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