The Indian Paintbrush

A Collection of Images Captured or Created by Anne Melville-Blackburn

Why I Create Images By Hand & Sun

Toned, selectively colorized cyanotype of oxalis (a type of clover) blooms.

Toned, selectively colorized cyanotype of oxalis (a type of clover) blooms.

Well, it is a simple question isn’t it? Why not just use my iPhone, my computer and my printer? Photoshop makes images any color you like, including blue or brown!!! You want to just selectively color the ends of the flower bracts! Simple! Just do it in Photoshop! Well, okay, I admit that, while this is the general contention of the average non-artist or digital point-and-shoot picture taker, this mindset fails to account for the nuances that simple chemical and analogue processes impart to an image. It bypasses the opportunity to be intuitively and physically involved in the making of an image.

My goal is to help my readership understand that I do more than simply record an image or moment. In creating images, I capture a moment and then remake it into something of my own choosing. My mind and my hands are involved and I am more connected to natural process, rather than a process of pixels and automation. For example, plants in a photogram leave their impressions at the peak of their freshness and growth, but I have used the shapes they have made in the instant that the sun passes through to the surface beneath them to create something that transcends beyond this peak moment. The blues of the chemistry further transform the moment into shape and texture. Dancers, frozen in the positions they pass through in a performance, become forever frozen in the positions that they passed through just as the lens opened to the stage. This is a transient moment that I have captured, but the image on the paper is one that I have made permanent from the captured moment using the ever-changing materials of sun and chemistry.

Each time I print the same image, the sunlight may be different, the moisture levels in the air could vary, and even the way that I apply the chemistry could be slightly different. In printing the image by hand using a process like cyanotype, some sunlight and toner, I have recreated an entirely different moment. This recreation is similar to how a plant of the same genetic makeup may not grow to exactly the same shape or size as another of the same and in the way that every performance on stage is a little different, no matter how closely a performer may match the emotion, music, or choreography. So, then, each print is a moment remade – a new image I have created.

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Paintbrush Images

After several months of printing so far this year, I have quite a few images to share and will be adding them as I create blog entries for them. All of them demonstrate revisions that I have made to my process, including the switch to tannic acid as the primary toning agent and, for some images, the use of more saturation in the hand coloring process.

The first image is an example of a cyanotype toned with tannic acid. The bleaching agent used prior to the toner is sodium carbonate, a.k.a. washing soda. The print was first bleached, and then toned twice, with the second application of toner applied in all areas except the highlights so that whites would remain white.

Toned cyanotype of Indian paintbrushes

Toned cyanotype of Indian paintbrushes

The following image is based on my interest in a contrast of saturation palette. After toning, I applied a saturated color via watercolors to select areas of the print. The created contrasts a neutral color with a bright, highly-saturated color. Where the color  blends less with the neutral color, it appears pure, but contains less tonality. The more the color blends into the brown-black, however, the less saturated it appears and the more tonality appears within those areas of the image. Predominantly, the palette is unbalanced with a smaller amount of  a lighter, saturated color in a larger expanse of dark, desaturated color, making the saturated, pure color appear to “extend” from the image. The goal is to explore tonality alongside with saturation and contrast the two attributes.

Handcolored toned cyanotype of Indian Paintbrushes

Handcolored toned cyanotype of Indian paintbrushes

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Kitchen Herbs & Found Items in Blue: The Photogram

First, some history and detail about photograms

Cyanotype of purslane and a dandelion seed head

Purslane and dandelion seed head

 The first cyanotypes created were photograms, or images created by placing actual objects on sensitized paper to block or filter varying degrees of light. Photograms are the negative impressions of the shapes used to filter or block the light. Anna Atkins, one of the best-known cyanotype printers, utilized this process to catalog botanical materials which she later compiled into one of the first picture books in publishing history, A History of British Algae. Plant materials render particularly beautiful impressions because of their varying degrees of translucency and the tonal capabilities of the cyanotype chemistry. The process is slow enough to respond to UV light that one could easily set up a shelter in the middle of the forest and create images from materials found, if a clean source of water (or black bag to store exposed prints for processing later that same day) was available.

Experimentation With Materials and Paper

In this article are some images made from kitchen herbs and wild plants. One image contains a tail feather that Jasper, my cockatiel, lost while in flight. I have printed on two types of paper. One is an archival, 100% cotton buffered paper with a wonderfully smooth texture and the other is a less-expensive student-grade acid-free wood pulp drawing paper.

