Friday 21 August 2015


You may have gathered by now that I am an artist who uses collagraph to make my work. I choose collagraph because it is an exciting, versatile and a creative way to make an intaglio plate. Not because I am unable or do not have the facilities to etch. It is a positive choice about the way I make my work.
applying carborundum
In the late 70's I did a fine art degree and learnt to etch on copper. Collagraph has been an extension of that process after discovering it being used at a Steiner school in Gloucester over 20 years ago.
gluing highlights
I spend a great deal of time looking up other collagraph artists and researching my chosen method. I am excited by other people's working processes.
shellacked plate
And this post has come about because I stumbled across an American Youtube video describing Collagraphy (a term I hate) as and I quote, 'Poor persons etching',  I am incensed to have my working process described in this way.
inking up
When not looking at cats on the computer or putting things on my Facebook page I check out what is happening in the printmaking world. It is good to know what is out there. I can see why galleries think that collagraph could be considered a second rate, ameteur printmaking process. For a start no one seems to know how to spell's Collagraph, not Collograph.
blue, brown and black inking
It's an intaglio process in it's own right and you need an etching press to print them. Relief printing them alone creates a thin image, a combination of the 2 creates magic.
Rook with Stag beetle 
There are wonderful role models to look up to, Brenda Hartill and Peter Wray, both have developed methods of making and inking collagraph plates, leading the way in raising the collagraph profile.
Collagraph with gum arabic transfer
There are really informative blog posts, information and books available.
Collagraph with gum arabic transfer
It seems to me that more than any other process, it's accessibility and low tech platemaking
Magpie with Longhorn beetle
is it's strength and leads to exciting, experimental images.
Rook with moth
I am completely absorbed by the process of making plates and over the years I have discovered the secrets to making collagraphs is in sensitively made plates and  the skill of technically correct inking.
Got it pegged
But the biggest questions we have to ask ourselves is, why are we using this process over other ways of plate making and what am I saying with it? To say that it is a poor persons etching has maddened me more than the constant misspelling of the process I am completely and wholeheartedly committed to. I know why I am an artist using collagraph printmaking...I would be interested in why you do, or even why you don't!!
The images of birds with labels and bulldog clips are from the plates I made at Art in Action. Got it pegged was inspire by my day out at Slimbridge.


Unknown said...

Hi Sue, I love your blog and your collagraphs. as a printmaker myself its always great to read about other peoples work processes. Can I just say that I find the text on your website very very difficult to read with the black on dark grey. It may be my monitor but I just thought I'd mention that. SH.

Hester Cox said...

Hi Sue, good post! As a fellow printmaker dedicated to collagraph I totally agree with you and it really irks me that some people look down on printmakers that choose collagraph as their main medium. I come across it fairly regularly and my students are often surprised that you can get such fine and sophisticated prints. I've even had arguments with other printmakers when they've stated that 'you can't get fine detail' in collagraphs! I choose collagraph because I like the directness of it and the fact that it is, in my opinion, the most diverse method of creating printed images. There is always an element of surprise and excitement when a new plate is proofed and some of the applied textures reveal themselves. I print using other methods at times but I always come back to collagraph and have done so for 21 years, Hester Cox

ClareSherwen said...

Great blog! I have been making collagraphs for over 20 years and yes it takes a bit of time and experimenting to get fine detail but it is well worth it. Some of the textures etc just can't be acheived by any other printmaking method which is why I always come back to collagraphs. I also hate the word collograph too!

Olga Norris said...

I love your work, and agree with you that the collagraph can be just as simple or as complex as an etching. It is possible to achieve a wider range of effects, and as with all processes, the quality of the work should be the measure.

I am still very much in the foothills of printmaking, and work with vinyl cuts because they can be done without a press. If I had a press the collagraph would be my choice.

By the way, I agree with Sarah Humby above about the text on your blog. It is very difficult to read even on my large pc monitor. Otherwise I very much enjoy your blog.

Unknown said...

Love your collagraphs! You have strong images here!

Sand Hill Art said...

1) I love your work 2) I thought it was only me who thinks your blog is difficult to read (I have to squint).

LAC EMP 2020 said...

Well, that opened up the floodgates for comments and touched a nerve old chum but everything you said was spot on and said with feeling. I loved my day working in the Yard on Wednesday and it does not take much to see that this process can be so expressive and detailed in the hands of someone with vision and experience. Interesting to read the comments about the colour of the typeface on the blog. I'd never noticed that and my eyesight is appalling as you well know!

Crish said...
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Crish said...
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Crish said...

"For a start no one seems to know how to spell's Collagraph, not Collograph."

It's worse than that! I visited a well-known gallery in Santa Fe displaying an Ansel Adams photograph (a Collotype) and they had put "Collagraph" on the label...!

But I agree, the misspelling also drives me bonkers (so much so that I had to subscribe to Wikipedia as an editor so I could change it from Collography to Collagraphy...

