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Arts of Japan series : print #3 - printing step 2

Posted by Dave Bull at 2:07 AM, July 27, 2012 [Permalink]

Today's single impression (!) looks pretty much the same as yesterday's:

... but if we zoom up, we can see a bit of difference:

The idea is simply to print this a bit roughly. I don't want my typical smooth impression for this print, and tried (not so successfully actually, as at least one webcam viewer this morning can testify!) to produce a bit of mottled tone. One reason I had trouble with doing that was that this block is a wonderfully smooth one, with just the perfect ability to drink in the pigment mix and give it back to the paper on demand from the baren.

But the reverse side of the block, which I hadn't used because it was such poor quality, seemed as though it would work better for this purpose, so I quickly cut out the shape and tried it, and it did indeed give me basically the kind of tone I want.

But this is still nowhere near 'rough' enough for what I would like to have for this scroll, so the next two impressions will have to be done in a bit more slipshod manner for sure!

And in a bit of non-woodblock news, I had a few more adventures down in the river the other day and today. I've had some sightings of a new (to me) visitor. The first time was a few days ago when I was sitting on the river bank shooting some video of a couple of fish either fighting or mating in the water (I have no idea which it was). I'll try and get a chance to upload that video later, but for now ...

It wasn't easy to shoot down into the water to see the fish because of all the reflections from the sky and the overhanging trees, so I just kept shooting and shooting, hoping to get something out of it later. And at one point, the camera started beeping, and I got the display "Card Full". So I shut it off and placed it on the riverbank at my side. But before I had even let go of it, there was a rustle in the bushes on the opposite bank, around 4~5 metres away, and a little critter popped out and stared at me.

A ferret/weasel/mink type of little guy, I had no idea which. He had a lizard (or perhaps snake) in his mouth, and bounded off into the distance along the top of the embankment.

If he had shown up not ten seconds earlier - while I was still filming - I would have simply lifted the camera from the fish, and caught him!

Act Two was this afternoon. Visitor Kato-sensei (one of my oldest and most reliable collectors) had dropped by, and we were standing at the railing just outside the workshop. And yes, out he popped again, from the same place. This time he had nothing in his mouth, but scampered down the embankment, splashed through the shallow water beneath us, and disappeared up river. This was enough of a good sighting to make a good mental note of his shape, and colouring, and a few minutes with Wikipedia gives me a provisional ID of an チョウセンイタチ ... Siberian Weasel.


Act Three was this evening, and I might as well show you right away all that I managed to catch:

Again, I was sitting on the embankment, again with camera in hand, simply sitting there hoping that he might come along. While I waited I 'practiced' a bit - I trained the camera on a little bird that was down below me, taking a quick 'bird bath' in a shallow pool. "Let's see; if he comes out, I'll focus like this ... then press the zoom ... and I'll have him!"

I went through the motions ... no problem. I'm ready. And again, the instant I put the camera down, he appeared. He darted from the undergrowth, and had that bird in his mouth in a split second. He then bounded across the scene in front of me, disappearing off in the distance at the right, as you see in that photo, taken as I frantically turned the camera on, waiting through its interminable startup routine before it was ready to shoot ...

I tell you, this guy has been sprinkled with magic dust that makes him immune to cameras!

But as it seems that he has settled in here for a while, I'll keep trying!

There is however, another aspect to this. The number of fish in the pool below me has dramatically decreased over the past few days. I have had no idea where to, as they can't swim away because the river is too low. But I think I now understand ...

I suspect this guy isn't actually so 'cute' after all. I think we may be dealing with a mass murderer here, and all I can hope is that once has has basically 'cleaned out' this little corner of the river, he'll move on somewhere else! But not - hopefully! - before I can get a clear shot of him!


Following comment posted by: Marc Kahn on July 28, 2012 1:10 AM

Very interesting! You are in the position of needing to invent techniques which will produce what is normally considered "bad" work. If I understood your previous post correctly, you have a few more impressions to produce the mottled background of aged scroll paper. Very interesting, indeed!

Following comment posted by: Dave on July 28, 2012 4:53 AM

Well, I'm certainly not 'inventing' anything here. And in fact, one way to look at it is that I'm trying to learn things that practically every other woodblock printer on the planet is already good at! (And that's not entirely a joke ...)

I'm very very good at what I do, but because I have always restricted myself to a very narrow 'subset' of possible techniques (the ones used in 'classical' work), when it comes time to step outside of those boundaries, I am not so experienced. In the ukiyo-e days, printers never printed mottled tones; it simply wasn't in their vocabulary. Come the 20th century, and the rise of the sosaku hanga (the self-carved self-printed modern work), that's all they could do. This is because they made a conscious rejection of traditional 'clean' techniques, wanting their prints to have a more personal appearance. 'Personal' for them being defined as looking sort of 'hand-made', and with each print being different from the others.

My problem - such as it is - is to do it not by letting my technique 'slip' down to their level and do rough work, but by finding a way to produce those effects reliably, so that each print in my batch will be as close to being identical as I can make it.

And this is why I was struggling while Dale watched this morning ...

Following comment posted by: Dave on July 28, 2012 7:01 AM

Something else to add to the animal episode, too ...

I really wanted to get a photo of this guy, so I headed down to the riverbank just before sunrise this morning, around 4:30. I settled in quietly, and waited to see if he would come along.

It was very peaceful, sitting there listening to all the birds and insects come awake one by one, but around five or so, I had a small problem. I had neglected to take care of some necessary 'morning business', so slipped upstairs for a few minutes to do so.

I hadn't been gone more than two minutes, I tell you ... not more than two minutes! But when I got back, this is what I saw:

He has been there, on the same path as yesterday, stepping out of the shallows and crossing that same stone ...

Magic Dust, indeed! :-(

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