Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cyanotype Printing

This is a Cyanotype print. My friend, Brenda Benkenstein Cooper, invited friends to her house this past Saturday to share with us how to do this spectacularly easy and rewarding printing process. She learned the technique from taking a class at The Museum of Printing History here in Houston. Brenda and I met in a letterpress class at the museum last fall.

Brenda has been posting pictures, like these, on Facebook and people have gotten so excited looking at them and wondering about the process. Every once in awhile, I get the pleasure of seeing an artist emerge. Brenda has gone gun-ho since our class at the museum. Her abilities have expanded rapidly as she is just soaking up all the joy she is receiving from learning and doing. She will be a force to reckon with, I guarantee it.

Do you want to learn how to do this? Here is how . . . and these instructions were written by Brenda. She is so organized!!!!!

These are the supplies you need. Only 2 chemicals and a sponge brush, and these chemicals, as Brenda learned in her class, are not terribly toxic. You can touch them with your fingers, but she still suggests using gloves. Bostick & Sullivan sells the kit online for $26.95, under the heading of alternative process kits. With priority shipping, it's just under $35. Here is the link.

After you have the chemicals, you treat the paper. And when the paper dries, it looks like the ones above. The green stripes are the spot where you will lay your negative. You can brush very precisely, or if you are like me, unprecisely. Brenda already had all the paper pretreated for us, so we just had to go and select the size paper to match the photo we wanted to print. And it is important to use watercolor paper as you will have to rinse the photos, and this weight of paper tends to handle the water bath well. I want to try using grocery bags next - will let you know how that works.

Next, you'll need to print negatives on transparencies (at a copy store, or on your home printer if you have good ink). Here's a link to prepare your negatives using photoshop or a free program called GIMP.

Last step, select your paper and negative in a place with as little sunlight or fluorescent light, as you can. Because once these papers hit the light, they start exposing. I did it in my studio, with lights on, but not near where I was standing. At Brenda's house, we did it in a dark bathroom and she had the lamp on the floor with a bulb in it that cast very little light.

This is what your negative looks like. Now, lay a piece of glass on top of it. When I got home, I took a piece of glass out of a frame, cleaned it, and used it on some of mine. Brenda said you can also buy pieces of glass from Texas Art Supply (from the paper counter). So, you have a piece of glass on top, then your negative, and then the paper directly underneath it. Put all of this between 2 pieces of cardboard. This just ensures that no light touches this before you get outside. When you get outside, take the cardboard off, and be sure your shadow is not on the picture or paper. And let the sun expose the negative for you.

How long it takes depends on the time of day you are out there and where the sun is. We found 3 to 3 1/2 minutes was a good time, but you might have to test. Make sure you bring your cell phone to time it!

This is an example of the same picture, but exposed differently.

Next thing you do, when you feel like it is done, cover it back up, go inside and rinse the picture 3 times, dumping the water each time. Immerse it. And then let it sit for about 10 minutes in the water. Now go do another picture. When you come back, take it out of the water and let it dry on paper towels, and blot it on the top with paper towel.

That is it. I liked this picture the best. It's Joby in a Mardi Gras mask. I think it is stunning.

1 comment:

Monica said...

WOW!! this is super cool!!