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Artist Harnesses the Sun for Memorable Cyanotype Nature Prints

Judy uses the sun to develop this cyanotype print which captures images of the backyard flora she gathered and arranged herself on specially treated paper. Scroll down for more of her work...

Artist: Judy Walsberg

Town: Plato Center, IL (near Elgin)

Medium: Cyanotype Printing

Words of Encouragement:

“Pursue what you’re drawn to and love what you do. Get over the need to please others with your art. What you make has to come from your own self. And the good news is, the more you engage in it, the better you get.”

If anyone knows how to work well with Mother Nature, it’s Judy Walsberg. Harnessing the sun’s rays to make memorable prints, she gathers interesting flora, whips up a magic concoction of spices and more in her kitchen, lays it artistically on paper for the sun to develop, and VOILA! She has created an interesting, one-of-a-kind picture, that can never be

“I’ve always been interested in plants and nature,” Judy says, who worked previously as a dried floral designer. “Being surrounded by natural things makes me feel good.”

So, cyanoprinting turns out to be a good match to her interests, skills, and love of indigo blue.

What is a cyanotype?

According to the New York Film Academy student website, here’s the definition: Cyanotype is one of the oldest photographic processes we know of and has a distinctive blue color. Cyanotypes are made by treating a surface — paper, cloth or leather — with iron salts which then react to UV light. Originally used to document botanical specimens by placing them on treated papers and exposing them to the sun, it was also an early way to create copies of drawings, especially architectural drawings – thus the name “blueprints.”

Judy, who enjoys experimentation with this process, learned she can easily vary the colors she gets by using kitchen spices, teas, coffee, lemon juice, vinegar, and more.

Not only does she use photographic papers, but she also discovered that hot and cold press watercolor papers provide the same outcome.

She begins the process by mixing potassium ferricyanide and ferric ammonium citrate – one capful of each – and wets the paper she’ll be using.

She may also spritz it with lemon juice or vinegar. Then she adds leaves for texture, gauze, and whatever else she feels like using. She places her design outside in the sun – with protective coverings (like Saran Wrap or clear glass) so the design doesn’t blow away. Then she waits anywhere from 10 minutes to three days as the sun magically imprints her design onto the paper.

Judy picks items growing in her yard such as leaves, weeds, flowers, grasses, and Queen Anne’s lace. When she does this process during the winter, she works from dried items that she pressed earlier. In good weather, she uses freshly picked.

“This process doesn’t require a big investment on the part of the artist,” Judy notes. “Plus, the technique works equally well on fabrics too – such as a small scarf. I wouldn’t recommend it for a larger fabric project. And, because the sun’s processing can be relatively quick, I’m always so excited to see what it will look like when it’s done.”

Her prices for her 8 x 10 and 9 x 12 cyanoprints range from $35 to $50, sold matted, not framed. If you’re interested in learning more, you can text Judy at: 331-210-3810.

The Catalpa Leaf


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