30 July 2011

Mokuhanga Show In Scotland

Opening today in Edinburgh Scotland is an exhibition curated by Scottish artist Elspeth Lamb RSA titled IN JAPAN, a large survey show of woodblock art from around the world. My print American Bible Story will be included along with work by approximately 45 other artists, including work by Helen Frankenthaler! The show will be up through September 18.

IN JAPAN: Highlights of Academicians' projects in contemporary Japan
30 July - 18 September, 2011
RSA Finlay & Projects Room
The Royal Scottish Academy
The Mound

Opening Times:
Admission Free
Mon-Sat 10-5pm
Sun 12-5pm

28 July 2011

Great Wave

Japanese-method woodblock (moku hanga)
Image size: 22" x 37" (56 x 94 cm)
Paper size: 24" x 40" (61 x 101.5 cm)
3 baltic birch plywood blocks
12 hand-rubbed color layers
Paper: Kizuki Kozo
Edition: 7

The wave design is referenced and much enlarged from the back of a one dollar bill.

25 July 2011

24 July 2011

Last Week's Printing Progress

Having gotten my three large pieces of birch plywood carved, I spent the next few days starting the printing process. I've never used this paper before, Kizuki Kozo from The Japanese Paper Place in Toronto. It's sized, but it's fairly thin for mokuhanga, so I was nervous about how it would hold up with multiple overprintings. So far so good, although it's starting to stretch and distort a little. I'll see at the end if I can get it flat again or not.

Anyway, the paper is 24" x 40" (61 x 102 cm) which is the largest piece of paper I've ever tried to handle. Short of hiring an assistant just to help me get the paper onto the block, I knew I'd have to try something new. Friends on the Baren Forum had once suggested rolling as a possibility, so I tried that and it worked pretty well. I just picked up the roll, guided it into the kento, and then let it unfurl onto the inked block.

Here's how the print looked after three passes.

I still have to deepen the reflection under the hills before I move on to other areas of the print.

19 July 2011

Prints In Wales

I'm excited to be part of a show in August with printmakers of Zea Mays Printmaking called Prudent Prints at Aberystwyth University in Wales. The image on the announcement is by the awesome Lilliana Pereira.

Baltic Birch vs. Shina

I've started working on a new print over the past few weeks, and it involves a lot of newness. It's the largest print I've ever tried, at 24" x 40" (61 x 102 cm), and I'm using a new kind of wood as well as a new kind of paper. All in all, this makes for an exciting print!

The print called for three 24" x 40" plates. Shina plywood that size at McClains was beyond my budget, so I decided to go to my local lumber yard and see what I could find. The best they had to offer was a sheet of 5' x 5' (1.5 meter) high grade baltic birch plywood. Even though there was a lot more wood than I needed, the price of the birch was about 1/3 of what I would have paid at McClains, not including shipping fees. So I had the lumber guy cut it for me and I drove the boards home in my Honda.

But would the birch work? And could I get the level of detail I wanted? The answer is yes and yes, but not without a few trials:

I started with the easiest block, the one with the least detail, just to get a feel for the wood. As I expected, it was much harder to work with than shina plywood. The shina I'm accustomed to is shina all the way through the layers, but the birch ply is a thin birch veneer with fir on the inside. As you can see in the photo above, there are a lot of knots in the underlayers. The wood is also much more splintery, and I have some little punctures in my fingers to prove it. Ouch! Also, the glue is sort of crunchy as the tools move through it. I quickly decided to use some of my cheaper tools on the birch and save my expensive ones for shina.

For clearing on a block this size I tried another first -- a hammer and chisel! Up until now I've most often used a large shallow u-gouge that I can push with my hands, but this called for more. I'm embarrassed to admit how many times I hit the knuckle of my thumb with the mallet. Ouch!

I tried it a few different ways, but the wood seemed to require that I first chisel away from the raised image and then back from the other direction to release the "wave" of wood created by the initial chiseling. I'm sure that there are some of you printmaker readers out there who know a better way, so please feel free to offer your advice.

Here's the detail I was able to achieve, which I feel happy about:

I think it would have been quite a lot easier with shina, though, and less painful too!

16 July 2011

Art Guerra Makes Art

I didn't know that Art Guerra, founder of Guerra Paint and Pigment in New York, is also an artist. I've used his pigment dispersions straight out of the bottle for woodblock ever since I started making prints. Check out this Two Coats of Paint blog post about Art's current show at Sugar gallery in Brooklyn.

07 July 2011

Mokuhanga Conference 5 - Demos & Shows

Just so you get an idea of how jam-packed the conference was, I'm still telling you about events from the first day! I checked in at a couple more demonstrations that first afternoon.

Italian printmaker Niccolo Barbagli demonstrated how he depicts water using both western and Japanese woodblock techniques.

Hidehiko Goto, who is among the last living specialized baren craftsmen, demonstrated the construction of a hon baren.

Artist Eva Pietzcker (left) got a bird's eye view of Goto san's work.

Goto san has just published a book about his work called Baren: hon baren seiho to tsukaikata (Baren: the construction and use of a hon baren). It's available only in Japanese, but is chock full of photos so there's a lot to glean even if you can't read the Japanese.


I'll also note that Hidehiko Goto is a mokuhanga printmaker in his own right. Unfortunately he didn't show any of his own work, but above is an example. You can see more at the Verne Collection web site.

At this point in the day I couldn't take in any more information, so I took a walk around the neighborhood to see a few of the print shows that were happening around Kyoto for the conference.

First I went to "Mokuhanga Innovative," a show of 7 woodblock artists: Akira Kurosaki, Tetsuya Noda and Seiichiro Miida from Japan, Karen Kunc and April Vollmer from the U.S., and Kari Laitinen and Tuula Moilanen from Finland.

'Garden of Disasters' by Karen Kunc

Two works by Akira Kurosaki

Next I visited the large "Mokuhanga: Dialogue and Dialect" exhibition, which included 55 woodblock prints from all over the world. Here are just a few of them:

By Rick Finn, whose work I've been admiring online for a while now. Great to see it in person.

By Ray Heus of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, who makes lovely small works in the shin hanga style. I also saw work by Ray last week at Gail Browne Gallery while I was vacationing in Provincetown.

By Elspeth Lamb of Scotland, who is putting together a mokuhanga exhibition in Glasgow for later this summer.

A spectacular piece by Margot Rocklen of Connecticut USA

There was also a wonderful book show called "Hanga Ehon" in a very cool Japanese antique bookstore called Kyoto Paradise. Unfortunately I didn't get any photographs of that show.