Today's postings

  1. [Baren 27049] Re: Why Paste (Julio.Rodriguez #
  2. [Baren 27050] Re: Why Paste (Mike Lyon)
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Message 1
From: Julio.Rodriguez #
Date: Sun, 13 Feb 2005 00:31:14 -0600
Subject: [Baren 27049] Re: Why Paste
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Why paste ? Here is one more reason besides what Barbara & Bette have
already explained. In japanese printmaking the color white is not used.
The way you get a lighter color is by diluting your pigment with water.
Sometimes lots of water ! However when you are trying to get just a fine
light tint there is so little pigment in the bowl that if you tried to
print it straight it would not work and you would get uneven printing. By
adding paste to the block it mixes in with the diluted tint and smooths
out giving you better results.

Welcome back to Steve and congratulations to Jan Telfer for her upcoming
exhibition in Australia.......

Julio Rodriguez (Skokie, Illinois)
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Message 2
From: Mike Lyon
Date: Sun, 13 Feb 2005 06:46:12 -0600
Subject: [Baren 27050] Re: Why Paste
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Dan Dew wrote:
>O.K., this may sound like a dumb question, but why the paste? Won't the
>color adhere to the paper anyhow?
>I have finally decided to try hanga, scared to death though.

Dear Dan,

Pure pigment in water WILL generally remain permanently in the paper
wherever you print it -- Japanese technique is more like dyeing than like
western-style printing, but the addition of paste allows much more control
over the 'quality' of the printed areas...

By "pure", I mean dry ground pigment suspended in water or alcohol and
water. Many pigments don't much 'like' water and you can overcome that
hydrophobic tendency by first mixing the dry pigment into alcohol (regular
hardware store alcohol works fine) and then more easily mixing the
resulting pigment/alcholol paste into water -- no hard and fast formula for
this -- mix to 'taste' -- the resulting pigment suspension is very
different from prepared watercolors which generally have been ground in
some sort of vehicle/binder (gum arabic, honey, ox gall, preservative, etc)
and which tend to behave a bit more like pigment-with-paste mixtures -- but
prepared watercolors are MANY TIMES more expensive than pure pigment or
over-the-counter pigment suspensions like those available from Guerra ,
Daniel Smith, and others which really are easier but not 'better'...

Anyway, 'pure' pigment in water, when printed, tends to produce a grainy
sort of color quality usually called 'goma-zuri' or 'sesame seed printing'
because the grainy character can be quite large -- the size of sesame seeds
or even larger... The more paste you add, the 'smoother' the pigment
prints until, if 'too much' paste is added, the brush strokes from
application become very apparent in the prints... The way I visualize it,
the paste adds quite a bit of viscosity or 'body' to the pigment and allows
it to settle smoothly on the surface of the block -- the paste adds
additional 'thickness' to the pigment film on the block allowing more
pigment to be applied and printed (or something like that)...

The easiest way to 'get' this may be to try the following simple and easy
experiment: On a block which prints some large flat areas of color (and
with a clean brush, meaning no paste already built up in the brush), mix
only pigment and water without paste and pull a few prints and note the
quality of the color on the paper... Then brush out the pigment and water
together with some large dabs of paste on the block and pull more prints,
adding more and more paste with each print pulled... You will likely
notice that the first prints exhibit significant goma-zuri... Then, as you
continue to print with more and more paste, the color should 'smooth out'
and finally, you may notice significant evidence of your brush marks after
sufficient paste has accumulated in the brush... The 'trick' to control is
to keep the contents of the brush consistent so that it holds about the
same ratio of water/pigment/paste from print to print... If your brush is
too small, this will be difficult as the variations in the ratios of
pigment/water/paste you add to the block before brushing will tend to
completely change the character of what's buffered up in the brush... If
the brush is too large, you'll have a hard time preventing it from touching
and coloring non-printing areas of the block -- so use the largest brush
you can while and still be able to rapidly brush out the color and control
where it touches.

That's my take on the paste thing...

By the way -- I've experimented with store-bought nori (rice paste) as well
as home-made pastes made from a) rice starch, b) rice flour, c) wheate
flour, and d) methyl cellulose. The 'BEST' results for me come from paste
I cook up myself from pure rice starch (buy it at any good art supply store
-- it's a white powder and takes about 10 minutes to cook up a quarter cup
or so -- stir constantly until it's 'right'). It's true what you hear
about it spoiling -- don't use what you cook for more than a day or two (or
a week if you add formalin)... Prepared rice paste is almost the same, but
is MUCH more expensive. The methyl cellulose does seem to keep well for up
to about a month (it too will support the growth of some molds after a long
time, though), but it feels 'beadier' on the block than paste made from
rice starch and there are subtle differences in the way it carries the
pigments and prints... It works very well, I think, but it's 'different'
than the rice starch paste which I prefer. The flour pastes spoil VERY
quickly and contain lots of stuff other than starch which seem to me to
slightly 'cloud' the color after many over-printings and it probably should
be avoided except in a 'pinch'... Otherwise, the flour pastes do seem to
contain sufficient starch to do the job...

Hope this helps, and good luck!

-- Mike

Mike Lyon
Kansas City, Missouri