Last year, when I was on a residency in China, I made a series of fifty water-based woodblock prints (mokuhanga prints) which ended up becoming an animation called Smiley Rock.

Smiley Rock still frame

The technique of printing successive thin layers of watercolour is called bokashi and some of the frames for the animation were made from progressive stages of the printing process. I took photos of the print, while printing fresh layers of colour, so that you can see how the colour builds up. I edited the piece in the Royal Academy Schools in Piccadilly, London, and talented musician Eliot Kennedy made the music for me.

Smiley Rock frame being photographed for the animation

The animation is currently being shown in West Yorkshire Print Workshop, as part of their group show called Japan, until 1 September. Read about the show here or at https://www.wypw.org/blog/japan/

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Smiley Rock is also coming with me to the IMPACT conference in Santander, Spain next month… I’ll be showing the animation alongside some of the frames. Watch this space!

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You can watch the animation here or go to https://vimeo.com/237974015

 

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I thought it would be funny to make very purely digital images in Japanese woodblock technique. 01_smileyrock_drawingdesigns.JPGThe contrast in time couldn’t be greater

02_smileyrock_planningblocks.jpg one tap of a button for the computer

03_smileyrock_carvingwood.JPGtranslated to a long time to carve some wood

04_smileyrock_woodblocks.JPG then get paper dampened, 06_smileyrock_soakingpaper.JPGthen patient printing by hand, 08_smileyrock_paint_palettes.JPGinvolving a gradual building up of colour over a few hours to days…

10_smileyrock_prints.JPGSmiley Rock 1

It was entertaining, and laborious, and then just a little bit overwhelming.

Smiley Rock 2

After a while I wanted to record the actual process rather than the final images

and then I started to worry about why I was trying to make perfectly registered images each time, when really the process of making the prints would naturally generate interesting frames.
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Smiley Rock 3

So the eyeballs swivel around and then bounce out of the head, and I made some dark lashes and a kind of fluttery blink…

Smiley Rock deconstructed

All in all I made 51 prints, but there are many more photos as they also record the build up of colour on each piece of paper.

Smiley Rock on the bedIt’s still very rough round the edges. I’m working on a new version with musician Eliot Kennedy, who has made a really upbeat and jolly tune!

Check out the vimeo file here

OR if the link isn’t working you can type in https://vimeo.com/237974015