Research: Jim Dine


I started by exploring a range of ways in which I could interpret the theme of “Journey”. My initial thoughts centred on travel and transport.

By brainstorming the theme I came up with some potential options for further investigation: human movement, transport by vehicles such as: bicycle, car, boat plane, train. These could also be thought of as the sum of their component parts, for example wheels, nuts, bolts gears, brakes, handlebars, engines. By breaking down the individual items into their components to deconstruct the whole object, it could be possible to come up with a more abstract approach to this topic, which I thought could work well using collagraph techniques.

Inspiration from Other Artists

I had recently read about the work of the artist Jim Dine, whose artistic practice often made use of motifs such as everyday objects and was keen to consider how this approach might be incorporated into my own work.

Dine is associated with the Pop Art and Neo Dadaist Movements whose artists often incorporated everyday objects into their artistic works. Early in his career, Dine worked with a number of influential artists, notably Allan Kaprow, Claes Oldenberg, Robert Rauschenberg, and with musicians such as John Cage, on the creation of performance art .
This work drew inspiration from the fields of both music and art to create performances known as “Happenings” . The “Happenings” were a key influence in shaping the future direction of Dine’s own art, with a number of print works flowing from the Happening “Car Crash”( 1960). These were lithographs which incorporated elements such as black lettering and red crosses, in an expressionistic interpretation of the violence of a car crash.(Watrous, J, 1984, P234-235).

This red and black colour scheme is also seen in later works such as “The Black and Red Heart” 2013, (63.63 ins  x 47.5 ins), a woodcut with hand drawing, in an edition of 30, which depicts a large black and red heart placed in the centre of the picture plane on a contrasting black and red background. The artist has used thick diagonal marks, suggesting anger or frustration or maybe a broken heart. This is reinforced by the use of black with red rather than the traditional red of the love heart.
The direction of Dine’s work shifted away from performance art towards painting and printmaking incorporating the use of everyday objects within his work.

The objects he selected in his work often had personal significance in the life of the artist. Common themes included: tools, such as hammers and pliers, flowing from memories from early experiences associated with his father and grandfather’s family ironmongery business.(Watrous, J, 1984, P234-235).

Other common motifs include the bathrobe, hearts and Pinoccio figures. These were often reproduced in many different colours and sometimes repeated several times within a piece of work.

The heart motif reappears in many works, sometimes combining other motifs such as tools, as in ” A heart at the Opera”, 1983  a lithograph measuring 47x37inches produced in an edition of 50. The prints feature a large pink heart placed between a hammer placed above the heart at top right, and a saw placed horizontally across the lower edge of the picture plane. These are set against a contrasting complementary green background, adding to the visual impact of the heart. Interestingly this work also incorporates natural elements such as leaves and feathers.

My interpretation of the in elements are that the heart in pink suggests a romantic theme, the saw and hammer represent the persona of the artist himself and the inclusion of the natural objects refers to the decorative elements is costume seen at the opera. The addition of the saw and hammer perhaps refer to the vulnerability of the heart, the tools having the potential to break the heart.

Watrous, J,1984. A Century of American Printmaking. P234-235.




PM1:Project 12: Collatype Collage prints: Critical Statement


Figure 1: “Let Glasgow Flourish”

Final coloured collagraph: Black ink over masked colour

Critical Statement


For this project I was keen to establish a theme at the beginning of the project which would allow me to work with some of the techniques learned from my previous investigations.
I wanted to use something which would allow me to express a sense of the spirit of the place where I have lived for many years and which has meaning for generations of my own family.

I started my investigation by visiting the People’s Palace in Glasgow Green which is at the historical centre of the city of Glasgow where I live. This museum houses many of the historical social artefacts important to the city and has been the subject of some of my earlier work in the course. I was interested in the visual potential offered by city’s coat of arms and the legend which provides the visual elements for the traditional designs used in many arts and crafts in the city. This emblem unites people of the city from all walks of life and decided for this reason to use this as my theme for Project 12.

