Although I originally imagined this print as done in monochrome – perhaps all in blue, in homage to the aizuri-e tradition – and even mocked it up in blue, I abandoned that plan pretty early in the test printing process.
Here’s the final palette I landed on. I used a fair amount of sumi in the last few impressions! Number 14 was the key lines; the 15th was a bokashi to deepen the shadows on the bushes ahead.
I waited until near the end to print the key lines. Here’s what the print looked like just before, with impression 13 (grayish violet) as the most recent:
After adding the key lines and the deeper shadows, and drying –
I’m now wondering if I can pull off a sunset image with the same blocks! Hmm… might need more/different shadows.
I’ve planned some shadows for the foliage. While I was at it, I also planned some for the branches too! Here are the transfer sheets –
Carving on these new shadow blocks is all finished at this point. On the way, I encountered a little mistake, circled in orange in the upper left image below. The missing bit of wood is long gone, sadly – if I still had it, I might try to glue it on with waterproof glue, even though it is a really tiny piece. I decided to try this time to make a non-janky, properly installed repair. It is still a tiny tiny piece of wood! I cut a sliver of cherry about as wide as the missing part, then chopped it to be about 1/4″ long. I used my knife to hollow out a similarly-shaped hole in the block to hold it.
Just above on the left, it’s glued in, then on the right it’s been trimmed. It is not perfect, but I think it will work well to avoid a gap in the tree-shadows.
When I first conceived of this print, I imagined doing it all in monochrome, probably in Prussian blue. So I started doing test prints on card stock, and I tried having it damp like normal washi for printing, hoping that that would keep it from wrinkling so I could do multiple impressions. Right away I realized that the Prussian blue I was trying to use was NOT the right hue, so I printed over that pretty quickly with some Payne’s gray on the sky and some olive and Payne’s on the foliage. That’s the test on the left. Some of the Prussian blue is sort of preserved on the little hill on the far left – it was much more turquoise than I expected.
Another thing I noticed is just how much the card stock changes size with variation in moisture content! The leftmost try is registered pretty well because I did it all in one go and the paper did not dry much. But the others are horribly registered, especially on the right of the image, because these tiny pieces of paper shrank almost an eighth of an inch in width! Finally, something weird was going on with those vertical lines in the sky. Was it the paper or the block? I’m afraid it might be the block because it’s got some rough areas due to crazy grain in that area. I actually took a very fine, 1500 grit, piece of sandpaper to it, to try to reduce the roughness. I was really careful to avoid rounding the edges or hollowing out a hole. That seems to have helped a little – the top-most try was printed last of these three, and the lines seem less prominent. So I sanded a little more.
The next few test prints were done using Shin Torinoko, an economical Japanese paper that is sized, machine made, and with a fiber content of linen and pine pulp. It’s pretty different from what I will ultimately print on, but it is dimensionally stable and can take multiple impressions. I would really like to find a better paper for test-printing, but haven’t found one yet that is inexpensive enough, adequately sized, and tough.
Anyway, here I am really moving away from the monochrome idea! I like the brown key lines, as opposed to blue. I tested whether it would be better to have shadows in the valleys between the hills on the left of the image, or mist; I prefer the mist. I like the greenish hills of the upper right image better than the gold-ish ones on the left image. I’m trying to use a bokashi to add shadows to the foliage, and that sort of works for the trees, but given where I want the shadows in the background foliage, it’s hard to control.
So, kicking and screaming a little (but not really, because it means I get to carve some more), I started thinking about another block to add shadows in a more controlled way. I made a few more transfer sheets and printed the key block. Because I didn’t make any key lines to delineate the path, but I really needed to know where its edge lay, I also printed that part on one of my transfers – that’s the green you see through the tracing paper below. I made a bunch of shadow sketches on tracing paper, before deciding how to approach it.
I can just barely see the outlines of the trace-paper shadow areas through the transfer sheet with the light table turned all the way up!
I think these areas will all go into the same impression (using a single set of registration marks).
So, getting closer to actually printing! The test prints are still damp, still in the freezer, and ready for testing the shadows when this next block is ready.
I’m sort of sad, because carving is my most favorite part! I’m all done with clearing the waste wood, and ready to start test printing – after I get rid of the remnants of the transfer sheets.
I’m trying to carve deeply where there are broad open areas, without carving too deeply in narrow areas, because that can trap paste and lead to blobs when printing. Apologies for the focus being a bit selective in the shots below, but this may give you an idea of how deeply I’ve carved.
I’m still not sure of the color scheme … I guess that will get figured out in the test prints! My original thought was monochrome-bluish, so I will begin that way and branch off as seems appropriate.
I’ll close with a Springtime picture. I must confess, this was last weekend, and the plum tree is pretty much done with its blooms by now and moving on into leafing out. There is still some Spring left though, and the bees are out in force!
Tada! There it is – two sides of the same hunk of wood.
Actually it did not take that much time to paste down all the transfers.
Those familiar with woodblock printing will notice a whole bunch of registration marks! 4 sets in the left picture, 3 sets on the right. So I’ll be doing MINIMUM 7 impressions (probably more), with ONE PIECE OF WOOD! I think I was able to place all of the pieces so that I have enough distance between color regions and registration marks to avoid unwanted pigment transfers.
In the right-hand image, the key lines are covered up by some copy paper that is taped on, to protect them while I am carving the color regions.
Two posts in one day! Making up for lost time, I suppose.
Here, I’ve got all my color block areas lined up. First, I am working on the sky, which takes up most of the left picture. If you look carefully, you will see the little area in the lower left is labeled “different block” – indeed, I need to preserve it, for use on another block. So before I pasted down the sky block sheet, I taped some plain paper on the sheet itself to mask the parts of the transfer I don’t want to mess up (middle picture). After pasting down, I used the knife to separate the part I want to preserve – and there we go, I have my little “different block” piece, unscathed, to paste down someplace else.
In the views above, the part lined by blue tape are the key lines. I have taped down a protective sheet that will stay there while I carve the color blocks.
Moving on to the other side of the wood! There are two flaws in the wood that I wanted to make sure to avoid. When planning out where the color block pieces would go, I used tracing paper to make sure they would fit on my wood. I used this piece again to verify that the placement I had planned would still be missing the flaws.
For the next transfer, I didn’t have anything I needed to preserve on the transfer sheet, but I wanted to avoid getting glue all over the block since other pieces will get pasted there.
I just taped some paper to the block so I would only get glue where it was needed. I was able to peel up the unneeded part of the transfer, with clean wood underneath.
That’s it for today! One note to end this post: we are moving into the warmer parts of the year, gradually, as evidenced by the Cat Thermometer 😉
I’ve left the grass until the last; it’s kind of complicated with all the overlapping and intersecting lines. It’s just my luck that the gampi didn’t stick as strongly in this corner, so I am having to be very careful about dragging the knife.
Still, I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel! Only a few more hours, then I can clear the large waste and try it out.