Saturday, 30 January 2021

New Year, new technique


my first ever Japanese woodblock print
- scope for plenty of improvement!
© Teresa Newham

As usual, Christmas took up most of my attention during December; so it was good to set aside a couple of afternoons in early January to finish cutting the blocks for my first ever Japanese woodblock print, listening to various podcasts and jotting down a few notes as I went along. 

a cosy afternoon cutting the rest of the blocks
© Teresa Newham

The thought of actually printing the blocks, however, was completely out of my comfort zone. I re-visited Laura Boswell's book and YouTube videos on the process, and carefully laid out everything I thought I'd need in what I told myself was a suitably Zen state of mind, but really it was displacement activity.

gathering everything I needed to print
© Teresa Newham

I made up a damp pack the evening beforehand;  the proofing and editioning papers are wetted with a water brush and left in damp newspaper or blotting paper overnight to absorb the right amount of moisture. Usually proofing and editioning are done in separate print sessions, but as this was an experiment I was keen to go through the whole process in one go.

first steps: mixing nori, watercolours and making trash prints
© Teresa Newham

On the big day I mixed up some watercolours in pots, and diluted some ready-made nori (rice flour paste), which is combined with the watercolour on the block to turn the paint into a print medium. I used Quinacridone Red and Cobalt Green (Yellow shade), and made a second, darker quantity of the red by adding a tiny amount of Sumi ink.

colourful blocks and a trash print to check registration
© Teresa Newham

I wetted each block  and brushed in some nori to condition it, before inking it and taking trash prints on dry scrap paper. I checked the registration by taking an impression on dry newsprint.  At this point I could have cut away some of the chatter from the blocks and adjusted the colours, but I wanted to move on to the editioning stage so I could compare results on the various washi papers.

printing proof prints and edition prints
- the damp pack is inside the John Lewis bag
© Teresa Newham

The prints dried between sheets of blotting paper under a weight for a few days before I assessed them. I'd forgotten Laura's advice that in Japanese Woodblock, less is more; I'd used too much nori and ink, which has affected the colours and - along with the chatter - made the prints messy.  But that's the thing with multi block printing - I can clear out that chatter and have another go!

final prints on three different washi papers from the Awagami factory
© Teresa Newham

Friday, 15 January 2021

Calendar memories


January & February
© Teresa Newham

Every November I put together a calendar of my best photos as a Christmas present.  I hang one in my studio, too, to remind me what I was doing this time last year.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 version turned out to be very, very local . . .

March & April
© Teresa Newham

Apart from the January pic of the countryside near Ware (actually taken at the very end of December 2019 but I can't imagine that the scenery changed much in 48 hours), this year's crop of photos were taken within half a mile of our house; in the garden, the nearby lanes, and on our housing estate.

May & June
© Teresa Newham

A few, such as February's cherry blossom and August's close-up of Agapanthus flowers, are my experiments with the Canon EOS DSLR I bought myself last January; the rest are purely opportunistic  iPhone shots, of which July's apple tree is my favourite.

July & August
© Teresa Newham

I'm hoping to make a linocut based on September's picture (one of several projects I have in mind once I've taught myself the basics of Japanese Woodblock) and I'm already gathering images for the 2022 calendar;  I could do one of views of my favourite field alone . . .

September & October
© Teresa Newham

The November image is one of a series of photographs which inspired my watercolour Harpenden Common in Autumn, taken back in November 2019 while walking to the station on my way to a meeting in London about the January 2020  Journeys in Hope exhibition.  How long ago all that seems now!

November & December
© Teresa Newham