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Arts of Japan series : print #6 - tracing begins

Posted by Dave Bull at 7:56 PM, July 3, 2013 [Permalink]

Amid all the other recent updates, work has also begun on my own next print - the sixth in the 'Arts of Japan' series. We'll get a chance to see the entire image a bit later along the process, but here's a crop of the original from which I will be working.

Can you tell the 'theme'? What is this person doing ... ?

I am currently tracing over the entire image to prepare the sen-gaki, the sheet that will be pasted down onto the wood for carving. Doing this takes almost as long as the actual carving itself, but if I don't spend time and do it properly, the carving will not progress smoothly.

Once I got the image scanned and imported into the computer for tracing, I was able to look at the lines close-up, and was a bit disappointed at the quality of the carving on the original. Look at the places marked in red ...

This is pretty poor quality work, but there are a couple of reasons for it. First is that this original dates from 1770, and the general level of carving was nowhere near the quality that it would reach a couple of decades later. The second is that this is a book page, and books were generally not given the same level of attention that expensive single sheet productions were. It was slam, bang, get it out the door work, and an image like this would have been mostly created by younger less-experienced carvers. Perhaps the faces and other important points got the attention of the top men in the shop.

The question for me is, how much to 'fix'? Some parts are easy - those three places in red are clearly not acceptable, and I will be 'cleaning them up', creating smooth tasteful lines in those areas. But if I start to 'clean up' everything, the whole character of the image changes, and it ceases to be an accurate representation of the original print.

So I'll play it by ear as I go along, fixing the most egregious spots, lightly adjusting others, and cutting the rest pretty much as I see it.

It'll take me another couple of days to get the tracing ready, and it'll then be time to get to the bench ...


Following comment posted by: Marc Kahn on July 4, 2013 12:41 AM

It looks to me that the person in the picture is a papermaker, pulling a layer of pulp from the bath onto a hand-held screen, which will dry into a sheet of paper.

The balance between "cleaning up" the image and keeping it original is a tough one. However, you're just the guy to find that balance and "playing it by ear" is exactly the right strategy in this case.

From what I see, this will be a nice print...

Following comment posted by: Jacques on July 4, 2013 4:45 AM

From your image I got exactly the same idea as Marc: it depicts the traditional making of washi, handmade Japanese paper. A most definitely Japanese art!

Following comment posted by: Dave on July 4, 2013 9:19 AM

It is indeed a paper maker; anybody interested in hunting up the original design should do a search for 'Tachibana Minko - Shokunin Burui', and see where that leads ...

In Japanese: 橘岷江 職人部類

Following comment posted by: serge on July 5, 2013 11:20 PM

The book is available on the website of Waseda University:

Dave's chosen image is #12

Looking forward to the print....


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