Netsuke - Horse Grazing

A Celebration of the wondrous horse in many forms

My next exploration is 'Horse Grazing' inspired by The British Museum's book 'Netsuke - 100 Miniature Masterpieces from Japan.' I found the carving of this horse a little easier than the goat. It helped that there were less lines to carve so I could concentrate more energy on the simpler outline. I began using the cream disk baren the result experimented with my new bamboo baren but I just couldn't pull an even print without over inking the image. I went back used my cream plastic disk baren for the next few prints resulting in a much cleaner image.

Horse Grazing Print using plastic disk baren

Horse Grazing Print using plastic disk baren

Horse Grazing Print using bamboo baren

Horse Grazing Print using bamboo baren

As in many cultures, the horse has long been admired in Japan, used as a steed for warriors and considered an object of worship also. In ancient times, people used to to donate horses to shrines to gain the favour of the deities - Unsigned. Wood. Late 1700s. Height 6.5cm.
— Netsuke - 100 miniature masterpieces from Japan.

April Vollmer & A Rampant Horse

On my way to the studio, I stop to look at books in the Arnolfini bookshop. I love this bookshop with shelves full of books on print making, drawing, architecture, illustration, fashion, graphic design, photography, fine art and more. I pick up a book called 'Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop' by April Vollmer. It is fitting that the publisher's logo is a rampant horse while I have been working on my 'Horse Grazing' woodblock print. Watson-Guptill specifically publish books that instruct and inspire artists in a wide range of art and craft. This beautiful hardback edition is vibrant with April Vollmer's multi-colour print of elderflowers (Zova) and inside, her wonderful explanation of the Mokuhanga woodblock printing process.

Learning mokuhanga gave me more creative options than I had anticipated. Initially I wanted to learn to print without a press or toxic solvents, but the flexibility of the technique convinced me to begin using it for all my work.
— April Vollmer - Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop

Two Legged Animal

Back in February 2015 I was covering a shift at Makers Shop & Gallery. A woman popped into the shop looking for a gift to give to a performer at the end of their evening show at the local theatre. I found her some paper flowers folded from sheet music and maps. 'Two Legged Animal' would be performed that night by an aerialist with the skull of a horse, a rope, and a violinist. Minimal in style and timeless in content. I was intrigued. Later on that evening while working in my studio a message came through from a friend that there was a 'not to be missed' performance at the local theatre. Synchronicity strikes again.

I look at my clock. I have 10 minutes before the show is about to start. I pack up my stuff and leave the studio. I arrive at the theatre in the thick of an excited crowd waiting eagerly in the foyer. The announcement is made and one by one we slowly enter the dark intimate space...

The timeless relationship between human and horse, women and the wild. Performed with tail-flicking freedom, Ziggy brings to life the drumbeat of timeless hooves and the tension of the rope. The field is a circus and the sawdust is grass. Stark and tender Two Legged Animal is a windswept journey across open landscapes and through the night, encompassing the sensual and animalistic aspects of female empowerment.
— Event posted by Joe Medlpot

Two Legged Animal Teaser

There will be another opportunity to see this powerful performance at Wickham Theatre, Bristol on Wednesday 21st October 2015.

Thanks Line B Frank and Joe Medler for inviting me to this incredible performance by Ziggy Slingsby and Rowan Rheingans.


Claire Dorey and Jesvir Mahil

The horse is a strong and beautiful creature. Sculptor and photographer, Claire Dorey, captures the power of these wonderful animals with her stunning sculptures at Immortal Horse

What I love about the Eastern approach is that when we think we are going forwards we are in fact going backwards. For example it seems very progressive to allow horses to roam around freely but there was a time in the past when that was perfectly normal and I believe that there will be a time in the future when it will again be perfectly normal to allow horses to roam around freely. Wouldn’t that be wonderful.
— Jesvir Mahil - The Seven Ps of Creativity

Netsuke at the Royal Festival Hall

The train is sighing and heaving and trees blur behind rain scratched windows. I'm drinking a hot take-away tea while reading a book 'Names for the Sea, Strangers in Iceland' by Sarah Moss. My fingers seem to take longer to thaw as I hold the book of ice. It was glorious sunshine yesterday. I'm heading back into the city of London as the clouds darken. The rain is persistent.

100 Miniature Masterpieces

The first and last stop is The Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank. It's too wet and too cold to keep trekking through puddles and be rain soaked without an umbrella or raincoat. I stay here to keep warm and dry. I was hoping to draw netsuke at the V&A today but instead I'm drawing from the book I bought yesterday at The British Museum. 'Netsuke 100 miniature masterpieces from Japan' by Noriko Tsuchiya. I flick through the book containing photographs of netsuke in human form, immortals, ghosts, masks, animals and manju. I am interested in the animals and pick out one of the oldest netsuke in the museum (about 1700). 'Elephant and man in the form of a seal'. The photograph of the netsuke is at least three times the size than an original netsuke making it so much easier to draw and kinder to the eyes. I don't have the option to turn the netsuke and view it from a different angle but I can take as long as I like as there is no time restriction here.


Drawn with Music

I feel relaxed drawing the netsuke while listening to music on my headphones. The Royal Festival Hall is buzzing with people working and chatting and the music doesn't shut it out, it just softens the edges. A one-to-one language course is in full flow at the table behind me. A couple on the far table are in deep conversation with paint pots, brushes and paper and lunch all piled up together. A man sits with his smart phone, a woman with her lap-top. Two woman with pads of paper and paper cups also in deep discussion. Downstairs people are piled in the cafe. The rain continues to fall as I move on the 'Reclining Goat' by Kaigyokusai Masatsugu. Then 'Horse' - unsigned, 'Hare with Loquats' signed by Yamaguchi Okatomo and lastly 'Sleeping Cat' - unsigned.


When I've finished I look back through the sketch book and compare drawings. These are much larger than the ones I drew at the British Museum. It will be fun to carve them and see how they print. I pack up my books step out into the rain and head for the tube.

Netsuke - Ama & Galloping Horse

Ama Suckling an Octopus

An Ama is a Japanese diver, usually a woman who tends underwater oyster beds used in the cultivation of pearls.


I'm testing both woodblocks on Somerset Satin and Japon Simile paper. Using the Japanese carbon ink with nori paste seems to produce better results on the the Somerset Satin paper.

Galloping Horse