Monday, April 21, 2014

Korean Print Making: More Than Just An Art Cheat

I've never been super enthused by the ideaof print making. It's always seemed like an art form that cheaters use: something that you do because you either can't draw or because you're too lazy to learn how. While this might be the case in 'Murica, I was surprised to find that printmaking is a cultured art form in Korea.

I decided that I would go to a presentation by a Korean print maker at my school, since it would be good for extra credit for my classes (even though I'm an A-B student). Little did I know that, not only would the demonstration be wildly fascinating, but the presenter was actually from Korea and only spoke Korean! It was very interesting.

The paper that they use in Korea is a mulberry paper, meaning that it has longer fibers than our cotton fiber paper. It also doesn't warp in excessive accounts of water and ink like our paper does, making it perfect for ink printing.

The Korean showed us how he carved the wood blocks for the printing. He then have us a brief demonstration on how he embosses the paper. He set the one printed sheet back against the block, like when he made the print, then he got it wet so that it would not shift around or move. He then put a light coating of glue on the paper, and laid another sheet on top of it. Now, the glue he uses isn't like the Elmers glue we use; he uses a paste: water mixed with white flour. This tour of glue will discolour and ferment over the period of six months, which can ruin a print, so he lets the glue sit that long, after which time it won't ferment any more.

After he laid the paper down on the glue, he used a stiff bristled brush too brush the paper flat, then he started tapping the paper to get the bubbles all out. He then just repeated the prices with s few more sheets of paper, and then Wyeth two thicker sheets of paper. To keep the paper from getting bubbles in the middle and to keep the edges from turning up, he then painted the edges down with glue, then goes done steps of paper around the edge.

It was all really cool. I didn't know that printmaking was such an interesting, tactile experience. After the demonstration, I went up to him and said 'thank you' in Korean. Since my grasp of Korean consists of two words, now, I had to have a translator interpret me when I said that he made me want to be a printmaker. The Korean printmaker told me that he would be working in the printmaking room until the 14th, when he would go back to Korea.

I thought it would be more worthwhile to chat with him rather than to hit the gym. It turns out that he knows a little bit of English, more than my Korean, and a bit of German. Since I know some German, that made it easier to communicate. (Thank you, daddy!) So he showed me how to tap the paper down with the brush and had me hemp him with lying the layers of paper down.

After I had helped him with that, he asked to see some of my work, so I grabbed my sketchbook for him to flip through. He liked my cartoon characters and my 'sad life of a rabbit' comic. (I think he can read more English than he can speak.) He really liked my practice Chinese ink paintings of crab grass. So much so, in fact, that he gave me a sumi ink brush and some Korean paper!

I can't believe what a great day I've had! I'm so glad that I'm finally at a real college: I would never have had an experience like this at my crappy junior college. I can't wait to get home and do some more Chinese ink painting! I ordered a Chinese ink stone earlier this week, so I'm finally going to have some decent tools to work with.

The Korean printmaking process was wildly fascinating! I really want to do it, now, but I'll probably have to wait until I have more free time.

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