Cyanotype of parsley and sage-like weed

Parsley and sage-like weed

The first two images, printed on Fabriano Artistico, a 100% cotton fiber, AKD-sized, buffered paper, looks rich and full of tonality. My favorite thing about this paper is its texture. A smooth texture renders fine detail more carefully than a rough texture. Buffered papers, however, are not always ideal for cyanotype, especially if they are too alkaline. Cyanotype prints well on more acidic papers, because alkalies tend to react unfavorably with cyanotype chemistry, causing the image to degrade over time. Acid, however, degrades paper over time; therefore, a paper that is pH-neutral poses the best solution to the more acidic needs of cyanotype, while still maintaining archival quality in the final print.

The next two images were printed on a much cheaper drawing paper, Canson Colorline, for experimentation, and to see how well a cheaper paper rendered a cyanotype image, although I will not use that paper in the future. It is wood pulp-based, which means that, although it is acid-free now, it will not be acid-free forever because wood pulp fibers turn acid with age. The paper produced rich, deep blues, owing to its pH-neutral quality, and it rendered detail surprisingly well, in spite of it’s slightly rougher texture.

Cyanotype of a cockatiel tail feather and parsley.

A cockatiel tail feather and parsley.

cyanotype of parsley and dill

Parsley and dill

 

 

 

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Comments On Posts

I thoroughly enjoy a good dialogue with people who share common interests. In many cases, I even enjoy a good dialogue about other interests I perhaps may have never considered. Such conversations open doors to new ideas and broaden horizons for current ideas and projects. Recently, however, I have had a barrage of comments that are not related to the content of this website. Because this is a professional website and I wish to maintain its relevancy by not including information and comments that do not relate to the content, I will not be able accept any comments or links to content that do not relate to photography, graphic/interactive/digital design or fine art. I anticipate that my readership will find that this simply creates opportunities for more content that is creative content-rich and informative.

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Link to Mindmap Blog

Here is a link to my pen & ink blog containing illustrations of church sermon/teaching notes and illustrated notes from devotions and readings:

http://spiritualmindmap.wordpress.com/

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Art & Coffee Is TONIGHT!!!

Art and Coffee is TONIGHT at BuzzBrews Kitchen in Deep Ellum from 7:30 to 10:30. Come out and enjoy the jazz-themed art event and bring a friend who loves to dance! Swing dance lessons will be available as will lots of local talent presenting their work and creating onsite. For more information, visit the event Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/events/387901271307726/ or http://artlovemagic.com

Silver gelatin photogram lith print of various leaves.

Silver gelatin photogram lith print of various leaves.

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Don Quixote: Kitri’s Variation in tea-toned cyanotype with red accents

 Tea-toned cyanotype of Kitri's Variation from the ballet Don Quixote

Tea-toned cyanotype of Kitri’s Variation from the ballet Don Quixote

This image is a backstage view of a finalist in a classical ballet competition performing her winning variation. It was photographed from the same vantage point as a dancer waiting in the wings would see it if she was awaiting her turn to dance next. I was finished performing for the evening, so I enjoyed the remainder of the performance from the wings and documented some of what I saw with my camera.

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Art & Coffee at BuzzBrews

In one week from today, on Friday, April 12, from 7:30pm -10:30pm, Art Love Magic will host another Art & Coffee event at the BuzzBrews Kitchen in Deep Ellum, Dallas, TX. The event will be jazz-themed and sport visual artists working on their art, musicians and free swing dance lessons. Stop by for an evening of entertainment AND EDU-tainment, as this event will present patrons with the unique experience of learning about the artists’ working processes as well as viewing the work itself.

I will have photography on display and have cyanotype prints in various stages of the process, except for the printing itself. Evening light does not lend itself well to printing. Please stop by my booth to learn about my process as well as some of the other photographic works I will have on display such as oil-colored photograms and other alternative process images.

For more information, visit http://www.artlovemagic.com/.

LavaGlass

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Open the Sliding Glass Door…

After much consideration, and following several revisions to fancy, though platform-restrictive, Flash-based websites, I have decided to simplify. Although I can create simple, fun animations and fancy graphics, my real focus is photography – and not just the digital kind, but the kind that involves sunlight, paintbrushes, contact negatives, objects and real chemistry. While you won’t find ActionScript, spinning logos, or heavily Photoshopped images on this site, you will find a simple, honest approach to image creation and lots of interesting insight to nature, dance and the speed of life. I invite you to open the sliding glass door, pull up a chair and enjoy the conversation while I wait for my next images to appear beneath the glass!

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