Tag Archives: weather

A Roundup Of The Blue Field Trip

6 Sep

Out In The Field

Last week I went on a couple of FIRE Lab field trips with colleagues Steph and Joelle to walk the River Tawe Path, making cyanotypes, or blueprints, along the way. I’d prepared Bockingford paper with a solution of two chemicals, Ammonium ferric citrate and Potassium ferricyanide, in a darkroom and took them with me in a light-proof bag to prevent fogging. On the first day we exposed objects against the paper in brilliant sunshine for 10 minutes but on the overcast and rainy day 2, I upped the exposure time to 20 minutes.

 

 

Historic Process

Cyanotype was one of the earliest forms of photography, invented by Sir John Herschel the Astronomer Royal in 1842. It was quickly adopted by botanists;  Anna Atkins used it to record botanical specimens and produced the first photographic book in 1843 using cyanotype. Before long it was superseded by other more reliable forms of photography but was still used to produce blueprints for engineers. Nowadays it’s very popular in fine art printmaking and alternative photography. The exposed papers are developed simply in cold water with a dash of vinegar, keeping the water flowing for the first five minutes or so.

 

 

Using What’s There

We used plants alongside the riverbank, rubbish found along the path, and gravel from the water’s edge to construct our compositions, mostly holding the objects in place with sheets of glass or larger stones. Some of the digital photographs of the compositions in situ are as lovely as the finished prints.

 

 

SciArt

I’ve always acknowledged the close links between science, technology and art and since I’ve been artist in residence with the FIRE Lab team I’ve been able to put this into practice in a structured way. This collaboration between science, art and design in FIRE Lab is part of the growing SciArt movement that started about half a century ago, back in the 1960’s, when some engineers and artists in the USA got together and started working on interdisciplinary projects that became known as SciArt. Then it all sort of fizzled out …

Fast forward a quarter century to the UK in the mid ‘90s and SciArt resurfaced with the Wellcome Trust, which funded a decade of research projects to see what happened when medical scientists and artists work together. It was good! Since then, there have been more and more scientific research projects across British universities that include an artist as part of the team.

 

 

Seasonal Visits

As well as producing some interesting works of art, the cyanotypes are also useful for recording the rubbish we found polluting the river and the land around it in a way that is more evocative than a photograph and which might resonate with people because they’re such lovely images. We’ll be walking the Tawe every season for the next couple of years, trying out different art techniques each time. On the first field trip in May 2019 we did ‘walk and draw’ and then cyanotype at the end of August. Next season we’ll be into early Winter so we’re going to do some land art  …… watch this space ….

Blue On A Grey Day

29 Aug

exposure 4

Out in the field

A scientist, an artist and a designer walk into a Country Park …… no it’s not a joke, it’s the second cyanotype field trip this week with colleagues from Swansea University’s FIRE Lab, up to the River Tawe as it runs through Craig-y-Nos. What can I say? It’s a glorious place and I feel so privileged to go out and be an artist in places like this. There’s a castle here as well, built for Dame Adelina Patti, the magnificent opera singer.

 

 

Grey Day

Unlike Monday’s field trip in blazing sunshine, today was rainy, cloudy and grey. We waited for it to dry up a bit and exposed the cyanotypes on the bank of the Tawe en plein air. On Monday I allowed 10 minutes exposure, which worked really well (see here) but today I had to guesstimate and allowed 20 minutes. I’ll develop them tomorrow and we’ll see if I guessed right. We created images of things we found around us, being careful not to damage anything and to put things back.

 

 

Queen Anne’s Lace And A Mixed Bouquet

28 Aug

mixed bouquet

An Important River

Here are a couple more cyanotype prints from my field trip on Monday with my colleague Steph from Swansea University’s FIRE Lab. We walked the River Tawe path from Swansea up to Pontardawe, 15 kilometres. Swansea’s name in Welsh is Abertawe which means Mouth of the River Tawe, and Pontardawe means Bridge over the Tawe, and it’s an important river in these parts.

