This is my main printmaking project for 2006 - the reproduction in scroll form of an ukiyo-e painting by the artist known as Kaigetsudo Ando, who worked in Edo in the early 18th century. He is not known to have left any designs for woodblock prints, but a number of subsequent artists from his 'school' did, and these are among the rarest of all Japanese prints. The women, standing in monumental poses and dressed in the most luxurious of kimono, are truly larger-than-life, and once seen, they can never be forgotten.
So why aren't I reproducing one of those existing prints? That would not be a suitable project for me, for a couple of reasons: one is that they have been reproduced any number of times by Tokyo publishers, and I can bring nothing new to the table; and the other is that as they were originally created in the era pre-dating the development of colour printing, they were issued as hand-painted sumi impressions, attractive in their own right, but with nowhere the beauty of silk paintings by the same artists.
It has been more years than I can remember, since I first saw an image of the painting that I have chosen. Even though it was hopelessly beyond my skills at the time, I instantly conceived of the idea of reproducing it as a woodblock print. That thought stayed with me all during the years of work since then, and occasionally I would bring out a colour photocopy that I had made of the image, and study it, drinking in the details of the design. A couple of years ago, after making my 5th Surimono Album, I toyed with the idea of starting this project, but didn't feel that I was ready.
Do I feel ready now? Well, to be honest, I'm not perfectly sure about that. But I have come to realize that I am now at the stage where the longer I wait, the more difficult the project will become. This is a very large print, and will require considerable physical strength to produce. I am now 54, and although I hope to be able to work 'smarter' as time goes by, I doubt that I will ever be able to work 'stronger'. The time is right for me to tackle this project.
The original image was painted on silk; I will of course be working with traditional printmaking techniques - I will carve the various parts of the design onto large cherry blocks, and will then print it on a special type of washi (Japanese paper) made specially for this project by Mr. Iwano Ichibei and his family in Fukui Prefecture.
Some aspects of the project will be different from my typical way of working:
- my normal habit is to prepare the block set first, then, working one colour at a time, produce the entire quantity of prints desired. But due to the large number of impressions that will be needed for this design, the printing will proceed in stages along with block production, a small number of sheets at a time. The paper will be moistened for printing, dried, and remoistened any number of times as the project goes forward.
- I will not be preparing an album-type storage case for the print. Once my printing work has finished on any particular sheet, I will thin it down by peeling away excess paper from the back side, and then send it to a professional for mounting in scroll format.
I am looking forward to producing a beautiful print this year, one worthy of the amount of time it will take. All during the time that I was making my Treasure Chest I felt a constant pressure from the bi-weekly deadlines. I have set the 'deadline' for this project so far in the future - 12 months - that I will feel very little pressure, if any, and will take as much time as I need at each step along the way.
As I progress through the work on this print during the year, I will post frequent updates to this site, with links appearing on the scroll menu over at the left side of the page. Please follow along! If you wish to order one of the prints, please visit this page for details.