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I’m Teaching Myself New Tricks – Part 1

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I’ve Been Teaching Myself New Tricks

I’ve been teaching myself a few new tricks … weeeell, not so much new. Rather, a bringing together of existing skills in monotype and collagraph. These tricks may not be new to other practicing printmakers, but I’m creating new ways of working for me.

I began the year by revisiting old collagraph plates. I was interested in re-interpreting them in ways that drew on my gathered experience. I’ve had a long fallow period before the year began – what with my hip replacement and all. Printing old plates was a way of giving myself a bit of a kick start. As I eased myself back into printmaking, I started by experimenting with two plates. That is to say, I used one plate for monotype to then overprint with a collagraph.

This particular seed was planted when I attended a masterclass earlier on in the year at Northern Print with Katherine Jones. Katherine combines block printing using grey board with some of her collagraphs. I haven’t actually used the technique (yet) but, it did set me thinking. How could I exercise more control over the positioning of the colours between the first plate to the second one.

I began by simply sealing a blank piece of mount board, the same size as one of my new collagraph plates, rolled ink onto it using a blended roll up for the monotype background. I then printed it and followed it with the textured plate. In the first two examples below, I was trying to capture the effect of the Northern Lights so prevalent this past winter here in the North East. This particular approach meant I had to guess where to place my colours for a blended roll up so that they land roughly where I wanted them to in relation to the image on plate 2.

GalleryAurora Sky _171 A two plate collagraph print using PVA glue and carborundum on plate one and a monotype blended roll up for plate 2

The next time I printed a collagraph plate, I took a leaf out of Katherine Jones book. I inked the collagraph plate in one colour and printed it, in the usual way except, I kept the paper trapped between the rollers on the press. Next, I replaced the collagraph plate with a blank one of the same size, laid the paper down again over the top and rolled paper and plate back through the press so that the wet ink of the image on the paper was off-set back onto the blank plate.  I then sealed the plate with the image printed on it. This worked a treat … to an extent. At least I now knew where to line up my colours more accurately. It gave me a degree of control, but not as much as I wanted. How, I’ve been wondering, could I achieve a much sharper cut and change of colour palette, if I don’t want a soft blend?

One possible solution was to cut a plate along the horizon line, as per these two versions of the same print below. The issue though is the white space between the top and bottom plate. I did deliberately separate the plates to get the white line (which I like) but, this was partly because I didn’t want an accidental shift as the plates went through the press. 
I’ve been cogitating how to resolve this over the summer. In the next installment, I’ll tell you how I’ve addressed it.

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