My main ambitions in doing a six afternoons (spread over a couple of months) collagraph course were to:
- explore ways of making plates
- learn about inking techniques
For my second plate on the course, I decided to take an image, a detail of a photo at the BM, from the Elgin Marbles, and develop it in relief on card using filler.
I had used this image in my watercolour printing, and I enjoy exploring a theme in different media.
I wanted my print to capture the feel of a marble sculpture. The course introduced me to tile cement, but I chose fine filler for this because I wanted my subject to be more wipable and therefore paler, more like marble. I drew my design on card in reverse and then used low tack masking tape to mask out the negative space. I had to cut into the masking tape with a scalpel to get my curves and hoped this wouldn’t destroy my card plate. I thinly smeared over the filler, molded it and then lifted the masking tape whilst it was wet. This gave me good crisp edges. I sealed the plate with polyurethane varnish.
For my first proof, I inked in sepia. The raised filler didn’t wipe as much as I hoped compared to the card background. I wanted more tonal contrast than this.
I then inked in a different colour, wiped the head more aggresively, and rubbed over a contrasting colour.
The added colour has generated a bit of contrast but not as much as I hoped. This is too dark, so I printed a ghost, just rubbing a little colour over the head again.
This is better , but I have all those white margins because there is so little ink now. However, they do help generate contrast.
I then tried a rub over of ink in a more contrasting colour.
It has picked up the sculpted surface well, but I don’t like the colour mix.
Next I tried a roll-over over the head. This is quite effective at picking up the molded sculptural aspects of the plate.
The plate was producing a lovely emboss.
I thought that the design was lacking something, and the tutor pointed out that the head is floating; not grounded and without context. I modified my plate to include the original plinth, by painting a block of pastel ground gesso, with an area of micaceous iron oxide, hoping this would give me two different dark tones. I also painted heavy body acrylic paint over the head in areas where I wanted lighter tones.
I think this improves the print, although my two tones on the plinth are almost the same, so I have lost the three dimensionality of that. It is too dark, so I had another go, wiping the plate more.
Again I have got white halos. The tutor told me that a touch of watercolour hand colouring in the same colour as the background was a tried and true method for getting rid of them!
At the end of the day, I think I like my plate more than any of my prints. I printed about 12 prints from it and it held up very well. After printing, it has acquired an interesting patina and has all the contrast I was looking for. Hey ho.
Whilst my results were disappointing, this plate did serve as a good exercise in exploring differing inking techniques, and filler was a new medium for me. There are two other approaches I would have like to try with more time:
- clean the plate as much as possible and print a blind emboss (should have done that before inking)
- Print with a very pale backgound and a darker roll-over.
I can always mount a print face down and claim its a blind emboss!