Cyanotype collage – mini series #1

I have been binge-listening to the podcast Art Juice by artists Louise Fletcher and Alice Sheridan. Having just discovered them, I’m finding them a real source of inspiration during this strange time, following the Coronavirus Lockdown (in the UK this started on 23 March 2020). On a daily basis I’m not sure if I want to create something, curl up in a ball or shout and scream – or sometimes all three. Art Juice is keeping me focussed on my creativity and helping me to stay sane!

So this month, as we have been enjoying some sunny weather, I decided to revisit the technique of camera-less photography called Cyanotype. I first tried this in the summer of last year and this is some of my early work:

Some of my early Cyanotype prints

I’ve started working on a new series of Cyanotype collages. And perhaps due to the inability to ‘go out and buy whatever I need, whenever I need it’, I’m feeling the need to work small – maybe to conserve resources? I often work in A5 sketchbooks, so my work is quite small anyway, but I wanted to try slightly smaller, so I opted for A6.

I took a few sheets of watercolour paper (I really like the texture) and cut them into 12 x A6 pieces. I brushed each piece with my Jacquard Cyanotype solution and pegged them up to dry in my dark room (otherwise known as my windowless utility room with a red safe-light).

Paper, coated with Cyanotype solution, hanging in the dark to dry

NB: Cyanotype is traditionally made outside, using sunlight – not something that is seen regularly here in the Northern Hemisphere! And I’ve found that having real, fresh foliage, ready-to-use when the sun does appear is not something I can guarantee. So I’ve begun taking photos of plants and leaves that I can print out onto sheets of acetate. They are always to hand and never wilt!

Once the papers had dried I lay a few of them onto a wooden board; positioned acetate images on top; and sandwiched them in place with a piece of clear glass. I carried the board outside and left it in a sunny position for about 10 minutes.

Acetate image being exposed in the sunlight

The exposure time varies depending on the strength of the sun. The colour of the Cyanotype begins to darken in the sunlight, so you can usually see when it is ready. I took the pages indoors and rinsed them under a cold tap to wash off the excess solution to reveal the exposed images. I then hung them up to dry and repeated this process until I had exposed all 12 pieces.

Some of the exposed Cyanotype images

I wanted to develop the Cyanotypes with some collage work. I have boxes of torn paper and scrap fabric so I took some of these and collaged on to each piece. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to enhance or contrast the collage with the Cyanotype, but I went for an intuitive approach and let it happen organically.

Beginning to collage on the Cyanotype

I sealed the collage with a coat of matt Mod Podge; worked over the top with wax crayons and pencils and finished off with a few simple stitches using embroidery thread.

The mini collage series #1

I haven’t decided what to do with them yet – frame them or bind them into a sketchbook? I didn’t really have an end-goal in mind but have really enjoyed experimenting with the process. While the sunny weather continues, so will the Cyanotype!

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