Sunday, August 12, 2012

Midnight Blues

   What is it about the color blue that is so appealing? I've heard that 90% of all people prefer the color blue. When I'm dying textiles with indigo or processing cyanotype prints, I'm struck by the lovely shades of navy and turquoise blue produced and I understand the sentiment. The book of the week, Midnight Blues, a tribute to those shades of blue.
Midnight Blues
The painted canvas cover is a miniature version of the Nag Hammadi Book of Lists I made several weeks ago. This tiny soft cover book will fit into the palm of a hand. An antique shell button and satin ribbon wrap and loop to form the closure.

Turquoise and navy and powder puff blue
   The pages are cyanotypes on handmade Arches and Rives BFK paper.  A cyanotype is a photographic printing process that gives a cyan-blue print. The process was first discovered in the 1840’s by Sir John Herschel. By the 1870's the process was used for making blueprints. Blueprints are still made by this technique today. Toward the end of the 19th century and to the present, cyanotype printing became popular among amateur photographers because of its simplicity and low cost.

   To make a cyanotype print, the paper is first treated with a sensitizer solution containing a mixture of ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide. After drying the paper, images in the form of cut-outs, stencils, negatives, or actual objects are placed on top of the paper and  exposed to ultraviolet light (sunlight works great!), which produces a blue shadow. After sufficient exposure, the paper is washed in water to remove the soluble unexposed salts. Upon drying, the image darkens as a result of slow oxidation in air. This blue pigment, known as Prussian Blue, has been used for printing ink, paint pigment, typewriter ribbon, and carbon paper. Treatment with oxidants, such as hydrogen peroxide or potassium dichromate, produces a darker blue (almost black) image.
A cyanotype painting
   I always imagine this will be a great "craft activity" to take to the beach... just coat the paper, lay it in the sand beside some sea oats, and watch the events of the day cause the shadows of blue hues... So that is on my TO Do list. For now, I just chase the 10 minutes of sunlight all around my tree-filled yard until I get enough UV rays to create the blues. And that reminds me of music... which John Lee Hooker said so well... "The blues tells a story. Every line of the blues has a meaning."