Wandering Into Stillness

“We have forgotten what rocks and plants still know, we have forgotten how to be, to be still, to be ourselves, to be where life is here and now” – Eckhart Tolle

Transition, Samantha Boulanger, Cyanotype, 2020
Transition, Samantha Boulanger, Cyanotype, 2020

There was a time when I found it difficult to be still at all, or to be alone for that matter. I would constantly find ways in which to distract myself from well, myself ultimately; people, parties, food, alcohol, relationships, work, shopping etc etc…. but then there comes a time, hopefully, when you get really tired of your own BS! You start to go within, get to know yourself and slowly but surely, you can begin to heal what needs to be healed, and become authentically who you were in fact, always meant to be. Being in nature has definitely helped me with this process, plus a lot of therapy over the years!?!

Learning to allow myself to simply be, here, now, in this very moment has been a game changer. It’s a pretty cool place to be, but don’t get me wrong, I slip in and out of this place quite often and have to practice it daily, hourly, minute by minute even, but it feels great to be evolving, albeit slowly.

All of these aspects are proving extremely important to me, personally and within my art practice. I think the time spent throughout my undergraduate degree was, for me a huge catalyst for change, especially in my attitude towards myself and others, as well as a growth in confidence generally. Through learning, exploring and practicing art, I really feel that I have found my place and a deeper sense of connection to my ultimate muse; nature, and in doing so bringing me back to myself.

Almost There, Samantha Boulanger, Photo Etching, 2019
Almost There, Samantha Boulanger, Photo Etching, 2019

All the processes that I have been exploring these past few years, have essentially been working with and connecting to nature in the least toxic way possible. With my etchings I was introduced to a non-toxic ground called ‘BIG’, which was created and developed by our very own Andrew Baldwin (My main tutor throughout the past two years of my BA), the ground is really lovely to use, easy to clean and very effective (see above image).

You can get more information on BIG and Andrew’s workshops here.

Gratitude, Samantha Boulanger, Circular Cyanotype, 2019
Gratitude, Samantha Boulanger, Circular Cyanotype, 2019

With the simple process of Cyanotype, I found that I could create very freely in the varying tones and colours of Prussian blue, using sunlight and nature, as well as my photographic imagery.

My explorations then took me into the natural worlds of Eco-printing and Chlorophyll processes, in which I create images using nature itself, see previous two blog posts; From Eco-prints to the Chlorophyll Process and Botanical Bounty

Slow Stitch by Claire Wallesley-Smith and Natural Processes in Textile Art by Alice Fox
Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith and Natural Processes in Textile Art by Alice Fox

Currently, I am looking a little deeper into various forms of nature art and during my research, I discovered two fantastic books; Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith and Natural Processes in Textile Art by Alice Fox, as an up-cycler and forager, the concepts described in these books are not news to me, though I have found them immensely interesting and I am learning so much more from them.

Both of these wonderful nature inspired artists share their work, processes and the other artists that have inspired them. I decided to finally ‘have a go’ at slow stitching, something I have been longing to try for ages!

Alice Fox explores making inks using the earth, kitchen waste and plants as well as creating art using rusty metals on papers and fabrics. I love her work, check out her fabulous website here.

Slow stitch on eco-printed recycled wool blanket
Slow stitch on eco-printed recycled wool blanket
Slow stitch on eco-printed recycled wool blanket
Slow stitch on eco-printed recycled wool blanket
Test squares of slow stitch on eco-printed recycled wool blanket
Test squares of slow stitch on eco-printed recycled wool blanket

Getting a little more adventurous;

Landscape, slow stitch on eco-printed recycled wool blanket and rusty washer!
Landscape, slow stitch on eco-printed recycled wool blanket and rusty washer!

I would really like to incorporate slow stitching and the concept of mindful, almost meditative creating into my prints, both on paper and fabric in the future…

It has been soooo lovely to simply sit outside in the warm sun with a cup of tea, mindfully and gently stitching away on my foraged eco-printed recycled wool blanket fragments, just being in the moment and allowing the creativity to unfold; from wandering, into stillness.

Thanks for reading…

You can see daily visual diary updates on Instagram 

From Eco-prints to the Chlorophyll Process

“There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more”. – Lord Byron

Hashtag Nature is my Muse
Hashtag Nature is my Muse

I have always loved this verse by Lord Byron, and during this time of lockdown, which is set to continue here in Wales for another three weeks at least, I thought it was very apt.

Having this extra time, along with the continuing sunny weather, has meant that I can spend a lot more time than usual in nature, also giving me the opportunity to experiment further with my nature themed processes such as cyanotype, cyanolumen, eco-printing and even the chlorophyll process.

