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What did I do in 2022? I finally finished Forest Rays! At least I think I am done. The prints are still in the drying boards and will need a careful look-over before I add them to the store, but here’s a preview. I think I captured the feeling I was looking for – humid forest, light streaming through the branches, leaves caught in sunlight glowing brightly.
7 pieces of wood (6 self-made cherry ply and 1 shina ply from McClain’s), 19 printable areas including the key block, 25 impressions. (I had prepared separate key lines for the trees and foliage in the distance, but decided not to use them – that would have made 26 impressions!)
The paper is Shin Hosho from Woodlike Matsumura. When I started printing, I thought “Excellent, this paper is really tough, and I’ll need it for this print!” but by the end it was quite soft and barely hanging on. I had thrown in a few sheets of Student Kozo as warm-up sheets, but I gave up on them about 18 impressions in because they were fouling the blocks with fibers that kept coming off.
I’m looking forward to the next print! It will be a simple one, and I’ll aim to finish within a month – fingers crossed. Back to the carving bench!
I’ve been busy, making progress on Forest Rays. Here is an animation showing the first 15 impressions.
It’s remarkably hard to do a good job at an animation like this. I tried to set the light up the same for each shot, but I was printing at different times of the day so there were some hard-to-avoid differences that are not solved by a simple white-balance. Also, to make them all the same size I had to stretch and shrink parts of each image to fit the same frame; some frames are stretched in places that others aren’t.
There are another 8 or so impressions to go, at minimum – better get back into the studio!
I’ve had a really productive day doing print-related things! I moistened the paper that I will use for Forest Rays.
I decided to remove part of one of the columns of shadow, since it didn’t really look right overlapping the foliage at the top. I also decided to carve the other side of the shina ply I used for the newest block, to add deepness to that upper foliage while preserving some highlights. So, I made two new transfer sheets.
In the middle above is the current state of my test print inside a plastic bag, with the key lines added. The part of the shadow column I want to remove is about 1/3 of the way from the right edge – the part that crosses the lighter green at the top. Before pasting down the transfer to the shadow block (above right), I lightly cut the gampi with a knife so it would pull away from the backing sheet, then put glue only on that area, and pasted it down. You can see the place it formerly occupied in the transfer sheet remnants on the lower right. On far left is the second transfer sheet marked up for shading the foliage, and (why not, while I am at it!) shadows for the rocks.
Instead of starting in on the new carving, I printed the first impression of Forest Rays. I can carve later, when I have a few minutes, but printing takes a chunk of time, and today I had the time.
I’m printing on some Shin Hosho I got from Woodlike Matsumura a few years back. It’s pretty tough paper! I’m able to rub it without a sheet of baking parchment to protect it. One drawback is the kind of “chiri” in the paper. All handmade kozo paper has bits of junk – bark, dirt, etc. – included in it. This one has tiny rocks! I picked out 4 little rocks (OK, they are sand grains, but large ones) in these 23 pieces of washi before starting the print run. This is important so as not to damage the blocks or the baren. Other than that, I like this paper a lot. It is tough and dimensionally stable. It needs a lot of pressure for a smooth impression, but using that, it is possible to print quite smoothly.
So, I’ve officially started printing Forest Rays! No telling how long it will take; the test print has 27 or so impressions so far and that is not all of them. Also, JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) is next week and I really need to study!
I’m nearing the end of this test printing and I think I’ve solved a problem that was bothering me – what to do with the trees that are in the middle distance. I’ll show you in a bit. But first, yes – I carved another block.
I just needed a little more color on those middle trees – this will be a bright color over their whole leaf surface, so that I can have some highlights more in line with the color the shadows will be. I’ll show you most of the stages of the test print so far.
The exposures are all a little different so the colors aren’t showing up exactly the same in each case, and it may be hard to see what changed.
– The first three impressions used two blocks, one for the light gray, and the other to set up a weird gradient, where I have bluish in the middle and yellowish at each end. This used the block I had previously modified to remove the bright green leaves and tree bark, so that I could have some blue for the sky without affecting those areas.
– The 4th impression added a pale yellow green to most of the leaves at the top.
– You can see what the 5th added!
– 6 through 11 added brown on the tree bark, a bokashi with greenish brown to the ground, and separate bark and shadow colors to the tiny trees in the background.
– 12 made the upper leaves darker, 13 added darker but still dilute sumi to the road and also trees and rocks.
– 14 and 15 added a more intense bright yellow green to most of the leaves, and also some to the ground plane.
– Lots happened in the next 8 impressions! A medium green on the tree in the middle distance, darken ALL of the upper leaves, a dark gray bokashi mostly in the foreground, two blocks to add the shadows that bring out the light rays, MORE pigment on the upper leaves, another bokashi on the ground to deepen it, and finally the decision to try a crazy color on the middle tree.
