A new collagraph print with surface roll – Banksia serrata 3

After a year of being in sort-of recess, I am getting back into art making and growing an art business.  Studio time is blocked out, and and a new collagraph print has been made.  It’s a little different this time, as I decided to use a surface relief roll (as you would for a linocut print) together with the usual intaglio inking.  See details for making a purchase below.

Banksia serrata 3, EV1/8, ©Jacky Lowry, collagraph print with relief roll of real Banksia serrata leaves.
Banksia serrata 3, 1/8

I chose orange for the background because the flowers are orange (though perhaps not quite so bright).
I’ll take you through the process of working with two colours together. Really, the only extra tasks are to prepare and apply the second colour.  

Jacky Lowry artist and printmaker; Orange relief ink laid out on workbench, with a roller brayer.
Orange relief ink laid out, with a roller brayer.

You can apply more than one colour to a printing plate with good relief, using what is known as Viscosity Printing.  It works because oil based inks that have different viscosities will not easily mix, and so can sit on top of each other. I used a dark, green-black intaglio ink with a relief ink (linocut ink) for the surface roll. However, just adding a little oil to a second (or third) colour of intaglio ink will change the viscosities, and that will also work.

In the image, behind the orange ink laid out on glass, you can see my dark intaglio ink, partly exposed from under its protective layer of aluminium foil. (Oil-based inks keep very well in aluminium foil, but not plastic film.)   

Jacky Lowry artist and printmaker; The Banksia 3 collagraph printing plate being intaglio inked up using a brush.
Intaglio inking the printing plate.

I use a brush to add intaglio ink to my collagraph plates, adding Easy Wipe as necessary to ensure spreadability.  I don’t want a stiff ink.  A brush lets me apply ink into all the nooks and crannies of plant collagraph plates. The first inking of a plate is always thorough and complete, but subsequent inkings can be quite light, as plate wiping evens out the ink and provides plate tone. In any case, most of the ink is wiped off. For plate wiping I use soft knit cotton or polyester/cotton waste cloth.  I find tarlatan much too stiff and rough for wiping cardboard-based collagraph plates.  Another reason for not wanting a stiff ink.

Collagraph printing plate with a surface roll of relief ink.
Collagraph printing plate with a surface roll of relief ink.

Next the orange relief ink is rolled over the top. This takes several passes as my roller is not wide enough for one go. To get the leaf patterns inked in black, I wiped off the orange ink, first with soft knit cloth. and then more completely with plain, fragrance-free baby wipe.  In the image, the top two leaves are partially wiped.  Once the leaves were cleaned (mostly) of orange ink, they were gently brushed with a thin layer of dark intaglio ink to catch their vein patterns.

The Reveal - Paper being removed from a freshly-printed collagraph plate - The Reveal
The Reveal – lifting the paper off a newly printed plate.

Here you see the moment truth, The Reveal, when the plate has just been through the press, and the paper is pulled back for the first time.  There is always a moment of a little tension – quite addictive.

Roller showing dark ink picked up from the printing plate.
Roller after applying relief ink to an intaglio inked plate.

 

 

 

One of the irritations of using two or more colours in a single printing is that the plate and the roller must be cleaned between printings. The roller picks up bits of the dark intaglio ink, which if not cleaned off will contaminate and change the colour of the relief ink.

In the past, before discovering plain baby wipes, I would have changed to nitrile gloves (which don’t deteriorate with turps, but are more expensive), taken everything outside (for better ventilation) and cleaned down the roller and the plate with rags and messy turps.  The baby wipes can be used in the studio with my usual gloves and make the process so much easier.

Banksia serrata 3 print close-up showing leaf details.
Print close-up showing leaf details.

This close-up of a print shows that my technique of gently brushing in details before printing is very effective.  

Well, the printing is finished, but the process is not complete.  I will let the prints sit for a few days to let the ink cure further.  Then comes numbering and signing each print with pencil, in the usual printmaking tradition.  That done, there is the documentation.  Images of the plate and prints are scanned (done) before the cured prints can be sleeved and numbered.  I keep records of my art on my computer, and also in my Artwork Archives account.

Banksia serrata 3 prints in drying rack.
Banksia serrata 3 prints in drying rack.

And now I’m thinking of printing another edition from this plate, with the background painted in my usual fashion.  I’ll show you when it is done.

Banksia serrata 3, EV1/8, ©Jacky Lowry, collagraph print with relief roll of real Banksia serrata leaves.

 

 

 

 

To make a purchase, contact me.

Banksia serrata 3, © Jacky Lowry, a variable edition of eight collagraph prints.
Image size:  
 11 cm  x  26.5 cm
Paper size:    23.5
cm  x  37.5 cm
Price:              AU$150 plus p&p.

View the image in greater detail in Artwork Archive. 

