4.2.2; Polyfilla Block

I felt the Polyfilla Block was more successful than the Collage Block which went some way to confirming my suspicion that these were too deep to print effectively. I also rather more enjoyed the process of making marks in the paste before it dried, it felt more expressive than using found objects but I guess this is down to personal preference.

DSCF5723Since the plate was flatter it was much easier to print, I was still thwarted by the recessed areas which stubbornly remained white.

DSCF5632One real draw back of using Polyfilla was the way the plate curled as it dried. This wasn’t as evident the first time I printed with it but moisture in the ink reawakened the filler and caused this distortion. The plate probably couldn’t be reused now without cracking. The reason this happened was I that I used card as the base, possibly a thicker ply, MDF, plastic or metal would have been more durable. Coating the card with PVA might also have helped but I was concerned the Polyfilla wouldn’t adhere well to the shiny surface.

This brings me to the question of coating plates with PVA before inking them. I skipped this stage not wanting to adulterate the textural marks I had created. This really got me thinking about the process of constructing a collatype plate. Many artists I read about had their own techniques and recipes for sealing the plates before printing. For example: Lesley Davy and Ellen Graubart use PVA; Ursula Leach and Tonia Matthews use a shellac mix. I found myself most drawn to Clare Nash’s technique which I will discuss in my next post (LINK*****)





4.2.1; Collage Block

I recall feeling more than a little peeved by my first Collatype plate! It did very little to alleviate my concerns about the process (see previous post) but I took some consolation from the fact my prints looked a bit like the one in the course-notes handbook.


It took quite a few attempts to produce a successful print; I found that I was glad we were asked to produce a sample plate before tackling an image. I had assumed that all I would learn was what each material or found object looked once it was printed, which seemed pretty obvious to me. However, I found that there was a lot more too it than I expected: I learned a lot!

An early attempt using Block Print Ink failed because it took me so long to cover the whole plate it was beginning to dry out before I was ready to print. Discussion with Course-mates Inger and Julie persuaded me it was time to switch to a more specific ink. I felt I had come along way using acrylic paint and cheap Block Printing Ink, it seemed a shame to now have to invest in more expensive materials but I ordered a starter set of Akua Speedball Intaglio just to complete the final exercises. (I will definitely be reflecting on my material choices in my Written Reflection at the end of Part 4, it was very important! *LINK TO FOLLOW*)

Akua ink is a great product but I found it tricky to adapt to because I am a messy worker! The product information on their webpage and their tutorials on youtube were especially helpful (search: akua printshop). It was also interesting to note that the developer of the ink, Susan Rostow was the artist behind the ‘Really Big Monotype’ project that inspired my BIG idea (see here).

Even though the Ink was high quality and fit for purpose I still had problems. I experimented with different weights of paper both wet and dry but still found it difficult to transfer all areas of the plate. I had several thoughts about the cause:

  • Too ambitious? Having read how Brenda Hartill inks her plates- in the recesses, then a rub over the uppermost areas. I thought I would be able to achieve similar results, the photograph below shows I couldn’t! WHY? Is it because I lack her experience?


  • Objects and materials applied to the plate too deeply? I was obtaining excellent embossed detail (when the paper didn’t tear!) but I wondered if the recesses were just too deep for the paper to stretch down into?DSCF5598
  • Pressure? Without having access to a professional press I was relying on the amount of pressure I could physically apply. I gave this a lot of thought. I considered using my truck or the hydraulic tyre press at my husbands work but these both had issues. He made me some large flat sheets of wood which I was able to pad and stand on but this made little difference.

I felt disappointed at not being able to produce the results I wanted but pondered these problems as I moved on to 4.2.2.



4.1.2; Improving the Prints?

I have been trying to use a variety of papers and fabrics as substrates for printing in order to relate the process of Printmaking to the realms of Mixed Media. In my last post I discussed the prints I made by painting directly onto a plate, what struck me about them was most felt more like a ‘starting point’ rather than a finished print. They all lacked ‘something’, I tried to decide what….maybe I have been converted to Mixed Media after all!

The images below show the development of a previous print that I felt lacked definition. I reworked the image with watercolour pencils, hoping to support the motif by darkening the background. Unfortunately, I used too much yellow, which being a bright colour pushed itself forward creating too much competition between the background and the focus. I knocked the background back by adding a layer of scrunched tissue paper with Mod Podge, some of the yellow watercolour dispersed and the effect is a darker green that provides more contrast.

This development led me to ask myself the same old question: Have I enhanced or spoilt the original? The photograph below shows that I have created a new relief texture in the ground which really supports the looseness of the mark-making. Viewed up close, I am really pleased with the result but when I stood back and saw the image as a whole, I was disappointed by how tight and ‘traditional’ the print has become. I have lost the spontaneity and abstraction of the original.

DSCF5490 This conflict between enhancing and overworking is the thing I find most difficult. When I look at my work I can see what I could do to it to improve it, yet when I do I inevitably prefer it in its more raw state. I guess this problem will eventually resolve itself through experimentation and practise?

In my contextual research for contemporaries using monotypes, I found a striking image by Dei Hackett-Mooney. I was struck by her explanation:

“None of my paintings are precious and I love the experimentational side to creating an image. More paint can always be added or even removed. Oil on board – ongoing process” ¹

This is worth remembering, I need to combine and layer materials and techniques to discover what works and what doesn’t. I seem to have to continuously remind myself that MMT is about process and technique, not refined pieces! My tutor suggested:

“If you don’t layer, you won’t know if it works or not, so you have to test it! In terms of ‘spoiling’ what you’ve done, that’s already an anxiety inducing moment! Depending on how much you like the original print, and how much time you have, you could always photograph and print out small images of the print onto which you can draw new layers to get a sense of how it might work.” 

I tried this approach with the image below. Referencing Degas who used his monotypes as a sort of scaffold for the work that came after and inspired by Castiglione’s mark-making, I redefined the image.

This was a satisfying process, in the original the glass looked more like a goblet, I was able to correct the shape to a more accurate representation of a cocktail glass. The underlying monotype provides some of the atmospheric, smoky qualities I was looking for and kept the drawing on top loose and expressive.

Comparing the process of reworking an original print (as with sunflower) or a copy (cocktail glass) is interesting. When working on a copy, I felt the freedom of not spoiling the print BUT I missed the tactile push and pull of working into paint or ink.

In my sketchbook, I considered other ways to adapt the prints. Inspired by work I saw at an exhibition on holiday (Connectivity. Cley ’17) I thought about encapsulating the muslin print in resin. This new insight led to the pulling and manipulation of threads from a sample print in 4.1.1:

I experimented using the distorted print to make another print. This raised the question: Is the print the final piece or part of the process? The following photographs show how I played with this idea of printing, distorting, printing and embellishing. It turned out to be a satisfyingly explorative play session!


¹ HACKETT- MOONEY. D. http://www.greystonesguide.ie/a-kick-up-the-arts-15-dei-hackett-mooney/