In September 2017 I attended a workshop where I created several collagraph and drypoint plates, supposedly designed to be printed together. The plates have been stored since then as I was never 100% happy with the results and didn’t really know how to use them in a more effective way.
We were given some thin board, I’d hesitate to say mountboard as it had a more textural surface than my usual mountboard. Pieces were cut to size and sealed with Shellac. We then added dimension and texture on top of the Shellac.
I ‘drew’ with runny PVA glue, and then sprinkled with carborundum, on my first plate. The next one was supposed to be trees and I painted impasto paste along the trunks.
These were allowed to dry then printed with other media to create layers. I noted at the time how happy I was with the results but 6 years on, and very much more experienced, I realise what a lot of mistakes I made and how average the prints were.
Last week I reprinted the glue and carborundum plate. I inked the design in black with a blended rollover from yellow/orange to red. The rollover was very harsh and due to the height of the raised areas it didn’t look great so, using tissue paper, I gently rubbed it back and spread it more evenly, and lightly, across some of the background.
It’s a vast improvement on the original and when examining the back of the print it’s clear to see how much pressure was applied to get into every crevice.
Nothing beats trial and error, time and experience – that’s why I never throw any old printing plates away. It’s good to rummage through and revisit things that might not have worked so well first (or second) time around.
It’s the last few days of the Barbara Hepworth exhibition In Equilibrium at the Heide Museum of Modern Art in Bulleen, Victoria, and I was lucky enough to visit a few weeks ago.
Her sculptures are magnificent and I was also drawn to her framed oil and pencil renditions.
Left:Stone Sculpture, Reclining Figure, oil & pencil on gesso-prepared card, 1947 Right:Drawing for Sculpture – Santorin, oil & pencil on board, 1955
Left:Forms (Brown, Grey and White), pencil and gouache, 1941 Right:Family Group – Earth Red and Yellow, oil & pencil on hardboard, 1953
Her sculptures come in many forms, created from a variety of media and in a wide range of sizes.
Left:Oval form (Trezion), bronze on wooden base, 1964 Right:Maquette (Variation on a Theme), bronze on wooden base, 1958
Left:Corinthos, guarea wood and paint on wooden base, 1954-55 Top Right:Stringed Figure (Curlew) (Maquette), brass and string on wooden base, 1956 Bottom Right:Sculpture with Colour and Strings, bronze and string, 1939 – cast 1961
Super exhibition and I’m glad I got the opportunity to see these beautiful pieces.
This piece is part of her King Valley linocuts and etchings series, and she writes (on her website):
Inspired by where I live, creeks meet rivers and rivers meet. They are a distillation of places of significance to me with views and perspectives of iconic buildings, trees, hills, mountains, rivers and creeks.
This and many more of her artworks are for sale via the current Wangaratta exhibition and also her website.
Early in 2021 I drew a montage of tyre treads as a basis for an etching plate.
It was etched into a zinc plate, printed in several ways and 2 pieces were made into a stitched booklet for a friend.
Other copies of the print have laid around since then so last week I turned them into a back-to-back concertina as a sample for a folded books mini-workshop I taught yesterday.
The front of the concertina, above, shows two complete prints with a third cut in half creating the book ends.
The back shows three complete prints. This is a very simple glued double-sided structure and is formed by overlapping each of the prints where they fold down the middle, with half prints at either end to fill in the final sections. Mine is made of 6 prints but this concertina can be made using as many pieces as you like.
During the 5 day residential collagraph course I attended in January I created several plates and today I’m showing one that was made as a trial for a larger piece of work.
I started by cutting away 2 sections from the mountboard (retaining a smaller square) and tearing into the surrounding layers. I then carved lines into it, which reminded me of roads – hence the title ‘Journey’. This was followed by adding various other textural elements, and finished with Shellac (as per the class requirement, not my choice as previously stated).
The inks in this workshop weren’t a brand I’m familiar with so it was fun to try them out, and they were mostly mixed by the tutor 50/50 with translucent extender medium.
The first print, on the left, I felt was very heavy. The tonal variety is on its way but not yet happening. I liked the green but decided to try something less acidic. The second print is terrible. No matter how careful I was and how much I tried to wipe back specific areas I got an even worse outcome, although I like the orange effect.
The solution to this issue is to reapply more Shellac in some areas so it becomes easier to remove ink in selected places, thereby creating a wider tonal range. This is something I didn’t have time for in the class and may revisit in the future. Frankly, as it’s a test for something else I might not.
The Shellac solution was mixed 50/50 flakes with meths. It dried very quickly but I’m not convinced it’s giving me what I want. We all work differently and I’m not criticising the tutor because he is getting the effects he wants from his method, but I prefer varnishing instead.
On Friday I revisited the plate. Since the workshop I’ve purchased the same brand of ink and they’re lovely. The colours & consistency are super, and they’re easy to spread.
The left sample has been inked in grey instead of the harsher black from the two previous attempts. It still hasn’t worked well and the red colour isn’t strong enough. Without cleaning the plate I applied Sanguine over the surface, adding a little extra grey here and there, and on the focal square. It’s a vast improvement when measured against the others.
So what has been learned from this experimentation?
I still don’t like Shellac sealer.
Altering a colour scheme can improve a print to a certain degree but when the hardware: i.e. the print matrix, isn’t up to par there’s only so much you can do to improve the printed outcome before you need to return to the matrix itself and make changes.
I like the cut and re-inserted square, so will use that concept going forward.
I recently joined a postcard swap challenge. The aim is to print 12 postcards responding to the theme ‘Hello Yellow’ and post 11 of them to a central address. The coordinator then keeps one for the group archives and divides the others up between participants and posts a selection of 10 back to each person who contributed. So, assuming more than 10 people around the world take part, there will be a wide variety of prints to share out and each set will potentially be different.
The first layer is a simple roll over on uncarved lino using masks as per the previous project. I cut my masks and stencils from various weights of acetate – 100, 150 or 250 micron, depending on what I want to use them for.
