Monthly Archives: September 2011
I have been working on a set of collagraphs, recently. When I attended the Leicester Print Workshop ‘Introduction to Print’ evening class (see here for next class), my attempt at a collagraph was rather a disaster.
We worked on mountboard card. Nichola showed us how to make dark lines by scoring into the card (using craft knifes) and how to add texture by removing the top section of the mountboard to expose the slightly fluffy card below (middle grade shading), adding carborundum (heavy shading) or just adding PVA glue (light shading, near white-out).
My attempt was to try and create a shaded version of a photograph of my daughter sitting on a bench in Sherwood Forest. I got the lines pretty much in the right place and some of the shading looked ok but the image overall was, frankly, crap. That’s why I didn’t post about that class. The medium did not lend itself to representation imaging — not at my level of expertise, anyway.
I was determined to learn more about what I could do with collagraphs. I had the excellent book, Collagraphs and Mixed Media Printmaking by Brenda Hartill & Richard Clarke (one of the brilliant Printmaking Handbook series from A & C Black) and wanted to try all the techniques described.
I had bought a stack of offcut mountboard from Ferrers Frames, picked out five that arranged pretty well on an A3 sheet, and thought about what to do. I originally started with the idea of a series based on landscapes from our recent trip to NZ and did pretty much keep to that theme. I also tried several techniques. One plate had most of it lifted out and filled with polyfiller which I sculpted and tried to make into landscape-y shapes. With another, I took a photograph of windswept trees, laid it over the plate and cut through photograph and plate: it was interesting when bits of the photograph fell away as I was cutting so I could not use it as a guide any more. Another plate had bits of corrugated card (from an Amazon delivery — something we have plenty of), ripped paper and cotton threads glued to it. One long one, I cut on the coarse side of the mountboard to retain that texture. A fifth and final piece was simply built from geometric shapes. I added texture to the images using some fine sand since I’d been unable to get any carborundum (it cost more for the shipping than for the grit itself).
I varnished all the plates and they were ready only a day before I was due to go into the workshop (I planned to go in on a Wednesday as the workshop is open late so I would be sure to have enough time to get at least one print looking right).
I inked the plates up, laid them out on a piece of newsprint to which I had transferred the plate locations and printed onto a sheet of proof paper. It was a complete mess. I had not removed anywhere near enough ink and passing it through the rollers squeezed ink all over the paper. I was able to run a second sheet through and get a complete image without any re-inking. But I wasn’t satisfied with the results. I got on with a second print that I’d made — see below — and worked on that through until the early afternoon when I had that one right.
Then, even though I was knackered, I decided to have one last go at the 5-plate print again. I spent more time inking and wiping down this time. And it paid off. The print was much better. Still not brilliant, though. The top left plate was too dark so that the lines did not show — I ought to have wiped the surface down much more but had only put one coat of varnish on because of the thin lines and I think the ink had seeped into the plate. The corrugated card had made a nice shape but the carved polyfiller was a bit naff. The geometric shapes plate was okay but the vertical water flow one did not really work though I liked the texture of the reverse surface. Not a good set of plates but I learned a lot from making them.
I had made another, completely different, plate on the day before going in to the workshop. I just had in mind the image of a crow standing on a desert floor with a huge sun in the background. I couldn’t find an image of a bird I liked but did find one of a bird flying away from the camera. I created this one differently as well. I painted the mountboard with a couple of coats of acrylic gesso to provide a nicely toothed surface then used a drypoint needle to scratch the sun and outline of the bird into the plate. I liked the rough way the needle scratched into the surface: not making a clean line but a jagged, coarse one. I laid down some sand and glue into the image for more texture.
I managed to get a really good colour mix with this image, printed it and, again, had the ink run. This time from the bird where I again had too much sand embedded so that it was impossible to remove enough ink. I scrubbed the plate clean of ink, re-inked all the areas around the bird and asked Nichola how I might ink the bird to avoid making another mess. We looked at the plate and it seemed, even after all the cleaning that there was a lot of ink left so I ran the plate through. This image printed well but I didn’t like the colours.
