There are many things I like about printmaking. I like the history, the traditions and the rules. I enjoy the many stages of the process. I love the “reveal” when a print is pulled: layers of heavy felt blankets are turned back; protective newsprint is moved away; finally the paper can be lifted to show the result. It is always Christmas morning magical to me!
Collagraph printing is my favorite method. I like it for its lack of history, traditions and rules. Developed in the 1950’s, this is a brand new technique in the art world. It’s so new that there is no set technique. We are making the rules as we go.
I’ve described the process I use; others are pushing the limits of printmaking in every imaginable direction.
For the plate alone, there are many ideas in play. Plates can be made of metal, wood, plastic, masonite, binder’s board or paper. These could start off smooth, or with a texture. Sometimes a finished print is the result of several plates, inked and printed one image over another
The collage elements add another layer of possibility. I have seen metal plates hammered, sanded and scraped to achieve texture, sometimes with soldered additions like coins, wire and crushed cans. Knives and other tools can be used to cut into the plate; fabric, foils and various papers offer unlimited choices for additions.
Color can be added or not. Many collagraph images make striking black and white prints. If color is added, there are many more options.
Plates can be cut apart like a puzzle, so that each section can be inked separately and with a different color, then assembled on the press bed just before printing. The color can be incorporated into the printmaking process, or added between runs through the press – as I most often do – or as the last step in the process.
Other variables are type and viscosity of ink, pressure settings on the press, type, quality and dampness of the paper…and on and on.
Once, in graduate school, a friend and I chose to work with identical images: a simple triangle on a square plate. Beyond that, we let our imaginations run wild. In critique, we had to point out to the instructor and the class what we’d done, as it was impossible to tell from the finished work, they were so vastly different!