 

 

 

The Story of Grace, my printing press

One of the disconcerting things about graduating from art school is that you lose access to specialised tools. I had discovered the joys of printmaking as a student, but now, suddenly, it became a lot harder to do.  I was living in Brisbane, Australia at the time, and so I joined the Brisbane Institute of Art (BIA), taking printmaking classes and sometimes hiring their press, but it wasn’t the same.  I couldn’t work on a plate in my studio at home and proof it to see how I was going, and then print an edition.  Packing up all my stuff, my inks and paper to take to the BIA was such a burden, that after a while printmaking just dropped away.

Detail of batik scarf, ©Jacky Lowry.Instead I began to focus on my other love – textiles, especially the making of batik.  I was producing my own stamps, or caps (pronounced “chaps” to rhyme with “ups” by the Indonesians) and using these to put down wax shapes.  This is essentially printing (stamping) with wax, so there was a similarity with what I had been doing.

Image Left: Scan of part of a handmade batik scarf, made with handmade frangipani flower stamps.

But I continued to long for, to lust after, a press of my own.  I was working big at the time, so believed I would need a big press.  And I couldn’t see a way of justifying such a large expenditure to the family.  Then one day I realised that while I did need a big press to print an edition with a large plate, I didn’t actually need a large press to just proof such a plate.  A small bench-top press has a bed that is plenty big enough to get an impression off even a very large printing plate.  Once I was satisfied, I figured, I would be able to hire a press to print an edition. I decided that I could impose the cost of a small bench-top press on the family.  But before I could action this plan, some marvelous events occurred around the same time, and I ended up with the printing press of my dreams. This would have been around 2003 – I forget the exact timing.

First my mother gave me some money. She never forgot that at a time of great need a request for assistance had been refused by her mother, even though it could easily have been afforded. My parents were desperately short of funds, having moved to a new land with small children.  Mum could wait until she inherited it.  In the light of that experience, my mother decided she would give any spare money she had to her children while she was still living, and while they could make good use of the funds.  Out of the blue, my mother gave each of her four children a useful sum.  I didn’t link this money to a printing press then, though.  I thought perhaps I might buy a good camera.

And then came something really miraculous, for at around the same time, my siblings and I came into a totally surprising little inheritance from Holland.  An old man had passes away without a will.  He had no siblings, had never married and had no children, so his estate was divided in halves to be distributes between the offspring of his parents.  We came in on the father’s side, and it was our father who was the descendant.  And because our father had also died, the four of us received a quarter each of his share. 

Jacky Lowry artist and printmaker; Grace's name tag on my printing press.Add the amount I was willing to spend on a bench press to the promise of two lots of unexpected money, and suddenly the prospect of actually getting a big press became a viable option. I researched the characteristics and costs of various etching presses, eventually settling on a Mitomel press, manufactured in South Australia.  One of its features is an individually etched plate with a name for the press.  I felt very blessed by God to suddenly have the money for the etching press of my dreams.  It was an act of grace, and I called my press Grace.

Jacky Lowry artist and printmaker; Grace the printing press, packed in her travel crate.

Choosing a name for my press was the easy bit.  Installing Grace in my studio was more challenging.  Here you see Grace packed up in her travel crate in the trailer, after we had collected her from the transport depot in Brisbane.  The unpack has started. Her stand had been strapped to the top of the crate during transport, and this has already been removed.  The idea was that we would lift Grace in her crate with the old excavator, and trundle her to my studio window, to be lifted inside through the window and placed on her stand. 

What follows is a series of images showing Grace progressively getting closer to being installed onto her stand in my studio.  First we see Grace in her crate outside the studio window, ready for the lift in, followed by an image of me guiding the crate through the window. Notice that the right window frames has been removed, to let Grace’s crate fit through.

Jacky Lowry artist and printmaker; Grace the printing press in her travel crate, ready for lifting into the studio.

Jacky Lowry, artist and printmaker, guiding Grace the printing press in her travel crate into the studio.

Next you see the crate in the studio, as viewed from the outside, and the inside. There was very little space for the excavator boom, as both images illustrate.  We only just managed.

Grace, the printing press is through the window and into the studio.Grace the printing press, still in her travel crate, on her stand in the studio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Lowry, my husband, was the hero of the operation, thinking it through and operating the excavator.  Below you see him through the studio window, manoeuvring the excavator very slowly and very carefully because it was very old, and quite sloppy in its handling. Remarkably, fifteen years after the events described here, this excavator is still going, and needs even more careful and thoughtful handing.  The next image shows Grace on her stand, with most of her crate demolished.  

David Lowry manoeuvring Grace's travel crate onto the stand.

Grace the printing press, with most of her travel crate removed, on the stand.

