Rainy Day Activities for the Sun Printer

What’s a sun printer to do when the clouds march in? Peter J. Blackburn provides a few ideas.

Writer and photography / Peter J. Blackburn

S. Kisse
Tricolor gum photograph

As a gum printer who depends upon cloudless sunny days to expose negatives, I am so thankful to live in Texas. More often than not, the sun is readily available here and I can print all year round. Of course, outdoor exposures tend to be longer in winter and the occasional freezing temperatures dampen my desire to venture out. On the other hand, the dry summer sun sets the stage for a printer’s paradise.

Still, there are days, and sometimes weeks, when the weather outside is frightful and printing is far from delightful. I cannot express strongly enough how frustrating those time are to me, especially when I am particularly eager to complete a set of prints for an exhibition. When those down times come, I tend to work on other aspects of production: preparing negatives, shrinking paper, pin registration, cataloging, and more. However, I can only endure those tasks in small, well-measured quantities, no matter how important and needful.

S. Kisse
Woodcut print
Ink on paper

Here’s some good news I learned many years ago. Gum printing and most other forms of photographic creation falls under the domain of printmaking—imagine that! The cyanotype, the platinum, and the salt print share many of the production characteristics of the linocut, the silkscreen, and the lithograph. All of those images can be rendered onto paper and many prints can be produced from one negative, plate, or block. I find that designs made from inks and those from exposures can complement each other quite nicely, either combined in the same piece or mixed in a series of images. Indeed, they can be combined together to form infinite varieties.

S. Kisse
Ink, watercolor
This image was created using the blotted line transfer method made popular by Andy Warhol.

This article contains a few examples of my “rainy day activities” which have provided opportunities to recreate and reinterpret my gum work in other printmaking forms. It is the exploration and utilization of printmaking which has kept me focused, preventing despair when the sun take a hiatus.

I encourage you to take advantage of other expressive mediums such as printmaking to enhance and play off your images originally created in alternative processes. Think of them as alternative processes for your alternative processes!

Peter J. Blackburn, MA, has been working in gum and casein bichromate printing for over thirty years. He is represented by Afterimage Gallery, Dallas, Texas. You can also see Peter J. Blackburn’s gallery or read more articles he has written.

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