Monthly Archives: April 2014

Assignment 4 – Collatype collage block prints

Assignment 4 asks for a selection of prints from projects 11-12.

Contents of my submission

Task 1 (Project 11)

Collage test plate

Collage test plate

Molding paste plate print

Molding paste plate print

2 prints of textured collage test block

Critical Statement

Choice of subject and colours

These test collage blocks were done after experimenting with larger blocks and hand rubbing the impression using a wooden spoon which was found to not be very effective. Working with a smaller block and concentrating on very low relief items, I was able to get a good impression using a small hydraulic press.

The block using different textured objects was inked up in green with a paintbrush to get into all the crevices, wiped off and then re-inked in orange. This combination gives a nice effect to the print.

The collage items used were:

  1. Hole reinforcers
  2. Parcel tape
  3. Star, circle and square stickers
  4. Scrim
  5. Plasterboard tape
  6. String
  7. Onion and fennel seeds
  8. Textured wallpaper
  9. Sandpaper
  10. Textured wallpaper
  11. Carbundrum
  12. Textured wallpaper
  13. Ribbon
  14. Metal foil
  15. Tissue paper

The textured surface block that worked best was the one using acrylic gel medium molding paste. This was inked up by dab printing in green and purple. The marks made give a strong differentiation between the raised inked and the low un-inked surfaces.


Two clean prints of test collage blocks, showing the impressions of some interesting textures and methods of inking the blocks which have the potential to represent many different things going forwards to the representational print in project 12.

Task 2 (Project 12)

Grey map print

Grey map print

Coloured map print

Coloured map print

Trees print

Trees print

3 prints of representational themed collage block

Critical Statement

Choice of subject and colours

Map block

The map based block is a progression from using maps in some of my earlier prints. I chose an area where there are many interesting features which I thought would translate well into a print and created the block through sketching on site, simplifying and making up areas.

Collage items were chosen for their textures and ability to represent the features on the aerial view of the landscape.

Grey was chosen for the single colour print in the same way as a black and white map. For the coloured block, the colours were chosen to represent the features.

Trees block

This was chosen as a subject because I thought the textures used in my test block looked like tree bark and various types of vegetation. I collected materials from the woodland featured in the map block and tried to use some of this in the prints.

Colours were again chosen to match the objects they were aiming to represent.

Prints chosen:

  1. Grey map print: inked up and rubbed off in places before printing. I think this is the best print from this block, although whether you can tell what it represents without the colour is another matter. Printed on Saunders Waterford paper.
  2. Coloured map print: All over brown print, rubbed off in places. Followed by a green print with the river ink rubbed off, followed by a blue print with the land masked out. There is a slight registration error on this print and the green ink would have worked better being rubbed off partially in the trees. The masking has also produced white lines separating the ground and river which detracts from the print. Printed on Saunders Waterford paper.
  3. Trees print: selectively inked in green and brown. These colours aren’t that different which works quite well and almost gives a monochrome image. Printed on an unknown make of watercolour paper.


Two prints I am quite happy with and one which is the best of the rest. I struggled to get the collage blocks to print very well, even with my hydraulic press and I think an etching press is a must for this type of work.

Assessment criteria

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

I think the design and composition of my prints work well, but the translation into colour with the map block hasn’t worked very well.

My image registration is not perfect where it was used on the three colour block, but the main problem I had was in getting good ink coverage.

Quality of outcome

I am pleased with the grey map and tree prints, but not with the coloured map print. I think this print could have worked using selective inking, but only using an etching press to get sufficient pressure.

Demonstration of creativity

I am happy with the subjects chosen which I think both work well in this medium. I could have perhaps been more adventurous with the textures used, using more different textures to represent the landscape features and a different, more interesting texture for the top background of the tree print and more variety in the tree trunks.


I think I have mostly made the right decisions in composition and materials for what I was planning to achieve and overall I am moderately pleased with these prints, especially considering the difficulties I have experienced in getting a good print. I am looking forward to returning to lino though!

All my background work for this assignment is in this blog and sketchbook.

Tutor Feedback

My tutor’s overall comments:

Assignment 4 explores the new techniques involved in Collatype printing, experimenting with collaged materials to create a textured surface for printing from. Overall your prints for assignment 4 show a good sense of experimenting with materials in order to make your collage blocks. Some struggling with print pressure has shown your ingenuity in making your own press! More development of ideas in your sketchbook would help to expand the compositions possibilities as you approach the final print.