These ones are very fine, 100 micron, which work well for most projects because when using them to print over multiple layers there is no chance of them creating a ‘halo’ around the edges where the paper hasn’t reached the printing ink on the lino.
The downside is, of course, they aren’t very sturdy and tend to bend easily, so placement can be tricky with long thin strips. Dropping a circular shape down is easy but holding linear pieces is less precise as they buckle when trying to get them in exactly the right spot.
The second layer involved masking off the majority of the cut lino so I could place the postcards down in the same area each time. After all, they are supposed to be an edition of 12. Here I mixed a mid-tone grey with plenty of extender medium to create a semi-transparent layer
You can just about see in the image above where after rolling up I’ve wiped away the grey from two of the small circles as the goal is for these to be brilliant yellow.
And here they are, fully completed, dried and ready to post.
In November my husband and I had a few days away in a rented holiday cottage. A beautiful venue, only 8 onsite cottages, lovely helpful management couple and 40 acres for us to roam.
The best thing was the view from the balcony.
When strolling around the property each day we would wander along the pier hoping to spot some fish. I gazed down into the water watching the pier reflection rippling and bubbles rising and bursting on the water’s surface.
Purely from imagination, and using silk cut lino, I created my version of rippled reflections of the pier struts, plant fronds and bubbles. I’ve two main iterations, very similar but with slight changes to the pier sections. The first one is blue based, demonstrating a watery effect – the second is more green based, indicating algae on the posts.
Technique: Only one piece of lino was used to produce these prints. Base layer monoprint with stencils on uncarved lino, followed by 5 linocut layers using masks and selective inking, oil-based inks on 200gsm digital copy paper.
It was late 2021 when I started this project and posted my first Brain Clutter series collagraph (see here) and I’ve been keen to return to the theme ever since.
Last week, at a 5 day residential collagraph workshop I created a new experimental plate, and followers of my site will have seen a finished print using it for my recent print commission here. Having been away from this theme for a year this is a trial to see how I feel about picking the thread up again – and I’ve decided I like it.
It’s a good stand-alone piece and exploration for the series. I’m using the plate as inspiration and will remake it using the same format as the first piece; size and shape, essentially.
We sealed our plates using Shellac, which is a product I moved away from a while ago for a few reasons:
It smells and brush clean-up is with meths.
Unused solution can get tiny lumps in it over time and these aren’t always visible on the plate but definitely affect the print outcome (yep, been down that route!).
Shellac colours the surface of the print plate and this can make it difficult to see where ink is either over-applied or too aggressively rubbed back (that’s another one I know all about).
On at least one occasion it only dried to a tacky finish, rendering the plate unusable. Was this because of other products on the plate surface designed to create texture but impeding the drying of the Shellac? I don’t know.
Drying time can be affected by concentration of solution, temperature and humidity.
Despite this, and being in a class situation, I sealed my plate with Shellac.
The base is mountboard with the remainder being a mix of cut away areas and additions of mesh, gels, glue, tapes, carborundum and the like.
Above left: this was the first print, in sepia, and the tonal variety and crisp finish simply isn’t there. The composition is good, some of the components have potential but overall it’s very average. Sepia over a golden Shellac base isn’t my ideal choice to see where I’ve inked and where I need to work further. Above right: the whole plate was inked in stormy grey with yellow applied over the surface on the right, thus making green. Using a cotton bud I wiped away ink from the horizontal and vertical lines encouraging them to become more prominent. Happy with that bit but there’s still work to do on other sections.
Above left: I tried a new ink colour, Van Dyck brown. That won’t be happening again, vile colour. Too much ink removed from the plate but the vertical and horizontal lines have worked well. Above right: stormy grey and orange. This was the final print of the course and was inked and rubbed back in 3 minutes flat, hence the lines aren’t as sharp as I’d like but the rest isn’t bad at all. Time was short, I didn’t want the ink to go to waste and it was worth another quick look. The colours are terrific.
So what have I learnt so far from this collagraph?
I love the concept.
The vertical self-adhesive aluminium tape strip has worked well but the PVA glue lines need to be more robust.
The glue/carborundum areas on the right aren’t bad but probably need another layer of Shellac to help create tonal variation.
The left hand blocks are a good idea but there’s not sufficient variation in their surfaces for them to pop out as individual components. I need a better range of items with more tonal variety.
I won’t be continuing down the Shellac route and the project plate I make from this experimentation will be varnished as per the original.
Bobby Baugh, Fierce and Unrelenting – Art Quilt Monotype printing by hand and direct painting with archival acrylic paints. Includes relief printing, resist printing, stencils and direct painting. Collage construction and machine stitching and quilting. The entire surface is richly textured with quilting stitching.
I have long been a huge fan of Bobby Baugh’s work and wish I could justify the expense to buy one of her amazing art quilts. The piece above has a lovely write-up on her site as well as several close-up images of sections of the work. I enjoy simply perusing her pieces and seeing how she cleverly hangs them on walls in mock-up house interiors.
This is a person with a terrific imagination and an outstanding skill in interpreting complex imagery into unified art pieces.
For the final piece for this commission I went back to one of my very old linocut pieces based on a drawing of a shoe I did in 2014.
The previous two prints I created both relied on damp paper to get good image transfer, but lino printing is traditionally done on dry paper, so a very different approach on the handmade paper from the watercolour monotype and the collagraph.
Plant fibre paper is very often a little ‘hairy’. It’s the nature of the fibres when they dry on the surface of the sheet so my concern was whether this aspect would detract from the image and blur it somewhat.
Colour choice was also important because it needed to be strong enough to maintain some density against the colour of the paper.
I inked the entire plate in medium orange, followed by burnt orange on the outer sections to create a strong frame. The image has transferred well, it has solid coverage, the colour gradation is good and it marries well with the background colour.
