21 August 2019

Woodblock Wednesday - printing mountains

The small postcards received some bokashi along the bottom today -
 The large postcards, for the Morley College print swap, are finally ready -
The printing blocks are getting a lot of use, and showing subtle changes of colour -
New today, these prints on pages from a small japanese book found at the charity shop. The text was printed vertically, and the mountains are printed horizontally -
The blocks measure 10.5cm x 15cm (roughly A6 size), and so does the book, which is very convenient in terms of registration. Ordinarily, paper for a print from these blocks is cut 14.5x19cm to allow for the borders.

I like working small. Another recent print, "Elipticlipticality", is 8cm x 13cm -

20 August 2019

Drawing Tuesday - Petrie Museum

Two weeks ago, this was - due to my impromptu "blog holiday" and being on a course last week, things have got a bit out of sync.

The report of last week's meeting, at The Pergola and Golders Hill Park, is on Sue's blog - https://suesharples.blogspot.com/2019/08/sketching-tuesday-13th-august.html

Now, to the Petrie; this was our 9th visit there. Let's set the scene with the wonderful wall of the UCL building in which is the cafe we usually go to -
In the museum, I revisited this shell collection. Has my drawing "improved" in the three years between then and now? Not sure - it was as easy as ever to get lost in the details, and again "more contrast is needed"...

 Judith used a white gel pen on her drawings -

 Mags used square pencils...
 ... and felt tips -

 Jo made a collection -

 Sue found stone and clay -

Extracurricular activities

Judith's ipad drawing of a Docklands scene -
 Mags has been eco-dyeing on fabric and paper -

19 August 2019

Sedgwick Museum, Cambridge

We went up to Cambridge for a bit of Shakespeare, and discovered that the Fitzwilliam Museum, in fact just about every museum, was closed on a Monday - but the geology museum was open. 
What a revelation, just the sort of old-fashioned museum with handwritten labels and cupboards and drawers and vitrines and quirky things that I love.
Professor Adam Sedgwick's walking boots

The obligatory dinosaur

Rocks and fossils large(ish) ...

... and small

Dinosaur bones and ammonites...

... and starfish ....

... and sea-lilies (crinoids)

Microfossils - how do they even find them?

A quiet room with chemical explanations

Fog oak- "Part of a tree found March 1839
near the Reach in Mildenhall Fen at 7 feet from the surface
by men digging for clay. Its head pointed west by north.
Height with its branches 250 feet.
Height to the first branch 159 feet."

The all-too-familiar touristy view of The Backs and Kings College Chapel. Living in Cambridge in the 1970s, I used to cycle from the Sidgwick site, through the gate [now shut] at lunchtime to the market. (The site (departmental buildings) was named after the philosopher Henry Sidgwick, who studied at Cambridge in the 19th century.)
 Across the road is the Fellows' Garden, or is it the Master's Garden -
 It's big.
The evening wasn't particularly warm, and the actors, as night fell, weren't easy to hear. There was a lot of rushing about, if only to get on "stage". No doubt the tower of the University Library has seen stranger things -
The Mathematical Bridge of Queen's College, on the way back to the station -
 ps - what delight to happen upon a labyrinthine sculpture (Between the Lines, by Peter Randall Page), which set off my labyrinthine trousers -

17 August 2019

Woodblock printing, Chinese style

On Thursday morning, starting this post, I wrote: 'The week-long course at Prince's School is rather "stretching"!'  At the end of the course, we all proved we had risen to the occasion, and enjoyed it very much.

On the Monday we were given some traditional prints, carved by people who knew what they were doing, and set to work with ink and brush and very thin paper to copy them. Then the design was pasted onto the block, which was 14cm wide, and we started cutting - very fine lines - the room was very quiet as we concentrated!

At the end of the third quiet, concentrated day, I had done lots of practice carving around the design and was almost done with clearing the background away -
 This is the original, from the Diamond Sutra, published in 868 -
I moved the elements of altar and beast around to make "a picture", and changed the pattern on the cloth to something that was less fiddly and confusing to carve.

There's another lion in the original - he's very hard to make out - we were set to doing some further drawing and this is my freehand drawing -
If there turned out to be time after printing the first block, I rather hoped to put him on the back of the block, in a refined version, but events got in the way...

The printing setup is very different from japanese woodblock methods - the paper is clamped in the frame, which is itself clamped to the table. Putty (or blutack) holds the block.
The block is secured, then inked with a big brush made of palm bark (ink goes into the saucer, little by little as needed, and thinned to the right consistency).
A sheet of paper is taken from the stack and rubbed with the baren, which is elongated and (these days) covered with heavy plastic -
then the print is dropped down into the "well" so that the next sheet is ready for printing. Note the position of the papers - they have been moved forward so that our second print would fit beside the first one. We took them home like that, to cut apart.

Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to see or do any colour printing - I asked about how subsequent blocks would be registered, and was told it involved a bit of guesswork and adjustment of position of the block. 

A closeup of my not-very-finely cut block, ready to print -
 In place and inked up -
 Printed - with a few of the lines missing, alas -
 Some adjustments ...
More prints followed, cleaner this time. I found the printing very difficult - the paper is thin, the ink is tricky to adjust, and the baren works in quite a different way than the round japanese baren.

While researching the motifs for that altar cloth, I found one from a woven silk that would be quite quick to do for a second block -
A block holding three of them could be reprinted to make a larger design (seems like I'm still "thinking textiles"...) -
In designing, many small adjustments were needed - and when it came to carving, even more....

In response to interest in the Japanese method of printing, I brought in a block and some prints to show the registration system and how, given the nuances of inking up, each print could be a separate work -
 Then back to the block. Note the tools - the big knife with the curved blade is a quan dao, the square gouges are ping kou dao, and the big curved gouge used to remove the background is chan dao.
Inked up - I wanted the gouge-lines of the background to show, in order to make the process somewhat visible -
Getting the ink right and applying just enough pressure to the paper is tricky. Most of my prints are pale, and several have holes rubbed into the paper -

Master Wei Lizhong painted these shrimp (or crayfish?), in different configurations, for each of us to take home -
Throughout the week various people came to talk with Master Wei, including an administrator of the Muban Educational Trust and Frances Wood, formerly curator of the Chinese collections at the British Library. This meant that there was a hum of conversation in Chinese, some of which (words and phrases rather than complete sentences!) I could just about understand - especially after Lia had supplied a translation. As well as getting out my books on Chinese art for browsing, I got out my Mandarin textbooks for a bit of revision. This course has fed both the right brain (visual) and left brain (language) - what a great combination!

Will I do more of this technique? Probably - there's that other lion... and I have another design ready to carve: its thin outlines will be perfect for "the chinese method" - but I'll print with "the japanese method" when adding other blocks. 

I was able to buy a set of tools at the end of the course -
 in a roll with the Ten Bamboo Studio logo -