The place for original handmade prints and printmaking courses taught by Carol Nunan

Carborundum Printmaking

Irish artist - Hughie O'Donohue

In my last post I mentioned returning to basics (in collagraphs with view to starting with carborundum printmaking).

As I began to think about putting a video together about making collagraphs I started with that video shot list I mentioned before. What is it? Well, my son, a student film maker introduced me to this term. It’s basically the writing on a storyboard without the pictures. The process of listing the various materials one can use to make a collagraph lead me to the realisation that, while I often use many different materials in my work, sometimes, paring down those materials to one or two can produce prints that are more interesting – that old term “less is more”. It is a really good way to become familiar with the vagaries and the multiple possibilities that a single material can offer. So while my shot list is a work in progress and leading to the possibility of many videos rather than just one or two, I decided to use this approach to begin a body of new landscapes.

Want to join me for the journey? It may not always be a pretty one but hopefully I’ll have something decent to show for it at the  end.


I’ve decided to make four carborundum collagraphs (so far) based on some well known landmarks in Northumberland. Northumberland has more castles than any other county in England. The subject matter of three out of the four collagraphs I’ve started are Lindesfarne, Dunstanburgh and Bamburgh Castles. Berwick, Alnwick, Chillingham, Warkworth and Langley Castles may follow in time. You can see I’m not short of material. The fourth plate I’m making is based on Northumberland’s iconic Sycamore Gap on Hadrian’s Wall.

Ross Loveday - carborundum printmaking

Ross Loveday – carborundum print

Caroborundum plate - carborundum printmaking

Peter Wray carborundum plate turned painting (in collaboration with Judith Collins)


A Google search for collagraph prints lead me to the work of Ross Loveday. I love the monochromatic loose approach to his work and that got me thinking about the kind of approach I’d like to take with landscapes. The reason I’ve chosen the castles I’ve mentioned is that each of them have an easily recognised silhouette. Another printmaker whose work I love who works with carborundum is Peter Wray. I’ve been on several of his workshops and as a consequence he has had a big influence on my work. I’ve also been looking at the work of Irish artist who worked in collaboration with Peter Wray a few years ago to produce larger than life carborundum prints, Hughie O’Donohue. You can see the style of his paintings reflected in his carborundum prints and vice versa. I am becoming increasingly more fascinated how one art medium feeds into another and back again as I find this happening in my own work.


  1. Mount board with a linen grain
  2. Gesso
  3. Carborundum
  4. Modelling paste

I’m using mount board on this occasion although at some stage in the future I’d like to try .8mm or 3mm ply for the wood grain. For the moment I’m using mount board with a rough(ish) linen grain because this will add interest to the background skies.

I’m using gesso over PVA on this occasion for two reasons:

  1. PVA doesn’t hold it’s shape as well as gesso does so it is easier to work with lesson to create texture in different ways with either a palette knife or paint brush that won’t disappear or soften off too much.
  2. PVA is reactivated by damp paper unless it is sealed with shellac or varnish of some kind. Whilst I do plan to seal my plates I want to use a light sealant so as not to knock back the carborundum too much. I want to see if there is a significant difference between PVA and gesso to the end result.

I’m using carborundum in two ways. I’m sprinkling it over the wet gesso and tapping off the excess and I’m mixing it in with the gesso. Each method has its own merits which I hope will become evident as I proceed.

On some of the plates I want to create more definite texture to aid the depth of the image.

I’ll post some photos in the next post with more detailed explanation.

Irish Painter - Hughie O'Donohue - carborundum printmaking

Irish painter – Hughie O’Donohue


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