Prints on a Theme: Meditation, with Leaf

Gold Leaf

Yes, did I mention that I finally got gold leaf to stick?

One of my finds in Bucharest was a little alley way of art shops. There I found different colours of leaf, and, finally, glue to stick it on with. So I went back to complete the “Meditation” print.

I have now been able to decorate it with silver, gold, copper and bronze coloured leaf. Of them all, I think the bronze is the most effective, as it relates to the bronze bowl Buddhist monks carry, and creates the most realistic colour for falling leaves.

So here it is, at last. Here, the leaf has a much different message to the one it conveys in the Belle du Jour print, where it is tawdry, peeling, and ironic. Here it is delicate and sincere, on soft mulberry paper. Worth the wait!

Here is a silver one, with the hallowed gluestuff.


Enchantment Version 2

Version 2: Softcut Block A4

I sketched the same scene onto softcut, rather than risk cutting the first one and regretting it- I wanted to try approaching it with more open space, leaving outlines in relief. This would leave more potential for introducing colour in various ways, such as through monoprinting, or chine colle.

This is it with a bit of scratching into the ink.

Chine Colle

I went a bit silly with the tissue paper at first, layering it in strips in the open space, the area where the narrative takes place and which was meant to evoke a magical feeling. The strips of tissue work ok, but they create areas of relief themselves which stop the ink going on smoothly where they end, so the result is messy. I’ve already been through this kind of over-complicated approach to using tissue paper in my experiments with the Gauguin still life, and my conclusion there was that less is more, something I seem to have forgotten momentarily…

So I went back to just using one colour of tissue that would shine through the open area and light it up in a different colour.

At the same time, I was wondering about adding text. I wanted something simple, suggesting a fairy tale, but not actually telling anything, so came up with “Once in a pool of light”. Having no verb, it doesn’t say anything about anything happening, nor does it mention any people: just the circumstances, with the rest left to be told by the picture. I felt it added a dreamy, timeless atmosphere, so added it at the bottom, in simple handwriting in a fine line, as if written with a pen.

I only have primary colours of tissue paper here, so chose to print it in yellow, to emphasize brightness and sun, and in blue, to echo the cool moonlight feel of the previous print. The tissue is delicate enough to pick up the writing clearly, and also creates interesting texture on its own, additional ripples on the water, and cracks in the colour where it has wrinkled. It looks like the cover of an old leather-bound book. This is simple but I like it.

I also have a selection of coloured tracing paper, one of which is silver, so I printed on that too. It has no wrinkles, being a firm paper, and it has the advantage that the colour, and hence the mood, can be changed by varying the colour of paper placed behind it. It’s also shiny, so changes according to the light source.

Here are some variations using different colours behind the print.

It was actually here that I first thought of combining the tissue paper and the tracing paper. This picture uses the same combination as the Facebook print- white ink on blue tissue, overlaid with rainbow-rolled (white – pale blue) ink on clear tracing paper. The wateriness of the colours and the depths suggested by the layers seem to suit the subject matter.

Lino- and mono-print

This version is a plain print in a single colour printed firstly on Chinese calligraphy paper and then on plain drawing paper. After the inking, the colours were added by brushing colour onto the plate. This has come out rather insipid. Perhaps it’s the water-based inks- they dry quickly in the heat.

Linoprint with inking

This version is on mulberry paper, very soft and absorbent. The colours have been added by painting on drawing inks with a brush. I diluted them so that they wouldn’t jar too much with the linocut. This is probably my favourite one of them all. It, again, has the look of a quite faded old comic book or children’s story book, and so fits the retro boy’s-own-adventure feel I was after. The absorbency of the paper creates a much softer  and more even finish than the dry brushed inks in the versions above, and so the atmosphere is gentler as a result.

Chine Colle: Facebook

Facebook: Four faces

This is a large print, on roughly A1 paper. It is four versions of the self-portrait, as I did before, but I decided to try again and improve the quality of the chine colle finish by using a spray-on glue that could be used with water-based inks. As I said before, the water-based glues were just causing the tissue paper to disintegrate on contact. This is using a spray-on very strong bonding glue that I found in the hardware store- it’s not the mounting spray you get from art shops.

