web analytics

Susan Glover

Photography and the Black Art [Printmaking]

Cyanotype Day One: New Things, Old Things, Good Things


There was a buzz in the Scott Building at Plymouth Uni. A new cohort, new looks, new ways of doing things. I was there to meet with our External Examiner Guy Moreton; one of the last details to grace the culmination of the degree. Well, that and the upcoming final show in the newly re-named gallery: The Arts Institute (another new thing, old thing, good thing!) It was a wonderful conversation and a chance to reflect and express what these three years have meant, which ran over the half hour slot. (Hopefully a good thing?) Afterwards I sneaked into the Alternative Process darkroom to develop my first cyanotype test strips.

There’s plenty of how-to’s available on the Web, Christopher James is always a good place to start – and finish! The tests were bog-standard –though they are a step towards some other ideas. So, no need to go into much detail on that account. What I was testing for was whether, or not, I had a viable solution and to expose strips of gampi and vintage litho paper (circa Seventies). Tests for things like exposure time (one minute increments), single vs. double coats, quality of paper … etcetera etcetera.

Cyanotype Blotter Paper

Cyanotype on blotter paper

Both papers tested out to 300 seconds with a UV exposure unit. The gampi was a devil to wash (and to coat). It’s so delicate and tissue-thin, it spun out of the wash tray and I thought had gone down the drain. Double coating seemed to pull better tones from both papers, but the fibres were more prevalent and visible on the single-coated gampi strip; adding a delicate texture to the blue field.

But it’s not all process and no play. A last minute entry was to coat some archival blotter paper, rather than throwing out the last bit left of the solution. A complete nightmare to coat as the paper is unsized and purpose-made to soak up liquid. The solution bled through to the back, looked blotchy and the paper curled up in protest. Throwing on some items from my box of “stuff” with no testing. Just a straightforward 300 seconds to see what would happen. A pleasant surprise! The highlights took over twenty minutes to wash out but the blues were rich with nice edges on the details. A positive enough result to actually coat some large pieces, and maybe even a test strip or two 😉


To see the rest of the tests


Leave a Reply