Illustration using cyanotype process

Inspired by Fiona Robinson’s recent book release “The Bluest of Blues”.

Birds in Tree, Jo Howell, 2019

I recently purchased a beautifully illustrated book about the life of Anna Atkins by Fiona Robinson.

Anna Atkins was the first female scientist to produce a photographically illustrated book. She was fascinated with the natural flora of Britain, and our seas. It was her personal collection of biological specimens that she had meticulously dried out for her herbarium, and labelled with the latin names that she used to create her carefully arranged cyanotypes.

At the time, photography was in it’s infancy and Anna was the only child of a doting scientist father, who encouraged his daughter in all of her studies. Something quite unheard of for a woman at the time. Unfortunately, for many years Anna’s initials at the bottom of her work, A.A, were said to stand for Anonymous Amateur. Her work is sensitive and beautiful. Meticulous and carefully catalogued. Most definitely not the work of an anonymous amateur!

When I saw that a children’s book was being produced about her story, with illustrations using and referencing cyanotype technique, I put my name on the pre-order list. It was not disappointing. The book is a really wonderful production that I think will go a long way to help raise the profile of women and their contributions to the sciences, and art.

Dinosaurs mooching about, Jo Howell, 2019

In the spirit of good fun, and using my many animal shaped sequins, I had a go at creating some simple narratives that combine real plants and objects with illustrative elements. The larger brontosaur was just cut out of paper, as I wanted the dinosaur to be a different scale. I now have set myself the challenge of creating some children’s books, (alongside my many other wide ranging projects!)

I think that this could be a really nice workshop to roll out as well. Maybe for world book day a celebration of literary, science, and art heroes. Female ones in particular. Do you have a heroine that would make a great children’s book?

Thinking caps on!

Off it bird, Jo Howell, 2019

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