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Collagraph to frottage: a journey of happy errors

Updated: Jun 17, 2020

I have recently been inspired by two artists, particularly the way they represent mountains:

Shay Docking for her texture and abstracted movement:

and John Ross:

In particular, I love John Ross's collagraphs of mountains and gorges because the really relate to my theme of Afghan mountains and combine a materiality to the notion of place, with its textures, layers and the buffeting of difference in a harmonious way.

For my new project I've had the good fortune to come across a book in my personal library on "Practical Print Making" by Louise Woods (thank you clever clogs little sister who won the book randomly for being year nine dux!).

I've used Louise Wood's example of a mountainous landscape to mock up my first collagraph. I have used a combination of cardboard, newspaper, tissues, sandpaper, textured plastic, string and a textured shower mat. I actually bought the shower mat for a safe working mat for my linocut project. I have too much, so I can use the excess for my collagraph, taking care as I just the thick rubber. I've layered the shapes together and completed the first coat of milky white PVA watered down.

I am not sure how the disparate heights of the different materials will work in the print, but it is an interesting first start.

After the PVA has dried I frottage the image. It looks quite basic. I want to create a more complex work. I tape the collagraph board to a piece of Japanese paper and begin rubbing it with browns, greens and blues.

I realise the image looks better flipped upside down. It actually looks like a more dramatic mountain range. The planned composition was this:

But I like it a lot more like this:

I am particularly happy with the texture of the rubber shower mat and the ripped cardboard. I realise the significant disparity in heights in this plate would have made it extremely difficult to print. It might not actually have been possible in fact. I'm glad I can use frottage to utilise the work I have done in making the collagraph board.

I add depth with the frottage with my daughter's coloured crayons and pencils. I'm so glad she has such a vast array and I had colour coded them in jars in a rather OCD manner before uni had started.

Pink and magenta overtones bring the dynamic warmth I am after and I feel that the more abstract colours work best for the image.

The image is coming together, but I feel it needs more depth and texture to depict the rugged nature of the Afghan mountain range. I am inspired by the beautiful textures depicted in Print Maker Reika Iwami.

I use military map marking stencils I have also been using for my lino cut image. I somewhat regret drawing directly on the paper because the line made is too harsh.

Partly to distract away from the magenta stencil lines I don't like I use a graphite pencil to darken the creases of the mountains. I also use the smaller stencil to create a subtler look.

There are some interesting textures coming though. The soft graphite adds to the more blended look I am after.

I can see the tiny military symbology through the mountain range: friendly, enemy, weapons, vehicles, manournvers and actions. It's an interesting effect and says something of the narrow sense in which you could see the beautiful landscape. The piece also says something to the themes of scale, repetition and materiality with this project.

All in all I am happy with this print:

Mostly though, I enjoyed how this project evolved throughout a series of happy mistakes and experiments.

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