NIU Asian American Center Demonstration

Demonstration, originally uploaded by pejnolan.

This demonstration of Moku Hanga was sponsored by the Asian American Center at the Gallery Lounge in the Holmes Student Center on the campus of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois.

I was a comfortable crowd of interested persons. They all duteously took ntes as I was speaking. As soon as a noticed this, my self-confidence took a beating. It was so important that I share the information completely and exactingly so as to not make a mistake. 

A cold had just taken over and my voice was about to go out. I was still feeling good, so I just carried on despite the coughing.

I started by talking about why I choose to do an "outdated" ancient art form. I feel that when a person creates art by hand, his or her humanity shows in the finished piece. I wouldn't say that it is direct opposition to digital technology because I use the computer at times when developing a composition. When creating a print I use all my senses. I smell the inks, feel the texture of the wood, and hear the brush as the ink is applied. There is something meditative about the process. It forces me to slow down and gives me time to think.
From the Series:
 “One hundred famous landscapes from Edo”
Van Gough
Japonaiserie Bridge
in the Rain

I then spoke about the history of woodblock printmaking in the east and the west and how the styles played off one another in the mid 1800's when Commodore Matthew Perry opened the doors between Europe and Asia. I especially like showing the example of Van Gough's Japonaiserie Bridge in the Rain which uses a print by Hiroshige as "inspiration" - ok he just copied it and added a border.

I gave my demonstration. I had kept everything from the mini rabbit print from reference photo, to sketch, to inked tracing on tengucho paper, carved blocks, etc. So every step was there for the demo.

Afterwards, I invited everyone to come up and try the block on newsprint. Woodblock printmaking sounds easy, but when people try it for themselves they see how difficult it is to get an even impression. It teaches them appreciation for the art form.

The absolute best part was a little girl, maybe about 4 years old. Her mother tried printing and was happy with her results. So, I asked her daughter if she would like to try. She was so shy. I told her of course she could do it! I didn't want her to have the entire ink bottle (Akua Kolor) so I asked if she would count out the drops so I would know how much ink to add. In a tiny, sweet, quiet voice she counted, "one... two... three..."

Next I gave her the brush. It barely touched the ink and she swirled it around slowly afraid that she would break something. So I took the other brush and asked if I could help. Next think you know we were racing our brushes back and forth along the block, crashing into one another as we did so. She was laughing.

For the paper, I held down the one corner next to the kento and held the opposite diagonal corner. I asked if she would lay the paper down. She patted it gently with both hands as I laid the newsprint in place. I gave her a black plastic baren. Again, her touch was so gentle and slow. I let her do it for awhile, then asked if I could try. I burnished it hard and fast, then told her I think I may have done it wrong. Could she finish it up so it would be right? Again, slowly, delicately, she barely touched the paper.

It was done! I told her to lift up the paper. You should have seen her face light up! She did it! I could just see how proud she was of her work. I asked if she would like to sign her name on it and gave her a technical drafter's pencil to use. She drew her squiggly lines that symbolized her name. She was such a little dear.

My son took the photos of the demonstration and helped me pack everything up and take it to the car. His suggestions? Don't say "and" so often and don't apologize for using my notes. He said to tell the audience,"I'm going to look at my notes now-get used to it!" He cracks me up.

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