Chine Colle and the line between outside and inside

Chine Colle and the line between outside and inside

I had already tried Chine Colle in this collagraph print, but without being aware of it as a technique. Here it made a bold pool of colour, and only approximated the outline shape, which created a nice tension between the colour and the line. It created a body where there was only an outline previously. Of course, both are rough approximations.

This conflict between colour and line is something I’ve been playing around with in life drawing sessions, imposing lines on vaguely suggestive colours and tones, or having the colours spill over the lines as if the lines can’t contain them. But both are approximations, even metaphors for the physical presence of a human body in front of us.

Having lines around things is a mysterious thing. On the one hand it would appear to be something that must have been socially constructed, developed from the earliest experiences of children’s colouring-in books (“Don’t go over the lines”).  On the other hand, perhaps we have a Platonic sense of forms- which makes  our brains look for demarcations, to establish where the “chairness” ends and the “floorness” begins, for example. When we develop our understanding of what things belong to the class of chairs or floors, we are establishing what it is and what it is not, and at least metaphorically drawing a line around it to separate it from other, similar things. We also, presumably, need to know where one thing ends and another begins so we can physically navigate our way around. But that mental construct as a black line?  Surely this must have emerged from early drawing tools, such as charcoal, plus the development of print? Anyway, without researching it further (a job for another day) I’ll just float my lay opinion that it’s a social construct which appeals to us psychologically.

At our life drawing sessions, which are untaught, everyone comes along with their own materials and their own style. Some use charcoal, and some go bigscale using acrylic. One makes massive paintings using the acrylic tubes directly onto the paper. Some of us- interestingly, the non ethnically Chinese- frequently use ink and Chinese brushes. One regular uses watercolour and absolutely no line, a style I used to favour myself. Apart from him, everyone uses a pencil at some stage, and everyone, including the watercolourist, creates outlines. So everyone is engaged in the basic binary distinction of what is and what is not the body in front of us. Positive and negative space. The body inhabits the positive space. The area around it is empty. This is how we have been taught to see the world.

But it could also be said that the human body is not a separate entity- it derives from a past which still resides in it, will project into the future and casts things out of itself in various forms as it passes along a linear path. Ideas, words, influences emanate outwards. Equally, it is hemmed in, butted in the ribs, forced to kneel by pressures outside it- illness, lack of freedom, loss of power.

This is the concept I’d like to explore in my final assignment, and just hope it will fit the brief. I would like to develop some of the sketches and paintings from life drawing, using them as starting points for prints, while at the same time, trying to use the print media I know in an appropriate way. I love the work of Xu Bing, and the way the medium and the message match so perfectly. Similarly with Antoni Tapies. Gary Hume’s prints, which I saw at the recent Art Fair, such a contrast in their plastic shininess, matched their subject matter of big bold figures.

Anyway, that’s the plan. But first I have to learn Chine Colle. I would also like to go back and revisit basic lino block printing and get things to register properly at least once!

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Project 12: Different versions of a collage block print

Project 12: Different versions of a collage block print

I give up trying to understand what is required in Assignment 4, whether it is one block or a series of related ones, whether it is a variety of collage techniques on a single block (which sounds like a recipe for a dog’s breakfast to me), or whether it means printing the single block in a variety of ways. (“You may use a variety of coloured inks and inking processes and papers to print your series”: i.e. this is not the essential bit of the assignment.) Given the price of the course materials, I think someone could at least read them through to check they make sense. However, given that’s not so, I will just interpret them myself. I am going to explore different ways of printing a single collage block. And given that I have already demonstrated to myself the truth of the dictum that “less is more”, I’m not cluttering up a block with stuff just for the sake of it.

While waiting for the knitted block to dry- very dense so it takes a long time -I have worked with the Reclining Nude block.

Here are variations on that block, printed on A2 Susuki Rainbow 160 gsm cartridge paper- nice and smooth- and also on Chinese calligraphy paper, the smooth side. There are two colours and sizes of paper, but both are scrolls which I have printed on horizontally.

Version 1: A2 Black water-based ink, printed with a printing press

Version 2: Single-colour: Blue oil-based ink, printed by hand on Chinese calligraphy paper

The effect is rougher as the imprint as not as strong. This paper is relatively easy to work with as it is so thin that you can see the imprint from the other side. Of course, it’s quite fragile.

Version 3: A2 cartridge paper, selective inking

Blue and black selective rolling- black on lines, blue on background, rolled on then wiped off with turpentine. This is gradually getting lighter and going towards an image that looks a bit more like etching. I liked the idea of using turpentine to dissolve the ink as it creates a scrubbed look.. The colour differences are quite subtle here.

Version 3: Selective inking using rollers and dabbers

Red and green, green rolled, red dabbed

Here, some of the blue still shines through, as it’s impossible to clean thoroughly. This is on a calligraphy paper scroll, which is quite narrow.

