I’ve been in Japan now for 3 weeks, and so far it’s been fantastic! I started my trip with a couple of days in Tokyo being a tourist, then made my way to the Mi-Lab residence in Fujikawaguchiko to start the artist residency learning ‘Mokuhanga’ (Japanese woodblock printing).
The residence is in a really beautiful spot – near Lake Kawaguchi, overlooked by Mount Fuji (Fujisan!). It’s been cloudy for the last couple of days so he’s been hiding, but when he does pop up it’s as if out of nowhere…turn a corner and suddenly there he is!
The first week was very intensive, being taught all the basics of the Mokuhanga technique by Chihiro Taki – a Japanese printmaker who makes the most beautiful woodblock prints. (I recommend checking out her website: http://www.chihirotaki.com)
To start off we all did a little presentation about ourselves and our work, which was an opportunity to get an insight into each other’s art practice, and an understanding of why we were all there. Taki San then presented some of her work, and seeing her prints in the flesh really blew us all away – such subtle colours and textures. She then gave us a brief history of woodblock printing, and we got straight on with the technical stuff – covering ‘Iruwake’ (colour separation), the ‘kento’ registration system (the best, simplest and easiest way the register prints!), and introducing us to the tools we would be using to carve the plywood blocks – the ‘Hangi-toh’ knife, the ‘Maru-toh’ gouge, and the ‘Kento-nomi’ knife.
Taki San then went on to demonstrate the printing process. The block is inked up with watercolour or guache paints, using ‘Maru-bake’ and ‘Te-bake’ brushes, along with ‘Nori’ (rice paste- very important in the process). The damp paper is placed on the block, (prepared the day before), and a ‘baren’ is used to apply pressure on the back to transfer the ink to the paper. (This mainly happens through absorption – the fibres of the kozo paper ‘drinking’ up the ink from the block.) She also showed us the different effects you can get if you alter the amount of ink, water, nori and pressure used – including ‘gomazuri’ (sesame effect), ‘mokumizuri’ (wood grain effect), and ‘bokashi’ (gradient).
Phew! It’s a lot to take in, but so much fun and a it’s so exciting to be learning something which is so different from the kind of printmaking I am used to. Being here has made me realise that I haven’t had this much time dedicated to learning and creating work since university – 13 years ago!
This is the first post I’ve managed to write since being here, as I’ve been trying to spend as much of my time as possible just sitting at my desk and making….but I will try to post again soon, as It’s a good way of reviewing what I’ve learned.
I’ll leave you with a few images from the last few weeks. Thanks for reading 🙂
P.s. My apologies if I’ve spelled an or the Japanese words wrong!
A couple of weekends ago I ran the first ever Photo Plate Lithography workshop at West Yorkshire Print Workshop. It was great! It was so lovely to be able to introduce a new technique to the workshop.
It took a good few days of preparation to get everything ready and set up – as always with printmaking the only way to really know whether something will work is just to practice. So I spent some time making some test plates on our exposure unit, eventually coming to the conclusion that a standard exposure time of around 5-6 minutes is sufficient for most images. The plates I ended up ordering for the workshop and to sell in the shop were called ‘Europlate’, and a very nice chap at the company advised me on what would be best for our purposes. I also bought in some developer, which we mix down half and half with water for standard plate developing.
In the workshop we already use the Hawthorn Printmakers stay-open inks for intaglio and relief printing. It says on their website that they are also suitable for lithography, so I thought I would try using this even though I’ve never used them for lithography before. They actually worked well, although they do contain very high amounts of pigment, so it is necessary to extend them quite a bit with their ‘transparent ink’, especially for very detailed images. We printed the plates on our Hunter-Penrose etching press – bumping the pressure up a bit by putting a larger litho plate on the press bed, (as the plates are quite thin), which worked a treat.
We had a full course, and I was really happy to see a lot of familiar faces – members who wanted to learn the technique or had done it years ago and wanted a refresher, and also a some non-members who were completely new to it.
The day was fantastic – so enjoyable to be passing on the skills I’ve been learning at Leicester Print Workshop over the past year! And everyone was so excited by the ideas and possibilities that the technique generated. We’ve already had one member come in and start making plates since the course, and we’ve already got bookings for the next course at WYPW in March next year, here: http://www.wypw.org/shop/photo-plate-lithography-march/
Here are a few photos from the day…
Last weekend I taught my first Photo-Plate Litho at Leicester Print Workshop. It went really well – there were 7 students on the course, (one of which has already joined up as a member to come and do more!), and all had brought a great selection of images with them to work With. Some had brought digital images such as photographs and scanned drawings, printed as a positive onto acetate. Others brought hand-drawn images to work with, made by drawing onto transparent drafting film with materials such as pencil, graphite and crayon, and guache and acrylic paint for wash-effects. Very fine detail in both drawn and digital images can be picked up in this process.
The positive transparency is taped to the photo-plate, which comes pre-coated with a light-sensitive emulsion. The plate is then exposed to UV light. The light is blocked by the opaque image areas, and passes through the transparent non-image areas. When the plate is then developed, the non-images areas wash away to leave bare metal underneath, and the image areas – where the light was blocked – stay on the plate. This creates the image on the plate.
Gum Arabic is then applied to the plate to help establish a chemical difference between the image and non-image areas. The plate is then printed by first washing off the gum, then keeping the plate damp while rolling on lithographic ink. The plate can be printed on either a litho press or an etching press. Damp paper is usually used to ensure as much detail as possible is picked up.
Plates can be printed in black and white or in colour, and some of the students from my course went on to do another day the next day with LPW lithography technician and artist Serena Smith, where they made more plates and experimented with printing a number of plates in register to produce multi-plate prints.
I’m really looking forward to teaching the Photo-Plate Litho course at West Yorkshire Print Workshop on 19th October.
Here are a few photos from the weekend…
So after a bit of a break during July, I’ve been back at Leicester Print Workshop in August, working on stones as usual. I can’t quite believe how the months are flying by. I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog front recently, and I’ve got a big backlog of process photographs to upload, so I’ll be trying to catch up with that in the next few weeks and doing a few more posts.
I had some good news at the end of July – my application for funding from the Arts Council to help me complete the internship was successful! It was such welcome news to receive, and topped off an amazing, and very welcome, summer holiday! The funding will help me to use the remaining months of the internship to create a series of new lithographs for exhibition in 2 solo exhibitions in 2014 – one at the LCB Print Depot in Leicester, and one in the gallery at West Yorkshire Print Workshop. More details about these to come.
I will also be running and assisting on a number of workshops and talks during 2013 and early 2014 to help spread the lithography word – all detailed below…
Sat 21st September 2013
Photo-Plate Lithography – day course at Leicester Print Workshop
Sat 19th October 2013
Introduction to Photo-Plate Lithography – day course at West Yorkshire Print Workshop
Sat 26th / Sun 27th October 2013
Stone Lithography Weekend Workshop at Leicester Print Workshop (Assisting tutor Serena Smith)
Sat 23rd November 2013
Photo-Plate Lithography – day course at Leicester Print Workshop
Weds 15th January 2014
‘Stone Lithography’ short film screening and artist talk at Leicester Print Workshop
Tues 18th March 2014
I will be giving a talk and demonstration at West Yorkshire Print Workshop to accompany my solo exhibition.
If you’d like to keep up-to-date with my progress and where you can see my work, you can also sign up to my mailing list.
Another post to follow soon…