Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Grant Project: The Paint Part I

My paper experiments are over and I have culled down my choices to 8 papers that I really like to work with (and I may be experimenting with two other papers later this year, we'll see how that goes). The next step in the process is paint. Which paint works best with which paper? I already knew that Windsor and Newton oil paints worked well because that was what I had initially began with and my prints were usually turning out with various degrees of success. I headed off to Jerry's Artarama in Raleigh and picked up seven different brands of oil paints. The first one I tried was Michael Harding's Artists Oil Colours in Lamp Black.

Immediately this paint is very different from Windsor and Newton's. It's smellier, felt oilier, and didn't rub off the print as nicely. I tried it with my narrowed down paper choices, and found that it worked the best with the smoother papers: Arches Platine, Stonehenge, and Fabriano Artistico Hot Press. These papers cleared off enough for me to add a second layer of paint to make the blacks even more rich and allowed the midtones in the prints to really come out. The other papers were muddy messes and while some may be sort of salvageable with the help of bleach, I know that they won't be great prints regardless.

Also with this round, I changed up my negative a bit. I was still using the print Hidden Oak, but thought that maybe if I changed a few things around in Photoshop, I could bring out the details in the image that I was really missing. Well, the new negative is a bust, so back to the old negative it is. By the time I find my favorite paint/paper pairings, I know I'm going to be very sick of looking at this image.

Results of the paint experiments part I:  Michael Harding's works amazingly well on the smoother papers, and for that it really redeemed itself in my eyes. If the paper has any sort of texture on it though, it is basically a bust for this process.

Best one for this round: Arches Platine

There are nine papers here because I have a repeat. I have narrowed
down my paper selection to 8 total. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Politicians: Bernie Sanders

After photographing Donald Trump's rally in Fayetteville, NC, I decided to scope out who else was going to be in the area. Lo and behold, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders had planned events in Raleigh. I just missed the deadline for applying for press credentials to Clinton's town hall event, but managed to get credentials for Bernie Sanders' afternoon rally.  Just have John Lennon's Power to the People playing in the background for this blog post, and you'll get the feeling of the crowd gathered at the Memorial Auditorium. As I walked in, a Sanders volunteer told me, "Welcome! Feel the Bern!" People were dancing in line, and the chanting started before they were even allowed in the auditorium. Not everyone who showed up was able to fit into the venue that holds  2,300 people, so before he addressed the attendees, Sanders went outside and spoke to those who couldn't find a seat inside. 

The crowd inside was extremely vocal. The doors opened two hours before Sanders was scheduled to speak, and the crowd spent that entire time singing, doing the wave, cheering, and chanting back and forth to each other. "We are the 99%!" and "Not me, us!" were popular refrains. While the cheers and chants were from a friendly crowd, one could still feel the seething, deep anger emanating. These people have felt disenfranchised, and were willing to let it be known. Disco Inferno played over the loudspeakers before U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the former vice chair of the DNC who stepped down to throw her support behind Bernie, came on stage to introduce the Vermont senator. 

The crowd exploded when Bernie Sanders came on the stage, but quickly sat down to hear him speak.  He talked for over an hour, and the crowd often gave him standing ovations to his points. He touched on student debt, health care, the environment, war, and women's and minority issues. He spent time going over campaign finance reform. He ended the rally urging people to get out and vote in North Carolina in their Tuesday primary. "At the end of the day, love trumps hate." The crowd responded with the largest cheer yet as Sanders shook supporters hands and left the stage. 

For my part, I didn't feel as flabbergasted as I did at Trump's rally. No one was punched, no protesters were jeered at, and the press were allowed to photograph from some pretty cool spots. The press weren't part of the show, we weren't jeered at, we didn't have to worry about people losing their cool at us. We weren't confined to a corral. It felt much more how I had always envisioned a political rally would feel. I get it, Trump's rallies are much more "fun" to watch. They remind one of a reality TV show. He gets more play time with the media because of that. He knows how to bring out the anger in a crowd. Bernie knows how to rile up a crowd too, but they were cheering because of policy, not because of an endorsement for water boarding. I know this is completely coming across as biased, because it is. Bernie may not be the perfect choice for president, but he sure showed me by his actions on Friday that he knows what it means to be president, and I really appreciate that.  

