Category Archives: Reflection

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.

Project 8: Reduction linoprints

Printmaking 1: Part 3
Advanced and Experimental Relief Prints
Project 8: Reduction method linocutting

Title: “Come Live with me and be my love”



The inspiration for the title of this project came from the first line of the poem “The Passionate Shepherd to his Love”, (Marlowe, 1564, Cited in Barber, 2007: 169). In the poem a young shepherd professes his love for his sweetheart and asks her to come to live with him, setting out a romantic vision of their future lives together.

I wanted to link this theme to my father’s thoughts in the latter years of his life when he lived alone following the eventual loss of his two partners, often reflecting on his feelings for his loves.

In the last few months of his life, two nesting pigeons set up home on his balcony and raised several sets of chicks. My dad loved the pigeons as he was virtually housebound and during this time he had a direct view of the nest from his chair and watched them with great fondness over the months. Together we could observe how devoted they were to the chicks, taking turns to forage for food and to guard the nest.

We were able to directly observe their habits, which was both an unusual privilege and an opportunity for us to share happy times together in the final months of his life. I wanted to use the pigeon motif to develop the love theme, using text quoted from Christpher Marlowe’s poem to represent my fathers dreams and reminiscences of his earlier life.

Pigeons are intelligent birds who mate for life, sharing the rearing of their offsprinbetween them. They are commonly seen as symbols of peace ( the dove) and within some religious traditions, are associated with the reincarnation. ( 21 Amazing facts about pigeons, http://www.pigeoncontrolresource

I was keen to explore the creative possibilities of using pigeons in my own reduction print, having admired the detailed and expressive prints of the artist Mark Hearld. Of particular interest was a print called “Pigeons in the Park” which shows two pigeons facing each other directly with the detail of the park and a passer-by walking a dog in the background. The composition works very well, with the background elements helping to create a sense of depth and perspective in the work. The use of strongly contrasting red ink for the details of the birds’ eyes and feet I’d particularly striking against the neutral black, white and pale yellow used for the rest of the print (Hearld, M, 2012:42).

I was particularly interested in how the artist represented the plumage of his courting birds, striking a perfect balance with the amount of detail he used in the prints without confusing the overall picture. The artist manages to convey perfectly the relationship between the birds by positioning them facing each other. As a newcomer to printing, I wanted an opportunity to add detailed cutting into to my own work and to try to explore the challenges of balancing detail with overall visual appeal.

For my own print, I decided to use a similar approach to composition, placing the birds facing each other to suggest a nesting pair. For the background elements of the print I wanted to try to reproduce the scene from my father’s balcony, with the distant hills and sky beyond and the balcony in the mid ground, running across the picture plane and dividing it into thirds, with the birds located mainly in the lower two thirds, and the background sky and hills in the upper third.

To observe the detail of pigeon plumage, I visited my local art gallery and museum which has a large natural history section and sketched a number of pigeon exhibits in close detail. I also visited my local park in an effort to observe the birds in motion. However, they were scared off by passing dogs and this became a bit of a futile exercise. In the end, I relied on my museum sketches to observe the plumage at close quarters.


Preliminary sketches 

Colour Choices

My chosen colour choices for the print we’re white, yellow, grey, aubergine and black, influenced by a magnificent aubergine coloured pigeon in the museum which I decided would make an interesting colour choice for the plumage and the head of the large male The feet, beaks and rings around the eyes of the birds, which were to be printed yellow and this was the first to be printed.

I was very keen to include the text within my print, picking up the first line of the Marlowe poem. I used the computer to generate my script which I then used for the print. The text was carved out at the top and bottom of the Lino to be left white in the finished work. I intended to try to capture some light on the eye of both birds and removed Lino here, unfortunately over -cutting the centre of the eye of the smaller bird , making it impossible to later print a darker colour in the centre of the eye of the smaller bird. This was disappointing as it was impossible to correct later unless colour was added by hand.

I made a decision to add black back in manually at a later stage as I felt the lack of the black centre of the eye greatly reduced the effect I wanted with the print.

I also later regretted the way in which the sky was cut away to remain white using such coarse cutting tools and felt that I should have left more areas to be printed in the grey colour later. Too much white in the sky did not work well in the print.

