There is no exact date for the beginnings of collagraph printing. It evolved alongside other intaglio and relief printing, particularly with the move towards abstraction, introduction of ‘found’ materials and use of collage and mixed media in 1950s and 1960s. It was also helped by the widespread availability of new, cheap materials like acrylics and very strong adhesives.
Pierre Roche – sculptor developed gypsographic printing using bas-relief plaster engraving – inked in relief and printed by hand onto dampened paper, leaving a slightly raised blind embossing. Later he added layers of an adhesive called gypsum onto metal plate for an embossed effect.
Bauhaus: Klee, Picasso, Braque, Schwitters and Moholy-Nagy used collage materials and this was adopted by printmakers.
Rolf Nesch: one of the first artists to have consciously used collage to create collagraph printing plates. He gave depth and texture to prints by soldering out metal shapes and wire to metal printing plates. He then took this further by drilling holes in plates and sewing to the base plate. The prints were so deep he hneeded 8 blankets to get the right pressure and very heavy strong paper.
William Hayter developed viscosity printing – a technique that allowed a single printing plate to be printed in many colours. The basic principle is that the viscosity or stickiness of an ink can be reduced by adding linseed oil. A stiff viscous ink will absorb and mix with an oily ink laid over the top. But if an ink full of oil is placed on the plate first, it will reject a dry viscous ink and will not mix with it.
Richard Hamilton mixed painting with forms of printmaking, such as collotype, lithograph and silkscreen.
Joan Miro created numerous collagraphs combining carborundum, aquatint and etching.
Henry Moore used collograph and resist techniques in versions of his drawings
Brenda Hartill has been very influential in UK, building on Hayter’s techniques of viscosity printing.
See Logbook 4 pp 6-7 for discussion of some of her collagraph prints.
Hughie O-Donoghue produces large abstract figures using acrylic and carborundum
See Logbook 4 pp10-11 for discussion of some of his prints and paintings.
Other collagraph artists:
Katie Jones Logbook 4 Collagraph p8
Helga Thomson Logbook 4 Collagraph p8
Mari French Logbook 4 Collagraph p9
Tessa Horrocks Logbook 4 Collagraph p9
Kim Major George Logbook 4 Collagraph p12
Jet James Logbook 4 Collagraph p12
Laurie Rudlin Logbook 4 Collagraph p12
Marlene Groinic Logbook 4 Collagraph p14-15
Diane Bamford Logbook 4 Collagraph p15
Collagraphy (sometimes spelled collography) is a printmaking process in which materials are applied to a rigid substrate (such as cardboard, paperboard, wood or metal). The word is derived from the Greek word koll or kolla, meaning glue, and graph, meaning the activity of drawing.
Collagraph prints are beautiful in the amount of fine detail they can communicate. Different tonal effects and vibrant colours can be achieved with the technique due to the depth of relief and differential inking that results from the collagraph plate’s highly textured surface.
The low relied plate can be printed:
Many layers can be superimposed using registration techniques.
For details of different aspects of collagraph printing see Logbook Part 4: Collagraph pp 2-3.
The plate can be made from any sturdy material, cut to any size. Or different size plates can be combined as long as allowance is made for some degree of embossing around the plate. Sometimes it may be necessary to seal the plate before gluing on objects.
Any low relief materials can be glued onto the plate. Collagraphs can pick up fine detail so it is not necessary to have high relief. Thin materials print very well – the depth of masking tape will transfer surface texture and shape when printing. Different surfaces absorb in different ways and these differences can be exploited to the full. Smooth surfaces can be burnished to remove ink and give subtle tones.
Shapes and images can be implied through creative use of contrasting textures and surfaces. Simple bold arrangements of shapes and textures work well – abstract qualities creating a surface of graet interest and visual effects.
– plant materials will last longer if the leaves etc are dried out and no longer contain moisture.
– carborundim grit (see below) mixed with glue can give a dense mark.
– glue, acrylic gesso and tile adhesives and even thick impasto acrylic paint can be used and sculpted or drawn into on the plate in low relief.
– the surface of the plate can be cut or scored into as long as the marks are not too deep from the top parts of the print.
BUT it is important that no one material stands too proud or it will stop the area around it from printing. Try not to use anything thicker than a piece of mountboard to give a good even printing across the plate.
Do not use anything sharp or it can cut the blankets on the press.
When the glue has dried thoroughly, give 2 coats of varnish or shellac to stop paper sticking to the plate and enable it to be cleaned.
Before inking for the first time, to help the plate separate from the paper, rub a small quantity of oil into the surface with cotton wool.
Intaglio: because different materials hold onto ink in different ways, it is useful to mix etching ink with plate oil or extender to loosen the ink, making it easier to wipe and thin the saturated ink colour. 50/50 is good to start with and can then be adjusted after proofing. Different materials will require different proportions and each plate is unique. Different inks and percentages will also give different effects.
Wipe off with tissue/scrim.
Relief: Best done with a roller and stiff relief ink.
Applying the ink can be done with different implements:
– brushes of different types and sizes can paint and texture the plate much as with monoprint.
