netsuke ox

Netsuke - Ox (& the Art of Listening)

OxSketch.jpg

I discovered Onbeing at the beginning of the year. I have no recollection of the thread in the web that brought me to Kristas Tippett's website but ever since I found it I am a complete fan of her heart warming inspiring interviews with poets, thinkers, speakers, makers, teachers.... from all over the globe.

I'm listening to Gordon Hempton's soundscape of nature's silence 'A Hike through the Hoh rainforest.' He takes us on a guided walk along the trail through tall tree, ferns and moss, a winter wren twittering, a river echoing of the edge of the valley and the call of a Roosevelt elk. In his conversation with Krista Tippett he talks about the art of listening.

"Listening is not about sound - If you ever find yourself listening for sound, that's diagnostically a controlled impairment. Simply listen to the place and when you listen to the place you take it ALL in - We're about to enter into a giant driftwood log -Sikta Spruce log, the material used in the crafting of violins - when the wood fibres are excited by acoustic energy -in this case its the sound of the ocean itself - the fibres actually vibrate and inside you get to listen to nature's largest violin.” Gordon Hempton - Onbeing


OxInked.jpg

Shiko Munakata & Kiyoshi Saito

While I carve my second ox, I wonder where this magnolia wood was growing and how many years it stood rooted in the earth before being cut into blocks. The death of the magnolia tree. The aliveness of mark making. The transforming of tree to print. This time I leave more wood, less carving, more outline and I am more gentle as I listen to the sound of the hangito cutting into the block. I love how Shiko Munakata really listened to the wood when he was carving. He let the wood speak as there is no right and wrong, just the doing of it and the way Kiyoshi Saito, another master of the Creative Print Movement (Sosaku Hanga) embraced the texture of wood grain when printing flat bold areas of colour.

"Flat areas of colour and the texture of the woodblocks' grain communicate the essentials of the nature of bold and harmonious designs. Saito's simple style possesses great freedom and spontaneity, and there is an international avoidance of elegant refinement. " Masterful Images - The Art of Kiyoshi Saito. Barry Till.

"The nature of the woodcut is such, that even a mistake in its carving will not prevent it from its true materialization." Shiko Munakata

OxWoodblock2.jpg

I have returned to using the Japanese carbon ink as I am not yet used to the smell of the sumi ink. I use dry Japon simile paper and rub the baren over the woodblock. The plastic cream baren is hard and unforgiving of the slightly uneven surface where I had put too much pressure on the wood with the bone folder. I use my shredded bamboo baren and the next print is much cleaner. This ox is better than the last one but still with its many imperfections. I stick a sample into my notebook along with the previous samples.

OxPrint400px.jpg

I wonder whether sketching these netsuke from 'life' will make a difference. The central archives department at the British museum have forwarded my request on to the department of Asia and sent me their email so I can contact them directly. I send another email to the department of Asia and wait for their reply.

Netsuke - Ox (Signed Tomotada)

I usually would prefer to draw from life so it's a bit frustrating drawing from my dark grainy photographs. It's prompted me to write to the British Museum in the hope for an appointment to view and sketch their collection of netsuke. They have an extensive collection of 2300 netsuke. I will wait and see and I finish up my sketch of an Ox signed Tomotada.

Listening to the World

While listening to Krista Tippett's podcast On Being I begin the process of transfering the image to the block ready for carving the Ox. Krista Tippett is interviewing the American poet Mary Oliver who always carries a pen and paper while she is walking in the woods. The woods is her sanctuary where she finds creative inspiration. She never writes her ideas directly on to a computer and advises others to do the same - I understand the positives for doing this but I'm finding the combination of digital and analogue world work well together for me. There is much more ease and efficiency using both. I scan the sketched ox into the computer and open it up in photoshop. I've deliberately kept the fine lines. Usually I thicken the lines directly on to the paper after I have made the initial sketch but I print the original sketch on to the tracing paper and rub the image on to the wood.

The image is more faint than usual and it's difficult to make out all the lines but I'm going to have a go at carving the ox with fine lines.

The image is more faint than usual and it's difficult to make out all the lines but I'm going to have a go at carving the ox with fine lines.

The result is over carved and with chipped outlines and an unsuccessful patchy print. I print out the sketch of the ox and draw over the original sketch. The lines are thicker. There is more black with smaller areas of white. Lets hope this one works out better than the last one.

The result is over carved and with chipped outlines and an unsuccessful patchy print. I print out the sketch of the ox and draw over the original sketch. The lines are thicker. There is more black with smaller areas of white. Lets hope this one works out better than the last one.

OxPrint1.jpg

Ox signed Tomotada - A.957 - 1910 Salting Bequest. British Museum

"When you make something, when you go through the process - all the steps and at the end you have a finished project you made with your own hands, out of your own mind, that is your own design - it's a reflection of your soul."Eric Hollenbeck - Portrait of a Master Wood Worker. Blue Ox Millworks