Sunday, December 9, 2012

The mysteries of Blogging

You may have noticed that within a "post" on this blog the typeface goes from large to small and the lines are separated by a variety of odd spaces.  Alas, I have little control over it. 

 I have spent precious minutes, maybe hours, trying to figure out why and how to prevent this happening...but to no avail.  As an artist it does make me a little "nuts".  But I have finally just accepted it as the artistic whim of the Google blogging fairy and am trying to ignore it. 

 As blogging goes along and technology takes-over-the-world, we find out also that Google can't just store these images for free.  Yes, in the future I could reduce the size of my pictures" pixel-wise" but then if I increased the photo to size "large", I would lose some of the quality. 

 We have to count ourselves lucky that Wikipedia and Google are offering a service and just pay up and enjoy it while we still have the wits to figure it out at all. 

 So alright, Google fairy, I'll let you put your wand in.... but if any of you have any suggestions about these mysteries, feel free to enlighten me.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Printmaking: Chine Colle´

Chine colle´using a map of Lyon as a backing sheet

  Here in Nice,  I have been following a printmaking course for some years, where despite the few hours afforded us each week at the municipal art school, I have learned how to do basic printmaking.  From time to time I would like to report on what printmaking is all about.  I will not put these posts in the order I learned them as there are far better sources for that.   I will start off with one of my favorite techniques: Chine-colle´. 

Chine-collé  meaning literally "China pasted" translates from the French as "pasted tissue". The original tissue papers came to Europe from the China, Japan and India . 

It is one of the techniques of printmaking which marries two processes together and can be impressive if done well.   Almost any zinc or copper plate (plaque) that has already been engraved with acid (eau forte) or dry point techniques can be used as well as carved linoleum or wood blocks. 

The way I have learned to use the technique is to provide a background color or pattern behind the image that is different from the original backing sheet ( Rives or Arches paper). 

To achieve the results you see in my photos below:

1. I first ink the plate in black, in this case both of these are zinc plates which were first etched with the "sugar lift" method and an acid bath. 

2.  Next, a thinner piece of paper (be it newspaper, japanese paper, or specially colorfast tissue paper) is trimmed to size and then dampened with a spray bottle and placed between 2 pieces of newspaper to blot.  Some papers expand more than others when they are dampened so it means testing to get the trimming accurate. 

3. After 5 minutes of resting, a wheat (or rice) paste is brushed on the dampened backing sheet.  You must be sure that the design goes on the reverse side face up or your print will not succeed as you wished.  ( I have ruined several prints already by putting them on backwards... oy!). 

4.  The plate is then run through the printing press.  It is the pressure of the press that transfers the ink to the thin paper which will then adhere to the thicker printing paper. 

To make the special paste the gluten must be separated from the rest of the substance of wheat flour.   When heated, the gluten forms a ball in your hand which can be lifted away.   This leaves the starch which is heated with distilled water and then passed through a sieve to form the paste.  This ancient method of paste making is the most revered by artists and bookbinders although modern glues are now used by some printmakers.  

With printmaking each step must be executed accurately or the total is spoiled.  This isn't so in painting.  Sometimes it's the "mistakes" in a painting that make it interesting and possible for the artist to take a new turn. 

 That is much less the case in printmaking.  I can say with the discipline of printmaking,  I am slowly learning patience.   It comes, however, at a price of time and money. 

 If you spoil a chine colle´ in the final stage,  at least 30 minutes of time are gone, not to mention the design sheet, which may have taken 30 minutes or more to create.   Or if you found a unique image in the newspaper you probably do not have another of the same.  The backing paper is quite pricey too, always a regret to throw away.  
(Rives 280 gr/m2 paper is usually about 6 euros a sheet, meaning 2 euros a print with the size I work with.)

Chine colle´may take years to perfect but it breathes new life into any of one's old plaques with the added satisfaction that each of these prints will be unique.  
Yves Klein inspired acid etched plate with newspaper used under the print

Found image from an ad in the newspaper again

In this case I took a photo of one of my canvases and printed it on Japanese paper .  Since the ink was not permanent I was able to achieve this cloudy affect with the chine colle´. 

Example of the original print homage to Klein print with red ink 
Second example of sugar lift print on Rives paper, without chine colle´ in black ink. 

Same print with japanese paper behind the print , color saturation reinforced with watercolors after printing.  I used less black ink to reveal the variation of the plate.

Monday, December 3, 2012

C'est Pas Classique

Vadim Repin, C'est Pas Classique
Last night I went along to the closing concert of "C'est Pas Classique", the oh-so-poplar-music festival held every year  in Nice.... wherein so many quirky and excellent musical offerings are performed free of charge over three or four days.  

