Archives for posts with tag: Collagraph


The tension of waiting to hear if my portfolio had managed to gain me an interview at the RCA built as the date when results were supposed to be emailed came and went with nothing happening.

When news finally arrived 5 days late that I did have an interview I felt I had just stepped onto a very high rollercoaster.

Suddenly I was all fingers and thumbs and the new work took on a magnitude it didn’t deserve. I was working on a collagraph of a desolate landscape. Within the landscape would be a glasshouse – a protected environment where things could grow. I had been thinking about conservation and how reliant so many species are on being sited within a protected environment for survival. Building a safe environment. That idea of a haven. My first ideas for inside the glasshouse were of a party amongst tropical plants but I found some photos I liked of children looking like frightened animals about to dash into the undergrowth and hide for safety.

To create the layers inside the glasshouse I had an idea inspired by an old model I had made back at Goldsmiths using OSP transparencies. With just one plant on each layer the image soon disappears into haze. For some reason it always made me think of a prehistoric landscape.

OSP Model

I took the same principle but stacked the images and ran them through the scanner. The light gave a wonderful ethereal effect and I was excited by the number of combinations of layering that could be achieved.

Hot House

I contacted Promptside to organize the transfer of these images onto sublimation paper and also J & R Precision Engineers in Chiswick to get aluminium sheet cut for the print to sit on.

The print I had previously made from the collagraph that I thought was OK on reflection was not good enough so it was back to inking up and trying again.

I am still learning about the right consistency of ink to use, how much extender or plate oil to mix in, how best to apply the ink and then wipe it off.

Test print

Suddenly it all seemed to come together and I had a print I was happy with. Apart from the sky which needed work. I wanted it to be a strong yellow – luminous yet poisonous.

Back at home I tried screenprinting onto polyester but the inks were too heavy and dull. I then tried painting sublimation inks and transferring this to polyester.

I ended up ironing this by hand as my heat press isn’t wide enough. This gave the sky a luminous glow which reflected onto the paper. I thought I could work with this.

So I cut the printed paper sky off and used 3M positionable adhesive to stick the polyester sky to the aluminium plate and again to stick the paper print on top.

Initially I had wanted to make the glasshouse quite 3D even protruding a little from the print. Once I had carefully cut the hole in the print for the glasshouse to sit in it seemed it would work better if the images on organza sat directly behind the print with the glasshouse framework sitting on top.

So I printed some balsa wood to make it look well, like wood.

balsa wood

I transferred the images I had collected from Promptside onto organza and polyester and then chose the one I thought most effective. I made some small stretchers for these. I had thought about trapping each image between an acetate sheet but having stretchers helps with the spacing. The image inside the glasshouse ended up being quite dark and I did think about lighting it with LED’s. I don’t really want to have to plug it in though but may have a look at finding a battery operated option with a small switch.

Yellow Sky

Alongside making this work I thought I would start the next piece I was planning about the return of the forests after the ice age.

I mocked up a landscape from collaging images of icebergs and frozen sea together to give the impression of a land breaking up and transferred this to card for a collagraph plate.

iceberg plate

I wanted to have the forest emerging from this icy landscape, dark and advancing like Birnham forest in Macbeth.

At first I thought just the tops would be visible but then I decided to show the roots taking hold – visible in the ice.

return of the forest

I mocked up an idea of this in Photoshop but this would mean a lot of cutting for a collagraph plate. I could screen print it but I wanted to create a more ethereal effect so I had the idea to screen print the trees onto card and dust the ink with fine carborundum grit  before it dried. It meant i could get much more detail in the plate than by cutting it. Of course I would need to seal the plate and I used the very last of my Klear to do this.

Carborundum forest plate 2

I should have realised the carborundum would spread with the brush and I consequently lost some of the fine detail. I printed this plate to see how it came out, it looked like a forest dissolving in the rain and I think on a background print could be effective.

dissolving forest darker print forest

There had been a documentary programme on TV about a group of Scandinavian artists and scientists that had gone on an expedition to a glacier a bit like Cape Farewell. These Scandinavians were not so poetic in their approach and much more used to dealing with survival outdoors – slicing the head of still battling fish and shooting warning shots at an inquisitive polar bear before taking off on a jet powered hovercoptor. The geologist was interesting though and more introspective – searching for something within himself amongst the oldest rocks on the planet. He talked about snowball earth when the whole planet was covered in ice. This seems to have happened a few times – the last time being 635 million years ago.

