Project 12: Collatype collage prints – ‘silence. is’ series

Further to my last tutor report she recommended I look at a website about book arts. She was not saying I should produce an artist book but more felt it was a useful resource to discover  contemporary printmakers’ work but after looking at this I felt inspired to create a book, considering it fits with the ideas of text and narrative that are filtering into my work.

I scanned in a number of my sketches that I had previously produced in my sketchbook and manipulated them into a square format. I also added in the first two lines of text from the EE Cummings poem.

These I traced onto 10cm square pieces of mountboard and produced plates utilising different methods.Exif_JPEG_PICTURE


I knew that I would have difficulty cutting the letters out at this small scale. Luckily the friend who lent me her embossing machine also recently acquired a cutting machine, so I was able to scan my image into her system and cut these out. I wanted to try both embossed and debossed versions of these.

The ‘looking bird’ was hand cut out of card then covered with gloss medium.

I decided to add the graph which signified the decline of the yellowhammers’ population – one using card and wire and the other with embroidery thread. I did them both way around not knowing which way was best.

The egg I made using various thicknesses of paper and card overlaid and adding textured elements using sand and glue.

The dead bird with wings outstretched was made by tearing the mountboard to reveal the shape.

The hanging bird was made using plaster, engraved with different tools to create texture.

To symbolise barbed wire I  made a plate with wood glue which had carborundum sprinkled on.

The next bird shape was created by cutting the shape out of card and sticking that on top of a mountboard plate that had been covered with clue then carborundum.

I wanted to try drypoint so produced an image of a bird in the hand.

Finally the last bird shape was made by using a stencil to block out the shape and glue was placed around this – the stencil was then removed and the carborundum was then sprinkled on top of this.

I first printed these blind on dampened cartridge paper without ink to produce embossings.

I was surprised at how well some of these turned out, even without ink. Then I used ink .

This was a challenge and took a long time to master. There were lots of variables to consider in this process: pressure; consistency of ink; dampness of paper; quality of paper; quality of plate. There was lots of trials and errors and many days of work before I got to some of a reasonable standard, here are some of my failed attempts and some towards the end that were starting to improve:

I was interested by how the carborundum in particular printed much more densely on the dampened printmaking paper rather than cartridge. I wonder whether some of the atmosphere is lost in that process? Something I would like my tutor’s feedback on.

To make the ‘book’ I decided to attach the pages together with a bulldog clip, unfortunately I noticed that the back cover sheet had been resting on another surface and had left black inky residue on the blind embossing which is a shame. Hopefully if I have time I will be able to run another of these off before I send.



What worked well?

  • This set of images conveys the ideas of loss, absence and presence that I was aiming for. I think in particular the blind embossed covers are reflective of this theme.
  • I have used a large variety of processes and a number of materials to produce this series.
  • A few of the plates were very successful: barbed wire, looking bird, egg shell, decline graph alongside the blind embossed versions.

What was challenging / didn’t work well?

  • There were many challenges with this set of prints. Initially I practised using dampened cartridge paper and realised that using specific printmaking paper had a very different outcome. Unfortunately due to financial limitations I only had one sheet of the somerset satin available so was not able to practice and produce as many prints as I would have liked.
  • The inked words are possibly a bit heavy in retrospect and could have done with some further wiping.
  • The dead bird with wings outstretched was possibly overwiped – I used cotton buds so this became more of a monotype than a collagraph ( for this image I think I prefer the relief printed version above).
  • With the 2 ‘bird shape’ prints I have tried to create works that are on the border of figurative and abstraction (referencing Prunella Clough’s negative space prints) I am not sure these have been completely successful in terms of outcome.


  • I am hoping to be able to invest in some more printmaking paper and then can revisit some of the weaker prints.
  • I would perhaps make some new plates with some added textural elements in some areas.
  • When I have produced a set that I am completely happy with I intend to learn how to bind them together. I have read that Japanese stab binding would be the best method for making a book out of loose leaves.
  • For this project I chose to stick to use monochrome  as I felt that this reflected the two oppositional forces, negative space and hauntology in the best way; however I would like to have an experiment in using multi-colours in these prints at some point in the future when I have time before assessment.





