Sunday 28 April 2019

W is for woodcut printmaking - Karen Kunc - the smart Way

I have blogged on here in the past about an artist called Karen Kunc.  Her relief wood cut prints are mind bogglingly sophisticated.  I found it quite difficult to select which ones to include with this post because they look so complicated.
She has a lot of success commercially but for doing her own thing in her printmaking as opposed to making prints of animals and landscapes or seascapes, which sadly is what a lot of printmakers seem to do .   Having said that I do of course appreciate why they are inclined to make what sells..

Above:  "Bell Acqua". Woodcut       Karen Kunc

I wish it was possible to download ones most favourite videos from You Tube,  as it is horrible when you go on there to look at something 'special' like for example videos covering a printmaking workshop where Karen was tutoring people on her approach to using woodcut, only to find that it has disappeared.
Fortunately the videos I wanted to look at are still on there.
I have viewed  them previously - I even made notes when I previously looked at them but that was ages ago and I am on a new computer by now and despite what they say about it being the case that you can transfer all of your data over to a new Operating System  - well that has not been my experience.  There are lots of bits and pieces that I can't seem to locate.......fortunately I haven't come up against anything critical and irreplaceable as of yet.
Let's just hope that, this remains to be the case.

Above: "The Wanting Pool" (detail) Karen Kunc

The Wood Block:

Birch Plywood seems to work well for this process.   It will of course need sanding too. Image can then be transferred to the wood block.  Use feint pencil for this. Karen mentions that she then uses a layer of shellac onto her woodblock.  This she applies by buffing it on, with a cloth.

I will use Lascaux acrylic hard ground as it will be easier and I know that it will protect the wood from being penetrated by the rolled on ink.  Additionally I don't want to go out and buy yet another product, such as Shellac, when I have already got something that will work just as well.

The videos were kindly uploaded by Mirka Hokkanen  She is an artist, originally from Finland, who has been living in the USA for quite sometime currently residing in Honolulu Hawaii.  I just love her "Bather" reduction relief print on the left - my cat used to groom himself similarly but these days I have to do all of his grooming for him and of course he doesn't approve of me trying to comb out his horribly dense tangles.

AS I mentioned I posted previously on my blog about these excellent videos, in which I just uploaded a photo of one of Karens woodcut prints and a link to the videos (which is now defunct).

Not to worry the link must have been on someones website which has now closed down.  The links I provide here, takes you straight to You Tube.

This time however - I have taken a different approach as I really want printmakers to share in the wealth of Karen's experience and my enthusiasm. So I have carefully watched through, the videos of this workshop which comprise of six videos of approximately 12 minutes each,  I did a lot of stopping and starting (which is an advantage if you are only able to watch the video recording as opposed to being present at the workshop, which took place at a place called Sev Shoon Arts Centre in Seattle, Washington State, USA.
I have included their website address but It was 'forbidden" when I tried visiting it a while ago, on both my web browsers i.e., Safari and Google Chrome.  For the sake of Seattle based printmakers I sure hope it hasn't closed down!?

There are some other videos on You Tube of Karen doing the actual cutting into the wood block with the Japanese style tools.  These look like the quite expensive ones that cost about £30 each but I suppose if one really wanted to use these then it would be a case of gradually buying the essential cutting tools and then looking after them and over time increasing the tools and materials. 

My focus herein, is on the inking methods and strategies.

Above: 1
Here we see Karen rolling ink in graduated colour ‘bands’ over the MASK(stencil) openings or ‘apertures’.  Remember these could be cut or even torn away shapes.

It seems that using ordinary craft brown paper works well for creating stencils and masks to use for inking the block.  It can be used as a way of keeping other areas clean of course and we have all probably used a mask in this way at least once in the course of our printmaking. 

Above: 2
Karen blending the edge of the ‘rolled on edge’ of the ‘inked areas’ with her finger tips, heal of the palm and the side of her hands - this will soften the edges of the inked areas where this effect is desired.  Seeing an artist working in this way makes me a lot more interested in working with woodcut I must say.  Those of you who are familiar with my work will know that I am "intaglio" orientated, in the main.

