4.12 Images of Africa: collagraph experiments

Before going on to the final piece I wanted to experiment a lot further with different collagraph materials and techniques in order to get a better feel for shape, texture and colour variations. Also how to sequence my inking workflow in the inking process to maximise subtlety and avoid muddiness as the inks mix on the plate.

The sketches for these experiments – and others – can be found in Sketchbook 4 Images of Africa. The plates were done from sketches (African lily) or photographs (Tree Shadow, Mountain, Bleeding Heart, Boats, Baobab) in Rwanda, Uganda and Burkina Faso, some from sketches of African plants in the Greenhouse of the Botanic Gardens in Cambridge (Stem). They are presented in reverse order – with my first less interesting experiments at the end.

The plates were made at a 2-day collagraph course, then inked up at home.

The originals and further details can be found in Sketchbook 4 Images of Africa pp 28 – 85 and Logbook A4 Collagraph pp 30 – 37.

Moonlight


This image was inspired by a wide-angle exaggerated perspective photograph of two people talking in long morning shadows by the side of Lake Kivu. Having more successfully experimented more with low relief images in Stem and Black Mountain, I wanted to try a narrative relief image used textured wallpaper. This automatically creates strong contrast between a bold and flatter relief image – it is more difficult to get subtle shading on textured wallpaper than on a flat card surface. This means that the most dramatic image is either very dark on light or very light on dark.

In the images shown here I did dark on light. But in future once the plate is properly cleaned I could try the reverse.I experimented also digitally with a range of different colours.

Black Mountain


This image was from a simple sunset mountain photograph from Uganda. The plate used layered torn tissue paper with some varnish texturing. I really like the effect of this image – on both Japanese paper and watercolour paper. Interestingly the image became more dramatic when turned upside-down. In future I should always consider this with this type of simple image.

Stem


This stem was sketched in the Tropical Greenhouse in the Botanic Gardens in Cambridge. I really liked these spiky stems. Here I used a combination of fabric and masking tape with varnish marks for the background, tissue paper for the stem and small cut-out card for the spines. I think this image is more successful because the focus is on the different textures and the horizontal/vertical/diagonal thorns contrast with all the materials on a similar relief.

African Lillies


These lillies were sketched near my hotel on one of the rare days when I had an hour before work to go outside. For the plate I used a combination of fabric and tissue paper with some plant seeds and string. The plate itself looked really interesting. But the objects were again too far proud of the plate and made a rather mucky print. The delicacy of the tissue was lost. Next time I need to think a lot more carefully about relative heights of materials on the plate, particularly if I want a very delicate image.

Bean Tree


From a photo of a Bean Tree in the garden of my hotel – I should have made time to sketch this as it is a very interesting plant. The plate waqs made of floral wallpaper. Probably I should have made the print in two passes, background first so that there was more contrast between foreground and background. It was very difficult to prevent the ink from mixing and spreading on the plate.

Boats


One of my rare opportunities for very quick sketching on a short break as we crossed between Lake George and Lake Edward in South West Uganda. I like the collagraph plate though better than the print! I should try monochrome and more muted colours to get more subtlety. I also have more interesting photos of the lakes from other trips where I was not able to sketch. These might provide inspiration for a series.

Bean Tree


From a photo of a Bean Tree in the garden of my hotel – I should have made time to sketch this as it is a very interesting plant. The plate waqs made of floral wallpaper. Probably I should have made the print in two passes, background first so that there was more contrast between foreground and background. It was very difficult to prevent the ink from mixing and spreading on the plate.

Boats


One of my rare opportunities for very quick sketching on a short break as we crossed between Lake George and Lake Edward in South West Uganda. I like the collagraph plate though better than the print! I should try monochrome and more muted colours to get more subtlety. I also have more interesting photos of the lakes from other trips where I was not able to sketch. These might provide inspiration for a series.

Baobab

This series is based on a photograph of baobab trees taken from a car in Burkina Faso. It was my second series of inking experiments to see what happens as I ink and re-ink the plate to mix and change colours and contrasts. This plate also had a very simple relief for me to experiment with combining or differently emphasising relief and intaglio techniques. A more detailed discussion of the inking process can be found in the logbook. What I learned:

  • Re-inking series in this way can produce very different moods and feelings with the same plate.
  • Monochrome images like image 6 monochrome green can be the most subtle and interesting and get interesting light through burnishing. Particularly using transparent ink to maximise contrast and variation.
  • Having texture in the foreground and background can be a bit messy.The image might have been better if I had used flat silhouette shapes for the trees rather than textured wallpaper?

As images I like:

  • image 6 monochrome green with the reduced texture on the trees and the light burnished out in the back
  • images 12 and 13 red and blue best – they look a bit like John Piper images of cathedrals with the curved arches of the trees.

Landscape

This was my first set of inking experiments from a simple Rwandan sunset landscape photograph. The plate was made of wallpaper materials and plastic mesh. I wanted to try out different colours: inking and re-inking. These images were not very successful as whole images. The composition of the plate was not so interesting when it was inked up and I had difficulty controlling the colours and stopping them just mixing, or becoming too bright. With hind sight I could have used more transparent medium to get a more subtle image.But also the textures were too bold – whatever I do with this probably it will always look a bit like a children’s cartoon cutout image because the collage is very high on the plate. But this technique could be quite interesting for a more interesting narrative image – like some of the work by Rolf Nesch.

Building sketches

End

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