Quick note

It’s definitely Spring here. I have a Mexican Plum in front that is COMPLETELY covered in blooms.

They really aren’t any good to eat, sadly, but I think the birds like them.

I’ve finished carving the final, I hope, block for the rockpile print. It’s not quite done in this shot. Chisels are 1mm and 3mm, for scale.

More test printing soon, then hopefully can start printing in earnest this weekend! Stay tuned.

New shade blocks

When I started working on the rockpile project, I wasn’t sure where the color would go, what blocks I would need, and so on. I drew and carved the key block, then thought about where the lightest colors would go and carved some color blocks for those, using transfer sheets printed from the key block to locate their edges. I started test-printing in earnest earlier this month, when I had blocks for light grayish, light bluish, green and reddish. First I tested some of the colors I though would be good to use, to see how they overlap and combine to make other hues. I kept notes and spots of color to document the saturation of the pigment I used to print.

After the initial testing, the results of which I showed in the last post, I decided to add some darker shading in some areas. Here are my transfer sheets:

Notice there is a thinner paper of the gampi type laminated on a thicker backing sheet. The lines were printed from the key block, then I marked and colored in the areas of the new blocks that are to remain. The blue is for water and sky shading; the yellow is to darken some areas of the rock, and the pink is for some even darker shadows on the rocks.

These transfer sheets get pasted UPSIDE DOWN on the new blocks using the same registration marks I’ll later use for printing, the thicker backing paper gets peeled off, and often part of the gampi gets peeled off along with it, leaving the face of the gampi with the lines and colors against the wood and visible through what’s left of the gampi. If it is still too thick, I can moisten it a little on one edge, and peel off another layer.

This block is one I’ve already test-printed from, but shows what the transferred gampi looks like after it’s pasted down and the excess is peeled off. It’s super-easy to see what to carve!

Here are my newest blocks after some test printing, and the two surviving test prints with their new shading.

I think it is starting to come together! I think I need a little more color on the trees on top of the hill, and more definition of the cliff face. I’ll see what I can do with my current blocks (there are 7!), but I might need to do more carving.

Rockpile progress

I’ve added another color, burnt sienna, to the two surviving test prints (there were three, but I made the boneheaded move of printing one upside down, of course) . Also the test on top has a bit of a turquoise bokashi that deserves its own block on the sky and water. I might have registration problems with the green; that is too be seen.

Next, I printed the key block lines in a light sumi on test #2.

Many of these lines are way too heavy, but this will let me see which I can trim down, which I can eliminate completely, and where I truly have registration issues. Progress!

Overdue update!

It’s been awhile. I finished the Fall print, but not soon enough to send as a Fall card. We have a brand new year. And, I have made significant progress on a new print!

I finished carving the initial key block some time ago. There are lots of lines; it took awhile! Here is is before and after I cleaned off the transfer paper.

My hope for this print is that I can move in the direction of the subtlety and detail of some of the shin-hanga prints. This is an open question at this point! I think it is possible that many of the lines of this block may get replaced later by lines on other blocks, and so be carved away. (This is called “mudabori”, or “wasted carving.”)

Here’s an early test print showing the key block lines and a light shading block, printed using neutral tint.

Today I started trying out colors! I’m printing without the key block lines at first, to see which areas work well without them.

One more test print adding some green:

I have one more already-carved block that will add a reddish-brown color. Then I will think about what other blocks are needed, what needs to be trimmed, etc. This one will be long in the making, but I think it will be worth it!

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.

“By Starlight” printing complete

I finished the batch of boatmen! They are already at Mokuhankan in Tokyo, also available online here: https://mokuhankan.com/catalogue/KP02.php.

Here are my printing notes.

  1. Maimeri Blu Primary yellow: boat, lamp and sky bokashi. Block 1.
  2. 3-way bokashi on the water (live dangerously!): Primary yellow, Holbein Opera, Holbein Prussian Blue. Used a big shoe brush. Sheds like a dog, but it’s a good way to get a big brush on the cheap. Block 2.
  3. Holbein Opera bokashi on the sky, rim of the boat. Block 1.
  4. Grumbacher Academy Payne’s Gray, round bokashi on water. Block 3. This one has the water sparkles cut out. Used the big shoe brush again; brush marks visible on most copies.
  5. Grumbacher Payne’s gray: sky bokashi. Block 4. This one has the clouds cut out.
  6. Grumbacher Payne’s gray on Block 5, which has the boat interior, the shade of the boat, the man, and the hills and their reflection.
  7. Windsor Newton Indanthrene Blue: Block 3 (water sparkles)
  8. Indanthrene bokashi on Block 4 (sky)
  9. GB Payne’s Gray, round bokashi on water. Block 3 (water sparkles). This time I used two brushes rather than the big shoe brush, to try to smooth out the brush marks.
  10. GB Payne’s Gray on Block 6. This one has the darkest shadows on the water, the shaded side of the boat with its gear and pilot, and the above-water parts of the hills. I omitted the hills.
  11. GB Payne’s Gray roundish bokashi on the sky, block 4. Small hill was omitted.
  12. GB Payne’s Gray bokashi on the small hill, block 4.
  13. GB Payne’s Gray bokashi on the tall hills and their reflection (block 5)
  14. GB Payne’s Gray again on block 6, darker in the corner (omitted hills).