I have been trying to find out when the trees first appeared – maybe 551-2500 million years ago.

‘As I did stand my watch upon the hill,
I look’d toward Birnam, and anon, methought,
The wood began to move.’

ACT V Scene v Macbeth

London Art Fair.

Hadn’t been before. It felt manageable though we didn’t go round all of it. Headed straight to the Art Projects Space.

Bearspace had a good spot and were showing Suzanne Moxhay’s enigmatic photographs.

Susanne Moxhay

Suzanne Moxhay

I love the way her photos are staged. I have been looking at other artists that use a similar process of building sets to photograph.

Didier Massard (2)

Didier Massard

Didier Massard for example. I stumbled across a blog about his work a while ago.

Edwin Zwakman

Edwin Zwakman

Other artists are mentioned in this blog one of which is Edwin Zwakman who constructs miniature landscapes to photograph entirely from memory. Through his process all places and objects morph into new variations. Scale and perspective change. The images do not show what you could photograph but how you experience them.

I like this idea and so for the new collagraph I am making I thought I would try this approach.  Is it possible to see something in your mind that isn’t constructed from things you have actually seen and to see that immediately as a sudden flash.  My ideas seem to grow slowly in my mind, fermenting over time and then suddenly they seem ready to go from there to a very rough sketch to a plan of action.

I am aiming for a scene of desolation, a dystopic landscape – a clearing reduced to ruins. Then a last refuge. I see this as a glass house, a protected environment for things to grow.

I have bought some A1 card for the plate and am experimenting with making structures from paper and card. I am planning eventually to insert the glasshouse as a shallow 3D model into the collagraph. Eventually made from acetate and filled with sublimation printed organza images.

I have taken up key holder membership at Ochre Print Studio. This gives me full-time access to the studio so I have more time to experiment and be playful with my work. It is great to feel the whole day stretching out ahead of you without the worry of clearing up almost as soon as you have got started. I am a slow worker so I need this.

I also bought an easel with some birthday money. My studio has had a big clear out and one side looks refreshed and ready for a new episode in my work. Other side still piled up but progress is being made.

I was able to get lots of tips on different ways to print collagraphs from Katherine Jones course at Ochre.

Katherine Jones Stove

Katherine Jones ‘Stove’ Etching and collagraph on paper

Katie was really helpful and her work is beautiful. I love her colours.  She creates a wonderful ephemeral light in her work. She has done a series on conservatories. It felt a bit weird to discover this as it looks like I was copying her.

Stove is a reference to John Paxton’s ‘Great Stove’, a hothouse built and designed for the gardens of Chatsworth House in the 1800s which was later dismantled.

I asked her if she had come across Frank Stainbridge in her research about hothouses but she hadn’t. One day I will try to find out if the extraordinary stories about him are true.

It was encouraging for us to see how many prints Katie made from one plate before she was happy, changing the colours, adding and removing sections until it all came together.

Collagraph Plate

I have got my collagraph plate to a point where I want to see how it prints.

Collagraph relief

I made an impression of the print on card ready to cut as a relief print to add layers.

While thoughts of the forest and the bestial freedom that Vico wrote about in his ‘New Science’ are in my mind these thoughts have been reinforced by Haruki Murakami in 1Q84 which is my novel on the go at the moment.

The character Tengo reads passages from Anton Chekov’s Sakhalin Island to Fuka-Eri. Chekov writes about his encounters with the indigenous people, the Gilyaks (now known as Nivhk) ‘….they do not understand the purpose of roads. Even where a road has already been laid, they will still journey through the taiga. One often sees them, their families and their dogs, picking their way across a quagmire right by the roadway.’

Fuka-Eri warns Tengo of the Little People’s wisdom and power – that it might cause him harm. ‘Better be careful in the forest. Tengo found himself looking at his surroundings. True, the forest was their world.’