A student in my collage class at the Pelham Art Center asked me to include a printmaking project. In a collage context, that means collagraph (a print made with a collage technique).
I thought that was a good idea for a class project because a collagraph can be the beginning of many things – it can be a finished work – it can be the start of a mixed media collage – and it can be a source for collage papers. Collage artists need a lot of different papers and printmaking is a good way to create interesting papers for collage.
I thought of 3 different collagraph techniques working with ink and paper and how you can prepare a plate for a print. I think I will show all 3 techniques in the next several weeks.
PREPARE THE COLLAGRAPH PLATE:
One technique is to glue papers to a hard surface like cardboard, Plexiglas or hardboard (Masonite), allow the papers to dry and, using a brayer (roller) or paintbrush, cover the papers with paint or ink.
A second technique is to use papers (cutout stencil pieces) that are not glued to the cardboard, Plexiglas or hardboard plate. You ink the bottom plate and then place the papers onto the inked bottom layer and use a brayer or paintbrush to add another color to the papers.
A third technique is to create a design or image directly on the plate with glue or acrylic media with a brush, a squeeze bottle and let it dry, and then roll ink or paint onto the plate.
The image above is a collagraph plate prepared by a student in the class at the Pelham Art Center. The white background is acrylic gesso on the Masonite. Gesso is an art material used as a primary coat. 2 coats of gesso were applied. The papers are medium weight drawing papers cut and glued to the gesso-coated hardboard.
The plate is not ready to be printed because it needs to get a coat of acrylic medium before it can be inked and used to make a print. The coat of acrylic medium will protect it from water and solvents so it can be used many times to print. After the plate is inked (and printed) it will take on the colors of the inks. Plates sometimes become very beautiful as they are inked and used.
At the next class session we will apply acrylic medium in 2 coats, allow it to dry, ink the plate and make one or more prints.
PREPARE THE INK FOR PRINTING
We will use oil-based inks and spread the ink with a brayer in a thin layer onto a piece of plate glass ¼ inch thick. The ink on the brayer will be rolled onto the collagraph plate. More than one ink color can be applied to the plate with brush or brayer as multiple steps.
PREPARE THE PAPERS FOR PRINTING
You want to have printmaking papers prepared in advance (sized, a little damp) so that as soon as the plate is inked you can place the paper on top of the plate and print.
It’s important that paper is sized larger than the plate. You want to see a border around the print. The technique for printing is simple: You place the clean printmaking paper on top of the inked plate and transfer the image by hand or with a press. Practice makes perfect.
The images above are my collagraph plate (demo plate for the class) and the pen and ink drawing that inspired the shape of the paper pieces for the collagraph plate. It will be interesting to see how the print turns out and how it is different from the pen and ink drawing. I will experiment with black and white and colored inks.
NO BIG PAPERS for this PRINT
I asked students to cut the papers small because the Masonite plate was also small.
The size of the design elements or image you glue onto the plate should be relative to the size of the plate.
The size of the plate should be relative to the size of the paper you want to print your image on. It’s probably a good idea to determine the size of your paper first and then find the plate that will be the base for your print. Printmaking papers come in standard sizes. If you use drawing papers from a drawing sketchbook, those papers come in standard sizes also. I have drawing paper from a pad that is close to the size of the collagraph plate.
I will show students how to tear other papers to size at the next class. Many artists like the torn (deckled) edge for printmaking paper and there is a special technique for tearing papers.
PRINTMAKING BY HAND
I ordered a PIN PRESS from Rostow and Jung Akua Inks and will bring it to class. The pin press replaces a printmaking press and is easy to use and is affordable for a serious printmaker who doesn’t have the space for a flatbed print press. Read about the pin press (see what it looks like)…
I will also bring sturdy wooden spoons and a printmaking barren so that people can transfer their image to paper by hand.
The Rostow and Jung Akua website has many links to tutorials and videos on many different printmaking techniques, including monotype, monoprint, carborundum, silk aquatint, linocut, woodcut and more.
The 2 images below are collages I made with my own monoprint papers. I like to recycle print papers. Recycle Totems is 16 x 18 inches. Recycle Grid is 17 x 14 inches.