Monday, July 20, 2020

Still More Puzzle Fun

The most recent mail from Jenny included some ideas and suggestions, and also a request for one more image.  One of the more popular prints in the series is the Tattoo print.  The starting point was the group home I worked at, where we had a staff person who insisted that every time she came to the shore, she had to get a new tattoo.  She always found an excuse to leave everyone at the group home while she went off to find a place to get a tattoo. Several years later I met an actual tattoo artist when he started doing some work in my Studio.  Took a print class from Molly and learned some etching from her. His love was tattooing of course, and he had a shop he worked at in Bradley Beach. Some research I had done on my own showed me that woodcuts and tattoos had an overlapping history.  Relief printing had developed everywhere in the world at different times, but on significant place was Japan, and Japanese woodcuts were a huge influence on all woodcuts everywhere.  Techniques and styles were a bit different than the western style, with roots in northern Europe, starting in the middle ages and continuing through German expressionism, probably the last time woodcut had a significant role in the art world. Pretty much it starts around the time paper was developed in Europe, around the year 1400.  Meanwhile, paper was first made in Asia at least 7 or 800 years earlier, so China had a long tradition of printmaking and woodcut going back that far.  As a culture, Japan was under the influence of the much more powerful China, and older woodcuts were in the same style. This changes around 2 or 3 hundred years ago.  Japanese society invented the floating world concept.  The society was fairly conservative, and the major cities followed those rules, but outside the cities there were places called "the floating world", where those rules were often violated. Things that were forbidden in the big cities were allowed in the Floating world.  Artists found their way to these odd areas, and started making art about the world around them.  The technique was different from Chinese woodcut, prints that were quicker and cheaper.  Subjects were often the activities of the Floating World, which included sumo wrestling and kabuki theater, plus the crazy night life.  The prints were inexpensive, about the cost of a bowl of soup- the equivalent of a few bucks. They became a souvenir of a visit to the Floating World- get an image of your favorite actor, or wrestler, or geisha to bring home like a postcard.  These cheap prints were sometimes used to wrap ceramics and things like that, and as trade with the West opened up, European artists were exposed to Japanese art, with its very different approaches to perspective and subjects, so these cheap outsider prints became a huge influence on Modern art, and eventually all western art.

Meanwhile, tattoos existed in all parts of the world, and often served ceremonial or medicinal purposes.  In ancient Japan they were used to permanently mark criminals.  Some criminals didn't want such markings, and in the Floating world, woodcut artists were sometimes employed to create new images on the skin over the old punishment ones.  Instead of the common ceremonial patterns and such, they favored images and pictures.  These image tattoos were seen by many (the navy became a common way to share them), and at one point the British royal family all started wearing tattoos.

So this odd connection from traditional Japanese woodcut, tattoos, and a coworker who saw the shore as a place to get tattoos combined to give me the idea for this print, and was at the root of the  whole boardwalk series. One was planned from the beginning, and ended up being the second in the whole series.  But what made my print possible, was meeting this tattoo artist in my Studio.  I told him my idea and he agreed to let me come observe him work.  I stopped by his shop, and then we picked a day to do something.  I came that day and he had a customer, getting what is commonly called a "tramp stamp", a small image at the base of the back.  She didn't speak English, but her boyfriend translated what I wanted to do and she agreed to let me draw the process.

 I stretched the image of the tattoo process over the two panels of the diptych, then figured out the background.  On the left side, with the tattoo artist, I went with a whole bunch of his own artwork, some tattoo flash, some from his paintings.  On the right side, the dragon is partly derived from a line drawing he gave me of typical Japanese tattoo dragons, though I recontorted it to fit my composition.  In the first coloring it was green, but I didn't like the color balance and repainted it as blue, permissible in Japanese dragon imagery.  The flowers are common images from tattoos, and the customers on the boardwalk are just made up characters. The two main characters unify the two halves, while the backgrounds make for two separate prints.

Wasn't sure if this would be good for a puzzle, because while it is a popular print in the series, and in my opinion successful, I don't know if the artist would want me making use of his personal art for such a purpose.  (he was okay with me using it for this print and saw the prototype).  I figured I would send Jenny some photos and explain what I was thinking.

Another brutally hot day today, predicted to be the worst of the current heat wave. Figured I should get there and do my business early.  The gate was not locked, and my key opened the door no problem.  I put down my print to get the key to go downstairs and there was a banging on the front door- two police officers.  They said they were responding to the alarm going off.  I heard no alarm, and the control panel showed nothing, but there they were.  (I did hear someone else walking around- maybe that person set it off)  I showed them my ID, explained why I was there, they bought it  and departed.  I got to my task. I took a photo of the whole diptych, and also one concentrating just on the right side panel.

And then I got out of there. Too hot to stay around. The police never came back, so I locked the building and left.  Took care of other errands then got home to my air conditioner. Later sent Jenny today's photos, explained my concerns, answered some other questions she had sent me.  Also sent Nichole an email about the whole police incident, but never heard back.

Later in the afternoon my mother called to say that Jenny's shipment of puzzles had arrived, a day before I expected it.  Too hot to go out again, so I'll check them out tomorrow.


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