Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Hōzuki Print

Almost exactly one year ago I photographed the Chinese lantern plants in my yard and ever since then I knew I had to make a print of them. The scientific name of this plant is Physalis alkekengi and I learned from Wikipedia that it is also called Chinese lantern, Japanese lantern, bladder cherry, strawberry groundcherry, winter cherry, and hōzuki in Japan.  (The name hōzuki was so cute I couldn't resist using it for the title of this post.)  The plant is mainly known for its bright red lantern that slowly wear away to expose a beautiful orange berry inside.  The plant is apparently quite invasive (probably why it is in my yard) but I fell in love with it.

When I start working on a print the first thing I do is print my photo and then make a large sketch to the size I want my print.  At this point I had to decide how many colors I wanted to use to depict my subject and I chose three...orange for the berry, gold for the orb, and black for the background and orb details.  Below you can see the basic sketch and then a velum overlay for the black color.

The first step after sketching and transferring the drawing to the plate was to print the orange circle that would be the seed inside the orb.  I cut a circle out of safety-kut and printed that first so it could dry. I then began what I consider the funnest part...the carving!  I made a short time-lapse video of the carving process.

After carving I was ready to print the gold layer.  I experimented with printing the background two different ways.  I liked the idea of a little gold showing through some of the branches but I wasn't sure about my ability to line everything up perfectly.  I printed nine with and nine without the background.  As it turns out only one or two of the prints with the background registered properly (next time I am going to use these clips to help me!).

This print was a reduction cut so after printing the gold I had to go back to my plate and carve away wherever I wanted the gold to show through the final black color.  This was mainly in the orb.

I was nervous to carve the details on the orb because I was trying a new technique.  I essentially used my carving tool like a gouge to form small dots, sort of like stippling but more crude. 

After the final carving everything remaining would be printed black.  Below is a short video George took of me pulling the final color.  The video makes it look so easy, but don't be fooled.  You  have to press really hard and George helped me burnish every one.

The photo below shows the plate inked with the final black color.  You can also see at the top my trusty wooden spoon and baren I use to burnish the plate.

You can see in this image the three colors of my prints.  I am learning that I probably apply my ink too thick because my prints take forever to dry and I have to let each color dry thoroughly before I proceed to the next color.

After printing the final color and letting everything completely dry I decided to add a watercolor background. My sketch had a green background and I think I got used to seeing it like that. In the end I really like way the green, gold and orange work together. 

This print was not without its difficulties but I have been slowly learning to roll with the punches.  Registration was a huge issue for me and I lost almost half my prints to this problem.  But two really good things came out of it.  First, I did tons of research and have now come up with a solution I think will work (the Ternes-Burton clips).  And second, I joined Tiger Lily Press.  It just so happened that their annual meeting was the day after my frustrating day of printing and I decided that I needed some help.  I attended their meeting and within one day had learned tons of ideas about how to make my process easier.  I am super excited to have this great community of local printmakers and can't wait to try out their press.  So in hindsight I guess my registration problems were a blessing in disguise.

If you would like to purchase this print visit NessyPress.com.  

"...and what might seem to be a series of unfortunate events
may in fact be the first steps of a journey."
-Lemony Snicket


May and Jim said...

Beautiful. Amazing! Must have been quite a journey!

Jodi C said...

Wow! You are getting very accomplished at this printmaking stuff! This is beautiful.

Jamie Leslie said...

Good job! This is amazing!