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The Unfinished Print


Jun 26, 2023

Mokuhanga is a personal journey. The ups and downs of the artist are many; observing the emotions and layers of an artist simply through social media and chat rooms is complicated. Seeing a person's work is a window to who they are or want to be, their fears and desires; all these things make the mokuhanga artist so interesting to me.
 
On this episode of the Unfinished Print, I speak with mokuhanga printmaker and artist Ben Selby. Ben’s work contains subtle emotion, powerful narratives, and unique perspectives. In my mokuhanga conversation with Ben, he speaks about his, at times, very personal experiences, how he grew up and his environment. We discuss Ben’s reflection on the self in his work, his MFA thesis, the power of colour, the idea of tradition in mokuhanga, working with Richard Steiner and Terry McKenna, and alligator gar. 

Please follow The Unfinished Print and my own mokuhanga work on Instagram @andrezadoroznyprints or email me at theunfinishedprint@gmail.com 

Notes: may contain a hyperlink. Simply click on the highlighted word or phrase.

Artists works follow after the note. Pieces are mokuhanga unless otherwise noted. Dimensions are given if known.

Benjamin Selby - website, Instagram

West Texas A&M University - a public university located in Canyon, Texas, established in 1910. Georgia O’Keefe (1887-1986) was head of their art department from 1916-1918. More info can be found here

Richard Steiner - is a mokuhanga printmaker who has been making prints for over fifty years. He has lived and worked in Kyōto, Japan since 1980. He is currently still making work. His interview with The Unfinished Print can be found, here

Peace, peace (1990) 

Terry McKenna - is a mokuhanga printmaker based in Karuizawa, Nagano, Japan. He studied under Kyōto-based mokuhanga artist Richard Steiner. Terry also runs his mokuhanga school in Karuizawa. His interview with The Unfinished Print can be found here. Richard Steiner's interview with The Unfinished Print can be found here

Kyōto International Mokuhanga School - is a mokuhanga school owned and operated by long-term mokuhanga printmaker and artist Richard Steiner. Students will learn mokuhanga from Richard in Kyoto. For more information regarding his school and price, here.

Ōsaka Station - is a transfer hub located in the Japanese city of Ōsaka, Japan. It serves over 2 million passengers daily. It contains shopping and restaurants and is a labyrinth unto itself. It opened in 1874. More information can be found here

serigraphy - is another word for the art of silk screen printing. Silk screen printing can be in on various materials, silk, canvas, paper. 

Arizona State University - a public research university located in Tempe, Arizona, near Phoenix. It was founded as Territorial Normal School in 1885 and has undergone several name changes over the years, coming to its current iteration in 1958. More info can be found here

Kintarō - is a Japanese fairy tale first published in English in 1908 by Y.T. Ozeki in the book Japanese Fairy Tales, published by the A.L. Burt Company. The story is about Kintarō, a brave boy whose exploits as a brave warrior are passed down throughout Japanese history. His image was widespread in ukiyo-e, as well as in sculpture, candy, and the like. He has been in modern video games, manga, and anime. 

Kintarō Fighting an Eagle - Edo Period (1603-1898) by Kitagawa Tuskimaro (1794-1836). Tsukimaro was a little-known ukiyo-e print artist but was most successful under his teacher Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806). 

International Mokuhanga Conference - is a bi-yearly conference dedicated to mokuhanga which started in 2011 by the International Mokuhanga Association. Each conference is themed. The latest conference was in 2021, delayed a year because of the pandemic. More information can be found, here.  

Printed books in the Edo Period (1603-1868) - were books published in woodblock on low-quality paper. Yet, these books contained many exciting and beautiful designs and techniques.

Jacob Bautista - is an artist and teacher based in Amarillo, Texas, USA. His work is expressed through etching and stone lithography; more information about Jacob and his work is here.  

Bitten (2018) photoshop

Alligator gar - is one of North America's largest freshwater fish and is considered a living fossil in that its origins go back as far as 100 million years ago. These particular gars are primarily found in the Southern United States.

Spillway - a structure which controls the amount of water going into a dam or levee. 