– rollers – soft rollers will push ink further into the plate. If you want to just cover the highest parts use a hard roller. Small rollers can get ink into different areas of colour. Big rollers give a consistent sweep.
– dollies made up of rolled J-cloths bound with masking tape.
– cotton buds, particularly for tight corners
– wipe off/burnish areas with tissue paper, newspaper, scrim or j-cloths give different effects.
Paper can be of varying types depending on the effect required.
– for intaglio use damp paper
– for relief dry or damp.
Types of paper
– 250-300 gms printing or watercolour paper is best used damp.
– thinner paper can be used even tissue paper or newsprint if more vague images are required.
– hosho paper works well but do not dampen it.
Experiment with different amounts and types of packing paper. The thicker and softer the packing eg blotting paper, the more it will push the print into the recesses of the plate. You can also reverse the blankets.
Putting first the paper on top of the plate pushes down for intaglio.
Putting then the plate on top of the paper gives a clear relief.
Clean the plate with cooking oil but this will always leave an (often interesting) shadow. Different effects can be built up in this way.
The plate can be intaglio-inked, inked with a roller or paintbrush, or some combination thereof. Ink or pigment is applied to the resulting collage, and the board is used to print onto paper or another material using either a printing press or various hand tools. The resulting print is termed a collagraph. Substances such as carborundum, acrylic texture mediums, sandpapers, bubble wrap, string, cut card, leaves and grass can all be used in creating the collagraph plate. In some instances, leaves can be used as a source of pigment by rubbing them onto the surface of the plate.
Collagraphy is a very open printmaking method. Ink may be applied to the upper surfaces of the plate with a brayer for a relief print, or ink may be applied to the entire board and then removed from the upper surfaces but remain in the spaces between objects, resulting in an intaglio print. A combination of both intaglio and relief methods may also be employed. A printing press may or may not be used.
A collagraph printmaking technique in which the image is created by adding light passages to a dark field. It is a relatively new process invented in the US during the 1930s that allows artists to work on a large scale. Normally, cardboard or wood plates are coated in a layer of carborundum or screen, and the lights are created by filling in the texture with screen filler or glue. Carborundum prints may be printed as intaglio plates.
Carborundum was originally used by printmakers to grind down lithography stones and is now used in collagraph prints to create gradients of tone and a sandy texture. It works because when the carborundum adheres to the plate the ink sits around it. It can be applied in a number of different ways:
To print a carborundum print, the surface is covered in ink, and then the surface is wiped clean with tarlatan cloth or newspaper, leaving ink only in the texture of the screen or carborundum. A damp piece of paper is placed on top, and the plate and paper are run through a printing press that, through pressure, transfers the ink from the recesses of the plate to the paper. Very large editions are not possible as a small amount of carborundum comes off every time it is wiped down.
O’Donoghue was born in England but lived and worked for many years in County Kerry, Ireland. He graduated from Goldsmiths in 1982 and was Artist in Residence at the National Gallery, London from 1984-85.
His work is characterised by an engagement with the past. He uses figuration and abstraction to explore themes of human identity, memory, remembering and experience; and draws on history, mythology and personal records to create works which resonate with emotional intensity.
His printmaking includes very large carborundum plates of figures. He mixes fine grain carborundum, acrylic paste and black acrylic paint. He paints this on the plate with a thick brush, wiping off and reworking the image on the plate before it dries. This makes a complex, multi-layered texture. He often uses aluminium plates. Prints on thick Arches paper.
Hughie O’Donoghue installation at IMMA 2009
The Measure of All Things Introduction
‘Artists never completely control the meaning of their work’
The Measure of all Things Westminster Abbey 2014
Rolf (Emil Rudolf) Nesch (1893 – 1975) was an expressionist artist, especially noted for his printmaking – ‘material pictures’. He is one of the first artists to have consciously used collage to create collagraph printing plates.
Rolf Nesch tribute
Nesch was born in Esslingen am Neckar, and studied at the academy in Dresden from 1912 to 1914. He then participated in World War I, but was taken prisoner by the British. In 1929 he settled in Hamburg to continue his painting career, influenced by expressionism in general, especially Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Edvard Munch. Upon the Nazi takeover in Germany in 1933, Nesch repatriated to Norway.
Inspired by Norwegian scenery and working life, he gave up painting and produced the following year his first so-called material picture, and also took up sculpture. Drawing continued to be a key means of expression. But it is as printmaker that Rolf Nesch made his most significant contribution. As a technical innovator he discovered the potential in new materials – using metal and found objects as the basis for collagraphs. He gave depth and texture to prints by soldering out metal shapes and wire to metal printing plates. He then took this further by drilling holes in plates and sewing to the base plate. The prints were so deep he needed 8 blankets to get the right pressure and very heavy strong paper.Many of his images are narrative with bold use of cutout figures.
Nesch died in 1975 in Oslo. The Nesch Museum opened in 1993 in Ål, where he had lived for twenty-five years, to commemorate his hundredth anniversary.
