Thursday, January 21, 2016

Collagraphs Part 1

collagraphs produced by Grade six classroom drying on cardboard drying board
St. Bernard Catholic Elementary School, Thunder Bay ON

I recently have been exploring collagraphs again in the classroom via my art teachings. I thought the idea of creating a low relief plate using additive and subtractive methods would stimulate and challenge students. They get to use recycled materials and also print their plates using my press.
It is also a lot of fun.
Due to time restrictions we couldn't use shellac or varnish to seal the plates. Instead we opted to spray the service with an aerosol adhesive (done outdoors with masks worn). Plastic food wrap was stretched over top and the plate was passed under the press roller set onto a light squeeze. This forced the plastic to mold over everything and also added some textural effect to the prints. Students wore barrier gloves to keep their hands clean and using Akua carbon black intaglio ink they loaded ink into recessed areas  using old toothbrushes and wiping ink on the surface with their finger tip. We used bunched up pieces of interfacing fabric for wiping back of the ink followed by a surface polishing using yellow pages and gift wrap tissue. Dampened cotton rag paper was placed over top and it was passed again through the press.

My introduction to collagraphs originates around 2008. I viewed a lot of work online of people who worked primarily in this printmaking technique and was extremely motivated. Not having ever tried this I researched the process from reading art instructionn books and by watching online demos in You Tube. Hestor Cox is a UK based artist who is quite proficient in the medium.
Another person whose blog I follow is Southern California based artist Belinda Del Pesco. Her work is stellar.

The first couple of small plates I made using scrap packaging board and glue showed promise but were a little too simplistic. I became a bit more adventurous. I tried adding other materials such as mat board, thin sheet styrofoam, modelling gel medium and liquid PVC glue, sandpaper, bamboo, scrap packaging card, dried organic materials like cedar needles, dried flowers added to surfaces. I also removed some areas of the base mat paper board using kraft blades. These areas would hold ink and allow for darker tones in a print. From all of this two plates emerged and the resulting prints were quite satisfactory.

One of these become a monochromatic piece that I included in an exhibition series titled Wilderness. It is a study of a stream meeting a low rise rock face and percolating down through a narrow cut in cambrian shield rock.

collagraph (monochrome)

It is one thing to see the relief built on the base card but you won't know how this is going to turn out until you actually ink the plate and print it.
I still have the original plate for this study and I am tempted to print a few more by either inking the plate A la poupée (spot inking in various colours of inks) or applying hand colouring with wet media to the black & white print.

Shoreline (pictured below) was a study of a section of pond I observed during one of my nature hikes. The foreground rocks were created by cutting and gluing thin foam sheets to the base plate. I pock marked it and then pressed in fine grit sandpaper to create textural elements into the rock. The cat tails were created using shavings off bamboo skewers and liquid bead of PVC glue. The background was dried fern ends, cedar needles and gel medium applied with a small brush tip. The dark water was created by cutting and peeling off a thin layer of the mat board. I then added some fine lines of gel medium into the recessed area. These were in reverse of the built up cat tail stalks and would create a reflection effect when the plate was inked, wiped and printed. The plate had several layers of Shellac sponged rolled over top to seal and waterproof it.

collagraph (monochrome)


  1. This is fabulous stuff! As an art teacher in Sydney Australia, I am always looking for ways to extend myself and my students, of course. The detail that you go into is so helpful. I have a class of 24 and one etching press, when I do do etching.....
    Would love some detail about etching onto plaster. Currently researching it online. I own a magnificent plaster print and have to try it myself someday soon. Using oil based inks is fine. Just wondering how to give the background of my drypoint a flat, mid grey look. The surface of my plaster print is almost silky.
    Have a fabulous arty day

  2. Louise

    Unfortunately I have never made prints off of plaster. I do have a friend though who is quite versed in that technique. Perhaps I can get some info. from her and post it in my blog?