Contemplating Gum Bichromate printing

Drop Area (Gardening for Ordnance) copyright 2022 Douglas Stockdale –

One of the nice things about a holiday is a time for self-reflection, which I had an opportunity to have this past week while visiting my son in Oregon. And visiting various wineries to sample their vintage products probably helped as well. I suspect that one of the things that was at the back of my mind was the pending artist book production for The Flow of Light Brushes the Shadow, which the next task is to complete the limited edition printing for the Special Artist Edition. (done!) The second thing I was thinking ahead about is the next photo book Gardening for Ordnance and how might I use to create a Special Artist Edition for that book.

Thus my next book might be a great opportunity to implement another of my bucket list projects; gum bichromate printing. When I first considered gum and platinum/palladium contact printing, this necessitated a large negative, such as a 8 x 10″ using an equally sized view camera. Okay, as you might imagine, this was a long time ago in the time of dinosaurs. Now, by creating digital negatives for contact printing, the starting image size is almost irrelevant. Cool!

Nevertheless, this means learning in a lot more details on exactly how to make a decent gum bichromate print. At some point I suspect I will take a gum workshop to further tweak the process, but reading the various how-to methodologies on the web, I am pretty sure I can learn the basics on my own. There is some another value in being a formulation scientist for a pharmaceutical company; chemistry is not as daunting. Good news: the pigments used for the gum process includes watercolors, which as a water colorist, I have a really full range of professional tube pigments already in hand. Likewise, I have a couple of hake brushes for applying the solution on the water color paper, while my supply of watercolor paper does not include sheets of hot-press, while I have used this in the past but did not like these papers for my watercolor painting. So some hot-press watercolor paper is on my list of acquisitions, as is the gum Arabic, Potassium dichromate, Potassium Metabisulfite (clearing solution) as well as a contact printing frame.

Now thinking what my starting point is for the sheet size I am going to print, which should determine what size contact printing frame to purchase. The larger the sheet I am going to print then everything gets upsized accordingly; watercolor paper, processing trays, amount of chemicals I need to use, the space I need to process this in. Thus, before I go hog-wild on this track, I am thinking small scale and if I like the results, then I can start worrying about up-sizing this process. Nice thing at a smaller scale (8 x 10″ contact frame), this would work fine with creating a limited edition gum print for the Gardening for Ordnance Artist Special Edition, such as a 6 x 6′ or 7 x 7″ gum print on a 8 x 10 hot-press watercolor sheet. One concern looking ahead is that including a limited edition gum print is going to substantially increase the price of an Artist Special Edition, so something else to mull over for a while.

The image above, Drop Zone, has always been on my short list for the images I want to include in Gardening for Ordnance. The juxtaposition of the kids toys and small chair in close proximity to the spiny cactus has always put me on edge. Yes, there is a family story about a cactus garden while growing-up in Phoenix, but that’s for another day. Let’s just say that those cactus barbs can really, really hurt, going in as well as when coming out. The small ‘drop zone’ sign is a wonderful added bonus for the visual tension.

Okay, now to take a break and start looking at what 8 x 10″ used-oats contract frames might be available on eBay. fun, fun, fun.

Cheers & make every day an Earth Day



 The Flow of Light Brushes the Shadow, an artist book from Singular Images Press, Fall 2022 release, $60.00 (plus CA sales tax for those residing in the USA and shipping expenses). Message me or singularimagespress@gmail for shipping details and PayPal invoice. Note: The Artist Special Edition (book + extra print) is Sold Out


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