This is meant to be variations on a theme, using the primary colours of red, blue and green with white as a contrast. Each of the versions creates a different interplay between the colours, as well as the textures of the chine colleed print.  I was thinking of Facebook, of the different personas people construct online, each of them more or less artificial, geared to an audience. None of these faces is “realistic”, but makes a statement and forces the eye to look and read the image in different ways. It was also a nice way to experiment with different ways of using chine colle all in one image.


Top left

This is red ink on white papier de soie. I like how the print definition is so clear using this paper, and also like the tight wrinkles created in the non-inked paper. This one is inked in red and wiped, obliterating some of the face. The observer will still be able to “fill in” the missing parts however, so the effect is perhaps of a casual attitude or conscious mystery-making.

Bottom left

Below it is a jarring colour combination which confuses the eye due to the red and the blue being the same tones but contrasting in hue. (The photo is making the red look darker than it really is.) This is red ink on blue papier de soie, so again there are small wrinkles that compete with the fine lines in the inked colour. As mentioned before, the design of this print, portraying my own bleached white hair, confuses one about the positives and negatives already, so here, the eye is not sure what to bring forward and what to send back. This gives out a bold, even aggressive image.

Bottom Right

This one is printed on coloured tracing paper, so is rigid and has no creases. On the other hand, it plays with the eye because of the contrasts of the primary colours, and then has some movement created by the rainbow rolling of the blue and green colours. This has the effect of “changing” the colour of the red background as the eye moves over it, and the result is a very rich glowing colour that seems to have depth and fire to it.

Top right

This one is contrastingly cool. It is the most complex image, one that should have most depth as it has two paper layers. The first is white ink over blue tissue paper, then rainbow rolled white/ pale blue on grey tracing paper. The effect is a bit like an iced pond, as the eye can see down through it to the darker blue below.

The effect of the whole is a bit unsettling, I have to say!

Collaged printing paper


These prints explore another way of applying colour to the print- using collage on the printing paper then printing onto it.

The differences between collage and chine colle:

Whereas the chine colle paper can move en route to the printing page, the collaged paper can be better controlled.

The collaged paper can be left to dry, to avoid problems with the glue interacting with the printing ink.

Both can use transparent papers, but thicker papers may be used in collage.

My experience of both chine colle and collage is that the page gets buckled. (There may be ways of stopping this) Whereas with chine colle, the ink will always print directly onto the chine colle paper, when it is a collaged paper, the printing block may be inclined to move during printing, making the print irregular. The layering of different papers for the collage also creates an irregular surface which will affect the print quality.

The collaged prints here also involve double printing: the first print establishes where the shapes are and guides the application of coloured paper. If the paper is transparent, a double print effect will be achieved.

Spanish Landscape

This print from a linocut (Spanish Landscape: one I prepared earlier!) was done by printing one layer on white paper, using water-based inks for quicker drying. Tissue paper was then cut/ torn to fit, glued down and left to dry. The final print is in oil-based ink. There is a slight movement between top and bottom prints, so that the lines are slightly blurry in effect. The tissue paper is thin however, so it has not created a very rough surface, therefore the print is quite regular. On the other hand, there are some wrinkles in the tissue paper, which has created texture.

I wonder if this particular linocut is a bit too fussy for this kind of treatment however. The sheer number of lines and colours are quite confusing to the eye. Personally I prefer this print left as it is, printed in a monotone. The layering of tissue does have nice possibilities for creating glazed effects, and intermediate colours. The sky here has worked well, with the layering of blue, beige and lilac.

Kneeling Woman

(Second photo to be added)

These two prints were also made by printing onto a page which had coloured paper pre-glued. The coloured paper in this case is a type of fancy gift wrapping paper which is fibrous and highly porous, so, if it had been made as chine colle, the glue would have gone straight through and affected the ink. As it is, the glue shines through and creates a slight sparkle. The ink also has a sheen where it has printed on the fibres of the paper. I like both of these, as they look soft and suggest skin. The printing paper, a Sakusi smooth paper has resisted buckling much better than the cartridge paper used for the other prints. Or perhaps it is the collaged paper, which, being so fibrous and open-weave, has more give in it.

Gauguin woodcut

This is done by combining the open weave gift wrap with tissue paper, for interesting effects. The tissue paper resists the ink slightly and leaves it with a shiny finish, whereas the fibrous gift wrap absorbs the ink and has a dull finish. This creates a contrast of soft and hard which works quite well for the highlights on the fruit.

