Sunday, May 17, 2015

Takenokawa----that time of year again

This is a new bamboo cane and it's growing almost 1' a day.
Ah Spring, when the lusty thoughts of young men everywhere turn to takenokawa.
The bamboo is growing at the rate of a foot a day and that means about once a day, the thin, tough culm that surrounds the growing segment is dropping off too.
I noticed new bamboo shoots in the garden last week and knew it was time to go hunting.
I have a large paper bag as I won't need anything else.

Thank you spring; you have replenished my supply of baren-leaf covers (barengawa) for the year.
(This stand of bamboo has canes that range from 1" to almost 3.5" in diameter....the largest will easily open to 14-15cm when dampened and stretched and a great many of the smaller ones will stretch to 12-14cm...enough to cover my home-made barens).  It rained yesterday so I'll let these sit outside today as there is a drying wind and I'll put them away later before it gets damp in the evening.  I'll check again in a few days as there will be as many again littering the ground.
I recommend you go visit your botanical garden soon with a shopping bag.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Burden--Sins of omission

For "Print Day in May" (not sure what it is other than an excuse to skip other priorities to go work in the studio) I did just that.
I put aside all the pressing outdoor and indoor things and spent all morning working in the print shop.

I had nothing really planned but I have a bunch of little doodles and sketches that I looked through to find an idea that I wanted to explore.  I sketched with pencil a few curving lines onto a 4" x 6" Shina block and then went over them with a sharpie so they'd remain after I printed and washed off the block between colors.  This is not how I usually work: I usually start from a finished drawing that I transfer to the block and faithfully carve.  But I had just a few hours so just started in.

First pass was a gray Beta-Ban. A simple gray wash over the entire block. I used a lot of paste so the brush marks show.

Then I carved the block and printed a red band at the bottom with a bokashi to keep from printing a hard edge. (See top photo for the block state after this printing).   I carved away the red stripe at the bottom and printed the remaining shapes with a leftover brown I'd mixed from Pthalo Blue, Magenta and Hansa Yellow. This was printed twice with more baren pressure towards the bottom creating a gradation in the graininess with smoother color where the pressure was stronger.

Then a Black bokashi was printed to the top circle shape with some care to make sure that there was some bleed onto the brown curving shape just below.
Then a Blue bokashi was printed over the bottom "Leg" shape.

This is my third little print in a series based on rather random lines or scribbles that originate as abstract or nonrepresentational images but that then suggest a subject as my mind either subconsciously or deliberately push them towards a direction that becomes a subject.
(My "pinwheel" and "fulcrum" prints are the other two).

I've been thinking about recent World events and feeling ever more aware of the human and moral implications of inaction.  There is a concept that shows up several times in Bible (and elsewhere) about the sin of omission. That is, the wrong we commit individually by not acting to correct or prevent a wrong when it was in our power to do so.  Perhaps it's due, in part, to a paralysis that comes from the daily barrage in the news of unthinkable carnage and evil that is still far away.  But there are plenty of injustices big and small nearer to home  My little print is about the discomfort and personal guilt I feel for remaining inactive and about the illusion that we remain unaffected even if we do nothing.

Burden, moku hanga woodblock print.
Ed. 5;  5 1/2" X 7  1/2 "

Friday, April 24, 2015

Moku Hanga a Roma! 22-24 May. Workshop in Japanese woodblock at Betterpress labs in Rome.

It looks like it's official.  Friday May 22nd through Sunday May 24th.
I've been invited to teach a three-day intensive course in woodblock printmaking in Rome.
Betterpress lab ( ) is a letterpress and printing/bookbinding artist cooperative and studio in Rome run by Giulia Nicolai and Francesca Colonia with whom I had the pleasure to meet and work with earlier this year.

They have a small, charming studio near Trastevere that is slowly filling with type cabinets and presses but there's enough room to host 5 students and in 3 long days I hope to be able to teach a basic, traditional Japanese woodblock technique: A two block, 3-4 plate print using a key block and 2-3 colors.
Day 1: An introduction to the history of Japanese woodblock prints. The rise and culmination of the art in the works of Ukiyo-e, a more focused nod to contemporary international artists working today in moku hanga and then a jump in to the techniques themselves.
Materials needed and image manipulation and transferring images to the block(s) for carving. I hope to get everyone's drawing transferred and start (and hopefully finish) the keyblock on the first day.
Day 2:
Registration with the the Kento registration method. Floating and fixed kentos.
Preparation of woodblocks and paper.
Papers for traditional printing (Western, Washi, and other).
Printing with simple and advanced techniques with a demonstration of bokashi printing.
We'll carve the 2 color blocks.....and take test prints to check for registration and cleanliness.
Day 3: Printing!
Pigments, rice paste, gomazuri and Barens.
Demonstrations of Bokashi printing, blind embossing, back printing, using a carry sheet.
Traditional, alternative, and home-made barens
We'll share Ball-bearing, Murasaki, and my twisted cord barens while trying to print on different papers. Each student should be able to finish a small run of a multi-block print as well as experiment a bit with color variations.
Hopefully there will be time to make a baren and demonstrate how to fix mistakes and sharpen tools.
Class will be in Italian (or something resembling Italian) and English.
Class size is limited to 5 participants: (It's a cozy space).

