29 November 2015

My First Print Redux

One of the original 2005 prints

In July 2005 I wrote the first post on this blog, which was about my first woodblock print, Year of the Dog (above), done at a workshop with Matt Brown. In spring 2016 I'm going to be part of a show at McGowan Fine Art (Concord NH) that will feature Matt and a few of his students, and Matt asked me to re-print my first print, since it sold out long ago. Fortunately I still have the blocks. I've never re-printed any of my prints before – it's an interesting thing to do, especially reprinting the first one I ever made.

I decided that I wouldn't do anything to the blocks other than smooth down some of the cleared areas that hadn't been done very well at the workshop. I did, however, need to re-carve the yellow block because I had used it to demonstrate something or other (probably when I was teaching a workshop).

Four of the five blocks (there's a block for green on the back side of one), including a messed up yellow one.

Once I had the new yellow block ready, it was simply a matter of printing them all. I thought about doing the new edition in different colors, but I like the original colors so much that I decided to just keep them.

The old and new yellow blocks.

Here's the print progression:

First I printed yellow.

Next came a blueish green that gets greener on top of the yellow. I don't know how I conceived of this overprinting technique for my first print, and I'm not sure I would do it this way now, but this is how I did it back in 2005. As you can see, the carving is rough, but I didn't "fix" it.
Next a brown block. Here the registration issues become clear. I decided not to try to fix it.
Then some red. Again, I'm interested in how I decided to use the red on top of the brown for the trees. Not sure I'd think of that now, which makes me a little sad. Beginner's mind is kind of awesome.
The final blue layer is totally magic. There's no dog until the blue gets printed. Unfortunately, the same thing happened with this printing as happened the first time: the green "cloud" shapes got lost under the blue, although they're visible in some lighting situations.

A side by side comparison shows all of the typical first-time mistakes that printers make: incomplete coverage, speckling (goma zuri), some ink bleeding (printing too wet), buildup of ink along the edges (too much rice paste), and filling in of small carved spaces (too much water and/or paste). And yet, there's something charming about that 2005 print. I'm glad I didn't correct the registration and carving issues. I'm also glad that I don't generally do reprints!

So now there's a second edition of thirty Year of the Dog prints. They'll be available at McGowan Fine Art, April 26 – May 27, 2016.

15 November 2015

November 2015 Mokuhanga Workshop

Here are a few photos from a mokuhanga workshop I just taught this weekend at Zea Mays Printmaking. Thanks to all nine students for coming and for the great energy and enthusiasm you brought!

Shavings from one student's blocks.
Baren (on a beautiful baren pad), pigments, and a small stencil brush for printing.

We always learn from each other at Show And Tell at the end of the class.
First prints (underneath) were done with 5 plates, but the student decided to simplify and go with just three to make these appealing pink versions.

A nice use of "goma zuri" (speckling) in this background. Another plate with green pine needles was added later.

This complex design took a long time to carve, which unfortunately left little time for printing. This quick proof was all that the student was able to do. We all loved the soft edges of the clouds.

Broad areas of color characterize this abstract design. Even for an experienced moku hanga printer, it's difficult to get coverage this good.

Just a few of many variations that this student made with her four blocks.

A student who is very fluent in linocut did this nice loose carving in wood.
Nice subtle shading on the body of the bird and some loose carving, too.
This monoprint-style work was done by a student who was feeling frustrated with the finicky registration issues that her planned design required. Sometimes deviating from the plan is exactly what's needed.

Another nice use of goma zuri texture.

Zea Mays intern Kristina had some time to print a block she had been working on mokuhanga style.

As we left the studio, the skies showered us with pink and blue applause.