Collagraph printing: Tree bark – a larger plate

Using my original collagraph plate (see previous posts) as a reference I started to plan a larger version with a little more complexity.

The sand I adhered to the mountboard backing in my last, smaller piece didn’t quite give me the effect I’m after.  It was very easy to get an uneven distribution of ink which resulted in some flooded areas and others without enough coverage.

Note: in the printing world of carborundum usage (similar to but finer than sand) you are actually looking to create a solid printed area and it works extremely well, but it’s not what I want in this case.  I’m looking for a speckling effect.

I started with my photos of tree bark (something I photograph often!).

After some trial drawings and tracing I had a pretty good idea of my composition.

Mountboard was lightly covered with modelling paste and allowed to dry.  Textured paper and string ‘knots’ were glued in place and the plate was photocopied.  I then marked where I intended applying sand or other granules.

I have 3 types of granules.

Pumice is the finest, so will hold a lot of ink and create a solid coverage.  Sand is next, and we know the results of that.  Crushed garnet is the coarsest and I was hoping to be able to carefully apply ink only to the surface and not push it into the recesses, so giving me a speckling effect.  Finally I decided on garnet in most areas with sand in others.

Looking good.  Colours chosen were ochre, deep red and black with some chine collé included.  This is the main reason for tea-staining my hand-made paper recently.  Click here to read that post.

Now to print.  I was able to use an etching press at another location (as mine is too small) so I inked up, prepared the chine collé and ran it through the press.

Not bad.  250gsm BFK Reeves paper with oil based inks.  Probably too much ink on the string as I’ve lost a bit of definition and the whole thing has a slightly dirty look.

Unfortunately I couldn’t use the studio again so had to resort to trying to produce a collagraph using a book press – far from ideal.  Seriously not a good idea, but having a time limit gave me no option.

Errrr…. right!  That didn’t work.  This was a new paper to me, 250gsm Dutch Etching paper, which should have been fine.  I don’t think it was soaked long enough to pick up the ink and, well, what can I say?  Proof positive that a book press isn’t the tool for this technique – I knew that already.  But let’s have another go anyway.

This time I went with one of my favourites, and a paper I know well: 250gsm Stonehenge, smooth as silk surface, embosses beautifully and able to be soaked for quite a while without disintegrating.

After pressing – book press again unfortunately – whilst the paper was still in place over the collagraph plate I placed tissue paper on top and, using my finger tips, rubbed over the entire back, pushing the damp paper into the crevasses, embossing the edges, outlining the string sections and so on.  I was determined!  After 20 minutes, and several looks to check my progress, I lifted the print.

Just can’t seem to get the photo right today.  It is on white paper and looks much better in real life.  This is the best I can expect from the routine I’ve employed to get the print.  Just wish I could have put it through an etching press to get a more vibrant result.

Still, I’m not unhappy with it and I’ve enjoyed playing with the plate making.  I’d quite like to continue if I could do it through a proper press.  Am I making a good enough case for buying one myself?  I think so, but space is the problem.


About Claire B

I'm a passionate printmaker, paper-maker and a poor sketcher (which I'm working to improve). I've stitched from early childhood and am a perpetual student, loving learning and participating in everything creative.
This entry was posted in My Creative Pieces, My prints and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Collagraph printing: Tree bark – a larger plate

  1. Oh – wouldn’t it be lovely to have an etching press. So thrilled with your progress. Do let us know if you get a press. I’d love to have one too…. but they are so expensive (in my part of the world at least)

    • Claire B says:

      Just got to content myself with the press at the art centre I go to each week for the time being I think. Space and expense are out of my reach at the moment. But we can dream.

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