Thursday, 1 May 2008

Tests for new print set

My studio table today.

I've not posted for a few weeks because things are a little busy at the moment,
but at last I'm able to show you the first test prints of a new woodblock project I've started on.

I've given myself the task to produce 3 animal and 2 haiku calligraphy prints per season.
These are my "Spring" animal prints.

The baby rabbit and robin picture is called "Sakura" (Cherry Blossom), the Japanese characters for cherry blossom are hidden in the branches of the tree. The grey rabbit and blue tits print is entitled "Rabbit Calligraphy" (Although I've hopefully got the Japanese characters for rabbit and calligraphy right, I don't know how to say it!). The rabbit has written the word "spring" using his brush and ink. The final image of the kimono clad dancing mouse is called "Harukaze" (Spring Breeze).

I've searched for Japanese script haiku that reflect the seasons and also include a reference to animals and I've carved 2 of these. The Spring haiku I've chosen are:
New Year's Day: the clouds are gone and sparrows are telling each other tales.
Serenely gazing up at the mountain - a toad.
I'm keeping the designs quite simple, and, at most, only using 5 blocks, although a block could contain more than one colour. The original drawings were pretty loose and sketchy and so I'm trying to keep the prints that way too.
I'm using Shina ply and each image is about 5x7".
The aim is to do a print run of 30 to 40 of each image, of which 20 will be set aside for the final stage of my project. The remaining prints which are good enough will be sold individually (I estimate around 5-10) as a very limited edition.

So, the final stage...
You may have noticed that 2 of the test prints are on the same piece of paper. This is because the paper is going to be folded down the middle (with the reverse side of the images facing each other) to form the 2 sides of a book page.

When I've produced a set of 3 Spring, 3 Summer, 3 Autumn and 3 Winter animal prints with 2 seasonal Haiku for each (a carved block of Japanese characters), a "chapter" title for each season and a couple of information pages, I'll bind them together using Japanese papers and bookbinding methods to create 20 5x7" original print books for sale through Etsy.
So don't be expecting the books any day soon. It will probably be around this time next year (at the earliest) as I've got to fit in the small task of earning a living doing the day job. The "extra" prints will be available throughout the year, as I complete them.

I realise the economics of this project don't make any kind of business sense; but sometimes the pleasure in just producing something that a few people may really enjoy is reward enough.
I'll be printing these from next week and then I'll have to start thinking about the Summer prints.


Annie B said...

Hi Mark, quite a task you've set up for yourself! I love what you've done so far, especially the Rabbit and Robin image. Are you studying Japanese language?

Mark Mason said...

Hi Annie, and thanks for the kind comment. I'm hoping all the images will be both lively, light and have an air of tranquility and peace to them.
I'm slowly beginning to realise what I've set myself up for; but I hope it'll be worth it. I like the idea of producing a small picture book of prints. I've seen old copies of "Ehon" as they're called and would love to create my own little version. I'm not studying Japanese officially, it's more curiosity, though I do own a few beginners books on the language. I'm just fascinated by a writing system that has it's roots so firmly in visual images and pictograms. It seems to fit with the way my brain works and I find the symbols quite easy to remember.

Anonymous said...

Looking at all the prints you have on that desk makes it look like your working on a small animation. oww imagine making a whole film using block printing. It would look brilliant but I dont think a human has enough years in one life to complete one.

some very lovly work there.

Mark Mason said...

Thanks Anon for the kind comments.
Imagine if you carved every frame of your animation on a block of wood, and then filmed those. It sounds like something out of the Flintstones. I do think my animation work influences the style of prints I produce, and the discipline of creating animation is very similar to that of Japanese style woodblock printmaking. I'm sure if Keisai, Hokusai and Hiroshige had been alive at the dawn of film-making, they would have been pioneers of 2D animation.

Caro said...

Hello! I have just found your blog by chance and am sure of returning to visit it. It(has seemed to me to be very interesting and I have very good moment reading the texts and seeing the photographies. I have seen in your profile that we coincide with several things as literature, movies..
I am a young painter of Andalusia and I admire very much to Vincent VAn Gogh. If you want I invite you to my blog of art.
A greeting and I will return to read you soon...

Mark Mason said...

Hi Caro, thanks for the comments. I'll have a look at your blog.