27 January 2016

Halftone Buddha

Watercolor woodblock print
13 x 13 inch image (33 x 33 cm) on  17 x 19 inch (43 x 48 cm) Shioji washi
edition: 8

I finished carving the halftone Buddha block a couple of days ago and today I finished printing a small two-color edition. I'm trying a new paper that I got from Woodlike Matsumura, an inexpensive handmade 100% kozo called Shioji.

I expected the printing to be fairly easy, since I'm just using two colors, but when it comes to moku hanga, "easy" isn't really a word that fits. Of course there were issues.

The first issue came up while I was putting down a base layer of pink with an uncarved block. To get full coverage i found that I had to print the pink four times, which was hard on the paper and caused it to wrinkle. Next time I'll try wetting the paper a little more from the beginning to see if I can get the color I want in fewer passes. You can also see in the photo above that there's a darker line on each of the prints. That's a spot where two sections of veneer (I'm using a plywood) are joined on the surface of the wood. They use some kind of thin white tape under the veneer where the joins are and in a wide expanse like this the tape changes the profile of the wood just enough that it prints. (Hat tip to Andrew Stone and Andrea Starkey for a long troubleshooting conversation on Facebook a few months ago that helped ferret out what causes this to happen with shina plywood.)

After the four layers of pink, I let the paper dry and then re-wet it for the purple halftone layer. It was tricky to find just the right amount of pigment, paste and moisture to print the halftone so there was enough ink for the impression to be dark and strong but not so much that any of the smaller holes would fill in. I'll admit that I lost a couple of sheets of paper in the process.

More to come in this series.

21 January 2016

A Sample Print for Students

I've been invited to be a visiting artist at Maine College of Art's printmaking department in February, and since our time is limited (basically 12 hours) I'm going to try bringing some sample blocks for students to print with before carving their own. I've never done it in that order before — print and then carve — but it makes sense for a short class. Trying out printing first could help them in working out the color separations on their own blocks, they can carve their blocks while I'm still there, and then they can do most of their printing on their own after I'm gone. We'll see how that works out. If it's successful, I may start doing it in my longer workshops too.

[A note to mokuhanga aficionados:  I tried a whole bunch of different papers from Awagami plus Rives Heavyweight (cotton) plus my beloved Echizen Kozo and I was stunned at the results. My #1 preference for each of the three versions you'll see below was Rives Heavyweight! Weird, as I assumed washi would be way better to print with. You never know until you experiment…]

Here are the blocks I carved for the class and a few test prints for demonstration.

The four blocks, carved and ready to start printing.

A quick test of the blocks using plain copy paper, checking registration and print behavior of each block, plus trying out a few colors.

Another batch of prints using similar colors but adding some bokashi (blends). I'm also testing different kinds of papers.

Another color palette and intentional use of goma-zuri (speckle) printing to show how texture can be used to add interest to very simple blocks.

One more variation showing more uses of bokashi, gomazuri, and white overprinting.