You may have noted that when it comes to thinking up activities for my kids to do I definitely lean towards the Arts and Humanities. My brain is not much capable of STEM learning and, as such, I think it best that I leave much of that to their formal education providers. Sun printing, therefore, illustrates the proximity to which my activities with the kids broach science learning. It definitely was an experiment, however, as I have never done sun printing myself. We were all learning together.
I talked to my kids a bit about cyanotypes, an early form of photography and the process that creates what we think of as blueprints. I explained that the paper we were using was coated with a photosensitive chemical and that exposure to the sun would cause a reaction. We would then be developing the resulting print by rinsing it in a solution of water and a little lemon juice. I told the boys that it reminded me of developing photographs in the dark room back in my High School days to which the oldest remarked, “You are that old?” I let that one slide. Science bit over, it was time to get creative and experiment.
First up was my 9 year old who wanted to use a water pistol because it had such a strong, recognisable shape. We let the water pistol sit between the perspex and the paper for five minutes and then quickly moved it to the solution, which I had set up in the shade of the porch. It was interesting seeing the colours switch from positive to negative (or vice versa as I am not sure which way they would be categorised). Not overly happy with his first print, he then did a second using a dollar symbol that was much more flat to the paper.
Next up, my 13 year old decided to experiment with an Ugly Doll because it had a strong outline but was squishily dimensional. The result showed the gradiation in colours that occurs when the sun is blocked to varying degrees.
My ten year old tried out a selection of toys from his room. We assumed that the lizard, being flattest, would create the strongest silhoutte and that Batman would be the blurriest but our thesis turned out to be incorrect. The Lego man was surprisingly effective as a mask.
My 7 year old decided to use items from nature and went hunting and gathering in the garden. His turned out to be the best idea as his chosen foliage pressed completely flat beneath the perspex and resulted in the most clearly defined shapes.
I took a print from my house and car keys to see how the paper handled the mixture of flat items with slightly more dimensional items, such as the keyrings and car fob. The photos show the change that occurs before and after the prints are washed in the developing solution.
Sun printing was a fun activity. It was refreshing to be doing something together that none of us had any experience with so that we were all experimenting and learning together. I have a few sheets of photosensitive paper left so we might return to this activity again before the summer is out.