In my final afternoon on my collagraph course, I wanted to combine a number of techniques into a single plate/print. I also wanted to explore a subject which was less representational than my earlier plates. A keen (if useless) amateur astronomer, I have never really felt like exploring this as a subject until now thinking how can you follow a Hubble telescope image? Recently, though, I have been inspired by certain objects I return to again and again with my own telescope. Once I started sketching, I was turning page after page in my sketchbook.
I like the contrast between the bright objects and a textured, dark background. I like the idea of trying to convey structure in space caused by gravitational waves and distortion. The sketches have an abstract element which means you don’t have to know what it represents and there is no right or wrong way up. My objectives in making a plate based on this idea were:
- use a mixture of material to create tone and texture
- use local inking
- use chine colle
- achieve high tonal contrast
- work quite large
- achieve drama and abstraction
I used an A4+ piece of card and glued on to it shapes made of tissue paper, net and dress making interlining. My idea was based on Betelgeuse, the red giant sketch above but combined with the sense of curved space in the binary star sketch. I then painted on curved sweeps of micaceous iron oxide paint, watered to give a medium tone. I put neat paint in a needle nosed bottle and made sweeping lines and dots over the top, and used thin card for a planet. The area where I wanted my chine colled sun was left bare so that I could wipe away any ink here but swept tone around the edge of the space.
I forgot to take a pic of my plate before printing, but here is what it looks like afterwards.
The chine colle was prepared in two ways. I have been experimenting with paper making and wanted to try using some of this. This was monoprinted with a flat red layer and a textured orange layer of ink and then cut out. I also painted some Hosho with red, orange and yellow acrylic paint and cut out circles from this.
My plate was inked in Payne’s Grey ink and wiped, then reinked in some areas in Ultramarine and wiped again. I tried to keep my sun area clean of these inks and then inked around that area with red, wiping in a circle. I tried to get all the inks to merge at their edges.
My first print was too light in tone, over-wiped (actually lighter than it looks here). The hand made paper absorbed the PVA and didn’t stick, so had to be re-pasted after printing. The monoprinting was ‘washed out’ by the collagraph plate. The plate texture does give a good emboss.
I reprinted, wiping less. This time my print didn’t have quite enough contrast and the pva bled at the top. My paper left a white line around its edge, so I have used a little watercolour to fill this and the PVA wash. Actually, I quite like that as it looks like a coronal flare.
Successive prints used my painted chine colle, and I got the wiping a bit better but the red halo has become too big and the sun now too central.
The tutor suggested that the chin colle would be better torn rather than cut (should have thought of that) so I used some of her orange tissue, but it was a rather dark brown orange, sadly, flatter than this photo suggests.
I thought I would copy Degas and add a bit of pastel to my sun to see if this livened it up. I like the way the pastel looks like flames.
I am quite pleased with the progression through these plates. I got better at judging my inking. I like:
- the contrast and texture
- the interest in the background
- the colours and drama
- the abstract qualities
- the embossed texture
I don’t like:
- over central placing of sun
- sun too big
- difficulty wiping consistently
I would like to try printing this plate again with my own paper monoprinted and torn, a smaller sun and slightly lighter background. I would have to do this at home now, without a professional press and with different inks. I would like to do a series of prints on this theme.
I have enjoyed this course very much and have tried to take advantage of as many different collagraph techniques as possible in the time. I am really looking forward to doing the collagraph part of my OCA course.