Cyanotype on paper
Dimensions: 61cm (H) x 45.7cm (W) x 0.3cm (D) / 24" (H) x 18" (W) x 0.12" (D)
Note: Actual colours may vary due to photography & computer settings.
Cyanotypes are a kind of 19th-century alternative (cameraless) photographic process. While traditional cyanotypes are a navy blue background with sharp white silhouettes, I prefer to manipulate the process to achieve varying softer shades of blue, rather like aquatint etchings.
This is double exposure cyanotype. The different shades of blue are created by exposing some parts of the light-sensitive paper to sunlight longer than others.
My layering and monochromatic multi-tone technique is inspired by different kinds of printmaking that I have practised in the past, especially multiple-plate block prints and aquatints. All my botanical cyanotypes are one-of-kind monotypes. There is no etched copper plate, no carved woodblock, no printing press and no ink to reproduce these images. There is no film negative either. Each is a unique, hand-printed lensless photograph made using real plants from my own garden or my neighbours’ gardens.
Hometown: San Francisco
Based in: Oakland, California, USA
I live in the woods in northern California. Whenever I leave my house I am under an endless web of tree branches. Their silhouettes have etched themselves into my memory over the decades.
My paintings and prints are always nature-inspired and nearly always monochromatic. Each one is an immersion in a single color, an ode to that shade. The Japanese have the expression "forest bathing" and I engage in a sort of "color bathing." Throwing several colors together strikes me as visually noisy. Having only varying shades of a single color in a picture exudes a calm, balance and focus that I find deeply attractive.
Having spent a decade as a printmaker carving wood cuts and linocuts, printing etchings, aquatints and monotypes, monochrome is how my mind works. I focus on one color at a time, the composition, balance of positive and negative space, patterns, lines and cutout shapes.
My paintings are an escape, a window to a simpler world. A perfect walk at twilight, the soft light at sunrise. I like simplicity. I do not like chaos. In my paintings of trees, I want the viewer to experience the beauty of walking under a canopy of trees. In my abstract paintings, I draw on the memories of webs and repeating patterns made by branches and leaves, sometimes quite symmetrically and sometimes in a more free flowing pattern. Wherever you look, there seems to be the shape of leaves.
Every mark in my paintings is deliberate, not random, and my colors are often applied thinly and sheer. This is in keeping with my background as a printmaker. Printmakers must plan meticulously before they begin the irreversible process of block carving or acid etching. I do not “muddy” my paint while on the canvas nor lay on paint in a thick impasto. I create thin layers of color, one over the other, the way you roll ink on a block and only the sheerest layer of color is transferred to the paper once it has passed through the press. My color schemes are simple, my lines neat, and my compositions balanced like a Japanese woodcut or a sumi ink painting.
I currently work in two mediums, acrylic painting and cyanotypes, a form of cameraless photography. Cyanotypes are a 19th century form of lensless photography also known as photograms, blueprints and sun prints. They resemble block prints or etchings but use no ink nor printing press. Light “etches” the image onto light-sensitive paper. Traditional single-exposure cyanotype prints are a solid dark blue with a crisp white silhouette. My cyanotypes of varying shades of blue are triple-exposure and sometimes quadruple-exposure cyanotypes. Plant cuttings are arranged on paper previously coated with light-sensitive chemicals and then rearranged in different locations on the same paper, taking it in and out of sunlight, and then re-exposing the paper to light multiple times, creating ghostly overlapping images. The effect is like moonlight or sunlight through leaves. 12 seconds is enough to create an entirely different shade of blue. And just as in regular photography with a camera, anything moved while being exposed to light will blur the image.
My botanical cyanotypes are each one-of-a-kind slow cameraless photographs made outdoors using natural light and no film negative. There is no lens, no etched plate, no ink or printing press. There is no way to reproduce exactly the same print even if the same plant cuttings are kept and used in a series before they wilt. As much time is spent planning the exact composition and carefully timing the separate exposures as in the final exposure and the rinsing.
My work is collected internationally and has been exhibited at galleries across the United States. My paintings and prints hang in public offices and private homes in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe. I live in Oakland, California, across the bay from San Francisco, where I was born and raised.
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