Print 1. Assignment 4: Review

This has been a fascinating assignment and one where a whole new world of printing has been opened up to me, never having done collagraphs before.

JJ10I started by attending a collagraph printing workshop with Jet James which gave me a good insight into his form of collagraphs and plate construction which includes incising into the plate, indenting a variety of materials into the plastic foam plate and adding only very low-level items to the surface – masking tape, nail varnish pen marks and the like.  Essentially, what we covered was a fantastic method of forming prints using both intaglio and relief printing simultaneously.  It was a great eye-opener although quite different to the requirements for the course.

The course manual seems to indicate that collagraphs are a method of printing only the higher relief sections of pre-constructed print plates, leaving the background the original paper colour.  P11-Coll10This was very effective on my samples in project 11 and they came out well-defined and sharp but I found my first prints for project 12 rather stark.  P12-Col-17At this point I decided to incorporate a little of the Jet James method and allow printing ink from the lower areas to come through.  These effects are much more to my liking and will be a route I will continue to explore when doing collagraphs in the future.  The prints are more grounded,  visually appealing and I like the ‘contained in a border’ sense of them.

Assessment criteria points:

Demonstration of technical and visual skills: On this point I think I have been very adventurous in exploring a wide range of textures and surfaces to build my collagraph plates.  Starting with the suggestion from OCA of a 16 piece sample plate, I included a selection of materials including: plastic, metal components, bubble wrap, wooden sticks, cardboard, sequins, rubber shapes, raffia, string, velcro, cotton fabric trim and crocheted pieces.

P11-Col12I then moved to experimenting in the vein of Brenda Hartill, having researched her methods quite deeply, and produced my own version of her type of collagraph but with my own style.  This included corrugated cardboard, layered thick paper and cork sheeting along with moulding paste.

When starting project 12 it quickly became apparent that the type of imagery I wanted to produce wouldn’t be achievable using many of the textural items I had explored earlier.  P12-Coll8So I continued experimenting and widened my range of materials to include more fragile components but ones that would add a modicum of detail to the overall scene.  These had to be treated in such a way so as to make them robust enough to withstand the pressure of the press and not collapse during the first printing.  So I cut and folded tissue paper before weaving it into a rug, which was then sealed several times until hardened.

P11-PrepFThe wallpaper in my final images was a great innovation and, again, had to be strengthened to hold its shape.  Medium weight print paper offcuts were put through an embossing machine and then the indentations were filled with modelling medium, allowed to harden and after adhering to the print plate base they were sealed until very firm.

I believe I have demonstrated a full understanding and ability of how to utilize a large selection of components in a creative manner within a collagraph setting.

Quality  of outcome:  I can only be pleased with the outcomes I’ve achieved.  Of course there is always room for improvement and I continue on that journey.  Colour mixing experimentation was invaluable and is something I have undertaken throughout the projects.  It may seem like a waste of ink and time to others but I’m a very visual person and I benefit from having all my colour chips around me, rearranging them into different groups to assess possible combinations.  Yes, the quality of the outcome has satisfied me at the level I’m currently working and I’m looking forward to assignment 5 where I intend to achieve even better results.

Demonstration of creativity:  This is an interesting question.  We were required to produce a representational image and I think I’ve demonstrated creativity although I recognise that my subject matter may not appeal to all.  I confess to being a little more on the abstract side with my preferences (see project 8), with stylization coming in a close second (see project 10).

My start point was some very simplified flower heads that I started developing during a recent workshop.  The more I worked in my sketchbook the more my mind flitted on to something else as each idea sparked another.  I moved from flower head to mushrooms to lampshades and then finally saw a retro room coming together.

I was partly influenced by some research I did on RemPods and wanted to construct my own.  RemPods, or Pop-up Reminiscence Pods are the brainchild of Richard Ernest who presented his idea to the UK Dragons’ Den programme and received some substantial backing.  A RemPod is a room setting that can be erected in a care home/nursing home for those who suffer with dementia.  They form a therapeutic and calming setting, often built with vintage items which remind the patients of a bygone era which gives them a sense of security and familiarity.  I think they are a wonderful concept and would love to build a full size one in the corner of my workroom – if I had the spare space.  Here are a few samples and mine would fit in just fine:

RemPodsContext:  My evolving designs, colour schemes and ideas are well recorded in my sketchbook and my learning log, making it very easy to refer back to previous work, to use and change previous ideas and create new concepts from them.  I am building a comprehensive resource for the future.  However, I don’t undertake much in the way of drawing or painting that does not directly apply to the course.  In other words, I’m not just sketching randomly on a daily basis.  I don’t have the time for this and I find it quite directionless anyway.  I prefer to work to a theme or goal.

I continue to research other artists and take little bits and pieces from them to try myself.  I’ve also recently joined a couple of online printing groups, one specifically for lino printing and these are proving very instructive.  Online comments and critiquing is proving interesting and has made me more aware of the work of others who are not professional artists but experiment in printing.  I feel comfortable in this environment as the skill levels are very wide-ranging.

Textbooks, both those recommended by OCA and others I’ve sourced, are a tremendous source of good tips, general information and sometimes troubleshooting solutions and I refer to them often.

Images of RemPods from


About Claire B

I am a passionate printmaker, paper maker and book artist. I'm a 'forever' student and frequently attend courses and workshops to extend and improve my creative skills.
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