1 May 2017
Part 4, Stages 2&3, Project 2, Exercise 3 – Collatype collage prints
The course notes stated that should produce 4 collatypes using the techniques I had learnt from Project 2, exercises 1 and 2. They also suggested that I should complete the first print before going on to make the other three.
I thought about making separate collage blocks and taking multiple overlaid prints using a registration system. However, this seemed too complex and time consuming, bearing in mind that I still needed to experiment and understand how the relief surfaces would translate to print. Consequently, I made the decision to concentrate on images which could be made with a single collage block.
A postscript from exercises 1 and 2
It was a week since I had taken prints for exercises 1 and 2 using Akua intaglio inks, and some of the prints had still not dried, leaving a wet sticky pool of ink which still transferred onto my fingers when handled. Not surprisingly, sample 2 from exercise 2 was one of these. In addition to the ink not drying, it had visibly separated, so that the “oily” constituent formed a ring around the edge of the pigmented area (see below).
Other samples which stayed wet were those printed onto Japanese tissue (exercise 1, sample and exercise 2, sample 4). I ideally I would have repeated exercises 1 and 2 with other types/brands of ink – maybe fabric paints, acrylics or an oil-based printing ink. Unfortunately I didn’t have time. I decided to continue with the Akua intaglio because I had a good understanding of it’s viscosity, how to manipulate it and how it behaves when printing on different materials. This meant that I had to made the decision not use the Japanese tissue for this exercise. I suspected that one of the reasons why the ink hadn’t dried with the Japanese paper was because of it’s fibre content (Akua intaglio was designed to dry when it reacts with paper which is a wood pulp). I used what I had learnt about the Akua ink to select rice paper as an alternative which I thought might work (being thin, but strong and absorbent with no fabric content).
SAMPLE 1: Scallop semi-abstract
I decided to start with my interpretation of Maggi Hambling’s sculpture “The Scallop” (2003) (Getty images, 2014) (see sketchbook pages 22-26). I chose this because I thought it would make a good semi abstract print, and would be reasonably straightforward to simplify for a collatype.
I selected a pencil sketch in which I had used line to suggest density of light and infer contour:
It reminded me of some of Georgia O’Keeffe’s flower paintings (Phaidon, n.d.) , and I thought that simplifying the image might allow for the possibility of multiple readings.
I started by tracing and simplifying the outline, but I found that this exercise was more difficult than I was expecting:
My initial drawing had been tonal, but this was an outline. Compared with this original, the simplification seemed flat and 2D. I also had to “close” the edges of the shape – something which I had not done in my initial sketch because I had focused on an area of detail and the sculpture extended beyond my field of view (the paper). I thought that I might be able to address this with inking (by inking very lightly around the edges and not pressing firmly, so that the transfer of ink was bold in the middle of the collatype and soft and tonal around the edges).
I was obviously not going to be able to replicate all the detail, so I referred back to my samples from exercises 1 and 2 to think about how I might represent the shell texture and regions of different tone.
To cut out each section and glue it onto mount board backing would have been very difficult, because the shapes were so thin and narrow, and difficult to cut out precisely. I decided to apply fruit netting a large shape, with smaller areas of corduroy stuck on top. I chose the cord because of the naturally stripy appearance which I felt would emulate the surface ridges of a shell.
I also used a small amount of the candlewick fabric to represent a ridge and used twigs to suggest outlines and surface contours. There were practical difficulties in sticking down the twigs with pva glue (they kept springing away from the surface), and waiting for the block to dry was time consuming.
The photo above shows the finished print block.
At this stage it didn’t seem very appealing. It was difficult to imagine the textures as distinct from the colours which were rather distracting. I wondered also if by layering my relief surfaces, the fruit net would give a print which was too faint, and visa versa, that the solid print lines from the twigs might be too bold. The only way to find out (and learn form the process) was to take a print!
The next day, once the block was dry, I inked it using Akua intaglio ink, applied with a brush. I tried to vary the colours to get a transition of related blue/green/greys across the shell surface. The inked plate is shown below:
The first print was made onto cotton muslin and is shown below (sample 1a):
I used my fingers to work the fabric into the relief surface.
