Inspired by visiting the Klee exhibition at Tate Modern, and by the work of Paul Furneaux (http://www.paulfurneaux.com/) thought I would have a go at a simple woodcut printed using waterbased inks in the traditional manner of moku hanga. I based my design on my earlier Gravity print, but in negative rather than positive, to give me areas of block colour.
My method was:
- cut two blocks the same size from plywood (specialist from Intaglio) intending to use both the back and the front
- sand the blocks and brush with a brass brush to raise the grain, as recommended by Paul Furneaux
- cut two faces using borrowed cheap woodcut tools
- use damp Hosho paper, lightly dampened by leaving between damp cartridge paper under a weight
- brush water over the blocks to dampen them
- apply waterbased ink (Akuakolor) using a brush
- print each layer quickly before my paper dried out
- hand burnish very gently using a baren over silicon paper.
This approach did not work. My paper wrinkled and stretched immediately it touched the blocks. Clearly I had to manage the levels of moisture better and perhaps use different paper.
I did more research on the internet and corresponded with fellow students about paper choice and preparation. The recommendations seem to come down to:
- use Hosho as good basic, cheap paper for experimentation
- thoroughly wet the Hosho and leave between sheets of cartridge for several hours before using so that moisture levels are really consistent through the paper
- the paper should feel barely damp when used
- store back between heavy cartridge and under weight between printing layers
- store back between cartridge and under weight after printing as the paper dries.
I also thought that increasing the viscocity of my ink slightly would help. I made water based ink using Inktense blocks and added this to Akuakolor tack thickener. This created an ink which could be easily brushed but which didn’t flow.
Inktense has several characteristics which I felt would be an asset for woodblock:
- intense colours
- huge range of colours
- permanence once dry.
This print is much better, although, clearly there is a lot wrong with it. The grain and the brush marks show up now but the slightly gloopy ink has left globs at the side of the plate and in the cut areas. It also hasn’t been applied evenly. However, the paper is now flat, didn’t wrinkle on the plate and hasn’t stretched over the block.
I thought I would try a design more reminiscent of Klee by dividing the back of my blank block into lateral stripes. I probably should have sketched this out in my sketchbook, but it seemed so simple, I didn’t.
I damped my paper and let it stand for a couple of hours between damp cartridge under weights. I returned it to this area after each layer. This time I left the ink as a watery mixture applied very thinly.
For a second print, I reinked my stripy block locally and turned it 180 degrees to print a third layer.
These are two very simple, tiny prints, but I am really pleased with having produced them. I like their subtle colours, texture and simplicity.
I could improve my method by:
- acquiring some decent woodcut tools
- cutting my blocks better so that there is no splintering at the edge
- raising the grain more
- practice, practice, practice so that levels of water in paper and ink became instinctive.