Saturday, January 03, 2009

A Real Blockbuster

Henri Matisse said, and I paraphrase slightly,  that much of the beauty of art comes from the struggle the artist has with the medium. Here are some of the tools that one struggles with in Moku Hanga. 
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.......

13 comments:

M.Kate said...

Wow...so nice and I read that the Ox year will be better for everyone compared to last year. I sure am hoping so! We are spring cleaning for the big 'spring festival' aka Chinese New year here. I always find it funny that we celebrate the big 'spring' event when there wasnt any snow to begin with. I went to the mall yesterday and talk about overdoses of red..I need my sunglases haha!

These prints are just fabulous. Can I your Ox print on my sidebar and link it back to you?

Happy Sunday:D

PJ said...

Thank you, Diana, I really appreciate seeing the process. I was very curious as to how you line everything up and I understand how you register them but still have trouble imagining how they're lined up to begin with. I'll just live in the mystery of that aspect.

Also, I'm right there with you only giving the cards to those who will appreciate them. That's a lot of work to be tossed away after a quick glance, they're beautiful.

DKM said...

I love the texture of the background and the use of it for the ox as well - just lovely.

furrybutts said...

Very detailed! Now I know how Moku Hanga is done.

I had a brief encounter with those carving tools for art class in school.. I wasn't good at controlling the amount of pressure required to carve the board and would frequently carve beyond the borders of my design!

I admire how intricately you've carved the land, and details on the ox. How you managed to make dots on the black block for the ox's body is beyond me, lol!

Lovely, lovely print. Anyone lucky enough to receive the cards would surely treasure them :D

d. moll, l.ac. said...

MKate: of course, delighted!!!
PJ: I'll show registration sometime, that goes with design and transfer to blocks.
DKM: Thanks, I love texture as a rule.
FB:Think of the dots as not being printed on but showing though; they are cut in the gold block so the back ground shows through.

bunnygirl said...

Thanks for showing us a little of your process. I've only worked in traditional Western mediums (oils, acrylics, charcoals, etc) so this is new stuff to me and very interesting.

And that's a great idea about using the color photo-maker at the drugstore. The originals are to be treasured.

Rabbits' Guy said...

OK OK .. I think I got it now Teach. Stand back everybody .. here I go ... Dum de dum ... Scritchhhh oh oh ... uh well anyway ... sploshhh .. uuuhhh .. maybe that will wipe up .. oh it smears .. hmmmm ... geeze ... it's kinda like the Jittebug - it plumb eludes me ...

Anyway, I am in total Awe!

I sot of disagree with PJ there. Mabe those less appreciative suspects NEED to be exposed to such works of art more. Perhaps cleverly attach a (high) price tag on the back, or include a description of the many hours of work it takes, or explain how important it is for you to share such works of beauty with the likes of them ...

OK OK .. back to mucking out rabbit condos ....

Crafty Green Poet said...

thanks for the tutorial, it looks a very interesting process...

Glenna said...

Wow--I had no idea! As for the bumpers and lining them up-like the notches for complex wall stencils. And how could anyone throw them away?!

The Bunns said...

Alert, Alert ... Help needed over at the Fresh Parsley site. That woman is trying to come up with a name for a booth at the local market where she will sell worm casings and slippers.

Maybe you have some advice ...

ilex said...

Oh, I just love Japanese tools. And I've always thought that carved, inked blocks are art in themselves. So beautiful.

Andrew Stone said...

As one currently wrestling with an Ox problem....many thumbnails later, congratulations on getting yours done already!
The final version with the fuchsia mountains is much nicer than the proof and is a solid image.

Annie B said...

Oh my goodness, you made 43 of these?! Way to go. Really nice. I agree, the red mountains are great and the addition of the white flecks was brilliant.
Happy new year!