Sunday, 14 February 2010

Close Encounters with Collagraph

Recently I attended a two-session workshop on collagraph at the Harpenden Arts Club, led by Lilley-based artist Kim Major-George. It had been billed as a demo one week and a workshop the next - in hindsight completely unfeasible as the first session was about creating the plate and the second one about printing from it. So Kim had to give her demo to a largely unprepared audience! She'd brought along various bits and pieces from which to make a collage - pieces of mountboard to use as the starting point; she showed us how to cut away layers to get specific effects: if we preferred we could glue interesting pieces of textured wallpaper and found objects to the surface of the board instead. Most of us hadn't brought along a craft knife so opted for the wallpaper option.


















the assembled plate - five pieces of wallpaper, two bits of scrim and some twigs and moss!
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2010


I hadn't prepared anything at all; but this turned out to be a blessing as if I had, I would probably have attempted something far too ambitious. Far easier to rip up some pieces of wallpaper, inspired by their various textures to create a riverside scene! I glued them to my mountboard using washable PVA glue, added some found items (bits of leaves and moss) and some scraps of printmaker's scrim for good measure, and checked with Kim that I hadn't produced something unfeasible. She removed a couple of harder bits of twiggy material (which the press would have struggled with) and gave it the thumbs-up.



















collagraph plate, sealed with two layers of diluted PVA
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2010

Back at home, we had been instructed to seal the plate with two layers of watered-down PVA. At 50:50 my first layer was a little too watered-down; it took ages to dry and I couldn't see much difference. I did the second layer at 70:30 and it worked much better. I couldn't wait to get to the printing stage!


















the inked plate after printing - a work of art in itself!
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2010

At the second session a week later, Kim showed us how to ink the plate using water-soluble inks and dollies made from J-cloths. It's important not to use too much ink and we were encouraged to burnish back some areas using tracing paper to create a variety of tone throughout the piece. But first we had to tear our paper to size and soak it. At this point I discovered that my plate was quite a large one, which was brought home to me as I struggled to ink it. Luckily Kim had encouraged us to wear rubber gloves and old clothes!


















the first print from my collagraph plate - a little too heavy round that tree!
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2010

We queued up to use the press she'd brought with her (her husband makes them). Some prints came out great the first time, but many of us (including me) had over-inked the plate or done something else which needed to be corrected for the second printing. I left the over-inked areas of my plate untouched and inked up the other bits, and joined the queue again. Kim helped everybody print their plates for the second time, encouraging us by holding up the best ones. Some people had done cut-away mountboard plates at home during the week, which turned out beautifully. I was happy with my second print which came out lighter than the first one.


















the second print from my re-inked plate
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2010

I love printmaking and want to do more. Some day I will have one of those presses for my own; but for now I'd better dig out the linocutting equipment and get cutting and burnishing by hand!

5 comments:

  1. Really interesing! It's nice to see this step-by-step and learn a bit about it. I love Kim's work - what a great opportunity to work with her:-)

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  2. yes, it was absolutely fascinating, and great fun too - plus she's publishing a book later this year and I'm definitely going to buy it! everybody produced really interesting work, all different, and they all got a lot out of the two sessions, I think.

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  3. This looks lovely - reminds me of a romantic (and Romantic) moonlight scene, perhaps somewhere in Italy. I look forward to seeing more where this came from!!

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  4. What fun! Thanks for the short introduction. I'd love to give this a whirl!

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  5. it's definitely worth having a go, however for best results you do need access to a press of some kind. Having said that, it might be possible to print a small piece manually - one of the books I'm reading at the moment suggests weighing down the paper on top of the plate with heavy books overnight!

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