The coat of arms depicts visually the legend of St Kentigern, the first bishop of Glasgow. The visual elements are accompanied by the words “Let Glasgow Flourish” The key visual elements of the coat of arms are a robin, a tree, a fish and a bell. These are the subject of a famous poem:

Here is the bird that never flew
Here is the tree that never grew

Here is the bell that never rang
Here is the fish that never swam “

The first Bishop of Glasgow, St Kentigern, is also portrayed in some designs but this is not universal and I decided to keep to a simple format which would focus on the word of the poem above. I wanted to represent these lines in a print which would illustrate the little verse visually.


My first task was to consider where I might study the individual components for my design and the area at the traditional heart of the city around where St Kentigern settled in early Glasgow. Glasgow Green is the the place.

The People’s Palace there houses a historic bell from The local prison which was rung following executions when the deceased was pronounced dead. I sketched it on my visit to the museum. I also used the visit to the area around the museum to sketch trees growing on the Green as I planned to use one of these in the print.
Another separate visit was undertaken to Glasgow Art Gallery at Kelvingrove where I was able to sketch some robins close up. I decided to use the image from the multi- plate trial prints to represent the fish as it was very simple I’m from and I thought it could work well in this project.


A few trial sketches were made to work through a possible composition for the print. I wanted to place the tree in the centre of the picture plane with the fish emerging from a frothing stream below the tree with the ring in its mouth.
Often two fish are seen in the coat of arms but I wanted a fresh approach and decided to stick with one fish to reflect the story of the fish in the legend of St Kentigern.
The bird and the bell I placed in the traditional location, hanging from branches of the tree.

Preparing the plate

I used an A4 sheet of mount board to prepare my main printing plate. A tree was created in the centre of the picture plane by scratching and removing layers of material to create tone on the plate. Further texture was achieved in the tree branches and the riverside grasses by applying a fine stream of PVA glue and allowing it to dry.
The bell and the bird and the fish were cut from sandpaper and applied with PVA glue to the plate. A small washer was used for the ring emerging from the fish’s mouth and glued to the plate with PVA. Embroidery threads were glued in place to represent the water of the river and rice stuck to the plate to create the illusion of seed heads at the river and to give a sense of a foreground.

Inking the plate

One colour print: Black with on white paper


Figure 2: “Let Glasgow Flourish”

Black ink on white paper

This print is illustrated in Figure 2.

I made a decision to use fine Japanese paper unsoaked for the black and white print  in order to record the delicate layers of the tree. This paper did not stand up well to soaking when I tried it out on a sample so I decided to use it without soaking. This worked well for the top half of the print but left the lower aspect lacking interest. The threads representing the water did not print well and were probably too high compared to the tree. I thought that this could be improved by printing over a colour. In retrospect I should maybe have used a thicker paper and soaked it before printing. The above prints show the effect of adding the coloured layer and overprinting it with black.

Figure 3 : “Let Glasgow Flourish”

Black ink over transparent layers of yellow no red.

This resulted in an interesting print and I liked the subtle colours obtained in the lower layers by diluting the inks with oil. The bird and the bell were more easily seen as was the fish which strengthened the print when compared to the one colour version of the print.
Two colours: White printed over a black background



Figure 4: “Let Glasgow Flourish”

White ink over black layer.

I prepared a plain back background by printing with black ink using a similar sized plate to my original plate. It was then overprinted using white. This created a much more interesting result with a lot of texture and interest. The bird and bell were printed using a dabbed with black ink to make them more easy to see. This helped pick up the detail of these elements of the print by intensifying the colour but put them a little out of balance with the rest of the print.

Final print

For this version of the print, shown above as Figure 1,  a mask was prepared by tracing along the edge of the threads to define the river bank area, using blue green for the river and a complementary red as a background to the tree. Different versions of these colours were mixed and printed. I chose complementary colours to create a strong image which would contrast well with black overprinting on the final layer. I think this has worked best with the blue-green and a deep red to give strong contrasts in the print.

The plate was cleaned and revarnished before using again to print the last layer. Despite this it was still becoming more difficult to see full definition in the layers on the tree and the bird.

Final assessment of the prints

• The overall design seems to work well but the detail of the fish and bird are a bit lost in some of the prints. I think the small scale of these design elements did not work with my technique. I think it would have been easier to reproduce detail at a larger scale

• The abstract approach taken to the fish is a bit disappointing in the final print. There is not enough detail.