– The 24th impression added more dark brown to the upper limbs and rightmost tree in a gradient.
So why the new block? Well, when the pre-modification background block was printed all in yellow, these highlights on the mid-range trees looked ok. But if there’s “sky” in those areas, the highlights just look weird. I think they look weird anyway, and need more “leafy” texture. The new block will cover the whole area of that tree, and I can use it to make the highlights more like a yellow or at least olive. And I can modify the block that printed the gold color here to make the highlights more leafy.
So, I’m nearly there! Just the lines are left, and the new block of course. I’m happy with the use of a contrasting color for the middle trees, because they just looked vague and washed out previously. At this point I think I will dampen the REAL paper and start printing this weekend.
I’m in my 4th round of test printing for the Forest Rays project. It’s been a bit of a struggle, mostly because there are so many areas to print – 11 wood faces, 18 printable areas, 18 sets of registration marks, and lots of areas that overlap so they get printed multiple times.
I recently received some “Student Kozo” paper from Kitaro, and with some hope, am using it for this round of testing. Unfortunately it’s weak and floppy when damp, and seems to shrink and swell more than I’d like. And more frustrating for testing this particular print, when an area gets more than one or two impressions, fibers start to separate from the face of the paper; you can see that below.
I’m plowing forward despite the frustrations, and am succeeding at my aim to get more pigment onto the prints! Pretty soon though, I need to just take the plunge and actually print the things. I have a stack of Shin Hosho from Wood Like Matsumura set aside for this one; that paper is pretty tough!
I wonder if I might be able to add more sizing to this paper to toughen it up and be able to have less trouble testing prints that have lots of overlays. At any rate, it’s pretty nice for the price, so I can use it for simple prints without many overlapping colors.
I’ve got this huge stack of blocks …
and test prints and notes from three rounds of testing ….
and some blocks from that stack have been modified but not yet tested.
Surely this is a job for my new proofing paper!
There’s some in the freezer, waiting in a double-wide ziploc.
Or perhaps more than that, incoming from Japan!
It’s a roll of 10 sheets of the “student” 100% kozo (mulberry) paper from Kitaro. The top blue line says, 越前手漉き和紙、aka “Echizen tesuki washi”, or Echizen handmade Japanese paper. I’m looking forward to trying it out! It’s quite inexpensive for 100% mulberry paper. I’m not sure what makes it student grade – imperfections, maybe? I won’t really know until I plan some prints, take some out, and slice up a sheet for testing. From first inspection, it seems nice and sturdy, so hopefully the sizing is adequate. Who knows, maybe this paper will be worth more than testing material?
(Image credit to my friend Lou Hurlbut for the little print you can see on the wall!)
Planning new prints. Ahem. I’ve been stuck in that stage for awhile since I returned from Japan. I’ve got two ideas going – I will hint at them in cartoon form. These are purposefully low-res images because the designs are not final and a hi-res digital image just looks quite fake.
This one is taking lots of time to develop and I may not ever get there! But I love the idea.
This one is close! Obviously clouds are a recurring theme in these ideas. This was a real cloud that I saw in Junction, Texas. We wanted rain sooo bad! It was raining over there, 80 miles away where the cloud was, but not where we were. As the sun set, the colors just got more and more dramatic.
OK back to the studio!
I’m doing a residency at Karuizawa Mokuhanga School and trying some different carving and printing methods. First of all, it’s a wonderful opportunity to focus as much as I want on printmaking – which is turning out to be most of my waking hours! There are others here working, so it’s a great environment to concentrate. If I was at home with this much free time I would no doubt be organizing my sock collection or some other such passtime of questionable value 😉
Often I’ll use the computer to print out a cleaned-up, precise set of transfer sheets for the key block and/or color blocks, and paste them down as a carving guide. This time I traced the key lines directly onto the block.
This block is magnolia wood, something I’ve never carved on before. It’s softer than cherry, but is able to hold a pretty good line. I expect it would not last as long as a cherry block, but since I don’t publish thousands of any design, that’s not such a huge consideration. (I do wonder what will happen to it when I get it home to 50% humidity conditions in Texas!)
When starting with a key block, I usually print the key lines on laminated transfer sheets, as in the first photo below showing transfer sheets (hanshita) for Cedar Path. Gampi is affixed to a more sturdy backing sheet with repositionable spray adhesive, printed with the key block, then pasted down to transfer the lines for carving. This time I printed the transfer sheets directly onto washi – Awagami kozo extra light – and will paste those down directly. With fingers crossed!
Another change from my normal practice:
You’ll see the kento (registration marks) printed directly on the transfer sheets! This is because the transfer sheet is too light to place into registration marks on the color blocks.
Stay tuned for more experimental results!
25 printmakers, including me!
Brews and bites!
All of this on Sunday, September 4, from 11am until 4pm
Central Machine Works, 4824 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX