Wet cyanotype process. What is that?!
I have been experimenting with this process recently. I was intending to work with seaweeds whilst away at Vashon Artist Residency, but they proved quite elusive. A little bit of kelp and some sea grass, but not much else. So I experimented with other things, such as found beach objects and paper bags..... because that's all I had at hand. And that is the beauty of this process; it is perfect for experimentation and almost any relatively flat objects can be used to create your prints.
So what is it?
The cyanotype process involves mixing two chemicals to make a light sensitive solution. The solution can be painted onto paper, cloth or any other substrate that you feel like trying; even pebbles and egg shells.
Traditional cyanotypes are blue. The solution is painted onto the paper away from any UV light, and allowed to dry before exposing. Objects laid on the paper are left out in the sun to develop over minutes or hours depending on the UV availability on a particular day. Sunshine is faster than cloud.....
This very traditional approach has been around since 1842. You can read more about the history of cyanotype and how seaweed was one of the first subjects for this process in an article from Kew Gardens here
Wet cyanotype is a method that I embraced initially due to the technical issues of finding a dark place to coat and dry my papers.
Always one to look for an easy option, I decided to try the messier, more organic approach of wet cyanotype, which avoids the need to wait for the paper to dry in a dark place. For the wet process the paper is coated away from UV light, and exposed while still wet.
Now the fun begins.
Objects are placed on the paper and a variety of additional substances can be added at this stage. These include coffee grounds, soap bubbles, salt, turmeric and vinegar.
The plate is laid out in the sun to develop.
When the paper has fully changed colour it is ready to wash.
It is now ready for rinsing in tap water, after gently removing the physical elements from the paper.
What I love about this process is the unpredictability and detail brought out by the additional elements added to the paper. The image below shows soap bubbles and coffee on paper, before washing. I imagine a galaxy in space. Your imagination may take you somewhere entirely different.....
If you would like to try this process yourself I have created a separate web page with instructions that is available to anyone on my mailing list.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to escape from the day to day juggling act that is ordinary life, and stay in a place where the only thing that matters is your creative practice?
I am recently returned from a residency at Vashon Island, near Seattle, where I had just such an experience for a whole three and a half weeks. To say that I had a wonderful time would be an understatement. It was refreshing and revitalising in so many ways.
Many people wonder what an artist residency actually is. I would describe it as time spent in a new place, focussing on your art, in a supportive environment without the day to day distractions of normal daily life. It might just be for a week, or it could be much longer. Some residencies are free, and others are paid, often with the option to apply for a grant to support the time away.
So why should you do this? Is it worth your time and money?
I will give you 10 reasons why you will find it worthwhile. If not more......
That feels like enough reasons for now.
Here's a little book that I made in my first few days when I was still finding my feet.
If you are tempted, then here are some good websites to get you started.
Res Artis- worldwide network of artist residencies
Artjobs - search for residencies here
And don't forget to follow the hashtags #artistresidency and #artistresidencies on Instagram.
Feel free to contact me if you would like to know more or if you have any good tips.
Caroline Fraser - an ordinary life
on life, suburban living, art, creativity, photography, book art and travel.
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Welcome to Caroline Fraser Photography
Colourful abstracted and traditional photographic landscapes, book art and workshops. Capturing the moods and beauty of nature whether in wild open places or in small sanctuaries in suburbia.