• The riverbank is lively but I was disappointed that the thread detail is somewhat lost. This looks much better on the plate itself. Had this been reproduced as it is on the plate, the fish would have made more sense.

• The masking works well and the use of colour in the lower part of the print strengthens the whole print. It has slipped in some version of the print but I like this accidental effect as it suggests froth on the riverbank.

• I think the last version of the print in strong red and green with black is the most successful due to good strong colour contrasts.

• I should maybe have used soaked paper but lacked the confidence to do it without tearing the paper. Access to a press would have made this technique more feasible and is definitely something I will consider in future.

PM1:Project 11: Collatype collage block prints

Project 11: Making a test collage block


For this exercise I used an A3 sheet of cardboard on which I glued a number of objects using PVA glue. These included: rice, barley, corrugated cardboard, scrunched tissue paper, sandpaper both smooth and rough, small nails, Kirby grips, metal washers, twisted thread, tea. The block was then sealed using a thin layer of PVA glue before printing.


Test block 1 was inked with caligo safewash water soluble oil ink, using a relief technique. Watercolour paper was selected and soaked and blotted before printing. This produced a reasonable result but did not fully reproduce the surfaces of all the objects on the test plate. The nuts, washers and pins reproduced best on printing. Sandpaper gave an interesting result but the finer grain was not reproduced so clearly. The grains of rice reproduced well from the plate and the barley was also picked up by the ink.


Figure 1 : Test block 1: black on white paper

I varied the process for a second set of prints, using heavier paper and soaking for longer. I then inked the paper using rainbow rolling with alternate red and blue water soluble inks. Soaking the paper definitely helped uptake of the inks. However I found that the paper was difficult to lift from the plate and tended to tear easily.


Figure 2 : Test block 2: rainbow rolled with blue and red inks

Key challenges in Project 11

• Judging how wet the paper should be
• Smudges around the edges of the print
• Paper moving easily over the raised objects on the plate leading to double printing
• Cockling of the paper if it was left to soak for a lengthy period.
• Ink bleeding around the sides of the print

I wanted practice in order to gain more experience of using the materials and techniques initiated when printing from the test blocks. This would allow me to experience working in different ways and potentially at a different scale. This would also provide further opportunities to explore a potential theme for this section of the course. I prepared further blocks as follows :

 A small abstract project using washers, sandpaper corrugated paper and tea leaves and several small blocks

 Prints made from natural materials such as leaves, string and feathers

 Prints made from Ivy leaves and barley which we’re used to construct a wreath

Collagraphs: Project 11: Further exploration. Working with natural materials

Working with natural materials

Inspiration from the work of other artists

Brenda Harthill


Figure 1: Inferno 2: 49x 46 cms (right)

As part of my investigation into how other artists have developed collagraphs using natural materials, I looked at the work of Brenda Harthill. This artist draws inspiration from natural forms such as leaves and plants. However These materials are used in a manner which captures the overall essence and spirit of the land rather than a literal description of the plant itself.(Harthill, B)

I particularly enjoyed the image Inferno ll which is 49×46 cms in dimension and depicts a landscape in which the pictorial plane is divided roughly into thirds, with small trees in the background and a curved arc placed in the central third of the picture plane resembling a flowing river cuing through the print.

What looks like a thick tree trunck cuts through the picture plane just to the right of centre. This device adds to the illusion of depth within the print. The artist has used subdued Earth tones and white in the background but has emphasised the illusion of depth further by use of a very vibrant red in the foreground in a way which captures the red heat of volcanic lava.

The print was made by using glued natural materials with the edition of carborundum to a plaster plate was was also drawn onto. The artist used a process of rubbing ink onto the plate before printing.

Moving  forward with my own project

Figure 2: “Random”


Inspiration for the project came from leaves and feathers sourced on a walk in the local park. These were stuck down using PVA glue and covered with a fine layer of glue applied over the objects prior to printing.
Caligo safewash oil based inks were applied to the plate. I added interest to the print by using layered colour obtained by preparing a similar blank plate the same size as the plate from which my pattern would be printed. This was printed first. This approach allowed me to experiment with how the inks would layer over each other and to assess how oil could be used to thin the inks and make them more transparent.