The only drawback, of course, is this same popularity.    The rain discouraged me for the first several days of the festival,  but I was determined to join some pals to wait in line for the final concert in the vast "Apollon" hall. 

We were especially excited to be hearing the Siberian violinist, Vadim Repin, who is reputed to be one of the greatest violinists of our century.  

He was to be accompanied by the L'Orchestre Regional de Cannes PACA conducted by Philippe Bender for the final concert.  This is an orchestra with many accolades, an orchestra well respected in Europe. 

Let me tell you the little story of our adventure .  It's in the details.

We met up from three different quarters by bus and tram to descend upon the Acropolis which boasts a very large auditorium of 2500 seats.  

The idea was that the concert was to start at 20h00 (8pm) but to insure a decent seat in the front or middle of the Apollon Theatre we needed to be in line by 18h15.  We were indeed, and to make the wait more palatable we procured a square meter of space and plopped ourselves down.    

I have alluded in former posts about an entrenched attitude about the "way we do it" in France.  I recently told about trying to order a double coffee.  There is a slowly changing mind set, that there is one right way to do things and that is the way "we have always done it".   The "sotto voce" implication being that there is no other way.  

Now with a "whip lash" problem, I have found that standing or sitting in one position too long provokes unwelcome twinges so I didn't want to sit on the floor just to be contrary. I just didn't think that I could stand that long.

But within a few minutes of sitting down on the floor in the queue there was a woman behind us covering my friends head with her coat, moving uncomfortably close to us and fuming.  

  One of my friends pointed out that the coat was covering my friend's head and "La chère madame" pulled back her full force to release her complaint.  ..."We were being ridiculous, taking the place of 10 people."  ( Obviously, even if we were, we could not take ten seats in the auditorium so she would still get in.)   My friend politely asked her to have some respect for others .  

At the former outburst,  another French lady sat right down on the floor and began to chat with us.  We all procured glasses of wine from the nearby snack vendor and I pulled out a bag of vegetable chips and shared it around.  Then other French people began to chat with us and the angry lady was eclipsed by an elderly man fainting just nearby. 

My new French friend brought the paramedic and my  American friend brought water from the stand nearby.  It was eagerly given to her as we all pooled our energies to clear a space for the man to breathe.    I loved seeing our little international group responding so quickly.   Then the line began to move.

I have to say our seats were rather high up but excellent.  At least we weren't in the highest balcony called "paradise" which is not recommended for a good experience.  ( Take a look at the comments to see the program of the evening)

 During the concert I went from vague bliss to concentration.  I watched the bare arm of a young violinist and saw how her wrist was turned just so.  I observed the percussionist go from castanets to base drum to snare in the blink of an eye.  

I swooned over the oboe solos.  I puzzled over the removal of the score by a journeyman before the conductor emerged.   This taking away and putting back of the podium with a score on it happened three or four times.   I think it is a point of pride when the conductor conducts from memory.  Otherwise I couldn't fathom this ceremony.  

The Russian violinist, Vadim Repin,  is indeed extraordinary.  He played for over an hour without a score.  He played with delicious sensitivity and panache.  He put his "impetuous" personality into it while still respecting the pieces as they were laid down.  Here's an excerpt from the site of C'est pas Classique:

"Vadim Repin impressionne son public international par sa virtuosité, son expressivité inépuisable, son jeu d’une incroyable variété de timbres et sa technique magistrale. Cette technique parfaite, ce tempérament fougueux et la poésie de ses interprétations, caractérisent cet artiste hors du commun.
Vadim Repin impresses international audiences with his virtuosity,  inexhaustible expressiveness, his playing of an incredible variety of tones and masterly technique.  This perfect technique,  his fiery temperament and the poetry of his interpretations characterize this extraordinary artist."

For those of us who have practiced violin, Vadim showed off his actual violin language to great affect with a short ditty seducing the other strings into a pizzicato serenade advancing into the most amazing violin gymnastics I had ever seen.    All this was done to the tune of  the old German folk song and children's game: " My hat it has three corners"...  This piece of frivolity was of course just the encore piece but it was fun.

 I felt transported as only good music can transport.  Was I really stoned on two glasses of white wine or is it so crucial for our "ame" to hear classical music well rendered.   I think the latter.  I once had a class from an excommunicated priest.   We discovered in the class that there are certain vibrations that resonate with the human psyche and body.  Studies have shown that the Latin mass and most classical musical pieces fall into this category. 

Even now I feel like my writing is taking on an old fashioned
tenor,  as if there are some kinds of settings that require more respect than others.  The concert hall must be one of them.       

Was it worth the long wait with 2500 other patient 
music enthusiasts,   Definitely, it was.... but international connection and friendship made it even more delectable.