I am really pleased with the transfer of ink and particularly with the patterning from the cord fabric and fruit net. I am slightly disappointed that the colour variation was not more obvious (I feel that this image needs more contrast to add drama).
My second print was made onto rice paper without re-inking (sample 1b):
This is a bolder print which shows embossing from the relief (a really interesting textural addition). Of the two prints, however, I prefer the print onto fabric, which being softer, seems more dynamic. The white background of the paper print in particular, feels very stark and harsh. I would have preferred the image if it had been printed onto a coloured surface.
I mentioned when discussing my choice of image that I hoped that this design would have multiple readings and I think that it could be successfully interpreted as either a flower, shell or abstract. I have displayed the paper print “upside down” as I think it reads better as a flower that way around. It is quite orchid-like in shape and texture and the twig impressions could be interpreted as stamens.
SAMPLE 2: View from Aldeburgh beach to Sizewell – polyfiller and stencil
The sketchbook work on page 14 (see below) seemed perfectly suited to simple textural monoprint using a polyfiller block, masked by stencils.
However, if I used an un-inked paper stencil to represent the dark areas in my collage, then they would have appeared white/negative spaces on my print. Instead, I decided to use “funky foam” as the stencil and to ink it too – in effect making an almost plain print block.
First, I started by tracing the outline of the collage onto a piece of mount board and I then made up some general purpose DIY powder filler to the consistency I wanted (the same brand that I had used in exercise 2). I spread the filler onto the areas where I wanted texture and marked into them with a stick (sea), the end of implements (shingle) and the edge or a ruler (tree-line and buildings).
I then cut shapes for the negative space in “funky foam” and applied these to the board whilst the polyfiller was still wet (so it acted as an adhesive). The completed board is shown below:
I waited until the next day for the print block to dry before inking the plate ready for printing (see below):
I used a paint brush to apply different colours of ink to the areas of polyfiller, then I used a roller to ink the sky and main beach areas (which were foam). Where I used the paint brush, I thinned the ink slightly by adding a few drops of Akua blender medium.
I had reservations that the foam might be too thick compared to the height of the polyfiller relief and I felt that there was a strong risk that only marks from the foam areas would transfer. In the event, I needn’t have worried.
The first print which I pulled from this plate was taken using cotton muslin (sample 2a). I pressed and worked the fabric into the plate using my fingers.
I am delighted with the detail, textural qualities and softness of this print. I also like the way that some of the ink from the polyfiller areas has transferred to the foam. It helps to soften the image, making it warmer and more inviting. I like the way that the print is broken and diffuse in the foam areas rather than forming a solid block of colour. I could not have hoped for a better result.
However I made one big mistake: I forgot to reverse the image on the print block! It doesn’t matter for this sample, but anybody who knows the scene would instantly realise that the view is back to front – a valuable lesson for the future.
The only other change which I might consider is to dye the background fabric first. However, I like the white areas showing though the sky which resemble clouds. An alternative might be to lay the fabric over another coloured surface. One of the aspects of using muslin which I like is that it is semi transparent and this is an opportunity where this feature could be exploited.
I feel that the image is sufficiently detailed for it to merit being a stand-along piece, but it could also be embellished further with stitching, if desired.
The second print I pulled from the block was using rice paper and was made without re-inking the plate (sample 2b):
Despite being a ghost print this image is brighter and more definite than the print onto fabric. Unlike the fabric print, there is some embossing from the relief surface. I love this print also, for it’s slightly different qualities, although if I had to choose a favourite it would be the slightly more subtle print onto cotton muslin. This is more an issue of personal preference.
SAMPLE 3: Left-handed portrait
The idea for using this image was inspired by the oil transfer (back drawings) of Paul Klee, which often have similar naive drawings as their subject.
