For Project 15, I wanted to develop the theme of migration, dividing the project into different stages:
• Differences: The circumstances leading to the decision to leave: war, racial or religious differences, intolerance of sexuality, gender discrimination.
• The journey itself
• The impact of escape from oppression and intolerance
I wanted also to expand my own knowledge and technical skills in collagraphy when taking forward this project. My previous OCA studies have included painting and I am interested in how this could bring something new to my future practice.
Print 1: “Different”
My starting point was to review research into faith and ethnic differences. This was carried out at the start of the project. From this review, a theme was emerging, suggesting that “different” could be either physical and visible to others, relating to characteristics such as race, or be related to issues such as political or religious beliefs or to sexuality. Being different from the prevailing ethnic majority or holding views different from those in political or religious power was a common reason for persecution and for deciding to leave a country of origin. I wanted to try to represent this difference from a visual perspective , while avoiding direct depiction of the human form in this project, keeping to an abstract approach.
I was interested in the abstraction of the form seen in the work of the artist Henry Moore, and was drawn to the print/collagraph “Standing Figures”. I was particularly interested in the horizontal format and subdivision of the picture plane horizontally in this work, in which the artist places 2 rows of figures across the page. The repetition of the figures allows any differences to be quickly apparent to the viewer.
In my sketchbook I explored how this composition might work in my own design, using cut paper and coloured tissue. My “ figures” were created from cut card, elongated in form and placed horizontally across the picture plane. I placed one small “figure” at the centre of the row. In such a horizontal format this allowed the shape to stand out from the rest. The design was further developed by using a small punch to create markings on the “bodies”. Spare clippings from the punch were used elsewhere to add variety and to help to unite the design by using both the positive and negative shapes. The first print would be black and white to reflect the negative aspects of difference in a constricted and difficult environment.
A plate was prepared using mountboard as a base. This card was cut into the desired shapes and punched according to my planned design and in scale with the picture plane. These were stuck down using PVA glue and varnished front and back using yacht varnish and left to dry overnight. The plate was inked up using black oil-based ink and rubbed using scrim, tissue and rags to help define tone. It was then printed using a Rochat etching press.
I felt the design was working well and the monochrome colour scheme enabled me to create the impression of “Difference” that I was looking to achieve. The print borders were clean and there was good contrast. Compared to my previous efforts at collagraphy in Part 4, I felt that the prints were an improvement on past efforts. I think this was due to selection of more appropriate material for the plate (card) and access to a good printing press.
Print 2: “Over the Sea and far Away”
The design for part 2 was developed using the drawings of fish and birds prepared from project 13. I wanted to create a seascape featuring migrating fish at sea swimming towards new horizons. I used landscape format to emphasise the horizon and to help create the sense of the fish travelling forward. The fish shapes were kept quite simple, with the central fish having more detail than the rest. Card and sandpaper were used to create the plate. Star and sun shapes were added to link to previous designs. The plate was then prepared as above and printing was carried it using the Xcut Xpress and the Rochat press.
Initially the print was proofed using black oil-based ink. Good results were achieved using this method. However, the first print was too dark and had been inadequately rubbed before printing. Further print runs resulted in better distribution of tone across the print and I was pleased with the final prints taken. I initially experimented with sepia for the sea and red tones for sky. This was intended to reflect war and bloodshed. However, it was not working well. My inexperience at colour rubbing meant that I left too much ink on the plate, leaving it very dense and lacking in tonal variation. The colour choices might have been more successful had my design been abstract rather than representational.
I then experimented with Prussian blue and mixed green for the sea and fish. The sky colour was created using mixed orange. These were applied using brushes and rubbed with scrim, rag and tissue to remove ink to add further colour variation to the print. The print was printed on Bread and Butter paper and Somerset. Unfortunately the paper kept tearing on removal from the plate. I kept one of the prints for experimentation in my sketchbook.
I experimented with varying conditions at home on the X press and achieved some reasonable prints with no tearing of paper on removal from the press. The most successful print required the addition of extender to the printing inks at mixing.
The desired colours were applied again, this time with the addition of extender and rubbed as before and printed on the Rochat press. The addition of extender allowed the paper to be cleanly removed from the plate, resulting in a successful print. However, the extender diluted the colour on the paper.I found that the most subtle results were obtained by adding white as a base colour and delicately rubbing colour into this. The Rochat press enabled me to achieve greater embossing on the paper which added to the interest of the print.
Valuable lessons were learned in carrying out this part of the project, particularly in relation to the way in which ink could be affected by factors such as temperature.
The addition of extender created ink texture which seemed to work better when trying to remove the paper from the collagraph plate after printing. Paper had to be soaked for the optimal conditions for the studio. Left in too long and the risk of tearing increased considerably. It was essential to ensure the paper was blotted adequately but not too dry.
Ink rubs were best applied dark over light areas with very thin ink diluted with extender. Undiluted ink tended to reduce the detail on the plate. I thought the final prints would work well as an illustration for a story.
Detailed planning ahead was needed to carry out the work in a busy print studio where presses have to be booked and other artists need access to the press. – Easier to experiment at home but limitations from the press
Print 3: Theme “Strange new Land”
My aims in developing the design for this print was to create a print which reflected the first impressions of the landscape from the sea as seen for the first time through the eyes of a migrant.
I imagined characteristics which might strike someone seeing the UK coastline. Words which came to mind were: Grey, cold, industrial, cliffs, factories, gulls, misty, rain. I wanted a semi-abstract, freer approach to this project, where the materials would to some degree dictate the final image. I used a variety of card and corrugated cardboard applied to the printing plate to create a semi-abstract landscape. The plate was prepared as before and inked up initially using black oil-based inks. Printing was carried out using the Rochat Press.
A monochrome proof was used to hand-colour the print using watercolour. This created a delicate effect. However, I had problems with the paper tearing at the edges of the print after soaking for stretching and had nor created enough prints to repeat the process. I then inked up the plate again using Caligo safewash inks applying a thin layer of white ink to which colour was then added. Colours were rubbed onto the plate to create muted grey tones, extender having been added to the printing inks. The image was printed onto Bread and Butter paper using the Rochat Press.
Overall, I was pleased with the quality of monochrome print obtained with this plate. My first print was too dark but later ones improved as I was able to gauge the correct most of rubbing to create the desirable tone.
I enjoyed experimenting with the application of watercolour. Taping down my damp print to stretch it properly to avoid tearing and cocking later would have improved the end result. Colour trials ahead of printing would have improved the final outcome of hand-colouring.
Small accidental features emerged after printing which I liked. The form of a small sailing boat can be seen in the foreground of the print. This fits well with the theme and adds abstract elements to the print.
Print 4 “Stepping out of the Shadows”
The plate from Part 1 was re-inked in colour for Part 4 of the series, using a mix of red and yellow to create the desired shade of orange. I wanted to create a print in colour which would visually represent happiness and freedom. The initial print created an image where the small character printed a deeper shade than the others. I then created a template to cut a replica of the shape in purple tissue. This colour was selected to create strong contrast with the orange. The purple tissue was stuck directly to the print to enable the colour of the tissue to retained in full.
I like the colour choices selected for the print and I feel that these are working well to create an optimistic mood within the print. I would like to experiment further using bonding of the tissue within the print. Overall I like the final result and would like to experiment further.