I’m very pleased with the outcome considering the paper is both textural on the surface and not a flat sheet – as can be seen from the shadows surrounding it. Once the ink is fully dry it can, of course, be flattened under weights.
I used the remaining ink to print a copy for myself on 40gsm Croquis paper of a similar colour, to compare the image transfer against the handmade paper version.
This print hasn’t been pressed between boards to flatten it yet either and it’s easy to see where the paper has embossed in the negative space around the shoe image. That will disappear once pressed.
In my mind this second image is sharper than the first but is it really? Is it just an illusion because the paper is so obviously smooth? When I focus in on small areas I see the transfer is about the same but the paper properties make them look quite different.
I’ve enjoyed this challenge and am pleased with the 3 pieces. It’s been fun trying out the Hemp paper and seeing what will work and I hope the client likes them.
Last week I attended a 4 1/2 day collagraph workshop and created 3 new plates. I decided to try one of them on the handmade Hemp paper I’ve been sent to experiment printing with. The first piece I printed for the client is here.
Piece 2: Collagraph with oil-based inks
The collagraph matrix was created using mountboard as the base with some areas cut away. Texture was applied to the surface including: PVA glue, Hornby Train ballast (a grey coarse grit used to shore up miniature train tracks), adhesive aluminium tape, fine mesh, micaceous iron oxide, carborundum gel, masking tape and thin papers. The plate was then sealed using Shellac.
The Hemp paper was dampened in the same manner as the previous piece; liberally spritzed front and back before blotting and running through the etching press.
I chose to print on the smoothest side of the paper hoping to get a crisp image and I think it’s come out pretty good. Again, the paper seems to be unsized so it has grabbed the ink and held on to a lot of colour.
Overall I’m happy with the outcome but will probably work further with this plate and adapt it to create more tonal variation.
I was recently engaged to explore printing on handmade Hemp paper by someone who intends to market this paper for sale. I was given a general idea of what was required based on some work I had done previously.
Piece 1: Watercolour monotype
Using perspex as my base and very diluted watercolour paints I applied paint to the surface allowing it to bead, run and blend as it wished. Once dry, using a damp cloth I wiped away circular shapes and, using much more intense colours, I painted circles.
When dry, using a black Inktense pencil dipped in water, I drew lines and outlines.
I’ve done this type of printing many times in the past but always on smooth watercolour or printmaking paper and I know the image transfers well on to these. As the paint and pencil marks are fully dry when running the plate and paper through the press it’s necessary to ensure the paper is well dampened otherwise the media will not reactivate and transfer successfully.
In this case my fear was twofold: how wet could I make a piece of 240gsm handmade paper without it falling apart (as it’s unsized I believe) and, as the paper structure is fairly uneven, how much of the image would carry across. Examining the paper surface carefully I noted that it has a very fine textural surface; either from the mold used when pulling the sheet, the cloth it was pressed on or the board it was dried on I imagine.
So here’s the finished piece with some observations.
It’s obvious to see the uneven and textural paper surface have played a key role in the final appearance.
Despite the paper being heavily spritzed both back and front until it was as wet as possible without rivulets of water (!!) on the surface AND it going through a highly pressured etching press the image remains grainy.
The watercolours used were pure colours, very bright and vibrant – as can be seen from the acetate photos above – the natural Hemp coloured paper has dulled them significantly.
In most places the black Inktense pencil lines did not come across well at all and was touched up after printing.
The result is roughly what I expected from the materials I was asked to work with. Let’s see what the client thinks. Meantime, I’ll print some other styles to give him a few different choices.
I’ve been painting acid-free tissue paper – to use when printing – in preparation for a 5 day collagraph course I’m about to attend. I used very watered-down acrylic paints, allowed the tissue to dry and then ironed the pieces flat, as the watery solution crinkled the paper.
They are beautifully translucent, with each one being around A4 in size. The wet paints slightly pooled where the tissue crinkled, creating texture and blending of colours.
I’m looking forward to seeing how I can use them in the upcoming course.
On recent visits to the papermaking studio I’ve been exploring laminating paper. In papermaking terms this means layering multiple pulled pieces together into a single finished sheet.
I started with white: as much as possible recycled cotton rag printing paper offcuts I’d prepared by shredding, soaking and putting through a blender.
My next layer was to be some sort of plant fibre and as this was an experimental exercise I wasn’t too worried about what that fibre was, so I scoured the studio for buckets with leftovers. I found one labelled ‘plant ground cover’ which looked like a good colour for what I wanted.
We were lucky to have been donated a whole lot of semi prepared plant fibres from the family of a member no longer able to continue making paper so we weren’t 100% sure what each of the plants were but as she had been very successful over many years we were confident that whatever the plants were they would do the job.
Before applying my plant fibre pulp to the surface of the white I laid some threads and string over the first layer to see if I could achieve some textural elements.
The mold (I never know if this should be spelt mold or mould – feel free to advise me in the comments if you wish) and deckle were partially dipped into the pulp and then applied over the first layer.
Not a bad start and quite landscape-like, so I continued.
When these came out of the press the texture of the cords and threads remained very evident which was what I wanted, but the paper surface itself was very flat. I took them home to dry along with another piece where I also incorporated some ripped up scrim (a very lightweight cotton muslin). Three dried beautifully flat, one (above right) buckled a little and the final one dried and popped off the drying surface and dried very misshapen.
Such a nice idea but so disappointed in the end result. I re-dampened and tried flattening it over several days but as soon as it came out from under my pile of books – completely dry – I watched it slowly return to this severely curved shape.
I went back to the studio for another go, making some changes. I started with a thicker, more robust, white sheet, laid out my string and placed the plant fibre pulp on top. This time, to create more texture, I added more pulp by hand. I plucked fibre from the vat and squeezed some of the moisture out before pressing it onto the surface. It reminded me of making sandcastles on the beach as a child!
To retain the texture I decided not to compress this piece through the nipping press but to gently apply dry couching cloths to the surface by hand and hope that would be enough for it to form a sheet without becoming too flat. I took it home to dry and the same thing happened – 5 days later it looked like a poppadom! Not happy.
