Sunday, April 7, 2013

Collecting Original Prints

Black and white as a theme

What is an Original Print?
Original prints, in difference to massproduced offset prints, encompass any form of printmaking where the artist has direct participation in producing the print! Surprisingly, many people do not realize that for example an etching on copper, has to be inked up, by the artist, for each and every print that is printed!
Click and see how an etching is made and printed by
Mariann Johansen-Ellis, Cascada Studios Resident Artist

2 great reasons to become a collector of Original Prints!  
1) Price - find local printmaking artists, in shops and galleries or search the world via the internet, you will be amazed at the fantastic artwork for very reasonable money that is available! Have you tried ?
This is a website where artists from all over the world sell their work direct to the public, search under printmaking and the choices are wonderful, varied and very affordable! Between the website etsy and PayPal , it is also a safe place to shop online. 
2) Personality - collecting original prints for your home, puts your personality at the forefront, what hangs on your walls, is a direct reflection of you as a person! Why have a nasty offset poster,when you can have an original print? The nature of collecting prints is also such that you "never" fill the walls, as your art collection grows, you can rotate your prints. Every 6 months I change over the art I have on my walls, this way I "see" them again, and it is fun, over the years, I have collected so much, that I can now decide on my mood, just by the art I hang on my walls.
How do I start a collection?
It is easy to educate yourself in the "what am I looking at" with the help of the internet, I have a couple of favorites, that explain things very clearly
Coskun fine art gallery's website or , you can of course find information in your own language, that helps a lot. 
The bible on collecting original prints being Rosemary Simmons "Collecting Original Prints"

It can feel a bit daunting to start off, so why not start purchases deciding on a theme - you like birds - why not bird prints then? You like abstract art, search under abstract printmaking and start from there....... it is worth having a cup of coffee and thinking things over - what do I like??? Small, Big, a certain Color, all these things narrows your search, and makes a collection look more cohesive on the wall.
Above all, it is FUN to collect art! You become more knowledgeable about art, as collecting leads to wanting to know more, and your personal taste both develop and expand!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

linocut registration - always tricky?

linocut , I have just started cutting away what is going to be white
 My latest lino reduction, I decided to do something that is not so usual for me.... that is, be fluid..... a bit loose, not think too much, but try to cut in a more organic way..... hmmmm.... not me at all... as I am a bit of a control freak, which is actually why printmaking is SO for me....
I started with the simplest of line drawings, hardly any marks at all (again, for being me;o) but I did have a clear idea in my head, that I wanted a real color fest!
lincout , first yellow color is on!
the first color on is a yellow for the mimosa blossom, those incredible little yellow balls.... I made it a very yellow, below, you can clearly see what was cut away to remain white...hardly anything......
linocut , ready for the first piece of paper

then came the second yellow, for the vase, and for the "shadows" on the mimosa blossom...... I have cut my papers with the usual precision, you want nice hard corners, and I have taped down the registration matrix to the press bed, it is easier when it does not move about...... now, I think, that hands are very important in the getting the registration right..... you need to find a way, to hold the paper, so you have total control over it.... so it can't flap about, and you feel comfortable holding it.... if you are afraid of dirty finger prints, make the paper a bit bigger, so you can cut away dirty areas without it making a difference to the print! That's a simple solution.... when you start out, make smaller prints, easier to handle smaller papers, another simple solution..... think about your subject matter, faces, have to register really well, or they look horrible... so maybe, when starting out, avoid faces..... that might not be so simple if portraits are your thing ;o) it is a simple solution though.
Why do I go on and on about simple solutions.... well, I find on giving courses, that a lot of wonderful brave people, feel that linocut reductions are an uphill struggle... and I have to agree.... if you start out big....6 colors..... lots of eyes..... then yes, it will get you down.... who said it was easy.... so....
solutions, make them simple and make them nice to yourself. That way you enjoy the learning process as much as the result, find your feet, and then do faces.... learn your new skill, and then get real prickly about registration.... but don't let a little thing like registering a piece of paper get you down..... please!

linocut , several colors down the line!
 here I have added my first blue on the bottom, and my 2 greens, and it is so evident that I should have had more mimosa blossom!!!! much for loose, hmmm. what ever..... oh, there are some blue blossoms to come in the middle....
linocut , drying nicely

 the colors, though, are perfect, just what I wanted..... it will be a really happy print! the vase, by the way, is printed in 2 yellows at the same time......

