I wanted to try further experiments with woodblock, having read Japanese Woodblock Printing by Rebecca Slater, from the Printmaking Handbook series. This is full of useful technical information. In particular, how to prepare paper and how to make nori, a rice starch paste to thicken watercolour/ink and to stabilise the grains of pigment and reduce granulation. She does, however, discuss that granulation is sometimes sought as an effect, called gomazuri or sesame printing.
In this investigation, I wanted to try:
- a heavier paper alongside the extremely thin Hosho. I found a sumi-e paper from Hahnemuhle which I thought might be suitable
- using nori, although I made it with 1 part of cornflour to 8 of water, in a similar way to chine colle paste
- the same simple plate as before, blank on one side and with simple lines cut on the other, but try some monoprinting techiniques
I soaked some clean, heavy, Snowdon cartridge and blotted it between clean old tea towels. I interleafed Hosho and sumi-e paper between these and put then in a large plastic bag overnight to allow the papers to swell and the moisture to equalise.
The next morning it was clear that the sumi-e paper, whilst not so smooth as the Hosho, had absorbed water very evenly and still had body, whilst the Hosho was extremely floppy and difficult to handle.
I cooked up my nori, which took only a couple of minutes, by mixing a teaspoon of cornflour into 8 of water and heating it gently until it thickened. My inks were mixed using Inktense blocks and water. My printing process was:
- brush my block with water to dampen it
- flick nori onto the block as described in Rebecca Salter’s book
- brush ink onto the block and work it into the nori
- let the ink settle on the block for a few minutes until it lost its high shine
- place my damped paper over the block, cover with baking paper and rub with a baren
- lift my paper and place it back on top of a damp cartridge sheet to stay damp for repeated printing
This identified a couple of problems:
- the Hosho was difficult to keep evenly damp compared to the sumi-e paper
- the nori didn’t mix evenly and left streaks on the print
- just one colour of the Inktense bled into the surrounding paper, actually an effect I rather liked
- even my largest brush, a hake, didn’t lay down an even wash on the plate.
I tried mixing a little nori directly into my inks, and this worked much better. For my second set of prints, I tried:
- placing a textured sheet between my baren and the paper
- placing a piece of dried seaweed between the baren and the paper
- making calligraphic marks on the plate with a brush
- combining granulation over ink plus nori
- allowing bleeding deliberately
- scrapping a fine dust of pigment into the ink on the plate
- drawing on the plate with a watercolour pencil.
All of these were fairly successful except the watercolour pencil.
I am pleased with :
- these have a luminous feel quite different to oil based inks
- the simple, minimalist feel
- the monoprinting opportunities opening out here
- Inktense is easy to use and has a wonderful range of colours
- the potential for combining textures
- the heavier paper worked much better and I could control it drying flat easier too
- any prints where I messed up registration (and one where I dropped the block) can be used as chine colle.
I plan to develop this by:
- buying some decent Japanese carving tools
- buying some Japanese plywood blocks and working bigger
- buying some heavier Hosho, available in pads, whereas I originally bought Hosho on the roll from Intaglio, which is much lighter
- make myself a Japanese inking brush as detailed by Rebecca Salter
- book onto a Woodwork for Artists course offered by the London Sculpture Workshop, which would be useful in many ways, not just printmaking. I have no idea how to use a chisel properly
- develop ideas for woodblock prints using watercolour in my sketchbook, particularly simple abstracts.