In desperation I ran it under the tap and laid it out to dry again. This hadn’t worked with my previous attempt but I couldn’t think what else to do. I put down 3 couching cloths, placed my fragile wet paper on top, another 3 couching cloths, then a thick piece of sponge foam, and finally a rigid board and some heavy books. The foam moulded into the texture without letting the weight of the board and books flatten it out. Every day for 2 weeks I changed the couching cloths for dry ones and remade the stack.
Finally I achieved something usable.
So why hasn’t this been working for me very well? I suspect it’s to do with the variation in thickness across the sheet. The top is only a single layer of white but the lower portion has string and threads inserted and at least a couple of layers of plant fibre pulp – with the last sample having even more hand-applied pulp. The drying rate over multiple layers (thicker areas) will be different/longer than that of a single layer and because fibre shrinks as it dries this will have happened unevenly causing the thinner sections to lift from the drying board whilst the rest remained damp and still stuck down.
This is the only explanation I can come up with and it seems quite logical. The only way to remedy this, that I can think of, is to do exactly what I did the final time and leave very damp paper under weights for a significant length of time to ensure it’s flat and encourage it to stay flat.
What about ironing it? Well that would be fine if I was happy to forgo my carefully created textural paper surface, which I’m not.
Obviously more to work on here but now I need to decide what I want to print on this barren looking landscape.
Every December our print group cut up either failed or excess prints produced during the year and swap with each other to create small concertina books.
Our group is full of very experienced printmakers, most of whom specialize in specific printing techniques, which makes it an excellent place to continue learning and sharing skills. We have individuals who excel in lino-cutting, monoprinting & monotypes, solar plate etching, zinc and copper etching and collagraphs (my area).
So swapping print scraps brings a range of techniques into a unified whole and provides a reminder of some of the processes we each undertook over the preceding 4 terms.
It also provides a way to rescue those images each of us felt didn’t really work. It’s astounding how something that was obviously a ‘failure’ – to the artist who produced it – transforms into a small piece of wonderful art when cropped, rotated, and a new point of focal interest is chosen. Colour plays a big part as well, of course.
This year I made hard covers for my book, pictured above, from some abstract painting I did a while ago. Below is the completed front and back concertina.
Several weeks ago I created a new collagraph plate which I decided to use as a swap project print. I blogged about the trials here. This week I’ve completed a series of 13 – 12 to swap and 1 for myself.
I thought a lot about colour choices and despite my last post saying I was hankering after further colour experimentation I decided to continue down my original route. I wasn’t feeling the love for blues, purples and greens. I’d previously inked in paynes grey and it wasn’t giving me the dynamism I was after. So I stuck with my three original choices (black, yellow and red) but altered them, from my first trials, within those hues.
Not only do I enjoy experimenting with different print styles but I also like exploring different ink brands, always oil-based. For this project all products are etching inks.
I chose Gamblin Bone Black as my main colour – a really good velvety deep black which covers well and wipes back easily. Graphic Chemical & Ink Co Diarylide Yellow as my secondary – a very lairy, bright colour. Blends beautifully with black to create an olive green hue which reduces the brilliance but maintains an intensity. Charbonnel Geranium Red as my point of difference – a cool red, edging towards magenta but not so acidic.
Additional varnishing and reapplying the linework improved the outcome and having ticked my requirements boxes (colour choice, tonal variety, orientation) I set to work to produce my edition.
The longer I worked the more I observed in the design and decided ‘Scribbles’ was a good working title but not for the finished prints. Now I see the outer curvatures as objects I’m looking between towards an opening where I discover the scribbles. Perhaps I’m viewing something through a fish-eye lens, showing distortion of objects.
My notations, once the prints are fully dry, will record this print title as ‘Looking Up’.
It’s been a stressful week so it seemed like a good time to take a few minutes away from other people to mess about in the studio with some loud music, a bit of paper and some pens.
Going through my stash I landed on one of the pieces I recently painted that I previously blogged about here. I liked it a lot when I painted it but didn’t know what to do with it; whether to work further into the piece, leave it alone, cut it up, make it into a book cover or whatever. It went into my ever-growing pile waiting for further inspiration and today was the day. So this was what I started with:
I folded and cut it into a simple folded booklet.
From the images you can see how the piece is manipulated and folded into a single 4 page booklet. As this is 200gsm paper, covered with a couple of layers of acrylic paint it’s hard to get it to fold down to a book shape without slipping out of alignment so I applied glue to some areas and trimmed where necessary until I had a good solid structure.
Then I got my black Sharpie out. It really felt like a black Sharpie day, along with a ruler and a few homemade stencils.
Well, that’s relieved my brains a bit. Back to the real world.
I had a quick dip into the world of monotypes recently after watching a few short videos. Essentially I spent a bit of time with ink, scrapers and credit cards to see what marks I could make.
These two were fun. I initially thought they were a bit disjointed but I think there’s scope to work further into them and my creative experience tells me that I’ll never get anywhere unless I continue to experiment, whether it works or not.
I then picked up a couple of stencils, some black ink and a paint scraper.
This feels a bit more together than the previous two and was worked in a different method. The top images were created by applying ink, in selected areas, to a blank piece of acetate and running it through the press multiple times – once per each tonal variation. This is called an ‘additive’ process – ink is added to a virgin base.
The third piece is worked by rolling ink over the whole piece of acetate, then removing some areas using a cloth or similar. This is called a ‘reductive’ process – the image becomes apparent where you remove the ink.
I applied a couple of stencils over the surface, removing ink between each one to get the circular patterns. Then a paint scraper was shovelled across the right hand side of the plate removing ink in small ripples.
I enjoyed this exercise. My skills are better with other types of printmaking but it’s good to have a play around with no specific outcome in mind and you never know where it might lead.
