Wednesday, 19 December 2012

And another anthotype

A very busy schedule effectively prevented me from doing much for two months. But here is another anthotype from some time ago. This time round I cut a design from cardboard, and used beetroot juice to print it. Beetroot juice turned out to be very sensitive and I got a very clear print within a few days. Here's the setup:

And here is the print:

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

#25: Stapler

As usual, turned out rather more difficult to do than I thought!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

#24: Glass and lemon

My fascination with the effect of things viewed through glass continues...

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Sunday, 16 September 2012

# 22: Plug

I thought this would be a relatively easy thing to draw, seeing as it is a nicely symmetrical object, and initially looked rather simple. But it turned out far more difficult than I imagined. I am not well versed in perspective and didn't quite capture a likeness.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

#21 Egg and liqueur glass

I enjoy drawing glass, at least when the drawings end up looking more or less glassy. But what a struggle to get the shapes of things like glasses and bottles reasonably symmetrical!

Monday, 3 September 2012

More anthotypes

Some further attempts at making anthotypes, as described in a previous post.

I used turmeric for this one, with a five-day exposure:

It's very sensitive, and I think even a day or two of exposure would result in a good image.

For this one I used red wine again, with a ten-day exposure; it is rather dim and I think twenty days or even more would have been better:

The long exposure required may be a result of the process I used here. I printed the image from a computer, then applied cooking oil to its reverse side in order to make it transparent. Last time I tried this, the oil leaked through onto the red wine emulsion, making a big mess and virtually no image. So this time I covered the light-sensitive paper with a plastic transparency, put the oiled paper on top of that, and then put a glass plate on top of the whole setup. The glass and plastic may have cut down the amount of UV light, thus requiring a long exposure.

On the bottom right you can see a big blotch where some oil somehow leaked onto the paper despite the transparency; it quite thoroughly messes up the image.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

#20: Plastic spray bottle

Couldn't quite capture the effect of light reflecting from and shining through plastic and water: all the subtle patterns and tones are fearsomely complex!

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

#19: Mug and apple

Finally had some time to draw again. Here's another in my series of still life drawings. I have gone all rusty and forgotten everything I have learned. Oh well, back to the drawing board. HB mechanical pencil on printer paper; about size A5.

Sunday, 12 August 2012


I have been trying my hand at making anthotypes - basically making prints using photosensitive chemicals from plants. An description of what it entails can be read in Wikipedia here:

And here are two articles describing how to do it in some detail:

For my first attempt, I used the purple berries of a privet bush (Ligustrum sp.). I mashed up a handful with a mortar and pestle, added a bit of water and methylated spirits to create a thin, watery paint (because the pulp was rather too dry to brush on its own) and then brushed two or three layers onto cartridge paper (letting layers dry before brushing on the next one). When the liquid dried it turned brownish.

I then put the paper onto a piece of Masonite, put a few leaves from a carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua) on top, and then covered it with a plastic transparency, and fastened the whole thing together with clips:

As you can see, the transparency did not work very well: instead of pressing the leaves flat against the paper, it buckled a bit, allowing sunshine to get partly under the leaves. I left the setup out in the sun for about five days, after which a clear print had formed on the paper:

It looks rather out of focus for reasons explained above: the leaves did not press down firmly onto the paper, so as the sun shifted position through the days, its rays got in under the sides of the leaves, exposing bits of paper that should have remained in shade.

For my next attempt I got hold of a piece of plate glass, and I used three layers of cheap red wine as photosensitive pigment. For the rest I simply repeated the procedure as above:

As you can see, the leaves were pressed down more firmly against the paper this time. I used carob leaves again, plus a few leaves from a garden shrub I can't identify. I once again left it in sunshine for about five days. This time round, the print came out more crisply and clearly:

Perhaps not exactly great art or photography, but there is something rather magical about it.

Friday, 3 August 2012

A simple pinhole camera

Every now and then, I cobble together some or other thing I really should have done when I was twelve and gotten it out of my system. I never did then, so now I am doomed to remain twelve all my life. I'm not sure that is necessarily a bad thing.

Anyway, here's one of those impromptu experiments:

A simple shoe box, with a pinhole in one side and a viewscreen made of piece of white paper glued inside, on the side opposite the pinhole. An image of whatever the pinhole is facing will be cast onto the viewscreen. In order to see it, I cut a peephole into the box, as shown. You close the lid to make the inside dark, look through the peephole, and there you have it: an upside down image of the world behind you.

To photograph it, I simply poked the front of my point-and-shoot camera into the peephole. The photo came out even dimmer than my subjective experience of the image:

Here's the same picture, turned right side up:

And here is the same photo, brightened up a bit with the help of Gimp:

Rather out of focus! My pinhole was a bit too large, I think. With a smaller pinhole, the image will be in sharper focus, but also more dimly lit, which would likely make photographing it impossible without a time exposure.

Short of keeping silkworms in it, I can't think of a cooler use of an old shoe box.

Monday, 9 July 2012

A portrait

Haven't had time to draw anything in ages. But I made some time to make this sketch as a birthday present for a friend of mine: a portrait of her adopted daughter:

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Still life with glue

I am busy making a series of a hundred simple still life drawings of everyday objects from direct observation, in attempt to improve my eye. This is number 18.

Sunday, 13 May 2012


Also known as heaven in a flask. HB mechanical pencil on printer paper.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Peach kernel and egg

What with a severe bout of flu and all manner of other things, I seldom have time to draw anything. Here's a quick one of a peach kernel and an egg, just to get me back into it.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Tree and leaves

A few recent sketches, of leaves and a tree in the botanical garden. Ballpoint on printer paper, about size A5.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Tree sketch

Sketch of a karree tree (Rhus lancea) made during a visit to Dinokeng nature reserve north of Pretoria. Ballpoint pen, in A5 sketch book.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Scenes from the highveld

Photos I took earlier today on a trip to the highveld area where I grew up, near the town of Bronkhorstspruit in South Africa.

Some typical scenery:

Sedimentary rock on a hill; the layers are clearly visible. If memory serves, these rocks are some two billion years old, though I'd have to go read up on it again to be sure:

Many of the rocks are heavily encrusted with colourful lichens (a city slicker once asked me why all the rocks are splattered with paint!):

Local plant life:

Wild apricots, Ancylobotrys capensis, so named because of the superficial similarity of the fruits to those of apricots. The fruits are edible and quite delicious, although tasting nothing like apricots or indeed any other fruit familiar to western civilization. Some years the shrubs are overloaded with fruit; this year the harvest was somewhat meager:

Wild wormwood, Artemisia afra. Apparently an infusion of the leaves can be used to treat chest ailments. Wouldn't surprise me if it actually worked, because the crushed leaves are very richly aromatic:

Flower of common protea, Protea caffra. Some years there are many, but as with the wild apricots, this year I could find only this single flower:

Something of a rarity, the elephant's ear (Streptocarpus vandeleurii) has only a single leaf, and a mass of white flowers:

The large witchweed, Striga elegans, lives up to its name: it's a parasite, the roots of which grow into those of grasses from where they withdraw nutrients:

The thick, fibrous stem of the monkey's tail, Xerophyta retinervis, helps to protect it against fire, a common phenomenon in this area:

The intricately woven nest of a weaver bird:

And a partially completed nest:

Late afternoon: a typical summer storm brewing. All through the day, the clouds get larger and by late afternoon will form thick and rather spectacular banks, frequently lit up from inside by lightning. Time to get indoors!