Project 12: Collatype Collage Prints – Print 2

For this next attempt I was considering my tutor’s comments about narrative from her feedback to my last assignment. I wanted to tell the story of the yellowhammer’s decline in a different way.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREI had recently been reading about the history of printmaking with its strong links to communicating social protest and political messages. I had come across the ‘Poster Workshop’ a group from the late 1960s who produced many protest posters. I can feel the anger and angst in their works. The messages are blatant and in your face. As a contrast I looked at some posters produced by contemporary graphic designers who are more subtle and ambiguous in their approach.

Text seems to be becoming an important element in my work so I wanted to include some here, but I didn’t want it to appear too obvious or aggressive. I started having a play with different words in my sketchbook.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREPoetry too is of influence and I recently came across this poem, ‘Silence’ by E.E. Cummings. It interested me how the poet is very visual in his approach, playing with the format of the text to create aesthetic value. The ambiguity of meaning and the continuing references to silence versus voice within the text feel very relevant to my theme of absence vs. presence.

After reading some of Derrida’s critical theory surrounding deconstruction I am drawn to these ideas of depicting two oppositional forces at once. I considered what I was trying to convey in this piece:

absence vs. presence

silence vs. voice

intensity vs space

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREIn continuing to research posters I remembered Peter Doig had produced a number of ‘movie posters’ which advertised different films for his studio film club. I find the atmosphere of Doig’s paintings particularly appealing but also Iwas struck by the idea of presenting my piece in a similar vein. Considering the meanings above alongside this context I came up with “The Intensive Exif_JPEG_PICTUREVoid” which I feel conveys a sense of drama and narrative.

From this title I came up with a few alternatives but found the image of a bleak field was the most relevant.

This reminded me of the works of fields by Anselm Kiefer. In these he used a limited subtle palette which worked to create a bleak and haunted atmosphere. Kiefer draws upon historical and political references in his work. The idea for these relating to the period after the 2nd world war when  Henry Morgenthau Jr, recommended that Germany be ‘demilitarised and deindustrialised’ (Gayford, 2014).

The plate was made using the back of an old painting that had been produced on canvas board cut to A3 size. I drew the field shape and added text on printer paper (remembering to glue it down back-to-front); pieces of masking and parcel tape were also used, alongside wood glue and sand, plus I scored into the board in some areas.

To print I used 2 rollers: soft for blue ink and hard with black. I liked how the sand did not take the ink in places at the top of the image. I felt that this added to a distressed look reminiscent of disintegrating movie film. These textures all worked together to produce atmosphere: an intensity whilst still appearing bleak, which is what I was trying to convey.


What worked well?

  • The broad range of contextual research: posters, paintings and poetry have informed my process well and come together to produce an interesting outcome.
  • Using only thin surface materials of a relatively similar height have created a good range of textures.
  • The sand is a contrast which adds to a sense of decay / deterioration.
  • Printing in two colours with differing rollers adds to a mood / atmosphere.

What was challenging / didn’t work so well?

  • I found cutting the text out to be quite a fiddly process.
  • For some reason I used masking tape on three sides and not the fourth so the border is not consistent around the edge.


  • I would like to carry on this theme using the poem but also with the representations of the bird in a smaller format, printed in intaglio.


Gayford, M (2014) Anselm’s Alchemy [online] at: (Accessed: 14th June 2016)



Project 12: Collatype collage prints (Background)

The instructions for this part of the course asks that I work ‘towards a series of representational images.’

My husband recently found a dead yellowhammer on our patio and put it in the freezer knowing that I would be interested in drawing this at some stage. I felt that it would be a useful starting point for this project, with obvious links to hauntology.

Initially I produced a number of sketchbook studies. I was quite affected by the dead bird in front of me. At once shocked and repulsed but then also interested and saddened by the bird’s demise. I think these feelings were in my mind as I produced some quite expressive drawings.

Upon looking back at these I was interested by how the shape of the bird conveyed a sense of loss and sadness.

As I am also interested in archive – combining images from the past with the present, I took some photos of this yellowhammer. I remembered a few years ago we also found an injured bird in our garden and tried to help it recover. My husband had taken a few photos which I could utilise, plus I found a few public domain images on wiki-commons:

Birds collage

From these I produced other sketches. I was particularly drawn to the shapes of the birds and how evocative these were. I had been looking at the work of Prunella Clough, in particular her ‘Primitive Plant’ print. In this I liked the way that she had reduced the subject down to its bare essentials. She was left with the negative space that is ‘there but not there’: absence and presence. I felt that this approach to the subject matter could work well as a series of small images printed intaglio, which I will return to after producing the relief prints.