After the design is done, and we won't go into that wrestling match here, one must carve on the blocks. You can see some un-carved blocks under my knives. I use Shina plywood and carve both sides, this appeals to my occasionally thrifty nature. Some people use a dremel to carve and some use wood burning tools. Just now I am stubbornly traditional, partly because I love the look of the knives and partly for the challenge.
Ink is applied with brushes. I have found that it is worthwhile getting the best brushes one feels one can afford; crappy brushes can drive you mad, if you aren't there already. Of course there is a technique to applying the ink and getting the mix of water and nori (rice paste used as a medium to help the ink print evenly) correct.
The paper is dampened slightly so that it is soft and placed on top of the block and the baren (the cute round thing with the handle) is pressed and rubbed about on it. There is technique to this pressing part and strength. Large solid areas require quite a bit of pressure. Unlike oil printing or press printing where the ink is on top of the paper, Moku Hanga impregnates the fibers of the paper with color. This can be seen on the back of the print. I'd show you a scan but I haven't got one....
For Year of The Ox the first color was Green, here's the block. The lighter colors are usually printed first. The second color was Magenta on just part of the green block using a "bokashi" or gradation technique.
Then it was blue blocks turn to strut his stuff. First the whole thing was printed with Ultra Marine Blue then I did a "bokashi" of Prussian Blue along the top. You can see on the block where the Magenta off set from the paper onto the block. The moon looks even less round than in the print because I sanded it's edges to create another kind of "bokashi" called "ito bokashi". It worked OK there's a nice fragmentation of the moon edge on the actual print. Edges are very important to pay attention in art.
Here's a close up of the blue block, I admit I love the texture and (ahem) would run my fingers over it just because.
Next is the Gold block, it is a color called Quinacridone Gold of which I am very, very fond. You may have notice it in the background of 2 Rabbits as well as 2 From Nottingham. This block shows the "kentos" that are used to register the paper for multi block prints. They are on the right hand corner and on the bottom to the left. The paper is cozied up to these little bumpers and is in the same place on each block. Does that make sense? It does work, mostly, if you are careful.
Black is the last block, this is printed using Sumi ink. Because the paper was getting damper and damper from printings I had to let the prints dry a bit so the Sumi wouldn't wander too much and the paper wouldn't sag and catch ink it wasn't supposed to and get blotchy, yuck.
Finally done. I set about making the cards. Although simpler than printing it was labor intensive and I shortened my mailing list considerably; removing those individuals I thought might throw away their Ox....I think I'll do some color xeroxes and paste them on some good card stock for those particular suspects.......