22 December 2005

Happy Holidays

This is me and my dog Ty, who keeps me company in my studio. Ty is quite happy that I've taken up woodblock printing, because he's very partial to wood. He sits under my desk when I'm carving and nibbles on wood chips.

Warm holiday wishes to everyone from me and Ty.

13 December 2005

Those Pesky Fibers

Next I cut out a lot of little squares and applied the last color, a deep teal blue. What a mess! Every time I lifted a printed sheet off the block, little tufts of paper fibers would be stuck to the board. (You can click on the photo above for a larger view.) My first line of attack was to wipe the board after each print, but this wasn't adequate. The fibers rolled up into little balls when I re-inked the block, ruining the next print.

Next I tried washing the block after each impression. This worked as far as getting rid of the fibers, but made it impossible to get any consistency between prints. One of the things that happens in moku hanga when printing an edition is that the pigment builds up on the block and the brush so that after a few prints you only have to add a little bit of paste and/or pigment to get a nice impression. Washing the block after each print ruined that effect.

I wondered if the paper was just too darn wet after having been overprinted twice already, so I decided to dry all the prints and start over. I let them dry overnight, then very very slightly re-moistened them. No improvement! Fibers were once again sticking to the block. I finally finished the edition by washing the block after each impression.

It was a very frustrating experience, but I did manage to get some nice prints. This may in fact be my favorite print so far. Here's the final version:

12 December 2005

Working the Background

This is pretty self-explanatory. I wanted the spiral of "rope" to be yellow, so I printed yellow, then carved away the spiral and overprinted in green. One problem I discovered with doing reduction method moku hanga is that I got a bleed into the yellow from the residue of blue pigment that remained on the board after I printed the feet:

This happened no matter how well I cleaned the board. Of course, that blue is pthalo blue, which is an incredibly strong color. One drop on a pair of jeans in a load of laundry can tint the whole load! Lucky for me, this area will end up covered in a stronger color, so the bleed isn't a problem on this particular print. It's something to watch for, though.

I have one more layer to do now.

11 December 2005

Inking Small Areas

Next I cut away everything that had printed blue through the stencil except for a few small square areas that I wanted to print in a second color. I read somewhere that the Provincetown white line woodcut artists used a method where they painstakingly applied colors with small brushes, so I thought I'd use a small brush to apply color to these little squares. It worked well.

I also changed my print setup a bit after reading feedback from Mike Lyon in the comments two posts ago. Brilliant! Having the paper above the block rather than to the side offers much more economy of movement. Thanks, Mike.

10 December 2005

Using a Stencil

This print, like the previous one, will have some white linework, so I wanted to try and keep all the white lines on one block for perfect registration. However, I don't want the first color to be only "inside the lines." I want this part of the print to look as if the white lines were printed on top of a roughly-shaped field of blue. The way I figured out to do this, with a well-timed hint from Tom K., is to use a stencil.

I found an old pad of drafting film in my studio from the long-ago days when I used to use a rapidograph pen instead of a computer and thought that since film is waterproof and doesn't tear it would be perfect for a stencil.

Here's the inked block:

And then the stencil is placed on top. Note that the kento (registration) marks need to be deep enough for two thicknesses of paper.

Then put the printing paper on top, burnish with the baren, and voila!

09 December 2005

Printing Setup

Everyone does it differently, but this is the simple setup I use when I'm ready to print. The camellia oil actually gets put away once I start, but it's used to oil the baren. The baren (rubbing device) pictured here is a ball-bearing baren rather than a traditional baren. I decided to try the ball-bearing baren when I began to experience a lot of pain in my wrist and arm. This baren is helping a lot, as it doesn't require as much pressure to get a good impression.

08 December 2005

Uses Snow Days Wisely

Tomorrow we're expecting a "snow day" in Massachusetts, so tonight I'm making plans to take advantage of the situation and do some woodblock work. The next print I'll be doing is called The Invitation and I'm planning to do it all on one block with a stencil and several reduction stages. I'll be using this simple sketch as the starting point and then drawing additional elements on the block as I proceed.

Already, after having made just 8 prints, I feel like I'm beginning to develop a method of working that feels natural to me. I'm feeling less inclined to doing lots of intricate blocks like I used for the Power of Tea print and more drawn towards using fewer blocks, working with the reduction method. I've been doing rough color studies on the computer beforehand, since the computer is the medium I know best, and then figuring out the most economical way to execute the design. Thinking about overprints and what order to print things is like doing a puzzle, and once I've sketched out a design I find myself pondering how to cut and print it at all hours of the day and night. Sometimes I even dream that I'm printing. By the time I get to actually creating the print I feel very familiar with it.

So hopefully tomorrow I'll get a chance to start this.

07 December 2005

Taking the Leap

Making a shift from illustration to printmaking/moku hanga means that I'll need to learn more about how the world of fine arts operates. There are quite a few differences between these two types of work that I hadn't even thought about. Just as an example, here in Massachusetts I don't have to charge my clients a sales tax for illustration work because illustration is considered a service. (I'm not selling the illustration itself, but the right to reproduce the illustration.) But sales tax does apply to the sale of a print, so I need to find out how that system works.

In my search for information about how the art world works I found a great book at my local library called Taking the Leap. It talks about everything from writing an artist's statement to finding (or bypassing) a gallery to the ins and outs of copyright and creating a mailing list. It's the best book I've found so far.

Now to figure out matting and framing...

06 December 2005

Climbing Out of Sleep

Here's the final print. It's called "Climbing Out of Sleep (Self-Effort)." This is actually the second in the series, although I printed it first. The first is waiting in the wings. Here are the process steps on the second block:

First, a light blue on the figure.

Then a green for the overprint of the poppies.

Then dark blue after carving away the hands and feet of the figure. I was afraid that the butterfly would be hard to print, that the shallow cuts would fill up too much with pigment, but with a nice light touch of the baren it was very easy. Next I added black to the figure's hair and the print was finished. Three days to print 24 sheets. (The edition will be smaller once I pull out the bad ones.)

Thanks for watching the process!

04 December 2005

Reduction Block

My idea for this print is for the linework to be white. To keep registration problems to a minimum I wanted to use as few blocks as possible, so I'm reducing the first block here to make some cloud-like shapes that will print over the gold and the bokashi.

Speaking of the bokashi, thanks to Mike Lyon and Tom Kristensen both for the great information on bokashi and goma zuri (see comments on previous post). Next on my list of things to do is to get out some scrap paper and practice the methods they describe. I know I'll be really happy when I get some control over my goma zuri.

Here are the impressions I took from the above block:

Mike was so right about the edges of my bokashi being too pronounced. You can see it in the first print above. What happened was that I accidently turned the brush at one point and I ruined some of the prints. I haven't pulled those out yet, though, and unfortunately I haven't been very discriminating about the photos I'm showing here, so some of these photos show the mistake. I guess that makes this blog a good learning tool!

03 December 2005

I Love This Paper

I spent most of today printing the first block for "Climbing Out of Sleep." I'm using a paper called Echizen Kozo that I got from McClain's and it's great: thick yet soft, takes the pigment really well, and seems very strong. I did three impressions of one block. I decided to try a pale grey impression first, to add depth and some texture. I was trying to get goma zuri (sesame seed pattern) on purpose, but it appears to be easier to get it by accident.

Then I printed the whole block again in a yellow ochre.

And finally, a bokashi (blend) on each side with burnt sienna.

Now I'll start cutting this block some more.