Title: Sarah Reclining (bijin aizuri-e)
Size: 16″ x 22″
Date: August, 2003
Medium: woodblock print (water based pigments) on washi
My primary model for almost a decade, Sarah had fallen asleep while modeling for this print. To me, her relaxed posture and features were so beautiful!
“Bijin” is a Japanese word which means “beautiful woman.” “Aizuri-e” means “blue picture.” Subject, color, and technique are traditional mid-19th Century Japanese, but the realistic image, composition, and the reduction carving of the block are quite Western. This print is a reduction woodcut, carved and printed entirely by hand using traditional Japanese woodblock printing techniques and materials (except, of course, for the reduction part).
Traditionally, each of the eighteen blocks for this print would have been carved by hand from separate pieces of wood. In order to save time and materials (but at increased risk), I carved only a single block laminated from three narrower planks of cherry wood. I like that you can still see the grain of the wood and a joinery seam in the finished print. For the various shades of blue which make up the colors in this print, I’d carve a bit, print each sheet, carve a bit more, print each sheet again a bit darker, etc. – eighteen times! Although I printed forty sheets, the damp paper sagged so much during printing that half wound up with ink blotches. Only twenty sheets could be editioned.