Sunday, May 5, 2013

Zig Zag

Mostly ZAG  7.5"x 10" moku hanga woodblock print; ed 35

 I had this little print in my mind for some time. 
Imagined as an exercise in overlapping colors and simple shapes.
Just three colors:
Hansa Yellow
Napthol Red Medium
Pthalo Blue (green shade)
and a little sumi added in the last impression.

There was a flame-like textile in the 1500s renaissance Florence (and I can still see examples during my walks past the Antique shops in the city center) and the Missoni brand fabrics sold downtown and internationally still borrow from that design pool. But if I'm surrounded by zigzag motifs locally it was a foreign weaving that I had in mind when I sketched out the little drawing that would become this print.

The textile I was thinking about was this one:

 It's a Baluch flat-weave cover or kilim. It is asymmetric and dyed with all-natural vegetal dyes with an amazing purple and rich orange and madder red and blue. It is long and narrow and would have been used originally to cover bags or belongings in the back of a nomads tent, or as a decorative hanging in the rear. Woven in Afghanistan about 100 years ago I find it abstract and Modern in an aesthetic that seems to defy style or fashion and time.
It was in storage however (see the roof entry from late Feb) when I was working on it and I had just a vague memory of how it was constructed.   I had  the print all planned out and had finished the keyblock when I pulled it out to check for colors.
 I noted that it was pretty different than I had remembered and I'd have changed the blocks if I had seen it earlier.
(I'd have included the steps in the diagonals--they add a lot of energy).

The Yellow block I printed very strongly to allow the later green and orange to glow.
The red was printed medium strength and the blue fairly lightly to allow for a nice green and purple--and then reprinted (using a different block) to deepen just the blue stripe and the outlines.

Very simple but not all that interesting in the end.

The original textile is much more captivating and beautiful. This is once again one of those examples where the original idea remains far more interesting than the finished print.
But I am working towards getting stronger and more vibrant colors--- this is a far cry from the wan and weak colors I was still getting just a few years ago.

The bright white version on Magnani incisioni printed surprisingly well; I only used these for proofing the blocks as they're still pretty hard to print by hand and the reject rate (due to slippage) is higher than with the thinner and more transparent Japanese washi.

TheWashi edition (on Mura Udabon Smooth from the Japanese Paper Place) has a nice imprinted wood grain--the paper is dried on wooden boards; and LOTS of little inclusions that became more obvious during printing as they acted as a resist to the colors.

It was my contribution to the Baren Forum Print Exchange #56 and 31 copies went by post to L.A. yesterday. 


  1. I love it! How lucky are the #56 players!

  2. Lovely! I'm so glad I'm part of #56. I can't wait to see it person. Nice work!

  3. Thanks, Janis, Lisa.
    Its a simple piece but the paper is lovely and the colors came out pretty vibrant--especially the orange.

  4. Pretty amazing to see how differently the colors appear on the two kinds of paper. I've tried some prints that depend on overlapping colors and have found it surprisingly difficult to get the colors I think I should get! I think these came out really well.

  5. Yes Annie; they're both pretty different. I made careful use of transparent colors that tended to the yellow shade so the orange is really vibrant as is the green. The color that I knew would be neutralized a bit was the purple and it was but still was ok. It's a aubergine/dark purple in real life so this was ok. The blue is still really off...the mordant and indigo used to dye the textiles in Baluchi works is often an amazing, electric, deep dark blue.......a universe in itself...and this is just a little pthalo blue GS with a touch of Ultramarine.......I'd have reprinted it a few more times to beef it up but I wanted this to stay fairly simple.