Collatype Collage Prints
From the collatype prints I had already made I was not entirely convinced by the found object plates. They looked flat when printed on to paper and I wasn’t keen to use that method in these final pieces. However the sample plate I made with fabric gave a good print where the weave of the fabric was visible.
I had enjoyed working with the polyfilla/tile grout and was keen to use that method again. As I had some success printing these plates with the press and damp, heavy paper I thought I would continue with that method.
From my research, the artists using mount board had produced the pieces that I most admired. I hadn’t done too well with inking my trial plate but thought that this exercise would be a good chance to have another go and possibly get some better results.
I chose four landscape pictures from a recent trips to work from. These could be split into distinct areas or shapes.
Fabric, mount board support, block printing ink, roller press, damp paper.
From the work in exercise one I found that fabric with a loose weave gave a lighter print than a fabric with a tight weave. I tried to make use of this feature when producing the collatype plate to print from.
I first printed the photo of the sea out at A4 size and traced over it to highlight the areas I wanted the different fabric to represent. This was then transferred to an A4 piece of mount board. I collected together a selection of fabrics, of different surface textures and weaves and sorted them from loose to tight weave.
I allocated the loosest to an area that was lightest on the photo and the tightest to the darkest area.
These were then stuck on to the mount board using PVA glue and sealed with another layer of PVA.
I inked the plate with black and white block print ink, mixed to give grey, using a toothbrush to work the ink into the fabric weave. I wanted the fabric selection to do the work in this piece so didn’t want to highlight any areas using colour alone.
I printed the plate using damp paper (300gsm cartridge, soaked 10 minutes) and the roller press.
I am pleased with the prints I have achieved. The weave of the fabric has worked well in delineating the different areas of the photo used. I particularly like the prints of the frayed edges of some of the fabric pieces, these are very well-defined.
To highlight the different sections a bit more I did a few prints with black and white ink on top of the grey already used. These have also worked well and might be a little better than the first grey only prints as there is more contrast in the print and a little bit more ink coverage, as the plate has been inked twice and a little of the grey ink left over from the first prints.
Some further prints were taken by hand off each inking of the plate using A3 140gsm cartridge paper and hand pressure only. These have also worked well but don’t have the depth of detail that the prints from the press have.
Surface cut away on mount board, clear sticky backed plastic, sand texture gel. Printed using roller press, water-soluble oil-based ink, acrylic paint and extender medium, damp heavy paper, roller press.
This was another chance to use the cut away method on the mount board surface.
Again I printed the photo I was going to use at A4 and traced where the photo could be split in to different sections. I then flipped this tracing over and transferred it to the mount board surface.
The darkest areas were painted over with texture gel, the next darkest had the surface of the mount board cut away. The lightest areas were added using sticky backed plastic and the remaining areas were left as the standard mount board surface.
This plate was sealed using spray varnish. PVA has shown in previous mount board tests to warp the board so I wanted something that would seal the plate but not add in too much liquid volume. (Use spray varnish in a well ventilated room or preferably outside).
A crayon rubbing was taken of the plate before inking. This gave a good idea of the areas that would be printed on the plate.
I inked the plate by rubbing on water-soluble oil based ink with the edge of a credit card. Once the plate was covered I rubbed off the excess ink using a J-cloth. Ink was almost completely removed from the plate where there were plastic areas as I had hoped would happen. This style of inking was what was missing from my trial plate in exercise one.
I ran the plate and damp paper through the press but did not get a very dark print. I took a second print but this was no better. I left these to dry and had a think about why these prints weren’t very successful. I had prepared and inked the plate in the correct way so my thoughts turned to the press. After looking at it the roller was not level and had been pushing on one side more than the other, also it could have been a bit too high so was not pressing on the plate and paper through the blanket correctly.
I reset the press and reinked the plate, this time using acrylic paint and extender medium. Some of the work of Suzie Mackenzie that I found for my research was printed in a deep blue. I thought that this might work for this piece so set about inking the plate in the same way with Winsor blue acrylic paint and extender medium. I didn’t rub off quite so much paint this time so that the print would be darker.
I ran the plate through the press and the print was much more successful, however by not removing so much of the paint the brush strokes used to add paint to some areas was still visible. However I had got the technique correct.
I then tried to rub on some yellow paint around the area of the plate where the sun would be. I watched some youtube videos from Brenda Hartill and she showed how extra colours could be lightly applied with fabric pads. I tried this but had a bit too much paint on the fabric dabber and there was a bit too much yellow when the plate printed.
I took a few extra prints but by this point I had taken to long and the paint was starting to dry out on the plate, consequently the paper stuck to the plate in a couple of cases. I peeled that off the plate each time and took prints until the paint was used up and there was too much paper being lost from the prints.
I am pleased that I was able to correct the printing issue I had with this plate and that I managed to get darker prints with the acrylic paint.
Working with a press adds in another layer of things to remember and check before printing that hand printing only does not, however I think that I prefer the press made prints as the colours are deeper and the detail retained on the paper is clearer.