I am hereby appointed the ambassador for Grumbacher Academy Payne’s Gray 🙂

I took only a couple of process shots. The first is after impression 3, and the second is after impression 4.

If I were to carve these blocks again, I would try to think of a way to avoid the hard line at the horizon. It’s not just a matter of merging blocks 1 and 2, because the strong yellow on the rim of the boat and the lamp and its reflection need to be independent of the water blocks. But probably dividing responsibilities among the blocks differently could yield a more harmonious horizon.

Test prints for “By Starlight”

I’m getting ready to print another round of “By Starlight,” this time on the excellent washi I received from my friends at Mokuhankan, for sale in their shop. When I printed the first batch, I didn’t take notes. So I did a small run on Shin Torinoko (machine made washi) to test out colors.

First I cleaned up the blocks. They were carved mostly with v-gouges and u-gouges, so were quite rough.

After the first few impressions, things are looking really saturated and bright:

I did my best to tame the saturated color with Payne’s Gray. Here is a comparison with one of the original prints, which is on the bottom.

There’s too much yellow in the center, I believe, and the water near the horizon is too green. The upper part of the sky and the lower part of the water look pretty good though! I will do another test before the official printing. But I am happy with how smooth I was able to get the printing in the test prints.

Reprinting “Frustration”

That’s actually the title of the heron print, not any mood I’m in from doing another round of prints! Poor heron, he would love a nice steak, but only has fish at hand. Too bad he wasn’t at the 4th of July gathering I attended recently!

So yes, I am now printing “Frustration” on A4 washi for the Awagami International Miniature Print Exhibition (http://miniprint.awagami.jp/index.html). I’ve thrown a variety of papers into this run, in addition to the Echizen Kozo I hope to submit on, some of them from the sample pack that the Awagami Factory sent to the first applicants to the show. Hakuho Select: This paper is super thick, and even with strong pressure still I can’t overcome the texture on the smooth side to get an even impression. Maybe if I was printing with a steamroller… Bamboo Select: Wow, every impression has resulted in a smooth color distribution. The fiber content is really non-traditional, though. Kozo Natural Select and Kozo Extra Thick Natural: It’s not clear whether these papers are sized. The info sheet in the sample pack lists sizing as 0, but they don’t really behave as unsized papers. They are really thin, and printing on the Kozo Natural Select is like printing on tissue paper! But it may actually yield a real print.

The other papers I’m using are my go-to Shin Torinoko machine made paper from McClain’s, and the aforementioned Echizen Kozo. The Echizen Kozo is a fluffy, luminous paper with a large capacity for pigment. Check out the nice embossing of the current state of the new heron print:

As you might recall, I carved the blocks for this print without registration marks, and used an outside kento. This time, because there is such a huge margin between the printed surface and paper edge, I’ve had to get creative with the registration jig:

One final update … I splurged and got a real baren!

I ordered it from Woodlike Matsumura (https://wx30.wadax.ne.jp/~woodlike-co-jp/zen4/) and it showed up in 4 days, despite the month lead time. It came from http://www.scn-net.ne.jp/~kikuhide according to included literature. So far, it has served me well. It seems more predictable and reliable than the last couple of cheaper baren I have used.

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.

Carving project

I’ve been saying I wanted a carving project. I’m really happiest with a knife in my hand!

Thanks to some pressure from Dave Bull on the twitch stream the other day, I am advancing the importance of re-printing the firefly scene. Consequently, now that I have some nice aisuki (bullnose chisels) I’m going back to the blocks to clean them up, improve some lines, and flatten out the valleys.

Playing with colors is fun though! I’m almost finished with the block-cleanup; I will have to see what my schedule looks like (I have until 7/31 to do a small run of the heron print on A4 for the Miniprint show), but the next print could well be this one.