29 November 2005

Closeup View


Here's a closeup of the butterfly. I reality it's about 1 1/4 inches (4.5 cm) across. I love this magnifying visor!
Now I'm waiting for some paper to arrive.

28 November 2005

Second Block for "Climbing"


I wish I had started doing woodblock when I was younger, before I needed reading glasses. A couple of weeks ago I ordered one of those magnifying visors from Dick Blick. I look pretty ridiculous wearing it, but check out the butterfly I was able to carve on this second block! I didn't think shina plywood could hold that much detail. Now I know it was my eyes that were the problem.

27 November 2005

A Visit With Lynita Shimizu

Lynita Shimizu1

Yesterday I spent a lovely afternoon at the Connecticut studio of moku hanga artist Lynita Shimizu, who was hosting an open studio. Lucky for me it was a quiet afternoon, so I had the chance to quiz Lynita about all the kinds of things a beginner wants to know from an artist with nearly 30 years experience. I got to see how she holds the knife, how much she dampens her paper, how deeply she carves her blocks. I also got to see her prints up close and all in one place, like a retrospective exhibit. I loved seeing the continuities in her work — shapes, colors and themes that have repeated over the years. Lynita showed me some prints by other printmakers, people whose work I know through the Baren Forum (Mike Lyon, Sarah Hauser and Dave Bull) as well as prints by teachers and friends of hers in Japan.

One of the things I particularly enjoyed was learning a bit about how Lynita develops and works with an image. I saw how extensively she sketches, and she also showed me some "failed" or incomplete prints and talked about them. In doing so, she shared some of her techniques for rescuing a difficult or stalled print and I know this will help me a lot in my own work.

While I was there I couldn't resist buying one of my favorites of Lynita's prints, Gadabout Guineas.

If you're in New England and want a treat, Lynita's studio will be open again next weekend, December 3 and 4. I know from experience that if you visit, you'll be warmly welcomed. Details can be found on her web site.

22 November 2005

One of Two Blocks

White Block

I carved the first block today. In my quest for a more streamlined and spontaneous process, I'm planning to make this print with just two blocks. This will be the background plate and I'll be printing multiple impressions from it with some added carving between impressions (the reduction method).

18 November 2005

Plans for a New Print

It's been almost a month since I completed my last print. During this time I tried to get a new print going, but couldn't seem to find an image or concept that I liked well enough to commit to. Finally I've got something, and I think it may become a series. Here's the sketch:

Climbing Sketch

This is based on an image that came to me one evening while I was contemplating the huge effort it takes to make changes in life, to move out of old habits. In actual fact I hate rope climbing. It takes a massive amount of brute strength that I don't have. But this is fitting, because I also hate leaving comfortable old habits, even when they've outlived their usefulness.

Anyway, I'm envisioning a series that shows various stages or interesting spots in the human journey and the common denominator in each print will be a rope. It'll be like 36 Views of a Rope. Except I doubt it will be 36. Probably more like seven.

Well, we'll see what happens. Tonight I ordered some nice expensive paper from McClain's. No more fooling around with cheap paper!

15 November 2005

Washi From Japan

Yesterday I met my friend Naho for lunch and she gave me a wonderful gift: some washi (paper) from Japan! She had asked her mother who lives in Osaka to look for some washi that would be good for moku hanga and bring it here for me on her next visit to Massachusetts. I hear it wasn't too easy to find. Her mother had no luck at stationery stores and even art stores didn't carry it. But she finally found a small neighborhood art supply store that sold washi. Apparently the owner is interested in moku hanga so he makes a point to carry hanga supplies. He told Naho's mother that washi making is a dying art.

She brought two types, but unfortunately I have no information about either one. Here's a scan of the first type:
Washi #1
This is an offwhite paper that's quite thin, but feels pretty strong. The smoothest side is almost shiny. Since it's about 54 inches long, I'm doubtful that it could be hand made, although laid lines are visible. I have a paper sample book from McClain's and the paper this most resembles is the one McClain's calls "Kozo."

