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Mystique Series #15 : printing begins

Posted by Dave Bull at 2:46 AM, August 2, 2011 [Permalink]

After more delays and interruptions than I can believe have happened over the past couple of weeks, printing of Mystique #15 is finally under way!

And under way with a difference ... Look at this!

Yes ... I'm printing the key block in oil-based ink. (I had the webcam set to 'record' during a half-hour or so of the session, and the video can be seen on the Ustream website here. I kept up a little bit of a running commentary as I worked ... explaining what was going on.)

Using inks rather than water-based pigment for the keyblock was very common back in the Meiji era. At that time, publishers were experimenting with all manner of printing methods, searching for ways to fit the new press technologies into their work flows. A great many prints (most of the kuchi-e for example) were done this way - with metal key blocks and normal cherry wood colour blocks.

The print that I am reproducing this time was originally done that way, so this is a good opportunity for me to learn how to do it.

Something else to mention before I show you the result of the first impression is that a great many parts of the design visible here will be 'covered up' with subsequent printings. The hair mass will have two more overprintings, with gradations around the side of her face, and the main thick lines of her kimono will also be overprinted. So what I'm aiming for at this point is simply a clean (and light) impression on the face and delicate hair tracery. Even her pupils will be put in later with another block.

Anyway, here's the first impression (the border outlines were done before I started, as usual):

Let's have a closer look at the hair (clickable):

The next few impressions should be: the pupils, the hair undercoat, the hair overcoat. But unfortunately, the paper was a bit too damp when I began work this morning, and I wasn't sure of being able to control it as well as I would like. So I switched to one of the colour blocks, something much less 'critical', and easier to handle:

More tomorrow ...


Following comment posted by: Daniel Dew on August 2, 2011 10:59 PM

As always, your line work is amazing. Fun to see you step over to "The Dark Side", using a brayer and all. LOL. Can't wait to see the next impression.

Following comment posted by: Annie B on August 2, 2011 11:28 PM

Amazing carving, Dave. Superb.

Following comment posted by: Marc Kahn on August 3, 2011 1:52 AM

The carving work shown in the close-up view is fantastic. How many hairs did you get per millimeter? I thought you mentioned some time ago that your eyes were going out on you. Think what you could have done at your prime!

Following comment posted by: Dave on August 3, 2011 2:05 AM

The carving work ...

Fun, isn't it! The block itself was shown back on this page (with clickable closeups).

It's hard to give a 'millimeter' figure on this one because they are all so curved. Here's a closeup with a ruler - the divisions are millimeters (also clickable).

As for 'prime' ... well ... I was chatting with my mother via Skype the other day, and she mentioned how she and dad had been shopping over in Capilano Mall in North Vancouver earlier that morning, and found that the buses back to Vancouver had stopped running because of some kind of parade happening. So they walked home ... over to Park Royal, across the Lion's Gate Bridge, through Stanley Park, then all around the bay to their place, having to make a long detour via Burrard Street because the parade was blocking access to their area. Google tells me the route works out at around 12 kilometers ... No big deal maybe, but it was a blazing hot day, and ... they are (both) 84. And there she was just sitting there chatting with me, having her tea and casually mentioning this ...

So perhaps I do indeed have a few years yet still to go before I get to 'prime'!

Following comment posted by: Marc Kahn on August 3, 2011 5:52 AM

The densest collection of hairs is at the "widow's peak" atop the center of her forehead. I'm seeing at least 6 hairs there and, in one place, arguably 7. That's some FINE carving, indeed.

Following comment posted by: Dave on August 3, 2011 8:47 AM

Well, if we're measuring 'hairs per millimeter', I remember feeling pretty chuffed when I completed the Hokkei reproduction in the Surimono Albums:

But those hairs were all 'short and stubby'. (And looking at this now, I don't see a whole lot to be particularly proud of - re 'taste' and style, etc.)

A couple of years later, we had this one, also from the Surimono Albums:

A definite improvement. And then when the Beauties of Four Seasons autumn print came along, I had a go at carving some delicate 'criss-cross' together on a single block:

But yeah, I seem to have upped the ante with this current print - these hairs are long - so maybe I've been a bit too 'down' on myself recently (playing with the idea of basically packing it in, and becoming a publisher). I guess it's a bit too soon to seriously consider that ... (But I wonder what my carving would be like if I actually ... you know ... was able to concentrate on it!)

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