Tuesday 18 March 2014



Two weeks ago Dev and I went to a Cyanotype workshop at the Atkinson Gallery with cyanotype artist  Sian Hughes.  Very exciting, and we produced quite a number of different images during the day.  There were only six of us on the workshop which gave us plenty of opportunity to ask questions of Sian, who was very generous with both her knowledge and materials.

I've chosen my favourite pieces from my day's output to show you.  The camera didn't seem to like the colour of the cyanotypes which come out with a deep, rich blue, even though the colour seems to vary in my photographs.

A5 Cyanotype with dried weeds and weed seeds
4" x 5.5" - Jez
Sian explains the process on her website better than I could.  She writes:

      This camera-less photographic process was developed in 1842 by the scientist John Herschel. Paper coated with a light sensitive solution turns green. When this is exposed to sunlight or ultra violet light it changes to a rich indigo.  Objects placed on the paper, blocking the light, leave precise white photographic images

A5 Cyanotype with dried stem fragments and honesty seed
4" x 5.5" - Jez
Sian had prepared paper for us in advance with the light-sensitive chemicals, and all we had to do was follow her instructions and demonstration.  We placed our prepared paper with the items chosen for our image into a vacuum bag, like the ones you store clothes in, and extracted the air.  We put it in the light box for several minutes, then took it out and placed it in water for another few minutes and then dried it on the window-sill.  

                                     Cyanotype with feather, butterfly image
                                      on acetate, and small plant form
                       5.5" x 8" - Jez
2" x 7.5"
- Jez
Because we made our own choice of materials from the table full of dried plants, flowers, leaves, seeds, and other materials, everything was an experiment.  Some pieces turned out well while others were not as successful, and that was a good way to learn.  I'm showing you the ones I was most pleased with.

Cyanotype with map on clear acetate
5.5" x 4" - Jez
I can't remember exactly, because we were all working at such a speed and with so much enthusiasm, but I think this map was printed on clear acetate sheet.  I chose it to experiment with because I was intrigued by the idea of using something other than plant forms.  It came out really well (and it is the right way up), and at home I mounted it on a piece of blue paper to frame it.

Cyanotype with text printed on
thin plastic wrapper
4" x 5.5" - Jez
I picked a crumpled piece of plastic wrapper for foam cups out of one of Sian's boxes, spread it out as carefully as possible and laid it on the prepared paper, plus a paper-clip that I saw on the table, ready to put in the light box.  Lovely clear print.

Front cover of book
Dried leaves
A4 watercolour paper - Jez
Towards the end of the workshop Sian said that we were each going to make a book with several blank pages so that, back home, we could stick our day's work in it as a memento.  We each prepared a cyanotype front cover and a back cover with A4 watercolour paper and our own choice of material for the image.  I found these delicate fern-like dried leaves among Sian's supplies.

The image above shows the front of my assembled book, with slender bamboo sticks tied with blue ribbon to hold the book together, and I think the image is really stunning.

Back cover of book
Dried plant stems
A4 watercolour paper - Jez
The finished version of the back cover shown above included the addition of some pen drawing and water-colour paint to form 'flowers'.  I found that the dried plant material I had chosen for the back didn't produce a clear image as you can see below, and there wasn't time to make another one. 

This was the result of the cyanotype image when I made up the book, but at home I used a Pitt Artists Pen to turn the blotchy shapes into 'flowers' and painted them yellow, which I think improved the image greatly.

Just two more examples:

Cyanotype with scissors, strips of card
and gauze ribbon tied loosely in a knot
4" x 5.5" - Jez
As we packed up at the end of the workshop, Sian gave each of us two pieces of prepared paper, wrapped in kitchen foil to keep out the light, so that we could make a couple more images at home.  I wanted something completely different, so I used a pair of nail scissors and two strips of card that were on my desk, plus the small piece of ribbon.

I simply placed these items on the prepared paper, no vacuum bag, just the paper and the chosen items.  Then I put it on the window-sill for a few minutes on what was fortunately a sunny day.  As the sun moved across the sky, it threw the shadow of the scissor handles in slightly different positions, which makes the scissors look almost 3D.

Cyanotype with 'tree shape' cut
from thin card, plus star sequins.
4" x 5.5" - Jez
My last piece was my favourite, with a mask shape cut quickly from thin card, and sequins added for stars or flowers.  Exposed on the window-sill like the scissors image.

Such an enjoyable and productive course.  Making these reminded me that about 12 years ago I bought some 'Sun Print' paper to use with my youngest granddaughter.  We simply put the papers out on the path with our chosen material on top - a feather, dead leaves or flowers.  Then we left them to let the sun turn the unexposed paper blue, like the cyanotypes, though it is a different process.  I also remembered that I had kept the unused Sun Print paper wrapped securely in black plastic, and I even managed to find it.  I shall experiment to see if it still works.  Just Google 'Sun Print Paper, and you will find companies that sell it if you'd like to try it.


  1. Thank you for sharing such an interesting post Jez and love the results, Annette x

  2. Love what you have shown today, the delicate patterns on the blue backgrounds are fabulous. This is a most interesting technique, great to be able to join in a workshop and have such fun. Valerie

  3. These are so lovely. I especially love the way the map turned out. I believe I have some sun print paper hanging around my house. Time to revisit it - perhaps the sun will even come out for me!

  4. What a fascinating process! I have never tried anything like this, the feather and delicate leaf shapes are so beautiful, what a great sounding course. You do seem to find some interesting workshops Jez.

  5. never heard of this technique. Indeed a very fascinating process. Love the things you made, but my most favorite is the map. Amazing how you did that. That last one is so great too, with the tiny stars. Unbelievable that you get such crisp images just from putting it in the sun. Thanks for explaining it too ....

  6. This is an inspiring technique.Love the result!

  7. Fascinating process. Thanks so much for sharing it with us. I love to branch out and try new techniques. It always gets the creative juices flowing in surprising and delightful directions.

  8. these are all just super Jez!! The feather is really gorgeous!

  9. How fun! I have tried this with photographic papers before but my results weren't as sharp as yours. I especially love the one with the feather.

  10. Beautiful pieces, the unpredictability is what draws me to them. My favourite is the feather too... maybe we are all birds together? :-)

  11. Wow this is all so beautifully impressive....Love what you have done even though I will have to look this up since I'm still a bit confused by part of the process!! Thanks for sharing! Looks like you got a lot out of this class!

    Hugs Giggles

  12. This all is fascinating! what an interesting course you had! Beautiful blue colors!

  13. Wow. These cyanotypes are so cool. I love the nature ones, but I love how you tried different things too. How beautiful!

  14. At first I thought it was the sun print paper, one of the many projects on my to do list. These are so very lovely and the map is my favourite. The sequin stars are whimsical as well. Thanks for sharing these gorgeous art experiments , so beautiful!Imagine all the possibilities : )

    Annabelle m..m

  15. What a cool process! I have never seen anything like it! Beautiful! Happy PPF!

  16. This looks fantastic and sounds like a workshop worth taking. I am always on the look out for something different and wouldn't mind trying something like this. Thanks Jez. ManonX

  17. I've never tried this paper! Love the outcome!

  18. Hi Jez, I just had to come by and say hello! :-)
    I loved reading your post about this "magic" printmaking! And I'll have to check out the sun print paper!

    Wishing you all the best

  19. Oh this was so interesting jez. I remember recently seeing that sun paper mentioned on the Cowling Wilcox site - I'm sure of it - I must investigate as it's something Ruby would love to do! Your last one is my very favourite - it's magical.

  20. These are all beautiful. I especially like the one with the delicate plant and then all the little stars.


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