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Process of Making A New Woodblock Print - Landscape

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

I have recorded the process of my new print, as this was yet another experiment.

Pencil sketch of my idea for landscape print, a lady laying down becoming part of the landscape
Sketch for the landscape print

I was not able to import from Japan, so I found Basswood Plywood here in Australia. Basswood is the same as Shina in Japan, but the ply I can get in Australia is not made specifically for woodblock printing. Which means only the surface (1mm) of the ply is Shina/Basswood, and the under layer is a stringy, tough wood, as opposed to multiple layers being made with Shina for those made specifically for woodblock printing in Japan.

Carving process.

With every print, I learn. Even though I love thin lines, these lines were perhaps too thin and too close together, that they collect ink when printing.

After carving, I wanted to experiment with different Barens and Baren substitutes I had. For printmaking other than woodbloock, such as foam printing or gelatine printing, I use the flat bottom of the wooden bowl or flat lids of containers, since kids tend to push too hard when I give them Barens. For future reference to see what works for woodblock, I tested these different objects for printing.

To carve the background (sky and the ocean) correctly, I printed the above mountains on a thin rice paper. I then glued it on face down with a starch based glue and let it dry overnight. When it was completely dry, I carved out the mountains then washed the paper off with water.

It is now time to make colours!

In Japanese woodblock printing, the "ink" is actually watercolour or gouache paints. For black, Sumi ink is often used. And instead of brayers, we use brushes to ink the plate. Because of these factors (there may be more?), colours often comes out lighter, and dry even lighter. So Terry McKenna of Karuizawa Mokuhanga School advises to test colours by smudging them with your finger. The light smudge is the colour you should expect to see when printed. I found this extremely helpful and saves time in adjusting colours while test printing. You basically want to have the colours made and not have to make it while printing! So much waste of paper, paint, and precious time.

Printing Sunrise sky. I have gotten better at Bokashi (gradation) technique by printing the sky and the ocean for this print. (Background music: Monsieur Le Maire De Niafunké by Ali Farka Touré, Toumani Diabaté)

Printing the ocean. (Background music: Unknown, by Low)

Printing the mountains. (Background music: Kid A by Radiohead)

Signing editions. (Background music: The Tailor of Fitzrovia by Jonny Greenwood)

Print looks completely different on different papers. Above is printed on Shirakaba, which is 100gsm, 100% alpha cellulose paper in white. This was dampened. The little speckles you see clearly in sky and ocean are from the texture of the paper, while the vertical lines are from the wood grains.

This one is 70gsm Okawara, in creamy colour. I used it dry, as it did not work when I used it damp. You can see a lot of the wood grains... I personally like textures in artworks, so I don't mind them, but to those who consider this "not good enough," sorry there's no way of getting rid of them.

This print gave me lots of good lessons. In fact, I forgot to do something in printing process. Can you guess what it is? I only noticed when I finished printing them all.. Hint is in the sketch.




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