I’ve long admired the diaphanous teabag. Once steeped, emptied, unfolded, and ironed, the little pieces of paper resemble parchments; small stories of collections of moments. After flattening the mottled papers, I paint them with streaks of gouache, and then hand print them with carved linoleum plates. I then mount each print on a wooden panel.
Terrific collection of images with many more examples on her site.
Back in 2017 I attended a very good and frantically busy workshop exploring a range of printing methods. During the course we each constructed a collagraph plate, Shellacked, then inked and printed them. This was mine:
On the left is the basic plate – mountboard, torn masking tape, PVA glue with gritty sand sprinkled over, cut textural paper and narrow knife slashes through the board. On the right is the plate once Shellacked, making the textures more visible.
I’ve always liked this plate but have had difficulty getting the glue & grit part to print well. I looked at my original print and did a straight forward reprint to compare.
The left image is the original print from 2017. I thought it was great at the time. Experience over the last 5 years has improved my inking ability and my understanding of how to work with printmaking paper, but I’ve still got the speckling in the grit areas.
I decided to stipple those sections with varnish hoping they would then retain ink in the recesses and on the surface to a lesser extent, giving me a fully printed area with tonal variation.
After one layer of stippled varnish this is the print result. It’s certainly eliminated the speckling but even though I tried very hard I couldn’t remove enough ink from the surface to achieve any tonal variety. Now it appears too solid and heavy compared to the rest of the piece. This isn’t what I’m seeing in my head and hasn’t as yet got to the result I’m searching for.
So, what to do? It’s an old plate and I’m happy to experiment on it and if I ruin it so be it. I’m mulling over whether to remove these heavy areas by cutting down a layer or two into the mountboard base and lifting those sections out. By doing that I can start again and create new textural effects and I might get more success.
As I’m currently involved with a few other projects this one will have to wait for a while, but I’ll get back to it eventually.
I came across this amazing collagraph on the facebook group Collagraph world wide which I’m a member of.
I’ve done a little with silk aquatint but haven’t explored it this far. Now it’s definitely on my to-do list.
The artist, Linda Jules, writes:
This print was made using a collagraph process called Silk Aquatint.
First, a piece of finely woven fabric was glued to a heavy cardboard plate and the plate was sealed with a couple of coats of gloss acrylic medium. (If the plate was inked up and wiped at this point, it would print completely black, as the ink would be held in the tiny squares between the fabric threads.)
Second, successive layers of gloss medium were applied to certain areas of the plate to build up the image: the more coats of medium applied to a certain area of the image, the less ink would be held between the fabric threads and the lighter in tone that area would be. So I had the full range of tones from black to white available to me.
This is a beach scene form Naikoon Bay on Haida Gwaii, BC, Canada.
Resources: Facebook: Collagraph world wide post 20/10/22 Linda Jules
Exploring new techniques to create plates I got my mini drill out and, using a fine tip, applied it to the surface of a piece of mountboard. The aim was to produce a range of organic imprecise lines as opposed to my normal Xacto knife line drawings.
The drill churned through the layers, tearing and pushing uneven ridges up from the surface.
EXACTLY what I was hoping for. Using a paper mask I applied modelling paste to a section, incised some lines with a knife and added Akua Carborundum Gel to 2 of the corners.
The plate was varnished and a proof print taken. This allowed me to see what needed to be adjusted.
Plain mountboard, if lightly varnished – in my case only one layer – will always have a degree of tone, usually a mid-range something-and-nothing colour. And that’s what I got in the background.
The aim of my first proof was to check the balance of shapes, the direction and the intensity of the shapes. I was very happy with those and my narrow knife-drawn lines around the modelling paste were evident.
So it was time to work on the tone. I applied more varnish in selected areas. The mountboard sections surrounding the scribble had several thin layers added to take away a large portion of the plate tone, some parts had more layers than others. The scribble needed to be more dominant without being overloaded with ink as in this sample.
The paste area had achieved what I wanted with regard to shape. The whole thing was varnished again and then multiple more layers were added in parts across it. The aim was to incorporate a different colour here and wipe it back to get tonal variety.
The Akua gel gave me what I was looking for; a strong dark edging.
Once the adjustments had been done I reprinted.
Terrific result: great tonal variety, dominant focal interest provided by the scribble, excellent ink coverage. Very happy with this project outcome.
Now I’ve to print an edition of 12 for a swap. That takes longer than you might think because I rework the incised lines and parts of the scribble before each print ad they’re all supposed to be identical, but I’m already hankering after some colour experimentation!
I noticed how similar my colour palettes were in my two previous pieces so decided to make some adjustments. I also took note of my comment that perhaps squiggles – a bit more organic than my blocks and lines – might work better underneath other layers.
Acrylic paints are out so I stuck with them.
This has been an interesting 5 day time-out from my normal routine and it’s reaffirmed my creative leaning in regard to shapes, blocks and lines – which has long been a part of my art.
I tried masking areas and selecting interesting sections, as I did with the last 2, but nothing really jumped at me so I’m just showing the whole piece.
Even though this type of art isn’t something I’ll avidly pursue I think the results have been worth recording and this type of imagery might come in useful in the future. It’s always worth having a stash of different arty outcomes, you never know when they might come in useful or if another idea pops into your head triggered by these.
Day 5 of the exercise was a wash-out and I didn’t do anything. The guy spent a lot of time directing his comments to those who posted they were daunted, had life experiences that halted them in their progress, had no materials (not sure why you would sign up then), were traumatized by family tragedies, had been told they were useless as children and so on. Then he moved to spruiking his upcoming paid painting course, which isn’t for me.
This solo exhibition by Helen MacRitchie has been showing throughout September, ending on 2nd October. I’ve know Helen for many years and always admired her artworks.
The basis of her practice is wet felted wool on which she creates layered textural surfaces or sculptural forms. She is spectacular with a sewing machine and her free-motion stitching brings a completely different textural aspect to her art when set against the softness of the felting. She dyes her own yarns, threads, fibre and fabrics and is adept at choosing colours that work harmoniously together and to her theme.
