Marja-Leena Rathje
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trial proofs

I've had several readers express an interest in seeing the development of a print after I wrote about my excitement when the first proofs came through the wide format inkjet printer. This feeling is true no matter what type of prints one works on, from the wooden-spoon-rubbed linocut one does in grade school to the finely etched copperplate, and other printmaking media. Proofing is an essential process as I hope you will see in the following descriptions and photos. The photos are of the same piece shown in detail in the above linked post.


The first photo shows the first trial print that I took of a collagraph that I made to be printed on top of an inkjet print. This one is printed on plain white art proofing paper.


The second photo shows the collagraph printed over the top of the first proof of the inkjet print of the rocks, done on non-coated art paper. The inkjet print looks washed out.


For the third proof, I switched to a coated inkjet paper for the rock print. Do you see how the colours just pop out and the blacks are deep and velvety (okay, the photo isn't that great.) I printed the collagraph on top of this, paying a great deal of attention to how it's inked and wiped, compared to that first proof.

I'm quite excited by this one. In fact, I realized that it is a complete piece without a printed transparency layer over it which I'd originally planned to do (and have been doing with the earlier Silent Messenger pieces). The work spoke to me just the way it is, and I had to respond to it, rather than forcing my initial plan on it.

Because I was having problems with the inkjet paper tearing a bit on the embossings in the collagraph, I've been doing numerous tests to figure out how long the inkjet printed paper had to be soaked in water, the ink consistency, and the pressure of the printer roller. Of course, us artists are always the first to try something different with new material, in this case to subject papers meant for inkjet printers to the rigours of a highly embossed collagraph and a traditional printing press! Today, I had a breakthrough, so now I will be able to carry on and edition the first two of the series that are ready. That may not be until January as I will be taking a break from the studio over the holidays.

Readers, I do hope this gives some understanding of the process. Please feel free to ask questions!

Marja-Leena | 08/12/2006 | 11 comments
themes: Being an Artist, Digital printmaking, Printmaking


M-L, I love this third piece. I love the way the black lines and forms reflect one another, the way the spiral echoes the nest (or bunch of twigs caught in the rock), the way the rock begins to my eye to look like connected bones... I could look at this a long time.

The first two examples you show of the collagraph show more edge or border to them, more than on the third example. Is that a result of the way you printed it the third time, or did you do something to adjust the lines?

I'm glad you shared this.

M-L, I'm amazed you could soak the inkjet paper at all! One of the problems with digital printing is that the available papers are never as good as proper printmaking papers but then I haven't tried many of the latest archival inkjet papers. Do you go to special suppliers for your digital prints paper?
Your series is very interesting. Would love to watch you at work.

MB, thank you so much for your appreciative comments! I'm glad you noticed the differences in the printing of the collagraph. I did not ink the edges of the collagraph in the last print, but some ink spreads there in the wiping process, so a little bit does show. You can't really see it here. I will probably wipe the edges clean when I do the edition.

Natalie, our brilliant shop technician has done her research and found many high quality archival (some soakable) inkjet papers via the suppliers, but they come in large rolls. I don't see many choices in the local stores. I have printed on art papers but the printer inks are absorbed quite a bit, which is why that second image looks so washed out. I'd love to show you the print studio and give you a demo - when are you coming??

What I find interesting is the changing importance of the figure, the rocks finally dominate.

Anna, yes, that is my intent. I am "writing on the stones", so to speak.

This is very interesting. Two aspects in particular struck me. The first is the difference of effect between the initial solo figure and the third photo. The solo has a vulnerability to it, with the edge of ink seeming rather like a kind of caul. The third photo shows something more bold; the figure not only taking strength from the rocks, but also indicating a timelessness.

The second point which caught my particular attention was your mentioning that the work wanted to be all in one rather than on separate layers as you had initially planned. I find that one of the challenges of working the way I do on the computer and then on cloth is to develop designs which are not quite complete when printed out - designs which need the stitching. It is an interesting discipline.

I very much like this work of yours, and thank you for showing part of its development.

Great process! I always enjoy learning how artists create a new methodology via using old techniques.

Dave and Daniel - thank you.

Olga - Interesting comments! I hope readers have understood that my intent was to add the figure to the rock image. So the first print of the figure is just a test of the collagraphic plate, not intended to be a piece on its own. I'm glad you see the final image the way you describe - which means I've succeeded in conveying that strength and timelessness. Adding another layer or overlay with more images to this, I felt to be overkill and unnecessary. Funny how ones plans can change in response to the piece, isn't it? But that's why we do trial proofs.

This work is utterly amazing -- my jaw literally dropped upon confronting the image. Beautiful, beautiful work! And I found the information about the process enlightening as I am fairly ignorant about printmaking. Wow.

Hi Kate! Wow, thank YOU for your enthusiastic appreciation! You've made my day! I hope the edition will work out as well as the last trial proof.