Tuesday, February 5, 2013

It's a Dance

Imagine You - ©William Evertson (woodcut 14" x 20")

I muse about this as I'm printing my latest series. I can only think this because recently I've been taking ballroom dance lessons.  A peculiar hobby to take up for someone as uncoordinated as myself.  Yet twice a week for the last several months I've been dragging my wife to a dance studio because I have this nagging suspicion that I need more dance in my art.

In my studio I'm brushing water on the woodblock, priming it.  Soon I'll be charging it with the pigment  and paste.  The paper, a fine and expensive Japanese washi, lies in its damp pack bed achieving a proper moisture level that I know I'll recognize not from some instrument but by feel as I pick it up and observe the softness of its drape.

I think about the dance. I'd like to have some of the fluidity of my youth back but I'll make do with the repetition of movements until they become less stiff at least.  I need to forget the steps and remember the steps all at once.

There is a fish, a giant carp leaping from a wave and speaking to me as I climb a mountain. He seems improbable yet natural and he becomes the muse for this print.  The idea is set and all that remains is creating the steps.  The drawing, the transfer to the block and the carving.  Some parts practiced, some without thought and some done from a hard won mastery learned only from a life time of mistakes and trial.

Carving the transfer

I look at the other dancers in the studio.  They've been here much longer, they flow and glide; I still think, think, think. Where are my feet, where is my torso, where is the beat and I despair that I will not find them.  I am the fish out of water as I learn to free myself to dance.

Charging the block with pigment.

The pigments are mixed, the paste is prepared, the paper is soft.  The brushes are prepared and ready; all little maru bakes whose bristles I still remember carefully splitting by rubbing each for an hour over sharkskin.  All in preparation for another dance session with my woodblocks.

I'm starting to get the slow dances.  In the waltz there's enough space in the rhythms to forget and remember and yet move.  The progress is slow; but then it always is.  Back in my studio I'm in control again.

Making the impression.

I charge the blocks with their pigments and press the backs of soft paper with the baren.  I lift a corner and make an adjustment.  I begin the second and third color and dance the papers around the studio.

Checking the image.

I think it's working.
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