I used the image I’d been playing with in this workshop- the advice was to use something more abstract, but I was interested in exploring the image in a graphic ukiyo-e style with black outlines and primary colours, rather a cartoon effect, which would underline the constructed nature of images of self, but really it was just an exercise. I was thinking of some of Gauguin’s roughly carved woodcuts and self portraits using thick black outlines.
The challenge in this workshop was to work with watercolour, and to create colour effects. I specifically tried to build up colour, using overlays of primary colours, rather like printed comic books, and to practice gradations of tone in a black and white image. The images involved making a key block – the black lines, with the registration mark (kento)- then two colour blocks- more than one colour can be cut onto one block. I planned mine to get blue, red, orange and lilac by overlaying transparent watercolours.
It was also useful to learn about Japanese papers, and the role of sizing.
The most inspiring thing of all was the way of working. The demonstration (the master printmaker is just that, not the artist and not the block cutter- just the person who makes the print) showed how she could sit crossed-legged with all her materials within arm’s reach, and produce extremely high quality, identical multi-layered images. It seemed a very zen-like practice: care, rehearsal, stillness, quality- and the images produced somehow exuded quiet.
I am reminded of Xu Bing’s repetitive carving of thousands of characters in wood, none of which could be read or pronounced.