cyanotype

In my studio: Sunny December Cyanotypes

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I've taken advantage of this un-seasonably warm Omaha weather to start another mini-series of cyanotypes. The yupo paper had been prepped a few months ago and showed signs of being exposed already so i knew right away that I would be going over the prints with paint. 

Sunny December Cyanotype || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

Sunny December Cyanotypes || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

Sunny December Cyanotypes || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

I employed an evergreen tree branch cut off from the bottom of my mother-in-law's Christmas tree for both the sun-print and acrylic paint layers. By keeping to a simple color palette, I was able to let the shape of the branch really shine!



Sunny December Cyanotypes || Rachel Loewens Fine Art
Sunny December Cyanotypes || Rachel Loewens Fine Art
Sunny December Cyanotypes || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

I love how the branch keeps a record of the different colors I use along the way. It moves from being just a mark-making tool to a timeline of my process. 


 
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The return of Sun printing

The Return of Sun Printing || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

Alas, I am not yet back to 100% but am doing well enough to work in my garden and outdoor studio (my back porch)  a little bit.  A few years back my husband and I transplanted some ornament grass from my mom's garden to ours because we thought it would add some nice height to our perennial bed. At the time, we did not realize how much more sunshine our garden received so the grass grew more like a weed and began choking out other flowers. Not good!

The Return of Sun Printing || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

 

So this year we've decided to get rid of it once and for all! So far, only one shovel has been completely broken and another is not in the best shape. My husband had to use a crow bar and hammer to get one of the clumps out, and I am continuing to work on the last two. At this rate, it might be July before we're done but it will be so nice to have that off of the checklist!

With all this unwanted plant life piling up on my porch, I find myself again making sun prints with these cast off bits. Kinda like my Winter Garden series but still a bit different. 

There is just such a creative freedom that comes when you don't view your supplies as precious, and there is nothing less precious than weeds or, in this case, clumps of grass destined to go in the yard waste bin. 

The Return of Sun Printing || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

The Return of Sun Printing || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

 
Cyanotype closeup || Rachel Loewens Fine Art || Omaha, NE
Cyanotype closeup || Rachel Loewens Fine Art || Omaha, NE
 
“Before you dismiss any gift as worthless, look again because it may just contain hidden treasure.”  ― Rejoice Denhere, Trash to Treasure

Turning mistakes into masterpieces

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Ahhhhhh! Summer break!!!! We are basking in the routine of sleeping in, wearing pajamas until lunchtime, working in the garden, and then running in the sprinkler to cool off. For two summers in a row I was pregnant and so miserable that I missed out on a lot of the fun that comes along this season but not this year. This year, I am saying no to a lot of good things so as not to miss out doing what I want most. 

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Turning Mistakes Into Masterpieces || A lesson on resilience for children || Rachel Loewens Fine Art
mistakes to masterpieces || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

This morning was to be the start of our drawing lessons. I fell in love with Drawing with Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too by Mona Brookes last fall but couldn’t make it work into our already packed schedule so I shelved it until now. By the time I got showed and dressed my kids had come up with a plan of their own for the morning: making paper crowns. They had paper, scissors, and markers already out on the dining table so I just went with it. Making is making, right?

As goes all craft projects with little humans, it only took about five minutes for disaster to strike. Child #2 made one of his dots bigger than all the others which ruined the pattern he had in his minds so he MUST start over. Then Child #3 colored over the same spot so many times as to cause a slight tear in the paper. There was just no consoling either of them. My mantras about valuing the process, taking risks with our art, and there being no such things as mistakes had absolutely no effect on the flow of tears rolling down their little cheeks. 

mistakes to masterpieces || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

 

So I changed tactics. “Who wants to hear about some of Mommy’s art mess ups? Who wants to see what I did to fix them?” They immediately perked up. At that very moment, I was printing a cyanotype on top of one that did not turn out very well. While doing a double exposure was something I wanted to experiment with, I was doing it out of an attempt to correct/improve upon one that did not turn out at all. 

 

In case that example wasn’t enough for them, I pulled out a print that accidentally fell onto my paint-filled palette. “See here, this big blob of pink. That wasn’t supposed to happen, but I kinda liked it so I dropped it again on the paint to make it look like it was part of the design.” Finally, the light bulbs turned on!!! #2 colored the tops of each triangle in his crown with a black marker and began to make a new pattern. #3 used a whole punch over the part that was ripped and then punched over the middle of each point. 

 

Not only was our morning saved, but my kids learned one of the biggest secrets to success in life: resilient people turn their mistakes into masterpieces. This isn’t just a lesson for artists, but for everyone who takes risks, tries new things, and dares to live a great life!

mistakes to masterpieces || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

Brené Brown writes in her book Rising Strong,

" The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or more acceptable, but our wholeness - even our wholeheartedness - actually depends on the integration of all of experiences including the falls." 

