect” type photo to the lighter and transparent one.

These shots were a little challenging, but I’m happy with the final results.  Getting enough lighting set up when you only have living room/side table lamps to work with was probably the greatest difficulty.  You would think in photos where you don’t need to see anything but a blacked out figure as your subject you wouldn’t need that much light, but I was quickly corrected.  Happily, we added much more lighting, which gave some nice little details on the figure for some of the images, which I actually enjoy more than the true silhouette images.  Editing the photos were a close second in things of difficulties with this shoot.  We were both exhausted, and wanted to make quick work of this shoot (though, nothing is ever “quick”, per sey, when working on my projects), so we were a little careless when thinking out what was going on in the background.  Having a full backdrop, and being prepared with proper lighting are definitely two things on my list before attempting a shoot like this again, though I would love to give it another try.  Thanks to my friend for practically rearranging her whole house to do this, as well as for being my awesome model!  I’m happy to say that these photos have a little twist on the assignment of “silhouettes”.  Though some are true silhouettes, with the figure completely blacked out, others were completed with more of a touch of “low-key”, wich is something I’ve been wanting to experiment with.  Once I get the lighting and set up in order for future shoots, I’ll have to see if I can twist my friend’s arm to do another shoot with me.  Until then, enjoy our first collaborative effort of silhouetted figures.

Week 12: Silhouette

From the bright and “fluffy” to the dark and mysterious, this week’s theme is silhouette.  Unlike last week, I have a little practice with this one, and I have some ideas brewing already.  Since I’ve done quite a few silhouettes in my nature and beach (ok, mostly beach) photography, I think I’m going to attempt to photograph something a little different this week.  I’ve always admired those classic silhouettes of a figure standing in front of a window (or some similarly light-flooded set up) in that contrapposto type pose.  You know me, though; I might like something, but I’m not a huge fan of doing the overdone.  After doing so much reading on high key last week, I also took some time to look into its darker side, low-key, and could see how some low-key images could be interpreted into silhouettes, so I may attempt to incorporate some of those elements in to this week’s challenge.  Now, for the true challenge, which is (as usual) finding a model.  Maybe I should make “creating a database of willing models” my business challenge for this week, since that’s something I’m in constant need of, yet perpetually without.  On a good note, I did find an open studio space for ceramic crafting at the University of Maryland, so I might be able to start working on my prop for the “red” themed week!

As I turn the heat up in my cold apartment on this “spring” night, I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures from some vacations I’ve taken in the past.  Hope these warm you up and have you thinking of summer!  It is right around the corner, isn’t it?  Guess I shouldn’t get ahead of myself, and should just wait for spring to blossom.  At least the blustering winter days and snow storms are behind us…I think 🙂