Rood Tree

The one I think works absolutely the best however, is the rood tree print. For this, I mixed ink and paint, and soaked some layers of Chinese calligraphy paper.  Making brush marks, scrunching and blotting resulted in random marks, pools of ink in folds, and uptake of ink marks into the texture of the paper. I chose from these the parts that I thought best fit the shape of the letters to be overprinted, as well as trying to form them into a pleasing shape that was suggestive of a tree but still open to ambiguity.

The buckled collaged paper, as observed created an uneven printing surface which meant there was movement during the printing. To create the effect of wear on the type, I also brushed over the ink with a dry cloth before printing. And I think this works well. It’s reminiscent of a roughly printed sack- the texture suggests this too. The colours are slightly muddy, but atmospheric and evocative of woods, moisture and gloom. I like the interplay of softness and hardness, of surface and depth, and the feel of being “abras’d”, or ill-used. The red inscription “idolatrie” is now toned down a little, struggling to emerge from the background. Whereas all my earlier combination mono/lino prints of this theme were clearly two distinct layers, I feel this print integrates the two much better.

Chine Colle; double printing

Chine Colle; double printing

So far, my Chine colle technique has involved using only a single ink layer. According to the course folder, creating multiple print layers “adds depth and interest”, but I’m frankly not convinced by the example shown.

But I could see the point in creating a first layer to help place the second. So I dug out an old lino cut- my first one, of Lalinde canal, and decided to use my hand-coloured hand-made paper once more. Two colours, yellow and blue, no overlap, so no running. I used an edge part of the dyed paper, and a portion which had some white patches, so that it would help suggest the reflections on the water. The lines of the trees form the first print do create a bit of depth. The ink on the rough surface of the yellow paper adds texture and the glue has made the blue run a bit into the white, so there’s a pale blue that has emerged as well.

I’m not overly fond of it though. It’s just a bit decorative and bland perhaps.

Chine Colle: the whole picture, success..

Chine Colle: the whole picture, continued

This was a return to the Kneeling Woman, and an attempt to simplify. Just do the obvious. Sky blue, body beige, ground, red, suggesting bleeding. Yes, ok, that last bit maybe not so obvious.

I really like these. The simplicity has paid off and the missing parts/ overlaps add meaning- the way the woman is imprecisely framed, the way the sky presses down along with the cut marks, the way her body is inexactly defined and is doubly wrinkled and worn, and acts as a channel for the blood that flows out of the frame. I see her as a symbol, a faceless everywoman and the ordinary commonsenseness of the colours accentuates this. The limited range of colours also is reminiscent of old children books, which in my memory were often printed in black, red and blue, but I could be misremembering something. Anyway it feels retro.

I find this a very powerful image, and in fact it even shocked me when the first one emerged. I wondered if it was too overt and maybe distasteful. But even if that’s the case, I’m sure these are the best prints I’ve produced so far.


Chine Colle: the whole picture

Chine Colle: the whole picture

I now felt I’d learned enough about the techniques to try and chine colle a whole picture. I had the ambition to create a “stained glass” effect, which would be achieved by covering the whole image and printing on black, or dark coloured paper.

I tried various processes. I realised how difficult it was to handle a large number of pieces of tissue paper, and that the process had to be simplified. This one was done by creating two large blocks of white and lilac tissue paper for the background and foreground areas. A blue shape would be enough to suggest the shaded part of the jug. Then, I cut a yellow piece in the shape of the apples, and then prepared the other colours to be stuck to this one, so that in the end I had a single unit of different colours for the apples. I cut only one piece for the pear and planned to have the lilac underlying the shaded part.

Good plan. Trouble is I forgot the first lesson, and place the shapes in the wrong order on the inked block, so that the apples and pear landed behind, not in front of the larger areas. Pity, because the apples came out quite subtle, even though they were also the wrong way round.

Version 2.

This time I got the parts the right way round. But my cutting is a little too close to the shapes and in some parts have fallen short. I’m thinking though that it’s starting to have a medieval look to it.

Version 3

Here, I tried gluing the colours to a large white piece to keep them all together. The placement of the colours is a bit off, and it looks very rough, but not in a good way….


Version 4

Much more exact- the white paper fits the frame and the colours have landed about right.

Version 5

This was rough. Roughly torn colours. They all started peeling off the block and I ended up glueing them down by brushing glue over the top. So the whole thing is shiny, which does suggest glass.


By this stage I’d got a bit fed up of the picture, to be honest.