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

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Posted by John Fiorillo on May 28, 2002 at 07:18:37:

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


Perhaps I wasn't clear in my explanation, as I emphasized only one type of block wear in order to make a point about exceptions to the rule when discussing principles of authentication. I should also have distinguished my use of the word "weaker" from "fine" - although lines can indeed become thinner as they age (see below), the term "fine" should not be applied to them to avoid confusion.

We may be thinking about different degrees of "fine lines" and what can happen to them as they wear out. The clarification can be found in two kinds of changes in the topography of the woodblock. I am talking about the fine lines usually found in traditional ukiyo-e, especially those used for the face and hair, although they appear in other parts of many designs. (Some of the lines Andy was questioning in the previous posting showed this type of wear in a late 18th C. print.) As the block wears out these fine lines break apart, wearing out at their edges BEFORE they wear down toward the plane of the woodblock. In this kind of wear the lines do not become "wider"; rather, they show more breaks and irregular contours. I drew the diagram below to help illustrate this (see the red line):

It is also true that lines can wear "down" somewhat uniformly rather than "across" their contours - in other words, instead of first breaking up along the edges, they wear down towards the surface of the block, thus showing little or no irregularity along their contours. However, such lines usually start out wider to begin with than the lines to which I refer. In the blue line example above, the edges are uniform. Small irregularities, such as the tiny depression I tried to indicate in the side view of the blue line, will still print because they will fill up with pigment. As the "top of the pyramid" wears away (it need not be perfectly parallel to the block surface for successful printing), the lateral surface area holding the pigment is wider, and therefore so is the printed line. Thus the lines "get wider." I think this is what you are talking about, but in my opinion it is more common in 'shin hanga' than in traditional ukiyo-e (as a percentage of all designs in each genre). In the older prints the tendency is for the lines to break apart and lose their form along the edges before or along with the downward block wear, causing them to print with less and less definition, and greater irregularity, as the wear increases.


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