The exhibition publicity details how, through her art works, Helen examines her life in Scotland, Australia and England, reflecting on her feeling of home for each of these particular places. Topophilia, more than simply a liking of a place, suggests a cultural connection, a sense of belonging. Recurring felting, wrapping and embroidery techniques with intertwining and nest motifs express this visually. Ancestry, heritage, memories and colourful vistas past and present are her inspiration and points of topophilic identification.
This exhibition was a feast for the eyes, with a very different feel and sense of place for each of the locations depicted. I spent a lovely morning walking around the gallery with Helen while learning the inspiration behind each piece as well as many of the techniques she employed.
Good lunch together at a local cafe afterwards as well.
On day 3 of the challenge I stuck with acrylic paints, as I enjoyed them so much on the first day.
After painting this piece I became stuck on what to do with it next. So I left it alone and tried blocking areas to see what I like about it. I placed ‘L’ shaped pieces of black paper onto the surface, moving them around until I saw something that attracted me.
Mmmmm…. not sure about it but it seems quite lively.
Don’t mind this one but I can’t say I’m super engaged with it.
Again, I’m not sure. Is there something missing or is it a case of ‘less is more’?
What did I learn today? It’s fun mucking around with paint but let’s not get too excited – I think the whole exercise is revealing that in my heart I’m not a painter, printmaking is the way to go for me.
This is a close-up photo using my phone, which is what I have to hand when walking my dog on bush trails. This image, in a similar manner to my previously featured Banksia photo, seems over-detailed (too sharp?) if that makes sense. I must take the camera, rephotograph and compare the shots.
Anyway, back to the subject. This is a section of a Scribbly gum trunk. I’ve always wondered what makes these amazing track marks and Google tells me:
The scribbly gum is a native Australian eucalyptus tree which is easy to spot because of the distinctive markings along its smooth yellow-gray trunk. These zig-zag tracks or ‘scribbles’ are made by the moth grub as it tunnels between the old and new bark.
Last week two friends and I decided to join a 5 day on-line creative challenge. The basis was supposed to be painting but the ethos was pretty much ‘anything goes’. As it was a free thing, designed to enthuse participants to sign up for further paid classes, we were encouraged to use whatever was to hand; be it any type of paints, coloured pencils, markers, collage, or whatever you can think of to get something onto paper.
I chose acrylic paints partly because I use them when I gelli plate print and have a good supply, and partly because I thought splashing around with them would be fun.
The idea was to paint along with the tutor each day during the live video, which ran for about 45 minutes. I’ve never produced anything in 45 minutes before but gave it a go. Day 1 I filled my water jar, grabbed some brushes and a sheet of 300gsm water colour paper and started opening paint tubes.
45 minutes later I had (amazingly) covered the paper in paint. I left it to dry and then added some white gel pen and black Sharpie marks.
It reminds me of …. well, me – blocks, shapes and lines. My favourite things. Of course there’s no planned composition or colour scheme but it’s glaringly obvious that I’ve pretty much avoided blue, which has been a life-long trait. In fact there are a couple of blocks painted with Pthalo blue but as they overlay other colours they’ve edged towards green.
I decided to chop it up (on Photoshop) and concentrate on specific areas.
Not a bad composition, I like the colour placement and the black Sharpie lines but by blowing it up my white pen work looks pretty approximate.
Colours good, black lines good, positioning of white shapes good, not sure I’m thrilled with the squiggles. Let’s turn it around.
I have the same issue, the left hand squiggles aren’t working for me but the rest is fine.
This one I like the best, and a smidge of blue is evident in the bottom right hand corner.
On this day I learned it’s fun to mess about without a plan and I should avoid squiggles unless they are buried under other layers.
I’ve barely posted anything recently but I’ve still been super creative and busy with a variety of projects, all that will be shared eventually.
Earlier this month I taught a one day collagraph workshop. It was fun but extremely busy and I’ve decided that the shortcuts taken to both create and print plates within a 6 hour window (where you also have to fit in lunch!) compromises the results more than I’m comfortable with. Don’t get me wrong, the participants had a terrific time and all achieved great results but with a very short drying time-span they were unable to take advantage of any of the gels and mediums now available. These products create amazing textures but usually have to dry overnight before applying ink – not an option for us.
Anyway, not to worry, they made use of both cutting into their print plate and well as adhering a variety of media to the surface, thereby achieving a good many layers and some textures to work with.
I started by showing a few of my samples and discussing what works, what to look out for and what to avoid.
I demonstrated inking up with oil-based inks.
They were soon working in both plain black and colour.
I only had time to briefly cover chine collé and masking, with a demonstration on one piece.
It was a fun, but full-on, day and the students worked very hard and left with good prints and a better understanding of the technique. I’ve already been asked to teach this for another group but, happily, it will be over 2 days.
An acquaintance of mine, Gail Stiffe (from Papermakers of Victoria), and two others came together to present their exhibition Three Rivers recently and I spent some time at the gallery enjoying the works while Gail was there, so we could chat about her pieces.
One gallery window was dedicated to some of Gail’s work: framed art pieces displayed on easels and a long concertina, all created in tones of blue with a smattering of yellow on pristine white paper.
I like that her concertina books fold back into covers, thereby protecting the individual pages and creating a more finished look.
There were several Coptic bound books, all working to the theme of the Yarra river and its tributaries. The main exhibit of this set was a very long book which, as can be seen below, was formed in coloured sections depending on the paper and water used. The book tells the story of the waterway and is full of both images and text.
In the photo you can see some of the smaller books which represent some of the tributaries. Handmade paper with inlaid plant material form the covers.
There were small handmade boats throughout.
Leaves and plant debris clearly showed trapped within the small paper structures, each one having been dipped in hot wax so creating a semi-translucent effect.
