T1-MMT-P4-p2-e2 Polyfilla block

The task for this exercise was to cover card with Polyfilla and while it was still moist use mark-making tools to create textures. The dried block can be used multiple times.

I used a different brand product, but the same idea of a pre-mixed plaster, with an A4 piece of mountboard as the base. A lot of time was spent with a wallpaper smoother and the smaller tool provided by the manufacturer, trying to get a smooth and even layer of filler on the card. I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the result, but felt the need to move on before the plaster set too much. Next I used a variety of tools and materials to make marks, naturally basing much of my choice on materials used in previous assignments.

collatype plate 3 in progress

collatype plate 3 in progress

Top row from the left: marks drawn with chopstick; corrugated cardboard; non-skid plastic mat; hessian; marks drawn with a couple of the plastic grouting or adhesive spreading tools.
Bottom row: marks made with the side and ends of pop sticks; pressing and lifting a small triangular headed palette knife (similar to that used in print p4-16); plastic bath mat; heat gun treated plastic; plastic netting.
Areas were divided using a range of different strings, twine and braid.

collatype plate 3 finally dry

collatype plate 3 finally dry
Click image for larger view

Working when the plaster is at just the right stage of setting is critical, and I would need more experience to get it right. Most I did too soon. Instead of leaving a clear mark the palette knife just squelched around – I suspect a matter of surface tension. I was able to lift corners of the hessian etc and check they came away clear before removing entirely. I left the heat treated plastic longest of all, but eventually was going away for a few hours and chose to risk taking it up too soon rather than risk the plastic setting in the plaster.

Drying was slow. Temperature was mid-20s celcius, humidity mid 50s when I was working on it, the next day was almost 30 degrees, and it still took over 24 hours to dry. The board had curved and there were more high and low points than I wanted. I brushed the plate to remove stray loose bits then set to work.

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Print p4-105
The plate was rolled with akua crimson red intaglio ink. Given the uneveness of the surface it was difficult to get ink on the plate. I rotated the plate and rolled from all directions.

The print was taken on cartridge paper. I started using my hand and a baren, but peeking showed that very little colour transferred. Wooden clay shaping tools were then used to press into small, detailed areas.

Print p4-105

Print p4-105

The print is much better than I anticipated, with a good range of marks in all the sample areas. I think everything there has potential to be useful in a composition or exploration.

None of the dividing lines gave any detail.

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Print p4-106
There were a number of areas with light coverage in the previous print. I wanted to get more colour, so applied the same ink with a dabber, trying to work into the crevices of the plate.

The printing method was the same as that used in p4-105.

Print p4-106

Print p4-106

There is slightly better coverage to the edge of the plate but overall the print is a little lighter. The dabber didn’t deposit as much ink as the roller.

I wondered if the plaster was absorbing ink.
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Print p4-107
I was even more determined to get a more complete print.

Akua diarylide yellow liquid pigment was applied using a smallish bristle paint brush across the plate including all the crevices. I wiped the yellow off the high surfaces with telephone book paper, then rolled akua crimson red intaglio ink over the plate.

The print was taken on very slightly damp Arches 88 paper. Using the wooden shaping tools I worked for a long time, trying to press the paper deep into every part of the plate.

Print p4-107

Print p4-107

Print p4-107 detail

Print p4-107 detail
Click image for larger view

There is a lot more, richer colour. In some areas I was able to reach the yellow, particularly where the heat treated plastic had been used.

It still wasn’t the coverage I wanted. Possibly a printing press and slightly damper paper might have got a better result.

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Print p4-108
Next I rolled phthalo blue liquid pigment on the gelatin plate. I pressed the plaster plate onto the gelatin, working my way across the surface and then rocking back and forward slightly – most but not all of the bend in the plaster board had worked out in previous prints.

The print was taken on cartridge paper.

Print p4-108

Print p4-108

The heavy pressing and rocking of the plaster plate both blurred the impression and transferred a lot of the ink to the plaster. The print is almost without ink in the high areas of plaster.

The blurring is most pronounced in the upper right area where the notched adhesive spreader was used. A visual depth and vibration has resulted which is quite striking. I like the contrast of the evenly spaced zig-zags blending into shimmering tentacles. There is less dramatic interest in the other textured areas, although once again I see promise for the right application.

The plaster hadn’t been cleaned before this use, and traces of previous red have printed. I wondered if there would be substantial amounts of the old colour and some colour mixing, but there is not enough for major impact.
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Print p4-109
I repeated the previous method, with less forceful pressing of the plaster collage plate. The print was again taken on cartridge paper.

Print p4-109

Print p4-109

Print p4-109 detail

Print p4-109 detail
Click image for larger view

Colour is stronger overall, and there has been more transfer of the old red and yellow, particularly in the upper right section where a little green can be seen.

The detail of the print is sharp and clear and very interesting. In the gelatin prints of collage plate 1, such as print p4-97 (14-Dec-2015) the precision and detail of the print was almost too much for my taste. The boundaries were crisp, not hesitant or provisional. There was a flatness and uniformity.

