31 May 2011

Blogging from Japan

Dear blog readers,

I'm so excited! In two days I'm leaving for Japan to attend the 1st International Mokuhanga Conference in Kyoto and Awaji! As part of my preparation, I've been trying to figure out how I can communicate with you while I'm there. It's complicated, of course. I'm opting not to bring my laptop as it would be too cumbersome, so I'll be using my Verizon Android phone instead. This limits me in a couple of ways. First of all I can't type well with my thumbs, so I won't be able to be my usual verbose self. And secondly, my phone can't communicate with Japan's cell network, so I'll only be able to use it when there's wireless available. Wireless, it turns out, is not nearly as ubiquitous in Japan as it is in the US. So I'm really not sure how often I'll be able to post.

Then there's the question of where to post when I can post. I have a Twitter feed, a Facebook page, and this blog as possibilities, but I don't want to make multiple posts, so I want to use RSS to "broadcast" each post to those various streams. I tried Blogger for Android to see if I could use Woodblock Dreams to do that, but I found it too difficult to use the Blogger software on my phone. Twitter is too concise (140 characters) and Facebook isn't my favorite site. So, I started a Tumblr blog. Tumblr is a sort of hybrid between old-style standalone blogs like this one and social networking sites like Twitter or Facebook. The interface is simple and designed for easy sharing of content from either computers or mobile devices. The social functions are Tumblr's "following" and "reblogging" features, which allow people to follow others and share things they like.

All this is a long way of saying I'll be sending live reports from Japan, photos etc. on my Tumblr:


If you're one of my friends on Facebook or if you follow me on Twitter, the Tumblr feeds should show up there too, but in some of my test posts the results have been inconsistent. If you want to be sure to see the posts, I'd suggest checking directly on the Tumblr site.

When I get back in mid-June I'll do some longer posts here on Woodblock Dreams with all the gory geeky printmaking details. I hope you'll follow along for both!


19 May 2011

Such A Person I Want to Become

Not long after the triple disaster in Japan, a friend on Twitter posted a link to a poem by a writer named Kenji Miyazawa who lived in the devastated area of Tohoku. The poem, Ame ni mo Makezu (Not Losing To the Rain), was discovered in a notebook after Miyazawa's death in 1933. I was instantly taken with the poem, with its powerful Buddhist emphasis on both compassion and social activism.
I emailed a copy of the poem to my friend Mariko and asked her if she knew it. Silly me! Turns out it's one of the best-known poems in Japan -- Mariko learned it by heart when she was a schoolgirl.

There are a number of translations online, but I especially like this one on Wikipedia which is a fairly direct translation of the Japanese:
not losing to the rain
not losing to the wind
not losing to the snow nor to summer's heat
with a strong body
unfettered by desire
never losing temper
cultivating a quiet joy
every day four bowls of brown rice
miso and some vegetables to eat
in everything
count yourself last and put others before you
watching and listening, and understanding
and never forgetting
in the shade of the woods of the pines of the fields
being in a little thatched hut
if there is a sick child to the east
going and nursing over them
if there is a tired mother to the west
going and shouldering her sheaf of rice
if there is someone near death to the south
going and saying there's no need to be afraid
if there is a quarrel or a lawsuit to the north
telling them to leave off with such waste
when there's drought, shedding tears of sympathy
when the summer's cold, wandering upset
called a nobody by everyone
without being praised
without being blamed
such a person
I want to become
- Kenji Miyazawa

I had been wanting to make a small print that I could bring with me to Japan to give as a gift to people I meet while I'm at the Mokuhanga Conference, so I decided to use this poem as my muse. I asked myself, "Who are my heroes? What kind of person do I want to become?" and my answer was Martin Luther King Jr.

So this is the little 5 x 7 print I made for MLK, such a person I want to become.


It's a simple print so I won't show you the entire build sequence, but here's one stage that I think made a big difference. Before I printed the final black layer, I tried adding a bokashi (blend) on the upper part of the face to make it look like the hat was casting a shadow on the forehead. I liked how that looked, so I did it on the whole edition.

Before the bokashi
After the bokashi

08 May 2011

Workshop Photos

Here are a few photos from the moku hanga workshop I taught this past weekend at Zea Mays Printmaking. It was a beautiful weekend and a great group of participants.


We used registration boards (above) from McClain's rather than cutting kentos for every block. This allowed us to use the full face of the 4 x 6 blocks for image area and eliminated the need to work on mastering kento cutting in an already compressed time frame. Even in the short time we had (two 7-hour days), the participants made some lovely prints.

Susan used just 3 block and some selective inking to compose this image of her sister's cat.

Angela used the transparency of the pigments to great advantage, overprinting primary colors to achieve a full spectrum rainbow.

Elizabeth worked with several simple but graphic images that were amazingly strong and three-dimensional.

Dana created many variations with just a couple of simple blocks, taking a painterly approach that was like monoprinting with wood.

Delphine did a beautiful job translating a watercolor sketch she brought into a woodblock print.

Pierre created this appealing lighthouse image from a simple pencil sketch, using overprinting to create some secondary colors.

K. devoted herself to exploring all of the variables of printing -- paste, water, baren pressure, ink transparency -- and created many variations from her set of four abstract but related blocks.

Flemming managed some complex carving in the short time frame and made several variations of this lively hummingbird design.

Leslie tackled the difficult task of simplifying a photograph for woodblock and created this image of a child at the water's edge. (My apologies for not noticing that the photo was blurry when I shot it.)

Such a great weekend. Thanks everyone!