Preparing for the City, tomorrow

Alright.  So from research tonight and last night, I have a good idea of what I’m going for in Japantown, tomorrow.

IF I get Yasutomo Sketch paper (big “if;” Yasutomo is the only readily available Japanese brand of…many things, including washi ([ideally] handmade paper) outside of Japantown or Japanese specialty stores), my first choice will be the Hosho kind — not Hanshi, which is sold unbound and, over the wind, I heard it is too light for suminagashi.  If the Hanshi is there, though — I will have to think about passing it up.  It would likely be useful, at the least, in transferring patterns from a key block to templates for other blocks — but I don’t know if it will work in linoleum block printing.  I know it will work in woodblock.

The thing is, mokuhanga (Japanese woodblock printing) is a relative investment…not so bad after having gotten materials for linocuts (particularly the knives, and inks), but still.  There are different tools, and it looks like things have to be managed from the ground up where it comes to things like applying sizing (nikawa:  animal glue + myoban: alum) to paper.  Or where it comes to mixing colors with rice starch paste (nori) in order for colors to print properly.  Or where it comes to maintaining a baren with camellia seed oil (tsubaki).  All these terms are given in that mokuhanga book I mentioned by April Vollmer.

There is an entire complete process to this which seems to be a different working method than I was prepared for, given the surface similarities of process between linocuts and mokuhanga.  (I am thinking that I wasn’t prepared for mokuhanga having such a deeply different cultural heritage from linoleum block printing…apologies for having to say that.)  In light of that…I’m going to try and focus on suminagashi paired with linoleum block printing, for now.  Until I gain more experience.  🙂  I’ll have less time, starting next week (school is about to start up again), so I should prepare for that.

I’ve decided against getting a stub-nib fountain pen (2mm), as…I already have some (dip pen) nibs which will work.  The issue is largely that I haven’t gained skill in using them, yet, and I was never really taught how to use them.  I think the last time I tried, I was very young (and impatient), and had only newly gotten the hint to burn off the anti-rust coating before trying to use the nibs to carry ink.  Otherwise, the nib will not be very useful.  (To my credit, though, I did use a nib until it snapped…don’t know if I get experience points for that or klutz points for that…)  😉  At this point, we do have a “Third Hand” tool which can hold my nibs while I singe them…a lack of this is the reason I stopped (I bent the jaws of a pair of pliers unintentionally by indirectly heating them while holding the nib).

But I do have some steel nibs approaching 2mm wide.  If I find any more broad ones like this tomorrow (I’m not counting “steel brush”…which is fairly intimidating to me), I may pick them up, but other than that, I’m not dropping $30 on a portable and more finicky version of a tool which is more versatile when worked manually.  I can’t see myself carrying around a calligraphy pen just for kicks, and I can do more with a dip pen (read:  opaque inks, quicker color changes, less expensive errors) than I can with a fountain pen.

But yes, I am thinking of calligraphy, again.  The “printing” thing seems to be sweeping me around into a more book-arts sort of deal.  Which is good with me, as long as it’s fun — it’s just that it wasn’t expected!

I still haven’t worked on my painting, either.  But then, I’ve been doing other things.  🙂  Watercolor would be my nearest media which I would think to be compatible with book arts.  It’s just so freakin’ hard…Negative space, yo.  Negative space.  But maybe the prints will help with that.

Okay:  the other thing to get is bocha:  roasted twig/stem tea (I like the name:  bo is the name of a man’s staff in aikido).  I can’t imagine us going home without manju, either (the kind I’m thinking of is daifuku mochi; M will only eat kuri manju, however).  Daifuku is some sort of very soft rice thing (I’m not sure if it’s pounded rice, or rice starch dough) around sweet beans (an); kuri manju is a baked wheat bun around the outside of sweetened smooth lima beans.  (I realize that may sound gross to people, which I wouldn’t understand, except for the fact that I once ate reconstituted dry lima beans, as contrasted with the frozen baby kind.  I feel you.)

Otherwise…I can see myself being tempted by the dotted papers and the Kuretake Gansai Tambi paints.  But realistically, not only do I not need these (the latter) at all…but the Koi ones look better, where it comes to smoothness.  I think this means I need to break out the watercolors I do have!  Probably the only reason these look even…tempting is that I haven’t recalled, or accessed, what I’ve got stored…which are very likely of higher quality, and almost certainly more expensive.

