The images in the Cliché Verre Collection include some of Brian Skinner's earliest work. The medium known as cliché verre (French for "glass negative") refers to the plate, initially made of glass, on which a photographic image was registered.
Chemical dyes and ordinary inks, and even felt markers, produce the color effects on the glass plates or celluloid negatives. The negatives themselves can be scratched or etched with a fine point (using a jeweler's loupe) to produce the designs, shapes, and outlines. Under- and over-exposed film, on which no image is registered, provides the perfect "blank canvas" for this technique. Photographic images, or even slices of an image, can be used to create additional visual aspects.
The size employed here was 35 mm, which proved limiting, especially for finer lines and subtle effects. Combined with one or more layers of film and the front and rear pieces of glass from a 35mm slide holder, the final image may be a composite of six
or more layers.
The layers of glass and film can then be loaded into the metal slide holders and composited to produce the final image. Most often, the images were projected onto a wall or screen with a slide projector, contributing to some of the stunning light and color effects. A computer monitor is a more-than-adequate substitute, since in both instances the image is a projection rather than a reflection of light.
It became a natural extension of this technique for the artist to render the various layers digitally and composite them in a professional graphics program such as Adobe Photoshop®. Often, the greater control and refinement possible in the digital realm led to the completion of half-finished or unfinished work, as well as to some surprising detours from the original style or content.
Below is a more detailed explanation, with pictures, of the techniques of cliché verre.
This a photo of a clump of crocuses on which has been overlaid a completely black layer of exposed film. The blank negative was etched in a roughly circular shape and dotted with small punctures to suggest stars. The "planet" was then crudely shaded with brown ink.
The "planetary" layer has been cropped
in a perfect circle and the background and "stars" dropped out.
A new black background, without the punctures, was placed behind the "planet," and an overlay gradient applied. The effect of this "warm" gradient will be obvious in the next image.
After enhancing the original planetary sphere and adding the gradient, some additional shading has been added around the circumference.
An overlay layer of airbrushed (in Photoshop) rose petals is applied at 60% opacity. Combined with the black background, the effect is striking; over the sphere it is barely noticeable, simply adding subtle detail to the "planetary" features.
Here's the final version with all layers and effects applied, including the stars and the artist's signature. The stars were one layer too many, and were removed with a single mouse click.
Straying a bit from the artist's original intent of depicting a green, Earthlike planet, now the image looked more like a Dragon's Egg.
The finished, full-size cliché verre can be seen here.
Cliché Verre Collection
©1995-2013 by Brian Skinner