Roundup of the week

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 show

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:

Two framed pieces on the back wall

Two framed pieces on the back wall

Main wall installation

Main wall installation

View of whole installation

View of whole installation

Birding table

Birding table

Birding lookout!

Birding lookout!

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.

Visitors trying cyanotype printing at the Old Lookout

Visitors trying cyanotype printing at the Old Lookout

Visitors cyanotype prints drying on the line at the Old Lookout

Visitors cyanotype prints drying on the line at the Old Lookout

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?

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Days 1 to 3

I arrived in Broadstairs on Monday morning and set to work finding the best local sites to photograph seabirds and migratory birds. Monday was spent getting my ‘sea-legs’ in Broadstairs, spending time in the wonderful Old Lookout space, researching and trying to sort out wifi (hence delay posting to blog!).

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On Tuesday I drove to the Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory. I met some helpful local birders who gave me some great tips on locations to photograph. I visited the Sandwich Bay hide and walked along the bay photographing seabirds. However, Tuesday was very quiet for birding, as the weather was very still and hot. The friendly volunteers at the observatory gave me a heads up about some strong winds due and to go to the North Foreland headland (which I duly did today). Last night, again due to a tip off by the Sandwich Bay birders, I joined a group of local birders for an evening walk around the Oare Marshes Bird Reserve, led by bird expert Mike Briggs. The weather last night was stormy and around 8 of us got stranded in a hide when the rain started just before 9pm. But before that we walked around the reserve led by Mike and I got to see a wide variety of birds (see my Bird List page on this blog). I made some major birder-errors: I forgot my ‘bins’ (binoculars) and was wearing a bright red anorak (the others were in tastefully muted/camouflage shades!). I got some shots which I hope to use for my final cyanotypes. Today I travelled along the Thanet coastal path, along the North Foreland headland and photographed lots of sea birds. The sea today got wilder and wilder still. Until this evening, when the waves were crashing against the harbour wall, below the Old Lookout window, reaching over 5 meters high or more!

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After these first few days photographing, I’ve been reviewing my images this afternoon and will start making some cyanotype prints tomorrow (sun-allowing!). The residency has flown past so far. The next two days are going to be very busy coating paper and exposing prints in time for the show on Saturday.

Odyssey – residency and exhibition

Carolyn Lefley, Artist in Residence, The Old Lookout Gallery, Broadstairs. 7 – 13 July 2014.

‘Odyssey’, a photographic exhibition by Carolyn Lefley. The Old Lookout Gallery, Broadstairs. 12 – 13 July 2014. Open daily 10am – 4pm. Free admission.

‘Odyssey’ will be a new photographic series, which Carolyn Lefley will begin during her week as Artist in Residence at The Old Lookout Gallery (7-13 July 2014). ‘Odyssey’ will explore journeying, using the flight of sea birds and migratory birds as a metaphor for returning home (as told in Homer’s Odyssey). In modern language the word Odyssey now has come to represent a journey: literal, metaphorical or spiritual. Lefley will capture birds in flight along the local coastline, using a digital SLR. Back at the Old Lookout she will print out digital acetates, using an inkjet printer. Cyanotypes will be created from these negatives using natural light outside the Old Lookout. The walls will be populated with this new work throughout the week, resulting in a show at the weekend. The use of the traditional cyanotype process alongside the new immediacy of the digital image complements the Obsolete Studios‘ ethos. On the exhibition weekend, binoculars will be available for visitors to participate in some ‘birding’ from the Old Lookout windows, with a selection of birding books available.

This residency is supported by the School of Creative Arts, University of Hertfordshire.