(Well, that, and travel pans of red are often junk, in my experience:  both Koi and Kuretake Gansai Tambi look better in this department than Cotman or Prang, which are the cheap travel [pan] colors I have.  It’s probably in relation to red being more culturally meaningful in Japan than here [it’s a color young girls and young unmarried women are expected to wear…or at least that’s what my grandmother related to me].)

As for the dotted papers…maybe.  Inks?  Maybe, but I’d more likely wait.  I don’t know how much bottled ink they have there, anyway.  Dotted papers are also available from the Japanese dollar store, now that I’m thinking about it.  I’ve just seen how they can be used, and want to play.  (is that so much to ask?)  😉

The other thing…that I’m kind of dreading, is seeing another worthwhile book on mokuhanga and/or relief printing, at the bookstore.  But I’ll deal with that when I come to it…

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Motivation

This is just another entry in the “why be creative/do art (when it doesn’t pay),” series…which it seems I should really organize, somehow.  It would be interesting to make this blog into an actual site with indexing more sophisticated than WP’s tagging/categories system…but I don’t have the skills to do that well, at this point in time.  Soon, though:  it will be very much closer to possible.  I have the chance of learning CSS this Fall, and more than that next summer, at the latest.  I am thinking/hoping that basic HTML coding will be introduced along with CSS…it’s just that the CSS textbook was the one I saw earlier in relation to one section.

(One of the reasons I’m aiming for the Digital Services track is that even if it does become a pain to catalog and retain all of my work in order to fulfill Culminating Experience for my degree (the alternative is a Master’s Thesis), I’ll still have salable skills.  That is, outside of the Library, where it may not matter if I have the Master’s or not — so long as I can do the work.)

So, this “why do art” thing.  I was thinking up things to write about here, and the question of this came forward into consciousness.  Well…it’s an easy thing to slip into, this mode of thinking.  However…as I was actually doing the art, I realized that doing it was an end in itself.  Kind of like origami, but…well, hey, origami has practical engineering uses, for one thing; but you do this work for the sake of the work and the satisfaction of making something beautiful, and then you have all these little leftover trinkets.  Like origami.  And then it’s like, what do you do with them?  I guess you give them to others (or sell them)?

I’ve been thinking of taking my suminagashi prints and printing flowers on them (probably after I rework my flower linocut), and then cutting them apart into little prints.  I actually did this last night with my first sheet of prints (on white paper), and made a bunch of neat little 2″x 2″ tiles.  However, I realized today that I can cut them into any shape I want, meaning that I can make really nice bookmarks for my friends at the Library!

I know it sounds silly, but what person working at a Library would refuse a bookmark?  😉  Who would do that.  😀

I’ve only told one person of my plans, so far.  Happily, I didn’t have to explain to him what I was doing with the ink marbling!  I’ve also sent off a letter to my old professor, asking her about any precautions I may need to take with the Sumifactant.  Just in case, I did give myself a break from exposure, the other night.  However…TOMORROW’S A NEW DAY!!!

And I’m getting kind of obsessed with this.  That was another reason I stopped.  😉  I do have a tendency to get really strongly involved in things when I do get involved — probably the reason why I ate that book up so fast, the other night!  I’ve had a hard time finishing almost any book from the Library, and didn’t want to risk letting that one go unread.  Especially as Summer Session is about to start.

Right now, I have two other books on creativity to get through, one of which looks promising; the other of which, looks didactic.  However, the latter’s theory about a “freeze” response preceding a “fight or flight” response in the case of anxiety…was telling, and has helped me get out of stasis (and understand why one of my relatives refuses to change habits that don’t work in their favor).  I’m just not sure whether it has anything more to say, than that.

And yes, I have also been reading around on the “ink” tags on WP, and now want a Lamy Safari with a 2mm stub nib.  It seems silly, but I will be going to an upscale stationery store soon…and they may have it.  I should probably check around first, though…

Experimenting with camera settings and Photoshop: suminagashi prints

I’ve been taking photos of the last suminagashi batch so that if and when I cut them apart, I won’t miss them.  😉  (Part of the nature of suminagashi is that it never turns out the same way more than once.)  This set turned out much more photogenic than the last — although that may also be partially due to my experimenting with the light settings on my camera.

