Getting started

Forest Rays

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!

You guessed it – another block.

Forest Rays

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.

Test printing – brief report

Forest Rays

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.

Proofing paper, perhaps

Uncategorized

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!

Experiments!

Uncategorized

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!

“Desert Cloud” is ready!

Uncategorized

You can find it here. I’m pleased with this one; it’s really simple, but the embossing and gradations turned out well.

I have a few printing progress shots:

After the 7th impression shown in the last photo, there were four more: a third gradation on the sky, two to build the medium shadows on the cloud, and one for the darkest cloud shadows.

I ended up with quite a stack of prints! However three were mistakes, and 5 had paper flaws that make them seconds. There were more bark fragments in these sheets than in the last sheets from this batch.

Fitting it all on one block – again!

Uncategorized

My next project is now just about ready for test printing. I have a backlog of pictures to show various bits of the preparation.

I wanted to use a whole sheet of the Kitaro Kizuki without wasting any of it. This drove the paper size, which turned out to be 6-1/4″ x 8-3/4″ (about 160 x 220mm).

This will be a print without key lines. At first I thought I could use shina, but when I worked up the design (which will take 7 color regions), I realized that to get the shapes I wanted, shina would be risky – the top plies might come off of the smaller regions. So cherry it is; time to make a new block!

I cleaned up some aluminum scraps I found to help flatten the glue-up, scrubbing them with soap and water, filing the sharp edges, and checking to make sure there are no nicks or burrs that could damage the surface of the wood.

As usual, I used a card scraper to smooth the surface. I also wet-sanded with 1500 grit and made a final pass with the scraper.

So yes, as you might be wondering, that is a really long block! If I had made 2 double-sided blocks, I would not be able to fit all the color areas; by leaving it in one piece (8″ x 18″), I had more flexibility to position the registration marks and color areas so they would not interfere with each other.

Some carving progress:

Below are some straight shots showing the full blocks, with registration marks circled.

I tried to place the registration marks so that there would not be some weird bump in the middle of the paper that would result in unwanted embossing. The second mark in the top image IS in the middle of the paper for the shape that is approximately in the middle, but I think it is far enough away that I can avoid rubbing it. In the bottom image, two of the shapes are at a little bit of an angle. This places the potentially-interfering registration marks outside the edge of the paper (red lines).

Below are the cleared blocks tilted so they are lit at a low angle. This really emphasizes the texture, but it also shows that I am trying to carve deeply enough from the beginning so that I’m not doing so much cleanup when I get into printing.

That is it for now! Onward to the test-printing!

First printing of Cedar Path is done!

Uncategorized

Cedar Path is finished, and available for purchase on the Available Prints page.

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.