For Information and cost or to reserve a space:
Ass. Culturale Betterpress
Via Eugenio Barsanti 14 Roma
06 83082495

 (I had the opportunity to take a brief introduction to letterpress printing with them last year (I was wondering if I could incorporate letterpress into my woodblock prints rather than just carving text into my own blocks......This would allow me to change texts from one language to another without having to carve separate blocks).
I hope to collaborate soon on a woodblock print with me providing an image printed using moku hanga techniques onto which they will contribute text and layout.  Until then, I'll start preparing for the class since it's just one month away.)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Cut and Paste

While I was proofing my Leafhopper blocks I was also testing the last batch of sized paper.
As I predicted, the thinner papers didn't take the size too well--the size sat on the surface and dried very slowly--(they acted as if they were already sized). So they printed a bit unevenly and then dried  buckled and crinkled so I decided to back the better ones with wheat paste and washi..this will flatten them out but also, backed with white paper, will make them much more luminous.

Here I'm applying wheat starch glue with a brush across the back of the print and it will have a larger cut piece of Japanese paper glued on top and then pasted to a glass panel and door for drying.  Once dry I'll cut the print off the glass door leaving the backed print dry and flat.
I'll really need to find a better recipe for the the thinner papers, although the 100 % Kozo and the mixed but heavier papers both absorbed the size well and printed nicely.

I'll try to scan in one of the better ones when they're dry.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Treehopper: (If you give a printmaker a cookie.....).

After I finished printing my Cypress trees print of a few weeks ago I was eager to jump into a new project.
But in my life, the path between "A" and "B" is never linear.
Besides having a few acres of olive trees to prune, I wanted to try sizing some paper that wasn't printing well.   I have a few papers that are either too soft--difficult to handle and the paper pills while printing and others that hold up well enough but that print really flat and light-size formula of a few months ago helped but not enough to be called really successful so I decided to increase both the alum and glue and try sizing them to try out on my next print.
So I sized one each of Gampi, Mitsumata, a few varied 100% Kozo papers and a few mixed fiber/handmade papers. The weights varied from about 29g/m2 to about 50g/m2.

Now,  I needed just a little print to test out the newly-sized paper.....but I didn't really just want to print color swatches..nor did I feel like revisiting any of my old, already carved I ended up doodling, and sketching, and looking through my sketchbooks and idea folders for simple ideas that I hoped I could do quickly.  And I came across a few sketches I'd done of this insect, a thorn bug or treehopper that I've wanted to do in a print for a long time. 
Newly redrawn--quickly and very loosely and with only a passing nod to scientific accuracy-- I was ready to go.

Rainy weather this week meant I could take a break from olive pruning so, yesterday, I transferred my sketch using a piece of tracing and carbon paper and then carved and printed the keyblock.  The 6 copies I made were then pasted them down onto six,  4" x 6" Shina blocks and set aside to dry.

Today I managed to carve the color blocks and dashed off a few color proofs.

These are mostly proofs to check for alignment and registration and to look for areas that need clearing or recutting. This proof is still missing two of the blocks/impressions. Nevertheless, I think that probably NONE of the colors will stay the same in the final print and looking at these I'm thinking of carving one more block.........

So, I wanted to size some paper, that now I need to test, so I carved a little block, but now I need color blocks, and now maybe one more block, so I can proof again, then I can print an edition.....
but wait, I didn't size enough paper for a whole edition.
But first, I'll need to size some more paper.

(A nod to Laura Numeroff's book, "If you give a mouse a cookie"). 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Primroses/Primule-March Etagami.

"Spring primroses say, "Hello, Hello".
A little over a year ago we went to the mountains in the Appenines near Genoa.
It was late spring and very damp and there were wild strawberries in bloom (but no fruit) and lots of low yellow primroses flowering.

I dug up a few of each and potted them when I got home.
It's now a year later and the primroses, despite almost complete neglect, are in full bloom.
They are a pale yellow and almost glow in the dark in the early morning and late evening when everything else is dull gray and brown.
Since they are such a local symbol of early spring and seem to me so cheerful and optimistic.
So I chose my vase of transplanted mountain yellow primroses as the subject for my March etagami.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

2014: Looking back

I decided to look back at my output for the last year. Artistically, it was a mixed bag. While I produced a few interesting pieces, my general productivity was very low--I produced just a handful of prints in 2014.
Horse/White Knight, my 9 block year of the horse print.
Steel Metaphor (arrow road sign) For the Sketchbook project exchange.
Right of Way (driving school)-- a larger print.
Cardinal Creeper; my first-ever wood engraving on boxwood.
November Cypresses, a long-format landscape...carved and proofed in 2014 but I still need to print the edition.
 I also continued in my exploration of sizing Japanese papers and printing with the technique of moku hanga on western cotton papers and in preparation for teaching,  I made three new barens with the twisted-cord base trying out different kinds of twine and cord to see what might approximate a functional baren for students.

I also painted about a dozen quick etagami sketches--as part of the Florence/Japan Etagami exchange. My small drawings were sent along with those of the other Italian participants to our respective penpals in Japan.

And I entered the world of Art Education;
I demonstrated at the local Japanese Cultural Fair for 3 days in November 2014 and I taught a three day class teaching moku hanga printing to artists.

I also cleaned out a garage and house; supervised the new roof and painting of our Santa Cruz house and found a wonderful new family to stay in our home while we're in Italy. This took the better part of the Summer--the time I would have spent printing had I been more energetic/efficient with my time.

So goodbye 2014. We're well into 2015 and I'm going to try to get through my backlog of "prints waiting to be made" while jumping into a few exciting new projects that will move me in some new directions. Which way? Follow the arrows.