I have been researching cyanotypes over the past week or so and ended up ordering the chemicals and some really heavy watercolor paper. I bought Jacquard brand chemicals, which come in powder form in two decent sized bottles for $18.99. You just add water to fill each bottle, then use equal parts of both chemicals when you are ready to apply the base to the paper. A handy sponge brush comes with the kit. It’s super easy! The most important thing to remember is you must paint the solution onto the paper as well as let it dry in a room free of sunlight because UV (ultraviolet) rays are what make the chemicals on the paper react. I bought a very heavy watercolor paper because the paper needs to withstand being rinsed and soaked in water for quite a long time.
This morning, I mixed a very small amount of each of the chemicals in a plastic bowl, then brushed it on to five sheets of the paper. There was a lot left over, so next time I will use very, very small amounts. I closed the windowless bathroom door and let the paper dry for an hour. Yesterday, I had already gathered some interesting pieces from the yard and continued that hunt this morning in my house. I used some dried weeds, pine needles, strings, and even some netted material from a sack of oranges. I took all the materials, keeping the treated watercolor paper in between some cardboard so that it didn’t get exposed to light, into the dimly lit garage and quickly made each compositions. I didn’t have a solid plan, I was just experimenting. When do I ever have a solid plan? Good question but that’s getting off topic!
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you try this yourself, read and follow all the instructions that come with the chemicals. There are also several tutorial videos available online that give excellent instructions. I am sharing my experience – not directives.
I took the first ones out of the sun after about 12 minutes. The one I left out the longest (20 minutes maybe?) ended up overexposed and basically a dud. So, I learned it’s best to bring them out of the sun after 10 minutes. I rinsed each one under running water for a couple minutes, then let them sit in water for a couple more minutes. I then laid them flat to dry. Here are the compositions of the four successful exposures along with what they looked like after they were rinsed, but still wet.
I used some old frame glass I had in my studio to hold everything in place. They really came in handy for this project so it’s a win for the studio pack rat ha ha.
I saved the best for last! This last one is my favorite. I am excited to do more of these and plan to incorporate these images into encaustic very soon! I highly recommend trying this yourself. This would be a super fun family project, but you would need an adult to mix, paint, and rinse the chemical solution. Wear gloves and eye protection as well when working with the chemical solutions. The kids can keep busy hunting and gathering all the natural materials.