A few years ago I enjoyed a book in Special Collections and was impressed with the unique quality of it’s pictures. I found out that they were collotypes, something of which I had never heard. A year or two later a professor asked me if I was familiar with this process. I learned that collotype is a photomechanical printmaking technique that was used in the past for reproducing photographs. With the advent of automated printing machinery the manual process of collotype became too impractical for commercial purposes. However, the machines used in high-speed printing are unable to match the inherent richness of a collotype. When man’s hand is removed from an artistic process then quality is often compromised. An analogy may be the letters on the monitor before me. Though geometrically precise, they lack the life that remains in a hand written page. A collotype results in “tawny, warm undertones of value”, and “provides exquisite color tonalities.”(Rush). For these reasons collotype has gained popularity among artists today. The ORCA award has allowed me to pursue learning this technique which I hope to effectively incorporate in my artwork.
In February 2000, artist and professor Kent Rush visited BYU and demonstrated the process of making collotypes. Printing a collotype is closely related to printing a lithograph. Since I am familiar with lithography I had a good understanding of what Kent was explaining. During his week long stay Kent processed and printed an image of his own. I was able to observe the details of collotype printmaking from beginning to end. He also gave helpful tips that were not included in his published paper. By assisting Kent with preparation work and printing I was able to get a general feel for the materials.
My original intent was to create a series of multicolored editions with collotype as the primary technique, and to have ten prints in each addition. I was to include these images in my Bachelor of Fine Arts final show. My plans changed in two ways.
As I began working I realized that I would not have enough time with this technique to produce good prints that would satisfy the B.F.A. final show requirement. During Kent’s stay I worked on only one image that was ultimately unsuccessful. Secondly, I decided that I really did not want collotype as the primary technique in these prints. The prints in my final show were better suited for lithography as the medium. However, I do intend on combining the two techniques in the near future.
With my B.F.A. final show completed I am eager to continue working with collotype. Beginning in August 2000 I will pursue an M.F.A. degree at Arizona State University. ASU has a well reputed printmaking program in which photomechanical techniques are taught in addition to direct drawing techniques. I am enrolled in ART 598 – Collotype. . I look forward to this opportunity to learn more about collotype and combine it with lithography.
- Rush, Kent. Collotype Printing from Commercial Sheet Film Matrices. (a revision of the original paper published in the Tamarind Papers, Fall 1987) Revised October 1998. University of Texas – San Antonio.