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.


Andrew Stone said...

I love how the dog jumps off the image once the blue block is printed. Your printing has evolved so much through the years but this is still so much one of yours. It looks like it was a worthwhile exercise to go back and I'm glad you kept the blocks as-is rather than totally reworking them.

I agree that it isn't really "fun" to go back and reprint even though I occasionally will edition a number higher than I actually printed with the idea of going back in the future if I need to/choose to.

Thanks for sharing. I recognize and still commit rather often all of the beginning printer mistakes.

Leslie Moore said...

I remember that first posting from ten years ago. Hard to believe I've been following your Woodblock Dreams for that long. Still just as captivating now as then. Hope you keep on for ten years and more,

JOTAPE said...

Hi Annie, thank you for sharing your work and processes, it helps us to try to print in the Japanese way. Can I ask you a technical question? You recommend some "western" paper to print, other than Japanese, (I understand that is the most appropriate, but I live in Chile and I can not find it here). I appreciate your comments, greetings from South America!

Annie B said...

Hi @JOTAPE. Japanese paper is not necessarily "better," it's just more authentic! Japanese paper does have some advantages: the fibers of a kozo-based paper are longer than the fibers of papers made of wood, so kozo paper is stronger. But Japanese papers also need to be sized inorder to print mokuhanga, so that's a downside. Machine-made papers are almost always "internally" sized during the papermaking process.

Any western etching-type paper will do for mokuhanga, I think. It needs to be not too thick, because otherwise you'll hurt your arm trying to print by hand! Rives BFK, for instance, is too thick. On the other hand, the paper needs to be strong and thick enough to withstand multiple applications of color and moisture. My teacher, Matt Brown, always uses Rives Heavyweight (cotton fibers). He actually prefers it to the Japanese papers. I've used it and I've found that it stretches a little more than the Japanese papers under the pressure of the baren, but it's workable and it receives the ink well.

JOTAPE said...

Annie Thank you for taking the time to respond. I have tried some papers that I can find in my country, some of them are cotton and I understand what you say, because I also get the impression that they "stretch" at the moment of pressure with the baren. I do not know how this is handled when making color adjustments, even though I did not spend the first stage of printing the keyblock well ... I have been using paper with weights of between 90-120 gr, but I was unsure if I chose the papers with cotton fiber I'll try to find the paper that you point out to me, do you know what weight it is that your teacher occupies? Thanks again for your time and comments.

Annie B said...

Here's a link to one company that sells the paper my teacher uses. It's called "Rives Heavyweight" and is 175 gsm.