5 with jun lee

verdant prohibition speakeasy | woodcut | 43 by 64 inches | 2017

Jun Lee’s “Competition Contemplation” opens Friday, July 5, at the little gallery, 5901 Maple Street. Get to know her via our “5 with” series.

Q: When did you know you were going to be an artist?

As long as I remember, but my mom said it started when I was three years old. I asked her to draw me a snail, but she was stuck for a second. Then I took the crayon and paper from her and drew her snails. In her opinion, it was a good snail drawing for a three-year-old. From that snail drawing, I started saying I want to be an artist when I grew up.

Q: Describe your process. 

For the woodblock, I use 3/4” cherry veneer plywood. Before I start drawing, I check for any gaps or rough areas on the block. Once I have filled in any gaps with wood filler, I sand the block with 300, 400 and 600 grit to make the surface of the block very smooth. When the sanding is completed, I draw directly on the block in pencil. After the pencil drawing is finalized, I use black permanent Sharpie markers and color Sharpie markers to mark the outline and the color layers. I then spray shellac evenly on the block so I can seal the Sharpie to prevent bleeding when I print and facilitate cleaning between layers. When the shellac has dried, I finish the block with one more round of sanding with 600 grit, then I carve the area that will be white in the image. I use Futatsu Wari Moku Hanga, Pfeil and Powergrip for carving tools.

In a reduction woodcut, a single block is used for a multi-color print, and it usually begins with the lightest color and progresses to the darkest layer, which is the key image. After I finish carving the white layer, I print the first color layer, the lightest color. After printing the first layer, I clean and dry the block overnight. I then carve out the area of the previous layer on the block so it’s ready to print the second layer. This is why the process is called a reduction woodcut, because you carve the block progressively as you print the layers in order and reduce the printed area with each layer. Once you finish with the block, you cannot reprint the block because the block has been carved out and is only left with the key image. I print with Gamblin Relief ink and Cranfield Relief ink.

Q: Name the 3 most important things in your studio space.

  • Printing press and large table surface.
  • My tool box. My carving tools, “lucky egg”, tape, markers and other materials are all in it. I work between the printshop and my home, so I have to have my tool box with me.
  • My printmaking “lucky charm”, a Gudetama lazy egg doll. It’s in my tool box so I won’t forget it wherever I go for a residency or to teach classes, whenever I carve or print. It started as a joke, but it’s been working as a lucky charm, so I don’t print without it.

Q: Where do you find inspiration?

The memories from my childhood, books and current events. Most of my work is about competition, so I draw inspiration from memories from my past and how I view them through the lens of my current experience. I also take examples of competition from news stories and apply them to the general themes I use in my work. I like to focus on more personal stories versus larger issues because I feel this makes the issues surrounding competition more relatable to the individual viewer of my work.

Q: What do you want others to know about you/your work?

How I found printmaking was an accident. I majored in illustration for undergrad, and I was very happy with the choice of my major. It was my senior year, and my goal was to spend most of my time on my senior thesis project. I needed one elective studio credit and didn’t want to retake the same studio classes I took previously. My studio mate recommended that I take a printmaking course. I had never taken a printmaking course, so I signed up for lithography and screenprinting. At first, I really disliked the process. It took so much work and time for processing one layer, and we didn’t even have one single layer on the paper yet. But when I pulled the first print off of my first stone, it was like nothing I had ever done before. It totally got me hooked, and I’ve been on the printmaking road since then.