Suggestions to take forward:

Sketchbook work

  • much more rigorous drawing in my sketchbook, getting into an idea for a print, developing the subject and experimenting with the composition and colours.


  • pick out one or two examples of work in the next project, write a short paragraph on what elements of the print might inspire your own development.
  • look at the surrealist artist Max Ernst collage prints, to see how you can use texture to marry powerful ideas with experimental print techniques.
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Project 12 – Collatype collage prints

Map collage print

The aim with this project is to produce a representation image. I decided to continue my work with maps and produce an aerial view of a section of river and woods near my home. Conscious of my tutor’s advice to not rely on photographs, I went out to sketch this area instead of using an existing map.

Sketches001 Sketches002 Sketches003 Sketches004

Because this was sketched rather than from an actual map, I have simplified and adjusted shapes/lines to make a pleasing composition rather than trying to achieve an accurate representation of the features on the ground. Using a map format will allow me to simplify the features and reduce the detail to what is possible with collage prints.

I need to use a range of textures, but the colouring is going to be pretty much fixed as close to the actual colours of the landscape features, otherwise it is likely to end up unrecognisable as what it supposed to represent, which would go against the idea of a representation image. In some ways that is going to preclude me going for “bold and adventurous” too much with this print.


I thought I would try making up a block on card, cutting it to give the two green areas either side of the river, and the river separate. I could then ink up the blocks separately, place them together and print from them.

Map plate 1

Using two types of wallpaper, sandpaper, seeds, tissue paper, scrim and acrylic gel


Well, the theory may have been OK, but in practice, the blocks were curved (probably due to the varnish on one side?) so they didn’t sit flat together which made it a bit tricky. It mostly printed OK, although the blue of the river didn’t come out very clearly at the top. The main problem was that the wallpaper representing the trees, didn’t look like trees!


So, a rethink back to a single block and using circles cut out of handmade paper for the trees:

Map plate 2

Using wallpaper, sandpaper, seeds, scrim, acrylic gel and handmade paper

I tried a number of different inking methods:

Single colour:


I used grey ink and wiped it away in areas such as the river. This print was the one which actually worked best of all I thought.

Using masks:

P1010606 P1010613


In terms of using colour, this was probably the most successful attempt. Printed in brown wiped off, then green with river wiped off, then blue with the ground masked off. Unfortunately there are the characteristic white outlines which I got when using masks earlier in the course.

Selective inking:

P1010601 P1010603


Unfortunately the colour hasn’t come out very dense in this print, but this is the second most successful colour print and probably could have worked.

Multiple colours:



This is a print in brown followed by a print in green, but it unfortunately just looks like sludge!

Whilst the course notes suggested trying rainbow rolling, I didn’t do this for this print as I didn’t think it would work well with my subject.

Woodland scene print

I also tried a couple of blocks showing a woodland scene:


Block 1:

Woodland plate 1

Using two different wallpapers, sandpaper, seeds, pine needles, ferns and leaves.

Block 2:

Woodland plate 2

Using two different wallpapers, bark, sandpaper, seeds, pine needles, tissue paper and scrim.

I printed these using selective inking and also multiple prints using masks:

P1010600 P1010611 P1010612

Prints004 Prints005

The block without leaves gave the best print using selective inking. The block with leaves shown here was printed in three colours using masks. The masks worked better in this case than with the map, but the red used for the leaves hasn’t really shown up. Also, the path hasn’t printed which makes for an incomplete print.


I had limited success with these collage block prints. Mainly I think this was due to the lack of an etching press to give sufficient pressure on the print. At a preview the other day I had a photographic exhibition preview next to Annwyn Dean at Farfield Mill and talking to her about her collagraphs, she thought it was essential to use an etching press. The hydraulic press I was using worked much better than a wooden spoon could manage, but it still wasn’t sufficient for the job. I think the pressure isn’t even across the block either as some of the edges haven’t come out very well.


After having the test prints buckle a bit, I dried out these prints by taping them to the desk which seemed to work well.


