Cyanotype Photograms

The past month has been madly busy with all kinds of ups and downs and one whole week involving Cyanotype mania.

The lovely Sarah and Helen offered me an opportunity to take part in an exhibition of photographic work in their beautiful gallery space above Earth Spirit in Hebden Bridge over the arts festival period.

Stupidly, I put myself under a lot of pressure by deciding to have a go at doing cyanotype photograms from scratch, using the chemicals I bought over 2 years ago, and to work on a large scale on thick watercolour paper.  Things kept going wrong with the chemistry (I had no weighing scales), the weather became rainy and windy and some of the wild plants kind of went past their sell-by-date. I was running out of time and getting in a panic.  Luckily the weather suddenly became sunny and stable and further on-line research showed me where I'd been going wrong with too much hydrogen peroxide bleaching out my prints instead of speeding up the oxidation process.

For logistical reasons I was working at home rather than my small studio space, so making the cyanotypes also involved complete chaos and mess in my kitchen although I was very careful not to contaminate anything to do with food...

The chemical solution had to be painted on the watercolour paper with a big brush, whilst grovelling on the floor, so why did I choose to use a circular motif I wonder?  Because I love circles actually, and using a disused wire circle from a lampshade as a guide and a lovely wide hake brush, it wasn't as bad as I'd imagined it would be to get a decent shape.  The cyanotype solution dries to a wonderful pale lemony green before its exposed to UV light.

After exposure to the sun, the paper is rinsed in a water bath and gradually the Prussian Blue and white pattern is revealed in all its cyan glory.  I especially love the areas where the sun has partially exposed and you get pale blue shadowy areas.  I also tried some more abstract arrangements of the plant structures but although these show promise for future work, all the ones I did during this session went wrong, with the colour bleaching out or the paper getting torn etc.

I can't wait to get started again, having invested in some digital scales to mix up the chemistry more accurately, and having made a timed test strip to guage how long the Yorkshire sun needs to perform the alchemy!  The two images above show Horse Tail and Cow Parsley, and Foxgloves.  I hated picking the foxgloves when they look so glorious in the wild, and spread out my raids over a wide area to avoid making too much impact on any one habitat.


Simone O'Callaghan said...

Just stumbled across your blog doing an image search on cyanotypes and I think the works you've created above are lovely. I too, work in cyanotypes but then take them through other printmaking processes such as etching, and my inagery is much more abstract and messy.Now I've seen your blog, I'll bookmark it and watch for updates. Great work!
: )


Thanks for the feedback Simone - you've cheered me up on a frustrating day. The cyanotypes have had to go on the back burner over winter as I rely on sunlight. I'm itching to get going again; annoyingly I had to do other things during the recent sunny spell ( altho' going on a lovely holiday is not really annoying of course). By the way, do you know Susan Derges work? I find it inspiring altho I didn't know she did cyanotypes until recently. I have enjoyed viewing the 'In the Studio' section of your research blog. So much to learn and so little time!