Collagraphs Revisited

Feedback for my last project was that the final images were too abstract to fulfill the brief for a representational collagraph, and I have therefore revisited this project for assessment. I really enjoyed working with the wood glue and tile adhesive grout in my initial experiments, and decide to work mainly in this medium for this plate. Living where we do, the sea is an ever present influence, and I spent some time during dog walks taking photographs of the beach. During a recent holiday to Anglesey I also spent time on a monochrome sketchbook, including looking at ripples and patterns in the sand formed by the tides.

I made this painting of a generic beach scene based on these contemplations. I used heavy body white acrylic medium to build up some texture on the sand, and dilute ink washes with water soluble metallic pastel over the top. I also printed some gold acrylic with a small eraser to indicate texture.

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The collagraph plate was based on mount board sealed with Modpodge. I made some fine texture in the area for the sky at this early sealing stage. Dried split teabags were glued in place with Modpodge, and the sea drawn quickly with wood glue, directly from its squeezy bottle. A fine layer of tile grout/adhesive was mixed with PVA and manipulated with a pointed palette knife to create the ripples in the sand. I then used a rhinestone in a metal setting from a Christmas decoration to impress rough marks in the foreground. After 48 hours drying time, I then sealed the plate with acrylic varnish on the front and back. This was left for several days before printing commenced. I also admit that I did not intend to end up with a reversed image of the original sketch design!

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I remained mindful of the other criticism that I hadn’t really been very adventurous in the inking of my previous collagraphs, and having looked at the work of other artists at Dorset art weeks, I approached the inking more like a monoprint. I used a brush initially to really work the ink into every recess on the plate in lighter tones, and wiped excess away in the style of intaglio printmaking. I rolled deeper tones lightly over the relief elements, and used a combination of brushstrokes and cloth wiping to create the clouds in the sky. I stippled white ink at the shore line, and dabbed black ink in the foreground to heighten the contrast on the rough textures. The dark areas here also helped keep the composition together balancing with the buildings in black. I printed on a warm cream paper to help give the feel of a warm day. As I am using Caligo inks, I dampened the paper and blotted it rather than leaving to soak.

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In printing different versions from the same plate, I thought it would be interesting to paint a sunset scene with lights from the shoreline reflecting on the sea. I kept the majority of the plate in a very deep violet, with the bright yellows and reds concentrated at the horizon and backlighting the buildings. I inked up in a similar way to previously, by working the ink into the plate with a brush, wiping and rolling a slight tonal shift over the relief. Having inked the plate in violet, I wiped away the areas I wanted in other colours with a detergent wipe. I selectively inked with a brush, working from light areas into dark. I worked in this way for two prints, first on grey paper and allowing more mixing of colours, forming a dirty green in places, and then on the cream paper, with less mixing. Each have their own merits, but I will be only submitting one. On balance, I thing the grey print is the stronger of the two.

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I experimented with printing on a naturally dyed ‘leather paper’ purchased in India.I  The paper is very strong, and has deep creases in it. I soaked it for a little and stretched some of these creases out. The dye didn’t run as much as I had feared, and the paper had a slightly slimy feel when wet. I have not been able to determine what sort of leather the paper is manufactured from. As the paper was wetter, the ink marks were more indistinct, and the creases in the paper also obliterated some of the marks. The lack of contrast between the paper and the violet added to this. The yellows however stood out wonderfully, and the marks from the wood glue worked really well. The overall feeling was more like a night scene as darker details are obliterated, and the focus is on the glints of light reflected on the ripples of the sea.

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