About Collagraph Printmaking
A collagraph is a hand-made print that is generated off a printing plate that is a collage of various material. For my pieces, I start with a sturdy backing board of plain masonite panel. I then glue down shapes of bristol paper on this board that delineate the major elements of my design. I paint over this paper with acrylic gel mediums to add texture and detail to the design, and to prevent the bristol paper from being saturated with ink when it’s time to print.
Once the acrylic is dry, the plate is ready to print. I cover the entire plate with an oil-based etching ink and use tarlatan (starched cheesecloth) to wipe away excess ink. The end result is that ink remains stuck in the textured and recessed areas of the block, but wipes away from smooth areas. These result in the “darks” and “lights” of the image respectively. Dampened printing paper (I use Magnani Pescia, a bright white, Italian, 100% cotton paper) is then laid on top of the plate, felt blankets are laid on top of the paper, and it all is cranked through the etching press. The pressure of the press embosses the paper into the plate, forces it into all the recesses, and allows the ink to be drawn out onto the paper. Most of my images have multiple colors, which requires that separate plates be made for each color. The multiple plates are printed one at a time, working from the lightest to darkest colors.
I generally print my images in small editions of 20 to 30 prints. The printing plates are capable of being printed many more times before any deterioration of the image occurs, but I enjoy keeping my editions to this limited size. Although there are multiple prints of the images, each print is considered an original piece of art because it is generated entirely by the artist’s hand, not by using a mechanized reproduction process.