I find it so much easier to be comfortable with my weakness when I am around others who do the same. My hope is that by modeling vulnerability and wholeheartedness to my children, they will grow up to be empathetic and resilient adults!


Spring showers and happy hour

Spring showers and happy hour || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

 

 

My time in the studio this week has been limited but satisfying. I'm making cyanotypes with dead vines and leaves and then printing with acrylic paint on top using the same vines. It has been fun to extend the life of my printing materials!


Spring showers and happy hour || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

This one in particular brings to mind all the spring showers that have filled our Omaha skies this week. The winds were so strong one night that the tornado sirens went off and some people lost power because of falling branches. 

Before this week of rain, we've been spending a lot of time outdoors on our back patio. Someone in our neighborhood was giving away their table for free, and we picked it up on our way to church. We were quite the site pulling up with the back of our minivan door open and the table hanging out the back.

Happy hour || Rachel Loewens

As per our normal routine of taking a Sunday sabbatical, we spent the afternoon reading our library books and sipping on some sour beers (can't remember the name but it was delish!) and boxed wine from Trader Joe's. As much as we've needed the rain this week, I'm ready to feel the sunshine on my face again!

 
Artwork for sale by Omaha-based artist Rachel Loewens
 

Creating and Co-teaching

With the school year being almost over, it is a toss up between me and my daughter over who is the most excited for summer break. She is ready to paint, play outside, and go on adventures any day of the week and well, so am I! 

 

Being so close to the finish means that there are more opportunities for her to study independently, which frees me up to work a bit on the business stuff (like create new listings for my next sale on May 12th) or even make a few prints!

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Collaborating between home schooling and traditional brick and mortar schooling has worked well for our lifestyle and the family culture we want to create. It has also decreased the hours I have in my studio to create, but I think the benefits outweigh the costs. 

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The impending free time seems so close that I can almost taste it. I am daily fighting my tendency to set impossible goals for myself and my time, but doesn't every momma/maker do that?

My dream to do list includes:

+swim lessons for the older two kiddos +begin nature journaling like Greta Eskridge +join the Sumer Reading Program +teach my kids Shakespeare + and spend 25+ hours/week in my studio

I know, too much! But if I don't set stretch goals for myself at the beginning of the season then I will get nothing done! Here is another goal I've set for myself. I am going to try to launch my next collection on Friday, May 12th. Watch for more posts here and on Instagram about what's going to be "in store". Get it? I know! Lame attempt to be punny, but you can't fault a girl for trying!


Printing at the Platte

This Saturday my husband will be racing his mountain bike (weather permitting) at Platte Rive State Park so we've spent a couple Saturdays out there for him to get laps in while I hike and practice cyanotype making. Along with collecting my usual style of treasures like weeds, old seed pods, and dead vines, I found quite a few bones to add to my menagerie. 

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In years past, I've had to share this little outcropping on the river bank with teenagers fishing for whatever dwells in these shallow waters, but this time I had the place to myself!

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The nice thing about making multiple trips to the same location meant I could experiment with how much water I really needed to carry for rinsing the prints, the best locations for letting my prints expose, and having a better grasp of mixing my own chemistry.

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Here are some examples of the art I made. The piece on the left was from my first trip when my papers were over-saturated with chemicals. I took some of the vines from my garden to print with acrylic paint on top of the cyanotype. I'm calling this collection, "Bad Chemistry". ;-)

The one of the left was from this weekend where my skills had definitely improved!!

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Even though the one on the left (and all the other prints from that batch) didn't turn out like I planned, I am loving how they look with the abstract printing on top!


Cyanotype supplies: hand-prepped vs. store made

As much as I love using the ready to use cyanotype papers found at Dick Blick, I've been itching to mix my own chemicals so that I can print on watercolor paper. 

cyanotype || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

Above: store bought paper

Right: hand mixed chemicals on watercolor paper

cyanotype exposing || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

As it usually goes the first time you try something new, I had a few bumps along the way but I've had a bit of success as well. One of my favorites is this hydrangea print below. 

Hydrangea cyanotype || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

I've also been collaging and painting with some of my other pieces and loving them, too!

 
Rachel Loewens || Fine Art
 

This time of figuring out how to best use my supplies is often the most frustrating but also rewarding part of my creative practice!

 

My winter garden

This time of year where the last days of cold wet weather have a firm hold on the forecast, it can be hard to appreciate the beauty of nature. 


Cyanotype in progress || Rachel Loewens
|| The poetry of earth is never dead. || John Keats

I think one of the reasons I am falling in love with the cyanotype printing process is because one can take the remnants of last year's garden and make some truly beautiful abstract artwork. 

Winter Garden 2 || cyanotype || Rachel Loewens
Winter Garden 1 || cyanotype || Rachel Loewens

|| 5x7 digital prints are available for instant download of above images here ||

Field-dried hydrangea blooms from my mother's garden, viny weeds formed into twists and knots, sun sensitive paper, and a light sprinkling of epsom salt; these are my mark making tools while I wait for warm weather to become the norm again.