linocut , cutting and cutting.....
cutting away all the greens, preparing for the next to last color, the blue of the blossoms... I know by now, it's not going to work... and that, is why this post is done, because that is how it goes sometimes.... it does not work!!! It really is no big deal.... I had great fun... I found some things out.... the colors are all sorted for the next print, that's for sure.... so onwards and upwards!
oh.... the registration was really good though.... ;o)) gotta be an optimist, right!!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Collagraph , inking and printing

Collagraph , the 3 plates inked up and ready to go
Collagraph matrix
Collagraphs, are always lots of fun to do, and I use them, quite often, to kind of push start a new
round of work. Coming back from a lovely break over Christmas and New Year I thought it would be a great way of ushering in 2013!
So...what are collagraphs?:
the plate, that is later inked up and printed,  is built up by assembling and if you want gluing down
different surfaces, textures and shapes onto a piece of for example cardboard or pvc. A Collagraph is a collage prepared so that it can be inked up and printed like any other kind of printmaking, such as etchings, linocuts etc. All sorts of material can be used. The most usual are varying papers, cards and tissues but fascinating effects can be created with glues, and acrylic pastes, carborundum powder, plaster and sand. "Found objects" should be treated with some respect, when it comes to putting them through the press, but it is easy to use doilies, metal washers and embossed wallpapers, lots of things make terrific textural prints. The plates have to be sealed with varnish, for example an acrylic medium, even watered down wood glue, before they can be printed and this can make quite a tough surface into which engraved marks can also be made by scoring, cutting or using a stylus.
Because of the much greater depth of a collagraph compared with an etching for example, they carry much more ink and a wider (and sometimes unpredictable) range of purely printing effects can be achieved with collagraphs. In fact it is difficult to get exactly the same effects with each print and it is often better to regard multi-colour collagraphs as a series of monoprints rather than a uniform edition. Because the plate is usually made from softer materials than the copper and zinc of etching, collagraph plates wear much more rapidly and so the editions are very small, as a rule.

I decided to make my contribution to an upcoming group exhibition, with the theme, "Los Hombres",
or "Men" as a collagraph, I already had an idea for some sort of fish print, as I love the blues that can be had by layering plates on top of each other. I cut the human shape, little penis and all, from a simple piece of cardboard, applied a bit of putty filler for texture, left it to dry and then varnished it with acrylic medium. With a knife I then cut 2 shallow parallel lines where the head meets the shoulder and the legs meet and peeled off the cardboard top layer, knowing this will take a bit more ink and so print like a diffuse line.
Collagraph matrix and long piece of paper stuck under the press roller
I start by inking up the 3 plates I have prepared for the water, and the fish , which is prepared on a separate piece of cardboard, together with the eye, which is also a separate piece. The fish, and the first 2 plates are all cardboard, that has been textured in various ways, with puttyfiller, with masking tape and then varnished with acrylic medium. If I did not varnish, the cardboard would take so much ink, that the collagraph tends to get very undefined.... it can be used though, if that is what you are looking for.....
I ink them up with etching inks that have been heavily oiled down, so they are very easy to apply.
Don't worry about too much oil, you learn quickly doing it, if the ink is easy to use, and you feel you are in control of  the amount of ink left on the plate, then it's perfect. Extender can of course also be used, as with many things in printmaking, you use what you get used to, or what you always have at hand.
I use dabbers, made from rags, or from old tarlatan, and also brushes are used, to work the ink into all the crevices. For example on the fish, the scales had to be inked with the help of a brush. I then wipe the plates, with tarlatan,  just like I would an etching, until I have the amount of ink left that I want.
The 2 plate is a piece of thin pvc, that I of course could make marks on if I wanted to, scratch, cut etc... but in this case, all it does is carry the last oriental blue that brings the print together.
Collagraph , first plate printed,second plate placed on matrix
collagraph, use talcum to block unwanted ink on the matrix
I put the matrix, which is long enough to be put under the rollers, on the press, I have drawn up the position of the plates and the figure, I then put the piece of printmaking paper on top of the matrix and put printing pressure on the roller, so the matrix and the paper is "stuck" in place for the whole printing process, this makes printing multi plates very easy, as I only fold up the paper onto the roller, place the next plate, put the paper down again, knowing, that each time the plate and paper registers perfectly (well... in theory at least, make a fuss and it will :o)
The left over bit of paper, can, if you handles it gently, be used for a separate print, it does not need to go to waste.
I print the first plate, a light blue color and I print the figure. (on the matrix, you can see the figure in brown, from the proofing I did) After printing, with the help of a big bulb of cotton wool, apply talcum powder to the matrix, so no residual ink prints off on the next turn through the press, (watch you don't get talcum on the inked plates, it blocks the ink!) I line up the second plate on the matrix, a cardboard plate with "waves" of masking tape, the masking tape prints different in texture to the rest, so the waves are visible in the final print.
Collagraph , Last plate placed on matrix
I have printed the 2 first plates, and have the last plate to go, the piece of pvc which has been inked and wiped. Look at the previous photos, you can see the white lines round the scales for example. Much of the reason I use several plates, is that I don't have to worry about height differences in the first plate or 2, as later plates "inks" those white areas, that I, personally, don't like to see.
Collagraph, final print
Here the print is done, "El peligro de ser Macho" , "The danger of being Male" , all the little variations in the plates show up, giving the print a depth that is hard to get from other printmaking methods. Collagraphs can be very subtle and very detailed, all depending on time spent on them. I like to make multi plates, as I think the richness I get from that, is why I do collagraphs..... and not as many as I should, I might add...... the short editions, tend to make them more fun and play for me, than serious work, but as play and fun, some of my best ideas, have come from a totally messy studio, cutting and pasting and drilling, and messing about....... and I have learnt lots from it, that I then apply to my etchings and to my linocuts..... so from that perspective, these are my printmaking courses for myself!
Mariann Johansen-Ellis, runs Cascada Studio, in Andalucia in Spain, where she gives printmaking courses on a regular basis. Visit for more information.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Mariann Johansen Ellis: Etsy photos - what's good and what's bad?

