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.



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