Both the trapping of foliage and wax dipping was repeated in a series of framed wall hangings and Gail had meticulously recorded both the botanical and common names of each piece.
I really liked the wax dipped pieces, especially the framed art works, and it’s not something I’ve seen before. By trapping the foliage between two very delicate sheets of handmade paper then running them through a hot wax bath the colours of the plant material are preserved.
The art pieces were well presented, not cluttered or overcrowded, and the gallery was well lit. Overall, an excellent display of Gail’s skills and her response to the river theme. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit.
I made my first etched plates in 2016 and my first hard ground etching was some swans I had drawn.
This was pretty boring, simple line work, and my tutor at the time thought adding some water and sky would be good. He held the plate over the acid/water solution and proceeded to ‘paint’ the plate with the solution watching as the acid ate into the plate. When he thought the effect had been achieved he rinsed the plate and I went off to print it.
Here’s the plate and the print I did at the time.
What can I say other than I hated it, intensely. Swans on a stormy sea with a tornado in the background, really?
It’s been languishing in the cupboard for the last six years but this month it’s had the dust blown off (metaphorically speaking) and I’ve been trying to revamp it. Revamp? Maybe a total overhaul would be more like it.
I started on the water. Using a scraper and moving left to right I scraped away as much of the unevenly etched surface as I could, followed by a light burnishing. I’ve managed to eliminate the tempestuous sea.
Unfortunately the swan head is very delicately etched and it’s easy to over-wipe. I tried scratching the lines a little more deeply with an etching tool but it didn’t really work and it was hard to keep the tool in the existing lines without slipping out and ruining the whole thing.
I reprinted, adding some green to indicate shrubbery.
Above left: Completely over-wiped and there wasn’t enough texture to hold the green. Above right: I stippled varnish over the bush areas (allowed it to dry before inking up) so now it holds the ink. Improving.
Moving to the top section I scraped away much of the sky, smoothing as much as possible and, using gesso, drew in some mountains.
This image shows the top of the zinc plate part way through this stage. I added 2 layers of mountains.
Note to self: Why am I doing this? Is it actually getting any better?
Well the answer is that whilst I don’t like the plate the experimentation is interesting. Adding stippled varnish to the surface along with gesso areas has increased the complexity of the piece and this experience adds to my options when considering how to manipulate works in the future.
Above left: The green looks great (best part of the print). I should have stuck with only putting in the higher, more distant, mountains. Now it’s too busy and the lower mountains aren’t right – there’s a disconnect in the imagery as well as the lower mountains grabbing the ink where the gesso meets the zinc along the base of them. The sky is better and the far mountains have scope.
Above right: I’m unhappy with the blue ‘shadow’ near the swan neck so tried carrying the green across the whole plate. Still a rubbish print.
More alterations required, so I scraped away the lower mountains and added more stippled foliage. I’d like more variety in the mountains as well. They’re quite flat.
So here’s the final result.
Not the best thing I’ve ever produced in my life but a very interesting couple of weeks developing a discarded plate into something really quite different.
So, the question is this: is my etched zinc plate now classed as a collagraph because I’ve added media to the surface – gesso and varnish? I’ll leave that to the viewer to decide.
A few weeks ago we were in the heat of the Northern Territory and Western Australia. A beautiful holiday that I’ll reference in the future. On arrival back in Sydney we were struck down with illness for a couple of weeks and are only now emerging.
This morning we packed the car, the dog and plenty of warm clothes and headed down the coast to our favourite dog beach. It was bright and sunny but freezing.
I’m always on the lookout for photo opportunities and I snapped a few sights today.
I love the reflections of the clouds in the shallow pools left behind as the tide recedes. I used a similar image from the same location as inspiration for a page in my recent ‘minimal’ project. It can be viewed here.
Looking down into the shallows as I walked across the flat rocks I tried to record the amazing colours of the moss coated underwater stones and pebbles. The light was heightened and diffused by the water and the photos aren’t great, not at all what I was seeing. I’ll have to have another attempt next time I’m there. Love the grainy effect the moving water has created though.
During my recent visit to the Milk Factory Gallery in Bowral I came across the artist Vicki Boswell. She and Susan Heslin were exhibiting their work within the theme of ‘Stepping into View’. I was particularly drawn to Vicki’s work: a combination of paint (mainly water colour or gouache) and collage.
I’ve never been great at working with the human form, especially faces, and I like the way the artist has left some blank for the viewer to imagine. Shading on some of her works adds dimension and a facial impression.
In the pieces above her collage isn’t overpowering but instead adds an abstract surround, anchoring the figures in place.
The two artworks above are made up solely of collaged pieces. In these the background has become more prominent adding to the sense of movement. Again the faces have been left blank for the viewer to imagine.
I guess that as a person interested in collage I’m drawn more to those pieces, exploring how she has integrated torn paper, maps and text into compositions containing minimalist figures.
Some of her works are significantly more painterly which, in my view, creates a very different feel to the outcome.
In the piece to the left she has included facial features, which for me takes away the mystery of the person/people portrayed.
Part of the pleasure I find in her work is the mystery, imagining the expressions, gauging the age of the subject person and concocting my own narrative around the story being portrayed.
A couple of weeks ago I was searching through my somewhat disorganised sketchbooks for something to translate into a photopolymer intaglio print (a solar plate print). This is my least favourite print style (after screenprinting) for a number of reasons.
The print plate is exposed in one go, under an ultra-violet light. Yes, sections can be masked so the light hits different areas for different lengths of time but this can be a hit and miss situation.
Ultra-violet lights aren’t all the same. Some shine ultra-violet which indicates they are strong but the one I have access to in the communal studio shines yellow, so is a very low level light. How is one supposed to assess the length of time to expose the plates for? Run some trials I hear you say but I’m left at a loss when the tutor gives differing lengths of exposure time to each student, all of us with similar black printed acetate. Truth is, if I can’t understand it completely my results are either very lucky or very unlucky.
