There are many things that can go wrong in the process of Collagraph Printmaking.
Each original is run through the press at least twice – more often five or six times – before it is finished.
Each printing is another invitation to disaster.
The colors can become dull and muddied.
The printing plate can deteriorate between printings, altering the image.
A poorly prepared plate can cause ink to run, pool or bleed.
The most common problem is poor registration.
An image with poor registration will show two lines – or three or four – where there should be one, so close together that it often results in a “strobe effect” that is never acceptable
For each printing, all the edges have to line up perfectly, printing paper with plate, for the image transfer. This includes not only the outside edges, but any lines or edges within the image as well. That’s hard enough to accomplish all on its own. Adding to the difficulty is the fact that the paper has to be dampened before printing, so that it will stretch over the contours in the surface of the plate, rather than tearing. Printmaking papers expand when they are moistened. Dry ink prevents them from expanding as much…in some areas. Trying to place that – variably sized – paper over the static plate so that everything matches is quite a challenge.
A challenge that is often met with failure.
So, for every completed original, I end up with several failures.
I save them all.
Printmaking papers are high density rag, acid-neutral papers that can cost ten dollars or more per sheet.
The trash bin is always the very last resort!
Sometimes I use printed papers, as Degas did, as a basis for soft pastels. The ink lends “tooth” to the paper, allowing the chalks to hold.
Sometimes I use the printed image as a basis for watercolor painting. It’s kind of a mindless activity, like working in a coloring book or filling in a “scribble picture.” It’s a good exercise to gain control of the medium and to try out different color combinations.
Now and then, one of these pieces is brought back from the brink of disaster and becomes a gem.
Most often, its designation remains, but has given me further entertainment and instruction along the way.
Not a bad life cycle for a failure!