Monday, February 01, 2010

The New Blue

Have you heard about the new blue pigment that was discovered recently? The article that I read called it a "happy accident." Chemists at Oregon State University formulated a new blue pigment, completely by accident!

Although their intentions had nothing to do with making a new pigment, they found that when manganese oxide was heated to a very high temperature, the black mineral turned a brilliant blue color. Unlike current blues, the blue pigment seems to be safe, stable, non-toxic, durable and colorfast.This is the good news. The bad news is right now, it is expensive to make. But they are working on that. So, my fellow artists, don't hold your breath waiting for it to appear on the art supply store shelves just yet! Neat, though, huh?!
Click here to read the New York Times article about it.

ROSEMARY (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Speaking of blue, I grow the herb, Rosemary, in my herb garden, and when I care for it properly, it will sometimes will put forth small, pretty blooms of pale blue. Folklore regarding this perennial evergreen shrub is abundant. 

One story claims that during the Virgin Mary's flight to Egypt with the Christ child, she hung her cloak on a rosemary bush and the white flowers turned blue. Ancient students in Greece believed this herb would improve their memory, so they wore rosemary garlands. Thought to ward off evil spirits in the middle Ages, sprigs would be placed under bed pillows.  Because it is best known as a symbol of remembrance, it has been associated with both weddings and funerals. Saint Thomas More spoke about the herb: "I let it runne all over my garden wall, not onlie because my bees love it, but because 'tis the herb sacred to remembrance, and therefore to friendship"

Footnote - Rosemary info: Quoted from page 429 of "Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs," Claire Kowalchik & William H Hylton, Editors, Rodale Press, Inc, Emmaus, PA 1987
Rosemary Morning (c) 2008 The artist

The image you see here is a cyanotype photogram which I created by first pre-treating some watercolor paper with a photosensitive solution. When dry, freshly picked sprigs of rosemary were placed on the paper and then it was exposed to sunlight. When exposure was complete, I washed the paper in a bath of plain water. The ultrviolet rays in the sunlight caused the chemical to bond to the paper. Where no sunlight was allowed, the chemical washed away, leaving an outline silhouette of the rosemary.

Wintertime in Southeastern Pennsylvania is not very conducive to this process, as it needs strong sunlight, and this time of year, the sun's rays are much weaker due to its angle. So I am not producing any new cyanotype photograms these days. However, what I have been doing, is adding color to some previously created cyanotypes, using pastels, colored pencil, and watercolor paint. I am having a grand old time playing with color!

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