Curve, Samantha Boulanger, Digital Photograph, 2020
Curve, Samantha Boulanger, Digital Photograph, 2020

Since the beginning of the MA last September, I have kind of been waiting for the trees and plants to fully bloom so that I could go full steam ahead into my art practice. Up until recently, I have been using whatever foliage I could find and grasping the sunny winter days when I could, which has been an interesting and enlightening process in itself.

Now that Spring is really springing and most of the written work has been completed (with only a few more deadlines looming), I can experiment to my hearts’ content!

When Green Meets Grey, Samantha Boulanger, Digital Photograph, 2020
When Green Meets Grey, Samantha Boulanger, Digital Photograph, 2020

In my last blog Botanical Bounty I talked a little bit about the process of eco-printing and showed examples of some that I’d created using various autumn leaves, dried eucalyptus leaves and some dried leaves gifted to me by my late mother.

My most recent batch of eco-prints were created using fresh Spring leaves, a few small rusty pieces and a little natural acid dye, which I think worked quite well despite the leaves being so young.

Eco prints drying
Eco-prints using fresh Spring leaves drying

I will be trying with the same kind of leaves again as they mature throughout the year, as well as adding more rusty pieces of metal and perhaps some bits of wood bark and various mordants etc.

Eco Print on paper, Samantha Boulanger, 2020
Eco print on paper, 2020
Eco Print and rust pieces on paper, Samantha Boulanger, 2020
Eco print and rust pieces on paper, 2020
Eco Print on paper, Samantha Boulanger, 2020
Eco print on paper, 2020
Eco Print on paper, Samantha Boulanger, 2020
Eco print on paper, 2020

I really have enjoyed exploring this form of botanical printing and I am sure that I will continue my experimentations in the weeks ahead, really slow down into it, go deeper and look for ways to take this process further.

I’ve always quite liked to learn the art of bookbinding. I’d really like to turn some of my printed papers into little handmade books; watch this space!

Untitled, Samantha Boulanger, Cyanotype on Dried Leaf, 2020
Cyanotype on dried leaf, 2020

Also, I have been exploring printing onto various natural substrates, such as a dried leaves (above) and some tree bark; Birch tree I think (below), creating some interesting marks on them. I split the tree bark into sections, much like the trunks of trees in a forest, then fixed them to recycled packaging card and displayed in a concertina style booklet.

Cyanotyped Birch tree bark on recycled packaging in a concertina style, 2020
Cyanotype on Birch tree bark on recycled packaging in a concertina style, 2020

The next step on my leafy journey took me to the Chlorophyll process, which is another organic alternative photographic process, where I basically printed photographic images onto some fresh lily leaves using the sunlight to bleach the areas left open of the negative/positive transparencies, it is so simple and yet totally magical!

My first Chlorophyll experiment, May 2020
My first Chlorophyll experiment, May 2020
My first Chlorophyll experiment, May 2020
More Chlorophyll experiments, May 2020
A close up of one of my first Chlorophyll experiments, May 2020
A close up of one of my Chlorophyll experiments, May 2020

Unfortunately for the time being, I have to keep these printed leaves in the dark so that they don’t fade, just until I am able to fix them. I would like to do more of these using different leaves and images. There are some really wonderful examples of this process by artists such as Binh Danh, Tiffany Pereira and more locally Mary Thomas.

Thanks for reading…

You can see daily visual diary updates on Instagram 

 

Botanical Bounty

“Art is contemplation. It is the pleasure of the mind which searches into nature and which there divines the spirit of which nature herself is animated” – Auguste Rodin

Some dried leaves collected and gifted to me by my late mum.
Some dried leaves collected and gifted to me by my late mother

During this time of lockdown, I have had the opportunity to revisit various processes and ideas. Thanks to the wonderful weather we have been having as well as living in the countryside and being so close to a few little woodland areas. I have been able to spend some time soaking up the sunlight through the trees, the general energy, inspiration and sense of calm from nature as she blooms into her Springtime being.

One of the processes I have been exploring further is eco-printing, this is where you place fresh foliage onto paper or fabric, adding various mordants, rusty bits of metal and onion skins for example (I sometimes also add a little acid dye), then sandwich them together tight and boil/simmer for around an hour, this releases the plants goodness combined with the added ingredients onto the paper/fabric leaving wonderous imprints. The reveal at the end is always a pleasure as you never quite know what you will get!

Close up of recycled tin cans rusting nicely over time.
Close up of recycled tin cans rusting nicely over time.
Botanical Eco-Printing session preparation.
Botanical Eco-Printing session preparation.
Close up of prints being boiled in the pot
Close up of prints being boiled in the pot
Eco-Print on Paper 2020
Eco-Print on Paper 2020
Eco-Print on Recycled Wool Blanket. 2020
Eco-Print on Recycled Wool Blanket. 2020

I recently bought a book by Susan Brooks called ‘Eco-Dyed Art Journals, Using Nature’s Imprints’ and it has been extremely useful and interesting, helping me to develop my eco-printing skills much further. I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in trying this process.

