Going Around in Circles – 19 Mar 19

“Life is a circle. The end of one journey is the beginning of the next.” ― Joseph M. Marshall III, The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History

I was going to write about the colour blue and my fascination with it but then I was inspired to change the subject today. I have been really enjoying my art history module; Photography Begins; European Genius and the Birth of a New Aesthetic. The lectures are so stimulating and I find the history of photography itself extremely fascinating, however, I have to say, I am not so keen on writing about it in essay form 😉

Anyway, during today’s lecture we touched upon George Eastman (1854 – 1932) and his 1889 invention of the Kodak Brownie Model One dry plate camera.

“The Kodak produced circular snapshots, two and a half inches in diameter. The Kodak was sold already loaded with enough paper-based roll film to take one hundred photographs. After the film had been exposed, the entire camera was returned to the factory for the film to be developed and printed.The camera, reloaded with fresh film, was then returned to its owner, together with a set of prints. To sum up the Kodak system, Eastman devised the brilliantly simple sales slogan: ‘You press the button, we do the rest.’” (https://publicdomainreview.org/collections/kodak-no-1-circular-snapshots/).

Photo from https://www.brownie-camera.com/31.shtml

The images created with this camera were circular and this really appeals to me. There is something really pleasing about imagery within a circle, no sharp edges, softly held within the curves.

Photo from https://publicdomainreview.org/collections/kodak-no-1-circular-snapshots/

During the past year or so I have found a few artists making use of this wonderful shape for their work. One of which is a circular landscape etching by Australian artist Bonita Ely (1946-). I like how the circular image isn’t exact, creating an almost organic feel, much like the landscape she is depicting.

Bonita Ely, Untitled (Circular Landscape) 1977, Etching and Aquatint

I feel really drawn to this circular shape, feels very symbolic of nature and indeed life. With its cyclical flow, what goes around comes around, endings automatically becoming new beginnings. I just love it.

Early last year, I naturally started to lean towards the circular image, drawn to its ‘all seeing eye’ like quality. One of my favourite images is Light Levels (below) that I took during my second year, of the mezzanine balcony and sky light within the School of Art building, taken from the ground floor looking up through the majestic ‘eye’ of this grand old building. It has and will probably always signify the feeling of awe and wonder I have felt during and carried with me throughout studying my degree here.

Samantha Boulanger, Light Levels, Digital Photograph 2018

This fascination of the circular form has brought me here, to now, with my cyanotypes;

Samantha Boulanger Cyanotype
Samantha Boulanger – Self Portrait – Cyanotype

I still have a long way to go with these, continuously developing my style using this wonderful yet slightly, capricious process… I have to say though the fun is definitely in the making.

Samantha Boulanger Cyanotype
Samantha Boulanger – Luna – Cyanotype


A few more artists that I have discovered using this circular imagery in their work who are inspiring me along the way;

Jennifer Brunjes New Orleans, LA From One Cyanotype and gold leaf 14 x 11
Jennifer Brunjes New Orleans, LA From One Cyanotype and gold leaf
Fran Sanchez Montesinos 19Jan19
Fran Sanchez Montesinos – Albumen print on cardboard from collodion negative. Petzval lens.
Rosie Emerson – Ebony – Cyanotype
Chloe McCarrick – Lunar Lady – Gold Leaf Cyanotype

I am so happy to have very recently (today!) discovered Rosie Emerson and Chloe McCarrick, absolutely blown away by their work and styles. It is so nice to see that I am not the only one who is perhaps a little obsessed with this process, likes the idea of playing with gold leaf and creating it all within a circular form. I am discovering new and exciting artists all the time. Very encouraging and inspiring.

What’s next?

Continuing with my cyanotypes, I need to create a lot more now in preparation for our end of degree show (opening on the 18th May!). Mantra du jour is ‘Keep it simple’. Plus I have to create a suite of four prints for the extra 10 credits, so I am currently attempting to create some photo etchings.

I am almost at the end of writing my art history essay (and my tether 😉 ), when this is complete I will then begin writing my dissertation.

I think I will be a very busy bee over the Easter break… hoping to be able to take a little time off to re-charge too though.

Not long to go now!!? 😀


Method in my Madness – 04 Mar 19

“Mistakes are the portals of discovery” – James Joyce

Wow, what a couple of weeks I have had?! Peaks, troughs, disappointments, health problems, changes, highs and lows a plenty!?! I am most definitely feeling the stress of this final year, had a personal blip in my life recently that meant I fell behind my own schedule, my energy and motivation slowed right down…I got quite run down, it really did take some strength getting myself going again!

I have been looking at my work recently, to see where to take it next, what it all means? I was drawn in particular at the circle shape in the cyanotype work that I had been intuitively creating and this got me asking myself why I create the work that I do?

