Join us for this edition of Artful Insights, as we explore the fascinating world of Cyanotype Printing with Singaporean artist Odelia Yen.
The owner of ProjectBlue, Odelia invites us to discover more about this art form and her creative journey. So, let's delve into the world of Cyanotype Printing and uncover the secrets of this mesmerizing art!
Have you heard of blueprints? Back in the days, practicing engineers, architects, and drafters often called the duplicates of the original drawings as “blueprints”, or “floor plans”, because the photocopiers were not invented (yet)! Hence, cyanotype printing served as a function by duplicating copies of the master copy. Essentially, we were the ‘manual photocopiers’ before the photocopiers were invented.
Let's dive back a little bit. Shall we?
Cyanotype printing was discovered in 1842 by Sir John Herschel – a chemist, experimental photographer, mathematician and an astronomer. He unearthed the concoction of cyanotype printing by combining Ferric Ammonium Citrate and Potassium Ferricyanide. It was a monumental discovery as the concoction is reactive to Ultraviolet Light - in other words, “sun” sensitive.
It is an alternative photographic printing process also commonly known as sun-printing. This is not a common knowledge, especially in Singapore. Hence, I want to bring back this practice - This is my little snippet!
Did I learn cyanotype printing in school?
Yes and no! I picked up this skill, however, it is not part of the school’s curriculum. I learnt it from my senior as we were both in the darkroom. Her name is Ratna S. and she was practicing something out of the blue (literally).
Her practice piqued my curiosity as I was captivated by the beautiful blue-hued images produced. The beauty found in the silhouettes and details amidst the shades of blue give images a timeless and ethereal beauty that inspires me whenever a print is made.
Why am I so obsessed with cyanotype printing?
Aside from the blue beauty, it is easy to grasp that skill as we are playing with shadows. (Instead of grey shadows, the part where you block the UV rays out will be white. Think of it as reverse shadow!)
Furthermore, every single print is definitely unique and different, similar to how our fingerprints are.
Cyanotype printing has many advantages. We are able to use any physical objects to print images on different mediums such as paper, wood, or fabrics. It is such a versatile medium; you can paint the working solution in any way you want and that is one of the distinctive beauties.
Speaking of materials, I love to use common materials that are easily available, for example - parchment paper or simply baking paper, chicken rice / nasi lemak brown paper, chopping board etc.
In addition, you can use hydrogen peroxide (easily available at any pharmacy or even Shopee) or distilled vinegar (easily available at all supermarkets) to increase the contrast or intensity.
You can also use instant coffee or tea to tone the colour.
You do not need a dark room or specialised equipment to start making prints. All you need to develop your prints is simply, tepid water and the UV light from the Sun, which is free and all around us!
Most of all, I love working under the sun as it helps with our circadian rhythm and alleviates anxieties. From a personal standpoint, Cyanotype printing is not only an art form, but also a form of therapy as well.
What is the downside of cyanotype printing?
It is subjective to different individuals.
● It is a monoprint.
- These concoctions only print in prussian blue. You can alter the colour to sepia with tea toning, however it is still a monoprint.
● Time exposure.
- Time exposure may vary as it is weather dependent.
- It is not advisable to expose your prints if there are countless dreary clouds around.
● Weather dependent.
- Unexpected change in weather; rain or cloudy.
Do I have failed prints?
Yes! Of course! I have my fair share of failures such as inconsistent prints due to the fickle sun and dreary clouds, tons of broken paper and absent prints due to underexposure or overexposure.
What frustrates me when it comes to cyanotype printing?
My expectations did not meet in reality; therefore, I was disappointed.
I ought to learn that there are no 100% success rates. It is the process of failures that compels and ensures that the next print will be better. That is how you get better with your prints. This practice builds resilience and strengthens the patience in me.
All in all, everything you want to achieve needs practice, sheer perseverance and determination! So do not be disheartened and continue to press on!!!
What are my mission and vision statements?
Our goal is to initiate a “cyanotype movement” in Singapore to create a platform, a community to bring people together to inspire, advocate and support each other in the arts. Additionally, to amplify our re-discovered unique identities as individuals.
I hope that through ProjectBlue, you too can experience the excitement of creating your own art prints using Cyanotype printing. Creating your unique piece, at the same time re-discovering your identity!
ABOUT THE ARTIST:
Odelia Yen graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree with Honours in Fine Arts at Lasalle College of the Arts – Goldsmith, University of London.
Her artworks were previously showcased in DECK, Institute of Contemporary Arts, ULTRASUPERNEW Gallery, Alliance Francaise, and Roger & Sons. Her works were also featured in workshops at Nanyang Technological University Mental Health Week – Mind Matters, Singapore Mental Health Film Festival and Ngee Ann Polytechnic – Immersive EdTech Meetup 3/2019: Let’s Build!
She is the founder of Cyanotype Printing workshop, ProjectBlue.