Sunday, March 13, 2011

Japanese wood block prints

I have a fondness for Japanese woodblock prints.  I have always been fascinated by how lacking in wood grain they end up being.  They could be linoleum block prints, but that seems so un-Japanese.
Years ago, I took a yoga class in someone's home.  She had this print hanging in her stairwell.  One day it was gone and another print was in it's place.  When I asked what had happened to it, because I loved looking at it, she said she had decided to take it down. And then she gave it to me.  Even though it has lots of foxing and a big fold line down the center, I had it re-framed and have had it in my living room ever since.  I even painted the wall to match the blue.

It turns out that it is a Hiroshige print, though how old,
I have not determined.
  My parents had always had several Japanese wood block prints in their house that I have always coveted.  Now, after all these years, they are in my possession.  They all need serious re-framing but I want to get them looked at by someone that knows something about them first.  This one is definitely a Hiroshige also.

And I'm pretty sure this one is also, but I have no idea what generation these prints are, whether old and original or 19th century re-prints.
As for this print, I still haven't figured out who  the artist is.  But I keep looking.  I thought it might be Hashiguchi but I do not know for sure.

  Here is a photograph I took that reminds me of the first print.
It's from a weekend on the Chesapeake Bay.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

In the clearing

This is a painting I made a couple of years ago.  It is pretty small, about 12" x 12".  It happily resided in the glass fronted bookcase until I had a show.  I sold it to someone who lives in Key West.  This is nice, but I miss it.  I decided to make a print kind of similar to it.  I started with the same image and made a dry point etching.  Dry point is much harder than you would think.  You spend a lot of time scratching into the surface and then you print it, and it looks pathetic.  So you have to go back and scratch some more.  And then some more again.  I got it to where it looked okay, but then I saw a show of Edvard Munch's prints.  He combined different kinds of prints together, like he might print a linoleum block on top of an etching.
So I started to think that I could carry the dry point further by using a different technique on top of it.  I put a layer of soft ground on top of the plate and pressed in feathers and pine needles, which were etched into the surface.  I have to admit I was quite pleased with the final print.  The image is reversed from the original painting, another side effect of printmaking.  This crows head is less bumpy too, I think he looks a little bit like a mockingbird.  We used to have a mockingbird that sat in the tree outside our bedroom window and sang all night.  Maybe this is really a portrait of him.