April Dawn Alison

April Dawn Alison holding photos

While cruising through SFMoma, my companion and I stumbled on the dye diffusion transfer prints (Polaroids) of April Dawn Alison.

The exhibition drew from over 9200 photographs of April, taken by herself, or, very probably, a photographer named Alan Schaefer. Schaefer worked as a commercial photographer, and doesn’t seem to ever have had any gallery shows or exhibits. According to his friends and neighbors, he loved playing tennis, jazz records and was known simply as ‘Al’. 

No one knew that Al was also April. And no one had seen these photos until after his death in 2008. This collection was donated in 2017 to SFMOMA by painter and collector Andrew Masullo.

April Dawn Alison and her stats

Al and April lived in Oakland, California, and April’s world seems to be completely contained in Al’s apartment.

April Dawn Alison's legs
April Dawn Alison as a maid
April Dawn Alison in various states of undress
April Dawn Alison in a poodle skirt

There are many, many photos in the exhibit – I’m only sharing a handful here.

There is a joy in the photos I saw, which are beautiful, hilarious, enigmatic, and heartbreakingly sad. The work span more than three decades, beginning in the early 1970s, and then developing during the 80s into an exuberant, wildly colorful, and obsessive practice inspired by representations of women in classic film, fetish photography and advertising.

I wonder – did Al want these photos to be found? Would April want them to have been seen by the world? If they had it all over to do again, would April (And Al) have been happier and fulfilled if they had the chance to “go public” while they were alive?

There is a catalog on Amazon from the show, if you are interested.

Catalog from SFMOMA'S April Dawn Alison collection.

How to make a multiplane camera stand for stop motion animation

The multiplane camera is a special motion picture camera used in the traditional animation process that moves a number of pieces of artwork past the camera at various speeds and at various distances from one another. This creates three-dimensional, stereoscopic and parallax effects. The first multiplane camera, using four layers of flat artwork before a horizontal camera, was invented by former Walt Disney Studios animator/director Ub Iwerks in 1933, using parts from an old Chevrolet automobile.

Since so much of my art involves layers of paper, I thought I should build a multiplane camera stand to help animate my drawings. Here’s how I did it. And I didn’t need a Chevrolet.

I had four old 2×2’s at the studio. I drilled holes spaced 1/2″ apart. They are about 42″ tall. I used a 1/4″ drill bit, because I knew Home Depot had pegs that size.


I went to Home Depot and picked up some 16″ x 20″ panes of glass. The label says “Be careful! Edges are sharp!” I’ve cut myself twice, so that’s no lie.


The size of the glass helped me determine the dimensions of the stand.


The braces at the top and bottom are cheap pine scraps. I can easily replace them to make the stand wider, which will accommodate bigger glass.

Here are the pegs I use:


Once the stand was complete, I set it on top of my camera platform (which you can read about here).


It works well with both paper cutouts and 3D objects.


I added tape to the outward facing glass edges.  It’s helped reduce the number of cuts I receive from the glass.



I painted the visible wood supports black, which helped with unwanted reflections:


Once I saw it was going to work, I painted the whole thing black.


If you make one, or have suggestions or different ideas, please email me at



Cyanotype is a photographic printing process that produces a cyan-blue print. Engineers used the process well into the 20th century as a simple and low-cost process to produce copies of drawings, blueprints.

The process uses two chemicals, mixes in equal parts: ammonium iron(III) citrate [20% solution] and potassium ferricyanide [8.1% (w/v) solution]. These are available at art supply stores, photography stores and, of course, online. Only mix enough to use during a single session, as it only keeps for about 3-4 hours. Apply to a surface with a brush. I used a foam brush.


The solution can be applied to any porous surface, including paper (especially watercolor paper), cloth, canvas and even drywall. Allow to dry completely before applying second or third coats. I found that one is probably enough. Once the paper is dry, keep it in a dark place, such as a black plastic contractor bag.

I printed some digital negatives of two Delft China patterns and one of my dioramas onto a piece of 8×11 transparency film. I also copied a postcard about a shoe art exhibit onto a transparent sheet in a photo copier.


I put the transparent negatives, along with a feather, in a window box and placed it in the sun for about 9 minutes.



It was a very bright day. The paper gradually changed colors, turning a silvery brown.

I also tried this with my hand, as objects can be laid on the paper, too.



I rinsed the paper in warm water for about 7 minutes or so – just long enough to see the white highlights show through the blue. The process stops as soon as the paper is submerged. If the paper seems yellow after drying, it can be rinsed again. I started in the big blue baby pool to get most of the solution off, then used the other two boxes.



The photo above shows four of my attempts at this process – the feather image has one coat of the solution, the hand and shoes have two coats, and the big piece has three coats.


It was really simple – I plan to do more of these.

If YOU are interested, you should check out Gray Lyons beautiful work. She showed me how to do this, and she was as kind as she is talented.


