Photography Collides With Art Class

My son was off school for a few days this week, so I haven’t been out taking photos but staying in a bit more and making more (and more and more) mono prints. So, on Thursday afternoon I was printing with some leaves and when I’d finished I looked at the acrylic plate and realised that what I had on that plate looks like a glass negative that I could print onto sun print paper i.e. as a cyanotype.

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The black parts of this should be unexposed, so turn white when rinsed while the clear parts should turn blue.

Essentially, when making a cyanotype you block the light to a certain part of the paper (fabric or whatever) and expose the rest. The exposed part of the sun print paper turns white while the blocked part remains blue, but when you rinse it under cold water the white exposed part of the paper turns blue, and the blocked out part turns white. So if you use a leaf for a print, all you ever get is a white leaf – no detail (unless you use a negative printed onto transparent paper of course), just a white block.

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Expose the sun print paper until it turns almost white. It took me a while to realise that this paper is made in California, so the timings on the pack of 1-5 minutes are not applicable for England where the sunlight is not as strong. I’ve had to expose some images for over 20 minutes.
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When you rinse it, this happens

My thought was, what if I put the sun print paper under the clear acrylic sheet that I’d just printed on? I should get the detail of the veins from the leaves in blue, and the shaded part should remain white.

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This is the initial result with an ivy leaf. I can see it’s going to work, but it was a bit disappointing because a) my kittens got involved and moved things about and b) the sun did not want to get involved; it had decided to stay hidden.

I had another go, but this time I tried coating the leaf in ink with a brayer and then printing the leaf onto the acrylic sheet. It might be easier with a softer leaf, but ivy was difficult as it’s quite thick and has a natural bend that doesn’t want to flatten out. That can lead to a lot of movement and a blurred image on the sheet.

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Again, it’s difficult to assess the results as the weather was poor; I should have waited for a day that was not overcast but I was impatient.

When the planets align so that the sun finally comes out when I have a free afternoon I’ll try this again.

I think the main point of this for me is that the art classes I am taking and the photography are linking up now in unexpected ways; I shared this idea and the results with Pauline, my art tutor, who said she’d never heard of this being done before and has advised me to document this process as it’s about creativity and method.


Published by Sarah Cassin Scott


4 thoughts on “Photography Collides With Art Class

  1. Definitely a good idea to document these experiments. Have you thought of doing small test prints with the cyanotype paper first? I’ve just been on a weekend workshop on photopolymer printing – uses specially treated plates – and exposure time is much less with those.


    1. Hi Catherine, I did try tests with the cyanotype when I first started last year but the weather was so variable that I didn’t think I could get consistent results anyway. I’ve never heard of photopolymer printing so I’ll look into that, thanks 🙂


  2. That’s the reason I didn’t do them either. What I’m thinking is that I could do a test strip just before I’m ready to create a cyanotype. Mind you knowing my luck a cloud would come overs straight afterwards. Maybe that’s what I like about cyanotypes though – the unpredictability and then the excitement when occasionally it turns out well. the studio where I did the workshop has an enormous exposure unit that’s used for screen printing etc so I stuck to using that except for one I did outside. Must write it up!!


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