Thursday, May 3, 2012

Printing it Apart

© Hannah Phelps
Gentle Assault
jigsaw white-line woodcut print

Here is the first print off the block I showed you a couple of weeks ago. There is only one completed so far, but there could be many more.

How is this different from the jigsaws you've seen before?
The other three jigsaw reliefs were reductions - one block, but multiple layers and I could not go back to any preceding layer once I had started carving the next one.

This print is a combination of two relief methods.  For the top and bottom pieces, I used the moku hanga (Japanese style woodcut) technique and then printed the middle piece as a white-line.  I tried this because I know that Japanese-style woodcuts are artistic "grandparents" to white-line woodcuts and I felt there must be a new way to honor that connection.

Moku hanga is a huge topic - there are hundreds of blogs dedicated to it* - so I won’t go into it too much here. The application of ink is the main thing that I borrowed. For the previous jigsaws I shared with you, I rolled ink on the wood with a brayer and printed on dry paper. For this print, everything started out wet. I flicked pigment and rice paste onto the block with small paintbrushes, mixed it around with different brushes (called maru bake) and then printed.

Since I was making a huge mess with all that flicking and brushing anyway, I made a bunch of prints with no middles:

 Gentle Assault, top and bottom blocks printed

After they dried a few days later, I printed the middle section as a standard white-line woodcut.

Here’s what I liked:

I get some washy effects in the large water areas. I can print washes with regular white-line techniques, but I find it tedious. Once everything is set-up, creating washes with traditional Japanese methods are comparatively easy.

Stuff I need to figure out:

Registering all this is a little tough. I have a template that helps, but it really needs to be checked all the time. It was important that the middle block stay clean while inking the top and bottom, but it had to be there to register the other pieces correctly. I removed it before I inked and replaced it for printing. Not hard, just time consuming.

I love the pigments I used for the top and bottom (Akua Kolor), but I didn’t like them as well for the white-line part. I have some ideas about how to improve this experience, so we will have to see how I feel after I have printed a few more.

What's next? 
More jigsaws, most likely reductions. We'll see.

I wonder though: Is it going to become a problem that when I see a block, I yearn to cut it into pieces? First reductions, then white-line woodcuts, what could possibly be next? Keep your lithography stones locked up....
 * My favorite sites for information on moku hanga:

- Matthew Brown's

- David Bull's

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