November 2007

I’m working out ideas for the Baren Forum Fairy Tale Print Exchange. I found an Indian Fairy Tale on the Web entitled The Talkative Tortoise and thought the story might make an intriguing image for a print. The tortoise is told by his duck friends to hang on to a stick and they will take him to the king’s palace, but they warn him that he must not talk or he will let go of the stick and well, you can imagine. Here is what I have so far.

Talkative Tortoise Sketch

I used many reference photos and even a realistic toy tortoise to help get the tortoise right. I’m not sure if this is the final image that I will work with or not. I need to let it percolate for a few days.


Niobium Nb 41

Printmaking is hard work and as I finished up my print of Niobium for the Periodic Table Printmaking Project, all of those things that can go wrong in the process of creating a print came to mind (and, unfortunately, sometimes into being).

You’ve heard of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”? Well here’s 50 ways that things can go wrong when creating a moku hanga print.

  1. Your hanshita (drawing) stretches or tears when pasted onto your block.
  2. You choose the wrong kind of wood.
  3. Your woodblock splits.
  4. Your woodblock warps.
  5. You use dull tools.
  6. You mistakenly cut into the wrong area of your woodblock.
  7. Part of your design chips off of your woodblock.
  8. You don’t cut deep enough into your woodblock.
  9. You cut your kento too deeply.
  10. Your kento do not align properly.
  11. You don’t leave enough room on the woodblock for the kento.
  12. You print is not square and you want it to be square.
  13. You forget to reverse your image and carve the block backwards.
  14. You cut yourself.
  15. You cut your paper to the wrong size.
  16. You print on the wrong side of the paper.
  17. You print on the wrong kind of paper.
  18. You line up the paper in the wrong direction on the block.
  19. Your paper is too wet.
  20. Your paper is too dry.
  21. Your paper gets moldy.
  22. Your paper sticks to the woodblock.
  23. Your paper slips on the woodblock.
  24. Your nori (rice paste) is too thick.
  25. Your nori is too thin.
  26. Your nori is lumpy.
  27. You don’t put enough nori on the block.
  28. You put too much nori on the block.
  29. You contaminate your nori with pigment.
  30. You use too much pigment.
  31. You use too little pigment.
  32. You use too much water.
  33. You don’t use enough water.
  34. You don’t mix the pigment well on the block.
  35. You don’t distribute the pigment evenly on the block.
  36. You pick up unwanted color from your brush.
  37. You use the wrong type of baren.
  38. You use too much oil on the baren.
  39. You use too much pressure on the baren.
  40. You don’t use enough pressure on the baren.
  41. You use inconsistent pressure across the print.
  42. Your color smudges.
  43. You pick up color from the carved part of your woodblock (ketsuochi).
  44. You make unwanted embossed areas where you didn’t soften the edges of the moat (hekomi).
  45. The color in your prints is not consistent.
  46. You smudge the print with your dirty fingers.
  47. You have a bad design to begin with.
  48. You wrinkle the print.
  49. Your proofs turn out better than any of your final prints.
  50. You run out of supplies in the middle of printing.

I believe that all of these things have happened to me at one time or another, but for some reason I still want to keep working at it.

This week I have been working on my print of Niobium for the Periodic Table of the Elements Project. I started by making a sketch on tracing paper. The sketch is based on the Greek myth of Niobe whom the element Niobium is named after. Niobe was the queen of Thebes. She boasted of her fourteen children to the goddess Leto and as a result, Apollo killed her seven sons and Artemis killed her seven daughters. In her grief, Niobe wept and turned to stone.
Niobium - sketch 1

I scanned the pencil sketch in Photoshop and applied the stamp filter, then inverted the darks and lights. This helped to bulk up the lines in my drawing, making them more suitable for transferring to wood for carving. It also gave me an idea of what the image might look like printed.

Niobium - sketch 2

I further experimented by adding some color. I also tweaked the drawing, added the element symbols, and the kento.

Niobium - final sketch

I lightly taped some extremely thin paper to a piece of bond paper. I ran this sheet through my HP printer without any trouble. I then used rice paste to attach this thin paper printout face down to the wood block (this was done in order to reverse the image so the final print will be oriented correctly). The paper is thin enough that I can see the drawing through the paper. I had tried carving through copy paper before and this was rather messy, but carving through the thin paper was quite easy. I should have a test print soon.