Drawing Day – charcoal experiments

Drawing 3

Drawing Day – 30th October 2015

The drawing day was led by Jude Thomas with David and Richard.  All four of us responded to a charcoal drawing by Rodd Bugg, accessed with some difficulty from the Northumbria archive via a small pixelated image.  We worked in our own ways, I restricted myself to charcoal on paper trying to find new ways to draw.  At first gestural and haphazard and then by seeking some control.  I worked on 4 drawings simultaneously – trying for a different concept in each, recording different states as the day went on.  It was amazingly therapeutic, communal and ultimately useful, because it has cemented the possibility of drawing as a parallel or complimentary exploration of the 36 views idea.  At the end of the session I put together a grid of progress photos together.

Drawing day

However the most successful and interesting was the 4th drawing created by transferring charcoal onto the page only – i.e.: no use of stick.  I used everything from tape, teabags to glue and paper to transfer the charcoal from the floor and the other drawings.

Drawing 4

The crit was useful, helping to validate the idea and outcome, also reinforcing the things learnt from colleagues. A good progress day with potential more sketchbook responses using discarded charcoaled materials as a collage medium.  Charcoal is wood without smoke……


Distressing and damaged negatives 1

Positive scan from a set of dust damaged negatives found in QEHS darkroom
Positive scan from a set of dust damaged negatives found in QEHS darkroom

I found a set of negatives in the darkroom I have reclaimed for students at Queen Elizabeth High School. The negatives are shown here as positive scans.  So they are primarily white with some dark watermarks and what looks like dust spots.  I scanned them to see if I could identify an image – there seemed to be a rather beautiful pattern like the surface of the moon or an imaginary topography. This apparent beauty and order from a damaged negative interested me.  Could negatives be deliberately damaged? Or could the damage be a different kind of image capture – an image that made visible the damage it had received?

Found negatives in QEHS darkroom
Found negatives in QEHS darkroom

I would be particularly interested in damage caused by smoke, heat, steam – the ingredients of the smoke/steam cloud I am photographing – see other posts.  The idea of ‘distressing’ negatives like a piece of old furniture is a good description – although creating a theatrical or historical effect is maybe a rather surface idea.  At the moment I am having problems with accidental ‘auto distressing’ –  probably due to using old film stock, using out of date and gritty fixer and poor film wash routines.

Web research revealed this:

Distressing Negatives

Writer / Christina Z. Anderson

Photography / Christina Z. Anderson’s students Claire Calhoun, Brent Losing, Kim Tallent and Betsy Winchell

Excerpt from The Experimental Photography Workbook, 4th Edition. Christina Z. Anderson describes four ways to creatively destroy your negatives, giving them a little extra “bite”.


Negatives, being plastic, melt and stretch and scratch very nicely. Practice the technique on some throwaway negatives first before you chance your good ones. You could start with a strip of 35mm negatives. Heat it over an open flame (carefully) or the stove, keeping the strip far enough away from the heat source to prevent burning and bubbling of the plastic – not that this would be a bad thing in some cases! While the strip is heating, you can pull on each end with pliers to stretch it. The final product will warp and may need to be printed in a glass negative carrier, or, at least, with a smaller aperture for greater depth of field.




36 Views Black and white film shoot 17,18 October

36 views october raw photo shoot detail
36 views october raw photo shoot detail

A detail section from two film photo shoots in mid October over two days focussing on the western views of the plume on grey overcast days – shot in black and white.  There are problems with contrast – to expose for the detail in the smoke means that the landscape is dark or dull grey.  The films were processed in the school darkroom with a defective fixer – leading to some negative damage.  The digital scans seem to emphasise the greyness and the dots and carry a lot of noise.  Some of the images on the contact sheet are crisp enough to print and the digital scans can be used to extract details. Contact sheets below:

contact sheet 1 - Black and White - October 1
contact sheet 1 – Black and White – October 1
contact sheet 1 - Black and White - October 3rd sheet
contact sheet 1 – Black and White – October 3rd sheet
contact sheet 1 - Black and White - October 1
contact sheet 1st sheet  – Black and White – October
contact sheet 1 - Black and White - October 1
contact sheet 2 – Black and White – October
contact sheet 1 - Black and White - October 3rd sheet
contact sheet – Black and White – October 3rd sheet
contact sheet 1 - Black and White - October 4th sheet
contact sheet – Black and White – October 4th sheet

3 – 36 Views of Mt Fuji – Hokusai

Katsushika Hokusai, 'South Wind, Clear Sky' (Gaifū kaisei) ['Red Fuji'], a colour woodblock print
Katsushika Hokusai, ‘South Wind, Clear Sky’ 1831 (Gaifū kaisei) [‘Red Fuji’], a colour woodblock print
Katsushika Hokusai created his 36 views of Mount Fuji as a series (eventually 46) of wood block prints printed as a collection, individual sheets and formally published as a book.  This is the origin point of this project – the traditional idea that an artist visualises a fixed monumental image, part of a historical landscape, set in a defining geography, to create a linked set of artworks.  Hokusai uses this framework to describe the everyday of Japan (foreground) in the first part of the 19th century set against the sacred mountain Fuji (Fujisan) (mostly background).  His compositions are flat and decorative in places and then full of dramatic perspective in others.  They are regarded as a bridge between the historical pre industrial Japan and the opening of influence to Western development, particularly visible in his use of  European ideas of linear and atmospheric perspective and the particular use of Prussian Blue – new to Japan at the time.

My plan is to employ the idea of series linked to a  central backdrop with the ever present industrial landmark that is created by the Steam Cloud from the Egger factory in Hexham.  The analogy or comparison of a dormant volcano and sacred mountain with a factory chimney in a chipboard factory in the rural North East of the Uk is perhaps fanciful.  However, there is a beauty in the changing nature of the billowing cloud from the unmoving chimney, in a constantly differing light and atmospheric conditions. It is always seen, but ignored, from countless human viewpoints in this apparently semi rural paradise, this juxtaposition fascinates me.

A screenshot from website - Hokusai online.
A screenshot from website – Hokusai online.

South Wind, Clear Sky Image downloaded from British Museum Website October 18th 2015

Screenshot of Hokusai Online – educational website – downloaded October 18th 2015

2nd post – 36 views – Starting points

36edit2 36edit1

The two sheets of 9 photographs are selections from a series of photoshoots taken in early 2015 and chosen as a group of 18 for a portfolio submission to join an MA in Fine Art and Education programme at Northumbria University.  The pictures show the smoke, or more correctly the steam stack of the Egger Factory in Hexham, Tynedale, Northumberland.  The factory makes chipboard, furniture board and other ‘engineered wood’ products from raw and recycled timber. The steam cloud is an omnipresent part of the Tynedale valley, visible from many miles and an accepted part of the landscape.  I am returning to this theme as a possible starting point for this Blog.