Of course the stencil sheet will need to be kept in place by using low tack adhesive.  Additionally one will devise registration marks for the printmaking paper which in this case is a Washi paper. Having the paper sheet smaller than the woodblock, make registration easier. Inks are Lithographic, being used for their higher pigment concentration and lack of dryer additives.

Above: 3
Here we see the effect of applying a ‘graduated roll’  to specific areas through the paper mask. ,  The dusky pink colour gives way through  to transparent and visually disappears to nothing - which I just love.  It's important to bear in mind that the ink being applied to these areas is with small brayers and that it has transparent extender mixed in with it.

Title: Land Escape"
artists book
Karen Kunc

Love the colours on this piece the shapes especially like how that upward curved edge to the paper totally 'adds' to the overall affect.

Left: 4
Here we can see the effect on the woodcut block - where Karen has inked the edges of a red 'triangular' shape.   This was achieved  inking around the edges of a cut-away triangle.  It shows how she inks around the inner edge of triangular cut away shape on the brown paper mask.  She also ‘softened’ it with her fingertips.
Left: 5

As the first proof seemed a bit too faint,   with this proof, you can see that Karen has added less transparent base, to her ink mix,  so that, in effect, as we can see, in this second  proof the blue appears darker to the eye.

Left: 6
Here you notice that each of the little circles have been rolled with different colours.  In some cases the stencil was cut in such a way that eg circle 'a' had been cut away so that the 'aperture' was 'smaller' than the circle itself.  In doing so - it opened up the possibility that its edge could be 'blurred' again by using fingertips.  It seems to me that your finger tips which are only lightly dabbed on to the wooden block and is that this is a more direct and sensitive means of achieving the gentle effect.  If one were to use eg a cotton ear bud it would be only too easy to take away too much.

Left: 7
Oops I have just realised that the next video still says more or less the same thing as number six but I will include it anyway so that people won't wonder "OMG what's happened to jpg number seven - oh I won't be able to get off to sleep tonight with worrying about it"!!

Left: 8
I ought to have mentioned that Karen makes two cut woodblocks.   One is a kind of 'positive' and the other a 'negative',  and these two woodblocks interrelate.  In cases where she might have had to cut-away large expanses of wood instead she cuts around the edge of the shape and then uses stencils to 'mask' the areas that should have been carved away.

Left: 9
It seems that with this process that the proofs come out better by the time you get to the 3rd or the 4th proof.  I have experience of this where Lino cut prints are concerned too.  The paper Karen was using in this workshop was called Nishinouchi - she seemed to think it was an excellent choice for woodcut printmaking.  It seems best to go through your pile of paper  checking for any 'foreign bodies' specks etc that might be on its surface before you actually start inking and printing.

Left: 10
Note in this video still - that you can see both of the inter relating woodcut blocks.
Karen also runs each sheet through the press prior to putting it through on an inked block.  She also puts one of these 'calandered' sheets of paper through the press(an etching press) on top of a block without any ink just to ensure that it behaves OK.
Leave these blocks inked as they are , for when you wish to do some further cutting away from the block.

Note you should always gradually add the colour ink to some transparent base that you have set out on your worktop.

Woodblocks that are slightly imperfect as in, they have for example a 'depressed area' of the block ( that you hadn't noticed before cutting the block) WILL NOT  'pick up' the ink strongly enough when rolled through the press.

In this case have a Baran handy and then you can rub or burnish that area by hand.

Bear in mind before you go onto the second stage of your carving away from your woodblocks that you could make a new differently designed stencil/mask.

Karen Kuncs Portfolio website

Artists print studios that she has set up

at Sev Shoon which has the 6 videos together

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hi there
Its always good to have a response to posts and if you'd like to,
sign up to receive my bi monthly newsletter..................................
The link to it is on the horizontal navigation bar at the top of the blog.