Traditionally woodblock print is done through collaboration between artist/painter, carver and printer. That was how all those traditional prints called Ukiyo-e were made and that has been dominant medium for printmaking over hundreds of years in Japan and its achievement reached high point during E-do period (1603-1867).

After E-do period, there is this movement called sosaku-hanga (creative printmaking) had started around beginning of 20th century in which artists engage themselves in designing, carving and printing as opposed to traditionally exercised printmaking system. They made mostly water-based woodblock prints. This movement coincides with Japanese modernization as nation and prints made by those artists are result of interaction between Japanese and Western cultures. While those sosaku-hanga artists made their prints, traditional print studio kept producing reproduction of masters such as Hiroshige, Hokusai, etc, along with collaborative works with Japanese style painters. Those traditional style print studio still exist to this day and keep producing fine quality prints.

From turn of the century’s sosaku-hanga movement printmakers in Japan relentlessly experimented and developed their skills and created diverse body of works.

One could say that Japan is the country of printmaking, not only because they have rich history of water-based woodblock of Ukiyo-e prints but also there are many printmakers who have been exploring other medium such as etching, lithography and silkscreen.

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Woodblock is one of the simplest printing medium. Whatever the type of wood you use, what you need to do is basically make some marks on the surface of the blocks either by cutting, carving or by other means. Apply ink on the woodblock, place paper and rub the back of paper with the baren, then whatever the area which makes contact with the ink will be printed.

One thing I like to point out is that in woodblock, you do not need to use any chemical, solvent or even printing press, every single process could be done by the hand, that is what I do. Also all my works here are water based woodblock which is different from western style oil based woodblock. The difference is when applying ink on the block, instead of using roller we use brush made out of horse hair to distribute ink on the block. Then after placing paper on the inked block, rub the back of paper by using the disk called baren (made out of paper & fiber disk painted by Japanese lacquer which contains braided bamboo leaf strand.) A baren is completed when the disc and strand is wrapped together by using bamboo leaf. Nowadays people use steel bearing baren, it’s cheaper and in a way it’s more efficient.

What you need to have to make woodblock is a set of carving tools, some brushes and baren (printing disk). There are some more small things you would need but they are not much and if you have sturdy table you could use it for both carving and printing.

There are some informative site on water based woodblock they tell you more in details so if you are interested, you might want to visit some of the sites below.

RELATED LINKS (back to top)
The Adachi Institute of Woodcut Prints
The studio where I learned my printing technique in Tokyo.
David Bull's World of Woodblock Printmaking
This site has a ton of information on woodblock printmaking including the book below by the famous Hiroshi Yoshida.
Japanese Woodblock Printing (online book)
by Hiroshi Yoshida in The Baren Encyclopedia of Woodblock Printmaking.

a free-form webzine with an interview with me, the artist.






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