Thursday 20 July 2017

Japanese Woodblock Printing Week: Designing, drawing and cutting

 Day one (Monday)  of Japanese Woodblock ( Mokuhanga) print course at Morley College  with Carol Wilhide-Justin  started with an introduction to it's history and a fascinating account of her  scholarship residency  at MI-Lab in Japan.

 She had  bought an original book from 1830's and it was wonderful to gently handle it,  admiring the  qualities of  the papers and the printing .

Working on a 30 x 22.5cm piece of  Shina Plywood  with an image size of 15 x 10.5 cm ( which allowed 2 separations on each side) , she shared some ideas from her own work  showing how to break down an image into  separate layers ( by colour or to make a pattern simpler to cut) . I liked the idea of combining different shapes and colours ( above and the results below)
But I'd already put quite a lot of work into  developing ideas continuing with my breakwaters theme so despite working on a much smaller scale than  I'd imagined , I decided to combine different elements from  these 2 photos
Having made an accurately sized drawing , this was traced and different colours used for what would be different blocks/ colour separations.

Then  reversing it, these 4 different element were  traced onto the  plywood using carbon paper, paying attention to the direction of the grain. 

The plywood had already been accurately marked out with the area for the image, surrounded on 2 sides with a 1cm gutter and 1cm registration for the paper ( the paper will overhang the edge when printing, a cunning way of getting the most out of the block)  

Then cutting! We used a non-slip mat rather than a bench-hook, much more maneuverable , especially as we had to continually move the block around to ensure cutting away from you. I was first to have a go with the Ken-toh chisel to make registration marks on the corner and along the longest side, watched by the class demonstrating  how not to do it!  My 4th one wasn't too bad.

A set of tools were issued once we'd demonstrated that we could use them. And then the lesson was over and our homework  is to do all the cutting on our blocks for printing on Friday ( this is usually a 8 week rather than 2 day course! )  

On Tuesday , appropriately enough, I went back to the Hokusai exhibition at the British Museum  so I didn't get a chance to do any cutting until Wednesday and Thursday. My orders of 'Powergrip' tools and   Japanese Woodblock  book had arrived in the post , it was good to have  photos and instructions on the very particular ways the different tools are used , a reminder of what Carol had demonstrated.

 So here are my finished blocks ready for printing tomorrow .  I love the nuanced effects of the watercolour used  and that it can be done at home  without a press, something I've struggled with when lino printing.

I think my dad would have been proud of me -  he was very keen on working with wood  coming from a long line of wood carvers from coopers in the 1700's to my grandfather who was a  pattern maker on the Glasgow shipyards before becoming a gardener.
30 years of wielding a scalpel probably helped too!  

UPDATE - see  what my  friend Margaret did on the same course - a different approach to design  but very effective.

1 comment:

irene macwilliam said...

jI look forward to seeing your prints