08 December 2017

woodblock printing - artists and techniques

One of my personal aims in doing the woodblock course was to find about more about contemporary woodblock artists, and to this end I've been chain-watching youtube videos and also ricocheting from site to site, following a trail of interest.

It all started with David Bull's series on carving Hokusai's Great Wave (part 1 is here), bringing his carving knowledge to bear first of all on deciding which museum version of the print to use, and then taking us through the carving and printing in quite a few episodes -

He has made extensive videos on woodblock production (and employs a new generation of craftspeople in his atelier in Tokyo), all accessible via his website, http://mokuhankan.com

Of course if you're watching a youtube video, others "chosen for you" are helpfully displayed in the sidebar. First I watched some traditional ones, and then found Daryl Howard, an American woman who started by collecting prints while living in Japan and now has been making prints for some 40 years, adapting the process to her own production needs, as she explains in this video.
She now uses a computer to cut the blocks, but still uses her carving tools to clean up those blocks. For ink, she uses Winsor & Newton watercolour, rice paste, and glycerine - as did her teacher in Japan - and soaks her brushes for an hour before using them, which swells the wood and keeps the bristles from falling out.

Via the Rabley Drawing Centre I found Nana Shiomi, whose book I immediately ordered; it arrived this morning -
but I'm saving it for xmas.... Her demo is here.

At a local show, I was told that among the Crouch End Open Studios artists is Martin Davidson - his work is amazing -
Among the videos, several non-traditionally trained woodblock printers show how to do it. Emily Hoiginson, for example, shows how to get different intensities of colour without paste and with it. She uses the nori right out of the tub, and applies it after the colour is on the block.

In this demo Nana Shiomi uses white, and puts colour onto the brush to blend the white with the blue. She also has a nifty shelf that keeps the paper safely out of the way during registration -
She uses her hand to smooth the water onto the block - her work has large areas of colour, and as the block goes right to the edge, she uses an L-shape for registration. "Some artists print right onto the dry paper," she says at one point.

Another way of dealing with the tricky business of handling large sheets of paper is shown here by
Søren Bjælde, The block fits into an L-shaped piece of wood which is screwed onto the table, and the inked block placed into it (sometimes small nails are used to hold the free side in place). He puts batons either side and lays a sheet of wood onto them, which holds the paper while he carefully registers it. The registration marks are on the L-shaped wood.

Also, after carving and inking the key block, he prints it onto brown paper and offsets that print on the other blocks, so they will be reversed for cutting.

In this video he shows how to transfer a laser print onto a smallish piece of plywood - by rubbing through it with acetone to transfer the toner to the wood, and rubbing hard with a spoon. (Useful things, spoons.)
The video also shows him using a magnifying light while cutting, and using the computer to help choose the background. The paper, once registered, is held in place with clips at the edge of the table - it can safely be lifted to check whether more rubbing is needed.

My investigations continue ....

1 comment:

Rosanna Bottiglieri said...

After I read your post I just wanted to lock myself away and print all day! Unfortunately humdrum saturday domestic duties beckon. I have a woodblock I'm working on at the moment that am struggling to 'get right'. I love the Nana Shiomi video , I also discovered Martin Davidson a few years ago and I have a print of his, its only a digital version and much smaller than the original but still inspiring and a pleasure to look at.