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If Dave can share... 
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Joined: Sun Oct 11, 2009 10:18 pm
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Post If Dave can share...
Dave tossed out the gauntlet last year by putting his early experimental prints in the Gallery for the world to see. I have to admit that I liked seeing those "rough" first starts because looking at Dave's prints today can be rather intimidating for those who wish to start. I've made 4 (yes just four!) prints in the last year and a half - 2 before YFP and 2 after, and I hope that the forum members find some optimism for their own efforts in the rather paltry evolution from my printing efforts. I think this is a good forum to share my own "very rough" first starts, and like Julio, my goal is simply to improve. Here's my first attempt at a woodblock print: by the way, I am wearing Rhinoceros Hide, so hysterical laughter is absolutely OK! :lol:

Attachment:
Maine Shack Print A.jpg
Maine Shack Print A.jpg [ 52.04 KiB | Viewed 13060 times ]


My first print...it should have been tossed out like Dave's, but now I use it as a reminder of a hundred things NOT to do! I used Shina 6 x 8 plywood for the 7 blocks and started carving. "I can do this," I said to myself. "No sweat - just put the bevel of the knife against the wood I want to keep and voila, I'll have a perfectly carved key block." (Are you laughing yet!?) Ah, ignorance is indeed such bliss, because as you can see from the print, there are hardly any straight lines, the carved wood kept popping off and unintimidated :roll: , I stuck them back on with white glue! I didn't carve deep enough either and when printing I didn't know enough to keep the baren flat...I think the edges of my baren had magnets in it that were immediately attracted to the low, no design parts of the block! I printed nearly 50 of these just to see what it would be like to print an "edition" so I have plenty of bad examples of crooked lines, faulty registration, horrible hues and bleeding color, splotches of black and other colors that shouldn't be there, abraded and wrinkled paper, tamari, goma-zuri, and an encyclopedia's worth of other stuff. However, I had a great deal of pleasure in carving and printing, learned a huge amount about the process just by making so many mistakes, and want to do more more more!

Comments and unstoppable laughter are most welcome! :)


Sat Oct 30, 2010 2:37 am
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Location: Tokyo, Japan
Post Re: If Dave can share...
Wow! Thanks for posting this! Very happy to see you willing to share the experience like this. It's the only way forward ... looking at the stuff, and trying to figure out how it can be made better; without that, it all seems a bit pointless ...
Dale Evans wrote:
... I've made 4 (yes just four!) prints in the last year and a half - 2 before YFP and 2 after ...

Given that you are a guy with a very full-time job, why you would use the word 'just' in there escapes me! Especially as you have been making 'editions', and not just a couple of sample images.
Quote:
"No sweat - just put the bevel of the knife against the wood I want to keep and voila, I'll have a perfectly carved key block." (Are you laughing yet!?)

I am indeed laughing, but I had better explain at what I am laughing!

Exhibit A, a screen grab from the recent NHK TV program, in which they used an old video clip from (I think) 1997 or 98:
Attachment:
bad_bevel.jpg
bad_bevel.jpg [ 26.21 KiB | Viewed 13054 times ]

And there is Dave - and this when he is approaching the end of the 10 year poet's project! - cutting a key block line with his bevel firmly pressed against the wood to be retained! How embarrassing is that!

I don't remember when the penny finally dropped on that one. I had been so 'brainwashed' by the books I had read - written by 'experts' - that I had fallen into the same trap that many scientists do ... failing to look clearly at the evidence of my own eyes. The flat side goes against the line! Putting the bevel there damages the retained wood, and you'll never get stable - or delicate - lines.

So you are in pretty good company on that one!

Quote:
I printed nearly 50 of these just to see what it would be like to print an "edition"

That was such a good idea that I have no way to praise it highly enough. An inexperienced printer would tend to think that it would be a 'waste of time' to do that, not to mention a waste of paper, etc., but it is exactly the reverse. You learn so many things by pushing through multiple copies that you can never learn by working with just a few sheets at a time. Without a 'flow' happening, woodblock printing just doesn't work.

Thanks very much for posting this!


