Monday, December 15, 2014

Cabbage Butterfly (relief ink)


Wood engraving, olive wood. Oil relief ink on Japanese paper.
Thanks to the folks over at Intaglio Printmakers in the UK. I got a small package this week of some Japanese papers and a tube of Graphic Chemical Black Relief ink.

As I expected, the difficulties I had printing my little wood engraving were due to the etching ink I was using (too soft) and the poor quality relief ink I had tried that didn't have enough pigment or body.

This rolled out easily and was easy to print with a baren onto a variety of dampened printing and Japanese papers.

I'll print up a few more copies before retiring this little trial block.
I'm sharpening my burins and spitsticker for the next project and ready to try another block.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Class Planning

I'm getting ready for this weekend's woodblock class and that means getting out tool sets and brushes, nonskid mats for carving and leather belts for stropping.
I have several cartons of blocks I brought over specifically for these classes.
They're made of Japanese Linden--called Shina--and are easy to carve and print.

 
This weekend's class will have two block sizes of Shina plywood available; 8"x10" and 4"x6". The big block can be printed on both sides so 2 blocks will yield 4 surfaces (allowing up to 5 colors). The smaller block will make use of a floating kento--a jig that allows the whole block to be used and you'd be surprised how "big" an impact you can get from smallish blocks-- My "Fulcrum" print was printed from these small 4"x6" blocks.

The bigger blocks are easier--if more time consuming--to carve but allow for more detail since the scale is bigger. The smaller blocks are quicker to carve and allow for more layering/playing with the surfaces.
I'm hoping to teach the traditional method--a "black line" keyblock used to define the color areas of the other blocks--but direct carving and printing are also possible.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

November Cypresses


Moku Hanga-color woodblock print. 5.5" x 15.5"
I woke up at 5am and went outside...I wanted to see the morning light and look at the trees again. My print was mostly finished but I still wanted some references before I went back in the studio to print the last block and layers.  The morning sky was misty and light, glowing blue with only a hint of the violet I've portrayed here....


I printed 4 copies.
Two on Tosa Hanga Natural Washi (a 50% Thai Kozo/50% Sulfite) paper that I got from Hiromi Paper in LA. on my last trip to the US.
The other two are on a lightweight mixed kozo, hemp and pulp paper I found in an art store in Santa Cruz. I sized it and it prints reasonably well--certainly good for a proofing paper and if I mount the finished print it will look really nice.

These were quick proofs with almost no priming of the blocks so they're each a bit different with more or less bokashi and more or less layering to the tree shapes.
A little more bokashi (gradation printing to the sky) and a crooked chop.
 It will be a bit before I can get back and print a real edition.
That's ok as I want to think about the colors a bit and try to get it a little less fussy and a little less pretty.
These are supposed to be Winter Cypresses and I want the mood a little more somber.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Field work-Cypress trees




Small 2"x6' doodle
                                    
The printed keyblock. This will be used to carve the color blocks.
  I started working on this little print last week, hoping to start and finish it during my 3-day demo at the Japanese festival, but I ended up printing a lot, but carving only a little so I've taken the blocks to my studio to work on them and I'm just about ready to start printing.
 It's based on a little quick doodle of some imaginary trees--but it's not really all invented.
We're surrounded by cypress trees and they are a part of the landscape, both real and symbolic and although they are not native to Italy, they are almost emblematic of the Tuscan countryside.



Today we drove to Panzano in Chianti and I took my sketchbook and camera.
I have three blocks carved and wanted to look at some real trees before I proof the blocks I've cut or carve any more.
This was meant to be a quick study--carved and printed loosely--and I'll have to try to navigate between the competing urges to keep the simplicity of the gesture or to add more detail and complexity through additional blocks.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Moku Hanga Demo/Lailac Fair 2014


Villa Strozzi, the Limonaia (lemon greenhouse) Firenze.


Tea Ceremony(host)



Tea Ceremony (guest)

My booth as one entered the room.

There was a great turnout at the Japanese festival and I was happy with the interest and flow for most of the weekend.  I was set up next to a large photographic exhibit of Japan, but also next to the stage where the music, dance, and Taiko drumming took place.   The day started with a demonstration of the Japanese tea ceremony (a different version each day), and then there would be music, drums, and a show of how to wear a kimono/yukata/furisode/etc as well as musical performances repeated during the day.

Etagami tables;

There was an Origami section. A calligraphy corner and a whole section dedicated to Etagami.
Like last year they were recruiting people to join the etagami exchange.
 The flow of visitors would pick up quickly so by 11: 30-noon the building would be pretty full. There were couples, children, people with dogs, undeterred by the pouring rain.

I was placed towards the back, but well-visible from the entrance and the I had a striking Ukiyo print of a young beauty (bijin) which was easily visible from across the room.
      I had planned on placing some information
My explanatory sheets tacked to the table where they could be easily read.
 panels behind me and I had prepared some Plywood panels, gluing Japanese paper to them. But I found the tables fairly deep and with the panels behind me the sheets I had prepared were too hard to read. So I changed things around, putting my 10 informational sheets to the front of the tables (tacked down) and setting up my green panels behind me. I added screws to the panels so I could hang my framed work and the Ukiyo-prints I had brought with me.
In the end, this worked out better as when there were performances, I couldn't really speak, but people could watch me carving or printing and there were written explanations of what I was doing in front of me that I could point to and that they could read on their own.
 
The morning light was perfect for carving so I would get in about 9:30am and set up and start carving. Visitors would start at 11am and I would carve until about 1pm. The Taiko drummers would kick in about 11:30 am which would energize my carving and I can blame some of the cutting errors to the pounding beat of the Taiko drums.
Do you think there's enough to look at?
Morning carving. The "sharkskin" was a great conversation starter.

