How I made the collagraph plate
To make the collagraph plate I sealed a piece of thick card with Atelier Regular Gloss Gel and used the gel to adhere some loom bands. A big tub of loom bands were bought for $1 in a reject shop (obviously not the “in thing” to do anymore). The bands were adhered to the card with the idea of using it to remove paint from the Gelli® plate and also as a collagraph plate in it’s own right.
Collagraph plate problems
Collagraph plate made from loom bands glued to thick card using Gel Medium. When I used Matisse Block Printing Ink the stickiness of the ink was strong enough to pull the bands off of the board. But there is an interesting texture left in the medium ?
The top half of the photo shows the state of the plate after only a few prints. The lower half shows (l to r) a previously printed sheet overprinted from the cardboard plate, a ghost print from the Gelli® plate, a print from the cardboard plate, a print from the Gelli® plate.
I had applied 3 coats of gel to adhere the bands. This time I decided to experiment with the Matisse Block Printing inks after the disaster with the Shellac/acrylic paint/open medium disaster. The block printing inks are much stickier than the paint mixture. So sticky in fact that they started to pull the loom bands off the gel medium! So this too has turned into a mini-disaster. It’s just not my week 🙁 I will try other glues to stick the loom bands down as I really like the effect of these slightly “off” circles. The block printing inks didn’t really cover very well on the Gelli® plate either so I got lines/patchiness and sometimes the roller picked the ink up again as I rolled. So I probably need to use some other base for mono-printing with the printing inks. The bands that have come off have left an imprint in the gel medium so maybe all is not lost – maybe I can take all the bands off and use the texture of the gel medium as a printing plate. I managed a few prints before the loom bands all started looking a bit loose.
I have been experimenting with making printing plates from various materials I had on hand (some of which I had bought years ago but never got around to trying of course). These can be used to remove paint to create texture on the Gelli plate (if they have some flexibility and no sharp projections) or as printing plates in their own right. I recently did quite a bit of reading about different ways to create collagraph plates. In particular I was interested in ways of waterproofing the plates if they were made from materials which weren’t already waterproof such as paper/card or fabric. This is because I have had experience in the past where some glues become sticky again when wet.
I have made one out of thin card (140gsm) and paper shapes glued onto a thicker card (600gsm) which I have sealed with 2 coats of Atelier Regular Gel (Gloss) and 2 coats of WestArt Crystal Clear spray varnish. Concerns are that the edges will not be waterproof as it is difficult to make sure they are coated. I haven’t tried it yet and as they say “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”. I have since read that Shellac waterproofs paper and card because it works by soaking in rather than sitting on the surface. This has 2 benefits: the entire plate is waterproofed rather than just the surface, and fine details are not filled in by the sealant.
I am therefore in the process of making another plate, with the texture of weaving, from the same thin card which I will glue onto thicker card and then seal with Shellac (which I have used before to seal wooden stamp blocks, but not for paper). I am interested to know whether the texture of the weaving will show or whether I will just get dots in a regular grid from the high spots.
These are the marks that were on the scrap paper that I cut into strips to make the woven paper collagraph.
While I was making this I became intrigued with the way the lines that were printed on the thin card were displayed in a completely new way. It looks almost like a code or cipher. So I’ve filed this away in the back of my mind in the “inspiration” category.
For my second attempt I took some of the prints from my first session and added a second layer. I’m not so keen on the multi-coloured patchwork effect which seems to be the predominant way to use the Gelli plate as I find them very busy in general. Some people seem to carry this off with aplomb but I’m sure my efforts will look more like “a bomb” (has gone off) than “aplomb”.
This print has too much contrast for my liking so I decided to try overprinting it.
I want to see if I can produce simple, well-composed images within the confines of the Gelli plate with only a few pulls (say up to 5) which then need minimal “tweaking” to finalise them. I’m envisioning a few well-placed stitches, collaged paper scraps or brush strokes to accentuate focal points will be all that is required to complete them.
I see the patchwork happening when I cut up the less satisfying prints to create collages.
I created a printing plate from printing foam by pushing the blunt end of a skewer into it to create an all over dots pattern. I used this in 2 ways – to put ink (acrylic paint) onto the Gelli Plate – and as an indirect printing plate by taking paint off of the Gelli Plate.
I used a bamboo skewer to push holes into some polystyrene foam. The foam was used to remove paint from the printing plate. This print is from the printing plate. The print from the foam isn’t shown.
The second photo has no white because the ink was applied to the Gelli plate first and then the foam printing plate was used to remove paint from the Gelli plate. Where there is contact some paint is removed (giving a lighter colour) and where there is no contact the paint is unchanged (and therefore darker). A paper print pulled from this has no white showing.
This is a previous print which had a lot of contrast (very white circles on a dark blue background) overprinted with the ghost (second pull without adding more ink) image of another print.
The third photo shows a previous print which had a lot of contrast (very white circles on a dark blue background) overprinted with the ghost (second pull without adding more ink) image of the print in the second photo.
The layering of images and the density of the ink will take me some time to master I think – my vision of “simple, well-composed images within the confines of the Gelli plate with only a few pulls (say up to 5) which then need minimal “tweaking” to finalise them” could be a long time coming 🙂
Designing Women were kind enough to allow me to attend a meeting where 2 of the members, Debbi and Linda, were giving a demonstration of printing using acrylic paints with a Gelli® Plate. I was keen to watch their demo because using a Gelli® Plate was next in my investigations into printing at home without a press. Both of them did a fantastic job and answered heaps of questions. Several of the members had a go after the demo as Debbi and Linda had brought lots of extra supplies. I waited until I got home to actually open the Gelli plate I bought recently. I used mostly 110gsm cartridge paper and some 80gsm bond copy paper this time (cheap for a first time effort) but towards the end I tried a couple of pieces of higher quality, thicker watercolour paper which gave lovely results.
This print has too much contrast for my liking so I decided to try overprinting it.
Debbi and Linda demonstrated heaps of ways to use the Gelli® plate but these 2 photos show that I inked the plate (using acrylic paint), placed circle masks on top of the paint and then took a print. Where the masks were the paper remained white. Then I removed the masks, spritzed the plate with water and took a second print. I really like the way the masks themselves removed some paint so I got a lot of texture in the circles on the second print. Needless to say the masks were turned over and used to create yet another print 🙂 The first print was sort of disappointing, although I could see it had potential for other layers over the top. The layering is the bit I need to “get my head around” to actually produce some art but the second print from this same layout was much more exciting, and I felt that it could be used “as is” without another printing layer but with some embellishing using pencils/pens/paint and/or stitch.
Water was spritzed onto the plate after the first print was taken and then a second print was made.
In all I think I produced about 29 prints on the first day (and I photographed every single one in my enthusiasm!) so I won’t bore you with all of those. Suffice to say that Gelli® printing is every bit as addictive as it’s reputed to be 🙂
Permission has been granted for me to use the Gelli® trademark.