Netsuke - Tigress and Young

As I carve Tigress and Young I am listening to print maker David Bull discussing the process of his Great Wave print. He is meticulous and passionate about Japanese woodblock printing and is an absolute perfectionist and spends weeks getting the image for the print just right. He has no patience for shoddy craftsmanship as he pulls apart a few examples of early Great Wave reproductions. He is the Mataichi of wood block carving. His carvings are painstakingly precise. It's moments like this when I wonder if I should just give up, put down the hangito and rethink this whole project. And when I brush the ink on the wood lay the paper on the woodblock, rub the baren over the paper to reveal what is by far the worst carved netsuke since I started this project, I wonder if the issue is in the drawing and not the carving. Maybe I need to work on the initial image so I know exactly what I am going to carve as so far I have just been scanning the original sketch and carving from loose marking making. Another part of me ponders carving into a blank piece of wood. See where the grain leads me and welcome some thing more dynamic. Just to play.


Life Drawing

After carving Tigress and Young I attend a life drawing class. It is fun to draw on big sheets of paper, to create dynamic lines, to be more open and expressive. I am enjoying the space and drawing from life. Some of these drawings are just 5 minutes - the longest, 20 minutes. This limit on time means I can't be so precious. It is liberating. And because of this I am more observant. I am more present and I am more alive. This class takes me back about 20 years when I was studying creative arts at universiy. I had this open attitude to life everyday. How refreshing to be reminded that it is all still possible.

At the beginning of the year my aim was to put on an exhibition of netsuke mini prints this year. Embarking on a new project is exciting and it is the easy part. The challenge is to stick with it, whatever happens along the way. It is already April. I have reached a hurdle and questioning my process. I ponder the notion of making these life drawings into large woodcuts. I'm wandering off course and wanting to dance in the woods but I don't want to give up on the netsuke mini prints. I look through my notebook and see that the latest prints are much more detailed than the earlier ones. I know my carving skills are still in the early stages of development but working on such small blocks of soft wood is adding to the challenge. I wonder if I need to simplify the drawings and carve more of the outline as I did with the earlier netsuke prints.

The object was to seize the ultimate essence of rock, water, tree, and flower. But it is not analytic passion, but a spirit of warm brotherhood, that guides the hands. Fosco Maraini Italian Photographer and writer.
— Season by Season by Sandrine Bailly.