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 ...