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Politicians: Donald Trump

Wednesday night, I was offered a press pass to photograph the Donald Trump rally in Fayetteville, NC. I of course jumped at the chance, and was able to muscle my way into the fray of photographers and videographers in the press corral and nab a good spot. Music was blaring over the loudspeakers; rock music was the flavor du jour, but surprisingly, Pavarotti's Nessun Dorma played right before Donald Trump was announced. It was soon replaced by the crowd pleaser Sirius by the Alan Parsons Project. 
A couple of hours before the rally, people began finding seats

The rally was what you'd expect from Donald Trump. The native New Yorker brought an almost revival style to his hour long speech, but was interrupted several times as protesters made their thoughts clear to the audience and Trump himself.  Within the first ten minutes, at least two groups of protesters were led out of the building. The crowd of nearly 10,000 lit up when Trump talked about jobs, reinforced the idea of building a wall at the border, and ending drug imports. He spoke about support for the troops and veterans to a crowd that is heavily influenced by the nearby Fort Bragg. He asked that the audience pledge to vote for him in the North Carolina primary coming up this Tuesday. "Do you pledge that on Tuesday you will, you will go and make America great again, and you will vote for Donald Trump?"  The crowd cheered and pledged that they would do so. It was a raucous crowd, and they were jazzed from the opening speakers until Trump finished. 

For me, it was almost a social experiment. I wanted to photograph The Donald absolutely, but I'd be lying if I didn't say a tiny part of me wanted to see what all the fuss surrounding his rallies was about. It was an eye opener. The crowd was angry, and Trump does a great job in frothing up that anger. One protester was punched in the face as he was led out of the Crown Coliseum. Police were everywhere. A larger protest was in the process of happening right outside the exits. After the rally was over, the crowd outside swelled, causing the police to create a human wall between the protesters and the supporters. A large man with a megaphone was chanting, "No fascists, no KKK. USA, USA." A sign proclaiming Ted Cruz to be the Zodiac Killer danced above the seething crowd. When I made it back to my car, I just sat there wondering to myself, what had I just witnessed?

Signing an autograph

One of the two signs that Trump autographed while on stage

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Grant Project: The Paper

As I mentioned in my previous post, I received a grant from the Fayetteville Arts Council of Fayetteville, NC to work on an alternative process for 2016. That process is called Gumoil. This post won't contain the super deep technicalities of the process, but it will cover the main parts and show what I've been up to for the last few weeks. 

Gumoil was invented in 1990 by Karl Koenig. He discovered that if he made a print of non pigmented gum arabic, he could then paint over it with oil paint and create an image. He based this of a popular darkroom technique called bromoil. With bromoil, a darkroom print is created and then bleached out creating was is called a matrix. The artist then uses ink to bring back the blacks. The results are generally contrasty, but much more painterly looking than a normal darkroom print. 

With gumoil, no bleaching of the print is necessary. I take gum arabic, a byproduct of the acacia tree, and mix it with ammonium dichromate which makes it sensitive to UV light. I then brush the mixture onto a 100% cotton paper, let it dry, and then it expose it with my negative under UV light (for what my exposure unit looks like, see the previous post!). The result is a gum matrix. For gumoils compared to every other process I work with, my negative is actually a positive. When you expose an image, the dark parts of the negative turn out white, the clear parts turn out dark. This is the same concept, except because it is a positive, the resulting image will be a negative. What I essentially did was create an image of the white parts of the final piece. The paint will become the midtones and blacks. 
Three matrices ready for paint.
Once I have created a matrix, it is ready for paint. I use oil paint, currently I've used both M. Graham and Windsor and Newton paints in lamp black, but I have seven other brands on the "to try" list. I paint a layer of black over the matrix, let it sit until the areas that need to be black are no longer shiny, and then rub the print with paper towels. This lifts up the excess paint and the gum arabic parts start to show through. 
Two prints in the middle of the rubbing process
I let the print dry for about 15 minutes before I then put it in a tray of water. For the first layer, I let it sit in the water for about a minute, and then brush anymore excess paint off with a fine bristle brush. After the print is dry, I'll assess it. If there is enough gum left, I'll do another layer of paint and rubbing. With this second layer, I'll put it in a bleach solution after I have let it dry for a bit. The bleach helps to eat away any paint that may be causing some "muddying" of the image. The result is a print that shows the texture of the paper, the texture of the paint and gum, and creates a very painted look while being a completely photographic process. 

Here are the results of my paper testing. My goal with this was to determine which papers I liked best and which papers took to the process the best. I found that while I personally liked the smoother finish papers, the process tended to take to the more textured paper with two exceptions, both from Fabriano. A different gum mixture and exposure could make the smoother papers better, and that is something that I can explore in more depth now that I know how the papers handle the process. 

The image is called Hidden Oak, and if you recall from the previous post, this is the image that was shown in the Visual Art Exchange in Raleigh, NC. For that particular print, the second paint color was terra rosa, and like most of my favorite images, was a total accident. 

All of the papers laid out and labelled
Close up of the prints

Close up of the prints

The best one from the first round of experimentation: Fabriano Acquarello
Hot Press, two layers of paint. 

Hidden Oak in the VAE!!