My mind instantly wanted to create some cyanotypes, with their mesmerising deep Prussian blue and infrared white, a process that is always a joy and I never tire of. The best part about cyanotypes is its unpredictability, simply letting the cuttings of foliage and flora place where you think and letting the sun do the work always gives a unique result each time.
I purchased the chemicals in powder form added water and coated them on some toothy cold pressed A3 size watercolour paper, adding a minuscule amount of the formula to achieve that rich blue and vivid white.
Having a gawk through the many SD cards that are crammed with photos that have never seen the light of day, I decided to see if I could whip something up – something full of colour. These experiments have multiple photos spliced and transformed on-top of each other to create technicolour vistas where klieg like lights brighten up the sky for some make-believe event I wish I was going too. Many of the photos were taken way back when I first bought my treasured camera, experimenting in the dark when the streets were plumbing with ghostly fog and on top of a nearby park perishing in the winter to try and do some long exposure of the London skyline with its little dots of lights. The blocky shapes came from a recent trip to the design museum in London where I was more perplexed by the architecture in all its eerie vaulted ceilings rather than the actual exhibitions. A fun experiment that quenched my need for colour and my love of editing.
When reading about Sheila Legge’s inspiration behind her walking real life surrealist exhibition for this weeks Kick About and how she was so inspired by the paintings of Dalí, I decided to create some Dalí-esque dream-like landscapes while paying homage to Legge’s face full of flowers. The female models were downloaded and imported into Maya where on their heads I glued an abundance of multicoloured flowers- tiger Lilly’s, Dahlia’s, Delphinium’s, African Lilly’s and Daisy’s. Combined with a quick and dirty rig and skin of the figures as well as some mountains in the background to complete the scene and move the figures to my every whim. The rig on the figure on the left of the above image messed up and I loved how fluid and melty the resulting movements turned out – I tried to replicate this mistake with the other rigs but my efforts did not gratify, It was one of those moments where a mistake tuned out to be a blessing but could not be recreated.
This prompt also reminded me of one of my favourite films – Annihilation (2018). In particular when the team walk across a baron land called “The Shimmer” where their bodies start to turn into plant matter. It is a strange and beautiful film that left a lasting impression on me, much in the same respect that surrealist paintings do.
Previous to my last post now that I knew the print was a fail and that I would rely on the edit to superimpose my head in the jar I started setting up the scene with the manner of props. I relied on a bunch of different things to achieve the final output, to get the jars filled with vivid colour like that of an alchemists apothecary I used yellow and red food colouring, a few drops was all that was needed to turn the clear water into a garish blood and greenish goo. I also used a trick I knew from creating my own halloween costumes as a young lad that was obsessed with zombies by combining corn syrup with red food colouring to make a blood like consistency as well as water colour paint for some different coloured jars and a tattered wig.
Lighting the scene was extremely important as I wanted it to reflect the coloured lighting seen in many horror and slasher films. I relied on bicycle lamps, head lamps and little fairy lights that were the saving grace that I bought for the upcoming short film – The Lighthouse Keeper. the lights were hidden behind the jars and behind angles behind the camera, the same red gel and crumpled it over one of the head lamps to give the a more reddish hue. I accidentally broke the main head jar a few weeks ago and it actually worked out in my favour as it was leaking the entire time but it added more of a theatrical sheen to the gloss of the table top which meant that the light bounced off the surface more.
One of my desks that usually contains most of my plants has a little hole in it – I would assume for cables and wires, I wanted to take advantage of this and place a light underneath the hole so that it projected though the largest head jar and light it up from underneath, with initial tests I had to put the timer of my camera on to ten seconds and quickly duck under the desk and hold the light up to get it just right However, I did manage to eventually wedge the light in between a wooden slat so that I didn’t have to stick my lanky self under the desk which was a win in itself, here is a not so glamours behind the scenes look at what that looked like.
The scene was now set, One of the most enjoyable aspects was experimenting with the lighting and placing the jars in places that reflected and bounced the light, all the while taking a plethora of photos from a range of angles.
Previous to my last post with this weeks prompt over on Red’s Kingdom being “Souvenir” here I document the process of achieving such a grisly scene with my mug in a jar and various stumps and limbs being plopped into fluids as a cute keepsake. There is a lot of smoke and mirrors that has gone into creating the scene which I will get into, but first it needs to be explained the trials and tribulations of inserting my head into the jar in the first place. Because I didn’t want to rely too heavily on the edit, I decided to shoot the photos of me for the head with the red coming from dramatic lighting rather than editing. I simply tied a red gel cellophane sheet around one of my standing lamps to turn my room into a makeshift darkroom and continued to make myself look hideous by pulling faces all the while smushing my face against the glass of a picture frame to get the perfect ghastly shot and mimic as if my head was pressed against the inside of the jar. It was tricky at times because I had to angle the glass correctly so that the viewfinder and various screens and lamps would not obstruct the shot of my face and end up having to edit those reflections out. Here are some photos that did and didn’t make the cut. Enjoy.
For anyone that is reading this that isn’t familiar with 3D texture unwrapping, basically I used one of the above photos as the “centre piece” and then in photoshop I stitched together a left side and a separate right side shot of my head into one merged image. I did this so that when I printed the resulting image out it could be physically bended in a cylindrical curved shape and placed into the jar and behave like a real head.
I created an edit of the red to give the option of a sickly yellow and green.
However, my roommates printer started to run out of ink while printing and the A4 paper was too small, the ears and side of my head also needed be closer to the middle and I wasn’t going to use all his printer ink on my printing out my face. To alleviate the paper turning to mush inside the jar I was going to carefully stick strips of sellotape across the page to seal it in, although I kind of liked the thought of seeing what it would look like disintegrating. I knew I could get the results I wanted by manipulating the head photos in photoshop on top of the plate image of the scene and not have to print anything out but I wanted to give a whirl to the print out method.. and maybe pull a prank or two…
In the next post on Gentle Giant I will go into detail about the plethora of props used for the final scenes. Stay tuned.
With this weeks prompt over on Red’s Kingdom being “Souvenir“ I don’t know about anyone else but I have felt a shift in the air with things starting to feel more autumnal and I always connect this time of year with the cosiest of films. I may have been watching too many of the horror and slasher type, but with this prompt my head went straight to the macabre. There was lots of trickery and doing and trying with this project, I will be sharing all the fun revolving around the in’s and out’s of how I got the resulting photographs up to this point in the coming days. Stay tuned.