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Experimenting with collagraphs

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

Over the course of the mid-year break, I decided to experiment with a few techniques that I haven't practiced in a while. These include collagraph-making and paper-engineering, and using watercolours to lightly colour the pages. Because I was using printmaking paper, I had to consider how to, first, stretch the paper, and also think about how the watercolours would react to paper without external sizing. Although I've tried to add sizing with rice-paste, I don't think I've been using enough for it to be effective.

Here are a few photos of prints I made from the tree collagraph that I made a few weeks ago:

I still had to stretch the Gampi paper prior to painting it. I used a mix of rice glue and water, brushing it on to a sheet of perspex and allowing to dry before painting.

The pigments I used for these pages are two-toned - when the viewer moves around the book they will notice the colours changing as they move (if they move).

I used the same sheet of perspex to stretch the bookmaking, rag paper. I realised that if I wanted to play with paper-engineering, I would need to use a heavier paper. What I also had to consider is whether or not this would integrate well with the lighter Japanese papers I've been using. I suppose the only way to know is to do!

These pages below are the second round of pages I prepared for printing. I used watercolours that would stain the paper to that when they were re-wet, they wouldn't bleed out too much.

I also decided to print a linocut moon in the background to add to the moody atmospheric tone.

And here is an example of how it looks when the tree is printed over top of the the above pages.

I ran into a bit of trouble with the print below. As you can see, the moon is rather faded. This occurred because I used water-soluble relief ink. Even though I allowed it to dry for a week, I left it to dry in the garage - which is cold and ended up slowing the drying time. When I went to re-wet the paper, the ink - which was still touch dry - began to dissolve! It was salvageable enough, but I certainly wasn't happy about that - and I'm not so sure it looks very much like a moon!

Printing these pages took a little longer that I thought it would, perhaps because I was doing other things or perhaps because I had to wait for so many things to dry between steps. A little while after, I decided to have a crack at making the pop-up houses which, again, were made with collagraph plates.

Being the collector that I am, I had a rummage around a few tubs with bits and pieces of soft materials that I knew I would want for a future project. Thin, pliable and waterproof materials with a bit of texture are excellent to use for collagraphs. So it just drawing with plain PVA glue. After deciding the measurements of the pop-up using a mock-up I made, I drew the dimensions onto some thin boxboard and used this as my outline for decorating the houses.


I then used these mock-ups to outline on the plates:

I found some thin paper with a woody texture and some pvc table runners with some pretty patterns and designs. Besides using them for collagraph, I plan to use them for some monoprinting for future pages, too. Collagraph certainly involves a fair bit of construction, which I suppose is fitting if you're making a house.

The plate at the top is just made using plain PVA glue. When the plate is printed with dark ink, it should look like a stone-built house. The roofs of the houses may turn out a bit darker than I want; boxboard will hold more ink than smooth screen board, but it's also worth experimenting with wiping the ink back to see what effects result.

Prior to printing, plates need to be sealed with varnish or shellac - and this needs to be done on both the front and the back of the plates to ensure they hold ink and can be cleaned sufficiently, and also to make them more durable.

Inking up the stone house plate:

And the first print - on a side-note, it's worth mentioning that before printing, I had to ensure the grain-direction was correct. Grain-direction has to be considered for any project that requires folding of materials - especially with bookmaking. If I want the houses to fold easily, it's important that the folds are parallel with the grain. The grain-direction on the house below run North-South, which is where the corner walls of the house are folded.

And house number two - I may cut the windows and doors open so the viewer can peer inside. What I'll put inside is anybody's guess at the moment!

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