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Arts of Japan series : first actual work ...

Posted by Dave Bull at 2:52 AM, March 2, 2012 [Permalink]

After endless 'playing around' over at the workshops of the giant Mokuhankan Corporation, trying to get the new knife series up and running, it's time to 'get real', and get some actual productive printmaking work done. If my own subscription prints don't start moving out the door again pretty soon, none of the other projects will be able to survive ...

Our subject for this first print in the set is an image created by the man we now know as Hokusai, although he was using the handle 'Sori' when he drew this one. It dates from around 1798, and is the only illustrated page in what has been described as "an otherwise featureless book of quite unmemorable verse."

The process starts with getting the image into my iMac, and then opening it in Photoshop.

I scanned it at quite a high resolution, so even at 100% (before any other enlargement), I can see all the detail I need:

I use my Wacom table to trace over the main lines of the image, ignoring all colouring at this point.

I use a flat red, to contrast with the black lines, and have it set at around 50% opacity (on its own layer of course) so that I can still see the black underneath, allowing me to tell if I have gone too far over the lines at any point.

Once it's done, I'll hide the print layer, convert the red to a full black, scale it down to the size I want, and print it out onto tissue-thin gampi paper, ready for pasting onto the wood.

Going over the entire image this way gives me a real advantage once the actual carving begins, as I am already pretty familiar with all of its nooks and crannys by then. Look at this, for example - we can see a place where the carver of the original version slipped a bit, cutting an unwanted notch in one of the lines. And nearby, you can see where he sliced just a tad too far when cutting the hairs, slicing into a nearby line.

This isn't the 'finest' work I have ever seen, and I suppose that's a reflection of the generally low quality of the original publication. It seems that it was indeed perhaps quite 'unmemorable'. Here's another messed up part ...

(That printing is nothing to write home about, either ...)

Will I 'fix' these, or will I copy the original exactly? I'll fix them, of course!


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