by Artist, Victoria Chick

Collographs are original prints in which the printmaker develops the composition on the plate to achieve extensive embossing. The printing plate for a collograph is generally a hard surface such as masonite on which objects are glued. Because of the fairly high-relief of the some of the objects glued to make the printing plate, the printing paper needs to be sturdy enough to withstand the pressure produced by the printing press at the edges within the textured plate. At the same time, it needs to be well dampened to conform to the texture under pressure.

The number of prints in an edition may be determined by how well the glued – on materials hold up under the pressure of the press. For example, the edges of thick, cut out, cardboard shapes may begin to break down reducing the sharpness of the embossing. On the other hand, the relief may be quite low so that a larger edition is possible. Some times an artist may have a concept for which collograph is an ideal medium and the intention is to do only a single print. Don’t avoid a purchase because the edition number is non existent. The artist’s signature in pencil should still be in the lower margin.

The inking process for collograph printing plates varies according to the degree of relief in the plate. But it is a basic combination of applying ink and wiping the plate so the ink is deposited in the crevasses. Sometimes the printmaker may leave a film of ink as a tone in flat broad areas. Many printmakers like to use multiple colors within their collographs and approach putting ink on the plate in a painterly way within limited areas after they have inked the crevasses.

Collographs are a newer method of printmaking, gaining stature among serious artists since the late 1960s. Because of the nature of building up the surface to be printed with textural items, often found objects or reclaimed trash, the resulting images are usually abstract or non-objective. They produce striking designs and are best appreciated for their shapes and textures put together in ways that evoke an emotional response in the viewer.

In the two examples of collographs here, the embossed edges are seen as organic lines. It is difficult to see the embossing from a photo as well as you can see it looking directly at the print. However, from the back of the” Palm Beach Sometime Later” print, the light at an angle helps you see the depth of the embossments. On the image side of the paper, you can see the black ink was used to emphasize the edges. Color helps define some of the shapes and other shapes are simply embossed. The ”Circlets” print uses repeated round shapes to unify the composition and the variety among them makes it interesting. The warm tone of the brown ink is dramatic in the deep depressions of the print and mellow where it has been partially wiped off on larger shapes. On the corresponding printing plate you can see the materials used to produce the texture and that the amount of relief used does not have to be excessive to produce the embossed edges.

Just a note as a reminder that any print is always a reverse image of the plate.

“Palm Beach Sometime Later,” pictured at top, is an original colligraph from about the late 1960’s by Linda Lyke Kannel an artist working in Ohio and Florida. It is owned by the author.
“Circlets,” pictured next, is by Southern California printmaker Rita Miller. More of her work, including etchings and monoprints, can be seen at her website: