Sunday, June 25, 2017

More Sizing experiments: "Flash" sizing with a summer recipe of nikawa and alum.

 
I did manage to sneak into the studio long enough to set up and size a dozen sheets of paper.  Now they're hung out to dry and will need to "settle" for a week or two before I can test the paper to see if this ratio was suitable for these papers, in this weather.  It wasn't perfect. The big brush works, but it tends to dump a lot of size at the beginning of the stroke across the paper, and much less at the end, and getting that right takes practice and changes with the papers. Since I was trialing a few sheets of several different papers, when I sort of got the hang of it for one paper, I had to switch to a new paper. In a couple, I had to go back over the sheet a second time--where the brush had skipped or left a puddle and on the heavy cellulose paper--I got some wrinkles that will be permanent (and those sheets will have to be cut down to smaller sizes to get rid of the damaged parts).  After a couple of weeks, I'll have a trial printing of a simple image on small pieces of each paper to see how much the absorb or resist the color.  The fish-poacher and small hot-plate worked well for warming the size, I'm still not sure if I did a better job with the bigger brush.  As I mentioned above, ideally, each paper will have a "best" recipe for size for moku hanga, and this ratio of glue and alum will change with the season (more glue in the summer/less in the winter) and the less alum added the better. I tried this recipe a few years ago (a total disaster) as it was on cheap, locally available, mostly pulp papers with just a small amount of kozo fiber and I ended up just gluing all the sheets together.  With nearly the same recipe, on good almost 100% kozo papers, the size goes on smoothly (mostly) and I could see it got absorbed into the paper almost immediately. I'm curious to see how much my inept handling of the brush will affect the final paper, and try to tease out how much is my glue/alum ration and how much is just my inexperience with the sizing brush (dosa bake).
All hung up to dry: Torinoko  Kozo, Kozo thick natural, Hosho Professional, Kochi white.



Here's a buckle/kink that won't go away.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Painting (sizing) with a Broad Brush


Sometimes, even without overly generalizing, you really do need a broader brush; especially if you want to size Japanese washi.

Those who have followed my occasional posts about my attempts to home-size Japanese paper to make it suitable for printing know that the biggest problem up to now has been finding suitable papers but that's slowly working itself out now that better papers are getting easier (a little) to find either outside Japan, or within it thanks to e-commerce or reliable paper sellers of quality papers in the US, Canada, and abroad (Hiromi Paper, The Japanese Paper Place, The Paper Connection, McClain's (although they sell high quality pre-sized papers for moku hanga), Intaglio Printmakers (UK) and Les Papiers de Lucas (France),  and probably others I haven't found yet. 
But the biggest practical problem remains actually sizing the paper; figuring out suitable glue and alum ratios and recipes for my climate and the paper I'm trying to treat. (Size, or dosa in Japanese, is the mixture of alum and animal glue that is added to the paper to make it less absorbant).
In Japan, the paper was traditionally sized on one or both sides of the paper and IDEALLY, the warm glue was applied with one quick pass over the sheet of the paper with a fully loaded brush. With a small brush it's hard to cover the entire surface without overlapping the edges from the previous pass and where the brush passes twice (or misses entirely) will leave paper unevenly sized that will show up when the paper is printed.  Getting the mixture onto the paper evenly without buckling or crinkling the paper or leaving gobs of size that will act as a resist isn't that simple a task but it's made easier by a bigger brush that holds enough glue to make it across the entire sheet in one go.
The only brushes I've been able to find actually made for applying size are pretty small at 2 to 4 inches across, water brushes for dampening paper are a little easier to find and I purchased a couple of 6" brushes a few years ago with the intent to try to put them together with a jig to allow me to create economically a brush sizing brush. These are two "economical" Chinese sheep wool "water" brushes (mizu bake) that I'm going to be using for adding  the glue and alum (dosa) to unsized paper to render it a little bit resistant to absorption and hence suitable for moku hanga, watercolor woodblock printing.
A real Dosa Bake or sizing brush--of this width, even if they were available-- would cost a few hundred dollars. This will end up costing about $50; since I got the two 6" brushes on sale from McClains Printmaking Supplies some time ago.