In the current print there is great variation in value, there is a lot of movement and the marks seem more assertive, more individual. I look at the results and see more than just suitability if the right need comes up. The marks excite me, make me want to use them, to explore further. The roughness of the plaster and the smooth reflection of the gelatin has combined to open new possibilities.
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Print p4-110
The plaster collage plate by this time was dense with colour. I printed it onto cartridge paper without the heavy working with the wooden shapers used in the earlier prints.

Print p4-110

Print p4-110

The result at first appears very light, but there are small areas of dark tones. There are hints of the red, especially around the borders. To me there is an austere elegance, with the flecks of red giving a little energy.

I am very interested by all the variations in printing that one plate can provide.

collatype plate 3 after printing

collatype plate 3 after printing

The plate itself has become a source of interest. I wondered earlier if the plaster was absorbing ink. That’s possible, but a few days later the plate still inks my fingers when I touch it. If it dries enough I would like to seal it with a gloss varnish to enrich the colours even more, and hang it as it is. That thought certainly suggests action to take in later plates with more considered compositions.

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experimental collagraph at home

experimental collagraph at home

There was still another material for collagraph plates that I wanted to print – pvc foam board, using the techniques learnt in the workshop with Jet James earlier this year (16-July-2015). In the class we used a large printing press and I don’t have regular access to such equipment. However after the class I made a test plate with my little ezicut press. To print I used cheap acrylic paints with some gel retarder and the results were poor. Could I get better results with my akua inks?

Print p4-111
I rolled akua crimson red intaglio ink on the pvc plate. The print was taken on cartridge paper user a brayer.

Print p4-111

Print p4-111

The result is light and patchy, but the texture of the embossed area is clear. An encouraging start.
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Print p4-112
The same ink and inking method was used. I again printed on cartridge paper, but this time through the ezicut press.

Print p4-112

Print p4-112

The actual colour is more crimson and less scarlet as it appears in the photograph. There are areas of flat, strong colour. I think the pressure of the press was too heavy and detail on the plate was lost. I do like the pinpricks of white created by the insect mesh impression in the centre.

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Print p4-113
I next tried an intaglio print. The red ink was pressed across the surface and into all depressions. The surface was then wiped with phone book paper.

The print was taken on damp Arches 88 paper using the ezicut press.

Print p4-113

Print p4-113

Much more detail is visible in this plate, including shadows where texture items shifted when the plate was first created.

The print itself is not exciting, but I am pleased to have the option of creating embossed pvc plates and printing in this style. I think the material and technique is worth developing in the future.
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Print p4-114
The gelatin plate was once more rolled with phthalo blue liquid pigment. The pvc plate was pressed into the ink and removed. The print was taken on cartridge paper.

Print p4-114 detail

Print p4-114 detail

Print p4-114

Print p4-114
Click image for larger view

I don’t feel I learnt anything new from this print. The pvc was originally created as a quick experiment, a proof of concept that my little craft press was up to the task. It’s not an engaging design.

The gelatin plate picked up what detail there is, but the flaws (clumps in the original mixing of the gelatin) are becoming more pronounced.
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Print p4-115
The final print is a ghost on cartridge paper.

Print p4-115

Print p4-115

Bland and uninformative. As I’ve stated above, it’s not an interesting design. In addition I don’t feel the gelatin printing method has revealed any new or different character in the pvc plate. This is quite different to the result with the plaster plate above where the rough and smooth combined to bring something new to print p4-109.

I’ve built up a good range of materials and techniques. In the next exercise, the last for this assignment, I need to bring things together and put my new skills to use.

T1-MMT-P4-p2-e2 Polyfilla block
Part 4: Mono and collatype printing
Project 2: Collatype printing
Exercise 2: Polyfilla block

6 Responses to “T1-MMT-P4-p2-e2 Polyfilla block”


  1. 1 Nola December 17, 2015 at 11:07 pm

    I found the earlier prints very interesting – it’s a useful block. I don’t have a press either but I have found a marble rolling pin is useful. Combinations of a smooth cylinder that doesn’t mark and extra weight on the prints. Mine was less than $30 from a kitchen shop and, I think, worth every penny.

  2. 2 fibresofbeing December 17, 2015 at 11:45 pm

    Thanks Nola – great tip.

  3. 3 karenwoodfield December 18, 2015 at 12:57 am

    I am still trying to work out the value of the plaster exercises, creating collographs is great but the plaster exercise I might skip.

    • 4 fibresofbeing December 18, 2015 at 1:49 am

      I was dubious at the beginning, but now I’m planning to use them more. I find the results less obvious than the earlier plate with glued material. There’s more of a transformation, more space for serendipity.


  1. 1 T1-MMT-P4-p2-e3 Collatype collage prints – block 1 | Fibres of Being Trackback on December 23, 2015 at 12:46 am
  2. 2 T1-MMT-P4 Mono and collatype printing: Sorting | Fibres of Being Trackback on January 2, 2016 at 7:27 pm

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