Finishing touches, and onward to the next print!

Despite being careful, wiping the edges while printing and shielding the registration marks with a little piece of brass sheet or a spoon (yeah that works pretty well too!), sometimes the white border around a print gets a stray mark of pigment like the image on the left.

What happened on the right? Not an eraser and not white out! I used my knife to fix this little mistake. The knife has to be really sharp, especially on this Echizen Kozo paper, which is really fluffy. I’ve heard that on some paper, a little sandpaper might remove spots like this but not on this paper (I tried) – it just raises the fibers and makes it look fuzzy. Instead, a very shallow slice on either side –

— and the spot is banished! I learned this (and got the bravery to try it) from watching Dave Bull on his Twitch live stream. Thanks Dave!

Alright, Light Show reprint #2 is completely done, time to move on. I’ve been working on a design based on some scenery from a recent socially-distanced hike I went on with some friends in the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve northwest of Austin. We drove separately, did not hug or get anywhere near close enough to, but it was good to be able to talk in person – 10 feet away! – to human beings I know and love.

It was a lovely day, early Spring and still cool, and up the hill from this sweet little stream and pool was a hill strewn with rocks and crowned by trees. Once home, I commenced to sketching. My ultimate design is only loosely based on these images, is fairly stylized, and really focuses on rocks. (I love rocks!)

But before I can make another print, I need woodblocks. I have enough cherry thin lumber to make three printing surfaces that are about 6″ x 8″, and some holly that I got as an experiment to see if it might be sort of like boxwood, plus some plywood to laminate it too, and some odds and ends to paste on for registration marks, so they can be outside the 6″ x 8″ image region. That about exhausts the supplies I have lying around! After glueing and clamping —

— I now have two double-sided blocks, with three cherry faces and one holly. I have no idea how the holly will work. It seems very homogenous and free of grain, but it might be lying to me!

I also have some Shina ply, which I suppose I could use for color blocks if I can’t get anything better in time.

Here I’ve started on the line work.

Next: planning for which paper to use, and how to cut it to avoid waste. Then I can properly size the line work, and make a transfer sheet, paste it down, and start carving! Woohoo!

Light Show is drying

Here they are! This makes it look like there are a lot of them. I guess there are; there are more than can be seen in one of these views 😉

I made 19 on Echizen Kozo, three on practice paper, and 3 on the Kizuki Hosho I recently got from Kitaro paper. The Kitaro paper is a little more off-white; one of the sheets is the lower-right-most in the right-side image below.

After drying a little in open air, they will be pressed between mat boards to finish drying flat. Then I will take a serious look. I’m hopeful that once they are dry the Echizen Kozo will be a little tougher than when it was damp.

If you are wondering what’s on the far wall…

Short Tuesday note

I had planned to print last night, applying maybe the last impression – the dark lines with sumi – on the fireflies, but when I looked at the block, I saw that some lines were missing. Blasted shina plywood again! You can see pretty clearly below that I filled in some places where the top ply went missing. Before printing, I’ll need to let the glue cure and then trim the patches to match the lines they are patching.

I’ve learned before that I need to let the glue cure really well before trying to use a block I’ve repaired this way. The next time I’ll have a chunk of time for printing is Thursday. There are 25 sheets in my stack – 19 of them on the Echizen Kozo – and it has been taking me about 3 hours to get through the stack, clean up my tools, and get the paper packed for the freezer, and I have that kind of time only 4 days a week.

I hope everyone is staying safe out there, and thanks for reading!

“Light Show” reprint

As my tease from the last post might have suggested, I’m reprinting the fireflies. I’ve got my colors lined up:

… and I’ve done some repairs on the blocks. One of the hazards of Shina Plywood is that the top ply is pretty thin, and has a tendency to slough off, especially if you try to make a thin line across the grain.

Luckily, the thickness of this top ply is about the same as some micro-lumber I happened to have lying around. I was able to glue it down with waterproof glue for an almost seamless repair. In the left image, you see a repair I printed with — but while printing, another piece came off!!! *sigh*. On the right, a repair I hadn’t trimmed yet. It needs to be trimmed down to match the line, and also there are some areas where I need deepen the trough so I don’t get unwanted pigment spots.

In other stories of printing woes, the beginning of the end:

The takenogawa (“skin of bamboo”) doesn’t last forever. This one is on a murasaki baren I purchased in July last year. I’ve been good about rotating the cover, and using camelia oil, but it’s developing holes. It’s hanging in for the time being, but eventually I will have to bite the bullet and learn how to re-cover it.

I will leave you with another pleasantly embossed image, and evidence of further progress!

