Japanese woodblock prints

Utagawa Yoshitora
Utagawa Yoshitora, Kumasaka’s night attack on Ushiwaka-Maru at the Akasaka Post-station in Mino province, 1860

Researching woodblock prints I found this wonderful, and comprehensive, essay about Japanese prints published by the National Gallery of Victoria.

Japanese woodblock prints: a mass medium by Mae Anna Pang, 1994

I particularly like the Utagawa Yoshitora print, the use of black and white and colour, muted colours and stark contrasts, it’s cinematic before cinema.



making a lino cut of the orchid drawing, one spray, lots of leaves

I’ve made a small woodcut of one of the flowers, in three colours and the background white of the paper, a woodcut on a block of pine from a packing pallet, probably that the stove came on.

Now I’m working on a bigger print, 30cm square, I’ve made a drawing and cut it out, the first parts that will be the white, the background, it’s just leaves and very schematic flowers, I’m not sure how the flowers will work at all in the final print.

I’ve been doing the process not product thinking to get it done. It’s taken at least 2 hours to carve out the basic shapes, as well as the time before where I was cutting out the template using a fine knife.

Looking at it now I can see that there are still lines that need to be cut, to show the overlapping leaves, also get rid of a part where I’ve not cut it right back to the edge, that looks like a maple leaf, don’t need that in there.

I’m not sure how it will go. The first print, if the paint is too thick it will all clog up, I need to get it a nice consistency, and get the lines firm and deep, no equivocation. The line is here, yes.

It’s a really interesting form as the carving itself is beautiful, like a plaster bas-relief. The Elgin marbles, horses and riders all around the top of the temple. Overlapping. Here is it just leaves, long straps of green overlapping. The trick will be to get the colours right, not so much verisimilitude, but the dark to light of it all, the first colour you put down with a reduction print is the lightest, and you work up to the darks.

Play with that, pale yellow, green, then deep red and brown to finish. That sounds right. I wonder if it will look right? Give it a go. Just try it. I could have a go at photocopying the piece of lino and then colour it, perhaps.

Monday walk

circle square

Today I’m going to catch the train down to Waterfall to go for a walk in Heathcote National Park. I’m planning to do the Mooray walking track. It’s 5kms return, or you can come back via the Bullawarring walking track and Kingfisher Pools where there’s a camping spot I want to check out.
I’d like to start doing some walk in camping, but before buying a hiking tent I thought I should test out walking by myself.

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Finding suits artists better than seeking, and many are not studious but develop ways to pursue their lines of curiosity. I like a coincidence per day, a sort of emotional per diem. It has to be the real thing. This is the way that discovery can feel so apposite. It is encouraging. Without the middle noun ‘courage’, life is heartless.

Richard Wentworth, from Akademie X: Lessons in Art and Life, Phaidon, 2015