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.


Vivien Zepf said...

I'm curious: are you manipulating how the flowers rest on the cloth? Some just seem to have such a graceful curve to them.

Anonymous said...

Sue after the initial rinse are you doing a peroxide rinse?

Sue Reno said...

Vivien, parts of my garden are a bit crowded, and the curves are natural as they reach for the sun.

Sue Reno said...

Yes, I am doing a peroxide rinse. It speeds up the oxidation and darkens the blues.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Sue for the peroxide tip!