David Bull posted photos of an Artist (in France?) who had actually already done so and the photo was just like what I had imagined trying to do--and he was home-sizing his paper with a large brush with two smaller ones glued onto it and with good results.  David also confirmed that he too has made several and that they work well enough if one shaves back the wood to allow the brush parts to line up closely--so I decided to go ahead and try to put one together from the brushes I'd previously purchased.

These two brushes are the same size and from the same manufacturer but they're not identical so I had to adjust them a bit so the brush ends would line up and remain flush. The two edges of the wooden handles were shaved down with a sharp chisel so the brush portions pushed against each other and with care to make sure the sheep's wool lined up as well as was possible they were glued and clamped one at a time with water-resistent PVA glue.  

I'll let this thing dry for a bit and have a go at sizing some 100% Kozo paper that I bought earlier this year. My new brush is 14" across, so I can size in one pass a sheet of about 15" X 30".  A trip to the basement revealed an old aluminum fish poacher and armed with my food warming, hot plate (1970's), Aluminum Poacher (60s?), and "new" 14" dosa bake I'm ready to try another round of sizing Japanese paper for moku hanga printing.  I'll let you know how it goes.


Various water and sizing brushes that I've accumulated over time.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

More Whales/Ancora le Balene.



I printed a small run of the 3-block whale prints on good paper but I can't say I'm thrilled.
I didn't keep to my test prints and the colors wandered way too far afield (offshore?) towards the turquoise and teals and there's too much variability within the small number of prints I made.
I never did get to use Block #4--I had hoped to print a white spray with gofun; white crushed powder ground from seashells to mimic the foam and spray of the whale's breath but even on the beige and off-white papers, the dark sea and sky makes the paper already seem "white".
Tomorrow after they're dry I'll cull the rejects of weak or too strong colored ones and see what I'm left with.
In addition to this batch, there's another 20 copies of the simpler one block/2-color version I may try to have another go at the color version to get closer to my original vision.
These were all small samples of the Okoume' plywood I got recently and cut down to use as a grain-printing block for my workshops. This print was a "test" to make sure these blocks were easy to carve and print from.


Block 4 that didn't get used.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

La Bottega del Cigno//workshop photos

Here are some of the sample works from this weekend's Mokuhanga workshop near Padua:
Giuseppe's Typewriter keys

Pietro's Volcano (waiting for a photo of finished work).

Sofia's waves/leaves/undulations

Sylvia's Wolf "Haku" (proof stage) The final had two gradation printings/bokashis.

Paola's Daisies

Rosita's Gladiolas

Anna's Rabbit in Snow


I just finished putting away the materials from my weekend class just outside Padua, in Noventa Padovana.  I was a guest instructor at the Bottega del Cigno ("the Swan Studio"), a artistic and cultural association that has an illustration school and art programs for children and adults. Run by the able and seemingly indefatigable, Daniela Veronese, the space houses two huge rooms with large tables, great lighting--both natural and color-corrected fluorescent--air conditioning and lots of supplies suitable to a functioning art education facility.

We had a small group of just 7 participants although one was the son of one of the students from my last Florence class--and father and son worked together on one set of blocks.

As always, to try to cover enough in just 2 days the history, technique, challenges, tricks, and try to get across both the possibilities and nuances inherent in this fascinating process is a challenge and while I think I touched on most of the bases, I know that there are things that got left out or not emphasized enough.....

Here are some photos of the group hard at work.







+As usual, I brought too much stuff--but I always think that having actual prints--Ukiyo-e and contemporary--as well as things to look at makes for an interesting class.  And we had lots of barens, brushes, catalogs and art books, papers, sample prints and a few gems from my collection of prints.

My next class in in Florence, July 1,2 at Il Bisonte, now just 1 month away.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A simple approach-FIN/BALENA


I'm trying to encourage the students and artists that take my 2-day class to keep things really simple.
This year I'll also be bringing a couple of simple prints for those that didn't bring drawings or who want to focus on the cutting and printing rather than creating (during the class) a personal image.

I usually recommend that they avoid line drawings--except sparingly or with particularly thick lines--to avoid having critical parts of a drawing fall off or to watch them spend too much time carving too few blocks and losing out on exploring the printing aspect of Japanese woodblock when having a guide is very useful.


I've been doodling these Fin Whales for a good bit.  I hope to try a fairly big, semi-abstract version based on simple shapes and blocks of color--and for this small test print I took the same approach--working from a simple cut-out paper collage to decide on the shapes and placement.

This is the hasty proof I took today.
One block of Okoume plywood selectively inked to allow two colors.
I'll carve another 2 blocks to make this a simple, 3 block print to use as a demo for my next workshop. While simple in concept, there's a lot of room for experimentation.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Class Preparation for Moku Hanga; a Non-Linear approach.


I'm getting ready for my upcoming Moku Hanga workshops and there's LOTS to do: 
  -Sharpen 8 sets of Powergrip tools.
  -Make another 4 floating Kentos to replace those that "vanished" after my last class. 
  -Cut proofing and Japanese paper into 5"x8" sheets.
  -Rewrite my handouts (again) in English and Italian versions.
  -Make a trip to the copy store to print a few more flyers for my next classes. 
  -Organize the contemporary and antique prints, catalogs and books I bring as reference works.

  -MAKE another simple demo print for the next class (An excuse to make a new woodblock print rather than do the other things on the list.....). 
Guess which of these tasks I'll start first thing tomorrow?


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

MOKU HANGA IN ITALY: Upcoming Workshops of Japanese woodblock--Padua/Florence/Ravenna2017



ENGLISH:
I have a few workshops scheduled and in the works for Spring and Fall of 2017.
May 27-28 Noventa Padovana (PADUA); First up is my workshop just outside of Padua, in Noventa Padovana with La Bottega del Cigno and Daniela Veronese--this ex-primary school is now home to a thriving artist cultural association catering to illustrators and painters and other arts and will be hosting a 2-day introductory workshop of Japanese woodblock. Class size is limited to 8 students and there are still places available. (Italian and English)
Contact information is here: http://www.labottegadelcigno.it/ or email: labottegadelcigno@gmail.com

OCTOBER 20-22, Ravenna: I will also be returning to INK33; Enrico Rambaldi's ambitious series of workshops on the various techniques of printmaking in the historic center of Ravenna. I'll be offering a 2 and 1/2 day introductory workshop in Japanese woodblock (In Italian and English). For information: ink33.it o infoink33@gmail.com Phone: 3336907459

NEWS: Florence JUNE 2017; After the success of my January workshop and fielding many requests to offer an additional course, I'm thrilled to report that the historic print studio and workshop, IL BISONTE, has invited me to teach at their beautiful and spacious print studios. I'll have dates finalized this week but it will be a 2-day introductory class and limited to 8 students. 

ITALIANO:
I Prossimi Corsi/Workshop di Stampa Giapponese; Noventa Padovana (Padova), Ravenna, e Firenze.

Noventa Padovana (Padova) il 27/28 MAGGIO:
Sono poco piu' di 4 settimane prima del mio prossimo corso introdottivo di moku hanga/la stampa giapponese presso La Bottega del Cigno a Noventa Padovana. Sara' la prima volta che insegno a Padova e sono contento che sono stato invitato di portare la tecnica della stampa giapponese agli artisti e illustratori che frequentono lo spazio.  Limitato ad 8 studenti ma ci sono ancora posti disponibile.
per info: http://www.labottegadelcigno.it/ o http://www.labottegadelcigno.it/courses_item/workshop-xilografia-moku-hanga/  Email: labottegadelcigno@gmail.com 

Ravenna: 20-22 Oct; Torno a Ravenna e ad INK33, Lo studio di Enrico Rambaldi nel centro storico di Ravenna. Venerdi/Sabato/Domenica--Un po' tempo in piu' per permettere qualche technica extra e' piu' prove di stampa in questo corso base.
per info:  ink33.it o infoink33@gmail.com telefonare al 3336907459

NOTIZIE: Firenze--GIUGNO--c'e ancora di definire le date ma sono stato invitato di offrire un corso presso il storico Studio di Incisione il Bisonte e dove posso accommodare chi mi ha chiesto di offrire un altro corso a Firenze dopo il successo del mio workshop di Gennaio----info e dettagli nei prossimi giorni per questo workshop base di 2 giorni....