Gyotaku - are Japanese fish prints. These prints are created in various formats, such as inking the fish after its caught using washi and paste(直接法), the indirect method where washi is pasted to the fish, which is then inked on the fish (間接法), and the transfer method, (転写法), where the image is pressed onto washi which is then transferred to wood or another type of surface and pressed onto that. For more information there's a great video here, about gyotaku printmaker Bruce Koike from Oregon, who has been making these prints since the 1980's. 

shin hanga - is a style of Japanese woodblock printmaking which began during the end of the ukiyo-e period of Japanese printmaking, in the early 20th Century. Focusing on the foreign demand for “traditional” Japanese imagery and motifs such as castles, bridges, famous landscapes, bamboo forests, to name just a few.  Shin hanga was born in 1915 by Watanabe Shōzaburō (1885-1962) when he found Austrian artist Frtiz Capelari (1884-1950) and commissioned Capelari to design some prints for Watanabe's feldgling printing house . From there shin-hanga evolved into its own distinct “new” style of Japanese woodblock printing. It lasted as this distinct style until its innevitable decline after the Second World War (1939-1945).

Sea of Shizuura, Namazu (1938) 15.4"x10.2"

Tsuchiya Kōitsu (1870 - 1949) - apprenticed under artist and print designer Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915) and worked as a lithographer. Kōitsu then joined the Watanabe atelier in 1935. Kōitsu also collaborated with Doi Sadachi publishers, amongst others. 

Kintai Bridge, ca 1930's. postcard size print

Kawase Hasui (1883-1957) - a designer of more than six hundred woodblock prints, Kawase Hasui, is one of the most famous designers of the shin-hanga movement of the early twentieth century. Hasui began his career with the artist and woodblock designer Kaburaki Kiyokata (1878-1971), joining several artistic societies early in his career. It wasn’t until he joined the Watanabe atelier in 1918 that he began to gain recognition. Watanabe Shōzaburō (1885-1962) had Hasui design landscapes of the Japanese countryside, small towns, and everyday life. Hasui also worked closely with the carvers and printers of his prints to reach the level Hasui wanted his prints to be. 

Takatsudo (1931)

All I Knew Growing Up by Benjamin Selby (2022)

Ben's lecture at the International Mokuhanga Conference, Photochemical Mokuhanga, can be found here

tamari (溜まり) - is the pooling of ink between the carved lines of your woodblock. Pooling is exposed when testing your carving but can be fixed by recarving the part of the block causing tamari or altering the amount of ink or water used. 

cyanotype - a type of work that uses iron compounds and creates various blues when exposed to UV light. More info here

Van Dyke Brown - is a photographic printing process named after painter Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641). The method uses various chemicals, then exposes the negative of the photograph as print to ultraviolet light. The final print is a brown colour. Very similar to cyanotype, but the chemicals create a different shade of print. More info can be found on Mark Hillier's blog, and  here.

sōsaku-hanga - or creative prints, is a style of printmaking which is predominantly, although not exclusively, prints made by one person. It started in the early twentieth century in Japan, in the same period as the shin-hanga movement. The artist designs, carves, and prints their own works. The designs, especially in the early days, may seem rudimentary but the creation of self-made prints was a breakthrough for printmakers moving away from where only a select group of carvers, printers and publishers created woodblock prints. 

Artist's Nude (1984) by Sekino Jun'ichirō (1914-1988) 14.7" x 10.6"

Akua - are water-based pigments used in intaglio, mokuhanga, and monotype. 

Kitaro Japanese Paper Company -  founded in 1872, Kitaro focuses on making high quality Japanese washi in Fukui Prefecture.  More info, here

Alone by Benjamin Selby (2021) 10.5" x 14.5"

murasaki baren - is a mid-range mokuhanga baren. “murasaki” meaning “purple” , come in two types of weight (medium and heavy), and two types of sizes (10cm and 12cm). They are reasonably priced baren. 

Yuki baren -  is a heavy ball bearing baren made in Japan. It is used to print large flat colours. 

baren suji zuri - is a Mokuhanga technique used with the baren and by the baren to create a circular design and can be layered with various colours.

Combing Her Hair (1928) 15-1/4"x 10-1/2" by Natori Shunsen (1886-1960) 

sizing paper - at times mokuhanga printmakers will size their paper. Size is made from water, animal glue (rabbit, horse), and alum. What the size does is keep the pigments the artist uses from “bleeding” into the outer edges of the paper. There are many recipes of size, here is one that artist Walter J. Phillips used.

© Popular Wheat Productions

opening and closing musical credit - Ahmad Jamal - Pavanne (1960) from the album Happy Moods on Verve Records 

logo designed and produced by Douglas Batchelor and André Zadorozny 

Disclaimer: Please do not reproduce or use anything from this podcast without shooting me an email and getting my express written or verbal consent. I'm friendly :)

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***The opinions expressed by guests in The Unfinished Print podcast are not necessarily those of André Zadorozny and of Popular Wheat Productions.***