Blue Experiments

Why is experimentation important in cyanotype photographic process?

Over the holidays I started experimenting with various additions to the chemistry. For example cold water, warm water, vinegar, lemon juice, soap etc. The addition of these extra chemicals sometimes created interesting effects. Adding water allows for a lot more movement in the solution. You can retain effects like splash marks, or chemical bleeding. Though the exposure becomes a little harder to control, the addition of these extra steps can create some very interesting painterly effects. Being from a fine art background, I can’t get enough of a good painterly mark!


So, I did some experiments to get us started. The paper was prepared with 1:1 solution with a thin layer applied on the paper. A good watercolour paper is essential, or at least a paper that can stand up to the wet process. After applying the solution the paper is then dried for 24 – 48 hours. When about to do the exposure, place the objects onto the paper and try adding water to the surface. I either used my fingers to flick it on, or used an atomiser for more even coverage, but you can try any way you like.

For some reason many people think that when they come to do an art activity that they have to create something ‘great’. The real attitude to getting the most out of any learning situation is to not be afraid of making a mistake. We all make mistakes. Fact of life! The difference between you and a professional artist is that the professional has probably got years of mistakes behind them. Mistakes are the best teacher, and the harshest.

When you attend an art course go with an open mind. Don’t pressure yourself to create something amazing first time. Acknowledge that you are taking part in a learning process. The aim for most art tutors is just to give you a taste of what can be achieved, to stoke the fire in your soul. You’ll know when it happens because you will become obsessed with learning all of the in’s and out’s of a technique.

For me, working with photographic chemistry is akin to alchemy. There are so many subtle nuances when it comes to chemistry. For example, temperature, acid content in paper, lime content in the water, ratios of chemical mixes, application techniques, timing etc

If any single element is changed when working chemically, then you can expect deviations in the outcome. I try to keep lots of notes when I am working with photographic processes. If you do something amazing, then you want to know how to replicate it! I have been working with cyanotype mixtures for several years now, and I am still only at the beginning of the journey.


You can buy limited edition prints from my shop. Thanks for reading!


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