Today was overcast, so I used the “Cloudy” setting on my camera, even though I was indoors with only window light.  This gave me a batch of photos which appeared dim (all values were shifted towards the black point in the Levels histogram), though I was able to adjust how the computer read the files by using a Levels adjustment layer in Photoshop and hand-tweaking each color layer, which worked out more aesthetically pleasing than letting the computer take care of it through Auto Levels.  I’m actually really amazed that it worked (for most of them, anyway):

Heh!  Nice!  Ah, right:  I’m hoping you can click on the images to see a larger version!

Like I said in the last relevant entry, I changed my working pattern for this set.  I can see where it would be useful to rinse off some of my papers after printing them — two or more got a weird haze of ink over the top (though I tossed one of them because it was so messed up); another got blotched by my not drying excess water, which caused a pooling effect.  Overall, though…it worked!

I’m trying to fight an urge to go back and try this again…mostly because I don’t want to have to clean off the craft table again, but….

All right! Getting better at suminagashi

Yeys. 😉 I had another go with the suminagashi tonight. Overall, this batch looks much better than the first — though again, I was doing it with little sunlight remaining.  Right now the prints are being pressed; I should be able to document them tomorrow (I mentioned the trouble in taking photographs in artificial light, here). I should be able to post photos of them, tomorrow.

The colors are much nicer in this batch. I think that before, maybe I wasn’t using enough ink — and I was too conservative in my color schemes, plus I was agitating the water too much (which probably thinned the floating ink out). I met with a necessity to dispense a few more drops of Sumifactant toward the end (it was getting too dilute), as well as a few more drops of yellow.

Something also seemed to be happening with the ink getting mixed with the Sumifactant from a coated brush:  I had an issue with my blue ink towards the end of the printing process which resulted in the layer of ink not spreading as far as it should have (it only spread a little, whereas at the beginning, it spread expansively). I’m thinking that the issue had to have been related to surface tension.

In any case, I now have a new bunch of prints being pressed to dry. I should change out the papers soon; I can cut some Kraft paper down to size. No use utilizing the nice paper (copy paper:  not that nice, but can be put to other uses) for interleaving:  I’m also afraid that the chemicals used in printing will cause an ink transfer of my throwaway papers.

I also have one big, really nice print in semi-B5 size (7″x 10″, in Wet Media paper) in pink and violet.

But, things learned (other ones, at least?):

Skimming the old ink remnants off the top of the vat of water is not a crime. I did this with some old copy paper already used for interleaving, last night, which I think helped me avoid ink fragmentation in the empty areas of the prints (a bane that I found in my first batch last night).

And copy paper isn’t good for suminagashi printing, I found with my last print.

Don’t be afraid to use too much ink! Although yes, it was a precious commodity at school, where we all had to share one kit, realistically the Boku-Undo set of inks is designed to be dispensed drop by drop (using the included floating papers instead of Sumifactant).

Don’t be afraid to mix colors! I think that color mixing is the reason behind giving us the colors they did in that set:  I made a rich latte brown by contaminating orange with blue, but didn’t see it until I was rinsing out the palette. So it’s possible to go way beyond just using the inks straight. I had been mixing secondary colors (e.g. violet) and some tertiaries (yellow-green, yellow-orange, red-violet), but not ones with three or more distinct hue components (orange [red plus yellow] plus blue). The possibility of mixing earth tones is open to me.

I’ve got to be more careful about letting air bubbles underneath the papers. It happened at least three times this last time, and it’s really annoying if you’re going for an overall print that isn’t messed up somewhere in the middle.

Speaking of which — I may end up cutting my prints down with a straightedge and gridded cutting mat, because the interesting areas are generally not around the corners (which is where I was going to put my linocut prints, before cutting them apart). I do have a T-square, though it isn’t of much use without using a drafting table; I also have a plastic L-square, though, which may come in handy (it’s a ruler shaped like an “L” which can be lined up on my gridded cutting mat). I’ve just got to be careful not to shave down the L-square with my knife:  mine is probably intended to be of more use in marking than in cutting. I’ve just looked this up, and metal L-squares do exist:  something to keep in mind if I’m going to be doing a lot of prints!

