This print was completed December 16, 2003. It is a reduction woodcut
which has been carved and printed (and recarved and reprinted) by hand
using traditional Japanese tools and techniques (except for the reduction
process which was a Picasso innovation).
A single basswood block was re-carved and re-printed 18 times onto
each of 48 sheets of Iwano
Ichibei hosho paper approximately 10" x 7.5" (each printing was
a bit deeper in tone than the previous). In June, 2000 Iwano-san was
designated a Japanese Living National Treasure.
I used Prussian Blue pigment suspension (Createx Pure Pigment) and
prepared sumi, both from Daniel Smith, mixed into a little home-brewed
rice paste. To prepare the paste, I placed a Pyrex cup into shallow
boiling water. In the cup I mixed a half a cup of water with two level
teaspoons of rice starch ( Lineco, Inc Neutral pH Pure Rice Starch).
I stirred the mixture while heating until it became hot, clear, and
thick. Then I cooled it and added enough formalin to make my eyes water
a little (maybe 20 drops). The paste kept well at room temperature in
a sealed jar for over a month. Without the formalin you'd want to make
a fresh batch daily.
The Daniel Smith sumi has been the source of an annoying problem
it dries to a bit of a gloss. The Prussian Blue suspension seems to
make it worse, and saturated deep blue/black mixtures dry to an unpleasant
purplish sheen. So in the final layer, I substituted a bit of the Baren
Mall Nerizumi Paste which makes an intense flat black-black. Huge improvement!
This exchange, with its theme of "Shunga / Pillow Print / Erotic" was
something of a challenge and caused me to feel mildly conflicted. On
the one hand, I was curious (even titillated) because of the requirement
for an explicitly erotic image. That appealed the naturally voyeuristic
artist/observer in me. On the other hand I fretted about maintaining
proper and irreproachable behavior before my wife, my parents, my children,
my friends, and my associates.
Having obtained the somewhat reluctant consent of my wife, I broached
the theme of the exchange with two of the young women who regularly
model for me. I found it surprisingly difficult to voice the sort of
'erotic things' I imagined I wanted to see, and the three of corresponded
for several weeks about what we might and might not be comfortable doing
and seeing. I was going for 'erotic and sensual but not pornographic,'
and we all felt comfortable enough with that.
As it happened, on the afternoon the three of us finally got together,
my models turned out to be much more imaginative, enthusiastic, uninhibited,
and just plain curious than I ever could have anticipated! I learned
quite a little bit about "lesbian love positions," laughed 'til my belly
hurt, perspired embarrassingly, went directly home and fell into the
arms of my wonderful wife who made it very clear she wanted to hear
nothing at all about it.
When she first saw the completed prints she said, "Oh, gross!" but
she looked for quite a long time. Finally she said, "I can't believe
they did that. I can't believe they did that in front of you!"
I'd intended this image to involve lips and tongues and very soft places,
but I wound up fascinated by the contours of the ear in the lower left
and I think there's a hardness to the shapes and composition which interferes
with the sensuality of the situation.
One thing seems clear the line between erotic and pornographic is
a very fuzzy (furry?) one!
January 8, 2004