Friday, January 15, 2010

Cyanotypes/Sunprinting

Sunprint instructor: Prof. Valerie Dibble KSU

Brief Summary:
Prof. Dibble took us through the process of sunprinting. We actually used a machine that simulated sun-exposure for faster printing, but you can use a blue-bulb light or natural sunlight to produce a print.

- cyanotypes are prints that are made from paper that has been treated with iron salts. When the iron salts are exposed to ultraviolet light reduce their ferrous state and then change color when oxidized. Thereby creating a print.

- The process is fun and simple and can translate to students of all ages.

- Basic process
o Take treated paper and arrange matter on top of the coated surface
o Expose the coated surface to ultraviolet light until the paper turns nearly white
o Rinse the paper in lukewarm water for about a minute
o Put the paper in a bath of cool water and hydrogen peroxide (this oxygenates
the water and helps the print to process more quickly)
o Allow to dry
o You now have a finished print
Reflections
This is a fun and easy process. I think the thing that is most provocative about it, is that while it is so simple, it can be so sophisticated. Small children will no doubt draw a great deal from composing and exposing their paper. But, older students could really show off a more sophisticated understanding of art by applying multiple layers to their work.

They could do this by:
-adding digital transparencies (negatives)
-drawing on transparency film with ink/toner/marker etc. to create a print
-adding organic and found matter to negative and/or other translucent surfaces.
-manipulating negatives/transparencies but cutting them up before printing.

One of the things that most interested me was applying this to a technique that I already use. I use a scratch-board method that is on transparency instead of paper. So, when a student scratches away all that is left is clear film. I've been applying the clear film to paintings etc. . . But this sunprinting raises a cool idea.

What if I were to:
-have students create an image on the scratch film (say a bird)
-make a photocopy of their creation
-have them scratch away more of their film to leave empty area for leaves/matter for a nest.
-make a sunprint using their scratch film and organic matter.
-present the finished work as a triptych of 1: photocopy of transparency, 2: sunprint, 3: actual scratch film
The above are a few scratch film sheets from last year's project. took one and put it on sunprint cloth and left it in the sunshine on a cool day for 20 mins. The result is below:

I like the way this presents the opportunity to discuss positive/negative space. Both pieces look awesome and finished, but for different reasons.

I think it would be interesting to take it a step further and add organic matter from the school yard.

I also think it would be vitally important to present students with a lot of exemplars. I want for my students to not just make a sun-print but to also make quality art work. As such, it would be important for them to view exemplars so they can understand how to make their sun-print into a thoughtful composition.

I also am really enjoying these links which are getting me to expand my mind in terms of sun-printing:

Boomslice has awesome examples. They got me thinking about what TYPES of organic matter would work best in the classroom. For example, ferns seem to have excellent edges for printing.

This site walks teachers how to use sun-printing in a classroom. It really gets you to think about the types of procedures you would need in place to keep order during this process as a class.

This site has a "history of the cyanotype" section. I think this could be really interesting when encouraging students to think about the links between sun-printing and photography.



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