I had the opportunity to attend a six afternoon collagraph course with a local printmaker Ann Burnham (http://www.annburnham.co.uk/). I thought that this would support the Printmaking 1 course; a course book is no substitute for some hands on tuition. I have made lots of collagraphs but have often been disappointed in the results, I know that there is a lot more to conceiving and inking these plates than I have so far grasped.
My objectives for the course are:
- learn how to make ‘cleaner’ plates, that is well designed, well made
- learn how to make more durable plates
- identify new materials for plates
- learn how to ink plates to get colourful results
- extend my ideas about what collagraphs could be
After an initial introduction, looking at some of Ann’s plates and discussing the materials used, she suggested that we dive in and make a plate. We had been asked to bring some references and I chose the photo below. This is a statue in the BM of a Huaztec woman.
In my plate, I have used the card base, cut into, wallpaper, pastel ground gesso, shiny thin card and, new to me, tile adhesive and heavy body acrylic. I also cut back into the wallpaper and removed the top surface in places. This has left some delicate corners, and I am not sure how this will stand up to wiping. I reversed the image to match the real statue when printed. I decided to include the ceiling tiles by cutting into the card, as I rather like the diagonal element in the background. The elements which were glued on were pressed under weights whilst the glue set, to insure good adhesion, especially at the edges. It occurs to me that at some point I might cut out the figure and print it without the background – I like shaped plates. I wasn’t sure the plate would have enough tonal range, but I could modify it after taking a proof.
We sealed our plates with clear polyethylene varnish including the edge.
Ann showed us how to ink up the plates, using ink with some extender brushed onto the plate with a tooth brush. This was then lifted using circular motions of a large wad of fabric. The plate was then wiped further, finally with torn yellow pages to polish the high points and remove excess ink collected at raised edges. I found it quite difficult to know when to stop wiping. The first proof was quite acceptable and I decided not to modify my plate further at present.
We then looked at ways of adding colour to the plate. First I used a small roller to add opaque blue ink to the high spots of the plate in selected areas. I tried to be careful not to get this ink elsewhere, which required a steady and light hand. I think this is quite effective but I am not sure I like the opacity of the ink.
Ann then showed us how to add a ‘rub’ of colour using much stiffer ink. A large tight ball of scrim was dabbed lightly in a very small amount of the ink. The wad was touched a few times on paper to remove a lot of the ink and even it out. It was then stroked very lightly over areas of the plate. It will require practice to get the amount of ink right and the lightness of touch required. I really like this effect and would like to develop this with more strongly contrasting colours. The colours I was offered were yellow and magenta. The yellow has just warmed the colour of the body and the magenta, whilst good, is low key.
We also discussed the opportunities offered by chine colle, laying pasted coloured tissue over the plate before printing so that it adheres to the paper with the print on top. That will be my next experiment with this plate. Or maybe develop different coloured rubs. Mmmm….
Plans for developing this plate:
- texture is great – work on tonal contrast
- the highlights in the eyes need to be better
- the tone effects in the headdress are great – less effective elsewhere – develop
- the face it too small -I could rip this out but high risk – final throw?
- contrasting, transparent colour rubs
- chine colle around the headdress
- cut out figure – really final throw!
I don’t think the proportions I’ve captured in this plate are as pleasing as my photo – which is a perspective distortion of the real statue.
Four more weekly sessions to go!