Some eco-prints drying
Some eco-prints drying

It is an easy process and quite difficult to make ‘bad’ prints, occasionally some leaves don’t transfer but all the prints that I have made over the past year or so have turned out ok, some I have applied cyanotype onto creating some very interesting effects, some that I have printed onto both in relief and intaglio, others can be framed in their own right or made into books (my next step) and/or used simply as notelets. The possibilities are endless, and again, working with a process that involves going into and working with nature is a HUGE plus for me.

Dragonfly, Samantha Boulanger, Etching on Eco-printed Paper 2019
Dragonfly, Samantha Boulanger, Etching on Eco-printed Paper 2019

Thanks for reading…

You can see daily visual diary updates on Instagram 

 

Creating In The Time Of Corona

“Art is too important not to share” – Romero Britto

During the first few months of this year I have mostly been recovering from the art theory aspect of the MA, plus getting into the swing of the vocational practice module but alongside this I have been continuing experimentation with toning cyanotypes using coffee and green tea, mainly because we hadn’t had too many sunny days during January and February…

Then, just before the Covid19 (Corona virus) lockdown began at the end of March, the sun came out in full force and just I seemed to go crazy, creating all day and it felt so good!

Cyanotypes cooking in the midday sun!
Cyanotypes cooking in the midday sun!

I decided to go back to basics with the cyanotypes, recreating some of the experiments that I had done in the past, mostly in haste for my undergraduate portfolios and assessments I have to say, but this time I really wanted to see more clearly what happened when I added other ingredients, try new things, really play, but mindfully and documenting the exposure times and results etc, the following three images are close ups of cyanotypes with added natural food colourings and lemon juice…

So, I've been experimenting again, back to basics, no foliage or acetate just Cyanotype solution and a lil splash of this and a sprinkle of that, some cling film and full sun! 🌞 Heaven 💙.

So, I've been experimenting again, back to basics, no foliage or acetate just Cyanotype solution and a lil splash of this and a sprinkle of that, some cling film and full sun! 🌞 Heaven 💙.

So, I've been experimenting again, back to basics, no foliage or acetate just Cyanotype solution and a lil splash of this and a sprinkle of that, some cling film and full sun! 🌞 Heaven 💙.

I also experimented with applying the cyanotype solution onto various different substrates, here is one example of a cyanotype printed onto paper previously painted with metallic acrylic paints;

Cyanotype photogram on paper pre painted with metalic acrylic paint
Cyanotype photogram on paper pre painted with metallic acrylic paint

This experimental phase hit a whole new level when I finally dared to try my hand at creating my very own ‘Cyanolumen’ prints. What on earth are these I hear you ask? Well, basically it’s when you apply the usual cyanotype solution onto darkroom photographic paper (in the darkroom or low red light), you can then add your plant matter and/or acetate photo negatives, clip into your contact frames and then expose as usual in sunlight. I was leaving mine out in the sun for around 3-4hours.

I discovered this fascinating process from a very lovely lady from North Wales called Mary Thomas (thank you Mary!), I have been following and admiring her very inspirational work on various social media platforms for some time, but I recently plucked up the courage to actually contact her about this process and we have since become friends.

I strongly urge you to check out Mary’s work, it is just fantastic; Mary Cyanolumen – Instagram

Cyanolumen is a great progression on from cyanotype, I am loving my results so far, but I do have a long way to go with these yet, still so much to learn, unfortunately I’ve run out of the fix that I had, so I can’t really do any more of these in my home studio at the moment, but I am really looking forward to getting back into the university darkrooms in the autumn hopefully so I can experiment further…

Cyanolumen on Fuji Colour Crystal Archive Professional (Type MP) photographic Paper
Cyanolumen on Fuji Colour Crystal Archive Professional (Type MP) Photographic Paper
Cyanolumen on Fuji Colour Crystal Archive Professional (Type MP) photographic Paper
Cyanolumen on Fuji Colour Crystal Archive Professional (Type MP) Photographic Paper
Cyanolumen on Barclay Poly-Grade B/W Glossy Photograpic Paper (Before rinsing and fixing)
Cyanolumen on Barclay Poly-Grade B/W Glossy Photographic Paper (Before rinsing and fixing)
Cyanolumen on Barclay Poly-Grade B/W Glossy Photograpic Paper (After rinsing and fixing)
Cyanolumen on Barclay Poly-Grade B/W Glossy Photographic Paper (After rinsing and fixing)

I also tried creating a simple ‘Lumen’ print but couldn’t get strong results. I mean they are rather nice in their own subtle way, but not quite the effect I was going for…

Lumen print on Fuji Colour Crystal photographic paper
Lumen print on Fuji Colour Crystal Archive Professional (Type MP) Photographic Paper

In times like these it is important to really go with the flow, take the rough with the smooth, the good days and not so good days just as they are, contemplate on all the things you are grateful for and all the ways in which you would like your life to be after all this is over.

