when papers go bad

Handmade papers like washi have always presented challenges for me, the handcoating emulsion dude. Did they have enough size? Would the paper fibers cooperate with the chemistry? One paper would work well with Vandyke brown, actually really well, but be horrible with cyanotype. 

The latest struggle was when a good paper turned bad. For the last six or seven months I have been struggling with a change in my favorite paper. When I first started using the Kozo Unryu paper there sometimes were 2-4 pinholes on half a full sheet but the last batch would have 15 to 20. These pinholes would act like a drain in a sink by pulling the photo chemistry I was applying out the back side of the paper. The result was a larger, lighter spot on the front of the paper. On the backside of the paper, corresponding ovals of chemistry would show up, evidence of the drain effect. These would process out after fixing the image but the light spots on the front would remain.

When I first started using the paper, I could easily spot 1-4 spots that would occasionally show up. But the lates batch would easily result in up to 12 or 15 light spots that were too much for me to carefully touch up.

I was taking a shower (I do some of my best problems solving in the bathroom) and was thinking about an image I was working with in gum and remembered that I had been coating that paper with an acrylic solution to create a barrier to prevent staining. Or maybe I was thinking about the shower drain and how the vandyke brown solution was getting pulled from one side of the paper to the other. Something “clicked” and a solution was realized.  I realized all I had to do was to coat the back side of the paper with Gamblin PVA (not the glue but a related size). It created a barrier to keep the chemistry on the front side of the paper.
photo (31)photo (32)
The pictures show the backside of an unsized sheet from earlier in the week (top) and a sized sheet from two days ago (bottom). Both prints in the images have not been “fixed” which allows the brown stain on the back to be better visualized.
Tonight I looked at the first one to be processed and dried. I can still see tiny dark specks on the back side of the paper but I have eliminated the larger light spots on the front.
Now I can get back to work with this paper

Photography’s Back to the Future

Here is some information regarding an exhibition I am in curated by Catherine Evans of the Columbus Museum of Art. I am lifting most of this from the e -invite from Mary Gray.


Curated by Catherine Evans, the William and Sarah Ross Soter Curator of Photography at the Columbus Museum of Art,Photography’s Back to the Future showcases 10 contemporary artists who illustrate the variety and complexity of the medium by using everything from the earliest photographic processes to the latest digital technologies.

In this unprecedented era of smart phone technology, which makes taking pictures more accessible than ever, the artists in Photography’s Back to the Future contemplate the medium’s history and reassert photography’s role in both contemporary culture and the artistic realm.

The artists in this exhibition include:

Amanda H. Cook, Columbus; Dennison W. Griffith, Columbus; Lori Kella, Cleveland; Tracy Longley-Cook, Dayton; Rachel Girard Reisert, Cincinnati; Francis Schanberger, Dayton; Jordan Tate, Cincinnati; Garie Waltzer, Cleveland Heights; Janelle Young, Dayton; and Christine Zuercher, Dayton.

Join the Riffe Gallery for the free opening reception of Photography’s Back to the Future on Thursday, May 2, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Food and drink donated.

On Friday, May 3, Curator Catherine Evans will lead a free tour of the exhibition from noon to 1 p.m.

On Thursday, June 13 from 5:30 to 7 p.m., readings by Rose M. Smith, a three-time member of Ohio’s National Poetry Slam team, followed by Open Mic. Register for Open Mic at www.riffegallery.orgMay 6 through June 10.

From June 1 – 30, visit VSA Ohio’s Riffe Center Lobby Exhibition, Accessible Arts 2013. For more information: info@vsao.org.

Photography’s Back to the Future is presented by the Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery with media support from CD102.5, CityScene, Ohio Channel, Ohio Magazine, Time Warner Cable and WCBE 90.5 FM.

next up Salmon

I don’t know why I was worried about mixing colors. I always had this idea that the water content in an anthotype emulsion would wash away an underlying color.

I started coating another sheet of Fabriano with onionskin and ran out of time before the solution got too ripe with bacteria. After about six coats I had to toss the old onionskin solution. Soon afterwards I got either stupid or courageous and decided to open a can of beets and apply the beet water to the paper.

photo (30)

Voilà!  Salmon resulted and the layers didn’t really wash each other away. It’s like I’m learning how to make watercolors.

This does create some new possibilities and problems. I can go back and add a different color on top of an already finished anthotype and purposely put it out of registration (these are essentially photograms).

the appearance of being active

Tomorrow should be a good day of sunlight so I am strongly leaning to “bringing in” the first onion skin anthotype.

What follows is, admittedly, just the ins and outs of recent exhibitions for record keeping.

Last month I was able to exhibit Forty-six at IceCube gallery in Denver, Colorado loosely part Denver’s Month of Photography. The exhibit, Icebreaker4, was juried by Nora Burnett Abrams, the Associate Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.

Also last month the Rosewood Gallery’s Annual Works On Paper came down. I was able to show three anthotypes including Somnambulist #3 (Cut Grass Poultice) and the two little saffron anthotypes, Nightie Negligee (Barbie) and Sleeper Set Pajamas (Ken). Somnambulist #3  was selected for an award of merit by juror Robert Robbins, Chair of Drawing and Printmaking, as well as a professor in the fine arts department at the Columbus College of Art & Design.


Later this month I will be installing work at the Riffe Gallery for Photography’s Back to the Future curated by Catherine Evans of the Columbus Museum of Art. Look for installation shots later this month. The work included in this exhibit will be (all vandyke brown prints) Forty-six, Mis-mitosis, and Don’t Take This Personally.

few and far betweens

Quality versus quantity.

I won’t even attempt to use that as an excuse for the few and far betweens which represent my postings to this blog.

There have been a few shows which I will write about tomorrow to keep up appearances. The appearance of being active that is.

The onionskin anthotype #1 is almost ready to come in from the sun. Except for a string of bad, wet days, it has been in all sorts of daylight from cloudy to bright sun. The amazing thing for me is the change in the amount of sunlight it is getting compared to the pokeberry anthotype and the four month winter exposure. To be consistant, there are two winter pokeberry anthotypes. The sleeping dress anthotype needs to be documented. Contrast is a bit low on that one due to the amount of pigment soaked up by the washi I used.

I am coating a second, larger sheet of Fabriano with yellow onion (skin) pigment. I found myself with a nice, big window of time to boil the skins I have been collecting.

The weather has been cool enough to allow for me to stretch out the brushing on of the onionskin broth over several days. The liquid will eventually begin to ripen too much and the coating will come to an end. But for now, no smell so I anticipate brushing on the liquid through tomorrow to build up a rich manila envelope color.

I am also continuing the smaller “hers / his” anthotypes. These also are onion skin based and should be assembled into frames, wrapped in plastic and started today. FYI, smaller pieces of paper (under 20 x 24 ) are easy enough to coat via dunking and agitating in trays. I found it easier, albeit more streaky, to coat the emulsion onto bigger sheets of paper by brushing on the pigment solution. The two pieces above received about 11 – 13 dunks with an older batch of onionskin liquid and another 3 – 4 with the latest solution.

Brushing, dunking, exposing and playing with doll clothes. No wonder curators have trouble with me.