Review of final result

Greens and oranges overprinted with browns and blacks worked well. The inks did work well on both fine and thick paper. The thin paper was not pre- soaked but did take a good impression. Despite a few initial challenges getting the leaves to adhere to the surface of the block, they printed well using both fine paper and heavy soaked watercolour. The feathers were reasonably easy to stick down to the plate and created and reproduced well when printed.
Ivy and Barley Wreath



Figure 3: “Wreath”

This plate was prepared as above but unfortunately did not print well. I think the problem lay in the thickness of the barley compared to the leaves which in turn led to uneven uptake of ink. This was overcome to some degree by soaking the paper but the print was not as I had visualised it. Printing on coloured inks improved things a bit but overall I was disappointed although I did like the collage plate and think it could be used for another project. I used books to weigh down the paper and obtained an embossed effect when using soaked watercolour paper. However, I think that with this amount of variation in the height of the objects on the plate, a press would provide much better results.


Hartill, B. and Clarke, R. (2005) p. 31 Collagraphs and mixed media printmaking (printmaking handbook). London: A & C Black Publishers.


Collagraphs Project: Further exploration

Figure 1: Hubcap explorations

Exploring an abstract approach

This project was inspired by a visit to the transport museum to look at various modes of transport as I was considering continuing the theme of “Journey” for this section of the course. I number of small sketches were carried out and photographs taken. I was interested in the combination of small parts such as cogs and wheels and how these came together to form a whole structure such as a vehicle.

I thought that it could be possible to use the very small rings from the test block to explore this further.

To take this idea forward I used a hubcap found on the street which was photographed and then subsequently abstracted using the Procreate computer programme to zoom in and experiment with the colour range. These investigations led to the development of 6 small plates from which I printed a number of test prints in my sketchbook. The prints were carried out on soaked heavy watercolour paper.
I liked the idea that these could be used together to produce a larger piece of work by combining the prints in a variety of arrangements on one large plate to produce a larger scale piece. .

Figure 2: Further abstraction hubcap  / multiple collage blocks

The small sandpaper collage produced excellent results and I loved the colour combinations obtained from overlapping phthalocyanine blue and Napthol red.

Figure 3: Experimental printing using collage blocks

I liked the industrial feel of the combined shapes and the rust like colour produced by overprinting these shapes and colours. Definitely a possibility for a future project. I was struck by the resemblance of the sandpaper shape to the head of a fish and to a sailing boat. It reminded me of my visit to Dubai and the iconic shape of the Bourj al Arab hotel whose distinctive shape can be seen for miles around. I developed this in one of the plates by constructing small sail shaped forms from corrugated cardboard. These also printed very well on soaked paper.

Inspiration from the work of other Artists

Lesley Davie


Figure 4: “Earth and Water” 60×90 cms : Leslie Davey

In considering how I might take forward an abstract project, I was inspired by the work of Scottish artist Leslie Davie, and in particular her “Earth and Water”, series of collages which draw on the textures and patterns of the island landscape and waters of the island of North Uist where the artist spent time completing a residency (Dave, L. )
For this series, she produced a series of collagraph plates using a mount board baseplate in a technique in which she both adds materials and tears the surface of the plate to replicate the landscape and water formations found on the island. For the Earth elements of the work, natural materials were aged and applied to the plate and fixed to the plate using PVA or wood glue helping to reproduce natural elements such as wood and stone.
To devlop the “water” elements of the piece the artist used thin aluminium plates, sanded to create the desired effects.

The artist then arranged the plates together and covered them with a newsprint mask to cover all but the central circular zones above the main areas of interest, and then printed onto thick paper to create blind embossing around the small circles on the printed page. The artist used a press.

Response to the work

I loved the way in which the artist was able to present several small images on one page to unify her theme of Earth and water. The Earth colours used also complemented the overall theme. The use of circular shapes reinforced the “Earth” concept and the whole came together in a way which I found very harmonious and pleasing to look at.

Future work

This is definitely something I would like to take forward in my own work although I think the lack of a press will limit what can be achieved. In my own work, I attempted to overcome this by burnishing and by the use of heavy books placed above the plate to increase the pressure applied to the paper.


Hartill, B. and Clarke, R. (2005) Collagraphs and mixed media printmaking (printmaking handbook). P 53. London: A & C Black Publishers.