What did I do in 2022? I finally finished Forest Rays! At least I think I am done. The prints are still in the drying boards and will need a careful look-over before I add them to the store, but here’s a preview. I think I captured the feeling I was looking for – humid forest, light streaming through the branches, leaves caught in sunlight glowing brightly.
7 pieces of wood (6 self-made cherry ply and 1 shina ply from McClain’s), 19 printable areas including the key block, 25 impressions. (I had prepared separate key lines for the trees and foliage in the distance, but decided not to use them – that would have made 26 impressions!)
The paper is Shin Hosho from Woodlike Matsumura. When I started printing, I thought “Excellent, this paper is really tough, and I’ll need it for this print!” but by the end it was quite soft and barely hanging on. I had thrown in a few sheets of Student Kozo as warm-up sheets, but I gave up on them about 18 impressions in because they were fouling the blocks with fibers that kept coming off.
I’m looking forward to the next print! It will be a simple one, and I’ll aim to finish within a month – fingers crossed. Back to the carving bench!
I’ve been busy, making progress on Forest Rays. Here is an animation showing the first 15 impressions.
It’s remarkably hard to do a good job at an animation like this. I tried to set the light up the same for each shot, but I was printing at different times of the day so there were some hard-to-avoid differences that are not solved by a simple white-balance. Also, to make them all the same size I had to stretch and shrink parts of each image to fit the same frame; some frames are stretched in places that others aren’t.
There are another 8 or so impressions to go, at minimum – better get back into the studio!
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.
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.
It’s so much more pleasant to print on quality washi! This time I am using the Kizuki from Kitaro. I’m 4 impressions in at this point; here’s what the print looks like after 3. I did two impressions of the yellow to build the color and get a smoother tone.
Here’s the paper I will use for the current print. I’ve got 25 pieces of Kitaro’s Kizuki, and 5 pieces of a few other kinds I had lying around that I will use for testing. Because this is a really small print, I picked a sheet of the Kizuki that was on the thin side. It’s a completely handmade product, and there’s actually noticeable variation in the thickness.
I’m applying a small dot of clear nail polish to one corner – the corner that will be inserted into the corner kento (registration notch) – of each piece of paper. This is a trick I learned from the printers at Mokuhankan. For a simple print with only one or two impressions it wouldn’t be that important, but reinforcing this corner prevents it from wearing and changing shape with repeated impressions. That way it’s possible to get precise registration every time.
Here’s how the paper is placed when printing. I’m demonstrating with a block for a different print. First the corner is inserted into the corner notch on the right, then it’s placed against the little ledge on the bottom left, then laid flat on the block. It’s not necessary to reinforce the edge on the bottom left, but the corner can easily wear if it’s not strengthened!
I apologize for not posting much in the way of in-progress notes about this print. There are some things I’d like to talk about, and I might get to them eventually. But in the mean time, I’m done! Here are some shots of the prints drying.
This print run included 30 prints – 4 on Shin Torinoko as practice prints, 20 on Kitaro’s (https://www.washi-kitaro.com/) Kizuki, and 6 on the Shin Hosho I ordered from Matsumura-san. There’s some variation in thickness in each of these washi batches. One of the sheets from Kitaro was noticeably thicker than the others; this didn’t seem to affect the printing very much, though. The Shin Hosho sheet I used was thinner than any of the sheets I used for the Naoshima Coast print, and I really liked printing on it! It was easy to get a smooth, intense impression. You might remember I struggled with smooth impressions on the Naoshima print. I think if all the sheets had been like this one, printing would have been a piece of cake!
Here’s an example of the finished print, held so the embossing can be seen. This is one of the Shin Hosho sheets, but the Kizuki prints also turned out quite nicely; the paper color is a little creamier on those.
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.
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!