Monday, September 15, 2014

Collagraphy - where have you been all my life? :D

Happy Monday, everyone! WOWIE - I can't believe it's been TWO MONTHS since I last posted! That's so wrong. This summer was so fun and busy - MANY printmaking adventures to talk about, so I'll be jamming my blog full of blog posts in the coming weeks! I've also taken a position as an artist-in-residence at Sheboygan North High School here in Wisconsin (Thanks, Frank Juarez!)! It's such a great gig - I get to practice my art in my own studio, and the faculty and students learn how to apply school subjects to a career in the visual arts! I'm having a blast, and I'll be blogging about the works I'll be creating during the next 8 weeks! :D

Because it's been so long since I've posted, I have to do a little backtracking - to late June. For two weekends in a row I was able to participate in fun classes at the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum. I've already talked about the APA Wayzgoose, which was SO fun, but the following weekend I took another class, called Chipboard, Linoleum, and other Simple Reproduction Techniques. It was taught by Dafi Kuhne, a Swiss printmaker who spent his summer touring the States and doing various artist-in-residencies all over the country.

Dafi likes to print with chipboard. And you should see some of his posters! When you view them, you just assume he either used wood type or he carved his own blocks.  NO!  They're done mainly with chipboard!  Check out this short video, where he shows how he locked up the design for his "Nachtschicht" poster!

One of the first questions he asked us was, what kind of answers were we looking for in the print? Did we want texture, full color, odd shapes? I'll be honest - it took me a while to get in this groove! Since I'm used to either using letterpress blocks to print or just carving my own images in lino or wood, it was a strange question. And like many classes I take, I don't fully grasp the concept until way later. (Does this happen to anyone else? It's probably why I learned the most from classes I nearly failed in school!)

I spent the summer ruminating on these questions.  Then, just last Wednesday, I realized from the books I'd been reading and art I'd been seeing that I'd actually been thinking about collagraphy the entire summer!  (See, it just takes me a while sometimes!)  Of COURSE!  So I did what I normally do when I have these "eureka" moments - I search on Pinterest and check out videos on YouTube!

There was one video I discovered that, despite its age, was extremely helpful.  It was done at Virginia Commonwealth University sometime in the early Seventies, and it's called "Harvey McWilliams: Collagraph Technique in Printmaking".  If you can get past the hilarious warping of the soundtrack in the beginning (and the fact that you'll have that music going through your head for a week), it's a low-key tutorial that's really easy to follow.  One of the best things about it is that there's no instruction - just that soundtrack.  It's so enjoyable that I keep it as a tab on my computer.

After seeing that video, I was inspired!  I set to work the next day, as I knew I had an entire day where I could just work in my studio.  I kept Dafi's questions in mind, and I also watched and re-watched the Harvey McWilliams video about 20 times to see his inking technique.  Sometimes, though, you just have to forge your own way, so I just got to it.

I knew I wanted to make a design for one of the bulletin boards in my classroom studio at Sheboygan North, so I made shapes that were much bigger than I'm used to creating.  I really enjoy ovals, for some reason, so I made a hollow oval and a smaller solid one, and printed them on regular old chipboard using both oil and water-based inks.  The photo at the top is just one part of the bulletin board, and it's my favorite part.  I can't wait to do more with this technique!  It's SO freeing!


  1. Great post Mel....interesting concepts and applications!

    1. Thanks, Carol! I'm looking forward to doing more work with this technique! :D