Anna Atkins and the first photographically illustrated book

This little video popped up on my Facebook – so I thought I’d put a link on here where it is not so likely to get lost.

 

 

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Bush Baby

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Bush Baby, 2016.
Cyanotype on teabags, linocut and collagraph embossing on Fabriano Rosaspina paper.
35.5 cms x 24 cms

Bush Baby is also a new work for The Nature of Printmaking exhibition at the Arts and Ecology Centre, Maroochy Bushland Botanical Gardens at Tanawha from 6th-15th January, 2017. It is very much a mixed media work, but in printmaking tradition I plan to do an edition of 3. This one is 1/3 – and I have also done a 2nd one. The work started with an idea to use cyanotype to print lace onto the skirt frills – however, when the exhibition came up I changed my ideas to fit more with the natural environment. I wanted a work that would connect with the nurturing aspect of the gardens and also remind us that we needed to look after the environment as we would a child.

I also needed a plan and it eventually formulated to:

  1. Sew the teabags into three long strips, and then use smallish leaves and ferns to create the cyanotype image. Handstitch two rows of running stitch to use to gather the frills – there was definitely a dressmaking element in this one.

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2. I knew I needed to print the linocut before the embossing and certainly the frills – otherwise both might flatten in the press. My almost forgotten draftsmanship skills rose from the mists of the past – I drew the dress on tracing paper, then a flower pattern on half the bodice. A newer skill meant I could scan and reverse the image in Photoshop, then print out and trace it onto the other side of the bodice. The scallops along the hemline used an old dressmakers trick of folding paper in equal divisions and drawing in the scallops – something I had learnt as a child from my mother.

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3. I transferred the pattern to Silk Cut lino. It was a bit fiddly to cut. Gamblin inks and a press were used to print the dress on Fabriano Rosaspina paper. This smooth paper is a favourite of mine for linoprints, and I knew it would also be suitable for embossing.

4. A fairly large (for me, anyway) collograph plate was made for the embossing. The leaves were arranged to fit around the little dress, and glued (reluctantly) with Aquadhere onto to some ‘box board’. Eucalyptus leaves tend to be stiff, and the oils also go against adhering to the paper. The plate was shellacked on both sides once it dried and was also left for a week to dry. Dampened paper and the press were used for the embossing. I wasn’t too sure what would happen to the linocut ink, but being dampened didn’t effect it at all. I had left the oil based ink to dry for at least a week and that may have helped. I don’t think the process would have worked with water based ink.

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5. All that was left now was to attach the frills. I put this off for a few days while contemplating sewing them on, but found that a glue stick glued the frills to the paper easily.

I had foreseen a lot of problems with the piece. It had been a time consuming process, but apart from printing one embossing plate upside down, everything worked as it should and I am pleased with the result and looking forward to seeing my work on exhibition.

Transpiration

I had agreed to be part of an exhibition with the Maleny Printmakers in January at the Maroochy Bushland Botanic Garden at Tanawha. The exhibition is to be held in the Arts & Ecology Centre. I rather liked the sound of this as my first degree had a strong ecology bias and my second one was in art. I was flattered to be asked to be involved, then found the group to be good company as well as good printmakers, so have now joined the Maleny Printmakers.

I planned to do a work around transpiration and decided on a layered work to reference the interconnection between topography, biology and the plants themselves. My process was a cyanotype background, linocut, and then handstitching on top.

I was very pleased with the resulting cyanotype image as I’ve done enough to know that there is always a lot of luck involved in the process and often the luck just isn’t there! It was so simple – gradually drop the leaves onto the coated surface, and move them around now an again. This, however, definitely required a windless day. Exposure time was around 6 minutes in bright sunlight.

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Leaves in place

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After exposure

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After rinsing. Moving the leaves around while exposing resulted in the above images where the leaves appear to be floating, or sinking into water.

There was, of course, a long way to go after my background was finished. Various plant biological components were carved into soft cut lino (mainly for ease of cutting out the shapes themselves) and printed with Gamblin inks. There were stem cross sections, chloroplasts, mitochondria and vascular bundles. The next layer used both the drainage pattern and topographical contours of the Maroochy Bushland Botanic Garden, and was handsewn on top of the other images. Here is a picture of the finished work.

dsc_9337-webTranspiration, cyanotype, linocut and handstitching on Fabriano Rosaspina paper. 36 cms x 50 cms.

Update on pretty things

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I had thought I’d make a small artist book out of my ‘pretty things’ however after a few days the blue from the cyanotype seeped through to the back of the Garza Engraving paper. They may have been unsuitable for a book, however they were soon re-purposed and made into cards.

Pretty things

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It is rather nice to play around with pretty things – lace, flowers, leaves etc. Sometimes (maybe a lot of the time) I think that my works in progress look much nicer than the final outcome. There is a lot of serendipity in the cyanotype process – what works one day, may not work the next. Part of the reason though was to try out some new paper, Garza Engraving 180gsm. The cyanotype worked quite well on it – although it didn’t appear to be as robust as the Arches or Fabriano paper that I usually use when it came to washing out the cyanotype solution. However, it is a lighter paper than what I usually use, so that may also be a factor. Still, a nice paper with a pleasant textured surface and the cyanotype did produce a nice deep blue on it.

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The paper came with a small printing press which is something I am very happy to have in my studio. At this stage I am not sure whether printmaking will just be a diversion from cyanotype, or whether I will have some luck at combining the two. One of the problems with being a mixed media artist is that I never quite know what to do next!

Lost pic

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I couldn’t find this pic when I was looking for it for my last post. Now I know where it is, I wonder whether I’ll file it somewhere sensible so I can find it again. It is amazing just how many photographs get taken in the course of doing a uni degree! At least now I have finished studying I have time to sort my files out.

More ‘Chatting with Darwin’

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I’ve been so busy I’d almost forgotten about my artist books.  The book is about 7 metres long (if you lay it flat) – the blue salt washed pages reference my days sailing from Ecuador to the Marquesas, and the yellow ones my time in the Galapagos Islands. Cyanotype was used for the covers. On the concertina book I crisscrossed Darwin’s and my journal writing to bridge the century and a half that separated our voyages.

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A cast net (that had also circumnavigated with us) was used to make a simple pattern with cyanotype for the strips that joined the pages together.