Ken Smith Photo Journal



Archive for August, 2013

cyano- and other types

without comments


aspen row


During the winter last, I began collecting materials and information to begin making cyanotypes. But one crucial element in the process was the necessity for full sunlight. The paper coated with chemicals is exposed to the UV light from the sun, thru a negative that is laid on top, a piece of glass over it all.

When the sun was finally reliable in May, I began my experiments. First, I had to learn to make enlarged negatives, printing them out on transparency film on my inkjet printer. Then, I needed to learn how to coat the paper; various papers for some would not coat properly, or reacted to the chemicals. Then, I needed to experiment with how much time to expose the sandwich of negative and coated paper, glass, to the sun.

It can be a frustrating process to master, and I am still a student. But the process is gratifying in that it is totally hands-on. A chance to ‘put into’ the work one’s self. I look at it that way, when I am making what I hope crosses into the level of art. Not only must the work be well crafted so there is no distraction, but it must express what some have called an ‘otherness’. It transcends the ordinary and exudes a heart. Sounds metaphysical, but isn’t that what is expected of art? Is not art supposed to transcend everyday life, so that we come away with questions, new experiences, insights? I believe it is so. Starting work in a new medium such as cyanotype, causes not only a journey into new materials, techniques, and processes; but it is also a waundering into the reasons one works in any medium at all – the purposes of making art.

So I practice making cyanotypes, and toning them in tea or coffee, or other types of tannic acid. These toners change the original blue color of the cyanotype into slightly maroon brown, or various shades of brown or grey that are difficult to reproduce from one print to the next. This alternative process is fickle and filled with ambiguity. There is science involved, but it is not exact science. Learning to go with that is part of the process I enjoy practicing.

I am just beginning to exhibit my cyanotypes. I am also renewing my familiarity with my darkroom. Seasons pass. The sun is used for some processes, and the darkness for others. Inkjet for printing on interesting papers. I am having fun with all of it.


Aspen Row. Cyanotype toned in tannic acid. 6″ x 9″ image on Weston’s Diploma Parchment paper.

image copyright © Ken Smith 2013 all rights reserved.

Written by Ken Smith

August 13th, 2013 at 9:34 pm

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