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.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mary,
    Just looked at your blog and saw your print making. You are so great to try and learn and make ART. The prints are intriguing. It's really good to see how much you have learned and concurred in your foreign life.
    Hope the season is a good one for you.
    all the best,