In the afternoon I would switch to printing and I had a wet pack and a stack of paper to print on in various stages during the rest of the afternoon and evening.

Meanwhile, on the main stage there were tea ceremonies, kimono-dressing demo, Taiko drumming, and a Japanese dance group that was very percussive. Then, music and dance from Mangushaka, a performing group that came from Japan to showcase traditional and contemporary Japanese dance.


As folks strolled by my table, they would usually stop and read some of my pamphlets and watch me work. There were a few artists, a few art students, a collector, some retired lithographers or other practitioners of the print trade.
The printers would all watch me for a long while. The look on their faces showing that something seemed unclear or out of place. We'd chat for a bit and I'd answer one or two questions (usually regarding registration of the paper) and they'd immediately "get it" and then either smile at how elegant and simple it was, or shake their heads at how laborious and complicated.  The Ukiyo-e prints I had up would have entailed 20+ blocks and many more impressions.

In fact the most useful part of my demonstrations was being able to show how the antique prints had been made. Having a printing station right next to old Ukiyo-e Japanese woodblocks really drove the point home. These were/are woodblock prints, and they were printed using these simple techniques that I use for my own art but during the Edo era, pushed by trained artisans to create works of stunning mastery and beauty.

  I had nothing for sale   so I can't judge the success of the weekend by sales figures or promises of future commissions, but I got some great comments, lots of interesting questions, and the satisfaction of getting to share the art of moku hanga/woodblock printing to the Florence community.  I did, however, have many of my work on display, and I handed out business cards and flyers for my upcoming class.





Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Moku Hanga in Florence (Part 3); Getting Ready for the Fair



Well, I was casually, and then a little more pointedly, and now I am frantically preparing for my demonstration this weekend of moku hanga printmaking.
It's THREE days, from 11am to 8pm and I'm there for all of it.  I know the subject will be a success, the process of moku hanga is fascinating to watch...most people have done linoleum prints in their youth or have seen rubber stamps so they get the general concept, but as practiced to produce multicolor prints it is always a bit confusing to watch--it seems almost like magic.
My concern is that I'm not an expert and I'm a little uncomfortable pretending to be an authority.
It's a Japanese cultural fair and usually very well-run and attended and there will be people there who are experts in all things Japanese. Members of the local Japanese community will be there as well as many Italian locals interested in Japanese and Asian culture, sport or food.  Certainly there will be collectors of Japanese art and a few practitioners of Calligraphy (there's an excellent school here in Florence). So while I'll have a section behind me with a panel briefly discussing the history of moku hanga and Ukiyo-e prints, I've decided to be deliberately very brief--and I'll direct serious inquiries to better informed resources. Most of what I've prepared explains the craft: the tools, paper, brushes and technique that go into making a print.
It's what I do know reasonably well and can talk about and demonstrate effectively.

My plan is to have some illustrative panels set up behind explaining the tools and steps and with some examples of traditional Ukiyo-e and sosuka hanga prints (as well as a few of my own).
On the table(s) I'll have blocks and prints in sleeves, bamboo leaves, barens, jars of pigment etc.

I'm starting a new print just for the exhibit and I'll be carving the keyblock and color blocks in the morning. Then I'll switch to printing and try several 1-2 hour blocks of printing working from blocks and prints I have already carved (I'm low on a few prints and I'll be printing them there). Meanwhile, I hope to be able to chat while I'm working--explaining the process illustrated both in the photos behind me and on the bench before me.

Hopefully I'll be able to get far enough on the new work to be able to print it on the third day as the final demonstration.  



Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Moka Hanga in Florence-LAILAC 14,15,16 NOV


This year, I won't just be attending. I will be demonstrating the craft of Japanese woodblock printing (moku hanga) at this year's Festival of Japanese Arts and Culture hosted by Lailac.

XVI Japanese Festival 2014
Lailac-the local Japanese Cultural Association is presenting their XVIth Festival Giapponese in Florence
November 14,15,16 just two weeks away.

Set in the lovely Limonaia di Villa Strozzi, a magnificent stone greenhouse originally built to house the Villa's lemon trees in the winter; this November it will host a kaleidoscope of Japanese culture. Inside the Limonaia there is a stage and there will be music, demonstrations of kimono, the Japanese tea ceremony, aikido, Taiko, and much more. Meanwhile surrounding the stage are areas dedicated to Etagami, Origami, Calligraphy, and yes, Moku Hanga.  Outside there is a tented area with more crafts, painted silk,  food vendors and offering hard-to-find Japanese cooking tools and ingredients.

It's a lovely event, well-attended and it's where I joined the Japanese Etagami Society's etagami exchange last year. They will again be sending 8-10 members from Japan who will be hosting a set of tables to teach and permit visitors how to make etagami (and enrolling interested participants in the exchange).

 I will be manning the Moku Hanga Table inside and will have a display of tools, blocks, prints, and descriptions of the process.
In addition to demonstrating the carving and printing, I will have carved blocks, sample tools--barens and brushes, I will be bringing some original antique and vintage Japanese woodblock prints in addition to a handful of my own works to display.


I will be carving in the mornings and then try to run several printing demonstrations in the afternoon until closing--as the attraction of moku hanga for non-artists is the printing phase---the magic moment of pulling the paper off the block and seeing the impressed image.
I am hoping?? to start and finish a small, new print during the fair but we'll see how much work I can actually do as I expect I'll be spending a lot of time explaining.


So if you're in Florence, Nov 14, 15, 16th or close enough to come visit, I'll be in the Limonaia at Palazzo Strozzi 11a-8pm. Come say hi!

For information, directions to Villa Strozzi see the Lailac website:
www.lailac.it/xvi-festival-giapponese-2014/
XVI Japanese Festival 2014