August 2, 2017

Experiments in wet cyanotype - Part 7

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I made time for another round of wet cyanotype experimentation. I was mildly disappointed by my previous try at printing from a stargazer lily and I wanted to tweak the process a bit. This time I used more moisture on the treated cotton sateen fabric, I used a heavier pane of glass for more contact between the flower and the cloth, and I put it outside for exposure mid-morning, to catch more sun. The weather continued to be hot and humid.
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Since there were coming into full bloom, I also tried again with some gladiolus stems.
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I have a long simmering project involving tulip poplar leaves, where I'm using a variety of images, so I wanted to add some wet cyanotype prints to that mix as well. I used four individual leaves, each with a bit of damage on them.
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If you are new to my blog and/or to this process, I've been detailing my experiments with wet cyanotype, including the fabrics used, the conditions and timing, and the results. I've added a Wet Cyanotype tab at the top where you can read all the posts in reverse chronological order, or go here.
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Regular cyanotype printing, which I've been doing for many years, involves keeping the treated fabric scrupulously dry, and doing timed exposures of 15 minutes or so, depending on conditions. This process turns all those rules upside down, by purposefully introducing moisture, and leaving the prints outside for 12 - 48 hours, or more. This breaks down the chemicals in unpredictable ways, producing a wide ranges of colors and striations and marks.
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It first came to my attention on Instagram, where I post as sue_reno_studio It's worthwhile searching #wetcyan there to see all the exciting work being done and the generous sharing of technique and process.
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Here's all seven prints from this batch after about 24 hours exposure.
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I removed the plants and put them in a dark air conditioned room to dry off.
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Then I got busy and didn't have time to rinse them out, so I rolled them in a towel and stashed them in the dark for a few more days.
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Some of them were truly lovely at this stage.
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I knew this look would change, but I have the images and always have the option of printing them digitally.
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Here they are after rinsing, drying, and ironing. All images enlarge when clicked.
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I'm much happier with the flower prints this time around, there's more definition and subtlety.
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On the whole, though, the backgrounds are much darker than my previous prints--not a bad thing, just different.
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I have several speculations. I may have saturated the fabric more heavily when I treated it. The sun is not as strong as when I started doing this in June, and the deck where I've been leaving them is in partial shade now. Or perhaps the resting time between exposure and rinsing oxidized them more heavily.
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The only way to dial it down is to do more prints! I am having so much fun with this experimentation, and have lots of ideas on how to use the resultant prints in my art quilts.
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Also in the spirit of experimentation, I bought some sunflowers at the farmer's market and decided to try a print. (Almost all of my other prints are from plants I grow or gather.) I knew the thickness of the flower was going to interfere with contact printing and holding moisture on the print, so I sliced off part of the back of the blossom and hoped for the best.
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The petals shriveled up almost immediately, and I pulled the print after 12 hours. I've got a big white blob with a faint halo, and my reaction ran towards "Meh".
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When I posted the results on Instagram and Facebook, it was generously pointed out that it could be fireworks, something cosmic like a supernova, or the basis for some really interesting paint/applique/thread work/bead work. I had been looking at it too literally, and I appreciated the insight.

As always, thanks for reading and commenting.

July 23, 2017

Experiments in wet cyanotype - Part 6

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 Here we go with part 6! I was so intrigued/alarmed/amused by the daisy prints I achieved in part 5 that I wanted to try more flower prints. Something substantial seemed like a good bet, so I went out in the garden and clipped a yellow gladiolus and a stargazer lily.
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 I wanted to use the stamens, with their heavy load of pollen, just to see what would happen, but they were impossible to arrange with any sort of precision, so I clipped them. The stargazer lily flower petals are thick and substantial and lumpy, so I had to sort of smoosh everything into place with the glass cover.  Same for the gladiolus, it's got some heft. So I put these out in the early evening, with the plan that they would wilt a bit overnight before being hit by the morning sun.
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 I did two more snakeroot prints, this time using a blossom on one of them. For all four of these, I made a slight change in procedure. I didn't wet the foam board before layering the cloth and plants. I did spritz liberally with water after arranging and before topping with glass. So to some extent the cyanotype treated fabric is masked from the moisture by the plants; however, the plants have their own moisture, and the fabric will wick. I'm curious to see if it makes a difference.

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I pulled these after about 20 hours, when a thunderstorm threatened.  They were on the dark and murky side at this point, without a lot of  the striation I had in previous prints.

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 They were still really wet, so I set them to dry in the dark overnight.
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 Here's the finished, rinsed, and dried prints.
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 They have a much softer feel than most of my previous prints.
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 I suppose you could call them dreamy.
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 For my purposes, I would rank them as good but not great. I prefer a harder edge and more color shifts. If I live with them for a while I may change my opinion.
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So! This was a useful experiment. I think I get crisper prints when I wet the board before laying on the plants, and more of the color shifts I prefer if I put them in bright sunlight right at the start of the exposure. Onward and upward!

