2019 03 18 Image(s) of the week

Last week’s image was posted rather late but I’m back to my usual Monday morning now.

Source: Weekend Australian Financial Review (16/3/2019) – Luxury magazine, P12 & 13
Article title: Mist Independent, written by Natalie Reilly
Illustrations: Emma Leonard/The Jacky Winter Group

Click here to view more illustrations by Emma Leonard (it’s worth it!)

Note: the backgrounds are rather crumpled as the paper and magazine come rolled in clingfilm and have to be opened and flattened.  No, I haven’t quite got to the stage of ironing them yet!

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Collagraph prints: Other World – final print plate

This plate has printed with excellent definition.  If you read my last blog post you will appreciate the beauty of the marks but the boring outcome of the overall plate.

For those of you learning about collagraphs this demonstrates how you can make a very dimensional plate but get a less than exciting result.

However, if you concentrate on individual small sections you can pick out the extraordinary detail that has been achieved through inking, rubbing back, applying a different colour, rubbing back again and blending, but as a finished print it is very lacking.

As it was never planned as a stand-alone print I’m not worried at all.  It is useful as a proof to provide me with a visual record for my archives, and in case I wish to use it again in the future.

Herewith the printed result with the black mask in place.

Yes, just what I wanted.  Space rocks!

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Collagraph tutorial – part 2

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.

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2019 03 15 Image of the week

Judy Watson, 2009-2010, heron island suite #19,
2-colour etching from 2 zinc plates and screenprint.

Much of Judy Watson’s work is informed by the environment or events that risk the delicate balance of nature,  In 2009, Watson undertook a residency at the University of Queensland’s Heron Island Research Station.  Watson drew a variety of forms during her daily walks on the island, from coral and clamshells to seaweed and leaves, which have filtered into these prints along with graphs developed by scientists working at the station while she was in residence.

Judy Watson: the edge of memory
On show at AGNSW until 17/3/2019.

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Collagraph prints: Other World – initial selection

Very pleased with how some of my prints have been coming out.  A few more to go, and a new plate yet to print, so I have a choice of which ones I’ll use for my final selection.

Like the colour scheme but not enough definition in the print detail.

Love this, definitely in contention to be used.

Great colour scheme, excellent dimension and dynamic against the black background.  I’ll use this one.

Hoped the shape would be interesting but without spherical shading it isn’t working.  Needs more thought.

Love the colour scheme.  An attempt at shading on the print strata.  I think it’s come out quite well.  Another one I will probably use.

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Design Play: Exercise 5 – Textures – Part 3

‘Other World’ Print Plates

In my post of 16th February I created my first 3 collagraph print plates for this series + 2 masks.  Here are plates 6 & 7, the final ones for this body of work.


Mountboard, carborundum suspended in PVA glue, cut sections, scratching, shellac sealant


Clockwise from top left: Rusty pipeline, rocky foreshore, cliff face, tree trunk


320 grade sandpaper, shellac sealant


As the last sandpaper masks worked well as faux aquatint I’m sticking with it.  This time the sandpaper is slightly coarser at 320 grade as opposed to 400 grade previously.

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Collagraph tutorial

Today I’m reviewing collagraph printing and how to get a variety of effects.  This is both for my own reminder and as a permanent record I can refer to in the future.  If it’s useful for anyone else than that can only be a plus!

Making the plate
This is called the print strata, the base you use to ‘pull’ the print from.
Anything sturdy and flat will do as long as it takes varnish or a sealant without major buckling, wrinkling or bending.  I use either mountboard or plywood usually.

Above left to right: coreboard, mountboard, foamex board, plywood.

When creating a texture on your strata you have the choice whether to add or takeaway from the surface – or both.

Above is my latest plate using a mountboard strata and sealed with Shellac. You can see where I have used a craft knife and cut away some long narrow sections from the mountboard, peeling away the first layer or so, thereby recessing that part of the design.  I’ve then mixed carborundum with PVA glue and piped it onto other areas (similar to piping glue with sand mixed in).  I turned the craft knife over and, using the tip, scratched into some of the flatter sections.  The entire thing has then had 3 coats of Shellac.

So my plate has a profile like this:

And that’s the beauty of collagraphs.  As long as the height and depth isn’t too extreme you can add and takeaway to form really unique effects.

Inking up
Now this is interesting.  Firstly, what effect are you looking for?  And depending on that, you have a choice of methods to apply ink to the surface.

Above left to right: ink roller, paintbrushes, toothbrush, mountboard square.

Let’s look at each:

  • Roller – Rollers come in varying degrees of hard and softness.  A hard roller will only pick up texture on the very highest plate relief, whilst a softer roller can ‘mould’ slightly more into some other sections, but both will still miss large chunks of your print strata and the result will have a lot of white paper showing.  However, if you use one of the other methods described below first and then over-roll with a roller in a different colour you can obtain some interesting outcomes.
  • Paintbrushes – These can be used to force inks into very detailed sections which are hard to get to.  The surface can then be wiped back and you can print the recessed areas to great effect.
  • Toothbrushes – These can either work as per the paintbrushes, pushing inks into lower areas or, instead, to apply a light ink coating to all the higher areas, leaving lower sections clean.
  • Mountboard ‘paddle’ – With this method you pick up ink along one edge of the card and wipe it across the whole print strata covering it completely.  The surface is then wiped back (using tarlatan).  This ensures that every recess has a good level of ink in it.  It’s a great way to get heavy coverage and you can decide how much you wish to wipe away from the higher relief areas to obtain an all over tonal effect.

Here are a couple of examples where 2 different methods have been used to ink up the same plate.

The left hand side prints show the strata having been inked up using the mountboard card method.  Several mountboard squares were cut, one for each colour, and individually applied to the strata surface before wiping them back (using tarlatan).  It’s easy to spot the issue I encountered when trying to remove the ink from some lower recessed areas to obtain a sharp detailed outcome.

The right hand side prints show the same plates where the ink was gently applied using toothbrushes, one for each colour.  I’ve managed to apply ink only to every relief area (high points) and miss out the lower mountboard strata itself.  That is clearly demonstrated on the top right image where the scrim (muslin) was glued to the mountboard and has printed with a pristine, sharp result.

The collagraph Golden Rule
Creating and printing collagraphs isn’t a fast process.  Whether you are aiming to print the relief (higher) sections, the recessed (lower) areas or something that will give you sharp imagery with plate tone (i.e. no white showing) the number one rule is to take time inking up.

It’s not like rolling over a linocut 4-5 times and you’re done.  This is a process where you ink, wipe back, examine the strata, apply more ink, move and blend colours, remove more, hold it to the light to see if you have ‘puddles’ in the lower areas and need to continue removing excess ink, and so on.

My Other World plates are 24cm square (less than 10″) and I spend about an hour inking up before I’m satisfied and ready to print.  They still don’t always have the effects I’m after but I know that without this level of attention I will never achieve a great print result.

I hope this is useful to anyone exploring collagraph printing.  So go and print and enjoy!

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