Holga Stereo Pinhole Camera

I stumbled on this beauty while researching stereoscopic image making. I got her online for about $15. Holga cameras are quirky, plastic and unique.

It’s been a while since I’ve used a pinhole camera and I’m pretty excited to have a chance to play with one again. The first shots below were a quick attempt to learn the camera, practice using a light meter and figure out exposure times.  These are double/triple exposures (and not stereo images – that’s next).

pin-hole2 pin-hole1

pinhole photo pinhole photo pinhole photo




[click above to view larger]

The word “dusty” immediately made me think of being a kid playing with cars in a sand pit near my house. I would do that for hours and hours. Dad couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to play baseball instead, which I suppose is also dusty.

The photo is a construction site near where I catch the train to work.

It is also dusty.

Happy Illustration Friday.

Joie de Vivre

Pics of the Week

Joie de Vivre

Week in Pictures

This concludes another entry in the story of my life.

Joie de Vivre

Photos for 8/23/2010


Through The Viewfinder

Jody left an interesting comment on the camera post a couple of weeks ago about using a Kodak Duaflex camera with a DSLR (or a point-and-shoot) to achieve interesting effects. It’s called “through the viewfinder” or TTV and it’s pretty easy to set up!  This guy explains how.

I picked up a manky old camera on e-bay for $8. It came today. Thanks for the tip, Jody!

I didn’t finish building the camera light blocking cravistan (not shown) until it was quite dark out. It still needs some work, and I can’t wait to see how things look in the sun.

I like the weird, scratchy images. It’s like looking at the world through Tom Waits voice.

Reporting from the barn in the backyard,
this is the Director of Alternative Processes of the barn
with his odd companions wishing you a good evening.

Joie de Vivre

Cicada & Yellow Moth

Pics of the day.

Joie de Vivre

Friday Picks

I’m thinking it might be fun to do a pic-a-day type thing (trailing off my camera post) for a while. Here are some of my favorites from this week.

Joie de Vivre

Photoblogging & Camera Hacking

Recently, I met this fellow as I stepped out of my kitchen.

He was handsome. The morning light was perfect. I was excited.

I grabbed my camera and began taking close up pictures of the little monster.  The praying mantis misunderstood my encouraging words of  “Work it!” with “Please, attack my hand!” Caught by surprise, I dropped my trusty Canon SD850IS Digital Elph. In my haste to take pictures, I didn’t wear the wrist strap. My camera broke. This was right before ArtScape, too.  For the record, I gently moved the praying mantis to a camera free bush, unharmed and safe.

It’s Busted, No Big Whoop

I LOVE(D) this camera.  It came highly recommended from and I chose it after careful consideration over many other cameras.  I checked around to see if anyone could fix this, and was told it’s cheaper to buy a new one. I looked on Amazon and E-Bay and learned I could still get one for about $100 more than what I originally paid for it. That’s not the end of the world. We have a Nikon D70 and there are a couple of Fujifilm Finepix point-and-shoots floating around the house. Plus,  I have my crappy iPhone.

I used to take pictures when I was a kid – I had something like this Kodak box deal where you looked through the top to see your subject (MAN I WISH I STILL HAD IT). Pictures were precious, as were the flash bulbs needed to take them.  Digital photography is wonderful! It’s cheap, there’s no penalty for excessively documenting daily existence and sometimes really great photos show up.

Camera-less, I felt that something important was missing. I acutely noticed every single missed photo opportunity.  Wrist straps only work if you use ’em, folks.  I take lots and lots of pictures.  I feel EMPOWERED by having a camera with me. It turns the mundane into adventure.

The Big Whoop

So, I’ve gotten a new Canon, the SD4000IS. So far, it’s great – the indoor pics are much better and the video is downright amazing. To celebrate the new camera, I’m going to try a photoblogging experiment and share more photos here, instead of my favorite, nifty photo-sharing service shown above this paragraph. :)

Finally, while researching Canon cameras, I discovered THEY ARE HACKABLE. There is a Canon Hackers Developer Kit available, and even a book on hacking some Canon cameras [The Canon Camera Hackers Manual: Teach Your Camera New Tricks
]. Using Basic, one can upload scripts into the camera’s memory when powering on. It is non-permanent and non-destructive. With the CHDK, one can enable RAW support, increase exposure and recording times, enable faster shutter speeds and enhance functionality already available in the camera. Not all the Canon models have the kit, so be sure to check the wiki.

I haven’t had a chance to experiment with this, but it’s VERY cool.

Joie de Vivre

Yard Nature

It’s been kind of wet this week, which usually bring out a symphony of tree frogs.

This guy has been hanging around the back door for the past couple of days.

And then, there’s this thing, the habañero ear worm. They taste horrible, but I’m hoping the frog will like them.

Joie de Vivre


I spent the day with my daughter’s  school band in Hershey, PA.  Here’s a little of what I  saw.

Porcupine in a tree

A real roadrunner

Nocturnal fox

Sidewinder snake

“Do you like pancakes? Yes, I like pancakes.”