Posted by Dave Bull at 6:31 AM, September 13, 2012 [Permalink]
Although this past week too has been filled with 'interruptions' from the Ukiyoe Heroes project fulfillment work (thank heavens for phpMyAdmin!), I managed to do a lot of carving too, and I got the keyblock finished last night:
Here are a couple of closeups:
I have written before I think about a kind of paradox involved with carving delicate hair like this. I am making a reproduction of an older print, but the man who carved that original print was working from a designer's sketch. Because the old carvers were so skilled, it was not necessary (nor practical) for the designer to draw hairs one-by-one; he would just use a light grey wash to indicate the area where hair would appear. The carver would then work 'freehand' along the area, cutting a row of hairs.
Skilled men would do a very neat job, but even so, they weren't robots, and when you look at the result in extreme closeup, you can see slight variations in thickness, placement, etc.
Move ahead to the present, and my problem is that I am attempting to reproduce the print exactly. I don't have the freedom to work 'freehand', but must attempt to copy the first carver's work, variations and all. But of course I am also not a robot, so my own variations get introduced as I go along.
If I am not careful, we end up being in a situation where there is a degradation in quality as we move 'down the steps', further and further away from the designer's sketch. I try to limit this by giving myself the freedom to 'fix' the first carver's work as I move along. If I see that one of his hairs is a bit too fat, I will slim it down; if one of them is placed just a tad to one side, I will shift it back. But of course as I am doing so, I am constantly introducing my own variations as I go.
So no matter how good I get at this, and how carefully I do my job, a very close comparison of my print and the one I am reproducing will always show differences. The print I am making here is clearly an adaptation (I have selected just a portion of the original), but when I am making a full-scale reproduction of a famous work, it should always be possible for a determined viewer to find differences between mine and the original.