 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Baren Time





The bamboo in the garden is coming up and that means I'll be gathering takenokawa--the leaf sheaths or culms from the bamboo plant that I use for covering my barens.

I have a few workshops and classes starting next month and one of the things that always interests students are my home-made barens.  A basic plastic baren like we use in my classes costs just $6.00 but as the papers get thicker and the work more complicated, a stronger baren with a little more "feel" and heft makes printing easier and improves the quality of the printed image. Mid-range barens get expensive fast, and professional barens can cost--depending on type--from $150 to over $1000.


The one's I make take a few days to put together but cost just about $5.00 in materials and work well enough for beginners and students on both thin Japanese papers and thicker European papers and will function until one has made enough prints to think about moving to a better tool.  Instructions on how they're made can be found in earlier posts--the biggest change I've made is in hardening the twisted twine with PVA glue so it will stay hard longer--and using different strings to make medium or harder barens. I've had 3 of my barens find new homes recently so I have to make a few new ones so I'll have some for my next workshop for students to try out. For someone who wants to make their own look over my earlier posts:
http://rospobio.blogspot.it/2013/05/making-twisted-cord-baren.html   or  http://rospobio.blogspot.it/2015/01/home-made-barens-revisited-and-now-on.html




















Wednesday, April 12, 2017

This time with a little color.

I have been moving forward with my small print series of shunga/erotica/quick sketches and have etched one image/plate and almost finished another. Meanwhile, I cut color blocks for this one and pulled a couple of color proofs using my baren and today quickly inked and proofed the zinc plate with a small table press on top of the color work already laid down.
I'm using a textured Italian etching paper and my zinc plates weren't highly polished so there's a lot of plate tone that is going to greatly influence the final result. 
I think this isn't bad for a color test--I will probably flip color tones for the male and female shapes and try to get it to print a little cleaner.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Shunga 2

Here are the first three of my sample plates for my erotic/shunga series.
I'm still not sure if I'll be able to pull this off but I'll commit to at least 5 of the images I have in mind and wait until I've got the color blocks done and printed too before I decide if this is worth pursuing.
Of these I'm happy with the 1st two--the third I think needs to be redrawn and etched on a new plate.




Soft-ground etching on zinc waiting for color plates.
They're all either 13cm square or 12cm x 13cm.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Shunga?

This is the tentative start of a small project. This, the first print, is based on yet another scribble from my sketchbook and my recurring interest in how our mind and eye turn random or unconnected shapes into recognizable forms.

The original scrawl of two wavy lines drawn as positive and negative reciprocal shapes-somehow became became male and female--and the reworked lines and resulting shapes then became figures. I drew these over and over--some more literal, others even more nuanced and I've played with how abstract I can go and still have this read (almost) as a depiction of an erotic act.
The two plates that printed together make the print at the top.

 There are others coming, but they're not subtle and I hope to be able to make a small series of prints-
playing with the Eastern/Western techniques of moku hanga and etching while referencing the history of erotic images from the Ukiyo-e tradition.
My plan is to combine the techniques of soft-ground etching for the drawn lines and fill in color areas using wood blocks and bokashi gradations although I may try doing the same image (or a variant) using the different techniques. I'll start with a couple and see if I can make something interesting,
but the eventual goal is to put together a group of 10-12 images for a small portfolio or artist book.




Friday, March 3, 2017

Not to Scale

1" x 4" etching and aquatint on Magnani etching paper.


I'm attending the Wednesday night sessions/open studio at Il Bisonte, one of many historic graphic arts/print studios in Florence.  There's a small group of us and once a week, after dinner we have access to the nuts-and-bolts materials and tools of a well-equipped printmaking studio. There are acid baths for zinc and copper, an aquatint box and hot plate,  a guillotine cutter for metal plates, many presses and a professional printer helping and supervising those who need assistance in making plates and prints.
I have several small works in process and I'm trying to meet the deadline for a miniature print competition so I'll decide soon what's good enough to push to finish and send.

