Saturday, July 4, 2015

Peace Puzzle. Population control.

We are too many.
Conflicts arising from the scarcity of food and water, arable land, housing and jobs are all partly caused by the competition among us for the same resources.  
Peace won't likely be in our future or that of our planet unless we can stem the growth of our species. At 7 billion humans and counting,  the human population continues to rise and the increasing pressure for dwindling resources and the effects of rising temperatures, air and water pollution and habitat loss are the driving forces of the mass plant and animal extinctions that have already begun. (and Peace must embrace the lives of all of the world's living things--not just humans). 

Population control starts with family planning and birth control.
Sex education and the encouragement within communities for members to have small families can all help stem or reverse the problem of human overpopulation.
Birth control is one solution and contraception (the prevention of unwanted pregnancies) is one way to reduce our numbers and is better than the alternatives of
War, Famine and epidemic Disease.

So add my small piece to the bigger puzzle.
Encourage smaller families.
Make sure women (and men) around the world have access to safe and just reproductive care.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Puzzle Piece

 I'm participating in a collaborative print conceived, organized and heroically managed by Maria Arango-Diener.(

This is a "puzzle print".  A larger block has been cut into many pieces and the participating artists,
almost 160(!) of us, each received a single piece, and we now need to carve it and ship it back to be reassembled and then printed.

This particular print has the theme of "PEACE" but there are no restrictions on how we interpret it and all we are asked is to get the block back by the deadline, and to avoid proofing the block (to prevent warping it)--as Maria will also compile a detailed colophon, we'll need to include at least a few words or explanation too.

The due date is July 31st and I brought the block in my carry-on as I flew last week from Florence, Italy to San Francisco and Santa Cruz, where I'll be staying for the next six weeks.

Here's my portion of the whole.
I got a leaf or tear-drop shaped block of cherry plywood.
I've been staring at it off and on for a few days. Looking at the shape and grain.

I'm not feeling it.
The vibrations I'm getting are the buses rumbling past, and the chattering windows as the beer glasses and patrons jostle each other in the bar down the street. And later, the garbage trucks at 5am, picking up the accumulated trash of this small city.
A young girl goes by holding hands with another while down the street another couple are pulling a stroller out of a car trunk and an infant and toddler spill out of the car itself, laughing and cooing.
I have now a half a dozen thumbnail sketches in my sketchbook.
I've even traced my wooden block to see if the shape will move me and it does, or something does.
I redraw an idea to scale and hold it backwards against the window, to see the reversed image.
it needs work, and maybe a different emphasis. But it's a start. Even if, from the shot below, you can't fairly guess yet where this is going.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Moku Hanga a Roma



 Last weekend's woodblock print class went by in a fast and busy that I only once tried to document the workshop with photos but my camera died and I never did get a chance to recharge. Thanks to Francesca and Giulia instead who took lots of photos and forwarded them to me.

It was a great group. Five energetic, really enthusiastic and dauntless artists happy to spend 3 full days learning something new.

This was designed as a 3-Day class: We talked a little bit about the history of moku hanga, looked at slides and I did a general printing demo followed by an introduction to tools and methods.
We went over the drawings and transferred them to the blocks and the group got carving.
Day one ended with the keyblocks carved.....
I forget sometimes how difficult it is for new carvers to learn how to hold the knives and work without fatiguing. 

Day 2 was devoted to looking at some beautiful antique prints; I demonstrated color printing and multi block registration. Color blocks were carved.

Day 3: we looked at slides of contemporary moku hanga artists;  I did a demo of bokashi gradation printing and and printing tips. And we discussed traditional and non-traditional barens.
PRINTING for the better part of the day.
We finished reviewing each persons works and ended the day, late, with a demonstration of how
 to tie the bamboo skin/leaf on the baren.

As I said before it was a great group.
The artists and graphic designers all had a good grasp of color separations and image manipulation.
The one beginner had a strong art history background (but had never carved either lino or wood) had some challenges with carving but was persistent, careful, and determined and managed to pull off a three-block image with a bokashi background and a cute character that everyone but me recognized as "SPANK"?

Registration was pretty good all around and the only real issues were the loss of some of the keyblock lines..from carving issues with the toh and gouges on the first afternoon....but that gets better with practice and by the second day all were already clearly more in control with the toh and chisels.  Each participant definitely got a sense of how the process works and what to work on for their next prints.

Claudia's "Spank". They say it's a dog?

 I had a great time; it was fun to teach and a great group to be a part of.
Thank you Betterpress lab for the invitation and a big thank you to the participants themselves for their effort and energy.

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.