click on the link below to go to my "other" blog, xx

Mariann Johansen Ellis: Etsy photos - what's good and what's bad?

Give away...... or no give away??

Hens linocut reduction
not that long ago, I had a draw for this lino reduction and the winner........ never got in touch with me??? So this is your last chance, as I think, hmmmm, not so fair to the rest, so I'll do the draw again and find a new winner!!
Does this mean you can enter the draw.... sure..... :o)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Etching your Aquatint, timing is important!

Aquatint etching by Mariann Johansen-Ellis
If you are one of those people, like me, who stand there looking at your plate in the acid, thinking,
"a bit more is better", then think again! When it comes to aquatint, I think this is the most common mistake when you start out, to simply overdo the timing in the acid!
In Ferric Chloride at 15 degrees Baume, you should need no more than 30 sec for the first tone,
add a minute for the second tone, add 2 minutes for the next tone and finish off with maybe 2 - 3 more minutes for your really darks. Try this and you will see that it is much easier to be successful....
I have to confess, to having succumbed to the "more is better" (true to my nature) and forgetting that not in this case. Back on the straight and narrow now, and getting good results again.......
The Baume thermometer ( is it can be called that?) is also a really good investment for measuring the strength of your acid, when I started out doing etching, I used nitric acid and was forever fiddling about with adding a bit more, no, too strong, a bit more water in a very non technical way. Temperature had a lot to do with results etc etc...... so switching to the much more environmentally friendly, and above all, fume free ferric chloride, was great. It does not "go off", in the same way, it is very dependable and you know exactly how long to leave your plate in.
Nitric acid, still has a place in my studio though, (yep, non toxic it ain't!!) for biting out a plate or for relief work...... I am a bit confounded that the use of acid is now like the devil appearing.... non toxic is great, I am all for it, if it gives me the results I want! There is a place for the non toxic as well, it has to be treated with great respect , not fear and panic making, and has to be utilized and disposed of in a correct way. None of this is difficult, there are places that come and get your old acid to neutralize and dispose of it in a proper manner. Keeping acid in your studio, does not make your teeth fall out, or your fingers drop off, unless you are handling it in a very stupid way. So in my quiet little out of the way Cascada Studio, I keep my acid close by, stored properly, maybe even over safely knowing it is a dangerous, but for me, necessary tool in my printmaking endeavour.