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March 7, 2006

So, here we are, buried in the work of tracing the design, using those most old-fashioned of Edo-era tools, a Macintosh and a pen tablet!

I learned some years ago, while working on my long Hyakunin Isshu series, that getting a good clean hanshita with sharply defined lines is one of the most critical parts of the entire printmaking process. With a clear hanshita on the block, I can carve anything I can see - but if it is fuzzily reproduced, or has poor contrast which doesn't allow me to distinguish features clearly, then the print will suffer. I read stories about the best carvers of the 'old days', who needed nothing on the block beyond a rough outline of the print, but I think such people were few and far between, and in any case, for a reproduction, where the idea is to produce a print which 'looks like' the original, such freedom of expression by the carver would be misplaced.

So my goal at this point is to create a hanshita that contains as much of the detail of the print as possible, and which is drawn as clearly and sharply as possible. Here's the process I am following, using as the starting point a full-size colour image of the original scroll blown up from high-quality book illustrations:

So at the moment, I'm part-way through that list - I am using my electronic 'brush' to re-draw the entire design. The tool is quite sophisticated: the nib of the stylus is nothing more than a short stick of hard plastic, but the tablet/stylus combination is extremely sensitive, and I can make strokes that are very close to 'real' brush strokes in appearance.

It was a bit strange at first, looking up at the screen while my hand makes motions over a bare plastic pad on the tabletop, but I've got quite used to it, and the sample printouts I take now and then to check my progress show that it is working very well. The finished hanshita should be wonderfully sharp and clear!