As work on my large print continues I begin to reflect on art making and techniques. The work on the tentatively titled Tipping Point began in ernest in August. Its size, 24" x 80" and the twelve carved panels required combine to make this my most ambitious woodcut to date.
Each day in the studio I fight the same reoccurring themes. First is the idea of scale. Prints aren't meant to be this large, although some printmakers work at this scale or larger. I'm attracted to printmaking partly by the process but also by the notion that they are human scale; they can be picked up and held in your hands. Paintings are large, sculptures are large; prints need to be scaled so they can fit onto a press, or fit onto drying racks and into flat files. Besides, there are so many variables that keeping something this size in registration is next to impossible.
But I find myself seduced by both the challenge and my evolving thoughts on process. In the world of mokuhanga printmaking we traditionally begin by making a key block. The key block is most often the black outlines of the image, much like the outlines in a coloring book. Additional blocks containing the colors of the print are carved and printed based on the position of that key block image.
Digital version of Tipping Point
The image I'm working with has none of the black outlining common to the traditional method as I learned it from my mentor, Keiji Shinohara. After much experimentation, I've settled on a method of carving a color block, proofing that block and pasting it to the next block; in some ways similar yet more challenging than the outline method.
This is a small section that has been printed lightly with yellow, blue, green and a bit of red. When I'm done brushing in black ink I'll paste this to another panel and begin carving away everything that isn't black. I'll be left with a block that registers with the previous colors without depending on outlines.
I think a great deal about technique and have struggled to learn best practices. Without regret they seem to be slipping away in this piece.
The scale, combined with the absence of black outlines to disguise minor registration misalignments seem to free my mind to concentrate on the overlap of shape, color and tool mark.
I'm finally at the point where either lack of technique or overemphasis on technique are standing in the way of the art.