Getting started was not the most difficult portion of this learning process. It was finding out where to get the materials necessary to start. I suppose that is partly my fault. I wanted to keep the craft as traditional as possible. That meant, at least to me, wanting to use traditional Japanese woodcutting tools and paper, and learning the proper technique.
"Seek and Ye shall find". That is what I did. I located several good sources for equipment. Over a period of time, I had acquired what I needed to get started. Of course I had the desire to learn this craft from the beginning, but desire with no means can become very frustrating. I also came across a good "How to do" video called "Japanese Woodcut Workshop". This really helped me out and I try and watch it at least once a month to keep the basics in mind.
I had the tools and the desire; now all I needed was an idea. I thumbed through several books trying to come up with a simple subject. I found a Chinese Tiger that I thought would be a simple enough block to carve. After carving for several hours, I thought that I had bitten off more than I could chew. This was going to take more time that I had thought! What if I did not like it after spending all this time carving? What about the financial investment, with all the authentic Japanese tools and paper? All these second thoughts and doubts about my ability started to drift into my mind. I could quit before I even gave it the good old college try, or I could stick it out and finish what I had started.
I finished what I had started and completed
something that I liked. Yes it was simple and basically only two
colors, but it was a start. I gave away a few of the prints to people
that I work with. Most were appreciative but I did get one comment
from one of the psychiatrists that I work with. "It looks like a dog
with his ass on fire." We both got a good laugh and after closer
inspection of my hard work, I had to agree - though not to
My second block had to leave no doubt as to what it was. So I found a Chinese Dragon to carve and set to it. I had to succeed. A tougher subject - more detail - something that would leave no doubt. But at least it would not look like a "dog with his ass on fire." I had the desire and the motivation to show this guy and myself that I had the raw skills to do a decent carving for a beginner.
As you can see from the print, it looks like a dragon, but I'll never know for sure, as I never gave the good doctor a chance to let me know what he thought.
Take care, Phil
Move on to Part Two ...
A 'tribute' print: Variation on a Chinese Lion for Phil Bivins by James Mundie, is also in the Encyclopedia.