The second type is even thinner.
Washi #2
It's also quite long. I don't see anything in the McClain's sample book that resembles it. Guess I'm just going to have to play with these and see what I've got! Such a very nice gift for this budding hanga printer.

10 November 2005

And Commitment Issues


The biggest difference I find between making a digital illustration and making a woodblock print is in degree of commitment. On a good day I can create a finished digital illustration that I'm happy with in about a half a day, and the medium is so fluid I can try out a lot of different options fairly easily. A multicolor woodblock print, on the other hand, is at least a two week process (for me at this stage, anyway) and it's quite methodical, so I find that I want to be really committed to the image. For a couple of weeks now I've been making some sketches for the next print, but just the thought of all the work it will take to actually make the print keeps dissuading me from following through on various sketches. I keep making sketches that I don't like well enough to work with for the long haul. I guess in a way this is good. It's forcing me to wait until the image is really right and keeps me from settling for less. But what about experimenting and just "fooling around" with the medium? Woodblock doesn't seem to lend itself to easy experimentation. It's such a different process, such a different pace than what I'm used to.

I think i would really like the pace if woodblock was all the work I was doing, but the extremely fast and high-pressured pace of commercial illustration work kind of takes over my life and it's hard for me to readjust my clock even when I manage to find some time for woodblock. I'm not quitting yet, though!

Any thoughts or tips?

06 November 2005

Workspace Issues


One of the things I love about moku hanga is that because there's no press or nasty chemicals needed it can be done virtually anywhere. I work in this little corner of my home office on my old but sturdy drafting table. You can see my carving tools on the upper right corner of the desk next to the tape dispenser. Then to the left, next to the kleenex box, is a disk baren and above that, hanging from the second shelf you can see a row of 7 maru bake (brushes). I've been doing all my printing here. Carving I've done lots of different places - the front porch, the back yard, the living room. The wood chips are messy, but it's nothing an old sheet and a good vacuum cleaner can't handle.

I've recently run into some trouble with this arrangement, though. Last night I sketched out an idea for a new print and it's a design that wants to be large. Like maybe a couple of feet high. I just don't know if this space can handle a print that size. Taking over another room is a possibility, but I'm not sure how the other inhabitants of my house will like that. Looks like I might need to get a proper studio if I keep going in this direction.

05 November 2005

More Illustrators Who Print

German Illustrator Roman Klonek (above) works in woodblock as well as digitally. Look under "Woodcuts" on his web site.

Also, my friend Cindy Woods, one of my all-time favorite artist/illustrators, mentioned in a comment the other day that Canadian illustrator Carey Sookocheff's work looks like linoprint. I investigated a bit and indeed, Carey uses lino on top of acrylic and some occasional collage. Her work is simple and beautiful and she also works in the fast-paced arena of editorial illustration.

I think there's lots of possibility for using woodblock in commercial work. Now I just need a couple of clients who are willing to try it with me!

03 November 2005

Nathalie Roland


In my search for woodcut artists who do commercial illustration work, I ran across this artist named Nathalie Roland on Flickr! the other day. I like her work a lot. Looks like she does a lot of prints related to music. For all you Baren Forum folks who are working on the "mythical beasts" theme, Nathalie has some really good-looking monsters in her collection, so check them out.

01 November 2005

Relief Prints & Commercial Illustration


I've been wondering how feasible it would be to use woodcuts for my own commercial illustration work, so I've set about to try to find some artists who do just that. Illustrator Randall Enos has been using linocuts in his work for over 40 years. I don't know if he prints a keyblock and then does color by hand or if he's doing multiple blocks, but he's got to be very fast with the medium to work with the types of clients he works with (magazines and newspapers among others). Since he wouldn't need to make an edition, just one good print to send to the client, I imagine he could spend most of his time on composition and carving. At any rate, his work is lovely, it really stands out from the crowd in the illustration field, and his 40+ years in the business is very impressive.