Brenda Hartill collagraph course
Inking a collagraph plate
Brenda Hartill R E is a British painter, collage artist and printmaker. Her work explores the texture, pattern and light of the landscape, and ranges from finely drawn figurative works to bold, heavily embossed abstract images. Far the past 10 years she has been most interested in drawing abstract imagery from the landscape, rugged mountain erosion, structure of the land and the the dynamics of plant growth. She loves the strong light and shadow of Southern Europe, and remote New Zealand, where she was brought up, as well as the gentler greyness of the light in London and Sussex. Many of her early more figurative works are still available, and are well represented in the portfolio collections here. She is based in her studio near Rye in East Sussex.
Previously her main medium has been print, both etching and collagraph, and she has written a book (available on Amazon) “Collagraph and mixed media printmaking” for A and C Black, which is now in its 5th printing. She also recently produced a DVD, available direct from the studio.(see DVD section for details)
She is becoming increasingly interested in painting, creating a series of embossed watercolour paintings (see new works), as well as her mixed-media collage paintings using oil paint and encaustic wax . Her recent work includes a series of unique monoprints, in muted colours, and black and white, and there is a strong element of embossing in the latest prints. In addition the three dimensional have always interested her. The more sculptural embossed etchings and collagraphs have led to a breaking away from print on a single piece of paper to mixed media compilations – for example the “floating landscapes”.
John Piper was born in Epsom, Surrey, in 1903, the son of solicitor Charles Piper. He was educated at Epsom College and trained at the Richmond School of Art, followed by the Royal College of Art in London. He turned from abstraction early in his career, concentrating on a more naturalistic but distinctive approach.
As a child, Piper lived in Epsom, at that time in the countryside. He went exploring on his bike, and drew and painted pictures of old churches and monuments on the way. He started making guide books complete with pictures and information at a young age. He studied at Epsom College. He did not like the college but found refuge in the art school. When he left Epsom College, Piper wanted to go to art school, to study to become an artist. However, his father disagreed and wanted him to be a solicitor. They agreed that John Piper would work for his father in London for three years, and then could pursue whatever career he chose. He failed the law exams and his father died soon after, leaving him free to become an artist. His work often focused on the British landscape, especially churches.
Piper was appointed an official war artist in World War II from 1940–1942. The morning after the air raid that destroyed Coventry Cathedral, Piper produced his first painting of bomb damage, Interior of Coventry Cathedral now exhibited at the Herbert Art Gallery. Jeffery Daniels in The Times described the painting of the ruins as “all the more poignant for the exclusion of a human element”. It has been described as “Britain’s Guernica”.
Piper collaborated with many others, including the poets John Betjeman and Geoffrey Grigson (on the Shell Guides), and with potter Geoffrey Eastop and artist Ben Nicholson. In later years he produced many limited-edition prints.
Sir Osbert Sitwell invited Piper to Renishaw Hall to paint the house and illustrate an autobiography he was writing and Piper made his first of many visits to the estate in 1942. The family retain 70 of his pictures and there is a display at the hall.
From 1950 Piper worked in stained glass in partnership with Patrick Reyntiens, whom he had met through John Betjeman. They designed the stained-glass windows for the new Coventry Cathedral, and later for the Chapel of Robinson College, Cambridge. Washington National Cathedral prominently features his large window, “The Land Is Bright”. He designed windows for many smaller churches and created tapestries for Chichester Cathedral and Hereford Cathedral. He was a set designer for the theatre, including the Kenton Theatre in Henley and Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff. He designed many of the premiere productions of Benjamin Britten’s operas at Glyndebourne Festival Opera, the Royal Opera House, La Fenice and the Aldeburgh Festival, as well as for some of the operas of Alun Hoddinott. In 2012 a major exhibition ‘John Piper and the Church’ examined his relationship with the Church and his contribution to the development of modern art within churches. Piper wrote extensively on modern art in books and articles. With his wife, Myfanwy Piper, he founded the contemporary art journal, Axis.
On 28 June 1992 John Piper died at his home at Fawley Bottom, Buckinghamshire, where he had lived for most of his life. His children are painters Edward Piper (deceased) and Sebastian Piper, and his grandchildren include painter Luke Piper and sculptor Henry Piper.
His auction record, £325,250, was set at Sotheby’s on 15 July 2008 for “Forms on Dark Blue”, a 3′ by 4′ oil painting made in 1936.
Sue’s work draws on the landscape of west Somerset. Her imagery sits on the borderline between landscape and abstract. The work is concerned with textures and surfaces and draws inspiration from the lines and patterns found in the landscape that tell stories of formation, growth, erosion and decay. Sue has developed a range of collagraph techniques that allow her to use found organic and recycled materials to create richly-textured prints. She also makes extensive use of chine colle.
Many of her images are layered in horizontal strips and represent the seasons and landscape elements. They have a unity of colour and delicacy that I like.
Sue received a fine art degree in 2004 from the University for the Creative Arts at Farnham. Since graduating she has combined development of a printmaking practice with teaching in adult education and a career in arts administration. Sue exhibited regularly in galleries and art fairs in London and the South East before moving to Somerset, (where she was born and grew up), in Spring 2011.