I’m having a massive déjà vu writing this entry about Master ASAKA Motoharu, whom I’ve had the great pleasure to meet in Helsinki a little while ago. I strung (stringed?) all the Japanese words I still remember into semi-coherent sentences, and he told of his printmaking life, which started about half a century ago, when he trained to become a woodblock carver. Having had the fortune to learn from one of the greatest experts for hairline carving, he stepped into the footsteps of his master and became an expert for hairlines as well. (And with hairlines I mean that part of the classical Japanese “beauty / ” woodcuts - an example here: those crazy fine lines where the hairs start! by Utamaro) He made me touch the inside of his hands, claiming that 50 years of daily carving will make the insides of your hand incredibly soft, and indeed his palms were the softest palms I ever touched (wtf but true!)
Aaaanyway, the above pictures are commandeered either from his FB page or the Takumihanga blog, and show: 1. A very traditional carver’s training board - the goal is to cut everything away but the black lines drawn on the block. As the student advances the lines lie closer and closer to each other. Master Asaka said that one would have to carve quite many of those blocks before working on actual images. 2+3. One of his students carving and printing a Dragonball Miffy who has collected them all! 4+5. The cool thing about the traditional woodblock formats is that you can furnish your studio according to it - 4 shows a student’s work area, 5 shows the work area with floor boards removed: built in flat files!
Since Black Heart Press is closing in on entry #200, I feel that it’s finally time to write about David Bull again - you’ve probably read about his “Ukiyoe Heroes” collaboration with Jed Henry, (maybe on printeresting), and how their project is the most funded art project on kickstarter ever, with 3012% of the pleged amount reached. For those as mathematically “gifted” as I am, that means Bull and Henry asked for $10.400 and got $313.341. In one video he talks about how long this will keep his printshop busy and the people associated with it above the water, a thought I’ve been having quite a lot lately - how to keep doing what I love while also paying the rent and so on.
The video I linked shows, in classical David Bull manner, the creation of colour blocks for the print titled “Fox Moon” - and here’s what I so truly love about Dave and his way of sharing his passing: there are no secrets, no mystification - just an amazingly skilled craftsman working with a camera over his shoulder, plainly and calmly going through his day of work, step by step. I have a draft that I somehow never finalized (would have actually been post #12 back in the day) about Dave streaming his carving sessions on ustream / livestream (I also mentioned the streaming sessions in this post) - and I’m still amazed by a woodblock stream. Who else in the online printmaking world streams?
A friend of mine is in Tokyo right now - before he left he asked me if I knew any cutting edge contemporary printshops over there. I mentioned David Bull, Itazu litho, the one with the music video (is that actually in Tokyo?) and two others, and I also said that my associations with “cutting edge” are the 80’s, the cyberpunk / mirrorshades writers and Akira the anime. Maybe a bit of an overcomplicated way to say that I have no idea what cutting edge is, but for a printmaker to embrace the internet to reach out, David Bull just has to be mentioned.
And that all aside, it’s just wonderful to watch passionate people do what they love - I suggest watching the Fox Moon videos from #11 (preparation for cutting) to the current one on his channel. Certainly makes me want to do some woodcuts ;)
Mirrorshades! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIeTzjNshhM reviewed in one minute, because time is money baby, when you’re living on the cutting edge. Also he forgot to mention how great “Snake Eyes” is, or “400 Boys”.
Tuula Moilanen 6 Dreams of an Ukiyo Beauty: Convenience woodcut 2008 23.5 x 36 cm / Edition 36
I’ve recently had the pleasure to meet Tuula Moilanen. Those of you that are heavily into Japanese woodblock printmaking (aka Mokuhanga) might know her as one of the organizers of the 1st International Mokuhanga Conference in Japan earlier this year.
I’ve posted a video of David Bull’s stream before, where he was embossing a blind print onto one of his woodblock prints. In the recorded stream I’m posting today you can see Dave print a fine spider-web pattern with white litho ink, then he dusts on “Suzu no fun” aka nickel silver powder (a mixture of copper, nickel and zinc), brushes off the excess, the covers the inked up area of the block and gives it a go with the baren again, to secure powder adhesion.
I love the added depth and texture such processes add to prints. The smaller my own works get, the more attention I’m paying to such details.
Anyway, the last video I linked of Dave’s stream got a good 200+ views from you guys, hooray! Made me very happy - thanks also for the comments and things in my ask box. Will probably manage one or two entries more, then be on a two week break, moving and setting up everything in Helsinki.
Wish we could blow this video up too :) Also, I’m absolutely into artists streaming. If you know of any good links, send them my way, thanks!
The amazing David Bull at his Seseragi studio. If you are into japanese woodblock printmaking, you’ve probably heard of this guy. If not, nevermind, here’s a great video of him printing the final impression onto one of his prints. It is a blind print, ie no ink or glue or anything is used, the relief is embossed into the soft damp paper. I’d like to point your attention to 13min30s.
“Nice and soft, hehehe… such sexy stuff, this paper is soooo wonderful”
These videos on his stream need way more views. I mean, one incredible craftsman is streaming live from his working bench? Until recently I thought that this was done only by professional Starcraft 2 players - but no, it’s also done by a very dedicated woodblock printmaker. (check his website for stream shedule - usually 9am-12 JST)