“Desert Cloud” is ready!

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.

Cedar Path test prints

When I first conceived of this print, I imagined doing it all in monochrome, probably in Prussian blue. So I started doing test prints on card stock, and I tried having it damp like normal washi for printing, hoping that that would keep it from wrinkling so I could do multiple impressions. Right away I realized that the Prussian blue I was trying to use was NOT the right hue, so I printed over that pretty quickly with some Payne’s gray on the sky and some olive and Payne’s on the foliage. That’s the test on the left. Some of the Prussian blue is sort of preserved on the little hill on the far left – it was much more turquoise than I expected.

Another thing I noticed is just how much the card stock changes size with variation in moisture content! The leftmost try is registered pretty well because I did it all in one go and the paper did not dry much. But the others are horribly registered, especially on the right of the image, because these tiny pieces of paper shrank almost an eighth of an inch in width! Finally, something weird was going on with those vertical lines in the sky. Was it the paper or the block? I’m afraid it might be the block because it’s got some rough areas due to crazy grain in that area. I actually took a very fine, 1500 grit, piece of sandpaper to it, to try to reduce the roughness. I was really careful to avoid rounding the edges or hollowing out a hole. That seems to have helped a little – the top-most try was printed last of these three, and the lines seem less prominent. So I sanded a little more.

The next few test prints were done using Shin Torinoko, an economical Japanese paper that is sized, machine made, and with a fiber content of linen and pine pulp. It’s pretty different from what I will ultimately print on, but it is dimensionally stable and can take multiple impressions. I would really like to find a better paper for test-printing, but haven’t found one yet that is inexpensive enough, adequately sized, and tough.

Anyway, here I am really moving away from the monochrome idea! I like the brown key lines, as opposed to blue. I tested whether it would be better to have shadows in the valleys between the hills on the left of the image, or mist; I prefer the mist. I like the greenish hills of the upper right image better than the gold-ish ones on the left image. I’m trying to use a bokashi to add shadows to the foliage, and that sort of works for the trees, but given where I want the shadows in the background foliage, it’s hard to control.

So, kicking and screaming a little (but not really, because it means I get to carve some more), I started thinking about another block to add shadows in a more controlled way. I made a few more transfer sheets and printed the key block. Because I didn’t make any key lines to delineate the path, but I really needed to know where its edge lay, I also printed that part on one of my transfers – that’s the green you see through the tracing paper below. I made a bunch of shadow sketches on tracing paper, before deciding how to approach it.

I can just barely see the outlines of the trace-paper shadow areas through the transfer sheet with the light table turned all the way up!

I think these areas will all go into the same impression (using a single set of registration marks).

So, getting closer to actually printing! The test prints are still damp, still in the freezer, and ready for testing the shadows when this next block is ready.

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!

Paper preparation

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!

Balcones Canyonlands – first run finished!

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.

I’m pretty happy with how these turned out.

Almost oops!

Some time ago, before the plague times, I ordered and received some very nice washi from a papermaker in Echizen. It’s really lovely, smooth, good weight, 100% kozo, and ALREADY SIZED! I am looking forward to EMS shipping starting up from Japan again so I can order some more. What I received was a very high quality product, clean and uniform in texture and sizing.

My coworker, Corax the black cat, really enjoyed playing in the box. He’d get in, and scratch scratch tap tap. Hours of entertainment. I finally got around to flattening the box and putting it in recycling. But wait — what’s that? There was something taped to the bottom with that typical Japanese brown fabric-reinforced tape, wrapped in brown paper the same color as the surrounding cardboard. I’m glad I noticed! It was a sample book.

This is a pretty fancy sample book.

The paper on the cover has some really interesting iridescent patterning, and when you let light shine through it, it looks like the fibers that provide the pattern are denser than the rest.

At the end of the booklet was another price list (same prices), on a paper that has another interesting pattern of iridescence. And that’s the back of the booklet, with their contact info.

I’m looking forward to getting some more of this paper!

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!

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.