31 October 2007

Viewing Prints In New York

Hideo Hagiwara

Early Saturday morning I'll be boarding a bus at Smith College Museum of Art for a day trip to NY City to see the 17th Annual IFPDA Print Fair. The 5-day Print Fair, which started today and is held at the Armory in the upper East Side, features exhibits of prints from all periods and from around the world. There are over 90 print dealers represented, including several dealers who specialize in Japanese prints, so there should be plenty of great prints to feast my eyes on.

29 October 2007

Carving Again


Time to whittle down the block some more. Now I'm carving away all the areas that I want to see remain light blue. Given the limited amount of time I have available this week, I'll be lucky if I can get this finished before the end of the weekend.

25 October 2007

Prints from First State of Block


What you see here is four impressions from the block in its first state. I plan to study it for another day or two, just to be sure I'm satisfied with things at this stage, and then I'll cut the block some more for a second round of printing. Once I cut into the block again there's no going back!

This Bethlehem print, part of "Love Songs for a Small Planet," is the first in a trio of prints - Bethlehem (birthplace of Jesus), Mecca (birthplace of Mohammed) and Lumbini (birthplace of Buddha). Yesterday I ran across a serendipitous news report about Condoleeza Rice visiting Bethlehem. Here's a screenshot of a portion of the article (the part with pictures, of course). Click image for larger view:

23 October 2007

Working With Large Paper

Seems as though every time I get myself ready to start a new print I get a flurry of illustration jobs. That happened again this week, but this morning I took some time before work and printed a round on my new Bethlehem print. It was a test of my new kento system, and happily it worked well. Here are photos of placing the paper on the block.

The paper is grasped with two hands in what is called a "scissor grip." I place my thumbs on the notches I've cut that correspond to the two kento guides.

I hold the paper in a curved shape to keep it from dropping into the ink on the block.

First I bring my left hand down and line up the paper notch with the matching kento notch. Then, keeping my thumb on the paper to hold it in place, and maintaining the overall curve of the paper, I guide the edge of paper in my right hand into the other kento guide.

Keeping my thumbs on the kento and paper, I let go of the paper with my other fingers and allow it to fall onto the block.

18 October 2007

A Different Kento

When printing with the moku hanga method, one typically places the paper on the inked block by holding the paper in a "scissor grip." One hand holds a corner and the other hand holds an edge, and the paper is guided into corresponding corner and edge registration marks (kento) on the board. The paper for this print is so large (13"/33cm x 30"/76cm), though, that I've been concerned that I won't be able to get the paper onto the block without dragging it through the wet ink. A photo I saw on David Bull's web site gave me an idea, so I'm trying a different kind of kento.


Here you can see that I'm using two kento marks along the long edge of the board. They're about 15" (35cm) apart, so I can hold the paper in a u-shape, supporting it in the middle as I guide it onto the board.

One of the kento marks is straight, but the other is notched so that a corresponding notch in the paper can ensure proper placement.


Usually I cut the paper, but for this series of prints I want torn edges. After tearing the paper, I need to cut both a notch and a straight edge along one side to fit perfectly into the kento.


I'll place the paper's notch into position first, then bring the straight edge into position and let the paper fall onto the board. Tonight I'm preparing the paper -- lots of it, as I'm bound to mess up a few prints working with a new method!


16 October 2007

Islands of White


I still have a couple of hours of carving to do on this block. All the little dots make me think of the Aleutian Islands, which I've drawn a few times in my illustration career. Lynn says that if we ever visit Alaska she expects me to spend the whole time moaning about how hard that coastline is to draw. I do always complain about it, but now I know that carving it would be even worse. Why do I make these incredibly tedious projects for myself?!

Anyway, this will be the first step in my reduction print. It will print as little white dots in a field of pale blue.

11 October 2007

Trying a Reduction Print

The "reduction method" in relief printing is an exacting process where the artist uses only one block. As in any woodcut, the artist begins by cutting a block and printing a color. But instead of carving a new block for an additional color, that same block is cut further (hence the term "reduction") and used again to print a second color over the first. The artist continues to cut and print this one block until all the colors have been printed.

One of the big drawbacks of this method is that there is no opportunity to go back to a previous color and make changes, since the wood has long since been cut away. For this reason, the method is also referred to as a "suicide print."

I've done some partial reductions on various blocks in past prints, but never a real "reduction print." I think that it might be a good method for the print I'm attempting here, though. Here's a drawing on one of my blocks for the first stage of a reduction:


The web site of reduction printmaker Don Gorvett shows the amazing detail and richness that can be achieved with this method.

