Combining Techniques

I recently taught a one-day workshop at Leith School of Art showing students how to combine two different printmaking techniques – collagraph and monotype. Those of you who know me and my work will be aware that I am pretty familiar with the art of monotype but collagraph is not something I have explored much. I deliberately decided to run this workshop as I was keen to try collagraph for myself and thought it would provide a good incentive – it did!

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A shot of the workshop showing a student’s workspace with a variety of prints on the go

There are a number of different methods of making a collagraph, most of them involve collaging onto a surface to create a layered, textured plate which you ink up and then print. At Leith School of Art we use a multi-layer board called collagraph card which allows you to cut into it to reveal a mid layer and a deeper layer. This means you can cut away as you would with lino cut or wood engraving but you can incorporate mid-tones into your design and also exploit the quality of the card by creating torn edges or drawing into the surface of the card with biro. I like working in this way before rolling the ink onto the surface of the plate to produce the image.

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Cutting the design

Below is my plate finished, varnished and inked up ready to be printed using the beautiful Columbian press belonging to Leith School of Art:

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Plate on Columbian press bed

The Columbian press was first invented in 1813 by a Philadelphian mechanic and used to print entire newspaper pages with one effortless pull of the handle. In 1860 an Edinburgh firm called Ritchie and Sons started manufacturing these presses, the Leith School of Art model was made by them – so this particular press hasn’t travelled far in it’s life!

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I love this eagle detail, what a glorious bird. I was excited to have the opportunity to use the Columbian press, you can find out more about the history of it here.

And from one glorious bird to two -the oystercatcher and the curlew. I have been working with the image of these two birds since making this sketch in November 2013. And here is the image as a card cut print combined with monotype:

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This was just a test piece but I was pleased with the effect of the graphic image of the card cut combined with the looser, softer colour of the monotype. 

Whilst researching for the workshop I looked at a lot of prints by English printmaker Robert Tavener. Although he mostly worked with lithography and lino cut the way in which he combined shapes of colour with a more graphic monochrome design is very inspiring:

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“Boat and Nets” by Robert Tavener, thanks to St Judes Gallery for the image: http://www.stjudesgallery.co.uk/artists/r_tavener/tavener_boatandnets.htm

This quote by Tavener is very useful for anyone interested in printmaking:

“In the diverse and complex world of artists’ prints, I have tried to keep three or perhaps four qualities paramount. These are design, colour, draughtsmanship, together with an awareness of the disciplines of autographic printmaking. A lithograph should not be a reproduction of anything else, but must exemplify the textures and qualities inherent in stone and plate; a block print should demonstrate by its “cutty” qualities the resistance of wood and lino to the gouge, the knife and the graver. It should not imitate drawing or painting, and the printed image is the Original”

For more information and to see more examples of Tavener’s work have a look at his page on the website for Emma Mason: British prints. They have also produced a beautiful book of his work which is well worth a browse.

Screen print and monotype combined
I have been meaning to explore the possibility of combining screen print and monotype together for some time. As they are my two main printmaking practices it seemed an obvious choice for me. I stayed with the image of the curlew and oystercatcher for these prints, expanding the context to capture a sense of looking across the Firth of Forth to Edinburgh from Aberdour, which is where the initial drawings were made.  Here is a brief visual diary of the process.

The first three layers were created as a screen print, leaving a simple design ready to take the final monotype layer (apologies for the poor quality image – it is the only one I have).

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Here is my monotype plate, ready to be inked up with a map underneath it so I know where I have to rub away the ink to reveal the drawing.

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Once again apologies for the poor quality of this image – too many reflective surfaces! This is the plate, it is initially inked up all over in one colour as a starting point for drawing into.

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My monotype plate, placed on top of the screen printed image and ready to go through the press:

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The final prints:

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I made three versions of the image – in each the screen printed layers remain the same but the drawn monotype layer is different each time.

And finally for now, a print by an artist whose work I like a lot and who is a master in the art of combining print techniques, mainly screen print with lino cut, Angela Harding:

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About flyingcreature

I'm a Cumbrian born painter and printmaker based in Scotland. My work is inspired by British nature. I studied on the Foundation Course at Leith School of Art in 2003 before going on to take the MA Fine Art degree at Edinburgh College of Art and Edinburgh University graduating in 2008. I now make my work from my studio in Coburg House and teach drawing, painting and printmaking at Leith School of Art and around Scotland.
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One Response to Combining Techniques

  1. Pingback: A Year Reflected: Part I | Flying Creatures

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