Japanese Woodcut Process

Hey guys! I’ve decided to change it up a bit this week and instead of talking about an art piece, I thought I could talk Japanese printmaking (especially woodcuts)! Printmaking itself is a fascinating art technique, that is usually a lengthy process. However, it’s lengthy process creates a marvelous product that is very different from other art techniques.

To begin, when creating Japanese woodcuts the images are first drawn onto a washi – a thin paper – then it is glued down onto the wood (which were usually cherry wood). Then the artist cuts the wood using carvers until there is an image imprinted on the wood (watch the video below to see). Ink is then applied onto the wood, usually with a paintbrush. A paper, sometimes coming from the inside of mulberry trees, is placed on top of the work, and then a round pad, baren, is used to help transfer the print to the paper.

This process is very similar to the woodcut processing we have today. However, the difference with Japanese woodcuts is that they usually have multiple elaborate colors within an art piece. In order to make prints with color, artists have to make separate carved blocks for each one. If an artist wants to use red, blue, yellow, and black in there print, they would need to make 4 prints, and so on. Yet, even though this process is time consuming, the end product is stunning.

There were also many artists that were influenced by these prints. This included van Gogh, Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Mary Cassatt, and more. Vincent van Gogh even said to his younger brother, Theo, in a letter that:

“Japanese art is something like the primitives, like the Greeks, like our old Dutchmen, Rembrandt, Potter, Hals, Vermeer, Ostade, Ruisdael. It doesn’t end.”


Featured Image by Hokusai, called Koshu Kajikazawa, made between 1890 and 1940
All other images from mymodernmet.com

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