Cyanotype / Van Dyke workshop – Halecombe Quarry

Awoke to a bright sunny day (amongst a series of very wet days) so it was all systems go for a workshop ‘in the field’ ! Conducting a workshop outside has logistical problems, especially when you have to construct a mobile ‘darkroom’ (ish!). Halecombe has a lovely grass walkway along the rim, with a large clearing and outstanding view of the working quarry. The bench was the obvious structure to use to create the sunlight proof room, so using blackout material I was able to create a space where the participants could coat the chemicals onto paper and cloth, leave them to dry and process after exposing.

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A blue tarpaulin demarked the classroom, giving us somewhere comfortable and dry to sit on!

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After introducing and discussing the processes and their applications, we coated the materials with the cyanotype sensitizer, made by mixing Ammonium Ferric Citrate and Potassium Ferrycianide.

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Whilst they were drying, we collected plant materials which were then arranged into compositions using printing frames, which were then loaded with the sensitized paper. The frames were then exposed to the sun!

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Watching each print change under the sun, going from yellow to blue to grey, once it is correctly exposed is a fascinating process!

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To ‘develop’ the exposed prints, you wash them in water till the yellow from the unexposed area is removed. This is done under the ‘sun proof’ room as is the drying. We then changed water and chemicals for the Van Dyke process, the poor man’s ‘Kallitype’. The chemicals involved are mixed from Ferric Ammonium Citrate, Tartaric Acid (Brewer’s Yeast) and Silver Nitrate. It is a more complicated, but produces a much more sensitive solution. The bright sunshine meant it could overexpose quite easily!

 

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All 3 under the blackout material, coating paper!!

The prints were exposed the same way, but turn bright orange! We then wash them, and fix them in Hypo solution (Sodium Thiosulphate), which makes them turn brown.

 

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Working in a field situation has its problems, but it is a wonderful way to engage with the landscape. The background of the quarry and its noises enhanced the atmosphere, and at the same time we were able to look at the installed artworks. The results had an ethereal quality and were not as precise as under controlled conditions, which in itself enhanced the experience.

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Christina White  22/8/15

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