 

Queen Anne’s Lace

We took a print from a clump of gorgeous Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus Carota) and then a mixed bouquet of wild flowers. We used a ten-minute exposure time en plein air at around 1pm on a very sunny August day and then developed the prints in cold running water. The root of Queen Anne’s Lace smells of carrot and has a very high sugar content, second only to beetroot.

 

The FIRE Lab

I am currently artist in residence with The Fire Lab at Swansea University and have been going on field trips with scientific colleagues along the course of The River Tawe. This cyanotype experiment is our latest field trip.

 

 

 

Teasels And Rubbish

27 Aug

Teazles

 

Day Of Reckoning!

Yesterday was cyanotype exposure day, today was cyanotype developing day – and the day of reckoning! So much can go wrong. Cyanotype was the earliest form of photography, invented by Sir John Herschel in 1842 to copy his notes. Anna Atkins used it to record botanical specimens and produced the first photographic book in 1843 using cyanotype. It was quickly superseded by other more reliable forms of photography but was still used to produce blueprints for engineers. Nowadays it’s very popular in fine art printmaking and alternative photography.

 

En Plein Air

Here are a couple of the ones I developed today alongside photos of them being done en plein air. The first is a Teasel, an ancient plant that used to be used in woollen textile manufacture and their seeds are a favourite food of the European Goldfinch. The second is some rubbish we picked up on our walk.

The FIRE Lab

I am currently artist in residence with The Fire Lab at Swansea University and have been going on field trips with scientific colleagues along the course of The River Tawe. This cyanotype experiment is our latest field trip.

 

 

 

Boiling Hot And Blue Prints

26 Aug

 

cyan 3

I went on a field trip alongside the River Tawe today, from Sainsburys in Swansea to Tescos in Pontardawe, about 15 kilometres. It was BOILING hot. My colleague Steph and I did some experimental cyanotype (blue prints) exposures on the way, working with plants at the side of the path, rubbish we picked up and even shadows on the tarmac. I’ll develop these in cold water tomorrow to see what we have. Fingers crossed.

 

 

ps we didn’t pick the plants, but gently bent them and they sprang back afterwards. We disposed of the rubbish responsibly.

 

Preparing For A Blue Day

21 Aug

I’m preparing for a cyanotype field trip over the bank holiday. The idea is to take out prepared cyanotype papers into the landscape and make photograms from what we find. Here are some I did a while back …

 

developing

 

A Heavy Fog

19 Feb

kilns 1

Here’s a drawing I did a while back, en plein air, walking on the Brecon Beacons in winter with a sketchbook of black paper and a stick of white soft oil pastel. It was a very misty day, the fog hung heavily over the landscape and washed out the colour from the surroundings.

 

 

 

 

Foggy And Hangliding

30 Dec

worms head

Husb and I met up with some friends today for a good walk down at Rhossili, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and a short drive from where we live. I took a brown paper sketchbook and some conté crayons to have a bit of a scribble. It was windy, cold and damp which didn’t make it easy to draw en plein air, so I stopped after a quick sketch. We walked down the steep path to the beginning of the causeway to the islands, which were cut off by the tide and then clambered back up the hillside. It was really foggy when we arrived but it lifted and some people took to hangliding above the huge beach.

Not So Hot

28 Jun

exhausted 3

Today’s temperature wasn’t quite so hot and Sparta Puss almost got up off the pouffé, almost …… She managed to be a bit alert this evening and even took a leisurely stroll to hassle a woodlouse for a bit. Hastily scribbled into my Peter Pauper Press ‘The Cat’s Meow Journal’ with a ballpoint pen.

Heat Exhaustion

27 Jun

exhausted 1

Sparta Puss looks the way I feel. It’s an unusually hot spell of weather and the heat is getting to us, cats, dogs, hairless apes and all. Sparta Puss has the right idea – crash out somewhere quiet until the cool night arrives. She can’t escape being scribbled though.

exhausted 2

Drawn with a ballpoint pen into my A5 size Peter Pauper Press ‘The Cat’s Meow’ journal.

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