Figure 1: “Let Glasgow Flourish”
Final coloured collagraph: Black ink over masked colour
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.
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.