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Arts of Japan series : print #8 : setback

Posted by Dave Bull at 10:22 PM, April 29, 2014 [Permalink]

Somewhere just about a month back, I brought you a report on the progress of the current print. In one of the comments on that page, I mentioned that I was 'running into trouble', and so it has turned out. (If you haven't read that page yet, it might be a good idea to do so, as my next comments here only make sense if you understand the concept behind this image ...)

I can partly blame the wood, and partly myself. I used a boxwood block, intending to take advantage of that material's typically hard and dense structure, but it turned out to be quite soft and spongy instead. After carving was complete, the lines expanded a fraction ... a barely measurable amount, but enough to have a huge effect on the appearance of the finished print, and as this particular image totally depends on delicate differences in line thickness for the overall effect, this is a very big problem.

In addition to the block condition, I myself made a rather large error in my carving procedure. The Mellan print that I used as my inspiration for this effort creates tonal variation partly by varying the thickness of the line as it passes over deeper and lighter parts of the image, and partly by cutting the lines farther apart or closer together as required. His lines thus do not form a perfect spiral, but one that is distorted. I say 'distorted' not as a criticism but as a description. The combination of the two techniques results in an absolutely stunning effect.

I wasn't completely confident of being able to control both of those factors, so I thought I would try making my print by leaving the spiral alone and letting the line width variations create the tones. This works just fine, but I also did something else - in places where the image was the brightest, I cut pieces out of my line to create the highlights.

This was a big mistake, as it spoils the 'flow' of the line (Mellan didn't break his at all).

Let's see some images to show you how this has worked in practice ...

Here's the finished block:

Let's zoom in on one of the eyes:

And here's the corresponding place on a trial proof- there's no delicacy at all in the thin lines, and the ' highlight' breaks just look awful:

Here's the entire proof:

No way am I going to send this out to collectors - especially not after they've been waiting half a year!

So ... back to the cutting board. I dug out another piece of boxwood, one that seems a bit denser (but which will probably be no different), and I re-formatted the tracing with a higher 'lines per inch' density, to force me to cut finer lines on the bright parts of the image.

Here it is, after a day of carving:

And this time around ('around' ... that's a joke ...) I'm going to handle the highlights by simply letting the line get as thin as possible without breaking it. Hopefully, that will give me an image without those jagged breaks.

If all goes well, it'll be done in a couple of days, and I can get started printing and (finally) get something out to the waiting collectors!


Following comment posted by: Serge Astieres on May 2, 2014 1:53 AM

Wow, Dave, that's stunning! Well worth the wait :-)

I look forward to the finished print....

Keep it up....Serge

Following comment posted by: Margaret Maloney on May 3, 2014 10:26 AM

I agree that it's worth the wait!

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