Ode to Anna Atkins is a new artists’ book that I’ve just released. I was fortunate enough to see Anna Atkins’ book, British Algae, while I was in New York. Though made in 1843, the images are still clear, beautiful and delicate. I was thrilled with Anna Atkins book when I first saw photos of it in Art History. Having the opportunity to actually see it in person – a highlight of my trip to New York.
Empire State Building? That’s nice, honey. Oh, look! Cyanotypes…
My artists’ book is an ode to Anna Atkins using cyanotypes of flowers of Northern California. I just couldn’t get excited about algae. I showed it for the first time last weekend at Roadworks at San Francisco Center for the Book. Everyone loved the tiny little details visible in each cyanotype. The trick, press and dry the flowers first. Fresh flowers have too much dimensionality and create shadows in the cyanotypes. Very flat, very dry flowers are as effective as a digital negative.
The mottled background was very popular, too. I thought a clean blue background would be too one-dimensional with the flat white so instead of applying the cyanotype solution in a meticulous bi-directional two layered process, I used a sponge brush, only brushed in one direction and let the solution pool slightly in some areas. It looks a bit blotchy in the photo, above, but the actual cyanotypes have more of a subtle morphing of color between areas. I’ve made 3 complete books out of the edition of 10 so I’ve got a lot more cyanotypes to make. Fortunately I love the process and the sound of the water while rinsing the images. It’s kind of like having one of those little fountains in the kitchen – it just happens to have photos in it.
This is a good time, too, to thank Brian Taylor, my alternative processes professor from SJSU, whose enthusiasm for cyanotype was the beginning of my own.