The next colours to be printed were the grey of the background aubergine of the plumage and the head of the larger male bird and a line to create an inner border around the picture frame. This is a device which I had also observed in the work of the artist, Mark Hearld, where I particularly liked his collages, the Brown Hare and the Mountain Hare, created as a pair, and each featuring a separately created border framing the prints and linking the two prints to strengthen the pairing. The placing of the hares facing each other adds a very pleasing visual symmetry to the pair. The use of differing colours in both prints picks up the seasonal changes between Autumn and winter, something which I experimented with in my own pigeon print. Hearld, M. 2012: 90-91).

A mixed grey used for the some plumage, sky and part of the distant hills. Finally aubergine was used for the head of the large pigeon, feathers and a border.

Black ink was used to overprint a number of the prints to give more definition to the text, leaving the inner aubergine border but printing the balcony struts, outlines around the birds and the larger bird’s eye black. And to compare how black outlines worked for this subject.

For one print, white was used where black had been used above to creat the impression of a winters scene and to help to balance the White of the sky which I felt was too dominating in the previous prints.

Critical Assessment of Final Prints


Selection of final prints

What Worked Well

• I was quite pleased with the registration of the various layers throughout the process. I think that use of the cardboard jig helped greatly with registration, something which I would recreate in the appropriate size for future prints.

• The composition placing the birds in the centre of the picture plane is working well and their symmetry adds to the visual appeal of the print.

• The plumage on both birds worked surprisingly well, with the detail of the feathers striking a good balance between creating a realistic view of the birds but not over-dominating the overall picture.

• The horizontal and vertical struts of the balcony provide good contrast to the softness of the birds’ plumage and help to divide up the picture plan in a visually pleasing way.

• I felt the colour choices seem to be working, with the black final print layer working well. I think the addition of the black ink as a final layer strengthens the work.

What did not work well

• The use of white for the sky dominates the print, although this effect is diminished by printing a final layer in either black or white. I think this problem has arisen from the large gorge used to remove Lino for the sky. I should have kept more Lino uncut to improve the colour balance in the sky.

• The eye of the smaller email bird is spoiled by the excessive removal of lino resulting inwhite where black should have been. I think this is such a big problem. I will add this in by hand after the assignment has been assessed.

• The cutting of the text needs much more practice. I really liked the concept and would like to add in more elements of interest in this area in future work.

• My choice of paper was not ideal, with slight crinkling of the paper by the final print. Achieving adequate coverage of the paper by the black ink was difficult and I wondered whether this might also be sure to the paper I selected.

21 Amazing facts about pigeons, (2009) Available at: http://www.pigeoncontrolresource (Accessed: August 2016).

Barber, L. (2007) Penguin Poems for Life. Edited by Barber Laura. 1st edn. London: Penguin Group.

Hearld, M. and Martin, S. (2012a) : Mark Hearld’s Workbook . 1st edn. London, New York: Merrell .

Hearld, M. and Martin, S. (2012b) Mark Hearld’s Workbook. London, New York: Merrell


Project 4 :Variations using masks and multi-colours

Further experimentation adding colour and using masks to develop prints: 

I used the additional prints carried out earlier as the base for printing successive layers using a variety of techniques, including: impressed texture, backdrawing and masking. Using a small sketch of the view from the studio window, I attempted to recreate the image using print.

I used tracing paper, I created a number of masks to add additional colour to emphasise the house gable end and the trees. I dropped water on the printing plate to vary the texture in the foreground, which added interest by was difficult for me to control.

I then covered all areas except the sky to allow me to balance the colour composition of the prints as some areas were too pale.

On some prints, I used backdrawing and imprinting with corrugated cardboard to build up the form of the houses.

Landscapes produced from layered colour ask and impressed techniques 


I really enjoyed using these techniques. However I did find it difficult to create fine detail. However, the effects created by the printing process really added to the visual interest of the prints. For this reason, it was even more important to thoroughly plan the pieces as well as possible before starting printing.

Wome of the prints are quite well registered, but the addition of masks seemed to make this more difficult to achieve due to slippage of the sides of the masks. I tried taping these down with masking tape but ther was still some dragging across the print.