I completed #the100dayproject for the first time in 2021 where I decided to ‘print something everyday’ (you can read about it here). This year I have taken up the challenge again and I’ve chosen to print 100 4″x6″ photograms*.
*Photograms are created by placing objects directly onto photo-sensitive paper and exposing them to light. They use a camera-less photography technique and so don’t require a camera, film or an enlarger to create.
My recent exploration into cyanotypes (also influenced by Man Ray and Moholy Nagy along with Karl Blossfeldt and Anna Atkins) has enabled me to develop similar photograms using UV light and water.
To make the process easier I made a mini darkroom in my house by converting a small utility room (that has no windows). I added a red safe light and a hanging line and I was able to develop my cyanotypes there.
To take this a step further, for the 100 day project, I have bought photographic paper and black and white darkroom chemicals.
I’ve started my 100 day project with a botanical theme. Last year I divided the 100 days up into 10 x 10-day series, which worked really well for me, so I will do this again this year. I’ve also realised that darkroom developer doesn’t last very long once it has been mixed (2 days max), so I plan to make 10 prints in one darkroom session. Below is a selection of prints I made in the first session…
My challenge started on Sunday 20 February and will end on Monday 30 May. You can follow my daily postings on Instagram #100daysof4x6photograms).
I’d been given a set of old encyclopedia volumes to use for collage, as altered books or even to recycle as handmade paper. I decided I’d give handmade paper-making a go.
I was intrigued as I’d been told that due to the age of the books, and the way they had been printed, that the letters were likely to stay intact rather than blend into a mushy grey (which digitally printed papers are more likely to do).
So I started by tearing a few pages out of the books and ripped these into smaller pieces of paper. I left them to soak in a bowl of water for an hour or so before using an old kitchen stick blender (no longer used for food!) and blended the paper into a pulp.
I experimented with a few different types of mesh for creating the sheets of paper. Then after watching a few online videos I found that car bodywork repair mesh worked brilliantly!
So I dipped the mesh into the watery/pulp and pulled it out, this gave me a layer of pulp on the mesh (the amount of water in the pulp affects how thick the paper will be: less water = thicker paper). I then needed to press out as much liquid as I could. Once I’d done this I flipped the mesh over and released the sheet of pulp onto a Jay cloth. I added a second Jay cloth on top to create a ‘sandwich’ and then repeated the process.
The process was really successful (once I got the hang of it), and I was able to make quite thin sheets of paper. It was easy to build up a ‘sandwich’ of 10-20 sheets (this will depend on how much pulp you’ve made). I also like rough edges, so I didn’t worry about giving the paper straight edges, but this could be done by placing a frame onto the mesh before pulling out the pulp.
I really liked how the letters were visible on the paper. The level of detail in the lettering is affected by how long the paper is blended for. The less time spent blending = more definition in the lettering.
The next step now is to try blending different types of paper (basically I’ll be rummaging through my recycling paper bin for junk mail and packaging), this will hopefully add more colour and images to the paper. Plus I’d like to add seeds and petals and…the list goes on!
Back in March 2020 I signed up to ‘The Water Replies’ journal project, led by Metal Southend and Cement Fields, as part of the second Estuary Festival. The festival takes place along 107 miles of the South Essex and Kent coastline with artists, events and workshops responding to contemporary issues surrounding the estuary.
The project began just before the pandemic hit and the UK was put into lockdown. During lockdown, when everyone was confined to their homes, we were allowed to go outside once a day for solitary exercise. For me this meant a long walk along the seafront. I’m so thankfully to have the estuary and beach a few minutes walk away from my home.
As contact with the outside world was reduced, I found that during my daily walks or runs along the estuary, I became more focused and mindful on what I saw and what captured my attention. The tidal times change daily. The mud flats appear and disappear. Sunlight glistens on the water. Big skies. Bold silhouettes of the pier and groynes…etc
For my journal I wanted to record my impressions of the coastline beginning at Southend Pier and travelling along the coast towards the QE2 bridge. I chose landmarks and areas of interest along the way: the pier, Gypsy bridge, incoming tide patterns, barnacles, silhouettes, sea birds, beach textures, seaweed, shells, Two Tree Island, views across to Kent, Coryton oil refinery, QE2 bridge…
I started the 100 day project on 31 January 2021 and completed it on 10 May 2021. Wow 100 days! It sounded like a long time when I started, and May seemed like such a long way off. And yet, here I am, and the project is finished. In reality the time flew by and I had a lot of fun along the way.
At the start of the project I made the decision to break down the 100 days into 10 mini-projects. And having decided I would print something everyday, I chose a different print method to explore every 10 days. I think this really helped to keep me motivated and to keep the project interesting.
I really enjoyed something about each printing process and would find it difficult to choose a favourite. I plan to take some time to reflect on what I have learned in this process and to notice what I enjoyed the most (or didn’t enjoy!) as I decide the next steps in my printmaking journey. Do you have a favourite printing method?
Another online creative challenge that I have taken up this year is the 52 Weeks Art Journal, hosted by Raspberry Blue Sky. Throughout 2021, she will be providing a weekly word prompt that I will use to inspire a page in my journal. The work is intended to go into an altered book or a handmade book.
Which book am I using?
I am also using the British Library Desk Diary from 2019.
Does the diary format work?
The format is perfect as there is a double page spread for each week, with the number of the week at the top. The theme of the diary is maps. I decided to use the purpose of maps (i.e. to plan routes and stay on course) as a way of giving myself creative direction, guided by the weekly prompts. The paper is also a good weight and is really suitable for collaging onto.
How have I found the prompts?
I was initially unsure that word prompts would inspire me. However, I have been pleasantly surprised. The prompt comes out on Monday, I usually take a few days to mull it over, then spend a couple of days playing with ideas before there is a ta dah! moment at the end of the week.
Here are a few journal pages I’ve completed so far:
I’ve really been enjoying the art challenges I’m working on this year. You can read about #the100dayproject in a previous post.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve found any inspiring creative challenges that you’ve enjoyed…