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Arts of Japan series : print #8 gets under way!

Posted by Dave Bull at 2:01 PM, March 15, 2014 [Permalink]

Hard to believe it has been so many months since posting here on the RoundTable! Of course, there have been many blog posts in the meantime, but they have been over on the Mokuhankan Conversations blog; the new Portraits series has dominated our working life so much recently!

But finally I have managed to steal some time from those activities, and have begun carving on the next print in my own 'Arts of Japan' series. Here's a quick snapshot I took just before breaking for lunch today ...

I'm not going to zoom in much closer on the block, because for this print, I'm going to keep it pretty much under wraps until it has been delivered. It's a bit of a 'different' design, and I want people to enjoy seeing it in person first, rather than via the 'net (which is why I have 'blurred' the block itself here ...)

But why would I be using a turntable?


Following comment posted by: Jacques on March 15, 2014 11:28 PM

Hi Dave!
I'm happy to find you back over on this side of your website, and I'm looking forward to see what art form you have for us in store this time.

Apparently it's an art involving a lot of turning of the keyblock (?), but I have no clue as to what that could mean ...

Following comment posted by: Dave on March 15, 2014 11:40 PM

Hi Jacques, I remember you! :-)

The block was finished up just before dinner tonight. Finally I can put that turntable away ... no more dizzyness! The only other block this print will need will be a simple flat beta-ban.

Fingers are crossed that people will like this one! (Not a sure thing ...)

Following comment posted by: Dale on March 22, 2014 11:21 PM

Hi Dave!

I've been thinking about your question for a couple of days. My best guess is that you are using the turntable to do a single line woodblock print. You paid homage to a mid 17th century print by Claude Mellan a few months back, so if you are using the Mellan 'technique' - a single spiral line with varying thickness - then the turntable can be very useful indeed.

I bet this is a remarkable image and can't wait to see it!

Following comment posted by: Dave on March 23, 2014 7:11 AM

Yes, Dale's got it! The little butterfly print a few months back was a trial run for this - as Dale inferred in his comment on the relevant post back then!

But I have to say up front, please don't expect a Mellan level of quality on this one. I'm already running into trouble. None of the cherry blocks I have on hand are dense enough to handle the level of fineness that I had planned for this image, so I used a piece of boxwood-surfaced ply prepared for me by Matsumura-san. He really doesn't want to make those, because it's very difficult to obtain pieces wide enough, but I pushed and bothered him to the point where he gave in and said he would try and find some wood to make some.

(Boxwood for printmakers is usually used on the end grain, and the work is done with a burin, but I need a piece cut 'on the plank' of course, in order to use my knife.)

So it's not fair to complain to him about the quality of this wood, but anyway, it's way softer that I would like; there's not much benefit over cherry actually. Why this is a problem is that after cutting - no matter how sharp I keep my blade - when the wood is too soft and 'spongy' the thin carved lines expand once hit with the water-based pigment. I've pulled a trial from the block, and this has indeed happened; everything looks thicker and muddier than what I carved.

Normally when this happens, I can go back over a keyblock and adjust some of the lines, thinning them down a touch here and there, but that's going to be insanely difficult this time. Even the slightest thinning of a line will affect its 'tonal level'. It's 'all or none', and I don't think I can do that ...

Not sure how to proceed at this point ...

Anyway, here's the unblurred version of that photo, taken part-way through the cutting:

Following comment posted by: Margaret Maloney on April 2, 2014 7:18 AM

Wonderful! I'm looking forward to it!

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