04 July 2005

First Woodblock Print

In April I took a three-day workshop at nearby Snow Farm with printmaker Matt Brown. Matt works in the traditional Japanese style of woodblock printing, called moku hanga. While most western woodblock printing is done using oil-based inks and a press, moku hanga uses water-based pigments and the impressions are taken by hand-rubbing with a device called a baren.

This is the print I made at that workshop. A lot was packed into just 3 days, but under Matt's guidance I was able to complete an edition of 30 prints. I carved 5 shina plywood blocks for 5 colors and the paper used was domestic etching paper. The prints are 4" x 6."

I fell absolutely and totally in love with moku hanga in those 3 days. After 15 years as a digital illustrator, I'm not used to working with my hands on an alive material like wood. What an awakening this is! How much I've been missing! The tactile qualities of the wood, the scratchy sound of the knife cutting across the grain, the swishing of the horsehair brush, the thrill of making a perfectly smooth batch of rice paste, the frustration of trying to find just the right baren pressure for each block to print the way I want it to. I'm loving the challenge and the sensuality of it even as I curse the fact that there's no "undo" command to use when the wrong little chip of wood goes flying out from under my knife. So now the real work begins! Now begin the months and years of honing all the skills needed to make truly great woodblock prints.

This blog will journal that process.


Patty said...

wow Annie
just saw this thru Cin's blog
i am interest in wood block but have been too scared to start so now i can just watch you - a pro!!!

Annie B said...

Hi Patty, nice to see you! If you really want to get started in wood block I highly recommend taking a class if you can. I learned so much from Matt Brown just by watching him, and being able to ask him questions as I ran into bumps along the way was invaluable.
Come back again!

Anonymous said...

suggest you look at munakata's work
the woodblock and the artist
the life and work of shiko munakata
kodanshu international
i have it in hard cover... it's available(i think) in paper.
the exhilaration of the keenly sharp chisel cutting into bass wood is as delight you might find rewarding... there is a certain zen about it's more than just a picture making process ...
good 'sess in your work
bill martin

lenora said...

hey, cool print. i have a background in printmaking and not in digital illustration, but the process you're describing is exactly why I got into it. there's an inescapable human element to making prints by hand. best of luck.

Sheri said...

Hi! I just checked out your prints. I love the buddhist themed ones you have. I was thinking of doing something along that theme also. All your prints are beautiful. I've never done wood block. It looks fun. I'm more into collagraphs. Come check them out when you have time. Any comments would be appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for walking through the steps for woodblock prints. It took me back to a time when I used to do it daily. I just started back up again about a month ago. I agree with you. Woodblock printmaking is more about carving the wood then the final printed product. In fact, I have woodblocks that are fully carved that I will NEVER even put ink on. They are too meaningful as is. They are sculptures. It's a shame though, because I have a feeling that they would have produced beautiful prints...

SAS said...

Very inspiring story! I very much like your work. Interesting how you switched from visual to tactile and visual.

SAS said...

Very inspiring story! I very much like your work. Interesting how you switched from visual to tactile and visual.

CoCo said...

I would like to buy this print. How much is it. It's gorgeous.

John Brisson said...

Hi Annie,
I found you blog a few weeks ago and I've enjoyed going through and looking at your information and prints. I have been doing woodblock and linocut prints for a while now too. I was lucky enough to see Matt Brown making prints a number of years ago at a craft show in Vermont. I've been hooked ever since!
John Brisson