Studio Notes: Moku hanga progress!

Last spring I mentioned that I was rekindling a relief printmaking practice — specifically, Japanese woodblock (“Moku hanga“), and I have indeed been spending a lot of time on this over the past year or so.

Printmaking is very process-oriented, and it can take a long time (at least for me) to get finished results. It had been perhaps 10 years or so since I had been working in this medium, and this time around I have really been making a study of traditional Japanese methods.

A straightforward one-block print testing out Japanese inks on Japanese paper.

The Japanese approach uses certain woods, carving techniques, a method of setting up registration (making the paper line up properly on multiple blocks), water-based inks with rice paste as a binder, and hand-printing without the use of a press. It’s a lot to learn and absorb! But also a lot of fun, as long as you have a good store of patience.

Patience is not always my strong suit, so this has been a learning process all around.

Another one-block print on Japanese paper.

The process-heavy nature of the artform means that one doesn’t necessarily know how the work will turn out until the very end.

Lots of skulls in different colors and different papers

There are, of course, special tools:

Some moku hanga equipment and media

In the photo above, I show some of the brushes used to mix and apply the ink to the plates, a jar of pre-mixed rice paste (sorry, I don’t yet have the patience to mix my own!) and some of the inks (sold as ‘pigment pastes’ or liquid black sumi ink).

The inks are brushed onto the plates, opening up some creative possibilities (note: practice and skill will be required! This will take time).

So far I’ve put together one 3-plate piece, and I’ve done some proofs.

3 plates for moku hanga project (doesn’t look like much at this stage)

Getting the right balance of ink to rice paste, and right amount on the plate takes some practice, then there is the actual printing.

Some proofs
3-color moku hanga proof, image size of about 8 inches square.
Another proof of the 3-block moku hanga

Presently, I’m gearing up to 3 a limited edition print on good paper of this image, as well as some other single blocks I have. Then it will be time to begin planning the next work!

I’ll try to develop some more posts on the process, in the meantime, follow me on Instagram, where I frequently post directly from the studio.





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