Wednesday, April 18, 2018

collagraph - printing plate made from recycled material

collagraph print progress proof (shoreline study) made from a thin plate cut from beverage carton - colour not yet added

Recently I was organizing a collection of materials that originate from everyday household products. I saw potential use of finding another use for some of these things that would either end up in the recycling container or worse a landfill if they were tossed into the garbage. I was saving boxes worth to use in possible art projects with young artists either in classrooms or in workshops at community art centers.

One item that is common in this household are 1 litre and 2 litre beverage containers that dairy and milk alternatives (like almond, soy, cashew, etc.) are sold in at the local supermarket. A couple of years back I discovered that these containers worked very well for simple printmaking applications. The paper card is coated on the both the outside and inside of the container with a thin layer of plastic fused over top making them waterproof. It is thin enough to cut using scissors or utility blade box cutters.

Below is a link to an earlier blog post where I used a carton based plate to create a simple drypoint print.

Once a week I wash out the inside of the collected empty cartons and then cut 4 panels from each carton.

I have amassed a lot of cartons over the past year and a half that have yielded nearly a shoe-box worth of panels. 

Here are instructions how I achieve getting panels from a beverage carton (if you are wanting to try this for yourself). Tutorial follows photos in rows across then down to next row.


Row #1 across 
a. Using a box cutter knife lay carton on it's side. b. About 1 mm in from where the angled area of the top of the carton meets the straight portion insert cutter blade into an an area and start cutting following the edge. c. Turn the carton as you cut across each side. 

Row #2  d. Repeat using the same method to remove the bottom of the carton. e. cut in about 1 mm from the bottom. f. interior of the carton. One side has an overlap join that has been glued during manufacturing. 

Row #3 g. Stand the hollow carton on it's end and cut down side corner where the paper join is inside. h. Fold out the four panels. i. using metal cork back ruler edge trim each remaining panel away from corner edges by about 1 mm. (this removes the raised edges). I cut my panels on a plastic cutting mat. 

Row #4 j, k & l show trimming of individual panels.

( Note: Some cartons have little embossed markings in a bit from the bottom of the carton. I generally trim this area away.) 

the small panel I cut from a milk carton to use for creating a collagraph print. Plate size is 8.25 x 14 cm ( 3.25 x 5.5 inches). The text on the printed side is in both english and french. Canada is a bilingual nation.

Motivation for this recent project was landscapes from my region. I decided to construct a plate that would print as a collagraph. At present I have only done one plate to date and pulled a couple of progress proofs on rag paper. I am deciding whether to incorporate an additional plate or two or add colour elements to the print image through hand tinting of the printed image.

Stages of the collagraph plate

I started by first tracing an outline of the panel cut from the carton on scrap paper. Then I made a basic sketch of the landscape within the borders of the rectangle. This image was then traced onto thin vellum using a 6B graphite pencil.

tracing in 6B graphite made on tracing vellum

vellum is flipped over and by re-tracing over the visible drawing (that was done in 6B graphite on the backside) the image is transferred to the panel plate surface. The image on the plate would then be as a mirror image. 

graphite is visible on the plate surface. Darker areas would be achieved with recessed areas holding ink. I cut using a scalpel and carefully peeled back surface. Exposed paper fibre is rough in texture.

detail of where I cut and peeled away surface layer to reveal rougher paper underneath. I began adding in small details along the top edge that would hopefully read as a tiny treeline

Since the plate was small and I was working with aging eyes that don't focus as well on small things I used a swing-arm magnifying lamp to enlarge my view while working on the plate

to help reveal the small marks I made in the surface and cut away areas a little charcoal powder was gently brushed over this areas. I then ran some tissue across the surface to remove excess powder.

after working on below surface elements I concentrated on the addition of low relief surface textures. I used a couple of mediums to achieve these.

small amount of acrylic modeling paste was applied to create the foliage of a small shrub.  I used a very small brush tip and also the end of an embossing tool to work the medium on the surface.

I also applied thin areas of acrylic based micaceous oxide with a brush. The very fine particle in the charcoal hued medium would print as small mid tone on the rock surface.

I sealed the plate with clear shellac when all the textural mediums were dry to touch. 
Black Caligo safewash etching ink was mixed with a small amount of easy wipe medium. I applied this to the plate surface with a  tightly rolled crafting felt dabber. Surface ink was removed by wiping with a fine mesh polyester wiping fabric (quilt interfacing from a fabric shop) followed by a few swipes with the barrier glove covered palm of my hand and a piece of old telephone book page.
The plate was set inked side facing up on my etching press bed and slightly damp Somerset rag was set over top. A piece of newsprint was laid over this followed by three wool felt blankets. I adjusted the press roller gauge to a fairly tight pressure and turning the gears passed the plate/paper/felts under the roller. After I removed the print on paper from the press bed it was fastened to a smooth thin wood particle board for drying using gum adhesive butcher's tape.

My next blog entry will most likely show the introduction of  colour into this image.

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