I feel immensely lucky to have a small outside space where Guto (my whippet ) and I can sit in the sun, whilst also attempting to grow my own food and flowers (so far so good, they are still alive 😉 ) plus, I do have a brilliant studio space to create in.

I do have much less income now due to shows being cancelled and the galleries being closed etc, (although I do have some extremely kind friends and more recently I have been making a few sales via social media which has really helped!), but this means that I am driving less, saving fuel as well as my impact on the planet however small, I am relaxing and meditating more, eating less, creating more, getting out in to nature more, been having some fabulous whippet woodland walkies, getting more exercise and having more time to reconnect and rebalance.

I still have to make do with all that I have, but I feel that this actually creates an opportunity to be more resourceful and therefore more creative, all part of the fun I guess. I hope you are all staying safe and well… this too shall pass.

Thanks for reading…

You can see daily visual diary updates on Instagram 

Goodbye Perfection, Hello Authenticity

“Trust the wait, embrace the uncertainty, enjoy the beauty of becoming, when nothing is certain, anything is possible” – Mandy Hale

Shadow Self, Samantha Boulanger, Digital Photograph 2020
Shadow Self, Samantha Boulanger, Digital Photograph 2020

There seems to be a number of recurring themes showing up for me to contemplate this year, both creatively and personally, all very much highlighted during this extraordinary time of lockdown due to the Covid19 pandemic. I also believe that on a collective level, there is an opportunity to reflect and slow down, become more present and mindful about what is truly important to us, to really think about what we are doing and why.

Creatively I think that I’m again being invited to really embrace the not knowing and just have fun exploring, investigating, playing and learning. I mean isn’t that partly what doing an MA is about, developing, investigating, exploring, practising and therefore achieving a deeper understanding of your chosen subject and of yourself as an art practitioner?

It is time to start accepting myself just as I am and go with the flow, to allow exploration to lead the way and let the mistakes happen. In fact I think these mistakes need to be made in order to learn and push the boundaries further, so we can stumble upon unplanned roads to meander down, these roads are often where the hidden gems of possibility are found; known as ‘happy accidents‘.

I sometimes think a good way to practice this is to try your hand at teaching others, to put yourself back into the place of the beginner again, back to basics, this being both humbling and enlightening…

Back In The Swing Of It, Samantha Boulanger, Digital Photograph, 2019
Back In The Swing Of It, Samantha Boulanger, Digital Photograph, 2019

Earlier this year during the second semester, I had the fantastic opportunity to assist with the BA first year photography module, specifically introducing the students to the ‘wet cyanotype‘ process that I had been specialising in.

Now, I have previously had a little experience with talking about my work and process to BA first year students, back in my final year as an undergraduate, which I found to be both terrifying and exciting in equal measures, probably due to the fact that I had only just started exploring this process myself at that time.

Morning Group BA Fine Art first year cyanotype workshop
Morning Group BA Fine Art first year cyanotype workshop

This year was different, I would not only be talking to students about my own work and process, I would also be running the workshops myself and getting paid for it! Introducing the traditional cyanotype process in a unique and contemporary way like this is something that I don’t believe has ever been done with students on this module before. I was definitely feeling the pressure, but I did feel less nervous than before. I think the difference being that this time, I had accumulated more of a working knowledge about the process and therefore felt a little more confident discussing it.

It did feel very satisfying to watch how, after some encouragement they quickly started exploring and experimenting with this medium with some really interesting results! I felt very proud, of myself and the students too, the workshops went very well with some really positive feedback.

Afternoon Group BA Fine Art first year cyanotype workshop
Afternoon Group BA Fine Art first year cyanotype workshop

I also took part in first year photography assessments and a photography group critique session with second year students. It was really interesting to experience both of these from another angle, having recently been on the other side of the fence as an undergraduate student at this Uni myself.

There was some really interesting work evolving, I look forward to seeing how they progress!

BA Fine Art Second Year Photography Group Critique 2020
BA Fine Art Second Year Photography Group Critique 2020

Being able to encourage someone to ease up on that striving for perfection, to push boundaries and simply believe in the infinite possibilities within themselves is a great thing to do for someone, I know that I experienced this from my tutors during the latter part of my degree and it has been life changing!

More so, I think that being able to find that encouragement and drive within yourself is not only the ultimate gift to give yourself and your creative practice but also to the world.

Thanks for reading…

You can see daily visual diary updates on Instagram