Thursday, January 3, 2008

Woodblock Printing: Dreaming Series

once I spilled to earth
from a distant silver star
a dewdrop's shiver
banished from a captive sky
by Ama-terasu's loom

DW Bender
untitled tanka (5-01)
published in collaborative tanka series, Between Breaths

Alrighty then. So, it will take some time for me to buy the tools and materials I'll need for Japanese style moku hanga and to learn it. If I'm lucky, it may be sometime this year. Meanwhile, with the nasty, rough exterior pine plywood siding retrieved from a dumpster, I'm cutting and stabbing, slashing, chipping and carving away at the backside of another piece for a new woodcut print.

Naive style suits this rough wood, and my poor, student grade carving tools. But, hey. It works for now, for getting used to "painting" with chisels and gouges. And I enjoy the folksy, choppy, bold look of the artwork produced on them. Inelegant, clumsy things, but with a sort of rustic wabi-sabi of their own (imho), and even maybe a little yugen in the subject matter. Like an influenciality mixture of Marc Chagall and Abner Graboff, maybe? Or inspiration ala mode Bjorn Wiinblad and Munakata Shiko (thanks "Paper Pictures" :^D)? There's a sort of 50's-60's look to these floating subjects in the dreaming series. Yes, I can draw realistically and cartoon ("ha! I can even draw with a mouse," she squeaks). Right now, the naive work is more stimulating (and...there are so many styles and techniques I admire and could explore in whatever lifetime is mine, that I'm not sure if I could (at my advancing age :^D) ever achieve a personal voice or style in my poetry and/or artwork. Especially since I've been such a procrastinator about doing my art. I do everything else but.)

This problematic siding-wood demands its own treatment, it's own "hand." I can't cut and carve into it easily, as perhaps cherry or luan might comply — or even a block of solid, soft yellow pine, which I've used thrice and long, long ago. I find I can't use the gouges on the particularly resinous, hard areas of the siding. It's just too hard, and/or my simple tools are not sharp enough. I do have a tiny Japanese whetstone which I'm using in efforts to keep the blades as sharp as possible. I had started carving some small, random squares into the design, and I found that I can use the little straight edged bullnose chisel and a hammer to outline the squares on the hardest parts; I can chip out the insides or outline the solid ones, instead of trying to use the U or V gouge. Which lends to a happy alternative and solution for those resistant areas, in this case. The challenge of the difficult wood has made me explore the design in different ways than otherwise I would have.

On these 3 "dreaming" pieces, I'm drawing designs freehand in pencil, directly onto the wood. On the large piece, I later tried doing a bit of the lower part of the drawing in magic marker, but decided I didn't like doing so, as it can't be "mentally" changed easily if one wants to alter or experiment in the approach of the design; I am carving intuitively, as I go along, in the same approach as I did in originally drawing the images on the blocks. I find that although I might prefer a less "noisy" background for the pieces, i.e., I best like empty, carved out spaces, this particular wood has dictated background chip-texturing with the U gouge and, other kinds of texturing where the wood is too hard to carve normally or clear away. Still, I really love that kind of challenge. It is an immediate experience of necessity being the mother of invention. It makes the carving process and resulting designs more intuitive, fun, and the process expands the creative mind.

I have two other dumpster-dive siding blocks which I'll be carving. They are taken from two drawings which I created on Paint Shop Pro a few years ago. One, I've started carving, already, although I'm already thinking of doing different works entirely from those blocks. Like most things, I jump from one thing to another, whether it's areas of the woodblock, canvas, paper, housework or reading chapters in a how-to book. Undisciplined, perhaps? My mind seems to tire if it spends to long at one place. Guess that's why I've never kept any one paying office job for more than about 4 years. 4 years at one job is an amazing feat for me, and horrible, too, in my experience. I even long to pack up and move after being in one town or State for over 3 or 4 years. I think that is a permanent psychological result of being a military brat, and then a military wife into my 30's. But age and necessity has caught up with us, and we've now been in this present house for around 15 years. And we've lived in Orlando for entirely too long a time. Yeech. I've been ready and willing to move for years. To Arizona. With my wandering spirit and mind, it's amazing that I've even stayed married to one man for nearly 40 years. :^D. But he was a military brat and a military man for 10 years. So, he understands, though he's more methodically and happily planted down in one spot than myself.

Lately, my mind keeps thinking of things I could do with this or that, artwise, so I've finally, after decades, gotten into the flowing and creative state of mind again. I have been thinking, even before I started the woodblock printmaking, that I could cut and paste wood veneer on plywood for some designs. Print antique textile blocks for some areas of a piece, and punch areas with leatherworking stamps. Or use antique butter molds and other kinds of simple carvings for areas of integrated embossing, along with my own cutting. And when I'm done with making a print, I'll probably paint and frame the woodblock or, if it's a particularly wonderful piece of wood (like the slab of Paulownia I bought a couple weeks ago on eBay), I may try my hand at some woodworking to create handcarved plates, platters, etc., or whittle bits for mobiles. I want to do some mixed media with veneer and enamels, mother of pearl, etc., or wood veneer with other materials.

I've been doing some abstracted collages as "sketchbook" pieces. I should say "cutwork sketches" or something. I'm excited about creating the ones I like best with handpainted and printed (acid-free) papers, wood veneers and drawing/paintings on papers that would be cut out to be in the actual finished artworks. When I find the time. It has taken a whole day to get the second half of the larger dreaming series block carved and there is still more to be done...


steve said...

Wow, what an amazing post! Thanks so much for sharing.

Debi Bender said...

Thank YOU, steve. What an encourager you are! I am enjoying your art blog tremendously.