4.2.3; Collatype: Plate Four

I felt that I could have continued with the landscape Collatypes. Plate 3 seemed to be so much better than Plate 2 that it might have been worth persevering but I was reluctant. Making notes in my sketchbook helped me identify that I probably already knew what the outcome would be and I wanted to use this opportunity to try something different.

I returned to the Sunflowers that I had dedicated so much time to in the beginning. They were beginning to fade away as Autumn approached. I took time out to ‘Preserve the Transient’ (an idea that just won’t go away) by encapsulating a print from 4.1.2 in resin.

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Since the print was made on lightweight muslin, the flowers appear to almost float, suspended eternally in their moment of glory. I decided that such a special moment deserved the type of reverential wrapping I had seen in ‘How to Wrap Five Eggs’ ¹ which was recommended by my tutor earlier in the course. (I finally got hold of an affordable copy)

My interests lay in pattern making and repeated elements, I decided to create a paper to wrap the resin sample in. Since I don’t have access to a press I believe my prints will always be inferior, so chose to adapt the technique of Collatype to produce a printing block rather than a plate. A simplified motif was developed in my sketchbook, I chose materials I knew from sampling would print well (pipe cleaner and foam) the complexity of the overall print would come from repetition.

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Unfortunately, I forgot to photograph this stage, all that remains is the block and the registration paper! I printed the block in a half drop formation without turning it, the last minute addition of a third flower meant the motifs linked together well creating interesting negative space between them.

I chose Abaca tissue as a substrate for many reasons, not least because it built on my Claire Nash research: I intended to use the pattern paper as Chine Colle, applying it to another layer. I knew from my collage work at the end of Project 1 that ModPodge would allow the layers to become translucent, revealing and yet concealing what was hidden within. (Another idea that won’t go away!)

To print the subsequent layers, I made a latex copy of a Sunflower leaf. At the time I had little idea why I did this. Why didn’t I just print with the leaf itself? I still don’t have an answer for this! Curiosity got the better of me I think! I learned that a latex copy makes an effective printing plate, which opens new avenues of exploration.

DSCF5669The final paper has three layers, the tissue became translucent enough to view the layers below but remained stubbornly opaque in the unprinted areas. I think it works as a wrapping for my sample and demonstrates my curiosity and lateral thinking skills.

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The photograph below shows the parcel all wrapped up. I purposely put the white layer facing outward to challenge the notion of ‘pretty’. This delays the viewing of the final Collatype print until the package has been opened. The physical act of unwrapping will be rewarded with both the print and the resin sample.

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¹OKA, H. How to Wrap Five Eggs (2008ed) SHAMBHALA PUBLICATIONS

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4.2.3; Collatype: Plates Two and Three

Following my (perceived) success with the intuitive abstraction I produced for plate one, I took a risk with the next two plates. I decided to try the alternative option in the course-notes: a landscape. The reason I saw this as risky is that my tutor has encouraged me not to pre-plan outcomes and to explore the unknown. Preparing a composition and filling it with appropriate textures seemed to contradict this.

I was keen to find a middle ground between a traditional landscape and a total abstraction because this is how I had begun to see Collatype images. I spent a lot of time looking at Laurie Rudling’s prints, considering how I could construct a composition but it was my old favourite Patrick Heron who led me forward.

Patrick Heron’s abstractions were underpinned by exceptional drawing skills, I love the fluidity of his sketching. Here you can see the economy of the line used to divide the plane, in my sketchbook I have included examples of his more figurative sketching.

Using photographs from my North Norfolk holiday, I experimented with composition, my line lacks Heron’s fluidity and spontaneity but the exercised helped me select which images to work with next.

Constructing the plates was reasonably straightforward. I am glad that I took time during Project 1 to develop my collage skills, which in the past have been rather lacking. I found it easier to build these plates because you don’t have to take colour into account, you can simply focus on texture.

PLATE TWO: Cromer Pier

Inking the plates was a lot harder than I anticipated! I produced multiple failed efforts on a variety of substrates. The thing I found most frustrating was once black has been added to the plate, any further inking is totally tainted!

I also realised (rather too late) the implications of the image printing in reverse. Since this is a real landscape depicting the approach to Cromer pier from Overstrand, I guess I should have been more concerned that it is now the wrong way round. I did try to counter this by first printing onto to glass then pulling the image to paper (below) but in the end decided I had more to worry about. However, this is something I would be mindful of in the future.

DSCF5630I narrowed the prints down to the two I thought were most successful. Yet again I found it incredibly difficult to choose between them.

I like the sense of depth and space I get from the first print (left). It is far more minimal and open. I prefer the sky in the second print (right) it is more atmospheric but the foreground is overdone. I had been playing with the original image in photoshop and had increased the sharpness and saturation to create a bold palette which didn’t translate very well in ink.

Again I found the plate held a potential of its own. I have covered in in Gesso to absorb any remaining ink and am intending to paint it in acrylic. This will form a painting with a relief surface (it will also be the right way round!) Looking at the level of detail I included on the plate it is a shame that more didn’t print on the paper. I am left wondering why this is? Lack of Pressure? Depth of Plate?

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PLATE THREE: Windmill at Cley

By the third plate, I had learned a lot about how far objects should protrude from the plate. Not much as it turns out! In fact some the grasses in the foreground were made with dog hair- So Cari’s pointer to The Colour of Hair Project¹ wasn’t wasted after all!