My semi-B5 pad (7″x 10″) is about the right size for taking one big print of the vat, and even though it feels like a risk, I’m not lacking paper if it gets messed up. Plus, I can always cut down:  it’s harder to tape up.

I avoided using black ink at all in this last round, after seeing how it muddied some of my prints yesterday. It’s possible to mix a black with the three primaries, though it reveals color overtones when laid in the vat. I did still get a couple of muddied prints, which I remember (now) some students trying to save by putting them under running water. I just tossed them, though the thought of saving them is interesting. I should also remember that I can make other prints using the backs of messed-up sheets.

The blue given in the Boku-Undo set looks like a cyan to me, in pure form. To get Ultramarine hue, it needs to be mixed with red and a touch of green (which seems to cancel out some of the red and darken the tone towards black). I didn’t realize that my violet pan had turned Ultramarine last night until a relatively late stage. The blue just keeps getting darker and darker when contaminated with red — until it looks black — but that’s actually a concentrated violet (which doesn’t look so concentrated at all, when laid on the surface of the water). The green must dull it down slightly, this being why I started seeing it as burgundy (a desaturated violet-red) after a good amount of red was added (past the violet point)…muddied, it mellows out into a really nice deep reddish color. But I can’t remember how this looked when printed.

Oh, and:  today I tried agitating the water less, using mostly breath to ripple the water instead of a paintbrush handle (though I did use a brush handle a couple of times). This enabled bolder patterns and larger areas of color. I’m actually fairly amazed at how much more pleasant to look at, this batch is than the last one.

I’ll go cut down some papers to press my new little things, now…

One last remark:  I am having a really good time doing art without having drawing be central to the work. This stuff requires a lot of cutting and alternative methods of making images, but it’s still really fun! I was mentioning to the folks that even when just given different drawing implements, it changes one’s technique. And I’m not used to this, and it’s awesome. 🙂

Pale imagery

O hi.  So…even though I did not succeed in using the Stonehenge paper last night, I did pull around 10 suminagashi prints which were decent.  Unfortunately, they are so subtle that I question whether it’s worth it to show them.  The one print which breaks this pattern is shown below:  first having adjusted the Levels (color balance) on Photoshop, and then with no color adjustments.

3395wl
suminagashi print utilizing Boku-Undo inks and Sumifactant.  This was the brightest of the set, though I have enhanced the color using Photoshop’s Levels option.

I’m including this one first because — at least you can see the patterning, here.  The rest of my prints are fairly pale.  And even this one is not quite as deep as the Levels adjustment makes it seem.  Here is the same image without the Levels adjustment, everything else the same:

3395w
Without the Levels adjustment.

I think it’s more subtle and tends to hold together better.  The actual color balance is somewhere in between these two images.  Seriously, though…?  This is the deepest colored swatch I got out of the batch.  The rest of them are very subtle, for example:

3402w
Beautiful in its pattern, but very very pale.

This one actually looks like I was making stationery for a really nice hand-inked letter or drawing!  Something where what was on top was supposed to take center stage.

I feel like trying this again — I don’t see how I can do much worse than last time — it’s just that I have something of a hesitance to work with the materials (as regards exposure to chemicals).  I did look up my initial query and the main ingredient in the Sumifactant which I was unfamiliar with:  I don’t think I have much of anything to worry about.  On the other hand, this is messy!

Or not messy, so much, but wet.

I’m thinking of trying the yellow and orange also this time, too.  It might contrast well with a violet print.

Of course, though, then I also have to cut papers down…again…*sigh*…but then I get to use a sharp thing!  😉  (I dunno why I like this, except that it demands high concentration of the type I’m used to from martial arts.  The same applies to using torches for hot metalwork.  But it does not apply to using toxic paints.  I don’t know why…)

Return to suminagashi

I’ve just gotten through my first suminagashi (Japanese ink marbling) attempt since…the time I first learned the technique, years ago.  It’s pretty simple, and fairly fast:  my biggest problem was not having the space to let as many prints dry as possible.  Because of this — and because I entirely forgot about my Stonehenge cotton rag hand-printing paper when in the process of prepping my papers (during which I got to play around with a mat cutter, paper, and a cutting mat [hahaha sharp things]) — I somehow avoided printing any of the Stonehenge!  Gah!  It wasn’t even on my mind!