09 October 2007

$6 Hanshita

I've just started working on a new print that will be the largest I've attempted so far: 13" x 30" (33 x 76 cm) paper size. It's a map-based print, so I need some precision in my sketches (hanshita) for each color. I thought about using my laser printer, but it can only print a maximum of 11" x 17". I finally ended up printing out my sketches at 50% and going to my local copy shop for an oversized xerox. It cost $1 per square foot, which came to about $6 for each of my four hanshita. Here's one of them:


This print, the first in a series of three, will be based on a satellite view of Bethlehem. Here's the view I'm using for inspiration:


08 October 2007

Randi Bull

Just back from a short but rejuvenating trip to Cape Cod. Nothing like the ocean to calm the nerves and feed the soul.

Looking over my emails when I got back, I saw an announcement about an exhibit currently showing at the Center for Contemporary Printmaking in Norwalk, CT:


Of course I wanted to see more of her work, but I was stopped short when a Google search revealed almost nothing more about her. It showed me how much I rely on (and expect) the internet to contain information on absolutely everything. It was good to be reminded that it doesn't.

Here's one more sample of Randi's work:


And this blurb from The New Canaan Advertiser:

“Randi Bull: Retrospective, 1959-1989” is on display through November 17.

Ms. Bull moved to America from Norway as a baby and grew up in and around New York City. She began printmaking in the 1950s, and when she pulled her first woodblock print, she realized that this would be her preferred medium. She was already an accomplished printmaker when she encountered Japanese woodcut artists and their tools — the knives, gouges and baren.

She applies oil-based inks, rather than the water-based inks traditional in Japan, to the carved blocks, a separate block for each color. Then she places paper on each block in turn and rubs it by hand with the baren, a flat disk covered with a bamboo leaf. For greater definition, she uses a wooden spoon to strengthen a line or particular area. Because each woodcut involves so much meticulous handwork, she limits them to editions of 35 to 50 prints.

“I like everything about making a woodcut. I like the knives, the feel of cutting the wood, the white of the paper, the wonderful colors, and the luminosity the white paper and the black key block give. I like the shapes which materialize when you cut freely, both the shape you cut out and the shape that remains. I like the struggle with the grain of the wood, the fact that it has a life of its own. I like the step-by-step working out of the final print and the exciting transparencies of color over color. The logical or sometimes topsy-turvy solutions at times are quite different from the initial plan of colors. I love the mystery that arises when a print suddenly seems to work.”

The exhibit is curated by Laura G. Einstein of New Canaan.

Center for Contemporary Printmaking is located at 299 West Avenue in Norwalk.

05 October 2007


Well, the inks don't act just like cmyk (of course) but it was a fun experiment. Here are some variations:

Red and Blue

Yellow and Blue

All three colors

Left: 4 drops blue; Right: 3 drops

04 October 2007

Mixing Colors

I've been an illustrator for over 20 years, yet I know almost nothing about mixing paints. What I do know about is mixing process color on a computer, the color model that's used in commercial printing. Process color uses four inks -- cyan, magenta, yellow, and black -- in varying amounts to create a full spectrum of color for offset printing. I'm so used to using CMYK that I can look at a color and estimate the amounts of each of the four inks that would be used to create it. What I can't easily do is look at bottles of paint and figure out what color I'll end up with if I mix them.

In this print, I'm experimenting with mixing three colors -- blue, red, and yellow -- to see if they behave at all like cyan, magenta and yellow. Here's the red layer by itself:


And added to the yellow:


Now I'm drying the prints before I re-wet them to add the blue.


03 October 2007

Straight From the Bottle


Here's the first pass on my new "Melting" print. It's a double hit (for density) of yellow oxide, straight out of the bottle.

Printing in the new space works just fine. It's a lot like the old studio, in fact. I don't know what I was so worried about, but I felt like I had lead in my shoes trying to get myself in there to print. That's why I chose to work with some simple blocks for my inaugural print.

More to come...

02 October 2007

Iceberg Blocks


This print, at least as I've conceived of it, is a simple three-block three-color print. Of course, once I start the printing, it may not be as simple as I imagine. I wanted to experiment with overprinting and I wanted to do something simple in order to test out my new studio space. Carving is something I feel comfortable doing almost anywhere, but I find that printing is much more demanding. This print will allow me to do a trial printing run and make sure I have all my systems in place before I move onto more challenging prints.

Now to cut some 13" x 18" paper and dampen it for printing tomorrow.