The sun plays as big a role in Robin Byrne’s portrait exhibit as do local musicians Randi Boulton, Charlie Jacobson, Paeton Cameron and others.
Sun Daze, which runs to the end of the month in The Hub on Ross, is a show of old-style, one-off prints called cyanotypes. The process, in a nutshell, involves Byrnes taking photographs with her digital camera, then letting the sun ‘burn’ her images onto a piece of cotton.
The resulting moody, atmospheric portraits that have been stretched onto frames are mostly of local musicians — including Boulton, Jacobson, Cameron, Boots Graham, Carl Stretton, Dave Gilmore, Kaylee Rose, and the group Blue Moon Marquee.
When it’s mentioned they’re reminiscent of the graphic portraits pioneered by Andy Warhol in his iconic images of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, a smiling Byrnes said, “That’s what I was aiming for!” As a Warhol fan, she added, “I’ve always believed ‘let no good idea be wasted!’”
The Victoria native, who has lived in Red Deer for 30 years, has visual arts degree from the University of Victoria from the 1970s. Byrnes previous exhibited her paintings and drawings, but lately became interested in a Victorian method of printmaking from 1842 that was initially used to produce blueprints.
Cyanotype printing has been brought into the digital age — and Byrnes researched the method online.
While it’s relatively straightforward, she believes it’s not at all simple, since it’s prone to many errors along the way.
Byrnes took hundreds of pictures of performers at the Ross Street Patio concerts and other events with her digital camera. She later edited some of these images to play up the light and dark contrast.
She then printed them off, using her computer printer, on thin, plastic sheets more commonly associated with overhead projectors.
These letter-sized sheets are her negatives. They are laid on top of fabric that’s been treated with two chemicals (ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide) and allowed to dry in her darkened bathroom.
Although Byrnes places a glass sheet over the negative, there’s always the chance a leaf or other obstruction will fall across the glass. This could become an unwanted part of the final image that’s burned onto the fabric by the sun in 20-28 minutes.
“No two (prints) are alike,” she said, since all are subject to chance and weather. (Rain is not a cyanotype-er’s friend, since it will produce streaky images).
Byrnes takes pictures of all kinds of things, but the blue (cyan) outlined prints seem particularly appropriate for images of musicians, who often play moody music in dimly lit bars.
Two of her portraits — of Blue Moon Marquee musicians A.W. Cardinal and Jasmine Colette — will be sold as a fundraiser for the duo, who were robbed during their last concert in Red Deer.
The Sun Daze show continues to Oct. 1.