18 March 2007
First Block Step By Step
These are the four blocks for my iceberg print. Sometime I'll talk about ways to color separate an image, but since I've already designed this print and carved the blocks, let's just talk about printing for now.
This is the basic setup. The block is on a piece of non-skid shelf liner to keep it very stable, the damp paper is under plastic close to the block so it's easy to pick it up and get it right into position, and the baren, ink and paste are on a taboret to my right (I'm right-handed).
Generally, it's good to print colors in order from light to dark. From experience, I also know that the first impression tends to be the most grainy impression, so I want to choose my first block with that in mind as well. I'd like the iceberg itself to have some texture, so I'll print the pale iceberg color first.
I begin by wetting the block with a spritzer and wetting the brush by rubbing it on the block. Then I wait a couple of minutes, letting the water soak in a bit. Sometimes I do this more than once.
Next I apply a little rice paste, letting it drop onto the block from the end of a Japanese brush. Literally a drop or two is all that I need for this block.
And since I want this to be a pale tint, I use only a couple of drops of pigment as well.
The pigment and paste are blended with the maru bake (brush) right on the block and then smoothed out with a few long strokes.
Grasping the paper with the first and second fingers of each hand, like scissors, the thumbs guide the paper's edges into the carved kento marks which act as registration marks. Once the corner and edge are in position, the "scissor grip" is released so the paper can gently fall onto the inked block.
The print is then burnished with a baren. Here I'm using a ball-bearing baren, my favorite kind. I like to use a protective paper, called an ategawa, to protect the paper and also to protect the baren from stray paper fibers. I use baking parchment paper as an ategawa.
After the burnishing is finished, there is a little bleed through on the back of the print. This is normal in moku hanga.
Lift the paper carefully, and there it is, the first impression. I then do the same steps over again. And over again. And over again, until I've done all 18 sheets of paper.
I'll make the other impressions in the next couple of days.