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Land Art research

Robert Smithson

I had a brief look at Robert Smithson’s work after being recommended to look at him by my tutor. On my first trawl through the internet, I found some interesting land art, but nothing which moved me. Pieces like “spiral jetty” and “broken circle” are seriously impressive feats of engineering, but it is hard to get a proper impression of them from a small photograph on the screen.

I have a couple of books on the work of Richard Long and Andy Goldsworthy, so I decided to investigate their work instead.

Richard Long

My sister bought me “Richard Long: Heaven and Earth” back in 2009 and, apart from a skim through, I hadn’t really engaged with it before now. From reading the introduction, I could tell that this was an artist I could connect to, as he shared the same interests as me – walking and “playing” in the landscape.

His early work “A Line Made by Walking 1967” is a striking image and an idea he continued to use through his career. Overall, it seems to me that he likes to play, with work such as “From Uncertainty to Certainty 1998” where he walked in the manner described by a word on a pebble randomly picked out of a bag. I like that!

That got me thinking – where is the boundary between “playing” in the landscape and art? Is there one?

I used to play more in the landscape, but haven’t of late.

IMG_0013 IMG_0026

My focus with photography up until now has been on “pure” landscapes, with “playing” done for playing’s sake, not to record. In an interesting coincidence, on my honeymoon in Harris seven years ago I took this image of a standing stone:


There were shells around the base of the stone which I cleaned up before taking the image. After taking it, my wife and I arranged them in a pattern. Along came another photographer (who happens to live close to us) who took the image of the stone with the shells we had arranged at its base:

Image by Tristan Campbell

Result = 2 very different images!

Reading more about Richard Long, it is interesting to note in one of his artist statements that he considers his art to be the essence of his experience. In that case, what makes his experience of a walk any different to mine or anyone else’s? Only that he calls himself an artist?

Andy Goldsworthy

Looking through the book “Wall: Andy Goldsworthy”, I was struck by the similarities between his work and Richard Long’s in the way he works with natural materials and his connection with the landscape, but also by the differences in presentation of the work. Richard Long’s photographs are more records of the art work than works of art in themselves. Andy Goldsworthy’s photographs are more considered and works of art in themselves.

In the way that research takes you, off on tangents, I went looking for an image of the fleece Jan Hicks made on the side of Wild Boar Fell (I included her in my photography book ‘Working the View’). I failed to find an image of the final piece, only work in progress images, but it led me to Steve Messam with whom she did this work with.

Steve Messam

He has some very interesting blogs on his work and the work of others. I will definitely explore his work further. Interestingly, in one of his blogs, “Behold“, he describes how he sets out to make work that is beautiful, echoing my thoughts on art, but written much more eloquently.

And in the way of web searching, some other land artists I came across who deserve further investigation:

I noticed that there is an exhibition of Land Art at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, so I hope to get to this and experience some of these works in the flesh.

I’m not sure if any of this research has given me any ideas for printmaking yet, but it has given me much food for thought, and a lot more to research. I can see a lot of potential in the land art movement and since my ‘Working the View’ project, I have been looking for a new direction in which to take my photography. This could be it!

This research blog is a bit sketchy, but will be something I will definitely return to.


Robert Smithson website:


Steve Messam:

Kate Raggett:

Everton Wright:

Yorkshire Sculpture Park:

Richard Long: Heaven and Earth. Clarrie Wallis. Tate Publishing, 2009

Wall. Andy Goldsworthy and Jerry L. Thompson. Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2000

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Project 11 – Making a test collage block

Research point

Well the course notes say to search online for examples of collographs/collatypes. I tried that and got lots of other OCA posts, including this one which says that she found just the same problem. I also found this post on “the problems with collographs” which made interesting reading (and persuaded me not to use a corrugated cardboard base).

Back to trying to find artists using this method.

Fortunately I am already familiar with a few, so I will concentrate on their work.

Emily Harvey

Different materials:

Plate made from a real cobweb – how on earth you manage to do this, I’m not sure!

Plate made from impressing fish into cement + carving

Chicken wire, wood and something else


Braille, wallpaper and ferns

Prints I really like:

Seed splitting

Great colours and I like the division of the image into sections

Annwyn Dean

The images on her website don’t do her work justice and I can only find small images there to link to, so will just post the link to her gallery:

Obvious collograph elements in her work are hole reinforcers and material

Hester Cox

Collograph and carborundum print. Apart from the feather, it is not clear what she has used in this print.