This sketch was derived from a left handed and blind drawing which I made as a warm up exercise for a portraiture class (also see sketchbook pages 51-52). Although the facial features are “symbols” and somewhat juvenile in style, I liked the freedom and spontaneity and the way that the face doesn’t quite fit together correctly, with overlapping eyes and eyebrows. It struck me as an image which would be suitable for translating into collage, so a collatype seemed a logical extension.
The image exhibits a distorted shape, with the jaw appearing large and the head receding to a small point. This is upside down to the shape which you would expect a face to be and is suggests that we are looking up at the subject from below (perhaps he/she is standing and the viewer is seated?) It adds an heir of haughtiness to the portrait as if he/she sees themselves as superior and is looking down on the viewer.
I was attracted to the use of large but subtle areas of colour to denote shading in the textile portraits of Emily Jo Gibbs, such as Slaley (2014) (Gibbs, 2017a) and Why don’t you? (2014) (Gibbs, 2017b). I incorporated these ideas into my collage printing block by using the crocheted bathmat fabric from my experiments in exercise 1 (see below):
I was intentionally not too precise about where I placed the textured materials. My intention was to do a back drawing on top of the collatype print and to use the initial print to provide depth and interest to the outline.
The next day, when the glue was dry, I inked the plate using Akua intaglio ink. I chose not to ink the background on this occasion.
For my first print (sample 3a), I used a piece of rice paper which I had previously patterned with Derwent Inktense sticks, followed by a wash of water, then allowed to dry (see below):
I was surprised just how well the paper held together when wet, however, eventually I kept working too much and produced a small hole/tear. I have learned to love such such impurities, so I used the paper regardless.
Because the background paper was quite bright and patterned, I chose muted tones for my collatype print; dark olive green, muddy pink-tinged grey for the face and sand colour for the hair.
Once the print was dry, I used back drawing technique to add the outline of the face. I used a graphite pencil to transfer the marks because I wanted a thick, bold line. Registration was easy, because the paint from the collatype print was visible on the reverse side of the rice paper. I used a soft pink-brown ink for the back drawing, because I didn’t want it to appear too dominant nor to jar against the background colours.
The finished print is shown below:
It is an interesting print, full of character. The collar and shirt textures are crisp, but the hair is rather pale and is lost somewhat in the background. The plastic netting which I used for the hair was a new type which I hadn’t tried before and it gave a print which was too subtle. I like the contrast between the bright pink and olive green colours in the lower half of the print. Had the upper half had a similar contract then I think the print would have been very attention-grabbing. In the event, I feel that there is not enough interest in the upper half of the image.
I also took the opportunity to pull a ghost print from the back drawn plate (sample 3b) (see below):
The print has transferred well, being crisp and bold. The rice paper is sufficiently strong that it could be worked into with stitch, manipulated or printed over again to add extra detail.
The for the second collatype print (sample 3c), I used plain white rice paper. This time I re-inked the plate using different colours (see below):
I wanted to use a brighter flesh tone and more lively collar colour, as I didn’t have any interest coming from the background paper (plain white). When the collatype was dry, I inked a plate with Payne’s grey Akua intaglio ink for my back drawing. I used the same method as sample 3a). The finished print is shown below:
I feel that this image is more successful than sample 3a. I think that it is easier to “read” the portrait, and also that there is better balance of tone and hue between the collatype print and the back drawing. I like the skin and clothes texture from the collatype, but feel that the hair would have been better had I used a different material.
This sample shows that despite not leaning my hand at all on the paper during back-drawing, quite a lot of the Payne’s grey ink has transferred to the background. It works well in this image, but in sample 3a), where there is more background pattern, it makes the portrait appear rather confused.
Once again, I took the opportunity to pull a print from the back drawn plate (sample 3d):
This is also an attractive image which could be further developed in similar ways to sample 3b).
When I look at these portrait prints I get a feeling of curiosity and intrigue. I think the prints are characterful, and although not as well balanced I would like, still received favourable responses from fellow OCA students and artists when uploaded to Facebook for comment. One respondent commented that she liked the image because it was “organic, loose and expressive with a narrative too” (Eastaugh, 2017).
