People often ask me, "What made you start making wood block prints?"
I have always liked to draw.
So much that if I had a crayon in my hand, I was content.
It was 25 years ago that I first encountered wood block printing.
In those days I was doing oil painting.
I put the colors of my choice onto the canvas in any way I wanted.
It was my own free world.
However, when my friend took me to the one-man exhibition of my teacher,
Ms. Katsue Inoue, it shocked me.
It was a pair of prints; one was white poppies on a black background, and the other was black poppies on a white background.
Despite the pieces being in black and white, I could vividly feel the redness of the poppies.
The boldness of the lines cut under one chisel were the very attraction of the wood block prints.
"I want to make wood block prints." The thought crossed my mind.
I was so determined that I came out to say to Ms. Inoue, whom I have met for the first time,
" I wish to learn wood block printing . Could you take me as your pupil? "
" Oh! Youfre Ms. Judy Ongg, arenft you? " Ms. Inoue answered as she smiled.
"Yes!" I was flushing out of excitement, but she said,
"Well, ... I don't think you can do it. You are probably too busy being an actress."
Here it goes!!! I felt my 'wanna-do' sickness rising.
The desire to learn flows out without stopping as if gushing out of a dam, and as soon as I got home,
I started looking for "boards" to use for making my first wood block print.
Fortunately, as there was some plywood left over form when my brother had made a stereo case,
I grabbed it, drew a picture of a camellia on it, and started carving with the chisel I had borrowed from my brother.
I did it as I remembered from high school classes. There was no technique or anything.
Only my single-minded desire to do it.
And to my own surprise, I finished it after a few days.
I didn't have a barren yet, so I printed with a slipper, and took it to Ms. Inoue while her exhibit was still on.
"Oh, my," uttered Ms. Inoue and her friends, looking at the board rather than the wood block print.
One among them was Mr. Naganuma of the Japan Fine Arts Exhibit. Being a sculptor himself,
he suggested to Ms. Inoue, "My dear Katsue, from the way she has carved, I can tell she is pretty stubborn.
Maybe she will stick it out."
"Well, okay, then why don't you start next week?" This is how I started making wood block prints.
I learned later that it would have been easier if I had carved the board along the grain,
but not knowing how to carve,
I just kept on carving in all directions from the picture outwards.
It seems that somehow my enthusiasm reached the hearts of Ms. Inoue and the others.
I still have the block from that time.
It is my good-luck charm.