The Legend of Casein: An Epilogue

Writer and photography / Peter J. Blackburn

Some concluding thoughts on casein printing and a couple of prints, too!

Read the previous post here.

Up to this point all of my casein images, including this one, have been made utilizing cottage cheese curd.

Of the many morals I could extract from my true-to-life casein fairy tale, allow me comment upon just one which can be summed up in a single word — determination. Resolving to stay true to passion and principles can make all the difference in the world. The resolve in my case was exercised on several levels. I was, and still am, resolved to exclusively use the sun for printing. My resolve kept me on the straight and narrow leading me to work though the difficulties by revisiting and improving upon a process I had previously tossed aside. I would encourage the reader to stay focused in your work, keep your eye on the goals you have set for yourself, and never allow crusty, creepy dragons to easily overtake you without a valiant fight. Let dragons be an impetus to help you advance, not surrender or even compromise!

Moving along, I imagine some have been patiently waiting to learn how to make a casein mixture for printing. Not willing to completely divulge quite yet exactly how I produce my own batches, may I instead direct the reader to Laura Blacklow’s excellent article on casein pigment printing. However, my one suggested tweak would be to replace the milk-made curd created in step one with 3 or 4 ounces of commercially made, fat-free cottage cheese. Rinse the whey (milky white liquid) from the curd. The curd is casein. Then continue with the remaining steps in her instructions.

There you have it—outlandishly easy if you ask me. Just that one modification to the milk printing instructions—using cottage cheese— went a very long way toward helping me defeat the dragon long ago. Over the years I have considerably modified those instructions further to better suit my own needs. Feel free to do the same.

And now, with your indulgence, I wish to stand on this rickety old soap box and make one last, rather sobering and a bit contemplative concluding remark.

I suspect some of my trilogy readers are wondering, “OK, why all the theatrics and drama over casein? Did you really need to fritter away three blogs on some fairy tale foolery? Come on—dragons and heroes? And what’s up with the Gershwin jazz?” Well, I must admit writing fantasy essays for a website as this does seem a bit misplaced—out of the ordinary, for sure. We’ve become so accustomed to every click of the mouse careening us from one technical, formula-packed, how-to exposition to the next, and the next, and the next. Don’t take me wrong. Building an ever rising Mount Everest of pure and applied knowledge on this city block we call is fine and dandy with me! But with each shovel-full have we become as the dingy factory portrayed in the great Chaplin film, Modern Times, mindlessly unloading one process dissertation after another, unpacking one recipe after the next oblivious to other creative genres of expression for our work? Oh please, surely not! How I long to be the Little Tramp who dares to pull the lever and stop the infernal assembly line if only to commence the ensuing mayhem and madness. Perhaps then, in due time, we might advance to the more princely task of recording intimate self-discovery and articulating refreshing, innovative dialogue which celebrates our hard-earned endeavors.

Truck and Sky, 2011. Recently, I have been producing casein prints made from feta cheese. This photograph is the first one I created using fat-free feta.

Let me pose this delicate little question in another way. Are we actual flesh and blood artists equipped with an ample assortment of inventive manifestations for our work or are we merely lumbering laborers, lurkers, and lackeys who stumble by this site to peep behind the curtain and gawk at how the magicians turn their tricks? I realize those words make for a harsh admonishment, but try the shoe on for size anyway.

It’s like this. Who I am on the inside somehow filters up to the surface of my life and into my prints. Heaven forbid, if ever I had to choose between my pen and my art as the sole means of expression, art would win. That sentence tells it all. Visual art plays such an inescapable part of my identity. However, there must also be room for convictions and emotions which both encompass and expand beyond, far beyond, the nuts and bolts of our precious processes. Thankfully, both my prints and my pen can and do serve as a voice. And with my pen the trilogy—a personal trilogy—had to be written not as just another mundane paint-by-numbers rag, but as a humble, ever so human tale. Tales exude life and breath. Tales evoke visceral notions and ideas. Without tales, there is no mythos, and at best, an incomplete legacy. And besides, only dead men are regrettably doomed to tell no tales.

2 thoughts on “The Legend of Casein: An Epilogue”

  1. Well, you made me both laugh and think, but you do that so often anyway. And now I have to say that you make a good argument for learning both gum AND casein. If anything, this article is a lesson to all of us to be inventive both with our problem solving and process as well as our words.

  2. Apparently my blog has perhaps offended or caused some disagreement among some readers. I would be quiet grateful to hear your comments. That is what this forum is for — open and honest dialogue. Cheers!

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