I have received feedback from my tutor on my collagraph project, part of it reads as follows:
“Task 2 (Project 12)
You were asked to work towards a series of representational images using the collagraph technique. Some interesting results for this exercise, I can see from your notes that you struggled a little with gaining a particular aesthetic in earlier test prints, but you took the knowledge from producing the test blocks for project 11 and made changes to rectify the lack of tone in your prints. Your referencing of site-specific materials within your collagraph blocks is a particularly nice touch, and your tests of these materials are really very engaging in themselves.
My only comment would be regarding the overall image. I don’t feel that it accurately describes your subject matter, and I found it difficult to ascertain what the image was until I referred to your preparatory work. Collagraph is a technique that takes time to perfect, and with further experimentation and development, I believe your prints will improve, and have the potential to reach the same level as your relief prints.
Feedback on assignment
The work submitted for assignment 4 is overall of a good standard. Your use of different papers and inking techniques (combining dabbing and rolling) is great, and your presentation of your prints is clean and professional. What I would recommend is a bit more work on your representational ability when using collagraph. If you can dedicate a bit of time to working with different types of composition, the description of foreground/background, and the use of multiple colours as apposed to just two, I think this would enable your skill in this area to develop further, and will benefit your submission when it comes to assessment.”
I agree entirely with this, and was concerned that my final image was a bit abstract. I did struggle with subject matter, and possibly fell into the same trap as with my elephant combination print, in that I was making the block do all the work, and didn’t use the inking to it’s full potential to add depth to the image. It’s back to the drawing board for this one, and I will need to comb my photographs and sketchbooks for a new subject that is not such a challenge for me to begin with.
To make some positive progress on this and get inspiration, I have been looking at some other artists collagraphs. One example that I felt worked particularly well and demonstrates the point I was making about making the colour do some of the work is “Bailey #1 (Original Collagraph of Boxer” by Bonnie Murray. In this print, the edges of the subject are quite loosely defined by the block itself, in which the patterned textured areas are used to draw the eye to the details of the portrait. The outline and depth in the portait is achieved by the application of varying tones of colour, using light and shade in a subtle way.
Note: I have included a link to this print image on the artist’s website rather than reproducing it here for copyright reasons.
My next set of combination monoprint and lino prints were based on a sketch from my India trip of an elephant at the Amber Fort.
I worked in the same way as suggested in the linocut project by planning my cutting on a piece of black paper with white Inktense pencil and white Neocolor II pastels. I thought that the motif would be stronger if the seating and man on top were omitted. The borders were patterned taking inspiration from the designed painted on the elephants themselves. I then traced and transferred the image in reverse to the lino for cutting.
In cutting the fabric drapes, I referred back to the sample blocks I had made in Assignment Two, and felt that hatching with a very fine v-tool gave the impression of a finely woven fabric. I used contour lines to give the fabric shape over the elephants back. I am really please with this design, and has the feeling of an Indian block-printed bedspread, with the animal motif in the centre and a decorative border. The small circles were inspired by embroidered panels, where shisha mirrors are used. I have noticed in the panels, that the placement of the shisha work around a very regimented design, even if they are not evenly placed, such as the difference between the top and bottom corners here. I also think that the freehand loose cuts of the border design work better than if it were all geometrically exact.
In planning the final combination print, I kept the idea of Indian block-printed bedspreads in mind. They often have a solid colour background edge, with a cracked mud resist or batik resist drops in the centre. I thought about having a contrast between the border and the centre background, as well as selectively masking different areas of the image. I printed many sketch-quality versions of this in Acrylic system 3 on to heavy cartridge paper, and painted various monoprint ideas over them with acrylic inks. I also cut a series of stencils for masking different areas of the image.
For the palette, I took inspiration from a page in my India sketchbook, where I recorded a number of colours from bourgonvillea cuttings. I had originally thought about printing the fabric over the elephant in a different colour, but found the results detracted from the markmaking and the eye was drawn to this area only, rather than the pattern on the trunk followed by the border as I had planned. I found that keeping it simple and using two colours only worked best. Violet and red together was unsuccessful as each colour completely deadened the other leading to a flat image. Orange-yellow with either violet or crimson worked best, and conveyed the carnival feel of the painted elephants in life. I felt that the sample on the left in the picture above worked well, in reference to the sponged areas contrasting with a solid outer plain border.
For the final print, I opted for crimson with the orange-yellow and tried a number of different techniques. I tried using hole-punch waste paper discs as masks to mimic batik wax resist, but they left slight indentations on the paper. This resulted in the lino print having ghost circles in it, giving the unfortunate effect of a hole-riddled animal! Registration was tricky as it had to be exact, and it was difficult not to leave tentative marks and slight double marks at the edge where the block was initially applied. These were the two most successful prints.The first is a ghost print, taken after the border was masked on a previous print, with a central mask applied for the elephant.
In this print, the central area was drawn into with a cocktail stick in random scribbles, in an attempt to mimic the sharp lines of cracked mud resist dyeing.
The problem with both of these is that the monoprinting does not really add anything to the monoprint on it’s own. Conversely, I think the strong contrasts in the original print have more impact. The design is good, but I have not left enough work for the monoprint to do, with all of the detailing already in the linocut.