Sat Oct 30, 2010 4:30 am
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Post Re: If Dave can share...
Yes, it does seem that one way forward is to share, but the other way forward is to do. Having had the experience with the bevel of the knife on the wrong side of the design and having those thin lines (thin lines used very loosely!) just pop right off caused me no amount of consternation...I couldn't see how anybody could go forward with carving woodblocks and make those incredibly "less than .1mm thin lines" (like Dave's print of Autumn in his "Beauties of Four Seasons" series (and one of my personal favorites)) and still maintain the tiniest bit of sanity. So, Dave, thanks for sharing your trials and tribulations in carving...I wouldn't go so far as to say that I am "glad" to see that you carved bevel to the retained wood, but misery just loves company! Oh, and I didn't mention in my last post about those glued on bits that had popped off the block while carving...seems white glue isn't the right medium to use as the glue simply softens up from water, pigment, and paste and those little lines end up popping off AGAIN in the middle of printing, so for example, the black line that should have been on the bow of the boat simply isn't there. How frustrating is that? Now I use expoy, and that seems to work, though it seems to 'fill' the wood and the ink doesn't print the same as areas without that epoxy. Now if I could only learn to carve correctly, I wouldn't need to use glue at all! :o
I had an opportunity to participate in a woodblock workshop with Matt Brown in April, 2010. I figured that the best thing that I could do for this 3 day intensive - design to finished print - would be to have a simple design. Print #2 would NOT be as complicated as print #1 - no way! No thin lines for me, in fact, no black outlines at all - just patches of solid color. Hmmm...obviously a piece of cake! So, I arrived with my design and xerox copies in hand, Matt went over his planned topics for the three days, passed out the registration boards (the kento are carved into the registration board, not the blocks), 4 x 6 Shina Blocks, pre-cut paper, inks, and tools to use. Matt showed us how to glue down the xerox copies of our designs on each block (the copies of the original drawing are used in place of the traditional Hanshita)...a tad tricky because the xerox copies were slightly different in size from the original drawing and had to be pasted on the block 'exactly' the same for each block. I wasn't very successful and had to plane the edges of some of my blocks so that the registration would be somewhere near where it was supposed to be. Also, in this class, we used small gouges in place of the To to carve the outlines on the block...not as much control as the traditional carving knife, but easier for a beginner, I think. In any case, three days of very intense work, and the result is on the left:

Attachment:
Lovebirds print A.jpg
Lovebirds print A.jpg [ 93.09 KiB | Viewed 13047 times ]


The results certainly leave a lot to be desired ;) ;) ...I wasn't happy with the color, registration, printing...not pleased with myself or the print. I came back after the class, re-carved one of the blocks (which STILL came out 'wrong') and reprinted "Lovebirds" using some 90# watercolor paper with commercial watercolor - that's the one on the right. It follows my original ideas a bit better, and I learned another encyclopedia's worth of things about the whole process of printmaking. I hadn't got much into Dave's wonderful "Your First Print" yet (what a dummy I was - having the material and not paying enough attention :oops: ). Nevertheless, I keep working on getting better (even though the results aren't there yet) and keep re-reading those e-books that Dave has in his publishing site Mokuhankan - Platt and Yoshida are my constant companions and dog-eared at this point.


Mon Nov 01, 2010 3:26 am
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Post Re: If Dave can share...
Dale Evans wrote:
... having those thin lines (thin lines used very loosely!) just pop right off caused me no amount of consternation...I couldn't see how anybody could go forward with carving woodblocks and make those incredibly "less than .1mm thin lines" (like Dave's print of Autumn in his "Beauties of Four Seasons" series (and one of my personal favorites)) and still maintain the tiniest bit of sanity.

It's all about the 'stress relief'. And I don't mean the carver, I mean the wood!

Think of your knife going down into the wood; no matter how thin the blade might be, it still has thickness, and the wood has to be squeezed aside to make room for it to enter. Now although the stress is pushed more to the wood against the bevel side, there is still some on the other side too. When you are cutting the second side of a thin line, that stress can sometimes cause damage - the 'popping off' you mention.

So with extremely thin lines, like the ones in the Autumn print you mention, you have to remove the stress entirely. The way to do that is by cutting a relief cut before you cut the real cut. Think ahead for a minute to how you might commonly remove wood against a line - you cut the line, then you cut the second side of a 'V', to remove wood. When you are trying to do stress relief, cut the outside part of that V first. Then, when you are cutting the actual line itself, the wood in the V will move away, minimizing stress on the retained wood.

I do this with all delicate work ...

Quote:
Oh, and I didn't mention in my last post about those glued on bits that had popped off the block while carving...seems white glue isn't the right medium to use as the glue simply softens up from water, pigment, and paste and those little lines end up popping off AGAIN in the middle of printing

Well, gluing isn't really the method of choice for doing repairs. Plugging the block is the way to go ... and it's actually not all that difficult, once you give it a go.

As for the Lovebirds image you posted, if I were teaching any kind of class here, it would be a kind of iron-clad rule for the beginners that their first few prints would be of this type - with no keyblock. It's so much more important to learn something about applying colour to the block than it is to mess around with lines, and chipping, and registration problems, etc. etc. And it's usually more attractive in the end anyway ...


Mon Nov 01, 2010 12:25 pm
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