DSCF5633The areas of the Plate that printed well were the sky and the windmill: foam and wallpaper. The textures in these areas were not deep but they were particularly level and slightly squashy; sophisticated colour has been transferred by these areas, reminding me of traditional landscape paintings. The leaves at the top of my scrim tree are particularly successful, almost like the fine brush work of Gainsborough.

At first I was quite disappointed by the lack of detail in the lower portion of the print. The harder substances like polyfilla and sand/PVA mix left lots of white space where the intaglio detail should have been. I was tempted to work on top of the print as I did in Project 1 inspired by Degas. In fact I had two copies on Abaca Tissue that I was intending to use as Chine Colle like Claire Nash does which I could add stitch to- embroidering the white areas rather than using pastel, watercolour or acrylic? This is something I still might do.

I actually avoided ‘colouring in’ the spaces in the above prints because I began to wonder if actually it is what makes them a little bit special? I might just be making excuses for my failure and justifying that I didn’t effectively resolve the issue but I’m not so sure. I like the way my eye is first drawn to the top, where the colouration informs me what I am looking at- a traditional composition of a fairly standard countryside scene but as my eye lowers, the detail drops away and I am forced to work a bit harder. To consider what each texture I encounter is there to represent. I think this exploits the technique of Collagraph and injects a bit of life and energy into what could have been a static image if I over worked it.

Below are the Abaca versions, one colour and one black and white, they are waiting for me to decide what to do with them. What is interesting to note is that even with the flexibility of a tissue paper I was still unable to print those pesky intaglio areas!

I was probably right to avoid adding to the prints above until I knew what I was doing. I made an attempt to working on top of a print from this series: I experimented with adding Inktense to a fabric version of ‘Cromer Pier’ using Textile Medium instead of water, the result was rather dark. I have prepared it as a quilt sandwich and intend to experiment with introducing dimensionality by making a padded embroidery.

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4.2.3; Collatype: Plate One

Using my research into Contemporary Printmaker Claire Nash, I set about creating an intuitive abstract composition. This was achieved by putting aside all my preconceptions and reservations about Collatypes and simply enjoying the process.

I had recently purchased a book: How to Paint Abstracts¹ which introduced me to Informalist Painting. This also helped me to open up to the process of producing a Collatype.

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A mix of sand and PVA was applied to recycled cardboard packaging in an intuitive manner with my fingers, marks were then scratched into the surface with a palette knife. This process felt really free and expressive.

Some of the first prints were quite speckly and patchy, I decided perhaps I needed to apply more ink. This led to a similar issue I had earlier with the Emin Back Prints, way too much ink was then transferred to the paper. I resolved the problem in the same manner by printing paper to paper until the ink dispersed enough to have a chance of drying. The problem with this was I then had multiple prints and it was hard to decide which one was the most successful.

I narrowed the selection to a choice of two:

My personal favourite was the print on the left, I think it is bold and exciting. I like the way the organic marks (typical of Informalist Painting) are supported by linear parallel lines (which I have noticed to be characteristic in my own work). Looking at the print fills me with the same sense of joy and enthusiasm that I felt as I created it. (This was made following our video call Inger! Thanks for the boost!)

Since I had difficulty printing the intaglio areas of the plate, I decided to exaggerate this in the print on the right, by incorporating the subtractive method of Monoprinting, rather than hide it. Loose repetitious marks were scraped and printed. As always, the introduction of more white makes a more open composition, allowing the colours to vibrate more freely. The mark-making provides more to look at whilst allowing the eye to rest before encountering more colour. However, I still find the first print to be stronger.

After inking with a limited palette of colour, the plate had the look of a Miro painting. I am convinced this is not the end of the story for this plate, I think it has the potential to become something in its own right. Perhaps I could cast it?

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¹ POCKET ART GUIDES. How to Paint Abstracts. (2012) BARRONS

 

4.2; RESEARCH: Claire Nash

RESEARCH: Claire Nash

Of all the Contemporary Printmakers featured in the book: Collagraphs and Mixed Media Printmaking,¹ Claire Nash was the artist who appealed to me most.

Nash’s Collagraph prints are bold abstractions of colour and texture. She says her process is: “instinctive, spontaneous and impulsive” ² and she clearly has a healthy level of curiosity about the textures around her, using all manner of materials. I thought this approach was a good example of the way my tutor has been encouraging me to work.

I found I agreed with Nash on one specific element of the process, she prefers not to seal her plates before printing: “I don’t want the feel of the materials to be lost, or even dampened down.”  I had had very similar thoughts about this, I couldn’t understand collecting all the textures to construct the plate and then nullifying them by applying a uniform coat of the same material. Hence I tried to avoid doing this.

Another useful tip I picked up from Nash was to paint an + shape edge to edge on the back of the plate before fully coating the front. This prepares the plate for the wetness of the materials used to construct it and prevents the curling I experienced in 4.2.2.

I admired Nash’s work but even more so her process. She inspired me to think of the final print as yet another stage in making: “I’m really interested in pushing the boundaries of the defined print.” She will sometimes use a print as Chine Colle applying it to another surface and I found a tantalising reference to casting a collagraph plate.

I went into 4.2.3, considering this statement by Nash: “Printmaking is about making works of art and shouldn’t be precious.”

***

On a more practical level, as I researched Collatypes on the internet I discovered some really useful technical information. It transpired that it had been written by an OCA Printmaking student, I wonder why it hadn’t occurred to me to cross disciplines seek out their wisdom before?!

¹HARTILL & CLARKE. Collagraphs and Mixed Media Printmaking. (2004) BLOOMSBURY

² Same publication, Page 85.