Saturday, July 18, 2015

Braiding wood, paper and hair.

Early Proof state--the image is about 7.5 x 10".

I'm working to try to get a new print done for this year's AIMPE Awagami's International Mini Print Competition 2015 for works on Japanese washi (paper) and the deadline is nearing (July 30th).  I also committed to the Baren forum's quarterly print exchange and that too is due July 30th. The paper sizes are different,  with the former a standard A4 (8.25 x 11.5") while the latter is a bigger 10 x 15"....but after playing with half a dozen designs I settled on one I've been working on off and on for a few years that I knew would work well with both formats.

It's based on a drawing I did a few year's ago when my wife still had waist length hair that she would wear in a tangled braid.  I did an etching similar to this also a few years back but was never happy with that.

The basic concept is simple and fairly formal...a woman's head and back with the picture plane divided by the dark braid....but the variations are endless....and I've doodled simple, idealized, literal, and exaggerated backs and braids in many of the sketchbooks I've filled.
In this case these sketches were drawn from memory done to scale to fit an A4 sheet knowing that I could adjust the block to fit both paper sizes.

I settled on the bottom sketch which ,while not perfect,  gave me a little more room to play with the braid and blouse. I especially like the wispy hairs of the nape of the neck and the cloud of stray hairs that surround the head and braid.   It will be challenge to carve the hair and while I know how to cut the wispy ones, I haven't really figured out yet how to cut the head and braid themselves..nor how many blocks to dedicate to them.
I ordered a block of Cherry plywood for the keyblock from has a good 1/8th inch layer of good cherry veneer and a 9 x 12 inch block should allow me to print both paper sizes.

I glued down the laser copy I made of the drawing and once the paste was dry I peeled back the outer layer of paper to reveal the image. With a thin coating of olive oil,  the remaining paper became translucent and I could follow the drawing to guide the cutting.
I'm using a 4.5 Hangi toh to outline all the hairs.
This particular piece of cherry was pretty dense. Carving was pretty straightforward--if slow-- but clearing the cut bits was harder than usual often requiring 4-5 passes with the toh and back cuts to get the pieces to finally separate from the block. The final carving of the mass of hair of the head and braids was cut with a V-gouge instead of the toh.

I proofed this block yesterday onto thin paper and glued 4 copies down to Shin blocks to start the color plates.  I lost a lot of the detail above and the braid is now a tangled mess. I like it but will need to tease out the definition of the braid better than it printed in the top photo.
But now I think I'll need an additional cherry block to resolve the hair.

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