More Balcones testing

I’m into a second small round of test printing on the Balcones Canyonlands print. This round is mostly focused on reproducibility, but I am also trying out a few variations.

The first print on a block can be quite light, and then the color deepens over the next few impressions. I think I got the rock color a bit too dark on the bottom left one, in the image on the right.

Not the best photos, but this gives you an idea how the colors combine.

I’m a bit unsatisfied about how dark the shadows are on the clouds in the final image, and am considering moving them to another block. Or really editing this one, or maybe just carving away the cloud part from the shadow block entirely.

One of the variations is the darker rock detail in the final image. The lower prints use a redder color for those areas than the upper prints do.

Another experiment was the pinkish cloud color. I went from a light egg-yolk-yellow on the first, adding a bit mor red as I went, to an almost pink with just a hint of orange on the fourth. I think the version I like the best is the second one, which is the image on the left above.

The final experiment is these leaves. I think I like them, and I think I like the darker ones

You can maybe see a bit of a registration issue with the shadows, which peek over the edge of the ledge in front of the stalks. The next thing I will do is test a correction; I’ve shaved down some thin pieces of scale lumber even thinner, and have tacked them in place on the registration marks to move the paper up a bit.

I went back to the place that inspired this image today. It’s the middle of July, after a couple of weeks of really hot days, many over 100 degrees F. There wasn’t a lot of water before, but now there’s only a trickle over the rocks, and the pool below is almost completely dry. I’m looking forward to some rain!

Balcones Canyonlands: Mostly Carved

Just a quick update: I’m mostly done with carving the current block set. There are 4 blocks with two sides, so eight printable faces. Seven of them are carved. The upper left block on the second image hasn’t been carved yet, but I’m holding off because I won’t be sure what else I might want to put on that block until I’ve done some test printing.

The blocks have been cleaned off (except for the un-carved one). Here are a few close-ups!

I hope the ripples on the water turn out OK; I pretty much winged that part.

And in news of international shipping, I am pleased to announce that the glue I ordered on April 11 from Amazon, finally arrived on June 16! Yes, all the way from Japan. In the before-times, this sort of shipment would take about a week, maybe two. I feel sorry for the seller, because they have gotten some unkind comments about something that is NOT under their control. Anyway, I’m happy it finally arrived!

Now, time for test printing!

Balcones Canyonlands progress

The next print I am working on is a stylized interpretation of a hill and a creek near the Doeskin Ranch trailhead of the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife refuge. I sketched in pencil, then scanned it and moved some elements around in photochop to compress the empty space and emphasize the parts I found interesting – so the final line-work is pretty far from the photo!

Some time ago I finished carving the key block, printed transfer sheets, and spent about a week in a drawing program experimenting with color overlays enough to satisfy myself that I could make a block set work. Since then, I’ve applied the transfer sheets and started carving the color blocks. Here you see the transfer sheets, marked up with the color regions they will be used to print (not the actual colors, of course!)

This is pretty different from my approach to the Naoshima Coast print, where I was strongly driven by a photo, and tested printing after each color block to decide the shapes and pigment for the next color block. That process took a long time!

In this case, I’ll be using 4 double-sided laminated blocks, resulting in 8 carve-able faces. The key block counts for one, so I have seven faces left, and so far nine color regions. I’ve been able to combine two of those regions with others, so they fit on the seven block faces, and I still have a little leeway to add detail in parts of the color blocks that aren’t spoken for yet. Here are the transfer sheets, applied, with the excess transfer paper peeled away.

What’s going on the second photo? It looks a bit different, right?

The key block is on the upper right. I’ve protected it with a taped-on sheet of paper so that when I carve the other side, I won’t damage the lines.

In the block on the upper left, I’ve only peeled the excess gampi paper from the part of the block I have plans for so far. Not sure why I did that, but I know I might use some of the lower part of the block to add detail later.

And the block face on the lower right is a different kind of wood! It’s American Holly (Ilex opaca), which is a fairly dense, fairly hard, very white, tight-grained wood. It’s a little harder than American Black Cherry. I decided to try it out because I wondered if it would be similar to boxwood, which is sometimes used for key blocks. Not being brave enough to use it for a key block I used it for the simplest color block. This may backfire on me if it turns out that it doesn’t moisten properly for printing. It does moisten, which I demonstrated to myself when I wet-sanded it in the final smoothing.

Carving wise, it’s fairly easy and smooth to carve – at least for the simple shape I was carving. When clearing large amounts of waste, the resulting surface is very smooth and tight, as you can see with the 4.5mm knife on the left. However, the piece I used had some grain surprises!

On the right is an area where the grain dove down, and so when I tried to clear, I got a hole with lots of tear-out. The region did not seem to interfere with the adjacent shape though!

I will finish carving all the so-far-planned color blocks before printing anything, I think. Two down and one started, so far. See you in a few weeks 😉

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!

直島海岸 ー 終わった!

First, a tease –

Check out that nice embossing! But I’m getting way ahead of myself 😉

The 直島海岸 (Naoshima coast) print was finished awhile back. Here are some in-process images.

This paper was pretty difficult to work with because it is thick and rather rough. I have a lot of it; I will have to figure out how to make it work. On the plus side, it is really tough and stands up well to multiple impressions with vigorous baren work. And it is 100% kozo, and came to me sized. I should not be complaining! Next time I will try starting with a lot more water on the paper.

Progress on the rockpile

Here’s the array of pigments I’ll be using. All but the perylene violet on the right were used on the test prints. I decided to add some to burnt sienna, which made it more red (dish at the bottom in the second shot), for a bokashi on the red block that can be seen in the most recent impression, which is shown below.

I’ve finished 8 impressions so far. Two for the key block, one for the lightest shading, two for blue, two for the reddish and orangish hues in the dishes above, and one for shading under the trees on the far shore.

The paper I am using is “Shin Hosho” from Woodlike Matsumura. 100% mulberry. It has a darker, off-white tone than the “Shin Torinoko” I am using for testing. I found I needed to use a darker hue for the first, cream-color shading block. I hope I didn’t’ go too dark too soon! The washi is on the bottom here:

Below are example prints after the 7th and after the 8th impression. I am finding it very difficult to get a nice smooth color on this paper. The color blocks are laying down a sort of granular texture despite plenty of paste and a firm baren.

Lazy person’s multiple key block

I started the real run of prints on mulberry paper! I printed the entire key block first in light Payne’s gray, but wanted to darken the border and the lines on the rocks.

I think I’ve mentioned that the rock pile print might call for ‘mudabori’, or wasted carving. This is a technique where key lines are originally carved, then transferred to another block where they are carved to be printed in another color, and the original lines are carved away. It turns out I only removed a few of the lines from the lightest parts of the rocks in the foreground that will be taken care of by a block I will print in a light blue. But I did try one weird trick 🙂

Here’s what I did: I cut a piece of card stock, and used it as a mask.

Then, I did a second print run using a light sepia. To succeed, I needed to match the registration of the first impression exactly. I am pretty happy with the result! I only messed up the registration on one sheet of test paper.

Here’s one of the resulting washi sheets. Sorry about the low light, but you can probably see that the border and the rocks have lines darkened by the sepia, while the trees and distant shore still have fairly light lines.