These were done in my first few days--as I was trying to refamiliarize myself with drypoint and etched lines. At the top is a two-plate etching and aquatint. While below, is a print made from a drypoint zinc plate, printed on a student-grade, Japanese paper. Drypoint means I used a sharp scribe to scratch directly into the metal. It raises a burr and prints with an easily recognizable hazy line.  As with lots of my work, it's based on small, scribbled doodles--these of scientific and measuring devices--rulers, protractors, beakers, etc.  These are all hand drawn and I like the play of the obvious "wrong-ness" of the drawing. The inexact spacing and wandering line that negates the purpose of these objects in the real world.   I've only printed these copies but I hope to make some time and print some clean ones on good paper. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Five O'Clock Shadow



I like to joke that I have a "serious" line of work and a "frivolous" one.
This would fall in the latter category but these silly works, made without thoughts about meaning or purpose always have a spontaneous feeling rather than being fussy or forced.   And I think if they still make ME smile, then I think that's a good thing as they'll probably make others smile too.

This is a small work--the image is just 2" x 2" (5cm x 5cm) and is based on one of my many scribbles and doodles in one of my sketchbooks.

 
I had meant to do this as pure color woodblock. But cutting all those little dots for the beard stubble takes time and I really thought they'd be perfect done with an etching so the drawing was etched on a small zinc plate.
Unlike the previous Lampreys/Valentine prints, rather than using aquatint for the colors, I went ahead and cut several small wood blocks for the color passages.


So this ended up being Japanese woodblock and hard-ground etching on zinc and three color blocks (Shina) and was printed both with a baren (the color plates) and a small press.



These are test prints (rather than true Artist proofs),  and I think I need to darken the lines in a few places and decide on how much plate tone I want as I try to print a reasonably consistent edition once I decide which one I like best.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Valentine

Valentine, 2017; aquatint, etching and trace monotype.
Don't look for deep, symbolic meaning. This is just a stylized, parasitic, toothed, Lamprey, with a heart-shaped tongue, and hollow, sweet cliches stamped on it for Valentine's Day. 





I've been frequenting the Printmaking Studio and Cultural Association, Il Bisonte, in Florence during their once a week evening classes. It's been years since I did any etching or worked with a press and I was ready to spend one night a week in the company of etchers.  I like to work small and I chose to start with a square, zinc plate and some sketches from my "random doodles" sketchbook.  I started out with a simple cartoon of two entwined Lampreys called "Lampreys in Love" and then with Valentines day and all, I got kind of carried away.  For those who don't know, the Lamprey is a primitive, jawless fish that is a parasite on other acquatic animals. It attaches to the body of other fish and uses the serrated teeth and sucker mouth to attach firmly to the body of the host/victim. It has a toothed raspy tongue that bores into the side and it feeds off the body fluids and blood of the host. It doesn't necessarily kill the fish it's attached to--but they can perish from the gradual weakening through the loss of blood and nutrients, and the constant wound and weakened state can lead to infections and death. The Lamprey has a complex life cycle--similar to that of the Salmon, hatching in fresh water rivers and streams, growing in fresh water, then moving out to sea to become adults and living for years in the open sea but coming back to fresh water to spawn. Once highly prized among royalty, as it is a "meaty" fish and could be eaten during Lent and was consumed in very large quantities (leading to gouty flares among the rich and puffy).

The Nekko company has been making candy and wafers since the 1800s. One of their best sellers, especially around this time of year, are their candy hearts.  Small sugar wafers, die cut and printed with various coy sayings. They're smart enough to change with the times. They now come with "text me" or "LOL", etc.


But my Lampreys are purists. So I went with the classics from my childhood schooldays.

BE MINE, TRUE LOVE, REAL LOVE, MISS YOU. (I skipped STUCK ON YOU, ALL MINE, and a few others due to space issues and some emotional baggage).








These are small 4"x4" images, printed using oil based inks, a la poupee for the color with trace monotypes in purple ink for the words.