This is a second impression of the same block, on cartridge paper: I thought my dabbing might have been a bit heavy handed the first time.

Frankly, I just wasn’t loving these effects. So went back to one colour, and decided to try a bit of paper collage, or chine colle. Using some tissue paper from a gift box, I cut out a rough shape to fit the ‘ground’ in the image.

Version 4: Blue/ Black again, cartridge paper, chine colle

I liked this, better than any of the others. But decided to go back to dabbing different colours while using turpentine to clean the block and make prints at the same time.. Yes, the block was beginning to wear a bit but it was surprising how much punishment it could take.

Version 5: Turpentine dabbed block with dabbed red and yellow

This is printed on a calligraphy scroll, which took the dissolved ink quite well, creating soft effects in contrast with the hard dabbed lines. Quite liked it, a keeper.

Put more turps on- the layers of ink that were already on the block started to come out as the image gets paler and softer.

But, still not loving it, so went back to what I’d liked best- black ink, plus chine colle. Some more tissue paper.

This is my favourite for the day, and the block is really starting to wear out, so am stopping at this one.

Ironically, due to the accident of the colour of tissue in a gift box, it has come full circle back to the colour scheme of the original sketch.

Project 12: Collatype collage prints

Project 12: Collatype collage prints

This project requires that one works towards a series of representational images.

I created three of these images and printed them all at the same time, using a printing press. I did them all in a single colour, black, using water-based inks. I didn’t have time to experiment with different colours. And I know that in my previous experiments with colour, that I have always preferred black finally.

I tried out selective rolling and dabbing on a lino print and didn’t like the result at all.

I don’t actually like the examples of rainbow rolling shown in the course book, and didn’t feel inspired to emulate them, I’m afraid! I have tried it before, when I was making Christmas cards with lino blocks. It felt like something I was doing for the sake of it. I think these techniques maybe have to be called for by the image. Or maybe it’s because I’m still a beginner at printing and I still enjoy the sheer solidity of a single colour print, and get satisfaction as it emerges for the first time. I don’t quite welcome irregularity yet!

First image: Dordogne River bank

As the title suggest, I made this one while I was still in France, using many of the same materials that are on the test block.

I used mosses- different textures for the tree above and the undergrowth below. The tree trunk was cling wrap. The river was suggested by cut pieces of nylon string, and the longer grasses by short pieces of raffia, with the shorter grasses represented by broken pieces of spaghetti.

This was one that waited a long time to be revealed, having traveled back in the suitcase. I suspected it might be a bit fussy, and it is.

I think it might now benefit from being overprinted with some blocks of colour, perhaps using masking. But I don’t have printing medium to make my inks transparent, and no one I’ve asked seems to know what I’m talking about, so this won’t work with the materials I have at present. Another option would be to create a coloured layer first, either using masking or by the application of chine colle, before doing reprints. I’m not sure I want to bother though, as I don’t think this image is worth it.

Second image: townscape

This one works well, I think, and I’m quite excited by its possibilities. It’s another example of the “less is more” principle.

It was an idea I had some time ago, when sketching in Spain, that the landscape looked “knitted” and I planned to use knitting to created texture in printing. This was the first piece of knitting I had done in years, and I tried to make it as rough as possible, by using two different sized needles, and created irregular stitches throughout. The outline should suggest a skyline, with the cut-off ends of the wool suggestive of smoke, cloud, roads, river. It was stuck down onto a piece of mounting board and glued over several times.

Technical problem- because of the large amount of empty space, there was a lot of ink got rolled onto it- I couldn’t ink selectively because of the thin strands to be covered. The edge of the roller tended to made a clear mark on the white, even though I used the biggest roller I could. I tried leaving it, and tried wiping it. In the end I prefer the wiped version, with its suggestion of shadow, cloud or mist. This is one that I plan to work on, adding layers either through masking or chine colle. So I will now re-glue it to work with it again.

Third image: reclining nude

This was a quick collage, based on a life drawing I did recently. Again it uses wool to create a linear image, and lengths of jute string, as well as fine cuttings of jute and raffia to create texture. I like the clear contrasts in texture that results here, and the flat image, a bit reminiscent of a Matisse picture. There was the same problem here of large empty areas that would attract the ink, but this time it was possible, because of the shape of the overall image, to make it more of a virtue- the ink could be rolled on diagonally in ways that complemented the overall shape.

We are asked to explore different printing techniques, and the course folder states “Here are 2 ways in which you can print more than one colour at once”, and proceeds to outline only one, rainbow rolling. Because of the uneven textures of these collatype blocks and the necessity to roll the ink in several directions, I don’t think rainbow rolling is at all appropriate for the blocks I have made, so I will try out the ideas I have suggested above. I also note that the image accompanying the instruction about rainbow rolling shows it being applied to a lino block, NOT a collage block.