I’ve now printed the final plate for my Other World series which I prepared and wrote about on March 11th and it’s come out very well, but there is a point I wish to stress about this kind of printing style – following on from my collagraph tutorial posted here.
With most print forms it’s possible to have a reasonable idea of your outcome, generally.
For example, if you cut lino, as per my sample to the left, you can clearly see the image you are going to transfer (albeit in reverse). Even when working in abstraction you can put a sheet of light-weight paper over the lino surface and take a rubbing, so you will still have a fair idea of what to expect.
The same can be said of woodblock printing.
When it comes to solar plate etching the start point is usually an image photocopied onto acetate. You can also draw or paint, or make other marks, onto acetate.
You can use one or several layers of cut acetate pieces together (similar to a transparent collage) over the solar plate and etch the surface.
But however you do it you need, at least, a source image. As with lino-printing, this method also ensures you have a good idea of what the final imagery will be. The look will only be changed by colour choices & placement, masks added before printing or additions of other print material to the surface.
When we look at soft- and hard-ground etching things become slightly more fluid and I’ve written about this before.
Designs can be drawn onto tracing paper and placed over the wax grounds and, using an etching tool, scratched through the wax. Or they can be drawn freehand (if you have a good hand and a lot of courage).
But, all the same, usually you would be etching from a pre-designed image. Having said that, I recently saw someone drawing a landscape straight into wax with no source material in sight. Now that’s confidence!
Tony Ameniero, monoprint on glass prior to printing
Monoprinting opens the field up again as there are many ways to apply ink to surface, some of which can result in unexpected outcomes.
However, again, in some way, shape or form you are ‘drawing’ or marking in some way onto a strata with ink. So, prior to printing, your strata (print plate) has a recognisable design.
Again, masks can be used and other materials, such as plant matter, can be inked and applied to the strata before printing.
This initial drawing by Tony Ameniero, a well recognised and respected artist, has been brush-painted onto a sheet of glass before being printed by hand (obviously a glass strata can’t go through a press)
NOTE: So far I’ve only described printing individual plates. When overprinting using multiple plates it’s possible to achieve some spectacular and totally unexpected results from the above methods.
Claire Brach, Alcatraz, multilayer woodblock prints, 2015
Now let’s move to collagraphs. Here, as previously discussed, materials are adhered to a strata (cardboard, mountboard, foamcore or similar) and parts of the strata can be cut away, creating recesses, if required. So, if you can see the items stuck to the surface, and their placement, why can’t you anticipate the result as easily as with other print methods?
It’s all in the inking up, the rubbing back and the texture of the plate surface. Unlike the methods described above, which all have flat print surfaces (possibly with masks or flattish items creating layered prints or resists – but generally flat) a collagraph plate is a mass of layers, ridges, dips, undulations, holes, scratches, lines and shapes. The attached items form a rising and falling surface.
The plate section shown above contains a mountboard base with added fabric trim, a knot of embroidery threads, a bit of tarlatan (stiffened muslin), regular muslin, embossed paper cutout, crumpled masking tape, scratched surface and modelling medium roughly applied with a brush. Yep, all that is in this tiny sample!
Here’s the thing. Our eyes can’t discern every nook and cranny, every peak and trough, every wrinkle and fold, so our brain can’t visualise what the outcome might be. We can’t anticipate where the ink will pool or grab, where it will be removed when we rub our plate back or how it will sit on a slick or rough area.
So, have I said it before? That’s the beauty, the allure, the mystery and the excitement of collagraphs; you never know what you’re going to get!!
It’s very important, even though these plates can be somewhat random, to have some kind of a plan. If you create the same patterning all over your plate you are going to get a very boring overall print with no focal interest. This is exacerbated by applying the same colour ink over the entire surface or, if using multiple colours, spreading them evenly. Boring, boring, boring – and unsatisfying.
Here’s my latest plate with an overall (boring) sameness.
So why did I make it like this when I know the pitfalls?
Well, that’s an easy one. I’ve never intended this to be printed as a whole. You can see the markings where my mask, printed in black, will fit over the majority of the plate. So, what the viewer will see is only a fraction of this base plate, and therein lies the interest.
The juxtaposition of a very textural strata, with several colours, contained within a velvet smooth solid black surround should have my plate showing at it’s best.