Experiments!

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!

Shadows, and patch.

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.

Fitting it all on one piece of wood, part 1

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 😉

Is cat ded?
Nope! cat is not ded.

Another block

Another block? What’s going on?

Nope, not adding a block to the forest rays print! The truth is, I just don’t have the time to start printing that one. I need several continuous days without many other responsibilities; I think I will need to take vacation to do the printing. Carving, however, is something I can spend a couple of hours on here and there. Plus I really love carving! So, motivated by that excitement and a new design idea, I’ve prepared another block. I’ve used a card scraper to smooth the surface – it yields the same kind of surface that can be achieved with a hand plane, but is a lot less expensive and requires less skill to use.

Since the last design was so complicated, for this one, I am aiming for simple simple simple. All the impressions will fit on ONE piece of wood (with two laminated cherry faces). I’m thinking monochrome too!

I got everything ready before starting the carving. I figured out the final size, cut the paper, and planned out where on the wood each impression will go.

A few of the sheets of washi have some flaws. One has a tiny blood stain because I trimmed off the very tip of my thumb cutting them 😦 and others had some bends in the paper. I’ll print them all – the sheets with slight bends might turn out fine after being dampened and printed. The sheets with (possible) flaws got a little line as a corner mark; the others got a dot on the corner that is the squarest, which will go into the corner kento when it’s time to print. 50 sheets in all! My biggest print run yet.

Now to paste down that hanshita and take a knife to the block!

Color block modification

In the last post, I talked about removing the leaves that should be sunlit from the base color block, so that I could use it for a blue sky without having the sunlit leaves go dull. I decided also to remove the trunks and limbs of the trees from that block, so I could have more control over their final color. Here’s the plan:

Wow, gluing this transfer down onto an already carved block was a bit of a mess. Glue collected in the depressions and refused to spread where I wanted it. I ended up with a really rough paste job and no good peel at all, as you see on the left. But the registration seems to be good at least – it is lining up with the previously carved areas!

The one on the right is after the new areas have been carved and cleared. I had to be very thorough in washing it, and in scraping out the excess transfer glue with a toothpick.

Next, I’ll need to verify the registration of the new carving, but after that NO EXCUSES, time to start printing on real paper.

Re-boot of an old bird

A couple of years back I started work on a print of this sly character relaxing in a lake, perhaps thinking about his next snack. I made a few test prints and didn’t go any further because they just weren’t turning out well.

This was the first print I made where I used the hanshita method to transfer a print’s lines in order to carve color blocks. In this method, the key block is printed on transfer sheets made by laminating a thin sheet of paper, usually gampi, to stronger paper with removable spray adhesive. This post shows some prepared transfer sheets for a different print, which are then glued face down onto the clean color-blocks-to-be using the same registration marks that will be used for printing later. The stronger paper is peeled off, then the surface layers of the gampi are peeled off to yield a clearly visible guide showing what needs to be carved. After carving, the rest of the paper is washed off, and voila — the color block is ready to print.

In a dumb, rookie mistake I used the wood glue in my drawer – Titebond III – to affix the transfer sheets to the blocks. Oops! Titebond III is “proven waterproof” and “offers superior bond strength” – really not characteristics suited to my task! As a result, I couldn’t ever completely get it off the surface of the color blocks, and they basically refused to hold and transfer pigment evenly. That’s why the blue is so patchy and uneven.

I still have a bunch of shina plywood that I don’t see myself using for a new project anytime soon, so I think I will carve some new color blocks for this print. I’ll use the original key block.

It needs a bit of cleanup. I carved it back when I was using u-gouges and v-gouges, so the valleys are really rough. Some of the lines could use refining.

Another thing I did was to introduce some discontinuities in the lines of the hills that are supposed to be reflected in the water. I am hopeful that these will help the reflections look more like reflections. These changes on the key block mean the location of the gaps will be transferred to the new color blocks, so those blocks can have aligned openings that produce white lines in the finished print.

I don’t envision doing a huge run of this design, but I would like to do it justice with some well-executed prints!

New Fall print progress

After first learning how to make prints with water-based pigments from Annie Bissett (https://anniebissett.com/home.html) in 2017, I went home and made a tiny (~ 2″ x 3″) little print using plywood samples I had received from various sources, and testing out about 5 different paper types. Most of these ended up being sent out to friends and family as Fall greetings.

I decided this year to make another Fall-themed print, which I started working on back in June, when I first made the “frankenblocks” from thin cherry and plywood plus applied chunks of wood for registration marks. Sadly, the set of prints is not going to be ready for the official start of Fall, since other things got in the way. The new goal is to have the first printing ready sometime during Fall. Here’s the key block and my first attempt at making hanshita for the color block transfers:

As you can see from the bleeding and the wrinkling, I used WAY too much liquid to print the hanshita. Try 2 turned out OK! When I used the glue I brought back from Japan (the stuff Dave uses to attach line-work transfers), most of the gampi peeled off with the mounting paper.

The transfer above was for the yellow color, which will cover the leaves entirely. Here are some shots of the carved areas for blue and light orange-ish:

And finally, here are the finished color blocks – 6 of them – cleaned off, before any pigment has been applied (yellow, red; light reddish, blue; dark green, and light green).

I will confess, I have done a small round of test printing! The results of that will need to wait until the next post.