30 November 2018

Woodblock registration &c.

Kento (registration) is part of any woodblock printing course - accurate juxtaposition of the images is very important. Since my first course, two years ago (see here and here), I started improvising with "blocks without borders" and designs for which accurate registration wasn't all that crucial - I thought I could get away with doing it by eye...

No longer: "the assignment" for the advanced course has shown me the error of my ways. One of the cut blocks is waaay out.

Time for some research! Youtube has some "interesting" registration systems. I wrote about some earlier, including that of Søren Bjælde -

Here, the registration marks are screwed onto the board, and the "furniture" is a way of holding the block securely -
A better view - and you can see Mike Lyons' automated delivery of humidified paper in action -

Paul Furneaux lays down the background print, and aligns the next block, then flips them over -

Among her "Tips and guides for Japanese woodblock printing", Laura Boswell has information on registration, showing "a really good example of what can go wrong" - with 18 different kento slots used in the process (the print is 120cm wide).

At that site, I also found this helpful -

Note the set-up here; the block lies on a piece of wood that butts up to thick boards that have the registration marks cut into, or added onto, them. In the photo he's put the paper into the corner kento and is about to print the final colours -

Making a jig with bits of chipboard on three corners of a piece of cardboard; the video finishes before the entire setup can be seen, but you get the idea -

A floating kento can be used - this one has lines at various distances to accommodate different sizes of paper -
Interestingly, the pristine blocks are held in the floating kento when the image is transferred to it, which allows for registration at the outset -

Finally, this method of making the key block and printing it onto subsequent blocks, using a registration jig -

Tom Killion uses a press (with oil-based inks; hmm....) and does the registration by guess and by gosh, repositioning the block as necessary -

When it comes to cutting the block, this is a very informative video, showing the order of using tools to clear the background. The analytical voice-over made me look more closely at the position of the carver's hands - for comparison, have a look here, with both hands pushing on the large gouge.

More generally, I liked this approach: improvising, to some extent, with carving on the block. He mentions taking a small idea and tending it - what an interesting thought - it expresses what happens when you "just start" and that first mark is the small idea, and your hands tend it and shape it.

29 November 2018

Poetry Thursday - Empty Nest by Carol Ann Duffy

Empty Nest 

by Carol Ann Duffy

Dear child, the house pines when you leave.
I research whether there is any bird who grieves
over its empty nest.
Your vacant room
is a still-life framed by the unclosed door;
read by sunlight, an open book on the floor.
I fold the laundry; hang your flower dress in darkness. Forget-me-nots.
Beyond the tall fence, I hear horse-chestnuts
counting themselves.
Then autumn; Christmas.
You come and go, singing. Then ice; snowdrops.
Our home hides its face in hands of silence.
I knew mothering, but not this other thing
which hefts my heart each day. Heavier.
Now I know.
This is the shy sorrow. It will not speak up.
I play one chord on the piano;
it vanishes, tactful,
as dusk muffles the garden; a magpie staring from its branch.
The marble girl standing by the bench.
From the local church, bells like a spelling.
And the evening star like a text.
And then what next . . .

My encounter with this poem was sparked by mention of it in a conversation about our children leaving home. In looking for it online I found this mention in an interview last month, as she prepares to step down as Poet Laureate, after 10 years on the job:

“Empty Nest”, for her daughter Ella (Duffy is an unashamedly doting mother), is at the heart of the collection. “When our children leave and go to university and start their lives it’s a very hidden grief,” she says. “We tend to be stiff upper lipped, but it is a real blow. You still are a parent, but that kind of daily devotional ritual is gone.” She plans to put together an anthology on the subject “so that people have somewhere to go with that sorrow”. 

The poem appears in her new collection, Sincerity, a book that is angrier and more political than her best-selling collections, but with a refrain of bereavement running through it.
Sincerity is also very personal, with quieter poems on bereavement and the less talked about grief, or “shy sorrow”, of a child leaving home. She set out “to see where I am at this age”, her early 60s: “I think poets should write not only from somewhere but from somewhen.” 

28 November 2018

Woodblock Wednesday

Getting set up to print, and mixing a nice grey
Maybe not all that nice a grey!

Using a short block to print a long strip - careful with the overlap!
Last week was the last class of term, so we had a look at what everyone had done -

For the next three Wednesdays I'll be doing the advanced course, and I've signed up for next term too. But doing a "proper" print isn't really on my agenda. It's the process, the cutting and the colour combinations and abstract possibilities - and the simple use of humble materials - that draw me to this way of working.

27 November 2018

Drawing Tuesday

This creature wasn't found at the Wellcome - Jo brought him along for another purpose and then decided to draw him, fangs and all -
 Sue found this wonderful structure, complete with shadows -
 Janet B couldn't resist a comfy chair -
or the baby in a glass box -
 Mags' eye baths and snow goggles in their case -
 Two intrepid renderings of glassware (and symmetry) -

Janet K
I was recovering from a whallop of all the side-effects of the flu vaccine, and sat limply in the foyer and, eyes closed, constructed a "soundscape" of ambient noise and (eyes open) diddled about with the ceiling-hung Mr Gormley. Then I was lured to the cafe and produced a wispy rendition of a "Wellcome" cup of coffee -
 Extra-curricular activities -
Carol had been drawing at the seaside

Mags had been to a textiles workshop in Puglia

26 November 2018

Too many exhibitions?

Can one visit too many exhibitions? Sometimes it's better to really focus, and think about and talk about, just one. Sometimes in an art-rich city like London, it's possible to wander in and out of galleries and stumble upon wonderful things, or ridiculous things, or mediocre, uninteresting things...

Recently, with other concerns uppermost, I haven't been blogging about any of the exhibitions ... and as a result I've forgotten what I've seen! Fortunately exhibitions usually allow photos - here are some taken between 26 Oct and 11 Nov. Some of the exhibitions have finished, buy you can still visit from your armchair via the links. Often there's a video or catalogue of the works.

Oceania at Royal Academy (till 10 Dec) -


more shadows!
A talk by the artist and specially-composed music in Hiroko Imada's exhibition at Sway Gallery -

 Francis Uprichard at The Curve, Barbican (till 6 January) -

 Anni Albers at Tate Modern (till 27 Jan; I wrote about it here) -

The Colour of Water at Bankside Gallery -

Caroline McAdam Clark's work was used on the poster

I've come so close to buying this print....
 Ashurbanipal at the British Museum (till 24 Feb) -

 Akiko Hirai at Contemporary Ceramics -

 Doris Salcedo at White Cube Bermondsey -

 Hmm, what was this? a random gallery we went into....

those are "magic wands" leaning against the wall
 A bit of Bond St window dressing that caught my eye - blindfolded birds?? -
Ilse D'Hollander at Victoria Miro Mayfair (till 21 Dec) -

 Sean Scully at Blain Southern -