Bibelots

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Tag: creative projects (page 1 of 2)

Staying blue

two types of cyanotype images on paper - one pale, washed out blue, the other a vibrant cyan blue

feeling a little blue

A bit of backyard science

A few weeks ago I was experimenting with a different sort of cyanotype – a digital image of an underground tunnel, printed on a clear transparency. I had captured the slow steps of someone moving through the low, dark space. I’d hoped to use it in a group ‘thing’. Unfortunately, it failed terribly. That is to say, the chemicals failed.

I’m used to photos not successfully translating to cyanotype, but this image seemed to have the right stuff. After waiting through a week of rain and sunless sky, I was at last able to set up. I painted my paper, watched for a longish moment of late-winter sunlight and exposed the cyanotype in the usual way. A raindrop or two got caught with the sun, but as it’s a ghostly and indistinct image, I figured it would be okay. It looked beautiful. I rinsed the paper and let the chemicals wash away… and with horror watched the lovely blue image wash away too. I had managed to produce a damp, wrinkled, blank piece of paper.

A couple of weeks later, when the sun reappeared, I tried again in the somewhat futile hope that I’d mixed the solutions incorrectly. But, no. That image washed away, even after a 40 minute exposure – longer than needed in Australia at that time of year. There was no more than a hint of an image.

It turns out that the unmixed liquid cyanotype solutions have an end shelf-life. The best information I could find was ‘it should last a few months’. I did my googling, as any good internet citizen would, but couldn’t spot anything more definitive.

In case you’re one of the few who want to know, I’d kept the two solutions in separate bottles in a dark cupboard for about six months. One week they were working pretty well. A few weeks later, not so much. Obviously, I’ve had to discard the solutions. New chemicals have been ordered and I await their blue-toned arrival.

Next time I prepare the solutions, I’ll put a date on the bottles and track what happens. I’ll do one test strip a month, and keep a record of the date and changing sunlight. I’m sure can get a better idea than ‘a few months’. Data, baby. That’s what I want. Data. Failure is okay, so long as you learn from it and try again.

And that, my friends, is my little bit of backyard science. Science in the sun. Cool, huh?

Free-range thoughts

Etching of frog in front of toadstools

ruminating
frog

There’s a lot of stuff going on in here [taps head] at the moment. Ideas come and go. They burn bright and rush away. Thoughts loop around. And around. And around. It’s like a somewhat faulty fireworks display.

There’s advice everywhere about how to write more, or find new photos, or set challenges to create new things. That’s not what I need. I need a way to shut out all the new stuff, so I can find a more meaningful image or write a better story. It’s pinning the damn things down that’s the problem.

How do you do it? A mind bubbling over with great swags of free wheeling notions might sound like a good thing. But it ain’t always so. The question so often posed is ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ A more apt one might be ‘how do you stop them from getting in?’ How can you concentrate on just one thing?

That’s not to say I’m coming up with mind-blowing and original concepts. To say that would involve a level of ego I don’t even wish to aspire to. But a couple of them aren’t half-bad. What a shame that they’re buried in the clangor from a swarm of half-crazed, babbling gnats.

I’ll tell you one thing that I do, if you like. I may as well. There’s no getting anything done in this head right now.

I go outside. I sit in the sun. And I stare vacantly at the horizon. Sit, gaze, repeat. Then maybe, when everything is still and quiet, I find I can pick out one single thing. An intriguing notion or idea. Then I treasure it. Give it my full attention. And a little love. But I never, ever give it a deadline. I give it time.

Will this work for you? I can’t say for sure. Does sitting in the soft winter sunshine do you any harm? Nope. So, go on. Get outside. Take a moment from your day and set out to achieve absolutely nothing.

Writing hack anyone?

Don’t mind if I do…

Yesterday I had my second go at Twelve – a twelve hour writing lock-in at the SA Writers Centre. That’s it. No tricks. Sit down, write. Go.

Was it good? Yes.

Should you do it? I don’t know.

Let me explain.

It’s good

Damn me, but it’s good. So good it hurts.

It hurts physically. I lost myself so thoroughly that I forgot to move for hours on end.

It also hurts creatively. At hour 11, just to keep pushing, I found myself writing when I had forgotten how to write a proper sentence. How can that be good for me? Because, despite that, I was still writing. The neurons were firing, the bits of my brain that I need to keep limber and elastic were being worked – perhaps overworked – but they were still going. Any other day, I would have stopped writing, but I kept on.

I guess, in a way, I was hacking my own brain. Don’t worry, that’s a good thing.

Is it for everyone?

I truly don’t know. Even if I knew you, if you were a close personal friend, I wouldn’t know if you should do it.

For me, seeing other writers writing whenever I look up is an incentive to keep writing. It’s a tonic.

It isn’t pressure, it’s the opposite. We’re all there by our own hand. We’re typing, scribbling and creating because we want to. It is almost inexplicably good.

For anyone else, I can’t say. The way we write, the act of writing, is personal and individual. All I can say is that I think it might be worth having a go. You might discover something about yourself as a writer that you never knew.

That’s enough from me for now. There’s a great big pile of words I need to go and read. This time, they’re mine.

Cracked wide open

greenhouses in a row, black and white photoIn the next couple of weeks we’ll be having an opening night and I’ll be giving an artist’s talk for a group photographic exhibition. As well, I’ll be doing my first live reading of an unpublished short story.

Somehow these creative pursuits have all snuck up on me. Or sneakily come out into the open. It doesn’t seem that long ago that most of this was hidden comfortably inside.

I don’t know when it started, although with words it grew from my love of reading. Photography is from watching and appreciating too. From there the story gets more complicated. When did it all turn outward?

I don’t think I want to overanalyse it, but I do want to take a moment to appreciate it.

Some years ago I was told to take a personality test. Oh, yes. You know the sort of thing I mean. I can hear you groaning.

It tagged me as ‘not the creative type’. Whatever that means. When people wield clipboards at you like this it’s best to laugh and back slowly away.

Next time someone tells you that you’re something you are not, do one of two things. Do you not like what you hear? Make sure you take it as personal insult and allow it to drive you to make it totally untrue. If you like it, roll with it and make it your own.

We all have our natural inclinations, but it doesn’t have to be the whole of us. Dig deep, encourage that sense of wonder and see what happens.

You might be surprised by what you unearth.

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