SAMPLE 4: Field near Bradfield wood
I returned to this simple image which I had used for the in project 1, exercise 2, samples 1-3 (drawing onto the plate).
I decided to work this image completely in polyfiller. It has similarities with the image in sample 2, and I wanted to use it as an opportunity to be responsive and reactive to the medium as I worked.
Using a palette knife, I spread filler over the whole of the board. I worked into the field area intuitively, using sticks, edges and the palette knife itself. Working across the sky, I spread the filler thinly and drew it across to form bare patches. I used a sponge to achieve foliage textures along the tree line. The process was very enjoyable and completely absorbing, almost like applying impasto paint.
From the photograph of the textured board it is already possible to make out the main sections of the image. To the right, I intentionally distorted the perspective by bending the skyline, inspired by the work “Salthouse IV” by Laurie Rudling (Rudling, n.d.) I wanted to give the impression of looking through a curved lens, and by doing so to make the image more intimate.
I first inked the plate with Akua intaglio ink, using a roller, decorators’ paint brush and cotton buds for the fine detail (see below):
The first print which I took was onto white cotton muslin (sample 4a):
I was initially very disappointed, because I felt that there was too much white background showing. The funky foam which I had used in sample 2 had allowed me to make a very precise and detailed image, and I felt that by comparison, this print was much too loose and lacked detail. However, as this print has dried, I have given some thought to the fact that it does not have to be viewed as a “finished” and “stand alone” piece. The white areas provide the perfect opportunity for infilling with stitching to add another later of texture. Seed stitching could be used, for example to define the undergrowth along the tree line and the rooftops. All of a sudden I could see potential in this print.
Ideally I would have like to dye some cloth brown and use that as a background. Because I didn’t have time, I used a piece of black cotton muslin which I was able to buy. I re-inked the plate, including more white ink, which I hoped might suggest snow laying in the furrows and clouds in the sky (see sample 3b below):
I was disappointed that not much detail transferred and I find the white areas too crude and heavy-handed. Stitching into this image, might also be an option to develop it (in a similar way to that I have suggested in sample 4a), however, the detail of field texture has not transferred well on this print and the quality probably doesn’t merit further development.
As there was still plenty of ink on the board, I took a final print using rice paper (sample 4c below):
This is a more detailed print than sample 4a, and I like the lines in the sky and foliage texture centre left. The textures transferred much better on paper this time than fabric. I still feel that this image is too white, so I would need to use an ink wash on the field or, maybe do a two stage print where I used a stencil to lay a background colour on the field and tree-line first.
Eastaugh, N. (2017) This is what I’ve been up to for the past 2 days – experimental printmaking. 4 May 2017. At: https://www.facebook.com/nicky.eastaugh/posts/10211358845264921 (Accessed 10 May 2017)
Getty images (2014) Scallop sculpture by artist Maggi Hambling, on shingle beach at Aldeburgh, Suffolk, England. At: http://www.getty-images.com/detail/news-photo/scallop-sculpture-by-artist-maggi-hambling-on-shingle-beach-news-photo/558237539?#scallop-sculpture-by-artist-maggi-hambling-on-shingle-beach-at-picture-id558237539 (Accessed 2 May 2017)
Gibbs, E. (2017a) Slaley, 2014. At:https://www.emilyjogibbs.co.uk/portrait1/ (Accessed 3 May 2017)
Gibbs, E. (2017b) Why don’t you, 2014. At:https://www.emilyjogibbs.co.uk/portrait1/ (Accessed 3 May 2017)
Phaidon (n.d.) What do you see in Georgia O’Keeffe’s flowers? At: http://uk.phaidon.com/agenda/art/articles/2014/february/05/what-do-you-see-in-georgia-okeeffes-flowers/ (Accessed 2 May 2017)
Rudling, L. (n.d.) Salthouse IV [collagraph] At:http://www.laurierudling.co.uk/asp-pages/etchings-and-collagraph-gallery.asp (Accessed 8 May 2017)