I spent a long time on the third inking, trying to get the colours to blend and work together. I also rubbed the bird down quite a lot, even using cotton buds to remove ink from in the sand. I was very nervous wen lifting the paper but it turned out pretty good. All the hard work had paid off. Not perfect, but encouraging.
Overall, I was very pleased with the day, especially with the bird image. I may just have another go at collagraphs!
For the last week or so, I’ve been working out an idea for a print using five collagraph plates arranged on an A3 size sheet of paper. Each collagraph will be abstract but based on shapes and colours from some of the thousands of photographs we took in New Zealand. Each plate is formed from a mountboard offcut so they’re different sized rectangles mainly (I bought a couple of bags of these offcuts from a framing shop in the Ferrers Centre (Ferrers Frames). I’ve been experimenting on scraps with cutting shapes, filling holes with plaster filler and pushing shapes into them, sealing with spray varnish etc. The whole thing will likely be a complete mess but I hope it’ll let me set a number of lessons into one print. Look out Leicester Print Workshop when I’m done: pity the technician on duty when I come in to try and make this work
Anyway, the reason for this print is that I wanted to try out an idea for one of the vertical strips of mountboard: a sort of waterfall effect. So, I’ve been scribbling on the iPad using ASketch and InspirePro (just discovered that Cmd-Shift-S on OS X takes a screenshot and sticks it into Evernote).
In ASketch, I drew the vertical shape and then sketched in the rock shapes. It is great the way the lines interact, bleeding from one into the other. Gives some great effects (which you’ll get a better idea of from the website than from my scribbles).
(The squiggle on the right was Vick’s contribution.)
Then, in InspirePro, I had a go at adding some colours to the sketch (by saving the ASketch to the photo album then using that as the canvas in InspirePro). Using a dry-ish brush and quite dark colours, I got an idea of what I want to achieve. InspirePro allowed me to upload the pics to Flickr.
It’ll be a long time sketching on the iPad and trying to realise the sketches in prints, before I know what will and won’t work, but I do love the learning process.
This has been a long time coming. My last session at Sycamore Road with Rod was an abstract affair. He had a printout from a web page showing a Kandinsky painting:
I had a crack at it, drawing up the squares first then trying to match the colours Kandinsky used and blended. I used only the three primary colours with black and white. When I was finished, both Rod and I decided that the square that looked best was the one I didn’t copy (bottom row, second from right).
I really want to try this again but using only my own feel for the colour to see what happens. Interesting to see if I can repeat the effect of the ‘good square’ and if I can come up with a composition that works across the whole canvas.
Another thought. With acrylics, I can work the squares in stages. Fill each square with the background colour, let it dry, then start the concentric circles. It won’t allow any serendipitous bleed to and from the background but will be interesting to see how integrated the image remains as the circles add their own dynamism and start playing off against each other.
I nearly didn’t write this today. After the late writing last night and an intensive physio session today I wanted to ignore the challenge and write this tomorrow. But I want to get started on writing a story I’ve had in mind for a while (since alt.fiction 2010 actually) and use the impetus of the last week’s writing to get it going. Not writing today would not be a good start. So, here is the final episode. There is no real climax but I can see enough that if I were to rewrite, it should be an interesting story.
on the day after sending the message, james had watched kat’s office from a high floor in a building opposite. the creep arrived late as if being boss meant he was above petty timekeeping. he was carrying the bag.
james drove to marsha’s office and waited until he could see her. ‘what brings you here?’ she asked when he was shown in to her office.
james said it was serious and private, asked that they not be disturbed and wiated until the secretary had left the office.
‘what’s wrong?’ marsha asked. ‘is it kat?’
james’ mouth was dry. he had thought this moment through a hundred times and still did not know what to say. that marsha was concerned about kat made it even worse. nothing else for it, he decided.
‘she and colin are having an affair, or they were up until a couple of weeks ago.’ marsha just stared at him so he explained about the hay bales shoot and how he came to see them in the car. he then sat silent while marsha absorbed it all.
‘you were…’ she began. ‘did you…’ she tried to ask. james nodded; he had photographed them together. he had a copy of the photograph with him but did not offer it.