 

 

 

 

 

David and I got the crate out from under the press by jacking it up and shifting out bits of timber one at a time, carefully removing the base of the crate until the press was fully settled on her stand.  You see the penultimate stage below, with just two bits of timber left.  And finally, the press is ready for use.

Grace the printing press, nearly settled onto her stand.

Jacky Lowry, artist and printmaker, with Grace, the printing press newly installed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emmanuel Diakomichalis, who had built the press, had recommended we find four burly blokes to carry the heavy press and lift it onto the stand, but David though we could manage alone.  With a bit of thought, and the judicious use of levers, an old man and an old woman, and an old excavator, managed very well.

 

 

 

 

 

In Memoriam – the story of a print

How did I come to write for a printmaking magazine?

Pressing Matters is a wonderful, rather new printmaking magazine, that started in 2017. Their last article is always The Story Behind the Print, and while reading one earlier in the year, it occurred to me that I had a print with a story.  Why not offer an article for that position?  What a buzz to have my proposal accepted.  Not for the coveted Story Behind the Print, to be sure, but to be included in the magazine as a small Bits & Pieces article for the August 2019 issue was such an honour.

After the article and images has been posted off, and the text had been edited and finalised, there came the longish wait for the physical magazine to be delivered, and I could finally see what my print looked like in print.  The wait was reminiscent of an aspect of printmaking that is almost addictive – the reveal.

Jacky Lowry artist and printmaker, the Reveal - that moment when the paper is first lifted off a newly printed plate.. The Reveal is a compelling, almost adictive feature of printmaking that draws me back, over and over again. It is that moment when the press has run over an inked plate for the first time – actually any time – and you pull back the blanket, and lift up the paper to see how it turned out – a moment of anticipation and tension.

The wait is perhaps not quite so stressful, but full of anticipation none the less.

So here are screen shots of the Images and article, as written by the editor from my material. (P.9, Pressing Matters Issue 8, 2019).  

I didn’t have this website published at the time, so the one listed below the article is for my profile page on the Peace of Green websitePeace of Green (or PoG as it is affectionately know to its members) is an artists collective in my nearest village, Maleny, Queensland, Australia.

Now for the full story – or How the print edition of In Memoriam Rien Hos 1916 – 2017 came to be made.

Rein Hos was my mother, who lived in Albany, Western Australia, until she died at 101 years in August 2017.  She was Oma to her grandchildren and great grandchildren.  Towards the end of the wake after her funeral, my daughter and son went for a drive, revisiting places they knew from childhood while staying with Oma.  In particular they stopped at one of her old addresses, now a vacant block, with the house demolished but some garden plants still left growing.

They wandered around for a bit, and my daughter picked some sprigs of lavender.  Which she left in the car.  I saw the lavender next morning, as we prepared to return home, and promptly claimed it. “I can print with that!”  Lavender is a lovely subject for collagraph printmaking, and this was no ordinary lavender.  It had come from what remained of one of Oma’s gardens.  Wrapped in damp tissue to help it keep, the lavender returned with me, all the way to Queensland (on the other side of Australia, about as far away as one can get from  Albany).

Back home, a few days later this special lavender was made into a collagraph printing plate, and over the next few months worked on to make it print-ready.  In all, 16 prints were pulled.  Usually I sell my collagraph printing plates (they wear out in printing), as well as the prints, but gradually the idea formed that this was one edition that I would never sell. The prints have a personal significance and I decided that I would only ever give them away.

Which I did. Different versions of this variable print edition were offered to Oma’s children and grandchildren, and then packaged up and posted to their various addresses, mostly in Western Australia.  The remaining prints can be given away as I see fit, and I am keeping three versions. The plate also stays with me, a memorial to my mother, Rien Hos.

Jacky Lowry artist and printmaker, collagraph printing plate of "In Memoriam.""In Memoriam"  EV1/16, ©Jacky Lowry, Collagraph print on paper."In Memoriam"  EV2/16, ©Jacky Lowry, Collagraph print on paper.

 

"In Memoriam"  EV4/16, ©Jacky Lowry, Collagraph print on paper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three versions came about because I kept changing my mind as to which I liked best – no coloured background, a lavender coloured background, or a paler version.  The little bit of colour you see in the plain one above is an artefact of being on the web.  It’s not in the original scan and I don’t know how to make it go away (yet).

And just a little thing to note in the images.  There is a wobble in the stems just under the flower heads. Lavender is a tough plant, but by the time I started the plate, the lavender had wilted a bit, and I couldn’t get the stems to stay straightened out.

