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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Feedback on Assignment 4 and Reflections

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.

Project 12 Collatype Collage Prints

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.

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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.

coffee grounds

crushed peppercorns
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.