‘i don’t want to see it, do i?’ no, james indicated. ‘not now,’ he said. you may want it later. it is up to you.’
‘oh,’ she said. ‘oh, yes.’
‘did you suspect before hand?’ she asked him. ‘no, nothing. you?’
marsh nodded. tears began to leak from her eyes. she blinked them away. ‘i’m so sorry, james. he did this before at least once that i know of and i’ve always suspected he was still screwing around. but i didn’t want to know. if i’d stopped him before, maybe…’
‘don’t go there, marsha. what they did is their fault, not ours. not ours at all. i don’t blame you in any way. and nor should you.’
she nodded then looked puzzled. ‘if this happened weeks ago, what made you come and see me now? were you planning not to tell me? has something else happened?’
james sighed. this would be even harder. ‘now,’ he said, ‘there is something for blame. for you to blame me, that is. i’ve been blackmailing colin. i threatened that i would show you the photograph unless he paid me a hundred thousand pounds.’
‘what?! and i suppose he refused to pay and that’s why you’re here.’ marsha was furious now. from sympathising with james and feeling joined with him in a joint misery, she felt strangely betrayed even more than she felt by her husband’s affair.
james shook his head. ‘no. sorry, i’m getting this wrong.’ marsha glared at him, still fuming. ‘as far as i know,’ james continued, ‘he has paid the money. i’ve not looked in the locker to find out.’
james took a deep breath and told marsha the whole story of the blackmail, his reason for carrying it out, his changes of heart and the resolution with james now carrying the bag and phone from the locker.
‘so that was why he had that tatty bag with him the last couple of days. i asked about it and he nearly bit my head off. you had him well rattled.’
‘i’m sorry,’ said james. ‘it was a stupid …’
marsha burst out laughing, shaking her head and holding up her hand to stop james. when she had caught her breath, she said, ‘it was brilliant. i only wish you’d told me about it so i could have been in on it as well. though i’m not sure i could have carried it off. how did you go on living with kat?’
‘i guess it was easier because she was so distracted anyway,’ he said. ‘i guess you’re not angry, then.’ this set marsha off laughing again. she had a really dirty laugh when she let go, james thought.
she looked puzzled again. ‘i wonder where he got the money from.’
‘if he did,’ said james. ‘for all i know, his bag has a bomb that’ll blow up as soon as i open the locker.’
‘ha! he couldn’t wire a fuse, let alone a bomb. and, even if he could find someone to make him a bomb, which i know he couldn’t, it’d cost him almost as much as you asked for anyway.’
she explained how closely drawn the creep was on his personal accounts and that she had refused to shift any money from her own accounts over to his when he had asked a few days ago.
‘i think it is time for the auditors to go in.’ she picked up her phone and made a quick call to her finance director, telling him what she wanted without explaining anything.
‘won’t he wonder what’s up?’ asked james.
‘he worked for my father,’ said marsha, ‘and never did like or trust colin. he’ll be up there doing a little happy dance, which, given that he is 78, would be something to see.’
‘i was going to talk to kat when she got home and spend the next few nights in a hotel, until i get somewhere to live. but, if you don’t want to confront colin, yet, i can hold off.’
‘oh, i want to confront him all right. in fact…’
james dialled the blackmail phone, hoping the battery had held out. the creep answered.
‘i thought i wasn’t going to hear from you again. what do you want now.’
‘hello, colin. james here.’
there was a silence at the other end. then, ‘i knew it was you, you bastard. you’ve got the money,’ james nodded at marsha, ‘so piss off back to your whore of a wife. you deserve each other. i’m going to fire her and you can see where how far the money gets you. i hope it chokes you.’
james swallowed, his throat aching from holding back on his own tirade. ‘where did you get the money from, colin?’ he said calmly.
‘what? go to hell. i’m not telling you anything.’
‘ok,’ said james and handed the phone to marsha.
‘so, ‘darling’, why don’t you tell me where you got it?’
Well, at least I finished this lot today (just). Going across midnight messed up the 750words stats.
Will see tomorrow how well I can write without editing as I go along on something that really matters. But that won’t be appearing up here. You’ll just have to wait to buy the book when it comes out.