Chiaroscuro: Light and Shade: Collaborative Project on Cyanotypes


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This was a project done with students at school, using Cyanotype printing to create banners on cloth. The idea here was to create life-size images, using the students themselves, and any props or 2-D shapes they chose to create, to represent themselves. It involved mixing large amounts of the solution, and spraying it in a darkened room, leaving to to dry overnight, then keeping it out of the light until time to use. All of this was quite difficult in a school. The students then had to plan their part of the banner and cooperate with each other to create the image. It was a learning experience for all, finding out how long it took for the image to form- not long as it turned out, as the sun was strong- the difference it made using 3-D shapes, the effects of shadows, and what effects could be created by incorporating movement. The first attempts had a lot of crease marks, so gradually we built up team skills whereby each person had to take a role in: unfolding the cloth, shading the exposed cloth with umbrellas, helping participant-subjects position themselves and their props, stretching the cloth tight, moving props where required, then rolling up the cloth as each section was completed. The cloth was then rolled into a black bag by me, rushed to the art room where I had a vat of vinegar waiting, then rinsed in running water until the water ran clear, then stretched out to dry. A lot of fun! Also very effective banners which decorated the school science block, celebrating the collusion of art and science.

Robert Rauschenberg and Suzanne Weil Cyanotypes

Since completing this project I have come across this article in Art Forum about the experiments Rauschenberg and Weil did in the 1950s using cyanotypes, and the human body. They seem to have used paper, developed on the bathroom wall, and a sun lamp, inside. They seem to have been able to make multiple exposures in this way. I particularly like the use of diaphanous materials in the image below, and the effect achieved of exposing clothes first before the body. It creates a surreal effect of layers and artifice.



Rauschenberg and Weil cyanotype


Author: chrisocaprintingblog

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

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