As a part of my Research, Process and Practice module, I am encouraged to juxtapose the actual physical artwork that I am working on for the degree show with the exploration and justifications to why I am doing what I am doing, where it originates etc. I have been resisting this, thinking, well it’s intuitive, it’s about me being in nature etc… but when I stopped and took the time to really break it down, so many connections and possibilities emerged and I found it to be a very interesting road to wander down…

So, I began asking myself some questions, beginning with the reasons for choosing the process of Cyanotype itself.

Self Portrait. Traditional Cyanotype. 2018

What is it that attracts me to the cyanotype process?

I fell in love with the deep, rich, sumptuous tones of the blue that this process is named after; Cyan. Although my love affair with blue actually began with Teal and  more recently, Prussian blue… what is it about these blues that can evoke such feelings of calm? A subject that I am researching for a future blog post!

The results are in!
My wet on wet cyanotype experiments.

The alchemical feel of the cyanotype process, particularly the ‘wet on wet’ process (pictured above) where I am mixing up the chemicals, painting them onto the paper, adding the various ingredients (from the kitchen cupboard too?!), laying down the foraged plant matter and of course the putting them out in the sunshine! It’s kind of like a healing process for me, food for my soul, a real connection with my environment…

Space, Time and Grounded in Stillness

Being in nature is as essential to me as breathing, in fact the trees are enabling me to do just that! Also the feeling of ‘other worldliness’ and escape, although I feel it is much more than that, it’s like being suspended in time and space and yet grounded at the same time, I feel my soul being fed and nourished, the smell, the sounds, the sense of well-being, I really do feel at one with everything. Have been known to sit by, touch and hug trees on my walks in forests. Yep, tree-hugger and proud!

The cyanotype process (also known as blueprint) is one of the earlier photographic processes, first introduced by John Herschel (1792-1871) in 1842, he was an astronomer trying to figure out a way to copy his notes.

“Hershal managed to fix pictures using hyposulphite of soda as early as 1839. In the early days the paper was coated with iron salts and then used for contact printing. The paper was then washed in water and resulted in a white image on a deep blue background. (Apart from the cyanotype process, Herschel also gave us the words photography, negative, positive and snapshot.)” (Spike MacGee)

Cyanotype image by Anna Atkins (1799-1871)

Anna Atkins (1799-1871), a botanist, was the first person to put this process to use and photographically illustrate her book of ferns that was published in 1843 by Atkins herself.  Her father was a friend of the photographer William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877). Atkins book preceded Talbots’ own book ‘Pencil of Nature’ in 1844.

My Cyanotype inspirations include Valerie D. Cargo who I discovered in an alternative photography group on Facebook. Cargo works using the wet on wet cyanoptype process or ‘Spicey Cys’ as she has referred to it. I fell in love with this process and began experimenting myself, eventually (I was anxious to start with?!)

Valerie D Cargo - spicy cys 2
Valerie D Cargo – spicy cy

I also discovered the work of Jill Welham, who incidentally won ‘International Garden Photographer of the Year 2019’ with a beautiful wet on wet cyanotype image.

Jill Welham Mirrored Images
Jill Welham (Mirrored Images) Wet on Wet Cyanotype

Jill said; “Wet cyanotype is a modified version of the 19th century photographic printing process, introducing moisture, in a variety of ways, onto the treated paper before exposure. The chemical reaction produces interesting fluid patterns and colours not normally present in a traditional cyanotype print. The resulting pieces are unique and present botanical prints in a different and painterly manner. Each piece is created with plants and flowers from my own garden and exposed using only the North Yorkshire sun.”

Other inspiration has come to me from artists such as, Meghann Riepenhoff, Herve Benicourt, Joanne Gannard, Jennifer Brunges and more recently Nikolai Ishchuk and Bob Cnoops.

Jennifer Brunjes New Orleans, LA From One Cyanotype and gold leaf 14 x 11
Jennifer Brunjes New Orleans, LA From One Cyanotype and gold leaf
Nikolai Ishchuk
Cyaqno-Dreamtime-1990-e bob cnoops
Bob Cnoops -Cyaqno-Dreamtime-1990

Such a mesmerising process creating interesting and aesthetically pleasing imagery, it’s difficult not to fall in love with it really…

What’s next?

Further questions to be asked and answered as well as more process and practice research to be had.

I am still working out presentation logistics for my cyanotypes, I am being encouraged to work bigger, I am unsure at this time, but it is a possibility, well to at least try it. I hope to incorporate some embossing and possibly photo etching too.

I am looking into creating a photo book to accompany my exhibition with all the photographs I am continually taking. (Please check out my instagram feed for regular postings of these – @samanthaboulangerartist)

Essay writing continues albeit slowly in the background… hoping to get this written within the next two weeks ideally…

Still so much to be done, created and explored… yikes!!!