Experimental Collagraphs was a recent weekend workshop organised by ATASDA.Jet James is a young artist based in Yeppoon Queensland, who works in a range of media but currently focuses on printmaking. On the right is an image of a print I bought from him. You can see many more images on his website, http://www.jetjames.com.au/.
A few years ago Jet worked with another artist in an intensely experimental period. His “experimental collage” method comes from that. Working with 3mm pvc board as printing plate, Jet embosses the surface with natural and found materials. The leaves and dragonfly you see in the print were actual leaves and dead dragonfly, laid on the board and pressed through the printer. Using oil inks and an intaglio method, the embossed depressions create dark lines and areas in the final print.
Jet can create additional dark areas by texturing the pvc, using lino cutting tools, sandpaper… He creates light areas by adding materials that don’t take the ink, including nailpolish, car paint-sprays, gel mediums… Tape varies in effect. Things like plastic packing tape resist ink and create light marks, while paper tape soaks up ink and creates a dark. Then some tapes have a surface texture. It’s basically a matter of looking around and experimenting.
Wanting to connect to my Mixed Media course, I used a number of past samples in the embossing stage. From left to right we have acrylic felt from p1-70, up to the right p1-55, below that p1-61. Next is insect mesh, seen frequently in the past, then p2-10.
Here is the embossed plate, held at an angle in an attempt to show the texture created.
To print the plate, I spread blue/black ink over the entire surface using a credit card as a tool, then rubbed off the surface with phone book paper. A smear of ink was left overall, and larger amounts in the depressions. I printed on to damp Stonehenge paper. The first few prints were on white.
For a first go I think this is amazing. Others in the class started straight away with building up images, but I wanted to stick with general experimentation. Everything I tried here gave lovely clear exciting textures.
The thin, light foil shelf-liner cut outs didn’t make any impression, while only the spine of the feather had an effect. I later painted on some gel structure medium to create a raised area that should largely resist ink.I think the ladder effect created by the cardboard is the standout here, and the splodge of gel medium also shows promise.
A torn-down p2-11 was embossed on the third plate. I then scratched into the surface with various weights of sandpaper and a variety of other scratching tools. Lines were drawn in different nail polishes (some with glitter for extra texture). There was also a selection of different tapes added. A range of interesting effects to add to the toolkit.
Next I wanted to attempt a composition of some kind. Here I came unstuck. I considered going abstract and had a range of materials to emboss circular variations, but instead I went for a sketch I dimly remembered from King Island (see 6-November-2012). Unfortunately I’d left my tablet at home and didn’t have a copy of the sketch.
I embossed layers of sandpaper for some beach texture, a rather too thick piece of polymorph plastic to create foreground rocky texture, and p1-61 again for the sea (unfortunately not so effective this time – perhaps flattened by the earlier work). I then cut grasses with a lino cutter, and roughened areas with sandpaper. I printed onto a fawn coloured paper.Some of the elements aren’t bad, but it just doesn’t come together. The shore line is too central and vertical, the sea on the left is bland, the ground behind the grasses too similar to the general colour in the foreground.
Rather than start another plate it seemed a good exercise to try to improve on this one.I used a variety of nailpolishes and other resist-type pens, looking for some highlights and movement in the sea. Sandpaper was used at the top to try to connect the shoreline to the upper margin.
To address the values problem on the right I tried to manipulate the amount of ink removed when rubbing back, taking off more in the top area and leaving a lot below. Unfortunately I lost some of the good foreground texture in the process.
Others have disagreed with me and preferred the first print, but I think I was effective in addressing a number of the issues I saw. A very worthwhile exercise.
Since the workshop I’ve tried creating a new plate and print. This was using a craft roller machine intended for embossing and cutting by scrapbook enthusiasts. It limits possibilities, being small (A4 can go through, so smaller plate size), would break if I tried to create too much pressure, and has a fixed height between the rollers. You try to get the right pressure for a particular task by adding different thickness boards in the roll-through package.This is the result, on more of the fawn Stonehenge paper. I used p1-70, some cardboard, insect mesh and a plastic net fruit bag when embossing. I don’t have any printing inks, so used acrylic paints with some gel retarder to give myself more working time. When printing I put it through twice, as there was insufficient pressure first time through.
Yes, there are lots of problems, but the focus needs to be that I was able to emboss and print at home!!! For that point alone this is an excellent result.
Part 4 of the Mixed Media course is mono and collatype printing. The techniques suggested in the course notes are quite different, so it will be really interesting to use Jet’s ideas as well and do some compare and contrast. Before then I’ll get some oil inks and a supply of pvc board, and maybe there will be a chance to sneak in some practice.
T1-MMT-P2 Jet James – Experimental Collagraphs workshop
Textiles 1 – Mixed Media for Textiles
Part 2: Joining and wrapping
Workshops etc: Jet James – Experimental Collagraphs Workshop