Charlotte Jones has exhibited her work in group and solo exhibitions in Great Britain, Ireland, France, Japan, the United States and Canada since 1986. Her work may be found in such public collections as the Arts Council of Northern Ireland; Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery, Ontario; The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery, Newfoundland and Labrador; Newfoundland Studies, Memorial University of Newfoundland; Occidental College, Los Angeles; UNB Arts Centre, Fredericton, NL; Government of Newfoundland and Labrador; and in private collections across Canada, Europe and the United States. The artist is the recipient of several awards including a Canada Council Mid-Career Grant and Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council grants. She studied the traditional Japanese technique of woodblock printmaking with Toshi Yoshida in Japan in 1980. Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the artist currently resides in Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador.
The limestone barrens of the Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland support an incredible number of small, intricate flowers, some so rare that they are only found in these locations. What intrigues me is the diversity of flora in these harsh, windswept environments and their survival instincts, their adaptations that they make in order to survive. They are examples of the truly creative: adversity overcoming hardship. The three books I have created contain woodblock images of flowers that were spotted on three walks--July 2, 2007; July 10, 2007 and July 21, 2002--in four locations: Burnt Cape, Watt’s Point, the Port au Port Peninsula and Cape Norman.
Some of the flowers are rare and some fairly common–it is a random sampling. I use the accordion book format to recreate the experience of lying on the ground and making these wonderful miniature discoveries. By the same token both the accordion book format and my concern with nature and site emanate from the tradition of Japanese woodblock and such ukiyo-e masters as Utamaro, Hokusai and Hiroshige.
Traditional Japanese Woodblock Printmaking
For me, the virtues of this medium are both practical and aesthetic. On the practical side, it offers technical simplicity, avoids complicated, heavy machinery and dangerous chemicals, is portable, and requires relatively little space. Aesthetically, the medium offers a translucent, luminous and vibrant colour. Also, although many colours may be applied, the surface of the paper is still evident and so becomes part of the image. A range of printing techniques permits painterly application of colour and effects unique to this medium.
This is a relief process‑‑that is, the wood is carved
to leave a raised (or remaining) surface, which, when inked will
transfer the image to the paper.
To cut the wood, an assortment of extremely sharp gouges, chisels and cutting knives are used. These are made from the same steel as that used for the famed Samurai swords. The steel is laminated to iron to make the blades durable. Most important, and perhaps most distinctive from Western European woodblock technique, is the to, a special cutting knife used to outline the image initially. This knife encourages accuracy and delicacy for cutting and is especially important for fine lines.
The wood for the blocks must be hard, fine and
even‑grained in order to hold fine lines and shapes without chipping or
breaking off, and to be able to print broad, flat areas of colour
evenly. Cherry or pear, the traditional woods are ideal; however, a
basswood plywood, shina, is now most often used in Japan. Here, in
Corner Brook, I use finished birch plywood which is used mainly by
I use a master tracing on heavy tracing paper to trace the areas for each block to be cut. Generally, each colour requires a separate block. Once the image has been transferred to the blocks, I outline it with the to and then use the gouges and chisels to clear away the unwanted surface, thus leaving the image in relief.
A key feature of this process is the method of colour
registration which enables many colours to be registered and printed
easily and accurately within the block. When printing one merely has to
slide the paper into recessed marks (kento) and dispense with trying
to gauge registration marks by eye.
For printing, evenly‑textured, long‑fibred paper is appropriate. Kizuki hosho and torinoko are two such papers. The paper is sized to prevent colour spreading. It is slightly dampened for printing.
A small amount of watercolour pigment (dry pigment mixed with water or watercolour from the tube) and a daub of rice paste are applied to the block. An extremely densely‑packed brush is rubbed across the surface of the block to distribute the thin film of colour evenly. One sheet of paper is then slipped into the kento marks and laid face down on the block. The back of the paper is rubbed with a baren. This hand press is a 5 inch diameter disc holding a coiled braid of bamboo fibre which is covered with a bamboo sheath. The small points of the braid serve to push colour into the paper. The paper is then removed, the block re‑inked and the next sheet put in place.
Charlotte Jones, 2012