The good part of this is that I was able to mess up on papers not nearly as precious.  As it was my first time in years doing this form of marbling, there were the inevitable prints which didn’t turn out as I liked — about five of them.  It wasn’t so bad, though:  there are at least nine prints which came out of the set which are pleasant enough to behold.  I had been planning on trying to do the “crocus” prints on top of them, though I hadn’t planned on using Wet Media and Drawing papers for that!

Beh.  (“But, ehhh.”)  Anyway.  I’m dealing with Sumifactant, Boku-Undo inks, and really cheap brushes, along with a disposable tray of the type used to cook turkeys, copy paper for interleaving, and some of my most-hated textbooks as weights.  😛  I know the Boku-Undo are non-toxic; the Sumifactant, I’m not sure about, but what I heard from Colophon Book Arts (here is their “Oriental” page) was encouraging.  Of course, though, I got the stuff…years ago.  The page says it lasts indefinitely when tightly capped.

I don’t know why it hit me tonight that, “hey!  I can do this!”  What I do know is that the sun is down and as such I won’t be able to take any appreciable photos of the prints under artificial lighting.  (Not only is the lighting in the area such that I’ll cast shadows on anything on the table [the prints are still wet], but it will cause a yellow-orange cast over everything…which is annoying to try and work out through Photoshop for every image, while still keeping colors accurate.  I’ll try to get some photos in the morning.)

I didn’t mention that when everything got pulled off of the table (long, likely irrelevant story), D didn’t notice one of my small pattern tracings (2″x 2″) for the crocus block, and so it is now…gone.  Basically.  As in it fluttered away into the ether.  I’m not too thrilled about this, but it’s easy enough to do again — it’s just that I feel like I’ll never be able to do it again in exactly the same way (but is that a goal…?).  I kind of wish I had scanned it.

The other day, I was also able to get some reading done in Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop by April Vollmer, and now have a relatively clearer idea of how to register (align) multicolor prints.  I don’t think I’ve read all the way through the section of how to carve the block and pull prints, but what I have read makes more sense when read straight through than when looked at piecemeal and out of order.  (The illustrations tend to encourage the latter approach, with me.)

I do think that it would be okay, though, to do a second crocus block without worrying about print registration (but I will want to mark which direction is “up”).  I can worry about registration when working on the gingko leaf, which is the project after this.  For one thing, working with registration implies making a key block (a block with areas of color outlined), then carving the key block, then producing multiple prints (one for each color block) on translucent paper, then pasting those prints reversed on each subsequent block (I’m thinking UHU Stic would be good for this, as it washes off with water even after it’s dry), then possibly oiling the paper, then carving through the paper and removing what’s left with water.

I kind of wish that I knew how to register prints in linoleum block printing, though:  I’m not totally positive that the technique will transfer over from mokuhanga (Japanese woodblock printing) to linocuts, particularly because I’m working with opaque inks.  What I’ve seen recommended for mokuhanga are opaque watercolors (gouache) — Holbein at that (I have these already) — but they’re applied so diluted that I don’t think the opacity is a big thing.  At least, when compared to Speedball Printing Ink, the latter is a good deal more opaque (or so I would think after having used the black ink and having felt the texture it leaves on top of the paper).  It might be, though, that I’m supposed to be printing on soaked paper, not dry paper:  something I can test, since I didn’t use any of my Stonehenge!  (And, I just realized, I do have a vat to soak these in:  the same vat I used to marble the papers, tonight.)

Which reminds me that I wanted to get back on top of learning Japanese language (nihongo).  I had just been wondering if there were guides to, or commentary on, comparisons of the different media in Japanese (I’m not sure how much material exists on this in English).  Then I realized that I’d have to be able to read kanji for that, most likely.

Well.  Motivation!

Ah ha ha.  I should be getting to sleep…