Studio blog of Annie Bissett, an artist working with traditional Japanese woodblock printing (moku hanga)
17 October 2005
Under the Same Moon
"Everyone everywhere loves the same moon."
I'd be way out of my league trying to carve that sentence in wood, but I wanted it in the art, so I used an archival-quality pigment stamp pad and a cool little rubber stamp alphabet to print it.
Drying these prints flat was really tough. I got a lot of help from folks on the Baren Forum and ended up using illustration board and blotters. I came out with some wrinkles, but given how this paper was looking while it was wet, I'm pleased with the flatness I managed to get. If you click on the scan above it will take you to the Flickr! web site where you can click on a button that says "All Sizes" to see a larger version. Then you can really see the wrinkles!
I wouldn't recommend this paper for moku hanga. I may have been rubbing too hard with the baren and I may have had the paper too wet - I'm too inexperienced to evaluate these things very well. But even if both those things are true, I didn't rub any harder than I've rubbed when using Rives and the paper was definitely not "wet-wet," just damp, so it must be pretty unforgiving paper.
I'll be shipping out 31 of these prints within the next couple of days for Baren Exchange #26.
15 October 2005
Women In Burqas
"Everyone everywhere loves the same moon."
I don't know all that much about Islam, and one of the things I least understand is Islam's view and treatment of women. To my American eyes, a burqa appears to be a symbol of bondage. But the sentence I'm working with, "Everyone everywhere loves the same moon," invites me to find the similarities between myself and a woman in a burqa. So I began to look at all the ways that I also am in bondage, and to think about how all beings long for freedom from bondage, whatever bondage we're in, whatever shrouds we wear.
The print will show three women, and I'm printing each of the women as a small reduction print with 3 colors. Here's the first one. I used a light purple, then carved away some of the block for a medium purple application, then carving even more for the dark purple overprint.
And you can see how my paper continues to buckle and misbehave! Maybe too much baren pressure, maybe too much water, maybe bad paper. But I'm committed now, so I will keep on!
14 October 2005
Same Moon - Block 2
With the second block added you can see that this is a mosque. I printed the yellow and then cut away some more of the block to define the area I wanted to print in orange.
13 October 2005
Exchange Print: First Block
Here's the lauan plywood block printed on the Masa Dosa paper. I love the grain from the wood, and I love this paper as far as it being bright white and soft to the touch. However, you can see here already on the very first print that the paper is so soft it's stretching. It looked fine until I put it on the scanner bed and it refused to lie flat under the scanner cover. (Yes, indeed, I'm scanning this wet! One of the wonders of moku hanga is that the paper soaks up the pigments immediately and they don't rub off.) This stretching will definitely be a problem as I add more ink and paste and moisture...
11 October 2005
Trying Masa Dosa
To date I've printed all my woodcuts on western paper, mostly Rives. For my Baren exchange print I'm using an inexpensive but handmade Japanese paper called Masa Dosa that I bought at McClain's. The description in the McClain's catalog states that this paper is a "crisp, bright white paper that accepts ink very well... sized for use with water-based inks, it is thick and tough enough to take multiple block printing well."
So far I've found that this paper behaves quite differently than the Rives. It's softer, almost fluffy. It has a more fabric-like quality and is very thirsty. It soaks up lots of pigment. It also feels less "wet" when it's dampened. I like it.
Speaking of trying out different papers, printmaker Maria Arango has a page on her web site that reports on the behavior of dozens of papers she's tried.
09 October 2005
Trying Out Some Lauan Plywood
I'm using 12" x 16" blocks this time for my Baren exchange print. This is the largest size I've used so far, and I'm really enjoying it. I feel like I can really move my hand around and be a bit more expressive. I bought some really cheap craft-grade lauan plywood (they call it Philippine mahogany) at Dick Blick to carve this first block because I've heard that lauan will make a nice woodgrain texture in the print. It was difficult to carve because it's splintery. It's also only 3/8" thick, even though Blick's says 1/4", so it's pretty bendable, but I'm just using it for one large shape, so I think I'll get by with it.
I test-printed the block after I carved it and sure enough, it makes a nice grain print. The remaining blocks will be shina plywood.
05 October 2005
An Andy English Print
© Andy English
This beautiful little 4" x 6" print just arrived in the mail from my new friend Andy English, a British wood engraver I met through the Baren Forum. It's called "Walking Towards Ely." I love the magical storybook quality of the illustration and the backlighting.
Although both woodcuts and wood engravings are forms of relief printing using wood, wood engraving is quite different from the type of woodcut prints I'm learning to make. For one thing, woodcuts are made using the plank side of the wood, while wood engraving is done on the end grain. Engravers use a press to print rather than hand printing and generally use oil-based inks rather than water-based. Even the cutting tools used are different. Engravers use tools with really cool names like "scorper" and "spitsticker."
Endgrain wood holds much finer detail than plankside wood, as you can see here in this enlargement of a 1 1/2" x 2" section of Andy's print. Compare it with the full print above to get a sense of the scale of these amazing marks that Andy makes with his engraving tools.
For those of you who love bookplates (and I know you're out there!) Andy has a whole section on his web site devoted to bookplates. Thanks for the print, Andy!
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