One-point Lesson : Re-inking Blocks

Lesson #8: Re-Inking blocks ...

We learn early on in our woodblock printmaking experiments that 'one block = one impression' is not a standard 'formula' for making a print. Any one of the blocks in a set can be used more than once - either with the same pattern of pigment being applied, to give added depth to an impression - or with a different pattern or shade of pigment, to give an entirely new effect. The total number of impressions in a finished print is frequently greater than the number of blocks that was used to make it.

Sometimes though, when the print is quite large in size, or when the registration is very critical, it is difficult to get the second impression from any block exactly lined up with the first. It is particularly difficult in prints of the 'ukiyo-e' type that I make, which have quite a lot of delicate carving. It is sometimes desirable to have part of the block inked twice (in the dark hair of a figure, for example), but the extreme delicacy of the carving in the face makes it almost impossible to get two separate impressions lined up properly.

The solution is to make the two impressions without removing the paper from its place in the registration marks. Make the first impression in the usual way: inking the block, putting the paper in place, and then rubbing with the baren. But instead of then pulling the paper off the block and placing it to one side, clamp it down on the block with the fingers tightly in place along one edge, and then use the other hand to roll the sheet up off the wood, exposing as much of the block as possible.

There may be enough length of paper to allow it to 'lay back' in place over your arm. If not, then use your lips to hold it up and out of the way while you use the free hand to pick up the brush. Make the application of pigment in the particular area of the design in which the deeper shade is needed, and then let the paper gently roll back into place. Rub the affected area with the baren, and then remove the paper completely ...

My kids used to think this was pretty funny ... seeing their father sitting there bent over the block with the edge of the paper in his mouth, going cross-eyed trying to focus on the wood while rubbing with a small brush ... But if you can ignore your jeering audience, you will find that it does work. You will get the added depth in just those places you wish, and the registration will be perfect.


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