I also added the list of books so people could see they ALL spell it with an "a"! :)


Melody Knight Leary said...

Yes!!! it's Collagraph! And it's more difficult than one realizes to create a successful plate. I discovered the process in the early 70's and my thesis show consisted of collagraphs. Back then there weren't too many people familiar with the process but I fell in love with it because of its rich textural qualities and unlimited opportunities to push the envelope when it came to plate making and printing. Great post and wonderful work. Print on!! I

suzi said...

Hi Sue
Love your work and your blog. From a fellow collagraph printmaker can I just say Thank-you for your recent post. The depth detail and diversity I get from my plates never ceases to amaze me and yes the negativity in the 'art' world with regard to collagraph is immensely annoying, when you encounter such ignorance it's frustrating. Keep printing x

irene macwilliam said...

I love the delicacy of your prints, they are exquisite. I also find the text difficult to read on the grey background.

Denise said...

This is my 1st comment on your blog although I have been checking in for a long time. I am a printer and glass maker, I use collagraphs as both intaglio & relief prints on both paper and glass. I prefer to use recycled materials in all my work including the glass which is why it appealed to me as a student, but through continued experimentation and reading blogs like yours I have found it full of possibilities and exciting. So thank you for sharing and for all the inspiration. Dx

Anonymous said...

Hi Sue, your work is lovely and I find it fascinating. I have just started to play with collagraphs but I have a lot to learn before I will be producing anything near to the quality of your work.

I hope that you won't mind me asking but did you print "I've Got it Pegged" with the plate as shown above or did you stick it on to another piece of board?

Ellen Donnelly said...

Hi Sue, I am a beginner print maker - as nivice as one can get! So discovering your site extolling the virtues of collagraphs is inspiring! I think your prints are sophisticated and a wonder.I would love toprint (in time!!) some of New Zealand's (where I live) native birds.
Thankyou again, Ellen Donnelly

Unknown said...

oh soree, as NOVICE as one can get!

mandy walden said...

yeeha ! Good points well made. I cannot agree with you more. To be honest I think collagraph is far more difficult to master than other methods. I too always use collagraph and hate "collogrophy' which reminds me of a surgical procedure!!!

goodstuffmaynard said...

Thank you for sharing your passion and process. I'm taking a class on printmaking for art teachers and came across your blog. I shared your link with my classmates because I have never seen collagraphs printed this way. It opens up a whole new world! One of my classmates was wondering how the red string was done in several of your images. I could not tell for certain from the image if it was actual string, or whether you had done a 2 color print. Could you answer this for me?

ArtyKate said...

Hahaha, I know what you mean, but if he's saying collagraphy is an affordable way of creating an really interesting, textural printing plate, he's right! No acid baths, or extractor units, no de-greasing plates with amonia, no aquatint booths, if you want, you can chop up a collagraph with scissors (not an angle grinder). You can add to an existing plate with a bit of glue - Collagraphy ROCKS. Heck, I wouldn't go back - I couldn't go back. I don't have the room or the funds. Just because something can be created in a more affordable way, does NOT make it less relevant or a less skillful technique, if anything I think the material sourcing is one of the most imaginative processes. Don't let him get to you - he clearly doesn't know what he's missing.

Niamh Rush said...

Hi Sue, I have recently covered a three week printing module in a college art course I am undertaking. I have found your amazing collection of collagraph prints and the detailed tutorial such as this immensely helpful in my own work of this particular printmaking technique. Im glad to have come across your invaluable site and hope to see more of your prints in the future!

Unknown said...

Your work is exquisite! I've never made a collagraph and I know your expertise is built on many years of skill building, trial and error and practice but boy oh boy your art makes me want to try. I've taken note on the correct spelling as another website told me it could be spelt either way, tsk tsk

Lyn said...

Hi Sue,
I love your collagraphs, they are very beautiful. I spent a year in Italy at Il Bisonte in Florence in 2015. I did a long workshop as part of the year long specialization course in printmaking and graphic arts and the workshop was called "Collagraphia" and also "Collografo" depending on where someone was from as we had a few different teachers and my fellow students were mostly from different regions in Italy. I didn't get too fussed about what they called it as my Italian was not that good(still not that good either!) The post that I am commenting on was written quite a few years ago- actually while I was still in Italy, so you are probably not as annoyed about it now. I just find that there are so many different ways people say things or spell things or punctuate things that you could get annoyed about but it's not really worth it! I am also pretty sure people don't think collagraphy is poor man's etching anymore. I have been using copper sulphate to etch aluminium etching plates for 12 years and 12 years ago I was told at art school that I should use zinc and copper plates as it wasn't the "proper" way to etch and now a lot of those people are running aluminium etching workshops.

Anonymous said...

Hi I just read this blog post as I am looking at collagraph techniques I love your work ! Also looking at all the other ,methods of printing this way seems be the most emotive , sensitive , results. using a low impact method both physically and ecologically.
I am excited to use what I have learned to create work that will really engage viewers .