July 22, 2017

New Work in Progress - Storm Watch

 If you've been following along with my wet cyanotype experiments, you've seen some of the prints I made using this exciting, new-to-me technique. My ultimate goal when printmaking is to use them in an art quilt, so I picked out some of my favorites and set out to make a quilt.

Because one of the first sets of wet cyanotype prints had developed during and despite a summer storm, and because of the mysterious and anticipatory feel they all have, I'm naming this one Storm Watch.

I often use complex patchwork to frame my imagery, but these prints are already complex, and I wanted to keep the emphasis there, so I patched them together using simple strip work. What's decidedly not simple are the fabrics I used--all silks, many of them Mysore silks brought back from travels to India, which have a wonderful sheen and texture. Many of them are "shot" silks, woven with different colors in the warp and weft, which change in appearance depending on which angle you look at them. I also mixed in the rougher textures of raw silks and tweeds, and some selected re-purposed silk ties. It ended up medium sized by my standards, around 50" square.
 I'm only showing previews of the work at this point because the stripwork will change rather dramatically once it's quilted. I love the texture and dimension the stitching creates and that's one of the reasons I work in this medium. Quilting will also change the prints, and here I run into a design opportunity. Because more traditional cyanotypes are a very stark blue and white aesthetic, I usually use bright or contrasting threads to add color and interest, like in this detail from The Organic Landscape:
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The Organic Landscape, detail

Or this one from Japanese Anemone:
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Japanese Anemone, detail

But for these prints I want to preserve the delicacy of the imagery, so I will need a lighter touch. I'm still mulling over how to proceed.

In the meantime, a new quilt needs a new backing fabric, so it's time for another installment of "Look What I Made on my Driveway". I started with a piece of damp cotton sateen and drizzled it with diluted hot pink textile paint.

 Followed by a drizzle of green:
 And some yellow highlights:
 It was an absurdly humid day, and even after misting it with the hose the paint wasn't moving around much, so I had to get in there with a gloved hand and swirl things around a bit. After drying, rinsing, drying again, and ironing, I ended up with this:


It's very pink! Fortunately I don't harbor any color prejudices, and I think it will be the perfect back for this quilt. My art quilts are made to hang on the wall, so the back is not normally seen, but it makes me happy to have something cheerful there while I am working on it.

And finally, as I was standing on a chair to take that picture of the backing fabric, I looked down at the chair and noticed this:
Striped chair
It's pretty much the same color palette as my fabric. I had covered the chair seat with a handwoven Guatemalan fabric years ago, and it's always made me happy. It's a good reminder that it's important to surround yourself with things that resonate with your personal aesthetic, because they do end up being a subconscious influence.

As always, thanks for reading and commenting.

July 20, 2017

Experiments in wet cyanotype - Part 5

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 It's time for more wet cyanotype fun! Here's another batch of experimental prints using the wet cyanotype method of printing on fabric. If you are new here, welcome, and feel free to look back at the explanations in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. I've also added a tab to to the blog header that will give you all the relevant posts in reverse chronological order.

This time around I was working exclusively with cotton sateen that I treated myself with cyanotype solution. I spritzed a bit of water on the foam board base, added the fabric, placed the leaves, gave it another spritz, and covered it all with a sheet of glass.  I started with 'August Moon' hosta leaves, above, and an ornamental sweet potato vine, below.
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 Below is another hosta leaf that sustained some damage, and a wood poppy leaf. For these first three the first spritz of water had a bit of dye-na-flow pink color added; the rest were all plain water.
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 Here is a christmas fern frond. You can never have too many fern prints.
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Up next were two daisy sprigs. Using flowers in regular cyanotype printing, where the exposure is 10 - 15 minutes, can be a bit tricky, and the delicate petals are more translucent to light than the leaves, and its hard to find the right balance. So I was curious to see what would happen with the wet cyanotype process with these.
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Last up in this batch was a wonderful snake root compound leaf on a 16" x 20" panel.
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 All of these were left outside for approximately 24 hours. The weather was sunny, hot, and very humid. After exposure, they looked like this:
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 They were very dark and moody looking. I like taking photos as this stage because it is very transient.
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 I somehow skipped taking a photo of the fern at this point, probably because I got distracted by these daisy prints:
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 The flowers are fairly well represented, but the leaf impressions got melt-y, perhaps because of the moisture in the leaves and stems, or possibly it became a focal point for the condensation on the glass.
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 And the snakeroot print was really dark at this point.
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 After rinsing, drying, and ironing, here are the finished prints. Once again, I am just in love with the results this process produces. The golden mottling here is just great:
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 This one is a particular favorite:
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 And again, you can never have too many fern prints.
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 I'm not sure how I feel about these daisy prints. They seem somewhat unsettling to me. I can see how some stitch work to define and/or enhance some of those melt-y bits and the flowers could be really effective. Or not. I'm not sure I want to invest a lot of time in them. They will go up on a design wall so I can think about them for a while.
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 Last but not least, the snakeroot print turned out very lovely. I love the purple tones and all the shading in the leaves.
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I took a break from the printmaking frenzy at this point because I had run out of treated fabric, and I had other things I needed to attend too. But there will be more to come....

As always, thanks for reading and commenting!