Technical Notes on the prints (#1 ~ #6)

(Images are linked back to the print pages ...)

Print #1: Spring Fuji, by Teisai Hokuba

When's the last time you saw a pale yellow sky and deep yellow clouds? Hey, I like it! I don't think realism is an issue here - just decorative pleasure ...

Interesting that among the first feedback emails from collectors that arrived after this print was sent out were two that referred to the 'gold' metallic line on the mountain. It's actually printed with powdered nickel silver, and try as I might, I myself can't see a trace of 'goldness' there. But that's what people seem to be seeing ...

Blocks: 9 cherry
Printing impressions: 9

Print #2: Bush Warbler, by Takahashi Shotei

Biggest challenge - by far - is getting the upper wide gradation printed without too much goma zuri (sesame seed printing). There has to be plenty of moisture on the wood to produce a smooth gradation, but too much water causes the impression to become speckled. Fine for Hiroshi Yoshida type prints, but not what I want here ... The slight 'mess' up at the top right corner is a result of the paper being fitted tightly into the registration marks at that point; because the colour areas are so 'close' there, it is inevitable that some ink smears into the border area.

Blocks: 7 cherrywood
Printing impressions: 11

Print #3: Doll Market, (unknown designer)

No particular difficulties with this one - straight-ahead classical 'inside the lines' printing. Important not to 'smash' the paper too much when doing the deeper colours, as even on a small sheet like this, it can stretch a bit, making subsequent registration difficult (or impossible).

Blocks: 13 cherrywood
Printing impressions: 14

Print #4: Tea Ceremony Supplies, by Kawabata Gyokusho

Traditional Japanese prints have a single 'key block': an outline which is printed first, and within which the colours then fit. But when there are two outline blocks, as in this print, it is a bit more difficult to align everything. A must match B, B must match C, and C must then match A ... In a small print like this, it's not so difficult, but in larger work, the adjustment can be extremely critical.

Blocks: 8 cherrywood
Printing impressions: 12

Print #5: Benzaiten, by Tomikawa Fusanobu

It is difficult these days to get good wood for my work. The people who prepare the blank blocks for me are good at what they do, but what they are not able to do properly is choose good timber; they can only work with what 'comes to them' in the normal course of the modern wood business. In the old days, men scoured the mountainsides looking for particular trees that would suit the requirements of the woodblock carvers, but those days are long gone. The piece I had to use for this print was acceptable ... but just. And it certainly wasn't adequate for the delicate lines of the face.

So I got out my tools and inserted a small plug of boxwood at that place in one of the blocks, a difficult job that was done by specialists in the old days, but which I have had to learn to do myself.

Worth it though!

Blocks: 8 cherrywood (one with boxwood inlay)
Printing impressions: 10

Print #6: Peony Pattern, by Hakamada Sekka

Prints with no keyblock are extremely difficult to register properly. A black line separating colour areas - no matter how thin - defines the division clearly and gives a target for registering the paper. But when there is no such dividing line - and worse, when multiple colour masses define the shape of empty areas, as in this print - there is absolutely no room for error.

This is called ke nuki awase (matching at the tolerance of a hair's breadth), and when a printer sees one of these coming onto his desk, he knows that he is in for a challenge! Not recommended for beginners!

Blocks: 4 cherrywood
Printing impressions: 6