Collagraph: Couch Napping (& the Valencia Fine Art Festival this weekend)

Couch Napping 6.5 x 8 Collograph & Watercolor (#9/30)

When I had access to a press, I pulled about 10 of these collographs (also spelled collagraph), and I've kept the plate & the prints in an envelope - waiting for access to a press again so I can pull the remainder of the edition. That hasn't happened yet, but while organizing my print inventory this week, I pulled #9 out and painted her in blues and browns for the Valencia Fine Art Festival this weekend. I've posted the steps to make one of these before (like this one here, and another here.) but let's review for new readers of this blog, and folks that might need an encouragement-nudge to try this fun printmaking process.

Supplies: a piece of matboard, regular ol' construction paper, and/or if you're a paper-hoarder like so many of my pals, embossed or textured paper is very fun too. A bristle paint brush, a paper or foam plate, rinse water, Liquitex Gloss Medium Varnish, an exacto knife & cutting mat (or another piece of matboard to use as a cutting surface), tracing paper, carbon paper, printmaking ink, printmaking paper, tarlatan cloth or pages from old phone books/newspapers, a press or some wax paper and a wooden spoon or a baren.

This is the building process - you're making a printable collage on matboard with construction paper and Gloss Medium Varnish. (Note: if you need more visuals, try searching this blog for the term collograph, so you can review all the process shots from previous posts. If you're visual like me, 30 pictures are always better than 4.) Draw something on your matboard in basic shapes (keep it relatively simple for your first collograph), and begin to cut the parts from construction paper and lay them over the matching shapes in your drawing on the matboard - like puzzle pieces (don't be fussy about matched edges, since those gaps will become little grooves to hold ink.)

This is where the tracing paper and carbon paper come in: lay tracing paper over your matboard drawing and trace one of the shapes you need. Then, make a sandwich with tracing paper on top, carbon paper face down in the middle and construction paper on the bottom, and re-trace your shape in the tracing paper. This transfers the part you need, in the size & shape you need it - onto the construction paper so you can cut the carbon lines with the exacto knife. (Cut all your pieces before you start attaching them to the matboard because the gloss medium dries pretty quick.)

When you're ready to start building the plate, put a oreo-cookie-sized pile of Liquitex Gloss Medium Varnish on a paper or foam plate, and use a bristle brush to coat your matboard drawing. While it's still wet, start laying each construction paper shape on it's corresponding place on your drawing, brushing the surface of each cut out with varnish after it's in place. When all your pieces are laid where you want them, look for places where you'd like ink to accumulate. You can use your exacto knife while the parts are still wet to carefully score lines, or cut little slivers & shapes out. You can also cut new shapes and add them on top of what you already have. Think in terms of lights and darks: flat surfaces will print light and all the little curbs, notches and channels will hold ink and give you nice dark linear elements, patterns & details.

To finish, coat the plate front and back with your remaining varnish, twice, and let it dry at least 24 hours. Clean your brush (& anything else that wasn't meant to come in contact with the varnish) with soap & water since it dries into a hard plastic.

Here is the plate, still wet, and ready for little cut outs of pattern pasted on the couch, and some suggestions of veins in the plant leaves incised with the exacto. Once the finished plate is sealed with Liquitex Gloss Medium Varnish - front and back, and dried overnight, it's ready the first inking and printing. (Waiting for the plate to dry is a slow clock, impatient with anticipation, because I can't wait to print and see what I've got. It's always a surprise.)

The image above shows the plate after being inked and wiped, and ready for the press. Lay newspaper on your work surface, or if you work small, put your plate on an open page of an old phone book (like I did here.) Coat the completely dry plate with a bit of ink - end to end and all along the furrows you've created with your exacto. Using tarlatan or crumpled newsprint or crumpled phone book pages, wipe the surface of the plate gently so you're leaving a bit of ink tone on the flat parts of your image, and still more ink against the curbs of the paper edges and in the recessed wells and grooves you've cut out and scored. If you have a press, you know the next steps; lay your paper over the plate and have at it. And if you don't have a press, move your inked & wiped plate to a flat surface covered with newsprint. Lay a piece of printmaking paper carefully on top of the inked plate, and lay a same size sheet of wax paper over the back of the printmaking paper. Using the curved back of a wooden spoon, or a printmaking baren, start rubbing the wax-paper & printmaking paper. (The wax paper gives a little more slide and keeps the back of the paper from getting marred if your wooden spoon is uneven or too rough.) Use small circular motions at first, keeping your paper and plate layers steady with your other hand. You'll start to see the shape of your cut-outs in the wax paper as an embossed pattern. With the flat of your hand holding the layers in place, you can pull one corner up with your other hand to peak at your inking process. If you're not getting much ink on the paper, keep rubbing. It's good for your arms and summer tank tops. :)

This is the print after it's pulled from the plate - before I added watercolor. If you try this, and want to share, be sure to mention it in the comments so I can click on your name and see what you've made. Have FUN!

This weekend, I'll be exhibiting watercolors & printmaking at the Valencia Fine Art Festival at The Patios at Valencia Town Center. If you're local, and you like art, I think there are about 50 artists at this show, and it's in a new part of the mall that features seating around outdoor fire pits, a koi pond, and a nice selection of theaters, restaurants and boutique shops. Come and say hello. :)

Art Quote
In November 1864, a thirty six year old English painter named Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a friend of Whistler and Fantin-Latour, arrived in Paris for a short stay. Accompanied by his redheaded mistress and model, Fanny Cornforth, Rossetti rented a room in a hotel in the Rue Laffitte and then visited an exhibition of Delacroix's paintings and did the rounds of the china shops. He also visited one of Delacroix's favorite haunts, the Jardin des Plantes, a zoological garden on the Left Bank. It's collection of beasts was only slightly more impressive than Rossetti's own, since the painter's house in Chelsea was home to a kangaroo, a raccoon, several peacocks, a wallaby, a chameleon, a gazelle, a woodcock, various monkeys and parakeets, a raven, an armadillo and (until it died after eating one of Rossetti's cigars) a wombat. ~Ross King


Donna T said...

Hi Belinda, I'm a pastelist who stumbled upon your blog today. I had no idea what a collograph is (I know nothing about printmaking) but I want to try this very much! Thanks so much for explaining your process and best of luck with the art festival!

Ellen Shipley said...

I've always loved this particular one. ;-]

Libby Fife said...

Boy, you sure renewed my interest in this again. I am always so impressed with your results and not so much with mine!

Thanks again for the walk through and good luck at the art festival.

Jeanette said...

I keep meaning to try my hand at collographs but never have seen such a clear explanation as yours. I have ideas spinning in my head now and hope to try it out over this long weekend.

Great print and I'm sure the festival will be fun.

Barbara M. said...

You amaze me Belinda, and have since I first was lucky enough to find your blog. I remember sitting dumbfounded in front of the computer thinking wow! She is incredibly talented and patient. What a beautiful work and great post.

Happy spring.


Dan Kent said...

I love the way this came out. I have been amazed again and again by your posts about printing. I always want to try. Once I did, and it didn't work. But someday - someday - I will try again. And this will be the first place I turn.

Crystal Cook said...

I am so glad that I found your blog and that you allowed me to follow you. I look forward to reading more of your posts and seeing more of your art. Keep up the good work.

Gunes Yilmaz said...

very amazing works! well done!
best wishes