The final exercise of the assignment asks for a number of collage blocks, bringing together previous learning to create visually textural prints.
I decided to start with a polyfilla block. Looking at my own samples I find the results less obvious than the plates with glued material. There’s more of a transformation, more space for serendipity. I wanted to continue making prints with the gelatin plate and again I preferred the textures from the polyfilla block. I also thought continuity of the plaster across the block allowed for more integration of different areas of texture.
For subject material I turned to my sketchbook and photographs from a trip to Western Australia, travelling from Broome to Perth (see blog post 6-August-2014). We saw a lot of big, open country that I thought would translate well in a collatype.First I thought of a small watercolour, about 17 x 12.5 cm, that I did based on photographs prior to the trip as a test of my travelling sketch kit. This shows the Pinnacles, weathered columns of limestone rising from yellow sand dunes. I didn’t have much time for sketching when we got there, but tried to quickly capture colour and shapes with a glue stick and the coarse sand we stood on. However I took many photographs.
The earlier sketch was refined to emphasize the geometry and converted to a form to suit an A4 page.
The chosen materials were then placed in the setting plaster. I had intended to use two sizes of plastic net in the foreground to create variation in the diagonal lines, then thought the lines would run in the wrong direction so filled the space using the side of a pop stick.It was a nasty surprise when I removed the net and discovered a grid instead of the expected diagonals (as seen in the top right of print p4-105, 17-Dec-2015). The plaster was still quite soft, and remedial work with the pop stick followed.
The completed plate was left to dry.
The colours are soft and the textures subtle. They could be useful in Australian landscapes.
The texture and colour is slightly different using this method.
Ultramarine blue akua intaglio ink was rolled across the sky area. Hansa yellow intaglio ink was modified with a few drops of burnt umber liquid pigment and rolled over the landscape area of the plaster plate.
The print was taken on cartridge paper using a brayer.
Colours were rolled onto the plate as before. Additional liquid pigment colours were brushed onto the plate in selected areas.
The print was taken on cartridge paper using a baren, then I made heavy use of a variety of wooden clay modelling tools in an attempt to pick up colour from the textured areas.
The different textures are now apparent – the sky is particularly busy. I find individual elements promising but am not convinced by the print as a whole. There is a lot of white and the different parts don’t integrate as well as I’d hoped. The strong pattern and contrast of values in the sky is too dominant. There is no clear focus or path for the eye through the image.
Colour was again rolled and painted onto the plate.
I printed onto dry cartridge paper using the ezicut press.
There is no pressure control on the press itself. Any adjustment has to be in the sandwich of materials passed through.
Given so little colour had transferred on the previous print I decided not to re-ink. I printed again onto dry cartridge paper with additional layers of wool batting to increase the pressure of the press.
I was concerned about damage to press and/or plate if pushed further and I decided not to pursue this method.
Pthalo blue and burnt umber liquid pigment was rolled onto the gelatin plate using newsprint masks to create an area for the high point of the stone.
The plaster plate, not cleaned but no ink added, was pressed into the gelatin and removed. The print was on cartridge paper, pressed by hand.
This seemed a method worth pushing.
I began by rolling burnt umber liquid pigment on the gelatin plate, using a newsprint mask over the sky area. The un-inked plaster plate was pressed into the gelatin and removed. This left marks in the inked gelatin which I used as guides for further rolling and dabbing of liquid pigments on the gelatin – lamp black, burnt umber and phthalo blue.
The plaster plate was rolled with hansa yellow intaglio ink mixed with burnt umber liquid pigment and ultramarine blue in the sky. The plaster was once more pressed into the gelatin plate. The idea was that the gelatin would be completely covered in inks – from the plaster plate in the high areas of texture and already on the gelatin where the plaster did not touch the surface.
The print was taken on cartridge paper using hand pressure.
The stone columns and shadows are clumsy, shapeless lumps. The setting is there, but what should be the focal point is drab and uninteresting. There is also a poor transition from foreground to background sand in the lower right of the print.
I see elements of promise in an unsatisfactory print.
Considerable ink seemed to remain on the gelatin plate. I rolled with akua release agent, waited a few minutes, then printed onto cartridge paper using a baren.
The cleaned gelatin plate was rolled with diarylide yellow and phthalo blue, using simple newsprint masks to define areas of land and sky. Newsprint was used to lift some of the blue. The plaster plate was rolled with intaglio hansa yellow mixed with burnt umber liquid pigment and was pressed into the gelatin.
The felt shapes used in texturing the plaster plate were inked with lamp black liquid pigment and stamped in the appropriate positions. The heat treated plastic pieces were roughly painted burnt umber and stamped on the gelatin. Finally a little more lamp black was painted at the base of the columns in an attempt to get better separation from the foreground sand.
The print was taken on cartridge paper using the baren.
The shadows have crisp edges which is one of the features in the inspiration photograph and sketches. The shadow is not too heavy, not too intrusive.
The foreground sand has variation, texture and interest. There is more white than anticipated, but the overall effect is the best achieved in all the prints.
The background sand is patchy. The areas towards the horizon could work as highlights of sunshine in the distance, but the large central blank is distracting.
With better contrast to a background the stone columns might have worked. As is they do not have the presence to hold the image together. The black shadows at the base of the stones are clumsy and awkward.
Overall the print doesn’t work, but I thought with a few adjustments it might.
In my final attempt the inking and printing method was basically the same, followed by more extensive touching up to address issues identified.
The attempt to improve the shadows at the base of the stones by increasing them was a poor choice. The touch-up of the smaller stone resulted in a loss of texture and cohesion.
There is an overprint of sky and land, but this has given a sense of vegetation in the distance which is true to the inspiration source and also adds an effective layer of interest to that area of the print. There is a better sense of distance and depth which is effective.
The larger stone is overall lighter than the background which in this case brings it forward. There is still not quite enough definition but I think it is much improved. I like the colour and the variation of coverage in the background sand. It is not bland but it give a resting place in a busy image.
None of the prints is entirely satisfactory but many have points of interest. I would be curious to try the plaster plate in a proper printing press. Although I tried not to create great variation in depth in the plaster the textured areas proved very difficult to apply adequate ink and to print onto the paper. I will explore other techniques in my next block.
T1-MMT-P4-p2-e3 Collatype collage prints – block 1
Part 4: Mono and collatype printing
Project 2: Collatype printing
Exercise 3: Collatype collage prints
Collatype collage prints – block 1