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Sulfurgraph Prints

 About Sulfur and Printing with Sulfur


What is a sulfurgraph print?

     A sulfurgraph print is a monoprint made using elemental sulfur, applied, with other ingredients to paper for artistic purposes. 

Here's a little background on printing with sulfur.

     The mineral sulfur has some unusual properties. It is element number sixteen on the periodic table and in its most common solid allotrope is composed of eight atoms arranged in a ring. It is a shape-shifter in the world of chemistry, able to combine chemically with every other element except for the noble gasses. In its elemental form it can take a wide variety of crystal structures and can even become rubbery under certain conditions.

     Sulfur is the tenth most common element by mass on earth. It is necessary for life and is mostly found in organosulfur compounds. In it's pure elemental form, sulfur is a soft yellow rock, sometimes found near volcanic vents, but most mineral sulfur has been removed from crude oil and natural gas as their principal impurity. For this reason there is a great deal of excess elemental sulfur, more than can be reused by the normal demands of agriculture and industrial chemistry. It has been experimented with as an additive to toughen roads, to make bricks, and is in use as an acid-resistant remeltable concrete. It is widely available and fairly inexpensive.

     But working with sulfur in the visual arts is very challenging. Sulfur concrete requires special equipment and has the color of brown toffee. Working with elemental sulfur requires a laboratory, full personal protective gear, a ventilation system and a dedicated filtration system for scrubbing fumes. Crystalline sulfur is quite soft and lacks durability as a sculpture material. The one application for which sulfur shows some promise is as a printing "ink". When applied in a thin coating to paper, sulfur forms a tough, colorfast bond, with unique properties. The main disadvantage to using sulfur in printing is its color. Since the base color is yellow rather than white, only yellow-based color mixes are possible. This makes it impractical to produce pure blues and violets. But the remaining range of colors, yellow, yellow orange, red, red orange, golds, ochres, greens, blue-greens, browns, and umbers is wide, and the colors have their own unique surface character. Here are some examples of sulfurgraph prints. 

DISCLAIMER: Sulfur is a flammable material that can cause injury or death when inhaled in powder form or when heated to or beyond its melting point. Powdered sulfur can irritate skin and eyes. Working with sulfur requires full protective hazarous materials gear, adequate ventilation, and an exhaust filtration system. Consult all local fire and health authorities and follow their regulations before working with sulfur. Sulfur should be used in strictly controlled laboratory or industrial settings and is NOT recommended as an artist material.

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