Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The allure of the collagraph.

I have always loved collagraphs. It was one of the first printmaking techniques that I had taught myself when I first began my printmaking journey over 45 years ago. (Did I just actually type that unbelievable number??!!)

Anyway, what drew me to the process was the tactile nature of constructing the plate, experimenting with various surfaces, papers and adhesives, as well as the challenge of seeing how far you could push an idea or image. I also love the mystery; not quite knowing how the finished plate would print or what fantastic unexpected textures would reveal themselves as you pulled that first proof.

Manipulation (collagraph)

Thanks to the internet, it was not long ago that I received an email from a couple in Tacoma, Washington. It read:

Ms Leary,
We've looked for you in the past, without success. We have had, for decades, the dyptich mentioned in the subject line.  On the back of the lower section is a note to a Dr. Gordy, dated October 17, 1983.  I do not recall how we came to own this work, but it still hangs in a place of prominence in our house.  Just thought you might be amused to learn where a piece from over 30 years ago wound up.  The print we have is 4/8.
If on the odd chance that this is not one of yours -- well, there's a mystery for you!
C & A
Tacoma  WA

It was wonderful to receive this note and I really appreciated this couple taking the time to seek me out, take a photo of the print and then drop me a line. Uplifting to know that one of my pieces had migrated out west and was being enjoyed by its owners.

"Manipulation" was one of the first prints where I experimented with incorporating thread into the work.  The plates for the diptych were built up on four ply matte board because I wanted to cut out the figure and hand to print them separately over a colored background plate. Details were built up with gesso, torn paper and acrylic medium. I was really pleased with the final results and a little amazed how much detail I was able to achieve.

That email came to mind this morning as I played around with constructing a collagraph that would hopefully be printed in conjunction with photopolymer plates. Back in the day, when I was heavy into collagraphs, one of the things I had experimented with was using melted wax to build up surface textures and loved the serendipitous discoveries. I decided to revisit that process and was pleasantly surprised to find a drawer full of encaustic supplies.

Since artists are notorious "pack rats",  its easy to forget what treasures may be hidden in the studio. It wasn't long before I had assembled various tools and mark making implements and fired up my hotplate.

An old metal tray that was a "find" from my in-law's basement (which I knew would come in handy one day) was called into service as a palette. It wasn't long before the plate was well under way.

The textures are built up on matte board because I wanted a shaped plate. I found a sheet of galvanized metal that I used on the hot plate to support the matte board as I worked. My granite work counter top provided the perfect work surface and any wax the was splashed about was easily scraped away with a razor blade.

This is what I have so far. I have no idea if it will print as I hope but again, that is part of the allure of the collagraph.

Now that our boiler is fixed (AMEN!) I'll put this aside for a few days as I accompany my husband to D.C. so I can take in a few museums.

I'll be looking forward to getting back to my studio to see how these plates print.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Melody - I cant wait to see how this print is going to look. I have long wondered how to go about incorporating wax into the collagraph process. Do you put a coat of acrylic varnish over the waxed area of the plate? I always imagined the wax would crack as it went through the press. Best wishes - I know it will look fab - after all - most of your pieces do...bet you are very pleased to have your heating back on - going without it must have been hard going. take care Aine