It’s essential to choose a design that has a variety of tonal variation otherwise the plate will expose all marks equally thereby creating a print matrix with the same tonal depth throughout. Boring.
Once the plate has been exposed, cured and is ready to print it’s possible to scratch into it and create more marks and detail. I’ve had no success with this whatsoever.
It’s terrific for detailed hand drawings and can produce very fine imagery. That type of drawing isn’t my strong point. Some people use images from photographs and I did that some years ago. Can’t see the point, where’s the design aspect? Some of my classmates have ‘collaged’ black and white photos together to make new designs and they’re fine, but not what I want.
But my biggest issue is with the inking of the plate. Despite my plates having been cured for over a week if I accidentally take too much ink off the surface the paper sticks. It’s an intaglio method, so there is meant to be minimal ink on the relief surface but there’s a fine line here between leaving too much and having excessive plate tone or wiping away too much and having your paper stick. And don’t even think about using handmade paper. Here’s my result.
The exposed plate (on the left) has wording well etched into the surface. On the right, part of it was printed using handmade paper from recycled 100% cotton rage paper offcuts, essentially recycled BFK Rives printmaking paper. I spent 2 hours trying to remove the stuck paper before abandoning the idea and chucking the lot in the bin. Tiny pieces of paper can be removed very carefully with a cotton bud but this can (and likely will) affect the remaining surface.
So why am I doing this again? Just trying not to deviate too far from the class print method chosen by the tutor for this term. Being a team player.
OK, back to my sketchbook. A while ago I messed about with watercolours; layering them and blowing them around the page with a straw. One piece has loads of tonal variety. I thought I’d give it a go so went ahead, gave it a trim and enlarged it to the correct size and translated it into a black and clear acetate.
Looking good so far. The acetate went on top of the photopolymer plate and under the lamp for 3 1/2 minutes before being carefully washed out for 5 minutes, dried and cured back under the light for 10 minutes, then out in the sun. It was printed the following week.
The black parts of the original design bit very deeply into the plate and although ink is applied into the recesses many of them don’t print as the damp paper won’t reach into the narrow deep spaces. The paper also doesn’t sink into the areas surrounding small relief sections, as can be seen from the close-up image here.
So this print could be described as a mistake, something where the differing levels of the plate are so extreme they can be inked up but not everything will transfer to the paper.
A mistake? The happiest printing accident I’ve had for a long time in my view. What a terrific effect, I couldn’t have hoped for anything better EXCEPT the paper stuck in a little of the wiped back light tones. What a pain.
Hoping to avoid this I re-inked and applied a roll-over in orange. The aim was to ensure that the higher relief areas were inked. This enabled me to wipe back the black as far as I wanted from the surface as they were then coated in orange ink.
Wow, these are so heavy. The orange was prepared for class use and, for my project, I feel there was simply too much ink on the roller. The second image has a slightly lighter touch so more of the layers can be seen but this isn’t yet what I want it to be.
I liked the image transfer remaining on the roller though so I grabbed a piece of paper and, in the guise of cleaning it for the next person, I rolled it across the surface.
The following week I tried viscosity printing. A great technique, if a little approximate in a class setting with shared ink.
I started by inking my intaglio design in Paynes Grey and wiping back. Using a very hard roller and a low viscosity (ink mixed with linseed oil) yellow ink I lightly rolled over the surface of the plate. This was followed by a second rolling over the surface but this time using a high viscosity (thicker) ink in red with a soft roller.
The concept is that where the yellow oily ink has adhered to the plate topmost surface the red will be rejected. The use of the soft roller with the red should force the colour into some of the crevices where the yellow couldn’t reach.
Barely a semblance of yellow in evidence but it’s obviously there – probably reducing the strength in some of the grey areas – because it’s resisted the red in some places.
This final print is looking great: the image is sharp, I’ve still got those wonderful white areas where the ink is missing, the layers are strong and the colours work well together.
A mistake? No, this plate has turned out to be a lucky accident.
The weather is currently cold and wet with dark days and a lot of wind. However, just a couple of weeks ago, during a sunny spell, when walking the bush trails I saw a sparkling Banksia tree. Not having my camera with me this is a phone photo.
It seems overly sharp but that’s what the phone has given me and I can’t go past the vibrancy of the colours.
As I new member of this exhibiting group I was delighted to see my book ‘minimal’ on display at the Milk Factory Galleries (Pop-up 1 & 2) when I visited on Thursday. It was also an opportunity to see all the other exhibits from the group, many of whom I don’t know yet.
The two galleries were well lit and the works hung with plenty of surrounding space. With a large group of contributors, some with several pieces, there is always a danger of overcrowding but that’s not the case here. The organising committee arranged for a professional hanger to curate the pieces and I can’t fault the outcome.
I was delighted to see my book placed on a circular stainless steel glass-topped table in the centre of one of the two galleries, visible as visitors come down the stairs and approach the space.
With 26 artists showcasing a total of 72 works, with no theme constraint, there is a wide variety of subject matter as well as choice of printing technique.
The building itself is an interesting place with multiple rooms, steps up and down between different spaces, open doorways leading through to unexpected smaller areas, and corridors and niches throughout. It hosts many different artists and short-term exhibitions with a wide variety of art both on and off the walls: painting, prints, small sculptures, jewellery and more.
The Milk Factory Galleries – Pop-Up Galleries
July 1 – 21 33 Station Street, Bowral, NSW 2576 10 – 4pm daily
Both internal and external pages have been printed and bound using reverse piano hinge. Each internal page has a semi-translucent title page preceding it, as an introduction to the following abstracted imagery.
Although previous posts have shown the origin of these stylized prints they no longer resemble or relate to those start points and have been named accordingly.
By choosing to bind the book in this manner it enables it to open up 360˚ showcasing all pages simultaneously.
Materials: 300gsm Hahnemuhle paper, 250gsm BFK Rives, cardstock, tissue, handmade plant fibre paper, oil based inks, acrylics, water based inks, string & thread.