Sand and sea are some kind of texture, I think the feet here might be cut out of the sand plate as the ink is darkest around the edges and will have been rubbed away in the centre bits.

Not sure what a “plaster plate” is, but these look like collographs to me.

The twisted wire/string(?) works well here.

I love the colours on this one.


Additional ideas from online searching:

Use of sandpaper for tones

From the book “Collagraphs and Mixed-Media Printmaking, Brenda Hartill and Richard Clarke. A&C Black, 2004”, the following artists also caught my attention:

Lesley Davy

Uses acrylic gesso sanded.

Also uses multiple plates placed together, with a newsprint stencil over the top which isolates the colour, but retains the texture embossing through the paper.

Peter Ford

Uses broken plates of plywood to create interesting effects.

Trevor Price

Uses car filler on metal plates, textured (or polyfiller and PVA glue mix).


Collagraphs and Mixed-Media Printmaking, Brenda Hartill and Richard Clarke. A&C Black, 2004

Test collage block

Rather than create one collage block divided into 16 sections, I created two smaller ones as I had two pieces of thick card this size which were offcuts from mounted photographs. I divided the first into 11 sections, the second into 8 sections.

Collograph1 Collograph2

  1. Dried skeleton leaf
  2. Foil stars / circles and circle cut-outs
  3. Ribbon string
  4. Thick holey ribbon
  5. Metal mesh and textured sheet
  6. Paperclips
  7. Nails
  8. Bandage
  9. Hole re-inforcers and stickers
  10. Washers and key
  11. Plasterboard tape
  12. Parcel tape
  13. Acrylic gel medium molding paste
  14. Handmade paper
  15. Cut into the cardboard
  16. Acrylic gel medium molding paste
  17. Thick string
  18. 3 grades of carbundrum
  19. Ribbons

I sealed the blocks with 3 coats of shellac varnish.

First prints

I soaked some watercolour paper and used some linseed reducing jelly to loosen up some red ink and then tried inking up.

The first think noticed was that high textures next to low ones didn’t work well and made it difficult to get ink onto the lower levels.

Working around that, the next issue was of how to get a print off. The block was irregular heights and the paper wanted to keep slipping off. I was hoping to use my homemade hydraulic press as I doubted I would be able to get a very decent print off by hand rubbing, however, the paper moved around so much I thought I would just get a set of smudged ink marks. So I concentrated on hand rubbing to start with.

For any other OCA students reading this, some tips on materials not to use:

  • Wire mesh – the ends come lose and are pretty lethal
  • Nails – the flat ends have sharp points which then poke through the paper as you rub onto it

My next thought is whether I have made the block too shiny by applying 3 coats of shellac varnish and that is why the paper slides around so much? I am used to the paper sticking to the printing block and allowing some movement of the block and paper without it coming lose, but this wasn’t happing in this case. Or maybe I had added too much linseed reducing jelly and the ink wasn’t sticky enough?

The results were not great:

P1010514 P1010516 P1010517

P1010515 P1010513

After giving up in disgust at that point, I went back to it on another day determined to get it this time. Outcome = same result!

P1010506 P1010505

So, I decided to give up on hand rubbing and create a new smaller block (which would fit in my press), with only low level textures.

Collograph plate 3

This was stuck onto a plastic ex-display panel which was around A4 in size.

The moment of truth……

P1010507 P1010508

Much better! The press seems to be critical in this process and I will continue with using a smaller size block for this stage.

A block painted with green ink so that it got in all the crevices, rubbed off and then re-inked using a roller with orange – I like the effect this has given:

P1010509 P1010510

Experimental collatype – printing from a textured surface

So, having found the right size block and printing method, it was onto producing a texture block. I tried two methods for this on different blocks, one using polyfiller and the other using acrylic gel medium molding paste. I drew into them with cocktail sticks, bamboo skewers and pieces of card cut into various shapes:

Polyfiller plate

Polyfiller plate

Gel medium plate

Gel medium plate


Polyfiller plate print

Polyfiller plate print

Molding paste plate print

Molding paste plate print

The molding paste block worked much better than the polyfiller (possibly because I had problems drying the polyfiller (mainly due to applying to a plastic base and leaving in a cold workshop!), so it was a much rougher surface.

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