Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

Wishing all a happy and healthy, productive and creative New Year.
Hope any who need direction will find it and those who already are where they want to be will share coherent directions.

Auguri and Best Wishes,


Friday, December 30, 2011

Imagining Baluchistan

Here are two versions of a small print I've been working on.
They are about 4" x 8" in size.
The first is printed on a small fragment of my home-sized Japanese paper;

the second is on Magnani a handmade,190g/m2 watercolor paper that I've been trialing to see if it would work as a locally available paper.

The shape is based on a rug motif from a small Baluch pile woven bag that I pulled out of storage recently. This is a close up of a small pillow bag or balisht, woven by the Baluch--a nomadic tribe that inhabit parts of what are now Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan. Balisht were/are small bags, woven in pairs that were part of a young woman's dowry and would have been used for head pillows or storage. Old ones are still found in pristine condition suggesting that they are not used but stored away as valued items. This one has a repeating motif of double headed arrows on a camel wool ground.

I had this motif in mind when I carved the 6-7 blocks for this little print.
It was designed to be able to play with overlapping colors--blue over yellow/red over yellow, etc and there are positive and negative blocks so I can alternate the order of printing and the effect.As with my other attempts to recall textile/rug pieces in moku hanga the results are only mediocre. It's a simple image but the prints are still too flat and the colors not nearly saturated or rich enough.

I do like however the surface I did manage to get--especially on my Japanese paper.
I also allowed the uncarved areas to print at the edges, and overprinted in tinted washes to try to get some layering and depth.

Monday, December 12, 2011


As my big Maple branch/seed/print is taking a long time, I need to take frequent breaks or I'll lose interest.

These are two watercolor doodles done on my badly-sized Japanese paper (and indeed they were unevenly sized and both resisted and sucked up the watercolor rather haphazardly). (I have a big stack of reject paper...from my sizing experiments.)

Nervous Energy-- 5"x7" watercolor on Japanese paper

Counting the Days--5"x7" watercolor and mica on Japanese paper

No real theme just shapes, colors, lines and a bit of leftover mica powder mixed into the paint.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Oops--Woodblock slips, lost wood and repairs.

I'm pushing the limit of this particular piece of Shina Plywood. I can carve thinner lines but the glue holding the veneer firm is not always uniform and pieces will pop off. Sometimes due to a slip of the chisel and sometimes not. (A careful look at the photos will show that I gave myself some extra space while carving--I'm a good 1-2mm away from my hanshita lines but I still had a good 8-9 slips/losses/gaps.)

It's a offshoot of Murphy's law that a small loss of line is always in a critical area and not some irrelevant spot. It's always the eye or nose or a letter etc.
In this case it is the Maple seed that will be the focus of the image.

Here are a few photos of the slips (but already with repairs in progress).

I've already taken a little shina --taken off the surface with a flat chisel and cut into wedge shapes or narrow rectangles and these have been glued into the space left by a lost piece.
I've opened up the spaces a bit to give me more room and tried to flatten the bottom of both the receiving board and the wood plug.

They are allowed to dry and then the next day carefully trimmed to match the original lines. A wood glue for exteriors is best (won't come off when wet like Elmer's white glue will).
I didn't have any so used a local Italian glue that looked and smelled like airplane glue and wasn't ideal.

Here are the repairs after they've been trimmed:

And here is one view of the test proof I took today to check the keyblock.
Not invisible, but not bad.
I do take care to shave the top flat so the repair is flush with my keyblock.
With a little more care to cut the plugs to fit better and the right glue the repairs can be undetectable once printing gets underway and the small gaps fill in.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Truccioli--wood shavings

I've retreated to work some more on my Maple Branch keyblock as I'm still licking my wounds after the sizing debacle. (Although, looking over the sheets there were actually TWO usable half sheets.)
I had forgotten the obvious that while increasing the size of my drawing with the copier by 100% meant I'd have an easier time carving the details but the block surface area has quadrupled and it just takes longer to carve a large block. Especially one with lots of curvy, spiky lines.

This is a 16" x 20" block of which I'm really using just a 14 inch square ( and will cut off and use the long strip left over).

I'm working zone by zone. Outlining a leaf and stem; clearing a trench around the area with my larger U-gouge then going back in with the toh to outline all the lines before clearing the area. I'm trying to be good about clearing and cleaning up as I go so I won't have tons of cleaning to do when I'm done.

I have lost some bits and pieces of the thinner lines and I'll have to glue back in some wood to recarve a few key areas.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sizing Disaster

One good corner....
I'll lead in with the one good corner of the one good (well, usable) half sheet from my first attempt at sizing my own paper. I used--I thought--a relatively weak recipe:
45g rabbit-skin glue to 23 g alum to one liter of water.
Sizing pot/double boiler
Work Station

But before anyone thinks they want to follow my example here are the rest of the sheets:

I think my size was too strong--too much gelatin anyway-- and I tried stacking the sheets to "even out the moisture" but even after the 4-5 minutes I needed to brush out 5-6 half sheets, I couldn't then get them apart, and attempting to pull them apart they stretched and pulled fibers off. The paper was a bit soft and thin and once dampened with size it just got too soft and rippled with the moisture. Those ripples became creases and areas that would catch the size and while I didn't get any dripping there was definitely too much size at the R and top side of the paper where the brush, moving R to L would touch down.
The one decent sheet I got was one I brushed out alone, immediately hanging it to dry.

They didn't look too bad hanging but they dried curled, uneven, puckered and mottled.
Despite the damp outside, our indoor heating (radiant floor and bright dry day inside) I think contributed to the paper drying too fast.

At any rate--it is almost completely to trash--I did cut down the better halves of each sheet and I'll try printing on them; I hope when they are dampened and printed on they might even or flatten out a bit but I fear that the wavy bits will dry that way even once they're printed.

I have a few ideas for next time and despite this result, I do want to have another try:

--more hands. A helper would have been very helpful--hanging the sheets was more of a hassle/problem than I imagined (clothespins didn't hold, pieces fell off...)
--smaller 1/2 liter batch to try 3-4 sheets only--I didn't use all the size I made and wanted just enough to be able to fill the brush and try it out.
--half the gelatin--I think it was just too thick/gluey.
--hang each sheet as soon as it is brushed rather than trying to stack them.
--turn off the heat in the room where they'll dry. I need to slow the drying time down so they don't curl so much.

On the good side the small pieces of paper that don't look too bad have a nice feel.
The 40g/m2 paper that was a bit thin and soft definitely has more body and feels like it would be good to print on if it wasn't just so badly sized.