|Detail of Block #5 carving|
Working from the photograph of Ty's fur I showed you in the last post, I used Photoshop to help me separate the image into six distinct colors, then transferred the separations onto six 12 x 9 inch blocks (30 x 23 cm). I started carving around September 1 and have been carving ever since, today being the 21st. I'm happy to say that I'm on the 6th block now. (The print is due October 15.)
In my own mind I call this very detailed, very tiny, very tight type of carving "virtuoso carving." I've worked like this quite a bit in my woodblock career — see my carving of page one of the Algonquin Bible, or the recent halftone Relics prints for example — and it's totally in keeping with the traditional Japanese method of woodblock printing (think ukiyo-e prints). It's also physically demanding and intense to carve this way. I've developed arthritis in my neck as I've aged and it's uncomfortable for me now to spend 100+ hours at my carving desk, even though I use an easel-like setup and a good chair. I never say never, because I know how I am, but this print may be my "virtuoso carving" swan song.
We'll see about that… Meanwhile, I know the feeling I want this print to have. I want it to look just like my beautiful Ty's fur. I want it to look soft and inviting. I want it to cry out to be touched. And I think that requires hewing closely to the photo.
I made a mistake on block #5 and had to fix it. Obviously, a small slip of the knife on a print of swirly fur can often be ignored, but I slipped on an area where it really would have glared. Superglue to the rescue, as superglue doesn't soften with all the water needed in mokuhanga.
As tough as this carving job has been, I don't anticipate that the printing will be much easier. It will be an edition of 21 prints, per the portfolio specs. I have to pause before printing to get ready for Northampton's Printworks 2016! I'll tell you about that in the next post.