Re: John F. - Re: the fineness of lines

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Posted by User Name Suppressed on May 28, 2002 at 04:21:18:

In Reply to: John F. - Re: the fineness of lines posted by Marc Kahn on May 28, 2002 at 03:23:03:

Hi Marc, how goes it? I thought I'd throw my 2 cents in here - jingle, jingle.

Actually, I don't think what you and John are saying is necessarily at odds at all. Rather, it's just the wording that needs some refining.

The idea that thickness or thinness of lines is related to earliness of impression seems wrong to me. Rather, what we need to talk about is the strength or weakness of the line. A portrait of a beauty may have thick, calligraphic lines for the kimono and very fine lines for the nose, mouth and eyes to suggest delicacy. An early impression would thus have both thick and thin/fine lines. But the lines would be strong and clear, regardless of whether they were whisper thin or brush-edge thick.

To my experience, the wearing down of the block has the effect of weakening lines, making them less distinct, less dark, less firm and sure. With medium and thicker lines, this results in the fuzziness you describe. With fine lines, this results in indistinct, weak or broken lines, as in the nose of an overprinted courtesan who one might think suffered from an advanced veneral disease if the lines weren't weak all over.

Calling this last a "fine" line seems to me something of an error, and here I can see why you take exception to John's comments. I think what he means though is a weak line, not only a thin one. The delicate line of an early impression and the weak, thinning line of a late one for fine details in my opinion cannot be called similar simply because both are thin.

: John,

: Regarding the fineness of lines, as keyblocks "wear out", you wrote:

: "Typically, the older the block, the weaker the line, but I've seen late impressions with darker lines of greater "depth" when produced by a printer who was trying to extract every bit of "strength" from worn-out woodblocks. In these cases I assume there was some combination of denser colorants, greater pressure exerted during printing, multiple printings of the same colorant, or less dôsa in the paper. I've also seen early impressions of such fineness that, at first glance, one might wonder whether the blocks were already showing wear, until it became obvious the fineness of printing was uniform and intentional. Facial lines, even in unworn impressions, can be very fine."

: All this time, I have assumed the opposite to be true. In my mind, very fine lines are created by delicately carved, sharp ridges on the woodblocks. Over time, because of the pressure exerted by the printer, the sharp edge of the ridge is degraded and it becomes thicker. I have seen this thickening of fine keyblock lines (on shin hanga prints) over time and verified the timing independently with printer seals and such.

: Please explain how it is possible that a worn out keyblock would produce a finer line than a new one.

: Marc

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