I came across Grace Bentley-Scheck whilst looking at another artist and was staggered by her collagraph images. Everything in collagraphs seems to shout ‘simplification’ and ‘stylization’ to me, and even the course manual talks about simplifying imagery to produce it in this way.
However, what do I see in the work by Grace Bentley-Scheck? Detail, fine detail, precision, realism, accurate portrayal of her subject matter and beautiful dimensional imagery. Not at all what I expected.
This, in particular, is one of my favourites. There is a simplification in the imagery but it is very subtle. Rather than a feeling of lack of detail I get a sense of distance, of trying to make out those elements that are just beyond my eyesight. That’s clever. The reduced-strength inks also give a feeling of distance with deeper and more accurate placement in the foreground. Of great interest is the bottom left section where there appears to be corrugated iron cladding of some sort. Note the colour palette here, it is almost identical to the suggestion of a building way in the distance in the top right corner. However, one item is clearly in the foreground whilst the other seems to be located several streets to the rear. How does one know how to do that, to use the same diluted colourway but create something close-by and something distant? I have a lot to learn.
Here we see, on the left, one of her very heavily built collagraph plates. I’ve found it hard to trace these, by any artist, on the internet so I’m fortunate to find this one posted on her Facebook page. The right hand print shows clearly where ink has been worked, in intaglio fashion, into the lower areas with the foreground building facade being wiped so only traces of ink remain. It also looks like colours have been selectively added, such as the russet-red on the ground floor left building, perhaps with a dabber and/ or some masking. This is a lovely print, again using reduced strength inks, and a very weathered appearance to the street front has been well achieved. The colours blend well in parts where the buildings abutt and the detail on window surrounds, shutters and archways is outstanding. This has provided me with a completely new view on constructing texture plates.
A stunning piece. The colour range is simply outstanding. What a talent she has for colour mixing. If I were in the USA I’d really try to get to one of her workshops. I love the detail on the awnings, the movement portrayed by the slightly skewed lettering. Clearly there is a breeze and the fabric is swaying a little. There are some exterior lights showing in the top right hand side. How were these made? From what I can gather she builds up her plates with paper and cardboard, so I’m guessing she spends a huge amount of time cutting these intricate shapes before adding them to the base board and then later seals them prior to printing. These print plates must be pretty robust to get editions of 100 out of them. I’m wondering how thick her print blankets are to force the dampened paper into all the crevices. I read about one artist who has used up to 7 blankets together to get the depth of print and embossing required.
This is an older piece of work, from 1997, but equally as interesting as the others above. For many years now her works have centred on architectural features and I wonder whether this was produced before her attention was so wholly focused on building exteriors and arrangements.
Some lovely colour mixing in the water with random marks showing slight lapping of the water in the foreground and a lovely boat shadow. This print appears to me to have come from a plate where either modelling or moulding paste has been applied to certain areas. The distant water towards the top of the print has only a light rubbing of ink and has picked up many fine lines which would probably result from the brushwork in a modelling or gel medium applied to the surface. The rock wall also has a similar appearance.
Very inspiring work and quite different to what I imagined could be achieved with collagraphs.
Overview of research – For this assignment I’ve looked at three very different collagraph artists: Jet James, Brenda Hartill and Grace Bentley-Scheck. All three have added greatly to my knowledge and outlook on what it means to make collagraph prints. Project 12 will give me the opportunity to put some of this knowledge together and translate it into my own work.
Permission to use images very kindly given by the artist.