This was a seven day residency, with five days for making work and a two day show over the weekend. The first three days were spent photographing. On Thursday and Friday I was printing cyanotype prints, using digital acetate negatives created from the photographs taken that week.
Printing the cyanotypes
It had to be a fast turnaround to get images I was happy with for the show on Saturday. I was confident with the cyanotype technique, but hadn’t factored in the long exposures required on Thursday and Friday due to the very low UV light levels. Cyanotypes are exposed by UV light and on most days over the summer sunlight is fine for this. However, I was not blessed with any sun light on the two days I needed to print! You can make prints in overcast, cloudy, rainy conditions, but the exposure times were getting up to two hours per image. When it came to washing and fixing the print, the image was sadly washing away. To make prints in these conditions I needed a stronger UV light source and, after considering visiting local tanning salons, I decided to make an emergency visit to the photography department where I teach, to use the swanky (and reliable!) UV exposure bed. I had wanted to expose the prints in the Broadstairs sunshine, but due the the tight turnaround, off to the University of Hertfordshire I went! Thankfully I had the darkroom to myself and had a very enjoyable afternoon making some cyanotype prints. And just in time for the show the next morning…
The Old Lookout Gallery is a wonderfully simple space. I made seven pieces, and installed five along the main wall and two on the back wall. Here are some installation shots:
As mentioned previously, I was keen to get visitors to get involved in bird watching from the Lookout windows. And this proved very popular with younger visitors over the weekend. I received around 70 visitors over the Saturday and Sunday, and got lots of lovely feedback about my prints. Visitors loved hearing about how I’d made the work and especially the cyanotype process. On the Sunday afternoon, the sun finally came out and I set up a cyanotype print station on the Lookout balcony for visitors to have a try themselves, using seaside flotsam and jetsam.
It’s been a productive, creative and action-packed week. I’m pleased I actually got my images printed and exhibited on time. Karen and Rob who run the gallery were very supportive and even suggested it didn’t matter if I had a polished, finished show by Saturday. This definitely took the pressure off. However, I wanted to make final prints within this week to have a sense of achievement and to have some work to move forward with. I’ll post scans of my final seven images on the blog soon. I plan to continue the project and make a small limited edition book with the work.
It could have been a very different week. Some artists choose to arrive with a pre-made show, ready to hang, and use the residency week as time to think about new ideas in the space. This would have been a very relaxing and probably more wise way to spend the week! But, I’m glad I challenged myself and I always work really well to a tight deadline. Now I’d like another (recovery!) week in the Lookout just to sit and look out of the window with a cuppa… Next year maybe?