Assignment 2: Abstraction by degree: Cyanotypes

This was another new technique- quite a simple one, but in keeping with the Breaking Bad approach I’m veering towards at the moment, with my new found interest in Science.

This is the use of Ammonium iron (III) citrate, and potassium ferricyanide to create a light sensitive wash to make cyanotypes, which can be exposed under the sun. I love this simple way of making images appear, and it also, like the photopolymer method, takes me back to the days of developing photos in a darkroom and seeing the images emerge.

Abstraction here happens with distance- physical distance- if you choose to use actual objects to create inverse silhouettes, then the closer they are to the surface, the sharper and more realistic they appear.

So this image was made with textures pressed quite close to the paper with a glass on top (the edges of which appear). This closeness means there are hard edges, except in the case of the cotton wool, which has created an interesting cloud-like texture. Although the contrast between geometric and organic is quite interesting, this is a bit literal, as it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out what the objects and materials are.


So this was another version, this time with a distance between the objects and the paper and exposed it for 35 minutes outside- an overcast day, or this would have been quicker, and sharper. This had been a planned composition, using household objects (insert photos from phone) to suggest a theme (childbirth). I chose the most gruesome kitchen utensils I could find, metal tongs, an old fashioned tinopener, hooks… I left the paper a bit too long under the running water which then added a pattern of holes: this seemed to complement the theme of violence, so was a lucky accident.



I wanted to get something in-between here- semi- abstract, so pinned some of the objects down and tried again:


It now has more of a suggestion of growth perhaps, and the less sharp parts now take on a ghostly image, a bit like an ultrasound scan.

Another technique that could be used with this method is negative films- made my sketching onto tracing paper, or using a photograph. Thsi was only an afternoon workshop, so there wasn’t too much time to experiment, but I had this photo prepared- again, my kitchen tools, but reimagined as a rather harsh “holy trinity”.

This is possibly a little underexposed.

Holy Trinity
Holy Trinity

Similarly with this one- should have been exposed longer- I was using similar scribbling/ markmaking to that use on plexiglass- this time with graphite on tracing paper- the edges of which can be seen. I like the drawn line texture and the shades.


Right now, I don’t have the chemicals to experiment with this technique further, but I like the possibilities it offers, and would be interested in combining the images with other techniques- the fact that this image is waterproof is handy, as the paper can be wet again for, say, intaglio.



Author: chrisocaprintingblog

Studying visual arts part-time with the Open College of the Arts

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