The coursebook suggested that we approach this project by exploring colour and combinations that we really enjoy, complementary and contrasting colour schemes. Being winter at the moment, my drives to and from work are often lit by the most fantastical skies, and an artist that, for me, really captures these incredible light shows is Rikka Ayasaki. I took a couple of paintings by this Japanese trained, Paris based artist and attempted to copy them with gouache in my sketchbook, paying particular attention to the palette. The colours are broadly in two contrasting groups, one orange based and the other turquoise based, with many close complementary colours in the mix. I got used to applying the warmer translucent paints as a ground and sponging the opaque pastels and greens on the top.
I thought I would begin by working with a lino cut that I had made for a previous project, and used the final cut of my sunset reduction method piece. I simplified the palette, and made a few versions of the final print, mixing up different proportions of each colour, and different colour overprints. An example of this is photographed below. I printed with Acrylic and block printing medium, and painted with acrylic paint on it’s own. I decided that the green wan’t strong enough, and that the purple tone would look better as a deep violet. As usual, I kept a few notes on the recipe for each colour I used.
I rolled out blocks of violet, pale turquoise, and a graduated palette of the other colours on a piece of glass in preparation for making the initial monoprints.
I started by making painterly monoprints by stippling paint on with a stiff brush, and wiping into it with a silicone tip. I moved on to rolling broader strokes of colour, taking a bolder print, then rolling the colours in to each other for a more blended ghost print. These worked particularly well once the linocut was printed on top. The background monoprint also needed a fair amount of the deep violet to hold the completed combination print together.
My favourite prints were made by masking part of the inked plate with a torn piece of textured wallpaper that had been rolled lightly with the same colours. This worked with the horizontal cuts on the linoprint to convey the feeling of reflections on the water.
I find it interesting how different this print feels compared to the original reduction method print. The broader, brighter palette and looser marks of the monoprint have given it energy, rather than the quiet, reflective qualities of the original. Technically, registration was easy here as the placement did not need to be millimetre perfect at the edges to be successful.
I had a couple of false starts on this project. I started by making up images with shapes cut from photographs of different textures, but the resulting images lacked depth and became quite abstract. Having been to India, I was inspired to make an image that reflected my visit. When visiting the Amber Fort near Jaipur, I was entranced by the weathering of the walls and the brickwork, as well as the very ornate mosaic walls. I was particularly drawn to this photograph that I took at the Lion Gate. I love the contrast between the geometric bold pattern of the window against the weathered varied textures of the wall. I made a sketch based on this whilst I was there, using a tiny woodblock gifted to me at the Anokhi museum to print a representation of the windows.
I have read about alternatives to carborandum, and one suggestion was dried coffee grounds. A print of coffee on cardboard was so successful that I tried test plates of each of the following: flaked sea salt, lavender, mustard, fennel, crushed peppercorns, black tea, cumin, and coriander. The salt didn’t work at all as it stayed soggy with the PVA. I inked them by rubbing ink into them with a rag, and dab printing more heavily over the top. I was particularly pleased with the crushed spices.
- crushed peppercorns
It appealled to me to use materials related to my journey to make the collage. The spices would be good for the distressed part of the wall, and referring back to my collage sample print I thought that rose petals and handmade Indian khadi paper would also work well. As it was a textiles holiday, I decided to do a small embroidery for the window. My test prints of lace and crochet persuaded me that the stitches would print well. I sketched the window on a piece of cotton with a quilting pen (disappears on ironing) and stitched over it. I used chain stitch and blanket stitch as these were the most commonly used stitches in the hand embroidery I saw there. I simplified the window pattern to make sure that the design was clear when printed rather than a mass of dots.
A test print, although admittedly lightly inked, was more sparse than I had intended, and I felt didn’t quite work as it stood. It needed more shadowing to balance the composition. I had made the embroidery a little larger than intended, but I think it still works. I also made a slight error in that I didn’t crush the coriander and cumin seeds as much as on the test plates, resulting in loss of some detail.
I remedied this by adding some Polyfilla to the plate between the window motifs, and between the seeds to create areas of more shallow relief. I then stabilised with modpodge and finished with acrylic varnish as on previous plates. I printed an initial plain black print, which is the sharpest of my resulting prints as details became squashed with each printing from the collage. I then printed a selectively inked version using a dabber.
I wanted to print on coloured paper, and thought the most economical way to do this would be to paint it myself. Whilst the paper was damp prior to printing, I painted it with Procion MX protein dye solution. I had to be careful not to work the surface too much as the paper would end to break up slightly. I used a second piece of paper to blot the surface of excess dye. I found that the paper was a little too wet for the water based inks I was using, resulting in blurring on some of the prints. I tried white on dark, and gold acrylic on blue. I then painted a piece in bright colours and printed black over the top. I was really pleased with this, but not sure how it stands as a finished piece of work. I seem to have a problem in that I appreciate more sophisticated looking work that tends to be more simplified and monotone, whereas I tend to throw everything at mine. I suspect that I will learn how to simplify things with time.