It was late 2021 when I started this project and posted my first Brain Clutter series collagraph (see here) and I’ve been keen to return to the theme ever since.
Last week, at a 5 day residential collagraph workshop I created a new experimental plate, and followers of my site will have seen a finished print using it for my recent print commission here. Having been away from this theme for a year this is a trial to see how I feel about picking the thread up again – and I’ve decided I like it.
It’s a good stand-alone piece and exploration for the series. I’m using the plate as inspiration and will remake it using the same format as the first piece; size and shape, essentially.
We sealed our plates using Shellac, which is a product I moved away from a while ago for a few reasons:
- It smells and brush clean-up is with meths.
- Unused solution can get tiny lumps in it over time and these aren’t always visible on the plate but definitely affect the print outcome (yep, been down that route!).
- Shellac colours the surface of the print plate and this can make it difficult to see where ink is either over-applied or too aggressively rubbed back (that’s another one I know all about).
- On at least one occasion it only dried to a tacky finish, rendering the plate unusable. Was this because of other products on the plate surface designed to create texture but impeding the drying of the Shellac? I don’t know.
- Drying time can be affected by concentration of solution, temperature and humidity.
Despite this, and being in a class situation, I sealed my plate with Shellac.
The base is mountboard with the remainder being a mix of cut away areas and additions of mesh, gels, glue, tapes, carborundum and the like.
Above left: this was the first print, in sepia, and the tonal variety and crisp finish simply isn’t there. The composition is good, some of the components have potential but overall it’s very average. Sepia over a golden Shellac base isn’t my ideal choice to see where I’ve inked and where I need to work further.
Above right: the whole plate was inked in stormy grey with yellow applied over the surface on the right, thus making green. Using a cotton bud I wiped away ink from the horizontal and vertical lines encouraging them to become more prominent. Happy with that bit but there’s still work to do on other sections.
Above left: I tried a new ink colour, Van Dyck brown. That won’t be happening again, vile colour. Too much ink removed from the plate but the vertical and horizontal lines have worked well.
Above right: stormy grey and orange. This was the final print of the course and was inked and rubbed back in 3 minutes flat, hence the lines aren’t as sharp as I’d like but the rest isn’t bad at all. Time was short, I didn’t want the ink to go to waste and it was worth another quick look. The colours are terrific.
So what have I learnt so far from this collagraph?
- I love the concept.
- The vertical self-adhesive aluminium tape strip has worked well but the PVA glue lines need to be more robust.
- The glue/carborundum areas on the right aren’t bad but probably need another layer of Shellac to help create tonal variation.
- The left hand blocks are a good idea but there’s not sufficient variation in their surfaces for them to pop out as individual components. I need a better range of items with more tonal variety.
- I won’t be continuing down the Shellac route and the project plate I make from this experimentation will be varnished as per the original.
The one on the left looks ok colour wise to me. On my screen is looks purple and I quite like it with the golden yellow. If I had produced that I would have been thrilled with myself!
Yes, it’s a sort of purple tinged brown, quite peculiar. Not at all what I had in mind but the coverage is quite good.