For the most part the tonal differences between each of the areas on the plate was good but the sand texture gel was not as dark as I might have liked. There wasn’t enough sand in it! More texture = darker colour, as seen in the fabric prints above.
Mount board support, polyfilla/tile grout, acrylic paint and extender, inktense blocks, damp paper, press and hand printing.
I really enjoyed printing the ployfilla/tile grout blocks in exercise two. They gave good results and were relatively easy to make and ink up.
I chose the bricks as I would be able use several of the tools used on the test plate to draw in to the surface to create distinct areas.
Again I printed out the photo I had selected at A4. I didn’t trace it this time but drew directly in to the surface of the plate once it had been covered with a thin layer of the grout.
This was dried overnight then a piece of copy paper smoothed across the surface. This highlighted some sharp areas as holes were punched in to the paper from the tile grout surface. This was sanded away and the process repeated. I then ran the back of my hand over the plate to make sure there were no more rough edges. The plate was then sprayed with varnish. This may not have been strictly necessary as the grout is water proof but I thought it was best to be careful.
I had already produced a print in grey so wanted to use different colours on this print. I found a photo of some London brick which has more yellow in it and chose to use the colours from that photo in these prints.
By this point the roller press and I were starting to get on so by the time I had inked up the plate with the paint I had quite a good system in place to get the plate and paper to the press and run them through.
I am very pleased with these first prints however the paper used was a tiny bit too wide for the press and has been squashed near the edge of the print. I managed to do this twice! The prints are still good though and maybe a little time under a medium iron and some water spray on to the paper could smooth those areas out.
These prints in themselves are very good, the texture of the plate has been taken up and there are some areas where the colour is very deep. However I felt that this plate was a prime contender for using the inktense block on. I had trialled these in my preliminary work and they had proved useful on a stitched fabric block I had printed.
I set aside some of the lighter prints to use for this technique.
The inktense blocks were rubbed across the surface of the plate. The prints were then soaked for five minutes and the block sprayed with water. Inktense is dry so needs some moisture to transfer the pigment to the paper. I lined the block up with the previous print much like a stamp. Then turned the paper and plate over and pressed the paper in to the plate to pick up the colour.
The first print was not particularly strong as there wasn’t enough moisture in the inktense to move it successfully. The subsequent prints worked much better as more moisture had got on to the plates surface.
Lining up the plate and the print this way did not allow the second print to sit directly on top of the first. As a result there is some offset between the images. For all the time I have spent trying to get the printing technique correct for these exercises this fuzzy print is one of my favourites. I feel there is a bit more interest in this print where the paint and the inktense overlap each other.
Ployfilla/tile grout on mount board support, Inktense blocks, roller press, damp paper
For the final plate I chose to use the inktense blocks only to colour the plate. I tried to draw in to the surface of the tile grout to suggest distinct areas of texture on the plates surface. A crayon rubbing of the plates surface before printing doesn’t suggest that I had been too successful but I continued on to the printing.
I had been slow in printing the mount board plate above and the paper had ended up sticking to the drying paint on the plates’ surface. The inktense blocks would allow several colours to be applied to the plate before having to spray the plate with water to activate the colour.
I rubbed the blocks over the surface and tapped the plate on the table to remove any excess powder. Paper and plate were both damp when printing so the colour would transfer over to the paper. However the sky on the plate was a very thin layer of tile grout, mush lower than the other sections of the plate. When printing I placed two layers or thick cartridge behind the plate over this area to allow the press to push this area down in to the paper a bit more, allowing the blue to print a little bit better.
Again the first print is not the best as there is not enough water in the pigment. However, too much water allowed the colours to run a bit too much. Finding the balance between these two states seemed to be the hard part. Pushing the damp paper into the plate by hand has given the best print by far. This final print also had far more water sprayed on to the plate allowing the pigment to move more freely.
I am pleased with the texture taken up on to the paper from the surface of the plate, but maybe not so much with the amount of colour retained. While inktense suggests that it is permanent once dry I think that a little bit too much powder still remains on these prints. I tested this by painting water over one of the prints and a small amount of colour was still able to be moved on the surface of the print. If using this again it might be wise to find a way to seal the colour on the paper, perhaps spray fixer as used in charcoal or pastel drawing might be of benefit.
Overall I am very pleased with the work I have produced for this exercise. I have printed both by hand and using a roller press. Some of the prints taken using the press have been very successful.
I have tried to focus on getting the technique for printing these styles of plates correct and overall I feel I have done that. They might not combine materials in a very experimental way but I feel that the techniques I have chosen have worked well to represent the photographs I chose to use as starting points.
I then got a little bit giddy and tried to combine some mono printing with back drawing. I didn’t feel I had been too successful at either technique previously so combining the too was unlikely to produce anything too clever.
Below are my efforts. I am not pleased with them as they look a little heavy-handed or too light! More practice needed to find the middle ground I think.
One unexpected highlight was when I lifted up the glass plate to clean it the patterns left on it were quite interesting. I took a few prints of these and some photos once the plate was propped up against the window.
Happy accident indeed.