Delight (and printing) from the sun

Cyanotype of maple leaves moving dries and darkens on a retaining wall.

2020 has been dark, so whenever we have bright sunshine, my heart lifts. When a clear day is forecast, I burst into action to capture art from the sun. I quickly sensitize paper in a windowless bathroom with only a 40 watt incandescent bulb to see by. Images are  most brilliant when you make your exposures within 24 hours of sensitizing the paper, so planning is critical.

My 11 x 14 inch contact frame amidst Creeping Charlie.

Some images are made using transparency negatives I created from my own digital catalogue. The above negative is from the 2017 almost full eclipse and is printed at 8 1/2 x 11in. It is sandwiched in a contact frame, where a pane of glass presses the negative onto sensitized paper. The print is almost done, as I watch the edges outside the negative turn to a grayish green.

Beginning rinse in plain water.

In full sun, an exposure of a negative transparency takes about three minutes.  Then I whisk the frame inside, open it gently on my washer, remove the exposed paper and plunge the paper into a tray of plain water. The Legion Masa paper I use is quite thin, so the unexposed chemicals wash out quickly and a turquoise image starts to appear.

Artist studio realities: I share my developing space with the cats…

After a first rinse, the paper is transferred to another tray that has plain water plus a splash of hydrogen peroxide. The addition of the hydrogen peroxide hastens the darkening of the print. This would happen gradually otherwise, but seeing the finished image is all part of the fun.

Cyanotype freestyle

At the end of a printing session, I had some small, oddly shaped sensitized papers that needed to be used. On a metal table I use for outside work, I used a water-filled squeeze bottle to create drips as the paper was exposed. different marks at different times reveal multiple blue hues.

Come back next time to see the reveal of this process, plus more fun with the sun.

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