Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Modern Miracles-Rain for Aleppo

Aleppo, 2016. "Planes are more than birds, and bombs are more than rain," one resident said of the Syrian air force's renewed blitz. (CNN; 11/18/2016).

It is written that Fire and Brimstone fell from the sky and destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
But then it was a wrathful god laying waste to cities populated with only sinners and immoral men and women.  Now we live in a New Age and the men without morals, mercy or a shred of goodness are not to be wiped from the earth but are instead the ones sending the planes and dropping the bombs and the canisters of gas on the sleeping cities below. Today, we don't need holy books to tell us what is happening, as we can watch the bombs fall live on small flickering screens until we turn them off or simply scroll past the images of dead infants, and dust-covered, bloody children and crying men, mutilated soldiers and buildings that aren't buildings anymore. 

I watched the you tube video of cluster bombs falling at night in the Syrian village of Aleppo.
I thought they were strangely beautiful to look at, and they reminded me of the shooting stars my children and I had stayed up late to watch when the Perseid meteor shower occurred earlier this year.  But I knew these were bombs and not meteorites and the footage on the news that followed was horrifying and I was overcome by an incredible sense of shame and helplessness in the wake of image after image of the violence and death being showered on these poor, trapped residents in a city besieged in a modern war by forces with no qualms about the killing of  unarmed residents using chemical weapons or through indiscriminate bombing raids with weapons that will kill large number of civilians as well as their intended military targets. 

**Cluster bombs are weapons that can be ground fired or dropped from aircraft that contain multiple (from as few as 4 to 100's) of smaller explosive devices that spread to detonate over a large area. They are designed to kill multiple troops and to destroy and disable military vehicles but they are plagued by a high failure rate where large numbers of the small and sometimes toylike bomblets do not detonate. It is estimated that 40% of casualties from cluster weapons are civilians, and a large percentage of these are children--during attacks and often after hostilities have ceased. "Cluster munitions pose an immediate threat to civilians during conflict by randomly scattering submunitions or bomblets over a wide area. They continue to pose a threat post-conflict by leaving remnants, including submunitions that fail to explode upon impact becoming de facto landmines. The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions prohibits the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster munitions. It also requires destruction of stockpiles, clearance of areas contaminated by remnants, and victim assistance. More than 115 states have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions and are working to implement its provisions. Human Rights Watch is a founding member of the Cluster Munition Coalition and contributes to its annual Cluster Munition Monitor report. " (Human Rights Watch).

***The cluster bombs falling on Aleppo are being dropped by both Syrian government and Russian forces (although they both deny it) but these images could easily have been of conflicts in Yemen, or Afghanistan, or Lebanon.
There is an international ban since 2008 on the use of Cluster bombs but countries that make them or have large stockpiles, or use them regularly in conflicts have not adhered to the international accord. While 118 countries have signed the agreement, the USA, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, Israel, and many other countries are NOT signatories to the accord and continue to make and use these munitions during conflicts.

The last US manufacturer of Cluster weapons has only this year declared that they will stop manufacturing them in 2017 (but will honor existing orders and deliveries) citing among other things, falling demand.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


 I have a few more layers down, working off two background blocks. There's a very pale carmine bokashi background that went down first, then a pale yellow bokashi and now and then an ultramarine blue followed by another orange glaze.

Rain is expected so I'll be able to escape to the studio and I hope to finish this in the next day or so. 

Probably 2 more color passes to go.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Miracles--Bokashi 2 of x?

The second color from the other day.
This block is pretty much retired. Now I'm going to be playing with the background using 2 blocks to selectively mask and enhance these shapes.
But most of what you see is going to disappear.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


While I have a couple of print ideas bouncing around my head,  I started this with no advance planning.  It started as a test block--I was testing the sharpness of the V-gouges I sharpened for class and the cheap, thin stock I was cutting--here they call it fromager (cheese?) wood and I haven't yet figured out what it would be called in English--cut cleanly with the just-sharpened tools. It's soft and has a prounounced grain but doesn't look like it will hold any detail.

From the test block came an idea, and I cut another block to match the first and a few test prints later I was at the printing bench. The two blocks are complementary--they're positive and negative but also coarse vs. elegant and they'll be working with and against each other as this print progresses.

 Here's the rough test of the cut block printed on bond paper--
and below, the same block, now cleaned up and printed in yellow, on good Japanese washi.

This is the first of many bokashi printings to come.
I printed a second color tonight but didn't have time for photos.

I set it all aside in the damp pack for a few days as I have more olives to pick (we're making olive oil) and until the rains start, I'm needed in the fields. But I'm hoping to start printing the second block in the next couple of days.

I'm still hopeful that this might come out and
happy as all get out to be printing on Echizen Kozo again.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Paper Trials and Tribulations

My favorites of this mosaic are the maybe "Hosho Select?" top row L; and the bottom R, Shin Hosho(from Intaglio Printmakers).

I have continued to try to locate a reliable source of sized, student-grade paper suitable for general work and student workshops.
My favorites for my own work, the reliable and consistent papers that always print beautifully for moku hanga are still Echizen kozo and Kizuki Hanga and Nishinouchi (from McClains in the US) and Mawata light and Kihada Light and Shin Hosho--all via Woodlike Matsumura in Japan or Intaglio Printmakers in the UK.  But these papers run from $20-45$/sheet and I'm always looking for a paper I can get in Italy that is suitable for general work.

So I was very pleased when the Awagami paper factory started to begin to market their art and printmaking papers in the West.  In a packet I received for my entry in a recent show, I received a selection of printmaking papers from Awagami.  I pulled out the ones that looked like they'd be workable for moku hanga--either by feel or from their descriptions.

I also did a series of test prints, trying out this simple 4-block print to see how each would print and hold up to the several layers and colors.

The etagami drawing above was done by a 12-year old neighbor.  I cut it as a 4-block simple woodblock print with 2 bokashi layers and no background.

For comparison: here is the same print on two western papers;
Zerkall Smooth and Annigoni
Zerkall smooth

Annigoni a 100% cotton watercolor paper from Magnani

Based on these trials; I chose a couple papers for my recent workshop.
In addition to the double weight coated Bond paper that I use for proofing.
I cut up sheets of Zerkall Smooth, Magnani incisioni for European papers and based on the above tests the Hosho Select and Okawara Select from the Awagami line of editioning papers.

The latter papers are now available in Europe and I was pleased that these two midrange papers were both listed as suitable for water-based woodblocks on the Awagami site and confirmed in my trials.

Unfortunately, the paper that arrived was different in the hand than the papers I'd tested.
The Hosho select (top L above), while being listed as good for water-based woodblock prints is  is listed in the Awagami catalog as Unsized(that's not good) and a laid paper....just like the paper that arrived....but UNLIKE the paper I tested which acted like my old favorite and heavily sized Shin Hosho and had NO laid lines......
And when I went to dampen the paper I had carefully pre-cut for my students.....It clearly sucked up the water like blotter paper and was too soft to be workable.
The Okawara Select was the same as in my trials, but at the larger size I gave my students it too was  a little too soft, and since they didn't carve deeply or cleanly enough, most got spotting and ruined prints as the paper was a little too soft and floppy for beginners.

So, I'll have to look again at the others: the shiramine and bamboo papers didn't print badly and I'll try a few more before I decide what to try for my next class.