Cyanotype Workshop

July 17th, Sunday

9:00am – 5:00pm

Cost: $40

No Experience Required

Celeste Roberge, Maine artist from South Portland, will lead a full day workshop focused on cyanotype techniques including the history of the process. Each participant will create four images using materials that they bring from home or find outdoors. The paper and chemicals will be provided.

What is a Cyanotype?

A Cyanotype is a photographic printing process that produces a cyan-blue print, sometimes called Prussian blue. The process was used in the 19th and 20th centuries to produce blueprints. The products are sometimes called Sun Prints and Rayograms. The process uses two chemicals: ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide that are dissolved in water and brushed onto paper in a darkroom. These sheets of prepared paper are kept in the dark until ready for exposure to the sun. The object that you wish to print is arranged on the paper in a darkroom, then exposed to sunlight for a period of time that varies depending on the light conditions. The exposed print is placed in a tray and washed continuously under running water for 5 minutes to dissolve the chemistry and reveal the blue color. The print is then fixed in a solution of hydrogen peroxide diluted in water, then rinsed again and set to dry on a rack.

The process was invented in 1842 by Sir John Herschel however it was first put to extensive use by the botanist and artist, Anna Atkins. There is an extensive collection of Anna Atkins’s cyanotypes of British algae at the New York Public Library. Her book is in the public domain and the NYPL allows you to download her images at no charge. See: https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/collections/photographs-of-british-algae-cyanotype-impressions#/?tab=navigation

Anna Atkins, sometimes known as the first photographer, produced 10 original books of cyanotypes of British algae between 1843 and 1851. All of her prints were made using direct sunlight. Cyanotypes can also be made using a strong light table preferably with a vacuum seal. The stronger the light the shorter the exposure. I have made cyanotypes with exposures of 12 minutes on a bright summer day at high noon and others with exposures of 20 minutes on a less bright day. The longer the exposure the deeper the blue color.

For more information about cyanotypes, visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyanotype

 Suggested materials to bring to the workshop:

Thread, yarn, lace, cotton balls, feathers, thin translucent fabrics like chiffon, netting, fishnets, leaves, petals of flowers, ferns, pine needles, herbs, seaweed, mosses, lichens,…

Tulips, peonies, azaleas have large semi-tranlucent petals. Collect some of those in the Spring when they are in bloom and save for the workshop.

Old slides or negatives could be interesting.

You could make a drawing on paper, scan it, then print it on acetate, clear film, or transparency film and place that on the prepared paper.

Thin materials are best so that they can be sandwiched between the paper and the plexiglass that will hold the paper and objects in place during the exposure.

Translucent or semi-translucent materials allow sunlight to move through and thereby produces more of a sense of depth. Solid materials will appear as a solid white on the blue exposed paper.

Size Limits: All paper will be prepared ahead of time by the instructor. The paper will measure: 11” x 15”.  Be sure that your materials will fit within those limits.