The collagraph

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The collagraph is an experimental technique of engraving in elaborating a matrix based on a base hit items that can be inked and printed. His main contribution to the world of graphics is the replacement of traditional arrays by others radically different, which led to a fundamental rethinking in terms of technical design and aesthetics.

It is known that in the nineteenth century were used for copper and zinc plates with attached elements. Bicolor was Gypsograph Pierre Roche "Algues Marines" in 1893, although its origin was in fact in the Metal Print by the german Rolf Nesh. Nesh, nationalized in Norway where collected has a museum, was perhaps the first cut, paste and assemble elements (metal case) with the intent to stamp later doing in 1932 the "Hamburg Bridges" work under this procedure. Years later, Michel Ponce de Leon made the College Intaglio, designing whole printing process, including the press, to get pictures almost sculptural. Protagonist in this story is also Boris Margo who experimented with celluloid dissolved in acetone adhesives to create different thicknesses. Thus arose the Cello-Cut.
On the other hand the visionary William Hayter migrates from Paris to New York as a result of the war. The American capital is a fruitful breeding ground for artists who have fled Europe, many engravers, who start working in workshops and Universities: Iowa, Wisconsin, Brooklyn ... Everything is ready for the mid-'50s, when adhesives are acrylics, will start work by joining and sealing materials quickly, especially with strength and toughness on the boards: cardboard, cloth, paper, metal, plastic, organic elements. If you ever do a collage with a minimum stress, imagine that after the ink and prints. Only you should bear in mind that the materials you use must resist two things: moisture and friction of inking and printing pressure.

As I was saying, in that context appeared as Edmond Casarellos artists who experimented with Paper Cuts (1947) by adding roles and focused on its parent and then stamped by hand; Roland Giusel with its role in Hueco and principles of the technique of carborundum; Glen Alps who comes to designing a special Tórculo arises first term Collagraph, becoming one of its biggest boosters. Between 50 and until 1965 Clare Romano and John Ross are investigating the carton and graphics support using shellac to seal and harden the elements attached to it. At the end of the 60 Roman begins to also use acrylic gesso, a key element to produce textures. They inked their plates in hollow or relief, or both ways.

Ultimately the collagraph, or Colagraphy is an additive technique of engraving and to a lesser extent also subtractive because once incorporated elements can work sobe removing them matter. The collage was done is a way to get a picture, as any parent intrinsic properties of the materials are placed on the stand will be the main part of the picture, but until no stain is not content image and color. Therefore it is important to visualize the outcome and, given that the imprints are very showy, please note that the mere fact of using an unusual material for their texture does not guarantee the aesthetic quality of the picture.
The procedures for a collagraph are many and here I only go a short summary. The support may be of different materials: cardboard, metal, plastic or wood and must meet requirements of strength, impermeability, it's not too uncoated, being degreased and not too thick so that no problems in the press. To prepare, therefore, should be waterproofed by applying shellac, gesso or primer, sanding, scouring ... all on the basis that nothing and no departure is sufficiently hardened to withstand the pressure of Tórculo. Depending on the nature of preparation will be in one way or another.

After this first step is to build an array of collage materials chosen. These can be left as is or treated with chisels, knives, chisels ... "matter so integrating with traditional techniques (class method) or using the pictorial method of working based pastes applied with spatulas, brushes ... For this part of the process is fundamental quality of the adhesives you use, which ultimately are nothing more than synthetic resins. White glue work well, the polymer gesso primer used for the arts, modeling clay-version denser than acrylic gesso, gels, shellac, cements, adhesives, sprays, latex (Bruguer), Araldite epoxy resin ...


When everything is glued, as elements of collage and textures made with pasta, it must pass through the Tórculo to crush them and merge them. This will strengthen the matrix. There will be placing an acetate sheet between the felt and to prevent the glue will be transfered to the blanket. Once sealed and pressed hard with gesso diluted to 50% on both sides. There are some who uses several layers of varnish or shellac, also diluted with 50% alcohol.

After the matrix, and all dry, the plate is beveled if necessary, adjust the pressure gap is stamped or embossed in accordance with established procedures. It´s inked with brushes, scrapers, plastic, cylinder ... just felt you should care that the entire surface and corners are well smeared. Once an adequate quantity of ink to permeate everything, removes the excess and wipe with tarlatan and / or paper. Possibly, depending on the result image can be finished with hand cleaning.

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The ink must have an average degree of viscosity to be recalled and not to go bust size or color loss. Some people use oil for this reason for their impressions. Usually, inked on hollow, whether or not an embossing, are facing a polychrome printing one technique based on the viscosities Hayter. For the second color ink will be used more fluid, lightened with linseed oil or transparent medium. Soft rollers are advisable (below 40 º Shore) due to the amplitude levels of the matrix. It is useful to know that a revolution is roll a distance equal to three times its diameter, because it should do so in a single pass.

Tórculo for blankets and foam are placed. The usual practice is to use three blankets, a thin (absorbent glue) other thicker about 4 or 5 mm (buffer) and the third, thinner than the middle-cylinder that makes adequate progress (propulsive motion) (D . Stoltenberg, 1975. Mass., pg 60) When was highly textured matrix can be replaced by a 2 cm foam wool and another of 0.5. This will cause the paper reaches the far corners to collect the ink and produce a full color picture.

Many papers are suitable, both industrial and craft, that the more weight they will produce better results, but the experience will really help you choose. As you enter on this technique check the multitude of variations, processes, outputs and outcomes as I have mentioned here today is only one possibility among many. If I had to sum it all in two sentences that could guide the technical basis would be a good parent hard and nonabsorbent; inking that permeates every nook and maximum pressure without spoil the process. And of course, creativity and good taste.


María del Mar Bernal (professor of engraving at the School of Fine Arts, University of Seville).



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