Image details:   In Memoriam Rien Hos 1916 – 2017, ©  Jacky Lowry,
                            Collagraph printing plate; and collagraph prints no.s 1/16; 2/16; 4/16
Image size:       15.5 cm x 15.5 cm   
Paper  size:       26.5 cm x 29.5 cm
                           Not for sale

Printing a collagraph

COLLAGRAPH PRINTING IS A PROCESS

For the last couple of months I’ve been very focused on getting this website built, even more so than the downsizing project. (Read why we have to start downsizing here.)  But in between decisions about accumulated stuff,  I felt the need of an art break.

Later in the year Maleny Printmakers are will be holding their annual “Collectables” Exhibition, and this post outlines how I made a print for that.  (Find out about the Maleny Printmakers here – the header image is my studio, by the way.)

There are quite a few steps in getting a collagraph edition made.

Jacky Lowry's art and printmaking studio keeping cosy in winter.1. Have the fire on all day for a cosy atmosphere on a cold winter’s day. The fan circulates the heat from a little stove beautifully around the large studio.

Jacky Lowry artist and and printmaker collagraph printing plates.2. Chose a collagraph printing plate. I have many unprinted plates to choose from – some made while on mother-care duties in Albany, Western Australia, and others from around where I live. However, for this exhibition I need a small plate, and that limits my choices. Collectables prints are small, printed on 13.5cm x 11.5 cm paper, to fit into a CD case – hence “collectable”.

It so happens I have some really small plates. They were made for a miniature print competition (maximum area four square inches) that I never got around to entering. At the same time I made a few slightly larger ones as well.

Jacky Lowry artist and printmaker, tiny collagraph printing plates.

 

Here they are laid out on bits of paper, so I can choose. They are dear little plates, so I will show you some of them.

             

 


Self-sown Hoop Pine Seedling  
                              Herb Robert (a cranebill)           Kangaroo Grass

Jacky Lowry artist and printmaker, tiny collagraph printing plate of Hoop Pine.

Jacky Lowry artist and printmaker, tiny collagraph printing plate of Herb Robert.Jacky Lowry artist and printmaker, tiny collagraph printing plate of kangaroo grass seed heads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh Bottlebrush Growth                                       Lantana Leaf                        

Jacky Lowry artist and printmaker, tiny printing plate of fresh bottlebrush plant growth.Jacky Lowry artist and printmaker, tiny collagraph printing plate of well-munched Lantana leaf.I finally decided on the larger Lantana Leaf. I love the lacy look caterpillars have left.

In Queensland Australia, Lantana is a pest species, and I rather enjoyed the idea that this pest has a pest of its own.

 

 

3. Next, cut or tear the paper to size – 13.5 cm x 11.5 cm. One of the advantages of a small paper size is that I can use up off cuts of printmaking paper. Soon I had a nice little pile of 12 pieces of paper, ready to prepare for printing.

Jacky Lowry artist and printmaker, printmaking paper cut to size for printing tiny collagraph plate.Jacky Lowry artist and printmaker, registration marks on the back of printmaking paper, to help with printing.

4. To help with the printing, I then make registration marks – a little pencil mark in the centre of the top and bottom edges of the back of the paper. These, with the help of a registration sheet, will let me print the plate in the centre of the paper every time.


Jacky Lowry artist and printmaker's registration sheet for printing tiny collagraph plate. 5. Here is the registration sheet.  The vertical line is in the centre, and the horizontal lines measure 1 cm intervals above the outline of the plate, centrally placed along the vertical line.

The inked plate is placed on the outline, and the paper is then laid on top of the plates. level with one of the horizontal lines, and with the registration marks on the central vertical.

That sounds more complex than it is.  See the pictures below.

 

Lantana plate, centrally placed in its outline, on the registration sheet.  Paper is placed over the inked plate, with registration marks aligned to the central vertical line.

Jacky Lowry artist and printmaker, tiny Lantana collagraph printmaking plate centrally aligned on the registration sheet.Jacky Lowry artist and printmaker, printmaking paper with registration marks centrally aligned on the registration sheet.

5. But there is more. I can’t just start printing with the marked pieces of paper yet. They must first be dampened to soften the paper fibres so that they will better bend over the shapes on the collagraph plate during the printing.
Jacky Lowry artist and printmaker, printmaking paper being dampened by spraying with water.
I spray water over both sides of the paper, lay them on top of each other and cover with a towel.

Jacky Lowry artist and printmaker, water-sprayed printmaking paper sitting between dampened towel overnight.

  1. The wet paper sits between dampened towel overnight, so that the water spreads evenly throughout the paper, leaving it damp, not “wet”. When you see all the steps involved in making a collagraph print (and I didn’t even detail the plate making), you can see why it is that printmaking tends to appeal to people who like working with process.

 

Lantana Leaf 1, © Jacky Lowry, Hand coloured collagraph print.Lantana Leaf 1, © Jacky Lowry: the finished product, ready for display at the Maleny Printmakers Collectables 2019  Exhibition in November 2019. I’ll update you closer to the event.