I'm waiting. Not for an idea, but for the passing of an idea. I'm trying desperately to resist the urge to continue the bad-relationship metaphor of my previous post. But it's so tempting.
I have, after all, recently released myself from the tyranny of a once-loved-paper-turned-desperado. I am free to shop around... to flirt with all sorts of interesting-looking sheets.... Oh, let's not go there.
A little background for anyone who's just tuning in: For several years I've printed by hand on a domestically-available hand-made sheet called Hosho "Pro." I liked this paper for several reasons:
1) It's bright white,
2) It has both a smooth side and a "felt" side,
3) It comes in a handy size (19 x 24 inches),
4) It's a good thickness for printing by hand
5) It's readily available and
6) It's reasonably priced.
In the last year or so, however, I've started to notice some changes. The paper has been less consistent in thickness, both from sheet to sheet within a batch and from one end to the other of an individual sheet. There have been more brush hairs and other remnants of non-paper "stuff" in the sheets. It has become more difficult to tell smooth surface from felt surface. And the final blow: The paper has been shedding fibers everywhere during printing- soft, linty fibers that gum up ink and rollers and interfere with ink adhesion. In some cases the paper even pulled apart when I peeled it back from the block after burnishing. Not good.
So it's time to find a new "favorite paper." I've ordered a few sheets each of several different papers and for the small (7" x 5") image I'm working on now I'm trying three of them: Rives lightweight, Canson Johannot, and Awagami Kozo.
Two passes down, one light blue solid and then the blended blue roll. Papers, left to right in the image above: Rives Lightweight, Canson Johannot, Awagami Kozo.
The first thing I noticed is that NONE of these papers shed fiber. Thank goodness.
The Johannot's chief appeal is that it's the whitest of the three papers. It is also the thickest and sports the most texture... two features which do not appeal. More on this later.
|Sorry, didn't pay attention to order of papers. These are now, left to right,|
Kozo, Johannot, Rives lightweight. I'll try to be consistent from here on out.
The third color pass was done during my demonstration at Abend Gallery last weekend, and it's here that things really started to get interesting. All of the papers showed some texture in the first color passes, but look at how little pigment made it on to the Johannot (center), even after three passes. These were all inked and baren-rubbed the same way. In fact, they were printed in the order in which they appear here... so it's not like I started with too little ink on the Johannot sheets. (I even rubbed the Johannot sheets harder than the others, but could only get this light ink transfer.)
|Here's a comparison a little closer. Kozo on the left, Johannot on the right. |
You can also see the difference in paper weights here. The Kozo is much thinner.
The fourth color pass is another gray. More interesting still. The value changes are clear on the Kozo and Johannot... not so much on the Rives. (Far right in the image below.) Hm.
|Four colors down and the differences in ink adhesion become more pronounced.|
Left to right: Awagami Kozo, Canson Johannot, Rives Lightweight.
|Kozo left, Johannot right.|
And now the tricky part. Teeny, tiny red bird bills. I hand-inked these by dabbing some pigment on the block. Took no time at all. A half dozen little chips later I was ready for the final black.
All three sheets laid side-by-side again. The Johannot, while interesting, is not a paper I would choose to use very often. The Kozo (left) looks badly wrinkled here... but that's not the paper's fault. I spilled water on the table and didn't notice until after I'd set prints down in it. (sigh) It's good to note, however, that this is probably not a paper that would respond well to damp printing. I always print on dry sheets.
Here is the Johannot (left) side-by-side with the Rives lightweight. I've done the last couple of small prints on the Rives and aside from the fact that it's a warm white I've liked it well enough. Inks seem to be drying much more slowly on it, though. It has a very fine and regular linen-y texture that seems to take ink okay.
But the most intriguing "new" paper is the Awagami Kozo. The paper is a warmer white than I'd like and the texture is a little more pronounced, BUT... this paper seems to love ink. Every pass went down smoothly and with relatively little pressure on the baren. The Kozo is the thinnest of the three papers I compared here, which I am sure contributed to the ease of printing.
For my next piece I'll try the Kozo again. I'm anticipating a larger image, so one of the key questions will be how easy it is to register this thinner paper in a large sheet. The batch I just ordered was shipped in a roll instead of flat, which impacted handling a bit. (Curvy paper requires a little more finesse in the registration jig.) I'm hoping that gravity will do its thing now that I'm storing the remaining sheets flat.
In all, a worthwhile experiment.
One final photo just for grins: All that remained on the block for the final color pass. A reduction print that really lived up to its name.