One of the challenges and joys of the pandemic has been teaching- and first learning- new pressless printmaking techniques. I normally teach screenprint, etching, relief with oil based inks, and occasionally lithography. However, I am now teaching remotely and only some of my students have access to campus and our studio space. Everything needs to be possible in a dorm room, during quarantine, or at a kitchen counter. My Printmaking II course is now focused on mokuhanga, or Japanese woodblock printmaking.
As I was planning the course, I got the suggestion to begin students with a simplified technique related to mokuhanga called white line or Provincetown print. The process was developed in the early 20th century by a group of artists in Provincetown, Massachusetts who were familiar with mokuhanga. Blanche Lazzell is best known for this technique: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provincetown_Printers#/media/File:Blanche_Lazzell,_Tulips,_white_line_woodblock_print,_1920.tifhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provincetown_Printers#/media/File:Blanche_Lazzell,_Tulips,_white_line_woodblock_print,_1920.tif
Rather than using multiple different woodblocks to create a single image and multiple different gouges and chisels for carving, the process uses a single v-gouge to carve thin white outlines into the block. In relief, the area that is carved away doesn’t print.
The individual segments of the print, which are delineated by the carved white outlines, are then hand painted with watercolor. The water color is then transferred to the paper using a spoon, one segment at a time. Each print is unique, or a monoprint. The block can be painted a different way each time. The method requires fewer specialized tools for mokuhanga that artists in the US might have found hard to obtain at the time. The major disadvantages of the technique are that the print must always include white outlines and that it only produces one unique print at a time rather than an edition (multiple identical prints). For my students, it is a great way to get a feel for carving and handling water colors before jumping into the more complex process of mokuhanga.
For my demonstration print I decided to create a new piece based off of an earlier series of maps called Walking Distance. In the series I was interested in disparities such as food deserts, which are urban areas without a grocery store in walking distance (above).
For this demo print I decided to take the town I live in and map the population density (top) and Covid prevalence (bottom) against locations of Covid testing sites. Unfortunately, I found that the data collected within the city limits and that of the surrounding metro area were inconsistent and couldn’t be accurately visualized together. At the moment, this remains an experiment with the concept rather than a finished work of art. I am currently thinking about how I might create a new version of the print that also makes visible the gaps in the data.