Fireflies have flown

The fireflies are done and are now winging their way to Tokyo. It was hard to part ways with them, but I hope they will find good homes. I ended up with 12 good prints on the good paper; here they are:

I have more prints on the machine-made paper, but I am not sure what I am going to do with them. I told @the_ungawa that I would post a comparison:

The nice, handmade paper from Iwano san is on the left, and the Shin Torinoko is on the right. The tone of the right-side paper itself is cooler, and this shows in the print. As impressions stacked up, it seemed like the machine-made paper was a little more reluctant to accept the pigment. (I did use a lot of paste, especially in early impressions, trying to achieve a smooth texture. Maybe I could have gotten away with less paste early on to keep the paper from “filling up.”) It’s actually pretty hard to tell with my less-than-stellar photography but the version on the left is warmer and more luminous.

The back side of the print is kind of interesting. Lots of lines are visible in the handmade paper below, but the impressions are much less visible on the Shin Torinoko.

It took me 2 weeks for this run. I wasn’t able to print every day because of work, travel and evening duties. 10 blocks, 12 impressions total:

  1. Cadmium yellow pale (Cotman) 2019-05-27
  2. Quinacridone gold (Turner) 2019-05-29
  3. Olive green (Windsor Newton) & phthalo yellow green (Grumbacher Academy), 3:1 – 2019-05-30
  4. Hooker’s green 2019-05-31
  5. Phthalo green and Payne’s gray, 1:2 – 2019-06-01
  6. Phthalo turquoise and Payne’s gray, 1:4 – 2019-06-02
  7. Phthalo turquoise and indanthrene blue, 1:1? – 2019-06-02
  8. Indanthrene blue 2019-06-03
  9. Indanthrene blue 2019-06-05 to darken impression #8
  10. Phthalo blue red shade 2019-06-06
  11. Phthalo blue red shade + Magenta + sumi 2019-06-09 to adjust color and darken impression 10
  12. Sumi (dilute) 2019-06-10 for the key block.

Fireflies and cherry

Yesterday I started printing the next run of the fireflies. I’m doing 20 total, 6 on shin torinoko more or less as practice prints, and 14 on the nice paper made by Iwano san for Mokuhankan. I really wish there was more of the latter; I feel like I’ve barely warmed up and I’m done, time to move on to the next impression.

Still, it takes me about 2 hours to do 20 at this stage, and my arm is sore today. The first block is solid yellow, and it is a pretty big expanse to cover with solid, even pressure. I think they are looking pretty smooth, if I do say so myself:

No time this evening after scheduled activities for more printing. Instead, I have cherry woodblock news.

My first relief printing used materials other than cherry. Linoleum, some random plywood, even lacquered particle board. The early water-based pigment prints used shina plywood. It carves easily, but is kind of spongy and is hard to carve fine detail into. Or, you can carve it, but it might well slough off and make you sad. Also, I hear from people who make more than a few tens of prints, shina wears out.

Japanese mountain cherry is one of the few preferred woods for carving wood blocks in the Japanese printmaking tradition. I got a chance to use it for the heron print. It’s hard, but not difficult to carve. It’s easy to do what you intend, carving cherry. Bad things seem to happen less often. Plus, it is very durable, and tens of thousands of impressions can be made with a block carved into cherry. So, I have been looking for ways to get more of this good wood, or wood like it, to carve blocks with.

This weekend, when I dropped off some kitchen knives to @irontoadamant (https://www.irontoadamant.com) for sharpening, I also got a double sided cherry faced woodblock. He doesn’t have a lot of these available yet, but is working on making them more widely available. It’s a very pretty piece of wood –

Both faces are hand-planed (with tricksy Japanese planes!) and quite smooth and flat. My fingers can’t feel any changes over the small places where there is some discoloration. The top layer is good thick cherry, more or less rift-sawn but shallowly, and if I were to guess the center is nice flat baltic birch. It’s pretty big – 7.25 x 8.5 “.

Attempting to be able to take matters into my own hands last week, I had ordered some cherry thin lumber from Ocooch Hardwoods. It arrived today. I gave them some special instructions: The harder, the better, and flat-sawn is best (I heard from Dave Bull at Mokuhankan that flat-sawn wood is better for woodblocks). Here’s todays’ shipment guarded by the shop supervisor.

Each is 6″ x 24″ and 1/4″ thick, pretty much on the nose. Looks fairly flat-sawn to me. No warping or cupping. Any hardness assessment will have to wait until I formulate a plan, laminate some blocks to the planned dimensions, and commence carving! Who knows when such a plan will form.