Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart Blog

MAKING BLUEPRINTS TODAY–Our World Cyanotype Day Australian Submission

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Making cyanotypes in Tasmania


We created some cyanotypes yesterday to contribute to the Australian World Cyanotype Day (WCD) travelling exhibition. Setting up a coating studio inside a friend’s house in Cygnet Tasmania we exposed the sensitised material on the front veranda and washed-out on the shadow side of the house. It all sounds rather an impromptu affair and in some ways it is, as travelling artists we have encountered these challenges before making-do with the site-specific needs of each art-making opportunity.


But what is difficult in Tasmania right now is the weather. We’ve been ready for weeks to make cyanotypes and yet the pervading conditions have been overcast or scattered heavy clouds between sunny gaps, rain or fog. And as cyanotypes work best with clear, bright and directly overhead sunlight it has been difficult. Added to this mid-winter’s low angle of sunlight at 43°south means exposure times have to be extended 3-4 times that commonly achievable up the east coast of Australia.

Making cyanotypes is a process that takes place over time. Chemicals are mixed, the substrate coated with a brush. On this occasion we were printing on cloth and due to the ‘flow-through’ the material we coated a few sheets sitting on top of each other. These super wet sheets then needs to dry. Cloth takes quite a while to dry due to the large amount of chemical absorbed in the fibers although drying can be accelerated by using a blow heater or hair dryer.


Coating the material…



Next a series of test exposures may need to take place to know, in the specific sunlight conditions you may be working in. After exposure the material is washed-out in running water – we add a little citric acid. And for an accurate density check the sheet needs to be dried a little. Then you can make your first exposure. At the moment in Tassie we’ve been working with 15 minute exposures!!


BOM – looking for gaps between the clouds

All this means that you may start out with sunny skies, do your tests and then start you exposure and the clouds come in – the Bureau of Meteorology website is regularly monitored to make sure that you have an adequate time over which to work.


Making the exposure…



Washing out after exposure…



Finally it’s hung up to dry …


10 starfish that are an invasive species with 8 bones of a Tasmanian wallaby by Victoria Cooper

Vicky’s work is a response to contemporary land and sea issues in Tasmania. The image is a double-sided cyanotype – shown here is the transparency of the work with the blending of the two images.


Swatches of blue: a colour of Tasmania by Doug Spowart

Doug’s cyanotype continued his experiments in direct light-strike on cyanotype sensitised materials. On this occasion the folding and refolding over the duration of the exposure creates a pattern of different blue densities. These emulate, like colour swatches, the different hues and tints of blue in the Tasmanian landscape. This is also a double-sided cyanotype that in this photo is still quite wet and yet to dry down.

Both cyanotypes have been made on linen material and are about 30 centimetres square. The linen was purchased at a local charity shop as second-hand white pillowslips. The A Smith Gallery presentation of these fabric squares has them pegged to lines running across the gallery ceiling where they appear like flags.


In The Maud Street Photo Gallery


The cyanotypes that we have made will be included in an exhibition of Australian cyanotypers at The Maud Street Photo Gallery in Brisbane during August 2-15. The exhibition is being co-curated by The Cyanotype in Australia team Gail Neumann and us (Vicky+Doug), and will bring together works from all over the country. It is a follow-up exhibition to the WCD exhibition In Anna’s Garden’ curated by Stephanie Richter, Gillian Jones and us at Monash Gallery of Art last year.


In Anna’s Garden


This year’s show is entitled ‘Land/Sea/Sky’ and the show at The Maud Street Photo Gallery is just the beginning as the works will be forwarded to the A Smith Gallery in Johnson City Texas for showing on World Cyanotype Day along with other works from across the world. At the end of the A Smith Gallery show the works will be sent on for exhibition in New Orleans at the PhotoNOLA Festival.

Participants in the exhibition will make a contribution to the costs of the Maud show as well as courier delivery to the U.S.A. and back home to Australia.



An invitation has gone out through various networks inviting cyanotype makers to participate in the Australian WCD Travelling exhibition. If you make cyanotypes please consider being a contributor to the show. If know someone who does please let them know about the exhibition and pass on to them the AUST_WCD_SUBMISSION.


For information about The Cyanotype in Australia and to join the the group’s FACEBOOK page: CLICK HERE


To Download a PDF copy of the catalogue for the MGA exhibition click the link: In_Anna’s_Garden-CATALOGUE-FINAL-INT






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