This part of the project asks us to produce collagraphs in more than one colour.
The manual outlines rolling over selected areas of your print plate with different colours. I also had a go at printing on different coloured papers and started with very, very pale grey ink on red elephant dung paper.
I thought the contrast would work well but should have realised that the red totally dominated the grey. White would possibly have been better but I thought it would be too stark.
Whilst the grey was mixed, and having seen this overwhelming piece, I tried it on a warm mid-brown, flecked, Chin paper hoping the intensity of the paper and ink would be more balanced.
What a difference. I then moved back to white paper and my three primary colours: ultramarine blue, quinacridone red and a mix of hansa yellow light + chrome yellow hue (the last one is a paint not an ink but it warms the hansa yellow up nicely). Unfortunately, at this stage, the bubble wrap had disintegrated and I pulled that section out and replaced it with hessian sacking which didn’t come through terribly defined on the next pieces.
Top print: Gyokuryu paper. Bottom print: Chinese cotton. Both lightweight and printed dry with additional thinner added to inks.
These look quite dynamic and the colour mixing has given good results. I’ve got some nice green, a bit of purple and the cocktail sticks transition smoothly from red to orange. The lace flowers and trim have a surprising amount of detail coming through and the plastic bathmat ‘pebbles’ have also retained some texture. I’m particularly pleased with the sharp transfer of the cocktail sticks and am amazed that the diamond cardboard cutouts haven’t collapsed yet. Looks like cardboard shapes are going to be good for collagraphs.
For the next section. the colours I chose are as follows:
From left: Sepia mixed with a little chrome yellow, pthalo green with a touch of the sepia mix added, napthol scarlet. All have been combined with 65% extender and a tiny amount (less than the size of a pea) of tack reducer.
I loved the single colour outcome from my spiky texture plate and knew colours would work well here, but the thought of using the roller (as previously stated) was not good. I don’t want these sharp points ruining the rubber surface. So I took an old credit card and tried to spread the sepia over selected areas. Using telephone-book paper I rubbed away the excess. I used the same method to then add the green and red, blending them as I went. So even though it is a collagraph plate some of the ink sits on the surface whilst in other areas I have forced it into the recesses and wiped away from the surface.
Above: the prepared print plate. A mix of intaglio and relief printing which can be seen clearly in the photograph.
Above left: Dampened Arches 250gsm. A lovely crisp print with vibrant colours which is very successful. Above right: Dampened, yellow/green elephant dung paper. This results in a much softer print as the paper has a slightly spongy surface, even before wetting. It doesn’t seem quite like a finished print to me. I feel it needs some kind of very dark dominant linear image over the top and that this colouring should retreat into being a feature background instead of the focal interest. Still a very good print transfer though.
I then moved to my Brenda Hartill inspired plate which I’ve been dying to use.
Above: pristine plate, ready to ink. Note the uneven edges. Ink was applied to selected areas with a spatula for the sepia and green, then the red was applied using a dabber and a small paint brush. Excess ink was removed using telephone-book paper.
Above left: the inked plate where some areas had been rubbed away. Above right: Dampened Hahnemuhle paper. Oops, accidentally got a bit over excited when rubbing back the ink!! However, doesn’t it look textured and dimensional? I could almost reach out and touch those ridges. It’s a flat print but doesn’t look it at all. How exciting.
Above left: Dampened Hahnemuhle paper. What a beauty, exactly what I hoped for. However, it looks flatter than the previous print. The additional ink has over-ridden the 3D effect. Above right: ghost print. Still a very interesting transfer which has retained a more dimensional appearance.
It doesn’t look like I’ve done many coloured prints but I decided on less quantity but more time spent on ink application. Each print took around 30 minutes to ink up correctly and had to be semi-cleaned before re-application to avoid contamination of colours.
Very happy with the outcomes achieved here and for other print students following me please note there are none of the ink transfer speckling problems I’ve been encountering. I put this down to the advice recently received from my tutor, a printmaker friend of hers and a collagraph artist I met at the recent Bloom exhibition. Dampened paper and a touch of tack reducer seem to have made a big difference to these prints. Let’s see what I come out with in the next print run.
Really interesting. Are collagraphs done in editions or are they more one offs like monoprints?
My tutor tells me that what I’ve done are classed a ‘variable editions’ So I’ve used the same plate, with the same colour scheme but because of the ink hand application each are slightly different. Hence, an edition but variable. I hadn’t heard this term until she told me about it. It opens up possibilities for sure and is similar to what I did with my lotus flower prints where I dabbed and rubbed back in selected areas.
Interesting, perhaps this allows for more “art” in the process.It definitely means you can play more and it is fine.
I like this variable edition idea because you keep the general print idea but can subtly change the outcome.
By the way, I love your latest woodblock prints and it’s inspired me to go to the hardward store and look for a suitable piece of wood to give it a try. Something I said I wouldn’t do. I thought carving wood would be very hard but your tree prints are very effective, so I’ll give it a try. Nothing like being inspired by the work of someone else!!
Buy pine instead of spruce. It is much kinder to work with. I’ve heard some say basswood is the best, but more money. I prefer wood over lino…..but then I love the smell of wood and construction so it makes sense.
David the Resident Carver says pine is soft, so it’s easy to cut but the grain is open, which means cuts tend to want to follow the grain. It’s fine for larger scale, as long as your tools are kept sharp. But, in finer detailed work like the chip carving he does, which resembles some of your print plates, pieces can easily flick out. You can glue them back in with wood glue but this is tedious, as it can keep happening with use. Also the knife wants to follow the grain if you are cutting with the grain. There’s a trade-off between softness = open grain and fine grain = stable but harder to cut. Spruce is good and often used in the US for carving but hard to come by here and very expensive. He suggests box, harder to cut than pine but stable and fine grained. He adds the rider that it depends on the kind of design you’re carving; that trying out pine would be the only way to discover its strengths and drawbacks for what you want to do.
That’s interesting that spruce is expensive there , here it is cheap, cheap, cheap. I’ve carved pine also with a rotary tool and that solves the grain issue. You are so right with the knife wanting to follow the grain. My biggest carving challenge to date has been driftwood. No predictability, which actually makes it interesting. Thanks for the comments, we learn so much from the experience of others.
Thanks for the input, Deb and Nola. I understand what you’re saying about tools wanting to follow the grain but I’ll try a bit of pine anyway and look for some box wood. Perhaps David can show me his wood when I see you, Nola? It would give me a bit of an idea what I’m looking for. By the way, how thick do you both think the wood should be, would I be looking at 6mm? I guess a Dremel would work to carve across grain. Would a soldering iron take some of the surface of pine off do you think?
When I buy pine I go with the pine in the shelving section so it is pretty clear and pretty affordable, about $10 CAD for 4’x 11″x 3/4″. The spruce was a 2×4, and even though the depth was severe overkill it was really fun and easy to print on. Against the grain I used a knife and chisel (and held my breath!).
Love the dimensional effect of the second plate!
Oh, me too. It’s quite exciting seeing what is coming out.